In 1292, Ala-ud-din Khilji, an Islamic invader, defeated the Yadavas of Devagiri, but the Yadavas continued to rule till 1310. A branch of the Yadavas ruled parts of Konkan and Khandesh regions of Maharashtra for a century thereafter. Although the Maratha capitals fell to invaders, the regional lords held their power base and influence.
In 1453, an invasion of Bahamani in the region of Vishalgarh resulted in a defeat of Yadavas. Over time, an understanding evolved between the sultanates, and the local regional lords and their erstwhile master Yadavas. The Yadavas became a vassal of Bahamani. In 1492, the Bahamani sultanate broke into five kingdoms each called a Shahi.
In 1565, the allied Deccan sultanates vanquished the Vijayanagara Empire at Talikota. By the time Shivaji began his military career, power in the region was shared by three Sultanates - Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golconda. Most of the Marathas continued as soldiers and noblemen of the Sultanates as the sultanates engaged in a continuous game of mutual alliances and aggressions.
Like his ancestors, Shahaji (Shivaji's father) was a major player in the Deccan Wars. At that time, Shahaji was a regent for the young Nizam of Ahmednagar. Together with the prime minister of Nizamshah, Malik Amber, he put up a stiff resistance to the advancing forces of the Mughal emperor and thereafter defeated them.
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan again attacked the Ahmednagar Kingdom of Nizamshah. At this critical hour, Shahaji Raje returned to the military service of Nizamshah to help stiffen-up the defences. Meanwhile, a prominent Maratha sardar Lakhuji Jadavrao was murdered on the order of the Nizamshah, and this was not acceptable to Shahaji, and it prompted him to raise the banner of independence and establish an independent kingdom.
It was during this unsettled period that Shivaji was born. His birth was in independent country, as proclaimed by his father, Shahaji. Perhaps, that was the main contributing reason for his life long desire for independence.
The actual date of Shivaji's birth was under controversy but now settled on date as 19 February 1627. Shivaji was born in Shivneri Fort, Junnar, 60 kilometres north of Pune and about 100 kilometres east of Mumbai. He was named Shiva, after the local Goddess Shivai, to whom his mother Jijabai had prayed for a son. Jijabai had several other sons before Shivaji who did not survive.
Shahaji, Shivaji's father, attempted to build on the ruins of the Nizamshahi kingdom of Ahmednagar, but was defeated by a much larger combined force of the Mughals and Adilshah in 1636. He was forced to leave the region around Pune. He was inducted by Adilshah of Bijapur and was offered a distant jagir - land holdings, at present-day Bangalore, but he was allowed to keep his old land tenures and holdings in Pune.
Given these circumstances, Shahaji appointed the young Shivaji under the care of his mother Jijabai to manage the Pune holdings. A small council of ministers was appointed to assist and train Shivaji in the administration which included Shamrao Nilkanth as Peshwa (Prime Minister), Balkrishna Pant as Muzumdar, Raghunath Ballal as Sabnis, Sonopant as Dabir and Dadoji Konddeo as teacher. Apart from these ministers, military commanders Kanhoji Jedhe and Baji Pasalkar were appointed to train Shivaji in martial arts. In 1644, Shahaji had Lal Mahal built in Pune for his wife and his son Shivaji.
Thus Shivaji started his career as an independent young prince of a small kingdom on a mission. Shivaji used the title of Raja (king) only after Shahaji's death.
His mother made an indelible impression on him with her teachings, with her love of the homeland and its people. Shivaji learned much from his father's failed attempts at political independence: his exceptional military capabilities and achievements, his knowledge of Sanskrit, Hindu ethos, patronage of the arts, his war strategies and peacetime diplomacy. He was inspired and informed by his family's vision of independence and freedom.
Furthermore, his mother, having lost her father and three brothers to a treacherous plot hatched by the regional king Nizamshah, was opposed to those who she considered alien rulers, due to their derision and callousness toward the local population. Jijabai thus instilled in Shivaji a natural love for self-determination and an aversion to external political domination.
Her piety and commitment to indigenous culture and her recounting of tales from the great Indian epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana molded Shivaji's character and helped him to be peerless (as confirmed by even otherwise inimical chroniclers, Khafi Khan) especially in his tolerant attitude towards other religions as well as in his fair and kind treatment of women and non-combatants.
Shahaji's vision, Jijabai's and Dadoji Konddeo's teachings and motivation, and the able training by military commanders such as Gomaji Naik Pansambal and Baji Pasalkar were the main influences which groomed Shivaji into a brave and fearless military leader as well as a responsible administrator. Young Shivaji, energetic and enthusiastic as he was, wasted no time in setting off on a path of freedom and glory.
At the age of 17 Shivaji carried out his first military action by attacking and capturing Torna fort of the Bijapur kingdom, in 1645. By 1647 he had captured Kondana and Rajgad forts and had complete control of the Pune region.
By 1654 Shivaji had captured forts in the Western Ghats and along the Konkan coast. In a bid to sabotage this move of the Marathas under Shivaji's able leadership, Adilshah had his father - Shahaji arrested by deceitful means, and he sent one army against Sambhaji, Shivaji's elder brother at Bangalore (with Farradkhan at its head) and another against Shivaji at Purandhar (with Fattekhan at its head). However both Bhonsle brothers defeated the invading armies securing the release of their father. Afzal Khan, the great warrior, was then sent to destroy Shivaji, in an effort to put down what was seen by Bijapur as a regional revolt.
Afzal Khan, after leaving Bijapur to confront Shivaji, first desecrated the temples of goddess Bhavani in Tuljapur and Pandharpur. The intent was to get a roiled, disturbed, and shaken Shivaji out in the open to face him in a pitched battle. Instead, Shivaji sent a letter saying he was not eager to face Afzal Khan and sought some type of understanding. Shivaji upon carefully weighing his options calmly decided to confront and surprise Afzal Khan under the guise of diplomatic negotiations. A meeting was arranged between Afzal Khan and Shivaji at the foothills of Fort Pratapgad. Afzal Khan was described as a person of large physical stature leading a battle hardened veteran army, considered this assignment as a small matter of stamping out a pesky regional chieftain. He calculated that by killing Shivaji, he would be rid of the Maratha challenge to his king.
Shivaji, acutely aware of the danger facing him, prepared carefully and diligently for this encounter; he secretly armed himself with sharp metal razor weapon called bagh nakh (tiger claw), and chilkhat (armour) prior to the meeting. Afzal Khan embraced him before the commencement of supposed negotiations and then surreptitiously proceeded to stab him with a khanjar (Middle-eastern dagger) hidden in his clothes. Shivaji survived the attack unscathed, protected by body armour he wore under his clothes. In response, Shivaji counter-attacked Afzal Khan with the wagh nakh and bich'hwa, spilling his blood and entrails on the ground.
Thereupon, Afzal Khan's Hindu deputy, Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni and his bodyguard Sayyed Banda attacked Shivaji with swords but Jiva Mahala, Shivaji's personal bodyguard fatally struck them down with a single stroke of 'dandpatta' (medieval weapon). Meanwhile a stunned and wounded Afzal Khan managed to stumble out of the tent to get help but was immediately slain by Shivaji's associate Sambhaji Kavji, before he could get help or raise an alarm.
Immediately after slaying Afzal Khan, Shivaji galloped up the slope towards the fortress with his lieutenants and ordered cannons to be fired. This was a signal to his infantry, which had been strategically placed under the cover of the densely covered valley, to immediately attack the Afzal Khan's (Adilshahi) forces.
Maratha troops commanded by Shivaji's Sardar Kanhoji Jedhe swept down on Afzal Khan's 1,500 musketeers. The hand to hand combat was intense resulting in a complete rout of the musketeers at the foothills of the fort. Then in a rapid march, a section of Adilshahi forces commanded by Musekhan was attacked. Musekhan, Afzal Khan's leiutenant, was wounded in the early part of the battle and subsequently fled the field, leaving his soldiers to fend for themselves in the face of a swift and ferocious Maratha attack.
Meanwhile, Shivaji's commander Moropant led the Maratha infantry toward the left flank of the main portion of Adilshahi troops. Afzal Khan's (Adilshahi) artillery was made ineffective by his sudden attack at close quarters, while the rest of their troops succumbed to the Maratha attack. Simultaneously Shivaji's Sardar, Ragho Atre swooped down and attacked the large Adilshahi cavalry before they were able to be fully prepared for battle and succeeded in completely routing them in short order.
The Maratha cavalry under Netaji Palkar galloped at full speed towards the nearby village Wai, in hot pursuit of retreating Adilshahi forces, who were attempting to join the part of their reserve forces stationed there. The retreating forces of Afzal Khan were engaged in battle before they could regroup or join their comrades in Wai, and were utterly defeated.
This great and complete victory made Shivaji a hero of Maratha folklore and a legendary figure among his people.
All contemporary powers of the Indian subcontinent were shocked with the unambiguous outcome of this decisive battle. Immediately after the battle, Shivaji in the brilliant and lightning moves of cavalry conquered the area between Pune right up to the Panhala fort (near Kolhapur), stretching over 200 km.
The Follow-up Attack
Subsequently, a shaken Sultan of Bijapur lamenting the loss of his leading general, Afzal Khan, sent an imposing and elite Pashtun army to subdue and defeat Shivaji before he could gather more strength and substantially expand his army. In the resulting war of Panhalgadh, Bijapur's Pashtun (Afghan) army was out flanked, out fought and decimated by the fast moving and tough Maratha troops, who killed thousands of Pashtuns. The battle lasted for several hours and was very bloody and in the end Bijapuri forces unconditionally surrendered to Shivaji.
This surprising and improbably crushing defeat of the elite Muslim force in the Deccan raised the hopes and confidence of the Hindus across India and helped to coalesce the emerging Maratha nation as a united force under Shivaji's able leadership.
The confidence of the Marathas was now on the rise and an inspired Shivaji began to consolidate and expand his kingdom by pushing the boundaries of Mughal and Sultanate Kingdoms out of his homeland, Maharashtra. This in turn made him a high level threat to the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, who now identified Shivaji the Maratha as a major enemy of the Mughal Empire.
To counter the loss at Pratapgad and to defeat the nascent Maratha power, another army, this time numbering over 10,000, was sent against Shivaji, commanded by renowned Bijapuri general Rustemjaman. With cavalry of 5000 Marathas, Shivaji attacked them near Kolhapur on 28 December 1659. In a swift movement, Shivaji led a full frontal attack at the center of the enemy forces while other two portions of his cavalry attacked the flanks. The hand-to-hand combat was ferocious, the action was interspersed with the Maratha war cry "Har Har Mahadev" (hail to Lord Shiva), with "Allahu Akbhar" (God is great) the Muslim war cry. In a bloody pitched battle, the Bijapuri forces folded under the ferocious Maratha onslaught and in the ensuing panic, Rustemjaman fled the battlefield.
Shivaji's Mavale/Maratha soldiers clearly demonstrated their courage and martial tendency by fearlessly attacking in a pitched battle the combined and formidable Bijapur army made up of elite forces of Arab, Abyssinian, Persian and Afghan mercenaries. This news made the mighty Mughal empire more alarmed at the successes of the upstart Maratha - Shivaji, who was now derisively called "Mountain Rat" by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. He was now actively preparing to bring the full might and resources of the Mughal Empire to bear down on the potential Maratha threat, as he was not one to tolerate any challenge to his rule.
In 1660, Adil Shah sent Siddi Johar - an Abyssinian general of great repute. He was eager to put down Shivaji once again, and this time he committed all the manpower and resources available to him in his kingdom to this end. He ordered his large and imposing army north to Kolhapur, Maharashtra to confront and defeat Shivaji once and for all.
At that time Shivaji was camped at the fort Panhala with a small part of his army, near present day Kolhapur, on the borders of his dominion. Siddi Johar's very large and intimidating army camped near Panhala, cutting off supply routes to the fort. Shivaji, in a bold move, decided to escape to a nearby fort Vishaalgad, where he could regroup his soldiers to fight a decisive battle.
Shivaji sent misleading messages to Siddi Johar indicating that he was willing to negotiate and was looking for accommodation, understanding and mercy. With this news Adilshahi soldiers relaxed somewhat, and Shivaji escaped under the cover of a very stormy night. Johar's soldiers captured a small group of the Marathas apparently including Shivaji, only to realize he was a look-alike dressed like Shivaji, sent out to create a diversion and facilitate the real king's escape. It did not take much time for Siddi Johar's soldiers to realize that the imposter was Shivaji's barber and that Shivaji and his army were headed to Vishaalgad.
A large enemy cavalry, in hot pursuit of Shivaji's infantry and foot soldiers would probably have overtaken and captured him. Sensing that enemy cavalry was fast closing in on them Shivaji sought to avoid defeat and capture. And indeed, this very likely eventuality was avoided by Shivaji in a last minute rear-guard defensive move. Baji Prabhu Deshpande, a brave Sardar along with 300 Maratha soldiers, volunteered to fight to the death to hold back the enemy at Ghod Khind to give Shivaji and the rest of the army a chance to reach the safety of Vishaal Gad.
In the ensuing battle of Pavan Khind, Baji Prabhu Deshpande fought relentlessly, at times with scimitars curved swords in both hands. He was almost fatally injured but he held on for precious minutes and only succumbed to his injuries after hearing cannon fire from Vishaal Gad, signalling Shivaji had reached safety of the fort.
Ghod Khind was covered with blood of 300 Marathas who willingly gave up their lives and fought to the last man for the cause of freedom, along with that of 1286 of Adilshah's brave and elite troops. Baji Prabhu Deshpande and his men's bravery, sacrifice and heroic stand at Pavan Khind is a very popular story in the annals of the great and illustrious Maratha history. And has been recited as a folk lore in Maharashtra in many inspiring renditions.
Thereafter a truce was made between Shivaji and Adilshahi through Shahaji, acknowledging and formally recognizing the independence of Shivaji's Kingdom. Also, as the terms of peace, the fort at Panhala was awarded to Siddi Johar.
This remained the situation until the death of Shahaji. Henceforth the Marathas became a formal and recognized power in the Deccan. Ghod Khind (khind = " a narrow mountain pass") was renamed Pavan Khind (Sacred Pass) in honor of Bajiprabhu Deshpande and the soldiers who selflessly fought and died to save their king and country. A small memorial stands even today in the pass in recognition of the heroism of Bajiprabhu and his courageous men.
This battle was one of the last serious challenges to Shivaji from the regional sultanates, from now on the attention of the mighty Mughal empire would be firmly focused on danger posed by the emerging Maratha nation under the able leadership of Shivaji and his potential challenge to their supremacy in the Indian sub-continent.
Toward the end of 1660, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb sent Shaista Khan, his maternal uncle with a large army to defeat Shivaji in the Deccan. Within three years in 1663, Shivaji had lost most of his conquests to a relentless attack by a well-trained, well supplied and vastly larger Mughal army.
Shaista Khan, seized Pune and the nearby fort of Chakan. His vast and professional army numbering over 100,000 was more than a match for Shivaji's troops and he was an experienced commander who had defeated Shahaji (Shivaji's father) in the same region in 1636. Although he held Pune for almost a year, he had little further success. He had set up his residence at Lal Mahal, Shivaji's palace, in the city of Pune.
Shaista Khan kept the security in Pune very tight. Shivaji planned a daring attack on Shaista Khan amidst tight security. In April 1663, a wedding party had obtained special permission for a procession; Shivaji planned an attack using the wedding party as cover. The Marathas disguised themselves as the bridegroom’s procession and entered Pune. Shivaji, having spent much of his youth in Pune, knew his way around the city and his own palace of Lal Mahal.
After overpowering and slaying the palace guards, the Marathas broke into the mansion by breaking through a wall. Shivaji confronted Shaista Khan and with a slash of his sword he severed three of Shaista Khan's fingers as he fled through an open window. The Khan narrowly escaped death and was taken to a safe place by his servant maids. Shaista Khan lost his son, many of his guards, and soldiers in the raid.
Within twenty-four hours of this daring attack, Amir-ul-Umra, Shaista Khan left Pune and headed North towards Agra. An angered Aurangzeb transferred him to distant Bengal as a punishment for bringing embarrassment to the Mughals with his very personal and ignoble defeat in Pune.
In 1664 Shivaji invaded Surat, an important Mughal trading city, and looted it to replenish his now depleted treasury and also as a revenge for the capture and looting of Maratha territory by Shaista Khan.
Shivaji acquired immense wealth from Surat, which was then one of the largest and an important trading centers in the Mughal Empire. The money was sorely needed for expanding and strengthening of his army, upgrading of equipment, and safeguarding of captured territories. Following the raid on Surat, Gujarat, Shivaji continued to capture forts belonging to both Mughals and Bijapur and to expand his dominions.
Aurangzeb was enraged and sent a renowned Rajput General, Mirza Raja Jai Singh I, a Hindu Raja, to defeat Shivaji with another imposing and huge army. The Mughal force proved to be unstoppable in the early battles and Shivaji decided to come to terms with Aurangzeb. In the treaty of Purander, signed between Shivaji and Jai Singh, Shivaji agreed to give up all of his 23 forts and 400,000 rupees to the Mughals. He also agreed to let his son Sambhaji become a Mughal Sardar and serve the Mughal court of Aurangzeb. Shivaji's clandestine intentions in doing this were to defeat his enemies, the Bijapur and Golconda Kingdoms using Aurangzeb's army and then to take on the mighty Mughals.
In 1666, Aurangzeb summoned Shivaji to Agra, along with his six year old son Sambhaji, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. In the court, on 12 May 1666, Aurangzeb made Shivaji stand behind mansabdars (Commanders) of his court. Offended by this petty gesture, Shivaji stormed out of court and was promptly placed under house arrest, under the watch of Fulad Khan, Kotwal of Agra.
From his spies, Shivaji learned that Aurangzeb planned to shift him to Raja Vitthaldas's Haveli and then to kill him. As a result Shivaji planned his escape. He feigned almost fatal sickness and requested to send most of his contingent back to Deccan. Thereafter, on his request, he was allowed to send daily shipments of sweets and gifts to saints, fakirs, and temples in Agra as offerings for getting well.
After several days and weeks of sending out boxes containing sweets, Shivaji disguised himself as a palanquin bearer and managed to escape without being recognized. Sambhaji, his six year old son had been smuggled out a couple of days earlier. Shivaji and his son fled to the Deccan (Southern region) to the safety of their homeland, disguised as sadhus (holy men/Sanyasins). Some accounts claim that after the escape, rumours of Sambhaji's death were intentionally spread by Shivaji himself in order to deceive the Mughals and to protect Sambhaji.
Some accounts claim that Shivaji and Sambhaji both hid in large crates that were filled with sweets (confectionery) being donated to various charities in the Agra city to escape the imprisonment. However, this method of escape has been questioned by many historians.
Dr. Ajit Joshi in a well researched book published in Marathi language (Agryahun Sutka, 1997) has conducted a careful examination of all the available evidence about Shivaji's visit to Agra and various reports pertaining to his subsequent escape, in official/historical Mughal and Rajput documents. His conclusion is that Shivaji likely disguised himself as a Brahmin Pundit after performance of religious rites at the haveli grounds and escaped by mingling in within the departing priestly entourage.
In the years 1667-69, Shivaji adopted a low profile and began to aggressively build up his army. The Mughals had the impression that he was now a spent force and would not cause them any more trouble. However, Shivaji was on a war-footing, directing efforts for an all out war by increasing the size of his army, acquiring arms, horses, armour and other war materials. Then in January 1670 Shivaji launched a major, concerted and multi-pronged assault on Mughal garrisons in Maharashtra.
The force of Shivaji's attacks was overwhelming and within six months he had regained most of his old territory and more. His army was much larger now: about 40,000 cavalry, backed by 60,000 infantry, a strong navy and a potent artillery. From 1670 to 1674 Shivaji continued to actively and aggressively expand his territory at the expense of the Mughals who were now facing major pressures on their treasuries as their war related expenses outstripped the incoming tax revenues.
Shivaji rapidly expanded his kingdom to include major portions of Maharashtra and far in to the south including Karnataka and Tamilnadu.
One fort on the outskirts of Pune, Kondana, was still under Mughal control. Uday Bhan Rathod, a brave Rajput was the fort keeper. He led an army of about 1500 Rajputs and Mughals for the protection of the fort. Uday Bhan had maintained strict vigil around the fort. On February 4, 1670 Shivaji deputed one of his most senior and trusted generals, Tanaji Malusare, to head a mission to capture Kondana.
Tanaji Malusare surveyed the fort and its defenses very meticulously for some days. The fort was extremely well guarded. One very sheer cliff caught Tanaji's eye. This side was least guarded as one could not possibly imagine climbing the fort from this steep side. Tanaji decided to scale this cliff to enter the fort. He used a monitor lizard named "Yeshwanti" with a rope tied around its body for climbing this cliff on a moonless night. Perhaps this was the first time in the history of wars where a lizard was used to climb a fort.
The Common Indian Monitor (Varanus bengalensis) found locally in present day Maharashtra is the species of Monitor Lizard is also known as ghorpad in Marathi. These Monitor lizards are famous for their ability to cling to smooth surfaces, and were traditionally trained for this purpose by herders in the area.
As the advance party reached the top, they threw ropes for others to climb. Meanwhile Tanaji's brother Suryaji had moved close to the gates of the fort, namely Kalyan Darwaja, with another 300 Mavalas (Maratha Soldiers). The gates were soon opened and once inside, all his soldiers joined Tanaji in the surprise attack.
Tanaji and Uday Bhan came face to face and a fierce fight ensued. A solid blow from Uday Bhan broke Tanaji's shield. He continued the fight until another fatal blow from Uday Bhan staggered Tanaji and a counter blow then killed Uday Bhan. Seeing their leader mortally wounded, the Maratha soldiers became tentative and started to back-up and retreat. Suryaji, then stepped in front and center to rally them and to get them to be back on the offensive. His exhortations and his leadership lifted the Maratha spirit. The Marathas now determinedly commenced their attack on the Mughal defenders with great courage and tenacity, and captured the fort.
This battle is quite popular in Marathi folklore and is retold as a reminder of the glory and sacrifice that was the Maratha war of Independence.
When Shivaji learned that he had lost his brave, loyal and trusted friend, he said "Gad ala, pun sinha geyla", meaning We have won the fort, but lost the Lion. Thenceforth Kondana fort was formally named Sinhagad (the Lion fort) in honour of the great Tanaji Malusare.
Shivaji was formally crowned Chhatrapati ("Chhatrapati= Chief, head or King of Kshatriyas", representing the protection he bestowed on his people) on June 6, 1674 at the Raigad fort, and given the title Kshatriya Kulavantas Sinhasanadheeshwar Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Pandit Gaga Bhatt, a renowned Brahmin from Varanasi, officially presided over the ceremony declaring that Shivaji's lineage was bonafide and recognized Kshatriya.
He was bestowed with the Zaanva, in Hindi the Janeu (sacred thread), with the Vedas and was bathed in an abisheka. Shivaji had insisted on an Indrabhishek ritual, which had fallen into disuse since the 9th century. Henry Oxinden (later Acting President of the Bombay Presidency) from the British East India Company was present at the ceremony.
Shivaji then was conferred with the title of “shakkarta” (he started his own calendar). A few days later a second ceremony was carried out, this time according to the Bengal school of Tantricism and presided over by Nischal Puri.
Toward the end of 1676, Shivaji launched a wave of conquests in southern India with a massive force of 50,000 (30,000 cavalry & 20,000 infantry). The first major alliance made by the monarch was with Abul Hasan, the Qutb Shahi Sultan of Golconda. They began a campaign against the Bijapur Karnataka, including the Shivaji's own half-brother, Vyankoji Bhonsla. He defeated and captured the forts at Vellore and Gingee in modern-day Tamilnadu. These victories proved quite crucial during future wars. Jinjee served as Maratha capital for 9 years during 27 years of war.
Chhatrapati Shivaji died at 12 noon, 3rd April, in 1680 at Raigad, after running a fever for three weeks. It is said that he died due to contracting a disease Bloody Flux, Intestinal anthrox. The funeral ceremony was arranged in Raigad in presence of his son Rajaram, and Soyarabai. After Shivaji's death, his elder son Sambhaji and Soyrabai , fought for control of the kingdom. After a brief struggle Sambhaji was crowned king.
A few years after Shivaji's death, Aurangzeb's son, Prince Akbar, rebelled against his father and was sheltered by Sambhaji. Thereupon, Aurangzeb, his army, entourage and the royal court moved to the Deccan in 1681 to wage an all out war for the complete destruction of Maratha power. This was the beginning of the twenty seven year war, initially the Marathas were overwhelmed by the might and the great power of the Mughal empire. Under the overpowering and unrelenting Mughal assault the endangered Maratha capital was moved and evacuated from Raigad to Jinjee in the south and for a time it seemed that Aurangzeb's objective of stamping out the Maratha threat would be achieved. However, in the following months and years the tide of the war began to change.
The Marathas adapted very well to the Mughal menace and fought Aurangzeb to a stalemate. And towards the end of the second decade the Marathas gathered more strength and began to turn the tide of the war. The Mughal forces were dealt several serious body blows by able Maratha generals like Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav. They effectively employed lightning fast and highly mobile attacks, tactics initially developed and effectively used by Shivaji.
Eventually a broken, defeated Aurangzeb retreated in sickness from the Deccan in 1705. The final Mughal withdrawal came two years later. He had spent most of his remaining resources and manpower trying to defeat the Marathas and ended up significantly weakening the once mighty Mughal Empire. Aurangzeb's heirs never again challenged the Marathas and were themselves finally overtaken and utterly dominated by the Peshwa's Maratha Sardars, namely Scindia and Holkar, within eighty years of Shivaji's death.
This 27 year war, was a tribute to Shivaji's genius, in which even after his death, Maratha forces felt a great sense of privilege to fight to honour his memory to expel Aurangzeb out of the Deccan to preserve the Maratha self-rule swarajya and expand upon Shivaji's goals of independent Maharashtra and Hindustan.
Jadunath Sarkar, a noted Indian historian and a scholar, estimates that about 500,000 Mughal soldiers and 200,000 Marathas died during this decades long epic struggle for dominance.
Shivaji's leadership and successes contributed significantly to stiffening up of Hindu assertiveness and resurgence in post Islamic India. He was the first of many great Indian leaders and the most successful in the fight for freedom, for Swaraj.
Shivaji was an able and competent administrator and established a government that included such modern concepts as cabinet (Ashtapradhan mandal), foreign affairs (Dabir) and internal intelligence. Shivaji established an effective civil and military administration. He also built a powerful navy and erected new forts like Sindhudurg and strengthened old ones like Vijayadurg on the west coast. The Maratha navy held its own against the British, Portuguese and Dutch till Maratha internal conflict brought their downfall in 1756.
Shivaji is well known for his benevolent attitude towards his subjects. He believed that there was a close bond between the state and the citizens. He encouraged all socio-economic groups to participate in the ongoing political/military struggle. To this day he is remembered as a just and welfare-minded king. He brought revolutionary changes in military, fort architecture, society and politics. He was one of the most clever rulers of the post Mughal era who had built up his empire on the ruins of the falling Mughal empire.
Shivaji occupies a special place in the hearts of many Marathi and other people in India due in part to his, well documented, high moral code of conduct and his courageous campaigns against the power of the Mughals and the Nizams. He laid the foundations of the modern Marathi identity and infused it with strong martial, moral and chivalric traditions. In his times he squarely and unflinchingly faced daunting challenges such as repeated invasions by huge Mughal and regional Sultanate armies, that would have defeated a lesser leader.
Shivaji successfully lead and marshalled his forces to cope and overcome several major enemy invasions of his territories. He was also relentless and inexorable in expanding his kingdoms boundaries. His success was driven by his fierce and urgent determination to establish a free and independent homeland (Vatan), and in this goal he was supported by the high level of loyalty, respect and commitment that he received from his followers and citizens.
In the earlier years of Shivaji's leadership he commanded a small force of loyal followers, they had few resources and lacked sufficient military hardware and equipment. He overcame these initial shortcomings by extensive use of hit-and -run guerrilla type tactics, and he captured much equipment from his enemies and thus his strength and confidence grew with every success he achieved.
He was an innovator and an able commander, he successfully used effective tactics including hit-and-run, strategic expansion of territories and forts, formation of highly mobile light cavalry and infantry units, adaptation of strategic battle plans and formations, whereby he succeeded in out-maneuvering, time and time again, his vastly bigger and determined enemies.
Toward the end of his reign he had built up the Maratha forces to be over one hundred thousand strong, and was able to effectively keep the embedded Mughal forces in check and on the run while expanding his kingdom southward to Gingee, Tamil Nadu.
Shivaji had successfully established a viable and growing kingdom that was stable and well defended. He had built a large standing army and constructed several strategically placed forts which served as a Hindu bulwark against aggressive and active Islamic powers within India. His brilliant strategic and tactical maneuvering on battlefields and his acute management and administrative skills helped him to lay the foundations of the future Maratha empire in India.
During his long military career and his many campaigns his strong religious and warrior code of ethics, exemplary character and deep seated and uncompromising spiritual values directed him to offer protection to houses of worship, non-combatants, women and children. He always showed respect, defended and protected places of worship of all denominations and religions.
Shivaji was once offered as a war booty an extremely beautiful young lady, by an uninformed Maratha captain. She was the daughter-in-law of a defeated Muslim Amir (local ruler) of Kalyan, Maharashtra. Shivaji was reported to have told the lady that her beauty was mesmerizing and that if his mother was as beautiful as her, he would have been beautiful as well. He told her to go back to her family in peace, unmolested and under his protection. His behaviour, was noted by those around him, to be always of the highest moral caliber. He clearly and unambiguously embodied the virtues and ideals of a true nobleman.
Throughout his long career he boldly risked his life, his treasure and his well being to openly challenge his immensely larger enemies to defend and uphold freedom and independence. And in that lay the foundations of the greatness of Chhattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, which was based not as much on his successes on or off the battlefields, or on the strength of his arms, or his clever strategies or his noble birth but was truly based on his selfless and courageously fierce actions he undertook against any and all odds, on behalf of his beloved Vatan (sacred homeland/nation).
He did not spend any resources on projects designed for self-aggrandizement or vanity, instead he was propeled by his sense of Dharma (sacred duty) to his people and country which lead him to directly challenge the dangerous, powerful and oppressive rule of the Nizams and the Mughals. His legacy is heroism, selflessness, freedom, independence, brotherhood and unwavering courage, and as such he is a great role model for the ages.
Shivaji struck a deep chord with his followers and the citizenary. And the high level of admiration and respect he earned from his followers and subjects sets him apart from most other Indian kings or chieftains in the recorded Indian history. Even today he is venerated in India and especially in the state of Maharashtra with awe and admiration and is viewed as a hero of epic proportions.
Shivaji's genius is most evident in his military organisation which lasted till the demise of the Maratha empire. He was one of the pioneers of commando actions (though the term "commando" is modern). Shivaji was responsible for a lot of changes in military organization. These include -
Shivaji constructed a chain of 300 or more forts running over a thousand kilometres across the rugged Western Ghats.Each were placed under three officers of equal status lest a single traitor should deliver it to the enemy. The officers (Sabnis, Havladar, Sar-i-naubat) acted jointly and provided mutual check.
The house of Shivaji was one of the Indian royal families who were well acquainted with Sanskrit and promoted it. The root can be traced from Shahaji who supported Jayram Pindye and many like him. Shivaji's seal was prepared by him.
Shivaji continued this trait and developed it further. He named his forts as Sindhdurg, Prachandgarh, Suvarndurg etc. He named Ashta Pradhan (council of ministers) as per Sanskrit nomenclature viz. Nyayadhish, Senapati etc. He got Rajya Vyavahar Kosh (a political treatise) prepared. His Rajpurohit Keshav Pandit was himself a Sanskrit scholar and poet.
After his death Sambhaji, who was himself a Sanskrit scholar (his verse - Budhbhushanam), continued it. His grandson Shahu spent his entire childhood in Mughal captivity, which affected his taste. But even he showered gifts on learned Brahmins. Serfoji II from the Thanjavur branch of the Bhosle continued the tradition by printing the first book in Marathi Devnagari.
Sambhaji issued one danapatra (donation plaque) which is in Sanskrit composed by himself in which he writes about his father as:
Shivaji made available to Ramdas a fort named Parali Fort to establish his permanent monastery there. The fort was subsequently renamed as “Sajjangad”(Fort of Holy People).
Chhatrapati Shivaji was a devout Hindu and he respected all religions within the region. Shivaji had great respect for Warkari saints like Tukaram and Sufi Muslim pir Shaikh Yacub Baba Avaliya of Konkan ..
He also visited Mouni Maharaj temple and Samadhi at Patgaon (Bhudargad Taluka near to Gargoti) in Kolhapur district. Shahaji had donated a huge piece of land to Shaha-Sharif Durgah of Ahmednagar. (The names "Shahaji", the father of Shivaji, and "Sarfoji", the uncle of Shivaji, are derived in deference to this Shah Sharifji.)
Shivaji allowed his subjects freedom of religion and opposed forced conversion. The first thing Shivaji did after a conquest was to promulgate protection of mosques and Muslim tombs. One-third of his army was Muslim, as were many of his commanders: his most trusted general in all his campaigns was Haider Ali Kohari; Darya Sarang was chief of armoury; Ibrahim Khan and Daulat Khan were prominent in the navy; and Siddi Ibrahim was chief of artillery.
Shivaji had respect for the Sufi tradition of Islam. Shivaji used to pray at the mausoleum of the great Sufi Muslim saint Baba Sharifuddin. He also visited the abode of another great Sufi saint, Shaikh Yacub of the Konkan, and sought his blessings. He called Hazrat Baba of Ratnagiri bahut thorwale bhau, meaning "great elder brother".
Kafi Khan, the Mughal historian and Bernier, a French traveler, spoke highly of his religious policy. He also brought back converts like Netaji Palkar & Bajaji in to Hinduism. He prohibited slavery in his kingdom.
Shivaji applied a humane and liberal policy to the women of his state. There are many instances in folklore, which describes Shivaji's respect for women, irrespective of their religion, nationality, or creed.
Shivaji's sentiments of inclusivity and tolerance of other religions can be seen in an admonishing letter to Aurangzeb, in which he wrote:
"Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of him. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for him alone."
Because of his struggle against an imperial power, Shivaji became an icon of freedom fighters in the Indian independence struggle that followed two centuries later. He is remembered as a just and wise king and his rule is called one of the six golden ages in Indian history.
School texts in Maharashtra describe Shivaji's rule as heroic, exemplary and inspiring and he is considered the founder of the modern Marathi nation; his policies were instrumental in forging a distinct Maharashtrian identity. A popular quotation:
"Maratha tituka melavava
Maharashtra Dharma vadhavava"
A political party, the Shiv Sena, claims to draw inspiration from Shivaji.
The Maratha Light Infantry, one of the oldest and distinguished regiments of the Indian Army has "Bol Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai" as its battle cry.
The World Heritage site of Victoria Terminus and Sahar International Airport in Mumbai were renamed Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport respectively in Shivaji's honour, as have many public buildings and spaces in recent years. The Interstate Bus Terminal of New Delhi has also been named after Shivaji.
Indian Navy has the School of Naval Engineering named INS SHIVAJI.
In the novel The Ark, the Indian ship is named Shivaji.
Shivaji is a source of inspiration for a number of artists, directors, actors, writers, shahir (ballad composer), poets and orators. In Marathi, Bhalaji Pendharkar directed on the movie, 'Raja Shivaji' in which the main role was played by the famous Marathi actor Chandrakant Mandare. Apart form this movie, 'Maratha tituka melawawa','Gad ala pan sing gela' and many more movies specially in Marathi were made on his and his associates' life.
Sriman yogi is a novel written on Shivaji's life by Ranjit Desai. Raja Shivachhatrapati is a biography authored by Babasaheb Purandare on his life which was later brought out as Jaanata Raja (जाणता राजा), a musical tale of Shivaji's life. Kusumagraj has composed a famous poem on Shivaji's general Prataprao Gujar' Vedat Marathe vir daudale sat'. performed Lata Mangeshkar and Hridayanath Mangeshkar.
Marathi playwright Vasant Kanetkar wrote 'Raigadala Jevha Jaag Yete' (When Raigad awakes), a play based on the complex relationship between Shivaji and Sambhaji. Shahir like Tulsidas and Agandas had written heroic ballads on him. Kavi Bhushan has composed in Hindi, a famous work 'Shivraj Bhushan'.
Some of Shivaji's close associates were also his primary army chieftains, and have entered folklore along with him. These include:
Under Shivaji, many men of talent and enterprise rose into prominence. They carried forward his mission and ensured the defeat of the Mughals in the War of 27 years. These include Ramchandrapant amtya, Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav, Parsoji Bhosale, Harji raje Mahadik and Kanhoji Angre.
Many foreign travellers who visited India during Shivaji's time wrote about him.