Shivaji was born in Shivner near Junnar. He was the son of Shahji Bhonsle by his first wife Jijabai. Shahji was a descendant of the Yadava rulers of Devagiri from his mother’s side and the Sisodias of Mewar on his father’s side. Shahji Bhonsle served under Malik Ambar (1548–1626), former slave, and the Abyssinian minister of Ahmed Shah of Ahmednagar. After the death of Malik Ambar, Shahji played a vital role in its politics. After the annexation of Ahmednagar by the Mughals, he entered the service of the Sultan of Bijapur. Shivaji and his mother were left under the care of Dadaji Kondadev who administered Shahji Bhonsle’s jagirs (land grants given in recognition of military or administrative services rendered) at Poona. Shivaji earned the goodwill of the Mavali peasants and chiefs, who were a martial people with knowledge about the hilly areas around Poona. Shivaji made himself familiar with the hilly areas around Poona. Religious heads, Ramdas and Tukaram, also influenced Shivaji. Ramdas was regarded by Shivaji as his guru.
Shivaji began his military career at the age of nineteen. In 1646, he captured the fortress of Torna from the Sultan of Bijapur. The fort of Raigad, located five miles east of Torna, was captured and wholly rebuilt. After the death of Dadaji Kondadev in 1647, Shivaji took over all the jagirs of his father. Subsequently, the forts of Baramati, Indapura, Purandhar and Kondana came under his direct control. The Marathas had already captured Kalyan, an important town in that region. Shivaji’s father had been humiliated and imprisoned by the Sultan of Bijapur.
He negotiated with Prince Murad, the Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan and expressed his wish to join Mughal service. The Sultan of Bijapur released Shahji in 1649 on some conditions. So, Shivaji refrained from his military activities from 1649 to 1655. During this period, he consolidated his power and toned up his administration. In 1656, Shivaji re-started his military activities. He captured Javli in the Satara district and the immense booty that he won made him popular among the Marathas. Many young men joined his army. A new fort, Pratapgarh, was built two miles west of Javli.
Confrontation against Bijapur
After Mohammad Adilshah of Bijapur died in November 1656, Adilshah II, a young man of eighteen, succeeded him. Aurangzeb captured Bidar, Kalyani and Purandar in 1657. So, both Shivaji and the Bijapur Sultan were forced to make peace with Aurangzeb. At this time Shah Jahan fell ill, and a war of succession was imminent in Delhi. Aurangzeb left for Delhi to take part in it. Using this opportunity, Shivaji invaded north Konkan and captured the cities of Kalyan, Bhivandi and fort of Mahuli.
Shivaji and Afzal Khan, 1659
As there was no danger from the Mughals, Bijapur Sultan decided to attack Shivaji. Afzal Khan was sent with a huge army. He boasted that he would bring the “mountain-rat” in chains. But, he found fighting in the mountainous country extremely difficult. So, he planned to trick Shivaji but he was outwitted. The Maratha forces ravaged South Konkan and Kolhapur district and captured the fort of Panhala. The Sultan of Bijapur himself led the army and the war dragged on for more than a year. Nothing substantial was gained. Finally, after negotiations, Shivaji was recognised as the ruler of the territories in his possession.
Shivaji and the Mughals
In July 1658, Aurangzeb ascended the throne as the Emperor. Shaista Khan was appointed the Governor of the Deccan in 1660 with the main purpose of crushing Shivaji. Shivaji hit upon a bold plan. He entered Poona at night with 400 soldiers in the form of a marriage party and attacked the home of Shaista Khan. Aurangzeb was forced to recall Shaista Khan from the Deccan in December 1663.
Shivaji and Jaisingh In 1664,
Shivaji attacked Surat, the major Mughal port in Arabian Sea and his soldiers plundered the city. Aurangzeb despatched an army under the command of the Rajput general Raja Jai Singh to defeat Shivaji and annex Bijapur. At that time, Prince Muazzam, (known as Bahadur Shah I), was the Governor of the Deccan. Jai Singh made elaborate plans to encircle Shivaji on all sides. Even Raigarh was under threat. Purandar was besieged in June 1665. The heroic resistance of Shivaji became futile. T herfore he decided to come to negotiate with Jai Singh. According to the treaty of Purandar signed on 11 June 1665 Shivaji yielded the fortresses that he had captured and agreed to serve as a mansabdar and assist the Mughals in conquering Bijapur.
Visit to Agra
Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to visit the Mughal court. He fed Shivaji with high hopes and took personal responsibility for his safety at the capital. Shivaji and his son Sambhaji reached Agra in May 1666. But, they were not shown due respect. Humiliated, he burst out and abused the Emperor. When Shivaji was imprisoned, he managed to escape by hiding himself in a fruit basket. In 1666, Shivaji resumed his belligerent policy and led Maratha soldiers in new conquests. As the Mughals were busy with the Afghan risings in the NorthWest, they could not deal with Shivaji. Shivaji also occupied himself with the reorganisation of his internal administration. Prince Muazzam, Viceroy of the Deccan, was weak and indolent. Raja Jaswant Singh was friendly towards Shivaji. Sambhaji was also made a mansabdar of 5000.
Conflict with the Mughals, (1670)
Aurangzeb took back a part of the jagir in Berar which was once given to Shivaji. Shivaji got annoyed and recalled his troops from Mughal service. He recovered almost all the forts he had ceded to the Mughals by the treaty of Purandar. In 1670, he again sacked Surat, the most important port on the western coast. In 1672, the Marathas imposed chauth or one fourth of the revenue as annual tribute on Surat.
On 6 June 1674, Shivaji was crowned at Raigarh. He assumed the title of “Chhatrapathi”( metaphor for “supreme king ”).
In 1676, Shivaji began his career of conquests in the south. A secret treaty was signed with the Sultan of Golkonda. Shivaji promised him some territories in return for his support. He captured Senji and Vellore and annexed the adjoining territories which belonged to his father, Shahji. He allowed his halfbrother Venkoji or Ekoji to carry on administering Thanjavur. The Nayaks of Madurai promised a huge amount as tribute. The Carnatic campaigns added glory and prestige to Shivaji. Senji, the newly conquered place, acted as the second line of defence for his successors.
Last days of Shivaji
Shivaji’s last days were not happy. His eldest son Sambhaji deserted him and joined the Mughal camp. Although he returned, he was imprisoned and sent to Panhala fort by Aurangzeb. The relentless campaigns affected Shivaji’s health. He died in 1680 at the age of 53. At the time of his death, Shivaji’s kingdom comprised the Western Ghats and the Konkan between Kalyan and Goa. The provinces in the south included western Karnataka extending from Belgaum to the bank of Tungabhadra. Vellore, Senji and a few other districts were not settled at the time of his death.