Shivaji Bhosle, also called Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhosle (Shivneri, 19 February 1630 - Raigarh, 3 April 1680) was a leader of the Maratha's in western India, successfully resisted the Mughals and Islamic sultans who tried to subdue the area. After several decades of successful resistance, he was crowned chhatrapati ("emperor") in 1674, a direct provocation to The Emperor Aurangzeb. Shivaji was a skilled and charismatic leader, who used guerrilla tactics to resist the much larger armies of the Mughals. The mountains, hills and deep ravines of the Western Ghats lent themselves excellently for this form of warfare. Shivaji is considered the founder of the Maratha Empire. The resistance of the Marathas under Shivaji and his successors caused the Mughals to abandon their plans to take control of the entire Indian Peninsula, and eventually led to the collapse of the Mughal Empire. Shivaji is considered a great hero by Hindu nationalists in contemporary India. In the present state of Maharashtra, he is considered a national hero.
Shivaji was the second son of the Maratha leader Shahji Bhosle and his wife Jijabai, a daughter of a Marathi nobleman in the sultanate of Ahmednagar. The 17th century saw the authority of the sultans of Ahmednagar and Bijapur in the west of the Deccan greatly diminished. Some important Hindu nobles who served the sultans as deshmukhs ("loanmen") built their own power base in the area at their disposal. Little changed when the Sultanate of Ahmednagar was conquered by the Mughals between 1633-1636. In the battle between the Mughals and the sultanate of Bijapur, Shahji sided with Bijapur. Jijabais's family, however, was on the hands of the Mughals. Shivaji's parents were separated from each other and found themselves in opposing camps.
In 1636, Jijabai settled in Pune, where Shivaji grew up separate from his father. Unlike his half-brothers, who came into contact with the Persian-Islamic court culture of the sultans in Bijapur, Shivaji was taught by Brahmin teachers. In 1645, Shivaji took charge of his absent father's deshmukhs. After that, his influence gradually expanded over other parts of the Western Ghats. He was popular among young Marathi nobles and became a rallying point of resistance against both Bijapur and the Mughals. Between Bijapur and Ahmednagar, Pune fell into an undefinite border area, and this power vacuum made it possible to operate independently here. Because Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah of Bijapur was seriously ill from 1646 onwards, the Marathas of Bijapur also had little to fear.
With a combination of rapid military action and negotiations, Shivaji managed to conquer the hill forts of the Western Ghats one by one on other Maratha leaders and administrators employed by the Sultan of Bijapur. Not only did his army of Marathas grow steadily, he also appointed a new class of Brahmin clerks and administrators. By raiding and looting areas under the Mughals or the sultan, the treasury of this growing empire was well stocked. Shivaji spent the money on expanding the chain of forts and defenses in the table mountains of the Western Ghats. Most of these forts were at the top of high cliffs and were easy to defend. Shivaji also expanded his domain to the Konkan coast, where he captured some ports. Soon he had a considerable fleet, with which he traded with the Arabs, Englishmen and Portuguese.
Time to enjoy the victory, however, was hardly there. The Mughals, meanwhile, had had enough of the marauding that the Marathas carried out in their provinces. In 1660, a first Mughal army led by the governor of the Deccan, Shaista Khan, invaded the Western Ghats. Pune was occupied and a siege was put in place around the fort Chakan. A second Mughal army under Jaswant Singh Rathor brought further reinforcements. The importance of the defences that Shivaji had put in place was now clear. Shaista Khan decided to leave the rest of the Maratha's forts after a hard-fought victory. Instead, he had the surrounding countryside looted from Pune.
In April 1663, Shivaji infiltrated Pune with 400 of his men, overpowering Shaista Khan's forces and nearly killing the governor in his own headquarters. Shaista Khan was then recalled from the Deccan and replaced by Prince Muazzam, a son of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. In January 1664, Shivaji led an army far into the Mughal empire to attack the important port city of Surat. While the city's governor retreated to his fortress, the Marathas ransacked the city for six days. The only traders who escaped the Marathas were the Dutch and English, who managed to defend themselves in their walled factors. Muslim pilgrims waiting in the port for embarkation to Mecca for the hajj were forced to pay ransom. Aurangabad, the capital of the Mughals in the Deccan, was also looted. The inhabitants of the city wrote a letter to the Mughal Emperor, stating that if he was no longer able to protect his subjects, Friday prayer (the khutbah)could no longer be pronounced in his name. Aurangzeb could not ignore this direct attack on his authority. Since Prince Muazzam took little action and did not fully trust the Emperor Jaswant Singh (perhaps not wrongly, because this Rajput was rumored to have secretly sympathized with Shivaji) he decided to replace the latter with the experienced general, mirza and Raja Jai Singh.
In early 1665, Raja Jai Singh laid siege to the fort Purandhar, where Shivaji had holed up. After two months, the situation for Shivaji seemed precarious, and he decided to negotiate with his opponent. This led to the Treaty of Purandhar, in which Shivaji gave up 23 forts and retained 12 forts and recognized Aurangzeb as its sovereign. As the Mughal Emperor's vassal, he had to give up taxes, but he did not have to become a mansabdar ("courtier"). However, his young son, Sambhaji, would be sent to the court of Aurangzeb in Delhi. Shivaji Jai Singh also pledged support for his upcoming campaign against Bijapur.
Between November 1665 and February 1666, Shivaji accompanied Jai Singh on his campaign against Bijapur. However, negotiations with the sultan were negotiated, after which the company was called off. Jai Singh then persuaded Shivaji to accompany him on his journey back north for a personal audience with Emperor Aurangzeb. At the head of 4000 riders and with his son Sambhaji by his side, Shivaji headed towards Agra, where the emperor was staying at the time. The cost of the trip would be reimbursed from the imperial treasury.
In Agra Shivaji and his entourage stayed as guests in the quarters of Ram Singh, the son of Jai Singh. On May 12, 1666, the day of Aurangzeb's 50th birthday (according to the Islamic calendar), Shivaji appeared on the durbar of Aurangzeb. He knelt before the emperor's throne to offer him gifts. However, the emperor ignored him and refused to shower him with the honor of a commander of his rank. Shivaji felt so offended that he lost his temper, protested loudly and walked away angry. Aurangzeb then placed Shivaji under house arrest. For a few months Shivaji spent with his son as a prisoner in Agra, after which he managed to escape through a ruse in a basket of candy. Disguised as Brahmin yogis, Shivaji and his son managed to travel back to their homeland via a detour on foot. In Raigarh, Shivaji's mother Jijabai had ruled as regent in his absence.
Aurangzeb tried to reconcile with what he considered a renegade vassal. In 1668, Shivaji agreed to return one of the forts he should have ceded and sent his son Sambhaji to prince Muazzam's court in Aurangabad. With no looting in the Mughal empire, Shivaji had to collect revenue in other ways. He set up a new tax system, whereby the population had to pay half the harvest. By selling this proceeds he was able to acquire the means to strengthen and man his forts. Reconciliation with the Mughals came to an end quickly, when the imperial taxmen tried to recover the cost of Shivaji's trip to Agra. In response to what he experienced as another heavy insult, Shivaji called his son back to Raigarh and re-enlisted some of his former forts.
In October 1670, Shivaji went to Surat to plunder the city again. After that, his troops kept house in the Mughal province of Kandesh. In the following years, several looting raids were organized, both in the sultanate of Bijapur and to areas of the Mughals. The Marathas also overthused the Mughals in direct military confrontations. This boosted the confidence among the Marathas.
In June 1674, Shivaji took an important step: he was crowned chhatrapati (Hindu emperor). Not only did he declare himself independent of the Mughals, it was also a direct provocation to the Mughal Emperor. He wrote a letter to Aurangzeb in April 1679, criticizing his intolerant politics towards non-Muslims, in particular the introduction of the jizya (roll-call tax for infidels).
In his final years Shivaji was strongly influenced at his court by his second wife, Sorayabai. She tried to put her son Rajaram forward in favour of Sambhaji as his successor. Sambhaji, meanwhile, did not behave as might be expected of a heir to the throne. Shivaji had great difficulty in summoning his dissolute eldest son to order. After Sambhaji was found to have raped a Brahmin woman, he was finally disowned by his father in December 1678. He fled to Bijapur, where he was welcomed with open arms by the Mughal governor. Aurangzeb appointed the prince in a high military rank to win his favor. The following year, Shivaji, who regretted his hardline stance, convinced his son to return to Raigarh. Sambhaji was nevertheless imprisoned in the Fort Panhala.
Shivaji died in the early 1680s from the effects of a sudden illness, only 50 years old. He had expressed a desire for his empire to be divided among his sons Sambhaji and Rajaram after his death. Both princes were supported by their own factions that were not satisfied with sharing power. After Shivaji's death was announced, Sambhaji managed to escape his guards, gather a group of soldiers and take Raigarh, where he claimed the throne. Rajaram was to be held captive for seven years.
As a successful captain against a much stronger opponent, Shivaji had an almost mythical status during his lifetime. The contemporary Marathi writers describe his actions from the highly idealized image of the perfect Hindu monarch fighting against a "foreign" domination. After his death, he was used as a symbol for various political purposes, rightly or so. In contemporary India, the image of Shivaji is highly idealized. First, it is seen as a symbol of the regional awareness of the Marathas and their homeland Maharashtra. Whether Shivaji actually resisted for nationalist reasons, however, is questionable. As a young potentate, he grew up in a region destroyed by protracted war and looting. In this light, it is not surprising that the young Shivaji distinguished himself in a military way.
Shiite is seen by Hindu nationalists as a symbol of Hindu resistance to Islamic rulers. Both the British colonial historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries and the Indian-nationalist historians of the early 20th century place his actions mainly in the face of an increasing resistance to an Islamic rule of sultans and Mughal emperors. Although, thanks to influential Brahmanist thinkers and administrators, there was a growing awareness that Hindus should be ruled by a Hindu monarch, it is simplistic to pretend that Shivaji acted only for religious-nationalist reasons. Both Shivaji, his father Shahji and his successors did not hesitate to recognize Islamic monarchs as sovereign, if this was because of the political situation in their interest.
A third contemporary political lobby projecting Shivaji as a symbol is that of the emancipation of casteless and lower castes. Because of its politics of social equality Shivaji is seen as ideological ancestor of the movement. However, it is difficult to estimate the extent to which Shivaji really cared about the fate of the lower castes, and to what extent he was driven by opportunism. In the uneven struggle it was necessary to create a good bond among the Marathi warriors, based on equality. In that light, Shivaji's policy of legal equivalentization of the lower castes can be explained.