The Marathas (1649-1748) : Shivaji and Peshwas

Early Life: Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the most powerful emperor of Maratha Empire. He was very intelligent, brave and a powerful ruler. He was the founder of the powerful Maratha Empire. On 19thFebruary 1630 AD, Shivaji was born in Shivneri hill-fort in Pune of Maharashtra. His mother Jijabai was an intelligent and far sighted lady and his father Shahaji Bhosle was a Maratha general who served alongside of Malik Ambar and defended Deccan region against the Mughals. Jijabai is often regarded as the master or the guru of Shivaji Maharaj.

Jijabai was a religious lady and she was a devotee of Lord Shiva. She kept the name of her son after His name. Shivaji was born and brought up in a religious environment. In his childhood, Shivaji studied two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. These two epics influenced his life in greater extent and made a great impression on him. When Shivaji was 12 years of old, he was taken to Bangalore for his formal training along-with his stepbrother Ekoji I.

In 1640 AD, he married Saibai of the well known Nimbalkar family. Soyarabai was the second queen of Shivaji Maharaj. Putalabai, Laxmibai and Kashibai were the other queens of Shivaji Maharaj.

Starting Phase of the Great Leader: In 1645 AD, Shivaji took the control of Torna Fort from Bijapuri commander Inayat Khan. While Shivaji was 17, he captured two more forts in Pune and established the complete control on Pune. In 1659, he defeated Adilshahi general Afzal Khan. In 1664, Shivaji attacked Surat, the important trading city of Mughal and gained a vast treasury. In 1665 AD, Shivaji lost to Aurangzeb's General Jai Singh and signed the treaty of Purander and lost many of his forts to Mughals. In 1666, Shivaji was invited to the court of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and he was arrested there. Shivaji escaped from Mughal's confinement very smartly. In 1674 AD, he adopted the title of "Chhatrapati" and founded the powerful Maratha Empire. Shivaji Maharaj is known as the "father of the Maratha Nation" .


Battle of Pratapgad (1659 AD): On 10th November 1659 AD, Shivaji Maharaj fought one of his most important battles against Afzal Khan, Adilshahi general of Bijapur at the Battle of Pratapgad near Satara of Maharashtra. The Maratha army defeated the huge Adilshahi forces. It was a very important and first significant victory for Shivaji Maharaj against the powerful opponent. He captured large amount of weapons from the Adilshahi forces which helped him to strengthen the Maratha army. This victory boosted his moral and helped to envisage for a larger Empire. (See Individual section Battle of Pratapgad for detail)

Battle of Kolhapur: After the defeat at the Battle of Pratapgad, Adilshah sent another force of 10,000 army men with general Rustamjaman to fight against the Maratha King. Maratha army led by Shivaji attacked the Adilshahi force near Kolhapur on 28thDecember 1659 AD. Shivaji defeated the Adilshahi army, general Rustamjaman fled away from the battlefield.

Battle of Pavan Khind: After accepting two defeats within a short period, the sultan of Bijapur, Adil Shah regrouped a huge army by pulling out his resources from different assignments. In 1660, he sent a large army under the leadership of Siddi Jauhar to fight against Shivaji. He conveyed a message to Mughals to attack Shivaji and in response Shaista Khan was sent to attack the Maratha Kingdom. Siddi Jauhar advanced army to capture the Panhala fort. Shaista Khan began his assault from Northern side of Pune.

Shivaji Maharaj decided a different strategy this time and instead of attacking the large force at that moment he decided to escape and fight at the next fort of Vishalgad. A small army of 300 Marathas decided block the Adilshahi large army at Pavan khind. Maratha sardar Baji Prabhu Deshpande led the brave Maratha army at Pavan khind. On 13thJuly 1660 AD, the small Maratha infantry faced the large Adilshahi force of 15,000 army men at the Battle of Pavan khind and blocked the opponent for seven hours till Shivaji Maharaj reached the fort of Vishalgad. In this heroic battle, 300 brave Marathas died after killing 3,000 of Adilshah's troops.

Battle of Chakan: In 1660 AD, the Mughal army led by Shaista Khan attacked Maratha Empire as per the order of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Shaista Khan advanced with a large army of 150,000 and seized Pune and the nearby fort of Chakan. Firangoji Narsala, the commander of the Chakan fort bravely defended the huge army of Shaista Khan for one and a half month from acquiring the fort. Shaista Khan occupied the palace of Shivaji, Lal Mahal and used as his residence.

In April 1663 AD, Shivaji planned to attack Shaista Khan and utilize a wedding party as part of his plan. Chimanaji Deshpande one of the childhood friends of Shivaji, Babaji Deshpande and Netaji Palkar, the commander-in-chief of Maratha army helped him in executing the plan. They entered in Pune with the wedding party and went near to Lal Mahal. As per the plan, Shivaji, Chimnaji and Babaji went to Shaista Khan's quarters. Shivaji attacked Shaista Khan face to face and severed three fingers with his sword. Shaista Khan narrowly escaped from death but he couldn't save his son and many of his guards.

Battle of Umberkhind: The Battle of Umberkhind took place on 3rdFebruary 1661 AD between Maratha army of Shivaji and Mughal army led by Kartalab Khan. Shivaji defeated the Mughal force which was many times larger than the Maratha army. The battle is famously remembered for the expertise of Shivaji in his calculated move of forces and rapid deployment of cavalry.

Treaty of Purandar: In 1665 AD, Aurangzeb ordered Mirza Raja Jai Singh I to attack Maratha Empire. A large Mughal force under Jai Singh executed a very plan movement and made significant progress by capturing many Maratha forts. The Mughal army defeated the Marathas. Ultimately Shivaji signed the treaty of Purander. As per the treaty he agreed to surrender 23 forts and a huge compensation to the Mughals. He also agreed to help Mughal Empire to fight against the sultan of Bijapur. Shivaji also agreed to the demand of Mughal that his son Sambhaji would serve the Mughal court of Aurangzeb.

Arrest in Agra and Escape: In 1666, Aurangzeb invited Shivaji and his son Sambhaji to the court of Mughal Empire at Agra. Shivaji got offended by the manner of Aurangzeb as he was given the place behind the Mughals military commanders. Shivaji felt this behavior as insult and stormed out of the court. The Mughals immediately arrested him and imprisoned him under house arrest. Clever Shivaji pretended fake illness and requested Mughal Emperor about his wish to distribute baskets filled with sweets and fruits to poor. He was given the permission to send baskets of sweets and fruits daily to saints. On 17thAug 1666 AD, Shivaji and his son escaped from the house arrest by hiding themselves within the fruit baskets.


Shivaji’s Administration: Shivaji was also a great administrator. He laid the foundations of a sound system of administration. The king was the pivot of the government. He was assisted by a council of ministers called Ashtapradhan. However, each minister was directly responsible to Shivaji.
1. Peshwa – Finance and general administration. Later he became the prime minister.
2. Sar-i-Naubat or Senapati – Military commander, a honorary post.
3. Amatya – Accountant General.
4. Waqenavis – Intelligence, posts and household affairs.
5. Sachiv – Correspondence.
6. Sumanta – Master of ceremonies.
7. Nyayadish – Justice.
8. Panditarao – Charities and religious administration.
Most of the administrative reforms of Shivaji were based on the practices of the Deccan sultanates. For example, Peshwa was the Persian title.

The revenue system of Shivaji was based on that of Malik Amber of Ahmadnagar. Lands were measured by using the measuring rod called kathi. Lands were also classified into three categories – paddy fields, garden lands and hilly tracks. He reduced the powers of the existing deshmuks and kulkarnis. He appointed his own revenue officials called karkuns. Chauth and sardeshmukhi were the taxes collected not in the Maratha kingdom but in the neighbouring territories of the Mughal empire or Deccan sultanates. Chauth was one fourth of the land revenue paid to the Marathas in order to avoid the Maratha raids. Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of ten percent on those lands which the Marathas claimed hereditary rights.

Shivaji was a man of military genius and his army was well organized. The regular army consisted of about 30000 to 40000 cavalry supervised by havaildars. They were given fixed salaries. There were two divisions in the Maratha cavalry – 1. bargirs, equipped and paid by the state; and 2. silahdars, maintained by the nobles. In the infantry, the Mavli foot soldiers played an important role. Shivaji also maintained a navy. The forts played an important role in the military operations of the Marathas. By the end of his reign, Shivaji had about 240 forts. Each fort was put under the charge of three officers of equal rank as a precaution against treachery. Shivaji was really a constructive genius and nation-builder. His rise from jagirdar to Chatrapathi was spectacular. He unified the Marathas and remained a great enemy of the Mughal empire. He was a daring soldier and a brilliant administrator.

Foundation of Maratha Empire: In 1674 AD, Shivaji founded the independent sovereign Maratha Empire with Raigad as its capital. The Maratha Empire ruled almost hundred and fifty years and it is considered one of the powerful Empires of Indian History. The Hindus supported him as their leader and many Muslims also served him. Shivaji formed a large army and defended his territory from the mighty Mughal Empire. Even, after his death his successors successfully protected the dignity of Maratha Empire. Shivaji ruled the Maratha Empire until his death on 2ndApril 1680.

Successors of Shivaji: There ensued a war of succession after the death of Shivaji between his sons, Shambaji and Rajaram. Shambaji emerged victorious but later he was captured and executed by the Mughals. Rajaram succeeded the throne but the Mughals made him to flee to the Ginjee fort. He died at Satara. He was succeeded by his minor son Shivaji II with his mother Tara Bai as regent. The next ruler was Shahu in whose reign the Peshwas rose to power.

1 comment:

  1. Well explained important aspects about History of Marathas... I came across this after I was reading information on coins of Shivaji at Mintage World.

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