Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the charismatic emperor of the Maratha empire. He was known for his most progressive thinking, bravery and excellent statesmanship.
His father Shahaji Bhonsle was a general in the court of Adilshah, the sultan of Bijapur. Shivaji grew up under the guidance of his mother Jijabai. Jijabai brought up Shivaji in the city of Pune under the protection of Dadaji Kondev. Jijabai was one of the main administrators of the city. With her excellent statesmanship and farsightedness, she could mould her son Shivaji, who then became the great Maratha emperor. It is said that the child observes and follows the footsteps of their own parents. Young Shivaji was a great example of being an obedient child of his mother and followed her teachings to be the glorious king of Hindu dynasty. When Jijabai and Shivaji arrived in Pune, the city was exploited by the Nizam, Adil Shah and the Moghul forces. Each Hindu shrine had been smashed. But soon Pune flourished under the excellent statesmanship of Jijabai. She took over the reins and restored the shrines, and on many occasions settled disputes and meted out fair justice. She was responsible for most of Shivaji’s education. She made him learn about the Hindu shastras, arts of administration, weaponry and of the political situation in the country. All the skills, knowledge, prowess and education required for being a just and powerful emperor were being taught to the young Shivaji.
Shivaji possessed an ideal character. He was a worthy son, dependable friend, lovable husband and a lovable father. Due to his mother’s teachings and excellent knowledge, Shivaji grew up as a mighty king and very soon took over the reins for spreading the Maratha dynasty in Maharashtra and beyond. Hindu religion and its religious texts had been the sources of inspiration of Shivaji. He was a strong devotee of Goddess Bhawani. In 1674, a grand coronation ceremony was held to confer the title of “Chhatrapati “(Chief of Kshatriyas) to Shivaji. Jijabai lived up to this day to see the valour and bravery of her son.
He adopted the guerrilla warfare techniques which were utmost suitable to his soldiers considering the geographical conditions of Maharashtra. He also constructed many hill- forts in Maharashtra. His army, thus, observed high morality. They were very truthful to the king as he knew how to take care of his forces. Each one of them were faithful disciples of Hindu swaraj. Shivaji also built a navy force which successfully safeguarded the coast-line and trade of the kingdom. This was done purely to protect the lands and sea trade from the invasion of British, Abyssinians, pirates, Arabs and Portuguese. He also built several sea forts and bases for the purpose of storage and shelter. The architecture of these forts was marvellous and if reviewed today, one would wonder how were such strong forts built considering lack of modern machinery and that too on such high mountainous regions. Shivaji made Marathi language the court language which helped in the growth of Marathi literature. He was a progressive king. He incorporated modern administrative concepts such as a cabinet, foreign affairs, internal intelligence and others. His foundation of excellent statesmanship was so strong that with his mental acumen and study of enemy strength made him defeat strong and mighty enemies like Afzal Khan, Shaista Khan and Aurangzeb. This was followed by many other battles against the Sultanate of Bijapur, in warfare’s such as Battle of Kolhapur, Battle of Pavan Khind, Battle of Vishaalgad and others. Every mission undertaken by Shivaji to outwit the Moghuls was successful and Shivaji proved to be a threat to the enemies. Attempts to arrest him were also foiled by his pure wits. This exemplary valour made him the most famous Maratha emperor. He created confidence among his kingdom and army so much so that they could fight successfully against the mighty Moghuls. None of his sardars fell prey to temptations of riches or estates offered by the enemies.
It was the confidence and faithfulness of his army that enabled the Marathas to fight against Aurangzeb for nearly twenty years (1685-1707 A.D.) and ultimately, they were successful in breaking the backbone of the Moghul empire.
Shivaji always promoted the idea of organising the Marathas into a nation and boosting their self-confidence. He was a true emperor who showed tolerance to all the other religions and languages who promoted culture and restored the heritage.
Shivaji died around April 5, 1680, at the age of 52. On Shivaji’s death, Aurangzeb, his sworn enemy, Even the enemies bowed to Shivaji’s death and prayed for his soul to rest in peace. Shivaji knew how to respect the wives and mothers of the enemies too. Such a gem of a human being and a mighty king would seldom be born.
Post his death, his son Sambhaji succeeded as Chhatrapati. Soyrabai, Shivaji’s wife, wanted her son Rajaram to become the next eligible ruler but the attempts to make the young Rajaram were foiled. Sambhaji started many campaigns against the Mughals and many in South India too. Sambhaji too gave a tough fight to Aurangzeb but later he got captured because of his own family traitor. He was tortured by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by piercing red hot iron in his eyes when in captivity . Thus, this was a slow end of the great Maratha warriors. The peshwas took over the reigns of the Maratha empire and took over the administration of the great Maratha dynasty.