Sivaji was born in 1627 in the hill fort of Shivner near Junnar. His father was Shahji Bhonsala and mother was Jijabai. In 1632 Shahaji had entered into the service of Bijapur state and left for his new jagir with his second wife.
He assigned the jagir of Poona to his son and wife and left able Brahmin named Dadaji Khondev to look after them. Jijabai was a lady of extraordinarily talent and brought up her son with great care and affection.
While Jija Bai built up the character of Sivaji by filling her son’s mind with the stores of the renowned heroes and warriors of Ramayana and Mahabharata, Dadaji Kondo Dev trained him in the art of fighting and administration. Like Akbar, Sivaji did not receive formal education, but he developed strong determination, courage, and firm faith towards his religion.
Rama Das, his spiritual preceptor and guide, instilled into him a deep love of Hindu religion and entrusted him with the duty of protesting the Hindu religion. At the age of twelve he had been entrusted with the management of the jagir at Poona. He married Saibai Nimbalkar in or about 1640. The influence of heredity, education, temperament and environment had great impact on him and encouraged him to choose a career of independence. Maval country became the main centre of his activities.
His Early Conquests:
The serious illness of the Sultan of Bijapur in 1646 and the consequent disorders in his kingdom gave Sivaji much desired opportunity and he captured the fort of Torna in the same year, twenty miles South West of Poona. He then raided the fort of Raigarh, five miles east of Torna.
In 1657 Dadaji Kondadeva died and Sivaji became the virtual master of his father’s western jagirs. He captured the forts of Chakan, Kondana, Singarh and Purandhar and secured his jagir in the south. The Sultan of Bijapur was roused from his slumber because of the military activities of Sivaji and put his father under arrest. For this reason Sivaji suspended his military raids and opened negotiation with prince Murad, the Mughal Viceroy of Deccan and also expressed his desire to join the imperial service.
However Mughal Emperor Shahjahan turned deaf to his appeal. In 1649 the Sultan of Bijapur released his father on the condition of Sivaji’s good behaviour. In 1656 Sivaji conquered Javali by murdering its ruler Chandra Rao who was on the side of Bijapur. He considerably increased his area secured from Torna and Javali.
His conflict with Mughals:
In November 1656, Adil Shah died and the problem of succession provided an opportunity for Mughal intervention. Prince Aurangzeb advanced against Bijapur. This provided a good opportunity for Sivaji and he raided the Mughal territory of Ahmednagar and Junnar. Sultan of Bijapur made peace with the Mughals. Though Aurangzeb sent a contingent troops against Sivaji but could not take further steps against him as he left for North on hearing of Shahjahan’s illness to take part in the war of succession.
Sivaji and Afzal Khan:
The increasing power of Shivaji was a threat to the Sultan of Bijapur. But after the death of Adil Shah, the control over government passed into the hands of Queen Dowager, Bari Saheba. In 1659 she sent Afzal Khan at the head of ten thousand, soldiers “to bring back Sivaji dead or alive”. Afzal Khan was confident that he would capture Sivaji without firing a shot.
He raised war marching through Pandhapur. However on marching the hilly country, he realised the folly of his hasty action. Sivaji was at Pratapgarh which was his military stronghold. He resorted to diplomacy and sent a Brahman officer, Krishnaji Bhaskar with a letter for Sivaji which he promised the grant of forts and districts seized by him and the conferment of titles as a mark of honour.
Sivaji received Krishnaji with great courtesy and requested him in the name of religion to reveal the truth. Krishnaji informed him that Afzal had mischief in mind. A spot was selected for interview between Sivaji and Afzal Khan. Both the parties agreed that they should meet unattended by their troops. Sivaji wore a dress that concealed his weapons and helmet.
He also wore the Baghnakha (tiger-claw) in his left hand and Bichhucoa (Scorpion like dagger) in the sleeve of his right arm. Afzal tried to kill Sivaji but he was killed by Sivaji through his Baghanakha. Then the Maratha troops inflicted a severe defeat on the Bijapur army and secured large booty consisting of the whole artillery, ammunition, war elephants, horses, camels and lakhs of rupees.
After the death of Afzal Khan, Sivaji invaded Konkan and the Kolhapur region and seized the fort of Panhala. However in 1660 Ali Adil Shah sent troops and Sivaji was compelled by the Bijapur army to evacuate the fort of Panhala.
Sivaji and the Mughals:
For the first time in 1656 during the reign of Shahjahan, Sivaji had attacked the Mughal territory. The period between 1657-1659, Shivaji had increased his power so much that Aurangzeb had sent his maternal uncle Shayasta Khan in 1660 against him. Shayasta Khan occupied Poona, Chakan and Kalyan. From Chakan, Shayasta Khan returned to Poona to spend the rainy season. Shivaji resorted to strategy to destroy his enemy.
He entered the city of Poona with a band of 400 picked Maratha soldiers feigned to be a marriage party. At midnight he raided the residence of Shayasta Khan who was aroused from his slumber by one of his slave girls. But before he could strike Sivaji cut off his thumb. Shayasta Khan very narrowly escaped his death.
The Maratha army after massacring a number of Mughal guards fled away. The night attack was a complete success and restored the prestige of Sivaji. After this defeat Shayasta Khan was recalled by Aurangzeb and was transferred to the governorship of Bengal. Prince Muazzam was appointed as the Viceroy of Deccan.
In January 1664, with 4000 picked Maratha soldiers Sivaji attacked and sacked Surat. He set fire to thousands of houses in Surat. Sivaji left Surat carrying away gold, silver, pearls, and diamonds amounting to more than a crore of rupees.
Jai Singh and Sivaji:
In 1665 Aurangzeb sent Raja Jai Singh of Ambhar and Diler Khan to deal with Sivaji. The Mughal army entered the Maratha country and laid seige to Purandhar. The Maratha commander Marar Baji Despond offered a gallant resistance but he was killed in the battle field. The Mughal army also besiged Rajgarh, the chief seat of power of Sivaji. Ultimately, Sivaji was compelled to sign the treaty of Purandhar with Jaisingh in June 1665.
He agreed to surrender to the Emperor 23 forts yielding an annual revenue of four lakhs of Huns. While the Emperor recognized Sivaji’s authority over 12 forts including Rajgarh with annual revenue of one Lakh huns. His son Sambhuji was to be enrolled as Mansabdar of 5000 with a suitable jagir while Sivaji was to be excused for his unwise acts.
There were also other clauses in the treaty which provided for Sivaji’s participation in the war against Bijapur on the condition that the Emperor would allow him in the event of disintegration of Bijapur, to return Korkan and Balaghat in lieu of payment of 40 lakhs of huns to the Emperor by Sivaji in 13 yearly installments.
Accordingly Sivaji joined in the war against Bijapur. Jai Singh persuaded Sivaji to go to Agra and enter into a permanent alliance with the Emperor. Sivaji along with his son Shambhuji reached Agra on 9th may 1666. But Sivaji was deeply hurt at the cold reception which was accorded to him by Aurangzeb.
At the Mughal Court he was made to stand in the ranks of Panjhazaris and the Emperor took no notice of him. Sivaji protested against such treatment and prayed for permission to return to Maharashtra. His hopes were dashed to ground when Aurangzeb placed him under house arrest. However Sivaji and his son by a clever stratagem made their dramatic escape from the Mughal Court and reached home in the guise of a mendicant in 1666.
However, Sivaji was not in a position to commence hostilities against the Emperor. Aurangzeb also could not take any action against him because of his failure in Bijapur and disturbances on the North-western Frontier. So in 1668 a formal peace was concluded. The Emperor restored to him the fort of Chakan and recognized his title Raja. Sambhuji again became a Panjhazari mansabdar and in return for a jagir in Berar. Sivaji sent under him 5,000 troops for imperial service. Unfortunately, this place proved to be short lived and in 1670 Sivaji renewed his war against the Mughals.
Sivaji was able to recover most of his forts which he had surrendered according to the treaty of Purandhar. He also recalled his troops from imperial service. In October 1670, Sivaji raided Surat and acquired a booty amounting to 66 lakhs of rupees.
From 1670 to 1674 war continued and the Marathas achieved great success. By the year 1672 Sivaji had occupied most of the forts in Baglan. He also raided the Mughal province of Berar and Khandesh and also demanded Chautha from Surat. On 16th June 1674 Sivaji observed his coronation ceremony amidst pomp and splendor at Raigarh according to Vedic rites and assumed the title of Chhatrapati.
Sivaji’s treasury was exhausted because of huge expenditure incurred on the celebration of coronation. He took advantage of the preoccupation of the Mughals in the North West and started his raids. He captured Jinji, Vellore and the adjoining territories. He was able to bring under his control a vast territory in Madras, Carnatic and in the Mysore region yielding annual revenue of 20 lakhs of Huns. Sivaji died in 4th April 1680, at the age of 53.
Extent of Sivaji’s Kingdom:
Sivaji had established a new Hindu kingdom in Maharashtra. At the time of his death it included Maharastra, Konkan, and a large part of the Carnatic. His kingdom extended from Ramnagar in the north to Karwar in the south. In the east it included Poona, Satara, Baglan, half of Nasik and a portion of Kolhapur. It also included a considerable part of Mysore stretching from Belgaon to the bank of Tungabhadra, opposite to Bellary district of Tamil Nadu.
Sivaji was not only a great general and statesman but also an able administrator of great merit. Like other medieval rulers, Sivaji was an autocrat with all powers concentrated in his heads but he was a benevolent despot sincerely desired to promote the welfare of his subjects. In the field of administration, he was assisted by a Council of eight ministers called. Ashta Pradhan. It was only an advisory board.
The Ministers were:
1. Peshwa (Prime Minister):
He looked after the general administration and welfare of the state. He also represented the king in his absence.
2. Amatya (Finance Minister):
He used to check the income and expenditure of the state.
3. Mantri (The Chronicler):
He was responsible for the personal safety of the king, supervised his daily routine work and recorded everything that happened at court.
4. Sumant (The Foreign Secretary):
He advised the king regarding questions of war and peace with foreign powers.
5. Sachiva (The Home Secretary):
He was in charge of all correspondence of the king. He supervised the draft of letters and put his seal on them and official documents.
6. Senapati (Commander-in-chief):
He was in charge of recruitment, organization, discipline, and training of the soldiers and arranging their suppliers.
7. Danadhyaksha (Head of Ecclestial Department):
He looked after the grants to religious and lear.ied men fixed the dates for religious ceremonies and decided theological disputes and questions relating to custom.
8. Nyayadhisa (Chief Justice):
He was the highest judicial authority in the kingdom and looked after the judicial system of the state. All the Ministers of the Council except the Nyayadhisa and Danadhyaksha were military officers and were expected to command the army if there was need for it.
Shivaji had divided his kingdom into three provinces. Each province was placed under a Viceroy or Governor and he was responsible to the king. He was assisted by a staff of eight officers. More Trimbak Pingle was the governor of Northern Province. The southern province was governed by Annajir Datto. Dattaji Pant was the governor of south-eastern province. Sivaji had conquered the territory on the eastern side of the river Tungabhadra but could not consolidate his rule over this territory and ruled it by sheer force.
Sivaji had abolished the jagir system and also confiscated the lands given to religious institutions and substituted cash payments for them. He completely reorganised the land revenue system. He abolished the farming system and introduced direct management. The officers appointed by Sivaji collected revenues from the royots or cultivators.
The land under cultivation was surveyed and measured with the half of a Kathi or measuring rod and produce was roughly assessed. The share of the state was first fixed at 30 per cent but later on it was raised to 40 per cent of the produce when other taxes and cesses were abolished by Sivaji.
The revenue was collected both in cash and in kind. Agriculture was encouraged and the state used to advance loans to the peasants in times of famine and this amount was realized in instalments according to the means of the debtor. Sivaji’s revenue administration was beneficial to the peasants.
Besides land revenue, Sivaji collected Chautha and Sardeshmukhi from the territory which was either under his own control or under his enemies. There is a great divergence of opinion among scholars regarding levy of Chauth. According to Mr. Sardeshai, Chauth was a tribute exacted from the hostile or conquered territories. Dr. Sureadra Nath Sen has expressed the view that “Chauth was nothing but a contribution exacted by a military leader”.
But Prof. J.N. Sarkar holds a different view that “The payment of Chauth merely saved a place from the unwelcome presence of Maratha soldiers”. However it is generally accepted that Chauth was a military contribution which was one fourth of the standard revenue of the country and it was paid to ward off the attack of the Marathas. Sardeshmukhi was an additional charge of 10% which Sivaji demanded on the basis of his claim as the hereditary Sardeshmukh (headman) of his country.
Administration of Justice:
The administration of Justice was of a primitive type. In the villages the elders settled the cases in the Panchayats. The criminal cases were tried by Patel. Appeals in civil and criminal cases were entertained by the Nyayadhisa whose decisions were based upon ancient Smritis. The Hazir Majlis was the final court of appeal.
Sivaji was a capable general and organised the Military system which he had inherited from his predecessors on an efficient basis. The forts had a special place in his military administration. Of course, the hill fort with adjoining territory under a Havaldar formed the unit of Sivaji’s government and Sivaji had 280 forts in his possession. Sivaji’s important forts were Rajgarh, Raigarh, Tonna and Pratapgarh.
Shivaji maintained a regular standing army and also provided quarters for it during the rainy season. His army was always ready for duty and soldiers were provided with regular salaries throughout the year. At the time of his death his army consisted of 30 to 40 thousand cavalry and one lakh infantry. He possessed an elephant corps which numbered 1260 and also a fleet of 200 men of war.
There was regular gradation of officers in the army. The cavalry was divided into two classes—the Bargis and the Shiledars. The Bargis were supplied with horses and weapons by the state while the Shiledars had to bring their own horses and weapons. The lowest unit in the cavalry consisted of 25 troopers and it was placed under a Havaldar.
Five Havaldars formed one Jumla under a Jumladar. Ten jumladars were placed under a Hazari who was given a salary of 1,000 huns. Five Hazaris were under a Panjhazari, who used to get a salary of 2,000 huns. The Panjhazaris were under the command of Sar-i-nobat who was the supreme commander of the cavalry. For every 25 troopers a farrier and a water-carrier were provided by the state.
The infantry was also organized in the same way. Nine soldiers constituted the smallest unit who were under the command of a Naik. Over five Naiks was placed a Havaldar and over three or four Havaldars there was the Jumladars. Ten Jumladars were under the command of a Hazari and over every seven hazaris there was one sapt-hazari. The Hazaris were under the command of Sar-i-nobat.
The army of Sivaji was disciplined and it consisted of both Hindus and Muslims. Every care was taken in the recruitment, training and equipment of the army. The soldiers and officers were paid cash. The army was placed under strict discipline and soldiers were not allowed to light fire or smoke near houses and fields under cultivation or to take ladies and servants with them. The soldiers who broke their rules were severely punished.
Sivaji also maintained a navy. In his navy, Sivaji had 400 ships of different kinds and the navy was divided into two parts. Each part was commanded by two different officers. He also organized a merchant navy. Dr. S.N. Sen opines. “Unlike many of his contemporaries, the great Maratha leader had realized that a strong naval power without a strong mercantile navy was impossibility”. Thus Sivaji tried to build a strong navy. But is no match to the navy of Europeans as there was lack of artillery in his ships.
Sivaji very well understood the spirit of tolerance of Hinduism and practiced it in his life. He was the protector of the Hindus, the brahmanas and the cows. He tolerated every religion and showed respect to religious texts or god of other faith. He was very much tolerant towards Islam and during his military campaign he did not destroy a single mosque, always protected the Muslim ladies and children. He granted lands and annuities to Muslim shrines.
Thus Sivaji was a great organiser, conqueror and an administrator. By didn’t of his courage, determination, and bravery he rose to the position of a jagirdar to that of a powerful king. He possessed creative genius of a high order. He evolved order out of chaos and had welded the scattered Maratha race into a nation and led them to heights of glory which they had never dreamt before. He gave the Marathas peace and order. Dr. Iswari Prasad writes, “It was the strength and vigour he imparted to the political and social system of the Marathas that defied Aurangzeb’s might even after his death.”
He maintained a high standard of morality in his private life and was free from the prevailing vices of the age. Though he was illiterate yet very easily could understand the most complicated problems. He had excelled in diplomacy and state craft. He championed the cause of Hinduism and his eagerness to defend it from the Muslim aggression won him sympathy from the Hindus all over the country. But he was tolerant to other religions.
Mr. Rawlison writes, “He was never deliberately or wantonly cruel. To respect women, mosques and non-combatants, to stop promiscuous slaughter after a battle, to release and dismiss with honour captured men and officers. These are surely no light virtues”. Thus the kingdom of Sivaji was well administered by him. The contribution of Sivaji to the rise of Maratha power is un-parallel in history and his successors tried to strengthen the Maratha power according to their capability.