Verily, Islam and Hinduism are terms of contrast. They are used by the true Divine Painter for blending the colours and filling in the outlines. If it is a mosque, the call to prayer is chanted in remembrance of God. If it is a temple, the bells are rung in yearning for God alone.
Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri, near the city of Junnar in what is now Pune district on 6 April 1627 or 19 February 1630. Shivaji was named after a local deity, the goddess Shivai. Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhonsle was a Maratha general who served the Deccan Sultanates. His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhavrao of Sindhkhed, a Mughal-aligned sardar claiming descent from a Yadav royal family of Devagiri.
In 1638, Shahaji took Bangalore from the Mughals, and was permantently posted there by Bijapur. Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji and his half brother Ekoji I were further formally trained. He married Saibai from the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640. Around 1645–46, the teenage Shivaji first expressed his concept for Hindavi Swarajya (Hindu self-rule), in a letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu.
In 1645, the 15-year-old Shivaji bribed or persuaded the Bijapuri commander of the Torna Fort, Inayat Khan, to hand over the possession of the fort to him. The Maratha Firangoji Narsala, who held the Chakan fort professed his loyalty to Shivaji, and the fort of Kondana was acquired by bribing the Bijapuri governor. On 25 July 1648, Shahaji was imprisoned by Baji Ghorpade under the orders of Bijapuri ruler Mohammed Adilshah, in a bid to contain Shivaji.
Accounts vary, with some saying Shahaji was conditionally released in 1649 after the capture of Gingee secured the Bijapuri's position in Karnataka, others saying he was imprisoned until 1653 or 1655; during this period Shivaji maintained a low profile. Since his father's release was conditional, from 1649–1655 Shivaji paused in his conquests and quietly consolidated his gains. After his release, Shahaji retired from public life, and died around 1664–1665 in a hunting accident. Following his father's release, Shivaji resumed raiding, and in 1656, under controversial circumstances, killed Raja Chandrarao More, a fellow Maratha feudatory of Bijapur, and seized from him the valley of Javali.
Aware of the need for naval power to maintain control along the Konkan coast, Shivaji began to build his navy in 1657 or 1659, with the purchase of twenty galivats from the Portuguese shipyards of Bassein. Marathi chronicles state that at its height his fleet counted some 400 military ships, though British chronicles counter that the number never exceeded 160 ships.
Having defeated the Bijapuri forces sent against him, Shivaji's army pressed into the Konkan and Kolhapur, seizing Panhala fort, and defeating Bijapuri forces sent against them under Rustam Zaman and Fazl Khan in 1659. In 1660, Adilshah sent his general Siddi Jauhar to attack Shivaji's southern border, in alliance with the Mughals who planned to attack from the north. At that time, Shivaji was encamped at Panhala fort with his forces. Siddi Jauhar's army besieged Panhala in mid-1660, cutting off supply routes to the fort. During the bombardment of Panhala, Siddi Jahuar purchased grenades from the British at Rajapur to increase his efficacy, and also hired some English artillerymen to bombard the fort, conspicuously flying a flag used by the English. This perceived betrayal angered Shivaji, who in December would exact revenge by plundering the English factory at Rajapur and capturing four of the factors, imprisoning them until mid-1663.
Upon the request of Badi Begum of Bijapur, Aurangzeb, now the Mughal Emperor, sent his maternal uncle Shaista Khan, with an army numbering over 150,000 along with a powerful artillery division in January 1660 to attack Shivaji in conjunction with Bijapur's army led by Siddi Jauhar. Shaista Khan, with his better-equipped and -provisioned army of 80,000 seized Pune and the nearby fort of Chakan, besieging it for a month and a half until breaching the walls. Shaista Khan pressed his advantage of having a larger, better provisioned and heavily armed Mughal army and made inroads into some of the Maratha territory, seizing the city of Pune and establishing his residence at Shivaji's palace of Lal Mahal.
In April 1663, Shivaji launched a surprise attack on Shaista Khan in Pune; accounts of the story differ in the popular imagination, but there is some agreement that Shivaji and band of some 200 followers infiltrated Pune, using a wedding procession as cover. They overcame the palace guards, breached the wall, and entered Shaista Khan's quarters, killing those they found there. Shaista Khan escaped, losing his thumb in the melee, but one of his sons and other members of his household were killed. The Khan took refuge with the Mughal forces outside of Pune, and Aurangzeb punished him for this embarrassment with a transfer to Bengal.
In retaliation for Shaista Khan's attacks, and to replenish his now-depleted treasury, in 1664 Shivaji sacked the port city of Surat, a wealthy Mughal trading centre.
In the Treaty of Purandar, signed between Shivaji and Jai Singh on 11 June 1665, Shivaji agreed to give up 23 of his forts, keeping 12 for himself, and pay compensation of 400,000 gold hun to the Mughals. Shivaji agreed to become a vassal of the Mughal empire, and to send his son Sambhaji, along with 5,000 horsemen, as a mansabdar to fight for the Mughals in the Deccan.
After Shivaji's escape, hostilities with the Mughals ebbed, with Mughal sardar Jaswant Singh acting as intermediary between Shivaji and Aurangzeb for new peace proposals. During the period between 1666 and 1668, Aurangzeb conferred the title of raja on Shivaji. Sambhaji was also restored as a Mughal mansabdar with 5000 horses. Shivaji at that time sent Sambhaji with general Prataprao Gujar to serve with the Mughal viceroy in Aurangabad, Prince Mu'azzam. Sambhaji was also granted territory in Berar for revenue collection. Aurangzeb also permitted Shivaji to attack the decaying Adil Shahi; the weakened Sultan Ali Adil Shah II sued for peace and granted the rights of sardeshmukhi and chauthai to Shivaji.
There is less evidence of Shivaji's attitude towards the Christians. To one side, in 1667 several Portuguese Catholic Priests were killed during Shivaji's raid on Bardes. However, during the sack of Surat in 1664, Shivaji was approached by Ambrose, a Capuchin monk who asked him to spare the city's Christians. Shivaji left the mission untouched, saying "the Frankish Padrys are good men."
In October 1670, Shivaji sent his forces to harass the English at Bombay; as they had refused to sell him war materiel, his forces blocked Bombay's woodcutting parties. In September 1671, Shivaji sent an ambassador to Bombay, again seeking materiel, this time for the fight against Danda-Rajpuri. The English had misgivings of the advantages Shivaji would gain from this conquest, but also did not want to lose any chance of receiving compensation for his looting their factories at Rajapur. The English sent Lieutenant Stephen Ustick to treat with Shivaji, but negotiations failed over the issue of the Rajapur indemnity. Numerous exchanges of envoys followed over the coming years, with some agreement as to the arms issues in 1674, but Shivaji was never to pay the Rajapur indemnity before his death, and the factory there dissolved at the end of 1682.
Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign, raiding Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Ponda (April 1675), Karwar (mid-year), and Kolhapur (July). In November the Maratha navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, but failed to dislodge them. Having recovered from an illness, and taking advantage of a conflict between the Afghans and Bijapur, Shivaji raided Athani in April 1676.
Shivaji intended to reconcile with his half-brother Venkoji (Ekoji I), Shahaji's son by his second wife, Tukabai (née Mohite), who ruled Thanjavur (Tanjore) after Shahaji. The initially promising negotiations were unsuccessful, so whilst returning to Raigad Shivaji defeated his half-brother's army on 26 November 1677 and seized most of his possessions in the Mysore plateau. Venkoji's wife Dipa Bai, whom Shivaji deeply respected, took up new negotiations with Shivaji, and also convinced her husband to distance himself from Muslim advisors. In the end Shivaji consented to turn over to her and her female descendants many of the properties he had seized, with Venkoji consenting to a number of conditions for the proper administration of the territories and maintenance of Shivaji's Future memorial (samadhi).
The question of Shivaji's heir-apparent was complicated by the misbehaviour of his eldest son, Sambhaji, who was irresponsible and "addicted to sensual pleasures." Unable to curb this, Shivaji confined his son to Panhala in 1678, only to have the Prince escape with his wife and defect to the Mughals for a year. Sambhaji then returned home, unrepentant, and was again confined to Panhala.
Shivaji died in 1680, leaving behind a state always at odds with the Mughals. Soon after his death, in 1681, the Mughals under Aurangzeb launched an offensive in the South to capture territories held by the Marathas, Bijapur and Golkonda. He was successful in obliterating the Sultanates but could not subdue the Marathas after spending 27 years in the Deccan. The period saw the capture, torture, and execution of Sambhaji in 1689, and the Marathas offering strong resistance under the leadership of Sambhaji's successor, Rajaram and then Rajaram's widow Tarabai. Territories changed hands repeated between the Mughals and the Marathas; the conflict ended in defeat for the Mughals in 1707.
Mughal depictions of Shivaji were largely negative, referring to him simply as "Shiva" without the honorific "-ji". One Mughal Writer in the early 1700s described Shivaji's death as kafir bi jahannum raft ("the infidel went to Hell"). Muslim Writers of the day generally described him as a plunderer and marauder. English and Portuguese contemporary Writers likewise described him as a brigand and robber.
Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji and son of Sambhaji, was kept prisoner by Aurangzeb during a 27-year period. After the latter's death, his successor released Shahu. After a brief power struggle over succession with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu ruled the Maratha Empire from 1707 to 1749. Early in his reign, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath Bhat and later his descendants, as the Peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire. The empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in the north, and Bengal. In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Ahmed Shah Abdali of the Afghan Durrani Empire, which halted their imperial expansion in northwestern India. Ten years after Panipat, young Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated Maratha authority over North India.
In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, Shahu and the Peshwas gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, creating the Maratha Confederacy. They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Bhonsales of Nagpur. In 1775, the British East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. The Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat by the British East India Company in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which left the Company in control of most of India.
In the mid-19th century, Maharashtrian social reformer Jyotirao Phule wrote his own interpretation of the Shivaji legend, portraying Shivaji as a hero of the shudras and Dalits. Phule sought to use the Shivaji mythos to undermine the Brahmins he accused of hijacking the narrative, and uplift the lower classes; his 1869 ballad-form story of Shivaji was met with great hostility by the Brahim-dominated media. At the end of the 19th century, Shivaji's memory was leveraged by the non-Brahmin intellectuals of Bombay, who identified as his descendants and through him claimed the kshatriya varna. While some Brahmins rebutted this identity, defining them as of the lower shudra varna, other Brahmins recognised the Maratha's utility to the Indian independence movement, and endorsed this kshatriya legacy and the significance of Shivaji.
In 1895, Indian nationalist leader, Lokmanya Tilak organised an annual festival to mark the birthday celebrations of Shivaji. Tilak portrayed Shivaji as the opponent of the oppressor, opening loaded implications for the British Raj. Tilak denied any suggestion that his festival was anti-Muslim or disloyal to the government, but simply a celebration of a hero. These celebrations prompted a British commentator in 1906 to note: "Cannot the annals of the Hindu race point to a single hero whom even the tongue of slander will not dare call a chief of dacoits ...?"
One of the early commentators who challenged the negative British view was M. G. Ranade, whose Rise of the Maratha Power (1900) declared Shivaji's achievements as the beginning of modern nation-building. Ranade criticised earlier British portrayals of Shivaji's state as "a freebooting Power, which thrived by plunder and adventure, and succeeded only because it was the most cunning and adventurous ... This is a very Common feeling with the readers, who derive their knowledge of these events solely from the works of English historians."
In 1919, Sir Jadunath Sarkar published the seminal Shivaji and His Times, hailed as the most authoritative biography of the king since James Grant Duff's 1826 A History of the Mahrattas. A respected scholar, Sarkar was able to read primary sources in Persian, Marathi, and Arabic, but was challenged for his criticism of the "chauvinism" of Marathi historians' views of Shivaji. Likewise, though supporters cheered his depiction of the killing of Afzal Khan as justified, they decried Sarkar's terming as "murder" the killing of the Hindu raja Chandrao More and his clan.
As political tensions rose in India in the early 20th century, some Indian Leaders came to re-work their earlier stances on Shivaji's role. Jawaharlal Nehru had in 1934 noted "Some of the Shivaji's deeds, like the treacherous killing of the Bijapur general, lower him greatly in our estimation." Following public outcry from Pune intellectuals, Congress leader T. R. Deogirikar noted that Nehru had admitted he was wrong regarding Shivaji, and now endorsed Shivaji as great nationalist.
In the late 20th century, Babasaheb Purandare became one of the most significant artists in portraying Shivaji in his writings, leading him to be declared in 1964 as the Shiv-Shahir ("Bard of Shivaji"). However, Purandare, a Brahmin, was also accused of over-emphasizing the influence of Brahmin gurus on Shivaji, and his Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony in 2015 was protested by those claiming he had defamed Shivaji. Purandare has, on the other end, been accused of a communalist and anti-Muslim portrayal of Shivaji at odds with the king's own actions.
In 1966, the Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) party formed to promote the interests of Maharashtrians in the face of migration to the region from other parts of India, and the accompanying loss of power for locals. His image adorns literature, propaganda and icons of the Maratha-centric party.
In 1993, the Illustrated Weekly published an article by a young scholar suggesting that Shivaji was not opposed to Muslims per so, and was influenced by their form of governance. Congress Party members called for legal actions against the publisher and Writer, Maharathi newspapers accused them of "imperial prejudice" and Shiv Sena called for the writer's public flogging. Maharashtra brought legal action against the publisher under regulations prohibiting enmity between religious and cultural groups, but a High Court found the Illustrated Weekly had operated within the bounds of freedom of expression.
In 2003, American academic James W. Laine published his book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, which was followed by heavy criticism including threats of arrest. As a result of this publication, the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune where Laine had researched was attacked by a group of Maratha Activists calling itself the Sambhaji Brigade. The book was banned in Maharashtra in January 2004, but the ban was lifted by the Bombay High Court in 2007, and in July 2010 the Supreme Court of India upheld the lifting of ban. This lifting was followed by public demonstrations against the author and the decision of the Supreme Court.
Forts played a key role in Shivaji's strategy, and he captured strategically important forts at Murambdev (Rajgad), Torna, Kondhana (Sinhagad) and Purandar. He also rebuilt or repaired many forts in advantageous locations. In addition, Shivaji built a number of forts; the number "111" is reported in some accounts, but it is likely the actual number "did not exceed 18". Sarkar assessed that Shivaji owned some 240–280 forts at the time of his death. Each was placed under three officers of equal status lest a single traitor be bribed or tempted to deliver it to the enemy. The officers (sabnis, havaldar, sarnobat) acted jointly and provided mutual checks and balance.