Shivaji Bhosale, was the founder of the Maratha Empire, which lasted until 1818, and at its peak covered much of the Indian subcontinent. An aristocrat of the Bhosle Maratha clan, Shivaji led a resistance to free the Maratha people from the Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur and the Mughal Empire and established a Hindavi Swarajya ("self-rule of Hindu people"). He created an independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as its capital, and was crowned chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign") of the Marathas in 1674.
Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with the help of a disciplined military and well-structured administrative organisations. He innovated military tactics, pioneering the guerilla Shiva sutra or ganimi kava methods, which leveraged strategic factors like geography, speed, and surprise and focused pinpoint attacks to defeat his larger and more powerful enemies. From a small contingent of 2,000 soldiers inherited from his father, Shivaji created a force of 100,000 soldiers; he built and restored strategically located forts both inland and coastal to safeguard his territory. He revived ancient Hindu political traditions and court conventions, and promoted the usage of Marathi and Sanskrit, rather than Persian, in court and administration.
Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri, near the city of Junnar in Pune district around the year 1627. Per legend, his mother named him Shivaji in honour of the goddess Shivai, to whom she had prayed for a healthy child.
Shivaji's father Shahaji Bhosale was the leader of a band of mercenaries that serviced the Deccan Sultanates. His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhujirao Jadhav of Sindkhed. At the time of Shivaji's birth, the power in Deccan was shared by three Islamic sultanates: Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golconda. Shahaji often changed his loyalty between the Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, the Adilshah of Bijapur and the Mughals, but always kept his jagir at Pune and his small army with him. Following a treaty between the Mughals and the Bijapur Sultanate, Shahaji was posted to a Bangalore-based jagir, while Jijabai and Shivaji remained in Pune.
Shivaji was extremely devoted to his mother Jijabai, who was deeply religious. This religious environment had a great impact on Shivaji, and he carefully studied the two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata; these were to influence his lifelong defence of Hindu values. Throughout his life he was deeply interested in religious teachings, and regularly sought the company of Hindu and Sufi saints.
Shahaji, meanwhile had married a second wife, Tuka Bai Mohite, and moved to take an assignment in Karnataka, leaving Shivaji and his mother in Pune. Shahaji entrusted the two to his friend Dadoji Kondadev Kulkarni, who provided them a mansion to live in, profitably administered the Pune jagir, and mentored the young Shivaji. The boy was a keen outdoorsman, but had little formal education, and was likely illiterate. Shivaji drew his earliest trusted comrades and a large number of his soldiers from the Maval region, including Yesaji Kank, Suryaji Kakade, Baji Pasalkar, Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Tanaji Malusare. In the company of his Maval comrades, Shivaji wandered over the hills and forests of the Sahyadri range, hardening himself and acquiring first-hand knowledge of the land, which was to later prove applicable to his military endeavours.
At the age of 12, Shivaji was taken to Bangalore where he, his elder brother Sambhaji and his stepbrother Ekoji I were further formally trained. He married Saibai, a member of the prominent Nimbalkar family in 1640.At age of 14, he returned to Pune with a rajmudra (sovereign seal) and a ministerial council. Around 1645-6, the teenage Shivaji first expressed his concept for Hindavi swarajya, in a letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu.
In 1645, the 16 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. Firangoji Narsala, who held the Chakan fort professed his loyalty to Shivaji and the fort of Kondana was acquired by bribing the Adilshahi governor. On 25 July 1648, Shahaji was imprisoned by Baji Ghorpade under the orders of the current Adilshah, Mohammed Adil Shah, in a bid to contain Shivaji.
Adilshah sent an army led by Farradkhan against Shivaji's brother Sambhaji at Bangalore, where Sambhaji defeated them in battle. Another army led by Fattekhan was defeated by Shivaji in the Battle of Purandar. Meanwhile, Shivaji had petitioned the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's son, Murad Baksh, who was governor of Deccan, pledging his loyalty to the Mughals to seek his support in securing the release of his father. The Mughals recognised Shivaji as a Mughal sardar and pressured Adilshah to release Shahaji. Accounts vary, with some saying Shahaji was conditionally released in 1649 after Shivaji and Sambhaji surrendered the forts of Kondhana, Bangalore and Kandarpi, others saying he was imprisoned until 1653 or 1655; during this period Shivaji maintained a low profile. After his release, Shahaji retired from public life, and died around 1664-1665 during a hunting accident. Following his father's death, Shivaji resumed raiding, seizing the kingdom of Javali from a neighbouring Maratha chieftain in 1656.
Up until 1657, Shivaji maintained peaceful relations with the Mughal Empire. Shivaji offered his assistance to Aurangzeb in conquering Bijapur and in return, he was assured of the formal recognition of his right to the Bijapuri forts and villages under his possession. Shivaji's confrontations with the Mughals began in March 1657, when two of Shivaji's officers raided the Mughal territory near Ahmednagar. This was followed by raids in Junnar, with Shivaji carrying off 300,000 hun in cash and 200 horses. Aurangzeb responded to the raids by sending Nasiri Khan, who defeated the forces of Shivaji at Ahmednagar. However, the countermeasures were interrupted by the rainy season and the battle of succession for the Mughal throne following the illness of Shah Jahan.
After Shivaji's escape, hostilities ebbed and a treaty lasted until the end of 1670, when Shivaji launched a major offensive against Mughals, and in a span of four months recovered a major portion of the territories surrendered to Mughals. During this phase, Tanaji Malusare won the fort of Sinhgad in the Battle of Sinhgad on 4 Feb 1670, dying in the process. Shivaji sacked Surat for second time in 1670; while he was returning from Surat, Mughals under Daud Khan tried to intercept him, but were defeated in the Battle of Vani-Dindori near present-day Nashik.
Shivaji had acquired extensive lands and wealth through his campaigns, but lacking a formal title was still technically a Mughal zamindar or the son of an Adilshahi jagirdar, with no legal basis to rule his de facto domain. A kingly title could address this, and also prevent any challenges by other Maratha leaders, to whom he was technically equal; it would also would provide the Hindu Marathas with a fellow Hindu sovereign in a region otherwise ruled by Muslims.
Shivaji was crowned king of the Marathas in a lavish ceremony at Raigad on 6 June 1674. In the Hindu calendar it was on the 13th day (trayodashi) of the first fortnight of the month of Jyeshtha in the year 1596. Pandit Gaga Bhatt officiated, holding a gold vessel filled with the seven sacred waters of the rivers Yamuna, Indus, Ganges, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri over Shivaji's head, and chanted the coronation mantras. After the ablution, Shivaji bowed before Jijabai and touched her feet. Nearly fifty thousand people gathered at Raigad for the ceremonies. Shivaji was bestowed with the sacred thread jaanva, with the Vedas and was bathed in an abhisheka. Shivaji was entitled Shakakarta ("founder of an era") and Kshatriya Kulavantas ("head of Kshatriyas"), and Chhatrapati ("paramount sovereign").
His mother Jijabai died on 18 June 1674, within a few days of the coronation. Considering this a bad omen, a second coronation was carried out 24 September 1674, this time according to the Bengali school of Tantricism and presided over by Nischal Puri.
The state as Shivaji founded it was a Maratha kingdom, but over time it was to increase in size and heterogeneity, and by the time of the Peshwas in the early 18th century was a full-fledged empire, with Shivaji as its historical founder.
Beginning in 1674, the Marathas undertook an aggressive campaign, raiding Khandesh (October), capturing Bijapuri Phonda (April 1675), Karwar (mid-year), and Kolhapur (July). In November the Maratha navy skirmished with the Siddis of Janjira, and in early 1676 Peshwa Pingale, en route to Surat, engaged the Raja of Ramnagar in battle. Shivaji raided Athani in March 1676, and by years-end besieged Belgaum and Vayem Rayim in modern-day northern Karnataka. At the end of 1676, Shivaji launched a wave of conquests in southern India, with a massive force of 30,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry. He captured the Adilshahi forts at Vellore and Gingee, in modern-day Tamil Nadu.
In the run-up to this expedition Shivaji appealed to a sense of Deccani patriotism, that the "Deccan" or Southern India was a homeland that should be protected from outsiders. His appeal was somewhat successful and he entered into a treaty with the Qutubshah of the Golconda sultanate that covered the eastern Deccan. Shivaji's conquests in the south proved quite crucial during future wars; Gingee served as Maratha capital for nine years during the Maratha War of Independence.
Shivaji intended to reconcile with his stepbrother Venkoji (Ekoji I), Shahji's son by his second wife, Tukabai of the Mohite clan which ruled Thanjavur (Tanjore) after Shahaji. The initially promising negotiations were unsuccessful, so whilst returning to Raigad Shivaji defeated his stepbrother'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 tomb.
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.
In late March 1680, Shivaji fell ill with fever and dysentery, dying around 3-5 April 1680 at the age of 52, on the eve of Hanuman Jayanti. Rumours followed his death, with Muslims opining he had died of a curse from Jan Muhammad of Jalna, and some Marathas whispering that his second wife, Soyarabai, had poisoned him so that his crown might pass to her 10-year old son Rajaram.
After Shivaji's death, the widowed Soyarabai made plans with various ministers of the administration to crown her son Rajaram rather than her prodigal stepson Sambhaji. On 21 April 1680, ten-year old Rajaram was installed on the throne. However, Sambhaji took possession of the fort after killing the commander, and on 18 June acquired control of Raigad, and formally ascended the throne on 20 July. Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyrabai were imprisoned, and Soyrabai executed on charges of conspiracy that October.