Maloji Bhonsle was a Maratha sardar (general) who served the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in Malik Ambar's army. He was the father of Shahaji and the grandfather of Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire.
Military career under the Jadhavs of Sindkhed
Maloji married Uma Bai (also known as Dipa Bai), the sister of Jagpalrao Nimbalkar, who was the deshmukh of Phaltan. He had two sons: Shahaji and Sharifji. Maloji believed that he was blessed with these two sons after praying at the dargah of the Sufi saint Shah Sharif in Ahmednagar, and therefore, he named his two sons after the saint.
According to one account, during a Holi function, the Jadhav chief Lakhuji remarked, in a lighter vein, that his daughter Jijabai and Shahji would make a fine couple. Maloji took Lakhuji's remark seriously, and announced publicly that his son was engaged to Lakhuji's daughter. This irked Lakhuji, who considered Maloji to be a non-noble Shiledar. He dismissed Maloji from his services. Later, Nimbalkar's influence and the rising status of the Bhosale family helped Shahaji marry Jijabai.
Ahmednagar Sultanate service
According to one account, Maloji and Vithoji once found a treasure while tilling a field and became rich. They raised a small troop, and briefly harassed Lakhuji.
In 1577, like the Nimbalkars, the two brothers joined the service of the Ahmednagar Sultanate, under Murtaza Nizam Shah I. Maloji became a trusted aide of Malik Amber, who rose to the Prime Ministership of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. Maloji's cousins, the Ghorpades of Mudhol, also became successful noblemen, serving the rival Sultanate of Bijapur.
Maloji rose rapidly in the service of Malik Ambar, fighting against the rival Deccan Sultanates and the Mughals. He and his brother were granted the control of three parganas (administrative units): Elur (Verul), Derhadi and Kannarad (including Jategau and Vakadi), beside several small towns and villages. In 1595 or 1599, Maloji was given the title of raja by Bahadur Nizam Shah II, the ruler of the Ahmednagar Sultanate. On the recommendation of Malik Ambar, he was given the jagir of Pune and Supe parganas, along with the control of the Shivneri and Chakan forts. Maloji carried out the restoration of the Grishneshwar temple near Verul, and also constructed a large tank at the Shambhu Mahadev temple in Shingnapur.
Maloji died during a battle against the Bijapur Sultanate, at Indapur. One account puts his year of death as 1606, and mentions that his son Shahaji, five-years old at the time, was raised by his brother Vithoji. Other accounts put the year of his death as 1620 or 1622. After his death, his jagir was transferred to his son Shahaji.
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