Chhatrapati Shahu

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For the 19th-century king, see Shahaji II.
Shahuji I
Copy of Shahu (3).jpg
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg 5th Maratha Chhatrapati
Reign 1708 - 1749 CE
Coronation 12th January 1708, Satara
Predecessor Shivaji II
Successor Rajaram II
Born 18th May 1682
Ganguli Fort, Mangaon
Died 15th December 1749
Rangmahal Palace, Satara
House Bhonsale
Father Sambhaji
Mother Yesubai
Religion Hinduism
Maratha Emperors
(1674–1818) Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg
Shivaji 1674–1680
Sambhaji 1680–1689
Rajaram Chhatrapati 1689–1700
Queen Tarabai 1700–1707
Chhatrapati Shahu 1707–1749
Rajaram II of Satara 1749–1777
Peshwas Prime Ministers
(1674–1818) Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg
Moropant Pingle 1674–1689
Ramchandra Pant Amatya 1689–1708
Bahiroji Pingale 1708–1711
Parshuram Trimbak Kulkarni 1711–1713
Balaji Vishwanath 1712–1719
Bajirao I 1719–1740
Balaji Baji Rao (Nanasaheb) 1740–1761
Madhavrao Ballal 1761–1772
Narayan Rao 1772–1773
Raghunathrao 1773–1774
Sawai Madhavrao 1774–1795
Baji Rao II 1795–1818

Shahuji Bhosle (1682–1749 CE) was the fourth Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire created by his grandfather, Chhatrapati Shivaji. More popularly known as Chattrapati Shahu, he came out of captivity by the Mughals and defeated his aunt Tarabai in an internecine conflict to gain the throne in 1708.[1][2]

He was the son of the second Chhatrapati Sambhaji, who was killed by the Mughals in 1689.


During the Mughal-Maratha war of 27 years Shahuji was imprisoned by the Mughals at the age of 7 years after the fall of Raigad fort, the Maratha capital in Feb. 1689, when his parents were also captured.

He spent his entire childhood and youth, from age 7 to age 25, in the custody of the Mughals. He had passed through hardships and all uncertainties of life. Born a prince, he became a prisoner at the age of 7, became a Chattrapati at the age of 26 and saw the empire spreading all over the continent.

When the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707, a war of succession ensued between his surviving sons. At the insistence of Mughal general Zulfiqar Khan and Nusrat Jang, Shahu was freed from imprisonment by Prince Muhammad Azam Shah. After the Battle of Jajua, the victor and next emperor Bahadur Shah also took the side of Shahuji against Tarabai at the insistence of his general Zulfiqar Khan, but under conditions which rendered him a vassal of the Mughal Empire. His mother was still held captive to ensure his good behavior, and he could only obtain her release in 1719 when the Marathas became strong enough.

After his release Shahuji had to contend with a competing claim by his aunt, Tarabai, and her son, Raja Shivaji II (son of Rajaram). With the assistance of Dhanaji Jadhav, Balaji Vishwanath who was later appointed the Peshwa or prime minister, and Sardar Khanderao Dabhade who was later appointed the Senapati (Marathi: Commander-in-Chief), Shahuji prevailed over Tarabai in 1709 and consolidated his power in Satara. Tarabai then set up a rival Maratha court at Kolhapur.

Expansion of the empire[edit]

It was under Shahu and his Bhat-Deshmukh family Peshwas (prime-ministers) that the Maratha empire became the largest in India.[3] The Maratha empire expanded in four directions, in the north by Scindia, Holkar, in the east by Bhonsle, in the west by Dabhade and Gaekwad, and in the south by Fateh-Singh Bhosale with Peshwa Bajirao himself.[4]

  • Shahuji's primary accomplishment was in stabilising the fractured Maratha empire after the defeat of the Mughals by the Marathas. During the War of 27 Years many Maratha nobles became powerful. He was the binding force of the Marathas.[citation needed]
  • Shahuji was instrumental in giving space to new talents irrespective of their background. During his tenure almost all sections of society rose to power. Perhaps the Maratha empire was the most socially mobile empire which accommodated many new socio-economic groups which hitherto were miles away from power and that caused a socio-political revolution.

Socio-political revolution[edit]

A mural of the Great Chhatrapati Shahuji I near Parvati temple, a part of the Peshwa Memorial atop Parvati Hill in Pune. In this mural, he is seen bestowing Peshwaship upon Balaji Bajirao Peshwa

His reign saw rise of many like Balaji, Shinde and many more talented people who later became the strong support on which the Maratha empire expanded and flourished, especially Peshwa Bajirao and the Holkars in the North. He is credited with establishing the position of Peshwa, which later became a hereditary position for those from a humble background.

Bahiroji Pingale, the younger son of Moropant Trimbak Pingle was the first Peshwa of Shahu I. When Kanhoji Angre attacked Satara in 1711, Bahiroji Pingale was taken a prisoner by him. Immediately Shahu I ordered Balaji Vishwanath to ensure his release and also gave him authority in the form of the post of Peshwa, so that he could negotiate with Kanhoji Angre on behalf of the king. After the premature death of Balaji Vishwanath he appointed a young Bajirao as Peshwa on April 17, 1719 . After 20 years tenure of Bajirao, he appointed Nanasaheb, as Peshwa. These three Peshwas were extremely efficient and Shahu always acknowledged their efforts to enhance the Maratha Empire. He is also responsible for appointing Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre to the position of first Maratha naval chief, in return for his shifting his loyalty from the Tarabai camp. Shahu appointed Sardar Khanderao Dabhade as his "Sarsenapati" or Commander-in-Chief.


Shahu had four wives, and fathered two sons and four daughters. He adopted two sons, Fatehsinh I and Rajaram II (who succeeded him as the Raja of Satara. Rajaram II had been brought to her by Tarabai, who initially claimed that the child was her grandson and a descendant of Shivaji, but later disowned him as an impostor.[5]


Shahu died a natural death in 1749. His adopted son Rajaram II, claimed to be Tarabai's grandson succeeded him, but the actual power was held by others: first by Tarabai, and then by Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao.[5]

Preceded by
Shivaji II
Chhatrapati of the
Maratha Empire

Succeeded by
Rajaram II

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A. Vijaya Kumari, Sepuri Bhaskar. "Social change among Balijas: majority community of Andhra Pradesh". MD. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  2. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4. 
  3. ^ Stein, B. (2010). A history of India (Vol. 10). John Wiley & Sons page= 187
  4. ^ Gordon, S. (1993). The Marathas 1600-1818 (Vol. 4). Cambridge University Press, page=121-130.
  5. ^ a b Biswamoy Pati, ed. (2000). Issues in Modern Indian History. Popular. p. 30. ISBN 9788171546589. 

External links[edit]