Early life of Shivaji
The earliest detailed descriptions of Shivaji's birth and boyhood are found in the works composed 150 years after his death. By this time, Shivaji had become a semi-legendary figure, and several stories had developed around his legend. Historian Jadunath Sarkar notes: "The stories told in the later Marathi bakhars about the history of his parents during the year preceding his birth and the events of his own life up to the age of twenty, are in many points contrary to authentic history, and in others improbable, or, at all events, unsupported by any evidence."
Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivneri near the city of Junnar. While Jijabai was pregnant, she had prayed the local deity (devi) called "Shivai" for the good of her expected child. Shivaji was named after this local deity.
The exact birthdate of Shivaji has been a matter of dispute among the historians. The Government of Maharashtra accepts the 3rd day of the dark half of Phalguna, 1551 of Saka calendar (Friday, 19 February 1630) as the official birthdate of Shivaji. This date is supported by several other historians including Dr. Bal Krishna. A horoscope of Shivaji found in the possession of Pandit Mithalal Vyas of Jodhpur also supports this birthdate. According to Setu Madhavrao Pagdi, Shivaji's court poet Paramanand has also mentioned Shivaji birth date as 19 February 1630.
However, some other historians such as Jadunath Sarkar and Rao Bahadur Sardesai believed that Shivaji was born in 1627. The various suggested dates include:
- the second day of the light half of Vaisakha in the year 1549 of Saka calendar i.e. Thursday, 6 April 1627.
- 10 April 1627
- May 1627
Sarkar believed that there are no contemporary reliable records of Shivaji's exact birth date and boyhood, and the bakhars composed years after his birth contain several unreliable anecdotes. Dr. Bal Krishna rejects the date suggested by Sarkar, criticizing him for over dependence on 91-Qalmi Bakhar (composed in 1760s) and Shivadigvijaya Bakhar (composed in 1818).
Shivaji's father Shahaji was a military leader and Jagirdar of Pune and Supa. He started his military career with Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar. Later he briefly joined the Mughals and then the Adilshahi of Bijapur for the rest of his career. His mother was Jijabai, the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhav of Sindkhed, a Jagirdar under the Nizamshahi and later with the Mughals .
Shivaji was the fifth son born to Jijabai. Three of his siblings died as infants; Shivaji's elder brother Sambhaji (not to be confused with his son Sambhaji) was the only one to have survived. While Shivaji was accompanied mostly by his mother, Sambhaji lived with his father Shahaji at present day Bangalore.
During the period of Shivaji's birth, the power in Deccan was shared by three Sultanates – Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar. Most of the then Marathas forces had pledged their loyalties to one of these Sultanates and were engaged in a continuous game of mutual alliances and aggression. Legend has it that Shivaji's paternal grandfather Maloji Bhosale was insulted by Lakhujirao Jadhav, a sardar in Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, who refused to give his daughter Jijabai in marriage to Shahaji. This inspired Maloji to greater conquests to obtain a higher stature and an important role under Nizamshahi, something that eventually led him to achieving the title of mansabdar (military commander and an imperial administrator). Leveraging this new found recognition and power, he was able to convince Lakhujirao Jadhav to give his daughter in marriage to his son Shahaji.
Shahaji following in the footsteps of his father, began service with the young Nizamshah of Ahmednagar and together with Malik Amber, Nizam's minister, he won back most of the districts for the Nizamshah from the Mughals who had gained it during their attack of 1600. Thereafter, Lakhujirao Jadhav, Shahaji's father-in-law, attacked Shahaji at the Mahuli fort and laid a siege. Shahaji was accompanied by Jijabai, who was four months pregnant. After seeing no relief coming from Nizam, Shahaji decided to vacate the fort and planned his escape. He sent Jijabai off to the safety of Shivneri fort, which was under his control. It was here at Shivneri that Shivaji was born. In the meanwhile, suspecting his disloyalty, Lakhujirao Jadhav and his three sons were murdered by the Nizamshah in his court when they came to join his forces. Unsettled by this incident, Shahaji Raje decided to part ways with the Nizamshahi Sultanate and raise the banner of independence and establish an independent kingdom.
After this episode Ahmednagar fell to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and shortly thereafter Shahaji responded by attacking the Mughal garrison there and regained control of this region again. In response the Mughals sent a much larger force in 1635 to recover the area back and forced Shahaji to retreat into Mahuli. The result of this was that Adilshah of Bijapur agreed to pay tribute to the Mughals in return for the authority to rule this region in 1636. Thereafter, Shahaji was inducted by Adilshah of Bijapur and was offered a distant jagir (landholding) at present-day Bangalore, but he was allowed to keep his old land tenures and holdings in Pune. Shahaji thus kept changing his loyalty among Nizamshah, Adilshah and the Mughals but always kept his jagir at Pune and his small force of men with him.
Relation with parents
During the 1630s, Shahaji was involved in campaigns against the Deccan Sultanates and the Mughals. In October 1636, he had to cede Shivneri to the Mughals as per a peace treaty. He retained the control of his ancestral jagir of Pune and Supa. This ancestral jagir was formerly held under Nizam Shah, but in 1636, Shahaji entered the service of Adil Shah of Bijapur. According to Tarikh-i-Shivaji, Shahaji placed this jagir under Dadoji Konddeo. He asked Konddeo to bring Jijabai and Shivaji from Shivneri to Pune, and appointed him as their guardian. Shahaji spent most of his time in Bangalore, close to Tukabai and Vyankoji. Shivaji grew very close to his mother, Jijabai, and almost adored her like a deity. Jijabai led a deeply religious, almost ascetic, life amidst neglect and isolation. This religious environment had a profound influence on Shivaji.
Shivaji was trained at Banglore, along with his brother, under the supervision of Shahaji, and later on, at Pune, under the supervision of his mother. Tarikh-i-Shivaji states that Dadoji Konddev trained Shivaji personally, and also appointed an excellent teacher for him. In a short time, Shivaji became a skilled fighter and a good horse-rider. The military commanders Kanhoji Jedhe and Baji Pasalkar were appointed to train Shivaji in martial arts. Gomaji Naik Pansambal taught him swordsmanship, and later served as his military advisor.
Historians have debated whether Shivaji was literate or not. A few authors, writing centuries after Shivaji's death, mention that he had mastered several arts and sciences at a young age. However, no contemporary records contain any information about his book-learning. Several letters, allegedly written by Shivaji or containing lines written by Shivaji, are available. However, the authenticity of these letters has not gained universal acceptance among the historians. Jadunath Sarkar writes: "The weight of evidence is in favour of the view that Shivaji was unlettered, like three other heroes of medieval India — Akbar, Haidar Ali, and Ranjit Singh. The many Europeans who visited him never saw him write anything; when they presented any petition to him the Rajah always passed it on to his ministers to be read to him. No piece of writing in his own hand is known to exist." However, other historians state that Shivbharat, written by Shivaji's court poet Paramanand, indicates that he was a literate. Shivaji's naming of forts in Sanskrit language also indicates that he was literate.
Whether or not Shivaji was literate, it is well known that he had mastered the two great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, by listening to recitations and story-tellings. The noble examples mentioned in the epics greatly impressed his young mind. He was deeply interested in religious teachings, and sought the society of Hindu and Muslim saints wherever he went.
As the administrator of Shahaji's jagir, Dadoji Konddeo established complete control over the Maval region. He won over most of the local Maval deshmukhs (chiefs), and subdued others. Shivaji drew his earliest trusted comrades and a large number of his soldiers from this region. Some of the early Mavlans associated with Shivaji were the chieftains Yesaji Kank and Baji Pasalkar, who were of his own age. Tanaji Malusare, a young deshmukh of Konkan, was another of his early associates.
In the company of his Maval comrades, a young Shivaji wandered over the hills and forests of the Sahyadri range, hardening himself and getting a first-hand knowledge of the land. By 1639, he was surrounded by able and loyal officers. Around 1639, his father had sent four officers::62
- Shamrao (or Shyamraj) Nilkanth Ranjhekar (or Rozefyar), the Peshwa (Prime Minister/Chancellor).
- Balkrishna Hanumante, the Muzumdar/Majumdar (Accountant-General)
- Sonaji Pant or Sonopant, the dabir (secretary)
- Raghunath Ballal Korde, sabnis (paymaster)
In addition to these, Shivaji appointed two more important officers on his own:
- Tukoji Chor Maratha, the sar-i-naubat (commander-in-chief)
- Narayan Pant, the divisional paymaster
Foundations of self-rule
In 1644, Shahaji had Lal Mahal built in Pune for his wife and his son Shivaji. A royal seal in Sanskrit which read, "This is the royal seal of Shivaji, son of Shahaji. This royal seal is for the welfare of people. This seal (the rule of the seal) will grow like the new moon grows", was handed to Shivaji. Thus Shivaji started his career as an independent young prince of a small kingdom on a mission. However, Shivaji used the title of Raja (king) only after Shahaji's death.
The Chitnis Bakhar (1810), described by later authors as of questionable accuracy, mentions that Shivaji defeated and killed Krishnaji Nayak Bandal, the deshmukh of Hirdas Maval, who had refused to accept Dadoji Konddeo's orders. However, Jadunath Sarkar believes this to be incorrect, and states that this subjugation was completed by Dadoji Konddeo himself.
- Lal Mahal, the residential palace where Shivaji stayed during his early life
- Jadunath Sarkar (1919). Shivaji and His Times (Second ed.). London: Longmans, Green and Co.
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