A statue of Jijabai and young Shivaji
12 January 1598
Jijau Mahal, Sindkhed Raja, Buldhana, Maharashtra, India
|Died||17 June 1674
|Other names||Jijamata, Rajmata, Jijabai|
Sambhaji - not to be confused with her grandson Sambhaji
|Parent(s)||Lakhojirao Jadhav, Mahalasabai|
Jijabai was born on January 12, 1598 as the daughter of Lakhojirao Jadhav of Deulgaon near Sindkhed in present-day Buldhana district of Maharashtra State. Her mother's name was Mhalsabai. As per the customs of that age, Jijabai was married at an early age to Shahaji Raje Bhonsle, son of Maloji Bhonsle of Verul village, a military commander serving under the Adil Shahi sultans of Bijapur Sultanate in present-day Karnataka. The wedding was held in Sindkhed on 5 Nov 1605, when Jijabai was eight years old; her husband was hardly twelve years old, and she was his first wife. As per custom, Jijabai remained with her parents for several years before joining her husband.
Jijabai's father-in-law, Maloji Bhonsle, had begun his career as a shilledar serving under the command of her father, Lakhojirao Jadhav. Her natal family (the Jadhav family) was of relatively high standing in the region, whereas her husband's family were just rising into importance newly, and according to some accounts, they had risen from the ranks of the Kunbi caste of cultivators. This difference in background and status meant that Jijabai's father had not been very happy to give his daughter in marriage to Shahaji, son of Maloji Bhonsle. He had wanted that his daughter should be given in marriage to an even higher house, and he had agreed to the proposal made by Maloji only after some pressure. Her father's unhappiness made an impact on the young Jijabai's mind and it affected her attitude towards her husband and his family for all her life. Her marriage was never very happy, and finally, she and her husband grew estranged.
Nevertheless, Jijabai bore Shahaji as many as eight children, six daughters and two sons. All the daughters died in infancy and only the two sons, Sambhaji and Shivaji, reached adulthood. In 1630, three years after Shivaji's birth, Jijabai received a co-wife into her household after Shahaji married Tukabai, daughter of Sardar Bajirao Mohite Pongwadikar of Bijapur, who was Shahaji's close friend and, like him, also a commander serving the sultan of Bijapur. By this time, Shahaji had achieved a certain status and importance as a commander, and his new wife came from a friendly family with no hang-ups about status or background. She was also much younger than him, and Shahaji could patronize and indulge her without being made to feel inadequate. He found acceptance and comfort in his second wife and developed a close rapport with her. Within a few years, Shahaji separated his household, granting his estates located near Pune to Shivaji. Jijabai and her younger son Shivaji then moved to these estates near Pune, while her elder son Sambhaji remained with Shahaji because he was the elder son and heir to his father. Shahaji remained in Karnataka with his second wife Tukabai, her growing family, and Sambhaji, his eldest son (born of Jijabai).
She wholeheartedly supported her husband's cause. Shahaji had tried to establish a state on the ruins of the erstwhile Nizamshahi sultanate. However he was defeated by the combined forces of the Mughals and Adilshahi. Later Shahaji became a sardar in Adilshah's army. He settled in Karnataka and got married again. As per the treaty he was forced to move south. In order to continue the struggle, he deputed her as queen regent.
The elder son Sambhaji remained with his father. Shivaji left Bangalore along with his mother, a council of ministers and chosen military commanders. When they arrived in Pune it was full of jungles and wild beasts. She encouraged cultivators to settle. She renovated the Kasaba Ganapati temple. A red sandstone palace of moderate size known as Lal Mahal was also built. She gave a number of decisions in legal and administrative matter known as majhars.
Jijabai was a very pious and intelligent woman with great vision for independent kingdom. She inspired Shivaji by telling stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Balaraja. Inspired by her, Shivaji took the Oath of Independence (SWARAJYA) in the fort temple of lord Raireshwar in 1645 when he was 17. In Shivaji's impeccable, spotless character and courage, Jijabai's contribution is enormous.
Jijabai's elder son Sambhaji was killed while on a military expedition in Karnataka by Afzal Khan. When Shahaji died, Jijabai wanted to commit sati - burning oneself in the husband's pyre, but Shivaji stopped her from doing so by his request. Jijabai is widely credited with raising Shivaji in a manner that led to his future greatness. She died soon after coronation of Shivaji on June 17, 1674. Shivaji was heartbroken by her death.
- Today especially in Maharashtra she is regarded as an ideal mother. Her upbringing of Shivaji is a subject of folklore.
- The 2011 film Rajmata Jijau is a biography of Jijabai
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