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Shahaji, the King-Maker.jpg
A painting of Shahaji
Jagirdar of Pune in Bijapur Sultanate
Jagirdar of Bangalore in Bijapur Sultanate
Bornc. 1594[1]
Hodigere near Channagiri, Davanagere district[citation needed]
Narsabai[citation needed]
IssueSambhaji (Shambhuji)
Santaji[citation needed]
OccupationMilitary leader

Shahaji Bhosale (c. 1594–1664) was a military leader of 17th century India, who served the Ahmadnagar Sultanate, the Bijapur Sultanate, and the Mughal Empire at various points in his career. A member of the Bhonsle clan, Shahaji inherited the Pune and Supe jagirs (fiefs) from his father Maloji, who served Ahmadnagar. During the Mughal invasion of Deccan, he joined the Mughal forces and served Emperor Shah Jahan for a brief period. After being deprived of his jagirs, he defected to the Bijapur Sultanate in 1632 and regained control over Pune and Supe. In 1638, he also received the jagir of Bangalore, after Bijapur's invasion of Kempe Gowda III's territories. He eventually became the chief general of Bijapur and oversaw its expansion.[2] His father died in a battle while fighting on the side of Nizamashah, hence he and his brother Sharifji were raised by Maloji's brother, Vithoji Raje.

An early exponent of guerrilla warfare, he brought the house of Bhosale into prominence. He was father of Shivaji, the founder of Maratha Empire. The princely states of Tanjore, Kolhapur, and Satara are also Bhosale legacies.

Early life[edit]

Shahaji was the son of Maloji Bhosale, a soldier who eventually became Sar Giroh and was awarded independent jagir of Pune and Supe districts in the court of Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar.

Hazrat Shah Sharif Dargah where maloji asked for his two sons to the muslim saint

Maloji was childless for a long time. With blessings of a Sufi Muslim pir called Shah Sharif , two sons were born to him. Maloji named his sons Shahaji and Sharifji in honour of the pir.[3][4] Shahaji married Jijabai,the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhav, another Maratha general in the service of Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar when both of them were children.[5]Although Shivaji's father Shahaji once used the term Rajput to describe himself in a letter to Adil Shah, in that context he apparently meant it as "honourable warrior-chieftain", literally a person of Rajput descent from North India.

Early career[edit]

Like his father Maloji, Shahaji served in the army of Malik Ambar of Ahmadnagar Sultanate. At the time of Maloji's death in 1606, 12-year old Shahaji was a minor commander in Malik Ambar's army.[6] By 1625, he held the high military position of Sar Lashkar, as suggested by a letter sent from Pune on 28 July.[7]

Ahmadnagar was involved in conflicts against the northern Mughal Empire and other Deccan Sultanates, and Shahaji kept shifting his loyalty between these states. For example, sometime before the Battle of Bhatvadi (1624), Shahaji and some other Maratha leaders defected to Mughals, but shortly before the battle, they returned to Ahmadnagar. Malik Ambar's army defeated a combined Mughal-Bijapur army in the battle.[6] Subsequently, a quarrel happened between Shahaji and his cousin Kheloji Bhonsle, and in 1625, Shahaji shifted his allegiance to Bijapur,[8] probably because he was dissatisfied with Ahmadnagar rewarding his relatives more than him. He retained his jagir in the Pune region, which was disputed between Ahmadnagar and Bijapur.[9] A letter dated 10 January 1626 indicates that he still held the position of Sar Lashkar.[8]

Shahaji's patron in Bijapur - Ibrahim Adil Shah II - died in September 1627.[9] Ibrahim Adil Shah II, a Muslim, was tolerant towards Hindus like Shahaji, and saw Ahmadnagar as a buffer state between his kingdom and the Mughal Empire. After his death, an orthodox Muslim faction that advocated alliance with the Mughals against Ahmadnagar grew stronger in Bijapur.[8] Amid these circumstances, Shahaji returned to Ahmadnagar in early 1628,[9] under the patronage of Malik Ambar's son Fatah Khan.[8] The power of Ahmadnagar had been declining after Malik Ambar's death in 1626, but Shahaji held a higher position there than the one he held in Bijapur. Meanwhile, the newly-crowned Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan launched a fresh campaign against Ahmadnagar. In 1629, Shahaji led a 6,000-strong cavalry against the Mughals in the Khandesh region, but was defeated.[9]Although Shahaji once used the term Rajput to describe himself in a letter to Adil Shah, in that context he apparently meant it as "honourable warrior-chieftain", literally a person of Rajput descent from North India.

In 1630, Shahaji's in-laws and patrons were murdered as a result of factional politics in the Ahmadnagar court.[9] Therefore, Shahaji defected to the Mughals, with a 2,000-strong cavalry.[10] The Mughals sent him to occupy Junnar and Sangamner, and gave these districts to him as jagir.[11]

War against the Mughals[edit]

In 1632, Malik Ambar's son Fatah Khan placed a puppet ruler on the Ahmadnagar throne, and allied with the Mughals. As a reward, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan granted him the jagir that had been earlier allotted to Shahaji.[12] Shahji then left the Mughal service, and started plundering the region around Pune. When the Mughals sent an army against him, he took shelter with the governor of Junnar, and subsequently returned to Bijapur service.[11]

During 1630–1632, the northern Maharashtra suffered from a severe famine, called the Mahadurga famine. Bijapur sent an army to assist Ahmadnagar against the Mughals, who had besieged the Daulatabad fort. The Mughals emerged victorious and captured Daultabad, the capital of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. Shahaji retreated, and took control of an area in the southern part of the Ahmadngar Sultanate. This area included lands in the triangle formed by the Nashik, Pune, and Ahmadnagar cities.[11] Unlike southern Maharashtra, which was directly admnistered by the Bijapur government, this region was politically unstable because of constant warfare between Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, and the Mughals. The political control of this region changed at least ten times during 1600–1635, and the government infrastructure in this area had been largely destroyed.[13] Shahaji's control over this area was very weak, but he maintained an army of 2,000-10,000 men, and provided service to the Ahmadnagar troops fleeing their state after the Mughal conquest.[11]

Meanwhile, in Daulatabad, the Mughals imprisoned the nominal king of Ahamadnagar.[11] Shahaji installed 10-year old Murtaza of the Ahamadnagar royal family as the titular puppet ruler,[14] and himself assumed the title of chief minister.[15] Within a year, Shahaji's army captured Junnar and a large part of northern Konkan region. Shahaji resided in Junnar, and raised an army, which at its height, included 12,000 soldiers. The strength of his army kept changing because of the changing loyalty of the various subordinate chiefs, including Ghatge, Kate, Gaikwad, Kank, Chavan, Mohite, Mahadik, Pandhre, Wagh, and Ghorpade.[11] He set up his capital at Shahabad, and gained control of several large forts. A contemporary Brahmin newsletter of Bijapur states that the area controlled by him, not including his jagir of Pune and Indapur, yielded 7.5 million rupees in revenue. This estimate was based on the potential rather than the actual revenue: the area had been devastated by war and famine, and the actual revenue collected was probably far smaller.[16] The warring armies had destroyed several villages in the area to deny their enemies revenue, and most of the remaining villages yielded revenue only when forced to do so.[17] According to the newsletter, his forces included a 3,000-strong cavalry, plus an additional 2,000-strong contingent from Bijapur.[16]

By 1634, Shahaji had started raiding the area near the Mughal-controlled Daultabad, prompting the Mughals to initiate a major campaign against him.[11] In the ensuing battle of Parenda (1634), in which Maratha soldiers fought on both sides, the Mughals defeated the Bijapur army led by Shahaji. In early 1635, the Mughal army forced Shahaji to retreat from the Daulatabad area, capturing his supply train and 3,000 of his soldiers. Subsequently, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan personally arrived in Deccan with a major army, and forced Shahaji to leave northern Maharashtra. Shahaji lost control of several cities, including Junar and Nashik, and retreated to Konkan.[16]

Bijapur had two political factions: the first, including Shahaji, favoured resisting Mughal influence in Deccan; the second favoured establishing peace with the Mughals by recognizing their control over parts of the former Ahmadnagar territory. In 1636, the second faction emerged more powerful, and a peace treaty was signed between Bijapur and the Mughal Empire.[16] As part of this treaty, Bijapur agreed to help the Mughals subjugate Shahaji, or to depute him away from the Mughal frontier if he chose to join the Bijapuri service.[18] The Mughals then besieged the Mahuli fort, where Shahaji and Murtaza, the pretender to the Ahmadnagar throne, were residing. In October 1636, Shahaji surrendered Mahuli and Junnar to the Mughals, and returned to the Bijapur service.[16] As a result, the Mughals now controlled a major part of present-day Maharashtra, including Pune and Indapur.[19]

In Bangalore[edit]

Shahaji was allowed to retain his jagir in the Pune region, but was barred from living in that area as part of the Mughal-Bijapur treaty. Therefore, the jagir was placed under the nominal administration of his minor son Shivaji, with his subordinate Dadoji Kondadev as its manager. Shahaji himself was transferred to southern part of the Bijapur Sultanate.[20] Shahaji spent the last 20 years of his life in the south, where Bijapur and Golcanda Sultanates were trying to capture territories from the declining Vijayanagara Empire.[21]

Having established peace with the Mughals in the north, the Bijapur government directed its military to its southern frontier.[20] An army led by the general Rustam-i-Zaman Ranadulla Khan invaded Mysore, and Shahaji served as a subordinate commander in this army.[22][20] Each campaigning season during 1637–1640, the Bijapur forces crossed the Krishna and the Tungabhadra rivers, and entered Mysore. The Bijapuri forces defeated several Nayakas, the local chiefs who had administered the area after the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire.[20] In December 1638, the Bijapur forces seized Bangalore, which was assigned to Shahaji. Shahaji was also given the charge of Kolar, Hoskote, Doddaballapura, and Sira areas by Ranadulla Khan, in consultation with the Bijapur ruler Muhammad Adil Shah.[22] Shahaji chose Bangalore as his headquarters because of its secure fortress and good climate.[22] Shahaji was unable to retain control of this entire territory after the departure of the main Bijapur army.[20] However, each year, Bijapur army's expeditions brought more territories under Shahaji's control.[22]

The Bijapur ruler exercised little control over the Bangalore region, and Shahaji ruled the area almost independently. The ruler of Bijapur trusted him, and called him the pillar of the state in a letter.[22] However, in 1639, Shahaji appears to have been involved in a conflict against the Bijapur government. Records show that the Bijapur ruler Muhammad Adil Shah ordered the deshmukh of Lakshmeshwara to support commander Sidi Mooflah in arresting the "relations, dependents, servants and horses" of Shahaji. However, no further details are available about this episode.[20]

Shahaji's relations with the Bijapur ruler improved in the subsequent years, and in 1641, he supported the Bijapur government in suppressing a revolt by the Hindu chiefs. He was part of an army led by the Bijapur general Afzal Khan that captured the fort of Basavapatna from Keng Nayak. The Bijapur army captured several other forts, including Vellore, during this campaign.[20] A letter from Bijapur, dated 30 January 1642, appreciates Shahaji's services in the Karnataka region.[23]

Not much is known about Shahaji's activities during 1642-1645: he probably mainly stayed at his jagir in Bangalore, or may have been involved in Bijapur's recapture of the Ikkeri fort in 1644. Sometime between 1642 and 1644, Shahaji's wife Jijabai and his son Shivaji, visited him in Bangalore.[24] During this period, Shahaji arranged Shivaji's marriage to Saibai of Nimbalkar family, and held a grand wedding ceremony at Bangalore.[25] He also presented his entire family, including his two sons by his second wife, at the Bijapur court. Jijabai and Shivaji returned to Pune shortly after.[24] Shahaji's elder son Shambuji (also called Sambhaji) and another son Venkoji from his other wife Tukabai, stayed with him at Bangalore.

Shahaji beautified Bangalore by commissioning several gardens, and also built a palace called Gowri Mahal, which according to popular tradition, was located in present-day Basavanagudi extension. Besides, he also stayed at Kolar and Doddaballapura, and spent summers at Nandi.[23]

Shahaji appointed several Brahmins from Pune region in the Bangalore administration. Meanwhile, Dadoji Kondadev revived the revenue system in Pune, and remitted surplus revenue to Shahaji's treasury in Bangalore.[23]

Last days[edit]

Amid the rise of Muslim orthodoxy in Bijapur,[26] the relationship of Shahaji - a Hindu - with the Bijapur government kept changing. In 1644, the Bijapur government labeled him a rebel, and sent a force to subjugate his agent Dadoji Kondadev. An August 1644 letter from the government asks Kanoji Nayak Jedhe, the deshmukh of Bhor near Pune, to assist the government representatives in defeating Dadoji Kondadev, who was campaigning in the Kondana area.[24] The government also instructed another deshmukh - Khopde - to seize Shahaji's estates, but these orders were apparently withdrawn before implementation.[27] A similar situation arose in 1646.[24]

In 1648, during a Bijapur campaign to support the rebellion of Nayakas against the Vijayanagara king Sriranga III, Shahaji was arrested for acting against the interests of Bijapur. The forces of Bijapur and Golconda had besieged the Jinjee fort. Shahaji started acting independently of the Bijapur commander Mustafa Khan, and started negotiating with the Nayakas of Jinjee, Madurai, and Tiruchirapalli. He even sought service with the Golconda government.[28] Shahaji was brought to the capital Bijapur in chains, and forced to surrender the forts of Kondana and Bangalore.[26] According to the texts written under the Maratha patronage - such as Shiva-Bharat, Shahaji was arrested because of a rebellion by his son Shivaji, but the Bijapur records do not support this claim. Whatever the case, Shahaji was pardoned within a year.[26]

Little information is available about Shahaji's life during 1648–1660. He appears to have moved out of Bangalore, where his son Ekoji was stationed. Shahaji himself was stationed at Kanakagiri, and his son Sambhaji was killed during a revolt by the chief (Rajah) of Kanakagiri in 1654. During this period, Shahaji participated in Bijapur's war against Golconda.[26]

Meanwhile, Shahaji's son Shivaji, who administered his jagir in the Pune region, started acting independently of the Bijapur government, and started capturing territories of Bijapur vassals around Pune. Shivaji claimed to be a servant of the Bijapur government, and justified his actions, arguing that he was governing these territories better than the deposed rulers did. However, the ruler of Bijapur doubted his loyalty, and Shahaji distanced himself from his son's actions.[29] A letter from Bijapur, dated 26 May 1658, gives back Shahaji the control of his former jagir of Bangalore, and assures him that he will not be punished for the rebellion of his son. Some writers have speculated that Shahaji and Shivaji collaborated to establish an independent kingdom, but no contemporary sources support this theory. Majority of the historians believe that Shahaji did not support his son's rebellion.[30] In 1659, the Bijapur government sent a 12,000-strong army led by Afzal Khan against Shivaji, but Shivaji emerged victorious in the conflict.[31] During 1659–1662, Shahaji traveled to Pune as a mediator between Shivaji and Bijapur, meeting his son for the first time in 12 years. This was also Shahaji's last meeting with Shivaji, as Shahaji died in early 1664, in a hunting accident.[30]

Patronage to scholars[edit]

At his court in Bangalore, Shahaji patronized several scholars, including Jayarama Pindye, who composed Radha-Madhava-Vilasa Champu and Parnala-Parvata-Grahan-Akhyana.[22] Jayarama had heard about Shahaji's generousity to poets from traveling bhats (poets) who were returning to their homes in the north.[32] He traveled from Nashik to Bangalore, and was introduced to Shahaji's court by a man named Shivaraya Gosvamin.[22] Jayarama presented 12 coconuts before Shahaji, signifying his knowledge of 12 languages.[33] Under Shahaji's patronage, Jayarama composed Radha-Madhava-Vilasa Champu (c. 1660 or earlier), a multi-lingual collection of poems.[34] The work names and cites poets in 35 languages, including Sanskrit, Prakrit, Persian, Kannada, Hindi, and Urdu.[35] Jayarama compares Shahaji to Partha in heroism, Vikramarka in generousity, and Bhoja in learning.[32] He makes grandiloquent claims, such as that "hundreds and thousands" of scholars and poets from all over the world came to Shahaji's court to seek his patronage.[36] In a Dingal-language poem, he describes a scene in which the king of Amber learns of Shahaji's greatness from poets, and announces his intention to present gifts to Shahaji, if he ever visited Amber; this is a purely imaginary scene.[21] According to a Sanskrit poem in the collection, when Jayarama requested leave from Shahaji's court to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi and other places, Shahaji told him to take whatever wealth he desired before leaving.[37] Jayarama credits Shahaji with reviving Sanskrit language, and states Shahaji himself composed a part of a stanza in Sanskrit; his sons Sambhaji and Ekoji also composed lines to test Jayarama's poetic skills.[35]

Poets cited in the Radha-Madhava-Vilasa Champu include Sbuddhi-Rav, a native of Ghatampur, who compares Shahaji to Krishna holding up the Govardhan Hill to protect the people.[21] Other prominent personalities in Shahaji's court included Prabhakarabhatta (the purohit); Naropant Hanumanthe; and his sons Janardana-pant and Raghunath-pant.[23]


Shahaji Samadhi (tomb) is at Hodigere near Channagiri in Karnataka.[38]


  1. ^ Bal Krishna 1932, p. 58.
  2. ^ Farooqui Salma Ahmed (2011). A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century. Pearson. p. 315. ISBN 9788131732021.
  3. ^ [The Islamic path: sufism, society, and politics in India, Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri, Helmut Reifeld - 2006 ]
  4. ^ Kosambi, Meera (editor); Laine, James (2000). Intersections : socio-cultural trends in Maharashtra. London: Sangam. p. 62. ISBN 9780863118241. Retrieved 28 July 2017.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Bhave, Y.G. (2000). From the death of Shivaji to the death of Aurangzeb : the critical years. New Delhi: Northern Book Centre. p. 19. ISBN 9788172111007.
  6. ^ a b Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 44.
  7. ^ R. V. Oturkar 1956, p. 272.
  8. ^ a b c d R. V. Oturkar 1956, p. 273.
  9. ^ a b c d e Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 45.
  10. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, pp. 45-46.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 46.
  12. ^ Satish Chandra 2005, p. 204.
  13. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, pp. 51-52.
  14. ^ Abraham Eraly 2000, p. 437.
  15. ^ Sumit Guha 2011, p. 56.
  16. ^ a b c d e Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 47.
  17. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 52.
  18. ^ Satish Chandra 2005, p. 205.
  19. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 47-49.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 55.
  21. ^ a b c Sumit Guha 2011, p. 57.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g B. Muddachari 1966, p. 177.
  23. ^ a b c d B. Muddachari 1966, p. 178.
  24. ^ a b c d Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 56.
  25. ^ B. Muddachari 1966, p. 179.
  26. ^ a b c d Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 57.
  27. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 60.
  28. ^ Stewart Gordon 1993, pp. 56-57.
  29. ^ James W. Laine 2003, p. 21.
  30. ^ a b Stewart Gordon 1993, p. 58.
  31. ^ James W. Laine 2003, pp. 21-23.
  32. ^ a b Sumit Guha 2011, pp. 58-59.
  33. ^ B. Muddachari 1966, pp. 177-178.
  34. ^ Sumit Guha 2011, pp. 57-58.
  35. ^ a b Bal Krishna 1932, p. 57.
  36. ^ Sumit Guha 2011, p. 58.
  37. ^ Sumit Guha 2011, p. 59.
  38. ^ "Sunday Story: In Davangere rests a great Maratha warrior, the pride of Kannadigas". Deccan Chronicle. 10 December 2017. Retrieved 23 January 2018.