Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Context: On the 350th anniversary of the coronation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Prime Minister of India said he was a source of inspiration, and that the work done by him continued to be relevant even today.

Stating that he personified courage and possessed sharp administrative skills, and always believed in the welfare of the people as the basic principle of his administration.

About Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj: 

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire in western India.
  • He was coronated in Raigad Fort on 6 June, 1674.
  • With his valor and great administrative skills, Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur.
  • He is well-known for his innovative military tactics that centered around non-conventional methods leveraging strategic factors like geography, speed, and surprise to defeat his more powerful enemies.
  • He took on the titles of Chhatrapati, Shakakarta, Kshatriya Kulavantas and Haindava Dharmodhhaarak.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Image

His struggles with Bijapur

  • Shivaji’s father Shahaji was in service of the Bijapuri Sultanate – a tripartite association between Bijapur, Ahmednagar, and Golconda, as a general.
  • By 1645, Shivaji acquired control of several strategic from under the Bijapur Sultanate around Pune.
  • Following his success, he had emerged as a threat for Mohammed Adil Shah who gave the order to imprison Shahaji in 1648. 
  • Shahaji was released on condition that Shivaji kept a low profile and kept from further conquests. Shivaji resumed his conquests after Shahaji’s death in 1665.
  • Battle of Pratapgad: The Battle of Pratapgad took place in 1659, at Pratapgad Fort in Satara. The battle was fought between the Marathas forces led by Chhatrapati Shivaji and the Bijapur troops under General Afzal Khan. The Marathas emerged victorious, marking their first significant military triumph against a major regional power.

Conflict with the Mughals

  • Aurangzeb saw him as a threat to expansion of his imperial intent and concentrated his efforts on eradicating the Maratha threat
  • Aurangzeb sent the Mughal governor of Deccan, Shaista Khan against Shivaji whom he defeated.
  • He attacked Surat, chief port of Mughals and plundered it.
  • An infuriated Aurangzeb sent his chief general Jai Singh I with an army of 150,000 and  was defeated by Raja Jai Singh of Amber which led to signing of the Treaty of Purandhar in 1665.

Relationship with the English

  • Initial days of his reign, Shivaji maintained cordial relationships with the English till they supported the Bijapuri Sultanate in a confrontation against him in the capture of Fort of Panhala in 1660. So in 1670, Shivaji moved against the English in Bombay for them not selling him war material. 

Administration of Shivaji

  • Was assisted by a council of ministers called Ashtapradhan (eight ministers). These eight ministers were:
    • The Peshwa or Prime Minister, was head of general administration and represented the king in his absence.
    • The Majumder or the Auditor was responsible for maintain the financial health of the kingdom.
    • The PanditRao or Chief Spiritual Head was responsible for overseeing the spiritual well-being of the kingdom,
    • The Dabir or Foreign Secretary was entrusted with the responsibility of advising the king on matters of foreign policies.
    • The Senapati or Military General was in charge of overseeing every aspect of the military.
    • The Nyayadhish or Chief Justice saw formulations of law and their subsequent enforcement, civil, judicial as well as military. 
    • The Mantri or Chronicler was responsible for keeping elaborate records of everything the king did in his daily life.
    • The Sachiv or Superintendant was in charge of royal correspondence
  • Except the Panditrao and Nyayadhis, all other ministers held military commands, their civil duties often being performed by deputies.
  • Reduced power of Deshmukh & Kulkarni and appointed his own revenue officials karkuns.
  • Chauth was 1/4th of land revenue and Sardeshmukhi was additional levy of 10% on those lands of Maharashtra over which Marathas claimed hereditary right but formed part of Mughal empire.
Chauth was a regular tax or tribute imposed from the early 18th century by the Maratha Empire and was an annual tax nominally levied at 25% on revenue or produce.
The sardeshmukhi was an additional 10% levy on top of the chauth. A tribute paid to the king. 
  • His army consisted of cavalry supervised by havildars and infantry having Malvi foot soldiers as an important feature. 
  • He also maintained a navy with the purchase of twenty galivats(armed boat) from the Portuguese shipyards of Bassein (Vasai). Shivaji fortified his coastline by seizing coastal forts and refurbishing them, and built his first marine fort at Sindhudurg, which was to become the headquarters of the Maratha navy.

Promotion of Art and Culture

  • Promotion of Marathi and Sanskrit: In his court, Shivaji replaced Persian with Marathi, and emphasised Hindu political and courtly traditions. Shivaji commissioned one of his officials to make a comprehensive lexicon to replace Persian and Arabic terms with their Sanskrit equivalents. This led to the production of ‘Rajavyavaharakosa’, the thesaurus of state usage in 1677
  • Seal: Shivaji’s royal seal was in Sanskrit. 
  • Religious policy: Shivaji is known for his liberal and tolerant religious policies. While Hindus were relieved to practice their religion freely under a Hindu ruler, Shivaji not only allowed Muslims to practice without harassment, but supported their ministries with endowments.
  • Forts: The forts he built are Sindhudurg, Rajgad, Pratapgad, Raigad etc.
  • Shivaji was a contemporary of Samarth Ramdas and inspirer of Shivaji. He was an Indian Marathi Hindu saint, philosopher, poet, writer and spiritual master.

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