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Chatrapati Shivaji and Maratha Polity

Shivaji was born in February 1630. He was the second son of Shahji Bhonsle and Jijabai. He was born in the hill fort of Shivneri in the northern part of the Pune district. Shivaji's early childhood years were ones of constant warfare and famine in Maharashtra, particularly the Pune region. Shahji, his father, was a rebel from brief Mughal service, and a Mughal army pursued him through the Ghats and down to the Konkan. Shahji's forces, reinforced by Bijapur, were generally unsuccessful against the Mughals and Shivaji and his mother moved from fort to fort. It was not until 1636, when Shahji was forced to go into service with Bijapur, that Shivaji and his mother were able to settle in Pune. Shahji was succeeded in getting a grant in the Pune region confirmed by the Bijapur government, the administration of which was bestowed on Dadaji Kondev. The core of the rights was the hereditary patil rights (village headman) to three villages, and the deshmukh rights of Indapur, some seventy miles southeast of Pune. Beyond these hereditary rights, Shivaji's father also held the mokasa of the Pune region. This mokasa grant was a triangle bordered by the Nira River on the south, the Bhima River on the northeast, and a portion of the Ghats on the west. It ran almost a hundred miles north to south and the same east to west. Very little is confirmable about Shivaji's early years.

The Pune region was largely devastated by two decades of warfare and the famine of 1630. Dadaji Kondev set about repopulating and developing the jagir. There is every indication that this was not a peaceful process. In 1644, Shivaji was involved in a factional dispute that resulted in his arrest and the sequestering of his estates. The Bijapur government instructed two nearby chiefs, the Khopde and Jedhe deshmukhs to seize the estates, but apparently the order was withdrawn before being implemented. During this time, Shivaji explored the hills surrounding his jagir and took the hill fort of Sinhagad. In 1647, Dadaji Kondev, the steward of Shivaji's jagir, died, and Shivaji took over the administration. One of his first acts directly challenged the Bijapuri government. Shivaji, through stratagem took the fort of Torna, and seized the large treasure he found there. In the next two years, Shivaji took another important fort near Pune, Chakan, which guarded the northern road into the city. Meanwhile, he used the money found at Torna to build a new fort five miles east of Torna, on the crest of a hill. He named it Raigad, and it served as his capital for over a decade. All challenges were possible because the Bijapuri government was in crisis due to the illness of the reigning king. Shivaji in these same early years also struck against rival Maratha families in his area. Shivaji continued his consolidation of his father's jagir. He won over the fort commanders of Baramati and Indapur, and more importantly, took the fort of Purandar.

Between 1650 and 1655, Shivaji recruited deshmukhs and soldiers and successfully crushed opposition to his control of the Pune region.

He build another fort, which he named Pratapgad, near Raigad by defeating More family. He controlled eight important passes that traversed the Ghats from the Desh to the Konkan coast.

From 1657 to 1660 Shivaji repeatedly attacked and plundered the Adilshahi territories. A huge army was collected in Bijapur and Afzal Khan was to bring back the rebel dead or alive. When Afzal Khan reached the field of operations he found that fighting in the mountainous territory was extremely difficult. He proposed an interview with Shivaji ,promising him pardon and grant of territory. Shivaji and Afzal Khan met at the appointed place when Afzal Khan attached him with a dagger the latter promptly killed him with the tiger claws. After this Afzal Khan’s troops were massacred. Another army was sent by Bijapur but also met with the same fate. Ultimately Bijapur entered into negotiations with Shivaji and was recognized as the ruler of the territories in his possession.

From the More lands that were on the top of the Ghats, he raided down into the northern Konkan and captured the towns of Kalyan and Bhiwandi and the large fort of Mahuli. The raids on the coastal plain were highly successful and first brought Shivaji to the attention of the maritime powers on the west coast of India. By the end of 1659, Shivaji was, therefore, in control of the Pune area, the northern Satara district and about half of the Kolaba and Thana districts. He controlled forty forts, large and small, led a cavalry of 7,000 regular horse, and infantry of approximately 10,000, and 3,000 independent troopers.

For three years from 1660-1663 Shivaji was hunted from all directions .Shaista Khan the Mughal governor had occupied Poona and made it his headquarters. Shivaji had attacked Shaista Khan ,killing his son and wounding him in 1663. Aurangzeb deputed Raja Jai Singh of Amber to deal with Shivaji after he had looted Surat and Ahmadnagar. Raja Jai Singh made careful diplomatic and military preparations and opened the campaign with the siege of Purandhar. Driven to desperation after months of resistance, Shivaji opened negotiations with Jai Singh and treaty was concluded at Purandar in 1665. By this treaty ,Shivaji was allowed to retain twelve of its forts including Raigarh.He had to surrender 23 forts with surrounding territories which yielded a revenue of four lacs every year to the Mughals.