Predecessor Maloji Raje Bhonsle
Successor Ekoji I
Chhatrapati Shivaji Raje Bhonsle
Born 18 March 1594 or 1602[1]
Died 23 January 1664[2]
Hodigere near Channagiri Davanagere Dist
Spouse Jijabai
Issue Sambhaji
House Bhonsle
Father Malojiraje Babaji Bhonsle

Shahaji was a Maratha general from the 17th century. The eldest son of Maloji Bhosale of Verul, Shahaji inherited the Pune and Supe jagirs, under the Ahmadnagar Sultanate. 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.[3]

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

Early Life

Shahaji's father, Maloji was childless for a long time. After seeking blessings from a Sufi pir called Shah Sharif two sons were born to him. Maloji named his sons Shahaji and Sharifji in honour of the pir.[4] Maloji was a capable soldier and eventually became Sar Giroh and was awarded independent Jagir (Fief) of Pune & Supe districts in the court of Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. Shahaji was an extremely ambitious and capable general. At a young age, Shahaji had achieved a lot. He was well known not only for his military and leadership skills but also as a man who kept his word. He had not lost a single battle in his entire life which made him the prominent Maratha legend who was treated even at par with Nizam and Adilshah..

Shahaji, in his letter to Adil Shah, mentioned and called himself a Sisodia Rajput. [5] This incident was also mentioned by his poet Jayram Pindye in his book Radhav Vilas Champu.

Shahaji had defeated quite a number of eminent commanders of Mughals, Adil Shah and Nizam Shah. Shahaji was prominent in the whole of Hindustan (India) for he had not lost a single battle in his lifetime and had always prevailed no matter what the circumstances. Mughal, Adil, Nizam Sultanates were leaving no stone unturned to get Shahaji on their side. At his peak, Shahaji's services had the highest demand in the entire country. When Shahaji was serving in the Adilshahi court, he was awarded the title of Farzand (someone placed much higher than a chief commanding an army of 10,000) which was equivalent to the designation of a Prince..

Battle of Bhatvadi

The battle of Bhataudi was fought in 1624 near Ahmednagar, Maharashtra between forces of Shahaji, Nizam and the combined forces of Mughals and Adilshahi Sultanates. Mughal Emperor Jahangir's son, Prince Khurram ( later on Emperor Shah Jahan left his father in hostility and took asylum with Shahaji Raje Bhonsle of Nizamshahi. To defeat Shahaji and rescue Khurram, Jahangir had ordered his commander-in-chief Lashkar Khan to finish off Nizamshahi. Accordingly, Lashkar Khan with an army of 120,000 (1.2 lakhs) marched on Ahmednagar. The Adilshahi Sultanate had also agreed to help the Mughals. Adilshahi army amounted to no less than 80,000 men. Thus, a massive army of 200,000 (2 lakhs) walked on Ahmednagar. On the other hand, Shahaji had an army of 20,000 at his disposal. Shahaji had assigned 10,000 of these, the task of protecting and defending the Ahmednagar fort and town. The remaining 10,000 were with Shahaji.

Such a huge army required huge amount of food and water. Thus, both Mughal and Adil forces were encamped on the bank of the Mehkari River. It flowed North-South. The river had a dam to conserve water, as Ahmednagar experienced water shortage. However, during this period, there had been good amount of rainfall. The river had abundant water and was filled to the brim. Shahaji came up with a brilliant idea. With utmost care, cracks were developed in the dam. It was night time; the whole Mughal and Adil encampments were fast asleep. Suddenly, water started gushing out of the dam from each of the cracks. Mughals and Adils were clueless about what was happening. It was as if a huge wall of irate water was running over the Mughals and Adils. Everyone started running helter-skelter to save their lives. There was chaos and confusion. The whole encampment was flooded with water. Clothes, rations, arms, ammunitions, cannons and cattle everything drowned. Dead elephants were seen floating in the water. Many were taken as prisoners. As many as 25 renowned Mughal and Adil chiefs were imprisoned by Shahaji. It was a huge win for Shahaji, after which Shahaji became very well-known throughout India.

Alliance with Deccan Sultanates and the Mughals

At various points of time Shahaji allied himself with the Adilshah of Bijapur, the Nizamshah of Ahmednagar and the Mughals. His ultimate ambition was to set up an independent Maratha kingdom. He tried on two occasions, first one after the brutal murder of his father-in-law Lakhuji Rao Jadhav (father of Jijabai) and second in 1636. The second attempt was a formidable challenge.

In the meantime, Jahan Khan, the wazir of Nizam killed Nizam on the reasoning that the Nizam was an incapable and unwise ruler, who couldn’t take appropriate decisions and was easily deceived by some people. Jahan Khan greeted Shahaji with open hands and asked Shahaji to join him. Shahaji started leading Nizam’s forces. However, at that time, the Mughal forces on the order of Shah Jahan had slain all the men in relation to Nizam and also killed two pregnant women. This was done to finish off the Nizamshahi, as there wouldn’t be any Male heir to the throne of the Nizam. However, Shahaji, in order to protect Nizamshahi decided to crown a child named Murtuza, who was in relation with Nizam, as the next Nizam. Shahaji assured Murtuza’s mother that he would not be harmed and vouched for his safety.

Shahajahan dispatched a force of 48,000 to reduce Shahaji, Nizam and his ally Adilshah. Under such mounting attack Adilshah sued for peace. With the withdrawal of Adilshah's support, Shahaji could not hold much against the Mughals. His possessions were reduced quickly. In the fort of Mahuli he was besieged. Portuguese did not offer any help from naval side due to fear of the Mughals. In this war, Shahaji fought till the last. But, unfortunately Murtaza, the infant Nizam, was kidnapped by Mughals and for the purpose of saving the life of Nizam, it became necessary for Shahaji to make compromise. This compromise finished Nizamshahi. Shahaji, on the condition of protecting the life of little Mourtaza Nizam at any condition, handed him over to Shahajahan. Nizam was taken away by Sardar Ranoji Wable (regional sardar of Shah Jahan)to Delhi. He was inducted into Adilshahi. As a precaution Shahajahan, ensured that Shahaji was posted in deep south so as not to pose any challenge to Mughals. He finally became one of the top generals in the Adilshah's army, accepting a Jagir in his court, being based in Bengaluru (present-day Bangalore in Karnataka). This is one phase of Shahaji's life.

In 1638, a large Bijapur army led by Ranadulla Khan and accompanied by Shahaji defeated Kempe Gowda III and Bangalore was given to Shahaji as a jagir.[6][7] Shahaji successfully led the Bijapur army to many victories against the Rajas of southern India. Instead of punishing or executing them, Shahaji reprieved all the Rajas. The Rajas thus developed healthy relations with Shahaji and offered military support to Shahaji whenever required.[8]

Crisis phase

After this military defeat, the second phase of Shahaji's life started. He sent his wife Jijabai and their younger son, Shivaji to Pune to manage his jagir of Pune. The couple's elder son, Shambuji (also called as Sambhaji) and another son Venkoji from his second wife stayed with him at Bangalore. Shivaji and Sambhaji both emerged as accomplished generals. Meanwhile young Shivaji started capturing territory controlled by Adilshah around Pune. AdilShah, alarmed by the activities of Shivaji in particular, deceitfully captured Shahaji and imprisoned him as he suspected that Shahaji encouraged Shivaji. Two expeditions were sent simultaneously against Shivaji and his elder brother Sambhaji, who defeated Adilshahi forces. Shivaji meanwhile approached the Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan, seeking help against Adilshah. Fearing another Mughal campaign against Bijapur, Adilshah released Shahaji from prison. However, the elder son Sambhaji was killed during an expedition due to the treacherous role of Afzal Khan. Later Shivaji killed Afzal Khan.

Thus these events proved that Shahaji had taken a sensible decision in keeping Shivaji in the original stronghold of Pune barring which, like Shahaji, Shivaji would have been imprisoned or killed like his elder brother. This period of crisis was overcome by sacrifice and personal bonds of the family. Shahaji actively supported Shivaji in his earlier enterprises, like the campaign against Afzal Khan. Sensing treachery by Afzal khan, Shahaji was waiting near Bijapur with his army of 17,000. He had warned Badi Begum of Adilshah that, if Afzal Khan and his Adilshahi forces killed Shivaji by deceit, then there wouldn't remain even a brick of the Adilshahi kingdom.

Shahaji died around 1665, after falling off his horse during a hunt.


Shahaji had two sons by Jijabai, Sambhaji and Shivaji. Sambhaji was killed while on a military expedition in Karnataka.He was cremated in town of channagiri taluk of Davanagere district of karnataka. Shahaji had one son Venkoji (Ekoji I) by his second wife, who came from the Mohite family. Venkoji later ruled over the independent Maratha kingdom of Thanjavur. Shahaji groomed all his sons as good administrators and men of culture and taste, Shivaji in the Pune region, Sambhaji in Banglore, and Venkoji in Thanjavur region. Shivaji encouraged farming and cultivation, similarly Venkoji also dug canals in Thanjavur and promoted farming activities. Both were good administrators. Like Shahaji they were scholars and warriors. Shahaji had causeed a champukavya. At Bangalore, literary activities were promoted by him. His court poet Jayram Pindye composed Radha madhav vilas champu in flowery Sanskrit. His literary traditions were carried on by his sons, and had strong influence on the mind of Shivaji and the Thanjavur branch. Shahaji samadhi/tomb is at Hodigere near Channagiri (Davangere Taluk) in Karanataka.

Shahaji's dream of an independent kingdom was made a reality by his both sons, the great Shivaji Maharaj in Deccan and Ekoji I in Thanjavur


  1. Full text of "Shivaji The Great Vol I"
  2. Gazetteer of Mysore - 2 Vols. - B. L. Rice
  3. Farooqui Salma Ahmed (2011). A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century. Pearson. p. 315. ISBN 9788131732021.
  4. [The Islamic path: sufism, society, and politics in India, Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri, Helmut Reifeld - 2006 ]
  5. Bakshi, Shiri Ram; Sharma, Sita Ram; Gajrani, S (1998). Contemporary Political Leadership in India:Sharad Pawar The Maratha Legacy. New Delhi: S.B. Nangia. ISBN 81-7648-007-X.
  6. S. Srinivas (22 February 2005). "The bean city". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 2 July 2007.
  7. The Mughal Throne, Abraham Eraly, Phoenix, London, 2004 (ISBN 0-7538-1758-6), Incidental Data, page 538.
  8. Producer-Nitin Desai. "Raja ShivChhatrapati". Star Pravah. Missing or empty |series= (help)
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