The Marathas

The Marathas were minor chieftains serving in the kingdoms�of Bijapur and Golconda. When these kingdoms became weak,�the Marathas declared their independence. They began to�control the region around modern Pune. Soon, they conquered�more territories in the Konkan region. The man who laid the�foundations of a powerful Maratha kingdom was Shivaji.

Shivaji Bhonsle

The Marathas became well-organised and�powerful under the leadership of Shivaji. He was born in 1627.�His father, Shahji Bhonsle, was a high official in the Bijapur�kingdom. Jija Bai, his mother and Dadaji Kondadev, his�guardian shaped the early life of Shivaji.

Early Successes Shivaji was very ambitious since his�childhood; he dreamt of establishing a large and powerful�empire. While still young, he put together a small army. When�the kingdom of Bijapur became weak, he used guerrilla tactics�to capture many forts near Pune.

War with Bijapur

The growing power of Shivaji alarmed the�king of Bijapur. He sent an army under Afzal Khan to defeat�and kill Shivaji. However, it was Shivaji who succeeded in killing�Afzal Khan. He then defeated the Bijapuri army and captured�a large booty.

War with the Mughals

Aurangzeb considered Shivaji as the�greatest threat to the Mughal Empire. In the year 1663, he sent�Shaista Khan to defeat Shivaji. One day, Shivaji and his soldiers�entered the Mughal camp at night and wounded Shaista Khan.�Shivaji then defeated the Mughal army. A year later, Shivaji�attacked Surat, which was under the Mughals, and looted it.�This was a big blow to the Mughal Empire.

Alarmed the growing power of Shivaji, Aurangzeb sent Raja�Jai Singh to the Deccan. Jai Singh besieged Shivaji in the fort�of Purandhar. Seeing all roads blocked, Shivaji agreed to sign�a peace treaty (Treaty of Purandhar) with Jai Singh. He agreed

  • to surrender 23 forts to Aurangzeb
  • to accept Aurangzeb as his overlord and pay him an�annual tribute
  • to go and meet Aurangzeb at his court.

To honour his word, Shivaji went to the Mughal court. But�there he was made to sit with mansabdars of lower ranks than�him. Shivaji felt insulted and tried to leave the court. Aurangzeb�arrested Shivaji and put him under house-arrest. He later�escaped, as some sources say, by hiding in a basket filled with�sweets and fruits. In the year 1617, Shivaji renewed hostilities�with the Mughals. He plundered Surat again and recaptured�some forts surrendered earlier to the Mughals.

Coronation

In 1674, Shivaji crowned himself king. He took�the title of ‘Chhatrapati. The coronation ceremony was held at�Raigarh. The celebrations lasted several days.

Last years After Shivaji became king, the Marathas and the�Mughals never met in battle. He used this period to strengthen�his hold over the territories under him. He died in the year 1680,�leaving behind a powerful kingdom.

Shivaji’s Achievements and Role

Shivaji was not only a fearless�soldier but also a successful administrator. He had a council�of eight ministers, called the ‘ashtapradhan’, to advise him. The�peshwa was the head of this council.

Shivaji established a good revenue system. From the�territories directly under him, he collected two-fifths of the�produce as land tax. In addition, Shivaji collected two taxes�from areas which were not directly under him.

  • The chauth was one-fourth of the total land revenue that�farmers paid to the king who directly controlled these�territories. Shivaji collected this tax in return for a�promise of not raiding and plundering these territories.
  • The sardeshmukhi was an additional one-tenth of the land�revenue. It was taken as a tribute.

Shivaji’s military organisation was very impressive. The�soldiers were given proper training and kept under strict�discipline. The infantry and the cavalry were the main divisions�of the army. In addition, Shivaji controlled many forts. Special�officers were appointed to look after these forts. Shivaji also had�a navy to counter the threat of the European powers.

The successors of Shivaji were weak. In the eighteenth�century, power passed into the hands of the Brahmin ministers�called ‘peshwas’. It was under them that the Marathas became�the dominant power in India.

Written by princy

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