Born in a prominent warrior clan of ‘Bhonsale’ within the Maratha clan system, Shivaji was one of the prominent members of the royal clan. His mother named him in honour of the goddess ‘Shivai’. Born in the hill-fort of Shivneri in Pune district, Shivaji is considered as the founder of Maratha Empire. Shivaji established a competent civil rule and pioneered the guerrilla warfare methods. Using guerrilla tactics, Shivaji protected his legacy from the Mughals who were his main challengers. But in order to establish his progressive rule, Shivaji fought many battles during his life and handfuls of those are described as under:
8. Battle of Mysore Plateau (1677)
This battle in southern India was fought on 26 November 1677 between Shivaji and his stepbrother Venkoji. Shivaji claimed victory in the battle and seized most of the Mysore plateau. But after an agreement Shivaji returned most of the seized territory back to his stepbrother. In return, Venkoji accepted number of conditions from Shivaji for ruling his regime and applied them in public administration.
7. Battle of Nesari (1674)
After defeating Bahlol Khan in 1674, Prataprao Gujar released this Mughal commander. But Shivaji learned about Khan’s camping at Nesari near Kolhapur. Prataprao was the Commander-in-Chief of Maratha forces and he attacked surprisingly on Bhalol Khan. Prataprao lost his life in the battle along with some soldiers. But this act, lead to the safety of Maratha army and Balol Khan was later defeated under the leadership of Anaji and Hambirao Mohite.
6. Battle of Sinhagad (1670)
On 4 February 1670 Shivaji sent his trusted general Tanaji Malusare on a mission to capture Kondana fort, which was still under the Mughal control. With very small army as compared to Mughals, Tanaji killed Uday Bhan Rathod (protector of the fort) and established Maratha control over the Kondana. During the battle, Tanaji lost his life and this fort was renamed by Shivaji as ‘Sinhagad’ to honour Tanaji’s bravery and sacrifice.
5. Battle of Umberkhind (1664)
Shaista Khan sent an Uzbek general, Kartalab Khan to gain control over Konkan region on 3 February 1661. The Mughal troops were 30,000 in strength and planning for a surprise attack on Shivaji. But Maratha forces ambushed on Mughals in the dense forests of Umberkhind, resulting defeat for Mughal army. In 1664, Shivaji also sacked a wealthy Mughal trading centre today known as Surat. Shivaji again in 1670 ransacked this city.
4. Battle of Pune (Lal Mahal) (1663)
Shaista Khan with a strong army of over 3 lakh seized Pune and established his residence at Shivaji’s place of Lal Mahal. In April 1663, Shivaji with a band of 200 Marathas infiltrated Pune using a wedding procession to cover their identity. The surprise attack on Shaista Khan resulted in loss of his thumb. His one son got killed, but Khan managed a narrow escape.
3. Battle of Pawan Khind (1660)
After Maratha’s easy victory in the first two battles, this time Mughals were fully prepared. Mughals formed an alliance with Adilshah to address the rising power of Shivaji. Bijapuri general Siddi Jauhar planned to attack Shivaji on southern border in association of Mughals from the north side. Shivaji’s forces were encamped at Panhala fort near Kohlapur before the start of battle. Enemy forces besieged supply routes to Panhala fort in mid-1660; this caused a huge problem for Marathas. Besides this, the artillery support to Mughals was provided by the British forces. Marathas found them in great trouble but somehow, Shivaji managed to escape from the fort. The British support to his Mughal enemies angered him and he thought of taking revenge from East India Company in future.
2. Battle of Kolhapur (1659)
Bijapur’s Abyssinian general Rustam Jamam commanded a strong army of 10,000 against Shivaji in this battle. On 28 December 1659, Shivaji with a strength of 5,000 Marathas attacked Bijapuri army near Kolhapur. Shivaji divided his army into three parts. Full frontal attack on the centre of enemy forces was full of surprise to the enemy. This strategy worked and combatant forces were defeated by a sound margin. The commander of enemy force managed to flee from the battlefield. This huge defeat alarmed Aurangzeb, who named Shivaji as the ‘Mountain Rat’.
1. Battle in the Foothill of Pratapgad (1659)
On 10 November 1659, Shivaji signaled his troops for a surprise attack on Bijapuri forces. Shivaji’s forces in the battle decisively defeated the forces of Bijapur Sultanat. After winning the battle, Shivaji imprisoned two sons of Afzal Khan. Afzal Khan was sent for the battle by Adilshah (chief of Adilshahi kingdom at Bijapur). Afzal Khan sustained many injuries during a scuffle with Shivaji, leading to his death on the same day. This victory made Shivaji a legend in the Maratha community. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb identified as a great challenger and decided to help Shivaji’s enemies.