Shahji Bhonsle was born on 15th March 1594. Shahaji was the son of Maratha warrior Maloji Bhonsle.
When Maloji Bhonsle died, his son Shahji Bhonsle inherited both his father’s position and jagir. He soon became the right hand man of Malik Ambar.
Shahji’s marriage with Jija Bai, however, did not prove a source of conjugal felicity. The desertion of Jija Bai’s father to the Mughals only served to widen the gulf between the two families.
Shahji Bhonsle later took a second wife from the Mohite family of Supa and Jija Bai came to be practically neglected by her husband.
Jija Bai bore six sons to Shahji Bhonsle of which only two Sambhaji and Shivaji grew up to manhood, the others dying in infancy. Sambhaji is said to have been born in 1619.
Battle of Bhatavadi
The battle of Bhatavadi forms a landmark in the history of the Maratha rise, as Shahji’s genius shone brilliantly on the occasion in support of Malik Ambar.
He received the best lesson of his life in the art of overcoming a superior enemy through tactical method.
This phenomenal success of Malik Ambar gave Shahji Bhonsle an importance and worth of which Malik Ambar soon became jealous. Relations between them became intolerable and Shahji Bhonsle to save his reputation quitted the service of the Nizam Shah and sought his fortune under the Adil Shah.
Shahji, however, retained his hold on his jagir of Poona. Situated on the border-lands of the two kingdoms, Poona proved a fruitful source of contention between them.
Soon after Shahji’s going into the service of Bijapur his second wife, Tukabai in 1630 gave birth to a son, named Ekoji, or Vyankoji in the popular language, who later founded the Maratha kingdom of Tanjore.
Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur who had patronized Shahji at his court also died on 12th September 1627. Another event of equal importance to Maratha history was the birth of a son to Jija Bai and Shahji on 6th April 1627. They named the boy Shivaji and who later founded the Maratha independence.
Shah Jahan’s march against Nizam Shah.—Shah Jahan personally midertook a strong offensive against the ruler of Ahmadnagar.
He left Agra on 3rd December 1629 and after crossing the Narmada on the 12th February following, arranged his forces in separate divisions under able commanders and started a vigorous offensive with the purpose of subjugating the Kingdom of Ahmadnagar.
He similarly threatened Adil Shah and obtained powerful ,armed aid from his state to co-operate with hun. These Bijapuri contingents were commanded by Ranadulla Khan and Kanhoji Jedhe, Maratha Deshmukh of Kari.
Against these formidable opponents on all sides, Khan Jahan Lodi and Shahji Bhosle could not hold out long.
Shahji Bhonsle switch Sides
Lukhji Jadhav had long ago deserted to the Mughals with alibis family and troops. He was a powerful and trained captain, and now backed by the support of the Emperor, he proved to the Nizam Shah a perpetual thorn in his side acting from his seat at Sindkhed.
Under the pretext of negotiating some important political move, the Nizam Shah called the whole brood of the Jadhav Captains for an interview in the fort of Daulatabad on 25th July 1629, and murdered most of them in cold blood.
Shahji’s father-in-law Lukhji, his sons Achloji and Raghuji and grandson Yashwantrao lost their lives in this unexpected treachery. Lukhji’s brother Jagdevrao and son Bahadurji alone escaped to Sindhkhed.
These wanton murders created a feeling of revulsion and disgust against the Nizam Shah, particularly among his Maratha followers; and even Shahji Bhonsle found his life unsafe.
He had already received tempting calls from the Emperor to desert the Nizam Shah and go over to the Mughals. He thought it prudent, therefore, under the pressure of circumstances, to give up the rapidly declining fortunes of the Nizam Shah, and accepted a Mansab under Shah Jahan.
For about a year and a half, from November 1630 to March 1632, Shahji Bhonsle served the Mughal cause. For this desertion the Bijapuri general Murar Jagdev burnt his residence at Poona.
Shahji Bhonsle switch his loyalty to Ahmadnagar
In the meantime the murder of the Jadhavs proved disastrous to the Nizam Shah’s cause. He restored to power his former minister Fath Khan; but the latter finding no escape out of the hopeless situation.
Soon after in March 1631, Murtaza Nizam Shah, who had so long suffered the agonies of varying fortune, came to be murdered. Fath Khan unable to hold out against the Emperor any longer, made his submission to him.
Shahji’s bold stand.—As soon as Shah Jahan left for the north, Shahji Bhonsle found his position with the Mughals untenable. He deserted the Mughal cause and returned to the side of the Nizam Shah, determined to make one more heroic effort to resuscitate the falling fortune of that state under which he and his family had so long thrived.
Mahabat Khan, however, won over Fath Khan and captured the fort of Daulatabad on 7 June 1633. Fath Khan and his master Husain Nizam Shah were secured and despatched to a Mughal prison. But the fall of Daulatabad did not prove the end of the Nizam Shahi State.
Shahji Bhonsle on Offensive
At this critical moment Shahji Bhonsle stepped in boldly to maintain its existence. For him indeed it was a dangerous enterprise, to reconstruct an all but extinguished State and carry on a war unaided against the Emperor’s might.
Within only three months of the fall of Daulatabad Shahiji selected Pemgiri or Bhimgad, a strong inaccessible fort of Ahmadnagar as the capital of the Nizamshahi State, placed there a young Nizamshahi prince on the throne (September 1633) and in his name carried on the administration as before.
In this adventure Shahji Bhonsle managed to enlist the sympathies of the Adil Shah and his minister Murar Jagdev, who personally came to his help with fresh and well equipped armies.
That a small Jagirdar like Shahji Bhonsle should dare to throw down an open challenge to Shah Jahan. He invite Shah Jahan wrath upon his head, shows how self-confident and resourceful Shahji Bhonsle must have been. He quickly collected men and money and made preparations for a stubborn fight.
Threat to his Family
But the task of Shahji Bhonsle was by no means easy. He soon found himself very hard-pressed in all directions. She received a secret warning that Mahaldar Khan the Mughal guardian of fort Trimbak, was on her track.
The Mughals succeeded in capturing Shahji’s wife Jija Bai, but she cleverly managed to save the young Shivaji from capture by concealing him in an out of the way place. This Khan was formerly an intimate friend of Shahji Bhonsle and his family, but now a servant of the Mughals.
Jija Bai is said to have fallen into Mahaldar Khan’s hands. He remained confined for a time at the fort of Kondhana (Sinhgad). Her uncle paid ransom and got her released.
Mughal Offensive and Shahji on Defensive
Shah Jahan was fully aware of this new danger. He himself marching rapidly to the Deccan 1635, once more exhibited phenomenal activity.
Mughals forced the Sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda into cooperation with the Mughals under a threat of complete extinction. Shahji had collected under him about 12,000 troops, mostly men disbanded after the fall of Daulatabad.
He now started raiding the Mughal territory as far south as Bedar and concentrated his main activity in the difficult regions of the north Konkan. He moved between Junnar and Sangamner, with fort Mahuli as the headquarters of the puppet Nizam Shah.
Shaista Khan captured fort Trimbak from Shahji and hunted him through Junnar and Sangamner as well. In his extremity Shahji placed the Nizam Shah in fort Mahuli, a few miles north of Kalyan, and began his last effort.
The Bijapuris finding further resistance hopeless, accepted the Mughals terms and deserted Shahji. Mughals also coerced the Kutb Shahi court of Golkonda into submission. So that within a few months Shahji alone had to bear the whole brunt of this relentless war.
This treaty sealed Shahji’s fate. Mughal completely cut off from the outer world and hemmed in Mahuli fort. He could not now hold out against the full might of the Emperor.
Muhammad Adil Shah well knew the worth of Shahji Bhonsle and tried his best to save him from utter ruin. He sent a gentle hint to the Emperor that the latter’s presence was no longer necessary in the Deccan.
Shah Jahan left Daulatabad on 11 July 1636 for Agra, after finishing the conquest of the Ahmadnagar kingdom.
Shahji Bhonsle fled to the mountains of Kondhana and Torna, which the Mughals found it impossible to approach owing to the heavy rains that had started.
As soon as the rains ceased, he was hunted out and finally resorted to fort Mahuli, which was difficult of access from outside. The Mughals soon arrived and sat down before the gates of that fort in August 1636, stopping all ingress and egress.
Mughals compelled Shahji Bhonsle to seek terms as Shahji’s men began to starve. In October he offered to hand over the fort and serve Bijapur. Nizam Shahi Prince gave jagir to Shahji in payment of his services.
The terms having been agreed to on both sides, Shahji handed over the fort of Mahuli to the Mughals. Ranadulla Khan honorably received Shahji in a personal meeting.
Shahji, however, cleverly managed to retain possession of his Jagir of Poona. He left his wife Jija Bai and her guardian Dadaji Konddev to manage jagir on his behalf. The child Shivaji thus became a personal witness of these momentous events.