Shahji’s work in the Karnataka
During 1635, Shahji Bhosle obtained from the Sumtan of Bijapur a command of twelve thousand horse with the provision of land for his expenses.
This land included the Poona country, he entrusted the management of which to Dadaji Kondadev of Malthan. Dadaji brought in cultivators to settle on the land and made it rent-free for the first five years. Shahji Raje left for Bijapur.
The increasing Mughal pressure from the north awakened the rulers of Bijapur and Golkonda to the future dangers. So they carried out fresh expansions in the south to compensate themselves for their territorial losses.
With this object the two States entered into a mutual compact for the conquest of the Karnatak in co-operation, the western portions going to Bijapur and the eastern ones to Golkonda.
Bijapur Sultan despatched a strong expedition for the conquest of the Karnataka under his commander-in-chief Randaula Khan with Shahji Bhosle under him.
Shahji’s Invasion of South India
Srirang Rai (the Third), happened to be the rulers when Shahji Bhosle and Randaula Khan started on their expedition of conquest.
Venkatapati and his son in vain tried to organize and unite the various provincial governors, now styled Nayaks, in order to make a bold stand against the Muslim forces. But none saw the wisdom of such a course.
Some of them actually sought Muslim aid from Bijapur to adjust their internal disputes. At the time of Shahji’s invasion Virabhadra Nayak ruled at Ikkeri, a decayed town now known as Sagar (Mysore State, Shimoga District).
The time was quite opportune for a bold valiant Hindu leader appearing on the scene and organizing a united opposition. But such a course was reserved for Maharashtra, not for the Karnataka. The Muslims dealt separately with each chief and effected their purpose.
Shahji Bhosle under Randaula Khan’s command took part in three successive expeditions into the western Karnatak between 1637 and 1640. They usually started from Bijapur after the rains and returned there before the next monsoon.
In 1639, Shahji Bhosle proceeded against Bangalore and captured that fort from its keeper Kemp Gauda. He found this place convenient for holding the southern territories. Randaula Khan permanently posted him there with the approval of the Adil Shah.
Hereafter Shahji made Bangalore his principal station, with a governor’s court and insignia almost approaching that of independent royalty. He soon reduced Kanthi Rav Naras Wodiyar of Shrirangapattan to obedience.
Shahji’s possession of Bangalore
In those days of difficult communication between the centre and the outlying provinces, it is no wonder that the local governors assumed almost royal splendor and independence of action.
Shahji Bhosle thus established his position at Bangalore with the airs of a great chief, for which he had already proved his worth. He spent most of his time henceforth at Bangalore and occasionally held his court at Kolar and Balapur also.
For the military and administrative work which he had to execute in a foreign land, he transplanted many Brahmin and Maratha families from Maharashtra and trained there as hereditary officials loyal to his cause.
He introduced Marathi as the Court language into the Karnataka regions, and along with it the Maharashtra system of revenue and accounts. He held an open Court, wherein he entertained musicians, poets, writers and saints.
Thus in a short time a miniature Maharashtra arose in the midst of the Kannada and Tamil lands, the effects of which have survived to this day through three centuries of change.
Shahji Bhosle, however, always remained loyal to Bijapur. He remitted regular contributions of money to the Adil Shah. He carefully guarded his official dealings that gave no cause for suspicion or complaint.
The people of these southern lands looked upon Shahji’s rule as almost a providential continuation of the old Vijayanagar.
Shahji’s Eldest son Shivaji
In the meantime two of Shahji’s sons were growing up with him and breathing the prevalent atmosphere. The elder Sambhaji now about twenty years of age was directly working under his father.
His second wife’s son Ekoji was now about ten and fast coming into his own. The third son Shivaji lived with his mother in Maharashtra.
He was slowly building up his character in the independent surroundings of the western hills. He was free of any regulations of service or of any superior commands.
Although nominally he too was answerable both to his father and to the Sultan of Bijapur. He received the best training then available under the care of a loving mother and a wise guardian, and grew up manly and self reliant.
Rise of Shivaji
In 1640 his mother got him married to a girl from the Nimbalkar family of Phaltan, named Saibai.
He thus started his own organization, military, civil and revenue, which could not long be concealed from the public gaze. His precocious and wild enterprizes reached Shahji’s ears through the latter’s agents at Bijapur.
Shahji thought it necessary to restrain him and keep him on the traditional path of service and strict obedience to their Muslim sovereign. So Shahji, acting either on his own initiative or under gentle hints from Bijapur, called Shivaji. He asked him to be present along with Jija Bai, Dadaji and their personal staff.
Though the actual date of the visit is nowhere recorded, it may be presumed that for about two years between 1640 and 1643. The party mostly visited Bangalore and a short while Bijapur on the way back.
Jija Bai during this visit to Bangalore possibly could not find ease and comfort in the surroundings of her husband’s residence and contrived to spend most of her time in pilgrimages to the numerous famous Hindu shrines in the south.
The Adil Shah was curious to know how matters were developing and invited Shahji with his whole family to Bijapur some time about 1643. In the summer of this year Shahji’s friend and patron Randaula Khan died with the result that Shahji was left without a supporter at the Court.
Revolt in the South
So, some time during 1643, Shahji with his whole family went to Bijapur, and during his absence from Bangalore a strong revulsion against Muslim rule started in the Karnatak.
In 1642, Venkatapati the 2nd, died and his son Srirang Rai, the last unfortunate relic of the decadent Vijaynagar glory, came to the throne, organized his resources at Vellore and tried to recall the slipping power into his hands.
Shivappa Nayak of Bednur and the other local Nayaks rose simultaneously to undo the effects of the Muslim conquest. Muhammad Shah faced a difficult situation. He organized a fresh expedition to go to the Karnataka and to put down the rebel elements.
He entrusted the command of this fresh expedition to the fanatic Mustafa Khan who had long suspected Shahji to be disloyal at heart, and who was bent upon teaching him a lesson.
Shahji sidelined during Invasion
In order to support the expedition with all his might the Shah himself followed and took up his residence at Bankapur. In this way fresh troubles came about in the Karnatak and soon involved Shahji in them.
Shivappa Nayak offered a bold opposition to the Muslims at Ikkeri and Sagar, but in a bloody action which ensued he was completely overcome. Mustafa returned victorious to Bijapur after reducing western Karnatak to obedience.
But the young Srirang Rai was fast making headway. Unless Bijapur crushed him, danger exist for the Muslim possession of the Karnataka.
In order to put him down, therefore, Shahis of Bijapur and Golkonda under Mustafa Khan jointly fitted another expedition. They proceeded straight against Srirang Rai, captured his seat of Vellore, and returned in glory in 1646.
Shahji, it seems, was not present in this expedition but remained at Bangalore watching the course of events.
Shahji under Disfavor
Srirang Rai organized his resources and soon recaptured Vellore. The news reached Bijapur and made the Shah furious.
Shahji’s enemies did not omit to add fuel to the fire. The negotiations that were being carried on between Srirang Rai and Shahji were an open secret.
Shahji’s disloyalty reached the Shah’s ears accusing him of supporting Srirang Rai. At the same time Shivaji in the west captured Sinhagad and practically asserted his independence in the district of Poona.
This could not be, so the Shah concluded, without his father’s complicity. But to bring a powerful chief like Shahji to obedience or even to express distrust towards him was not an easytask.
Shahji Organised Southern Expenditure
The Shah, therefore, organized an expedition in 1646 against Srirang Rai, gave the command to Mustafa Khan with secret instructions to arrest Shahji if he remiss his duty or intrigue with the enemy.
Srirang Rai and the Nayaks of the south sent offers of submission pleading for life and safety. Mustafa Khan kept a close watch on Srirang Rai’s movements. The latter implored Shahji to mediate.
Shahji broached the subject of peace to the Khan and proposed terms. But Mustafa Khan disregarded Shahji’s mediation.
A sanguinary action ensued in which he was defeated and he ran away to save his life. Vellore fell again into Mustafa Khan’s hands. Shahji too saved himself for time being from an open rupture with the Commander-in-Chief.
Mustafa Khan returned to Bijapur once more in triumph. Srirang Rai dragged on a humbled existence for a good long time thereafter.
A general reported to the Adil Shah disloyalty of Shahji. He accused shahji of secretly supported the Hindu faction to the best of his ability.
The Shah was convinced that the various Hindu Palegars looked up to Shahji for a lead and that if he was not checked in time, it would be impossible for the Muslims to hold their sway in those southern regions.
A similar position was already developing in Maharashtra also, so that both Sinhagad and Bangalore became danger signals for the ruler of Bijapur.