The birth of Shivaji Maharaj
Several stories are told in support of the general belief that the baby boy was an incarnation of the god Shiva. A charming one is to be found in the Shedgavkar Bakhar. During the stormy years that followed the birth of Sambhaji, Shshxji, engaged in the warlike enterprises entrusted to him by Mahk Ambar, found no time to pay his wife conjugal attentions. One night he dreamt that he saw a Gosavi or Hindu anchorite, clad in rags and smeared with yellow ashes, stand by his bedside and put a mango in his hand. " Share the fruit with your wife," said the anchorite, " and you will become the father of a son who will be an incarnation of the god Shiva. You must never force him to salute a Muslim and after his twelfth year you must leave him free to act as he pleases." When Shahaji awoke from his dream, he found a mango in his hand, visited his wife and shared it with her. The offspring of this reunion was the boy Shivaji, bom on April 10, 1627. Convinced that the anchorite whom he had seen in his dream was the god Shiva, Shahaji gave the new-born child the name of Shivaji, just as Maloji had called Shahaji after the Muslim saint Shah Sharif. According to another story, Shahaji had a vision of Shiva after Shivaji's birth and was then told by the god that the new-born boy was his own incarnation. When Shivaji was born, his mother Jijabai was living in a house on the top of the Shivner fort close to Junnar. A ruined wall still stands on the site where the house stood and a marble tablet.
His early days
Even Shivaji's early days were not free from peril and adventure. Before his birth, his grandfather Lakhoji Jadhavrao had joined the Moghuls, and Shahaji by refusing to follow his example had incurred his bitter enmity. The quarrel was taken up by the other nobles in the Moghul service. And although Lakhoji Jadhavrao died in 1629, treacherously assassinated at Daulatabad by Murtaza Nizam Shah II, the hatred borne by the Moghuls to Shahaji survived Lakhoji Jadhavrao's death. A certain Mhaldar Khan, originally appointed by Murtaza Nizam Shah II to be governor of Trimbak, deserted to Shah Jehan. Wishing to secure the favour of the emperor, he arrested Shahaji's wife (A.D. 1633). Jijabai succeeded in hiding Shivaji but she herself was confined in the fort of Kondana. During the three years, 1633 to 1636, in which Shahaji defied the Moghuls, they made every effort to find out Shivaji's hiding place, that they might hold him as a hostage for his father. But Jijabai's wit baffled them, and Shivaji remained safe until Shahaji's final surrender. Even then Shivaji could not enjoy his father's protection. In 1630 Shahaji had contracted a second marriage with Tukabai, a girl of the Mohite family. This family, although of ancient descent, was inferior in rank to that of Lakhoji Jadhavrao, and after his second marriage, Jijabai seems to have broken off all but formal relations with her husband.
When Shivaji was ten years old (1637), it became time according to the custom of the day to arrange his marriage; for that purpose Jijabai took her son to Bijapur. There he was wedded to one Saibai, the daughter of Vithoji Mohite Newaskar. Another account makes Saibai daughter of Jagdevrao Nimbalkar.
Even at this early age the boy is said to have shown symptoms of what his future career was to be. He made a public protest when he saw some Muslim butchers driving cattle to the slaughter house and he refused to bow to the king of Bijapur in the manner required by the etiquette of the court. Fearing that the unruly boy might injure his o-^ti prospects of advance- ment, Shahaji was glad to send Shivaji with his mother out of Bijapur (A.D. 1638). He ordered Jijabai to reside at his fief of Poona and Supa. To assist her in its management he appointed a trusted Brahman officer named Dadoji Kondadev.
It is hardly necessary to mention that Poona then had no resemblance to what it now is. To-day two great rival cities jostle each other on the banks of the two rivers, the Muta and the Mula. A mighty cantonment seven miles in length stretches from the cavalry lines at Ghorpuri to the artillery lines at Kirkee, and, six miles in breadth, stretches from East Kirkee to the bar- racks at Vanavdi. To the west, overlooking the plain on which fell the Maratha Empire, rises the beautiful palace erected by Sir Bartle Frere. Through the whole length of the cantonment runs the broad-gauge track of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, joining Poona on the west to Bombay and on the east to Calcutta and all Central India. Wide roads shaded by gigantic banian trees and bordered by riding paths are daily crowded with motor vehicles and horsemen. In the heart of the cantonment are the grounds and buildings of the Poona Gymkhana, famous for a long series of struggles between the cricketers of Asia and Europe.
Directly to the north of the Gymlvhana is the stone pile known as the Council Hall, where the executive Government meet and where the King's representatives hold their annual levees. Opposite, to the east of the Council Hall is a gloomy building in which the records of the Peshwas have lain for a hundred years, wrapped in a sleep which is slowly yielding to the industry of modern scholars. But the chief marvel and beauty of the Poona cantonment is the great dam built in 1860 by the liberality of Sir Jamsetji Jijibhai. The waters of the Mula, pent up by a stone masoniy wall, flow level with its banks throughout the year. Fine trees fringe its borders for many miles upstream.
The wars between Alimadnagar and Bijapur, between Bijapur and the Moghuls, and those of Malik Ambar and Shahaji against both had ruined the entire Deccan. To grow a crop was merely to invite a troop of hostile cavalry to cut it and probably kill its owner. Nor was this the only danger. The invaders usually carried away with them the children of both sexes and the yomig women and forcibly converted them. The father of the foimder of Ahmadnagar and the first king of Golconda were thus carried into captivity and made Mahomedans. Hamdas in his well-known sketch of a Hindu's life mentions, evidently as a most ordinary event, that the Hindu's wife is carried away and married to a Musulman. As Poona and Supa were Shahaji's private fief, the malignity of his enemies applied itself deliberately to their destruction. The rustic population had either fled or perished. Wild beasts of all kinds took their place and the few men who peopled the huts on the bank of the Muta were fishermen, who lived by catching the fish in the two rivers.
Such was the estate from which Jijabai, her son, and her clerk, had to obtain their living. Ordinary persons would have given up the attempt in despair. But Jijabai and Dadoji Kondadev were not ordinary persons. Sooner than share with a younger wife the affections of Shahaji, the proud lady was ready, if need be, to starve. Dadoji Kondadev was a very ableman. A Deshasth Brahman, born in Malthan in the Poona district, he had, somehow, in the course of a varied service, acquired a perfect knowledge of revenue administration. This he now applied with signal success to the ruined fief. He attracted cultivators from the hilly tracts and the neighbouring districts by offering them rent-free lands. He kept down the wild beasts by giving huntsmen rewards, probably from his own savings.
In the last war between Bijapur and the Moghuls Adil Shah devastated all the country within 20 miles of his capital. Shivaji went to Poona with his mother Jijabai. Unhappily no portrait survives of the great king when he was still a boy. But he had suffered troubles early. He had long been separated from his father and to avoid captivity he had have for years hidden in woods and caves. It is possible, therefore, that, although his cheeks were rounder and his skin smoother, he did not much differ in boyhood from the pictures which still exist of Shivaji in manhood. The brow is wrinkled as if with grave and constant thought. The cheeks are burnt with long exposure to sun and rain and deeply furrowed as if with anxiety and care. But the nose is curved like a falcon's beak. The eyes are large and bold. The thin lips are compressed with inflexible resolution. The whole face speaks eloquently of trouble bravely borne and dangers triumphantly surmounted. Shivaji's body was short but broad and strongly built. And a legend survives that, like those of Arjmia, the epic archer, the fingers of his long sinewy arms reached below his knees. Dadoji Kondadev had the good sense to imderstand that he owed a duty to his master's son as well as to his master's lands. He collected round Shivaji other boys of his own age. The best known were Tanaji Malusare, a petty baron of Umrathe village in the Konkan, Baji Phasalkar, the deshmukh of the valley of Muse, and Yesaji Kank, a small land-holder in the Sahyadris. Dadoji had Shivaji and his companions instructed in all the warlike exercises of the time. He had himself seen a good deal of fighting and no doubt supplemented the teaching of the paid instructors by tales of his own experiences in the field. He also realized that an exact knowledge of the wild lands in the Mawal, of the passes to the Konkan and of the folds in the Sahyadri hills was at least as valuable as skill in martial exercises or an acquaintance with the tactics of the day.
His early days
Encouraged by Dadoji Kondadev, Shivaji and his companions wandered for days together through the Krishna valley, through the forests on the banks of the Koyna, along the winding course of the Indrayani, or followed the Bhima River to its source upon the shaggy sides of mighty Bhimashankar. But Dadoji Konda-dev was not only an efficient land agent and a veteran of Shahaji's wars ; lie was also, as became a Brahman, a profomid scholar.
He had built a roomy house for Jijabai and Shivaji, which he named the Raj Mahal, close to the right bank of the Muta, where stretches now the Municipal Garden to the east of the Shan war Wada. There on winter evenings he would gather round him Shivaji and his friends and expound to them the teachings of Dnyandev and of the other saints of Pandharpur. When they grew weary of abstruse doctrines, he would take up the Sanskrit scrolls and by the smoky hght of a wick soaked in oil, he would first read and then translate to them tales of Bhima the strong, of the archery of Arjuna, of the chivalrous courage of Yudhishthira. Or he would repeat to them the wise sayings of Bhishma, in which are contained the experience and wisdom of two thousand years of Indian war, statesmanship and government.
There were other influences too at work on Shivaji's character.
The scenery round Poona is of the most inspiring kind. To the west are the tremendous barrier ranges of the Sahyadris. Only twelve miles to the south stands out the colossal fortress of Sinhgad. To the south-west may be dimly seen the peaks of Rajgad and Torna, which, when oiiitlined against the setting sun, arouse even to-day emotion in the phlegmatic Englishman. But thirteen miles to the north of Poona lies Alandi, the spot where Dnyandev entered his living tomb and to which, now, as in Shivaji's time, thousands of pilgrims bearing yellow flags make their way from Pandharpur. But there was yet another influence more powerful than either Dadoji Kondadev's teachings or the grandeur of the landscape. Jijabai, fatherless, deserted by her husband and by her eldest son fomid a solace for her grief in Shivaji, the one possession left her. She lavished on her son and more than all a mother's love. At the same time she bade him never forget that he was descended both from the Yadavas of Devagiri and the Ranas of Udaipur. She recited to him the Puranas with their marvellous feats of war and daring. But she wished to see him pious as well as brave. She made him pray constantly at the httle village shrine which still may be seen in Poona not far from the site of Jijabai's home.
Shivaji's Birth and Boyhood
There too she welcomed Kathekaris or religious preachers to translate and expound to him, better than even Dadoji could do, the various virtues and merits of Krishna. ' Thus grew Etruria strong ' ; and Shivaji at eighteen was a man tireless, fearless and deeply devout.
It was now time for Shivaji to choose a career. As the son of the former regent of Ahmadnagar, as the grandson of Lakhoji Jadhavrao, as a near kinsman of the ancient house of Phaltan, Shivaji was one of the natural leaders of the Maratha people. There were several courses open to him. Like some of the barons of the time he could live on Shahaji's estate, amuse his leisure with strong drink, fill his zanana with the rustic beauties of the neighbourhood and perform just as httle miUtary service as would enable him to retain such fiefs as he might inherit from his father. But to the son of Shahaji and the grandson of Maloji such a life probably never ofEered much temptation.
The second course was that favoured by Dadoji Kondadev. He could go to Bijapur, join the king's service as a subordinate of Shahaji, as Sambhaji had done, and with him rise to a high place among the factious nobles who surrounded Mahomed Adil Shah. But Shivaji was well aware of the weakness of the Bijapur government. He knew that behind the gUtter of the court there were waste, mismanagement and incapacity. At Bijapur, just as there had been at Ahmadnagar, there was a constant and furious rivalry between the Deccan and the foreign parties. Either faction, in order to gratify private spite, were prepared to call in the Moghuls and ruin their country. Shivaji realized that sooner or later a house so divided must fall a prey to the disciplined Moghuls, whose forces were led by royal princes who were among the first captains of the time. A third course open to Shivaji was to seek his fortune at Delhi. The son of Shahaji Bhosle would no doubt have received a high post in the Moghul army. There his natural gifts would certainly have won him most honourable distinction. But to adopt this course would have been to desert his country and to stand by while Aurangzeb's armies enslaved the Indian peoples and insulted their religion from the Bhima to Rameshwaram.
There was yet another course open to the young noble and that was to attempt the liberation of the Maratha race. It was a well-nigh hopeless task. After three centuries of slavery the wishes for freedom was all but dead and have, if at all, in a few hill tracts in the Mawal and the Konkan. He could expect no aid from other Maratha nobles. All that the Ghorpades, the Mores, the Manes, the Savants and others aspired to was their own advancement at court or the enlargement of their fiefs at the expense of their neighbours. Without resources he must raise an army. He must inspire it by his own words and acts with high ideals. He must fight against his own relatives and countrymen. He must incur charges of treason and charges of unfilial conduct. In the end, he would most likely see his hopes shattered, his friends butchered, and himself condemned to a cruel and a lingering death. Yet this was the course which Shivaji resolved to adopt. He did so, not with the rash presumption of youth, but after deep dehberate thought, after long discussion with the friends of his boyhood, with Dadoji Kondadev and with his mother Jijabai. Having once adopted it he never swerved from it until his work was done. More than 2500 years before, three immortal goddesses had called on another eastern prince to decide questions very similar to those which now confronted Shivaji. But far other than that of Paris was the judgment of Shahaji's son. He turned aside from the rich promises of Hera and the voluptuous smiles of Aphrodite and without a single backward glance placed the golden fruit in the hands of Pallas Athene.