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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Political strategies of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

(Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj)

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was as clear about his political views and strategies from a very young age like he was about other aspects of his life. His stay at Bijapur shaped many of his political views and besides this, the education that he received from Jijamata and Dadaji Kondadev helped him to give a final shape to his political strategies. Along with his learning abilities, his observatory skills were very sharp which he put to good use while making his plans and strategies.

Maharaj realised early on that making alliances is the key to establishing a successful kingdom. His tours of Sahyadris weren’t merely for familiarising himself with the geographical topography but also endearing himself to the people of the area. During these tours he made friends with the local chieftains, tribes and people in general. It is these friendships which helped him later in life when he set out on his mission of establishing ‘Hindavi Swaraj’. Just like he drew his soldiers from the locals known as Mavals during these tours, he ensured he secured the support of important people, those who held powerful positions in either Adilshahi or Nizamshahi kingdoms, which proved to be very useful in establishing Swarajya.

A young Shivaji Raje opened his purse strings besides using his personal charisma and friendly disposition to create a loyal band of followers. In addition, he won over the assistant staff of his mentor Dadaji Kondadev very early on in his career, in fact at a time when he was yet to gain full control of his Jagir and was still under the regentship of Dadaji. He drew the Deshmukhs, who controlled revenue, into his alliance by impressing them with his plans and vision. In this way, even before he actually began his Swarajya wars, he had already secured the alliance of a large section of Maratha nobility and also formed a bond with the Mavals and other Marathas who played various roles in his army, administration and empire in general.

The very first manoeuvre that Maharaj undertook was acquiring the Torna fort, 20 miles south-west of Poona, through negotiations with the governor of the fort. Baji Fasalkar, Yesaji Tank and Tanaji Malusare opened negotiations on behalf of Raje and convinced the governor with gold coins and the plea that Raje was already in talks with the Adilshahi emperor. What followed is perhaps the best testimony to the brilliant diplomatic brain that Shivchhatrapati possessed. He immediately despatched his representatives to Bijapur with the communication as to how it was better if the fort was left in the charge of Shivaji himself and how the move would not just safeguard the Adilshahi emperor but also bring in more revenue for the Bijapuri treasury. While the government took its own sweet time to respond, Raje had ensured that he had secured the favour of court officials as a result of which he received a positive response from Bijapur. This event is all the more significant because all of this was undertaken at a time when Raje was virtually a nobody except the son of a powerful jagirdar of the Adilshahi court who held the Poona Jagir, that too under the regentship of Dadaji Kondadev.

This shows that Chhatrapati was absolutely clear about his strengths, weaknesses, goals and how to achieve those goals. He knew that this was no time to take on the powerful Adilshahis and create an enemy when not just his career but his goal of ‘Swarajya’ was yet to kick off. He brought many forts under his control using his diplomatic skills. We can cite instance after instance after instance of Raje’s excellent diplomatic skills right from his win over Afzal Khan to his escape from Agra. However, due to paucity of space (and time) we would draw your attention towards just one other instance.

It was but natural that the growing influence of Shivaji Raje would affect Shahaji Raje at some point of time. In a very short span of time Shivchhatrapati had brought the forts and area around Poona under his control and was expanding steadily. Baji Ghorpade filled the ears of the Adilshahi sultan which ultimately led to the arrest and confinement of Shahaji Raje who denied having any involvement in his son’s rebellious activities. Shahaji was confined to a small niche with a single opening and was allowed out of that ‘living tomb’ for a few minutes twice every day. The sultan threatened to close the niche permanently if Shivaji Raje wouldn’t submit. This news not just brought great distress and sadness to Raje but also put him in a dilemma.

Any other lesser person would’ve submitted but not Shivchhatrapati. He replied to the letter of Shahaji Raje expressing his inability to submit his acquisitions and said that father and son must follow their own destinies. Raje knew very well that the Mughals weren’t on friendly terms with the Deccan sultanates and any help he sought from them would receive a positive response. He approached Shah Jahan, through his son Prince Murad who was stationed in Deccan, seeking the release of Shahaji Raje and offering both his as well as Shahaji’s services to the Mughals in return (a promise he never intended to keep, obviously). Once he secured the release and safe return of his father, Shivchhatrapati took revenge from Ghorpade as well.

As Ramchandra Pant Amatya (youngest member of Shivchhatrapati’s Ashta Pradhan Mandal) says “Maharaj waged wars with some, made alliance and friendships with some, he went to meet some and others he brought to his court (darshan), at certain places he created dissensions, in other he conducted raids etc. In this manner he used different methods against different enemies to set up his empire”.

Shivchhatrapati was not just conscious of the political realities of his times but was also smart enough to leverage them to his advantage.


  1. Punyahshlok Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Part 2 by Sahityacharya Balshastri Hardas (Source)
  2. Life of Shivaji Maharaj by N.S. Takakhav (Original in Marathi by K.A. Keluskar) (Source)

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A opinionated girl-next-door with an attitude. I'm certainly not afraid to call myself 'a proud Hindu' and am positively politically incorrect. A Bharatiya at heart who loves reading, music, sports and nature. Travelling and writing are my passions.


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