Rajmata Jijabai was the first wife of Shahajiraje Bhonsle and mother of Shivajiraje Bhonsle. She was the inspiration behind Swarajya. She was a daughter of Lakhujiraje Jadhavrao of Sindakhed Raja in Vidarbha.
Marriage with Shahajiraje
When Shahajiraje came of age, Vithojiraje and Umabai started thinking of getting both the sons married off. Malojiraje had a great desire to establish relations with Sindakhed’s Lakhuji Jadhavrao. He had spotted a very smart and witty star in Jadhavrao’s household. He was very intent on getting this girl as his daughter-in-law. But that desire remained unfulfilled. The boat sank midway. Malojiraje went to heaven in the middle of the married life.
Lakhujiraje Jadhavrao of Sindakhed was a very big name in Nizamshahi. He owned the Jagir of twenty-seven mahals (old unit of measurement of area). Besides Sindakhed, Mehkar, Sakharkherda etc. private mahals were also part of his own watan-grant. Jadhavrao had established the grandeur of his Jagir by building big stately mansions at Sindakhed and Deulgaon. His presiding deity was Balaji. He had maintained Balaji’s temple quite well. He also owned a tough fortress in Deulgaon. Lakhuji was the commander of twelve-thousand men in the army. Sindakhed was a bustling town. Jadhavrao had wealth. Rights to keep cavalry. He commanded respect. He even owned a few elephants. But God had also blessed him with a very important treasure. This treasure was his daughter Jijau.
This daughter of Jadhavrao was indeed beautiful and virtuous. As if a golden flame fluttering in a traditional golden lamp. Agile, delicate, beautiful, serene, and equally bright flame. She was the darling daughter of Lakhuji Jadhavrao. Jijau! How would Jijau look beside a smiling Shahajiraje? Like Uttara basides Abhimanyu. Jijau was a daughter born of Goddess Laxmi herself!
Vithojiraje broached the subject of this relation with Jadhavrao. The lilt of Shehnai (Clarinet) filled the air. Lakhuji Jadhavrao was on seventh heaven. He was very happy seeing that he was getting a pure-gold son-in-law in Shahajiraje. Everybody got busy in the marriage arrangements. The family Purohit was also consulted. Bhosale and Jadhav family elders sat together for discussion. Both asked for an opportune auspicious date. Astrologers put down the calculations of nine planets, stars and dates. He carried on some calculations in his mind. Considering opportune angles, he provided a good auspicious date. Everybody’s forehead was glowing with the tilaks. Auspicious Kumkum was everywhere. Thresholds of houses were adorned with Ganapati idols.
A decorative tent was erected for Jijau’s marriage. The marriage area within it had special decorations. Drums started beating. The marriage bustle began in the tent. Pylons were hung on the doorways. Jadhavrao’s Jijau was decorated in the full marriage attire. Her dainty feet were decorated with the swastika symbols drawn with Kumkum. Haldi ritual was done. There was a tinkle of her green bangles in the air. Her forehead was decorated with Kumkum. Auspicious rice was stuck over it. Decorative headgear adorned both the foreheads. Shahajiraje was also attired in his marriage clothes. There was a streak of becoming a groom in his eyes.
Gods were invoked. Lamps were lit. The princess of Krishna’s dynasty stood up to garland the prince of Rama’s descendants. The auspicious appointed moment arrived. There was a deafening sound of cannons, guns, and applause. The intervening piece of cloth separating the bride and groom was taken away. Auspicious rice rained on them. Shahajiraje bowed his head before his Laxmi. Jijau garlanded Raje. It was a union of the dynasties of the sun and the moon. Jijau became the blessed daughter-in-law of the Bhosales.
Only Malojiraje was not present to witness this. That was the only sad bit. Probably he would have rained his auspicious tears on both of them from the window in heaven and would have said, ‘Bless you my children! Have a long, happy life! Bring Ram-Rajya in your married life!’
In the clamour of auspicious instruments, bound by the marriage knot with Shahajiraje, in the soft tinkle of the toe-rings and anklets, walking down slowly like a swan, Jijau entered her own house – Bhosale house. Jijau came to Shahajiraje’s home. The couple was looking absolutely beautiful like Goddess Laxmi and Narayana himself. Other adult ladies in attendance appreciatingly did her aarti.
Jijau was looking really beautiful at this time. Any girl looks beautiful in marriage. But Jijau was originally beautiful. Bedecked in marriage attire on top of that. She was completely the Goddess Laxmi herself. Deep black hair, large forehead, chiselled eyebrows, amazingly glittering eyes, straight sharp nose, beautiful white teeth, pink lips, milky white neck, absolutely sculpted physique, sweet voice, loving speech, modest behaviour and serene smile.
She had been adorned with various types of ornaments. It was as if the ritual worship of Goddess Laxmi happened in reality. Her headdress was decorated with beautiful flowers. Jewellery had been used for decorating her hair too. The forehead was sporting a bejewelled star. Pearly ear-pieces were adorning the ears. Milky white neck was adorned with pearl-diamond necklaces. Beautiful amulets were adorning her arms. Bejewelled bangles were on her wrists. Fingers had rings encasing precious stones. And our Shahajiraje? Full manhood was his beauty.
The couple bowed down to Umabai after entering the house. The mother-in-law was happy. She was touched. Hugging her daughter-in-law in a tight embrace she blessed them profusely. She showered her appreciation on the couple. Vithojiraje also felt satisfied. He felt like this was the turn of Bhosale family’s destiny for the better.
Bhosale family was blessed. There was a new happiness in the air. Varhad’s (Berar) Rukmini had walked into Pune district with her golden feet.
Jijau was still young. While she was in Sindakhed her whole world was inside the threshold of her house. But now she had to live at Daulatabad, the royal capital, and then she came to witness numerous exploits of the Sultans. She started hearing new terrible incidents every day. Her innocent heart started getting frightened. Stories of plunder, demolition of temples and idols to dust, floods of arson, massacres etc. were especially quite usual during the campaigns of Mughal and other Sultans. Marathas were not only dying on the battlefield, but even were being killed in villages, cities, even their own houses! Jijabai used to feel terrible looking at all this. But why did all this happen and until when would this go on, was something she couldn’t understand. She started getting disgusted of the Sultanate rule.
Around the time of Malojiraje’s death, the Mughal Emperor Akbar died at Delhi (Dt 15 October 1605). His son Salim alias Jehangir assumed the imperial throne. He was as hungry as his father to win over Deccan. He started sending huge influx of armies towards the Deccan, and the Maratha country was overwhelmed with warfare.
Year after year the Mughal campaigns were continuously on in Deccan (from 1608 to 1615 AD). Jijau started to understand the motives behind, and the outcomes of all these wars. She started understanding all this without someone explaining. Royal campaigns meant massacres, loot, arson, agriculture and even households done to dust, and overall destruction. It was clear to her that, if seventy-two diseases came together as compared to the Sultanate campaign, people would bear them happily, but they wouldn’t like the Sultanate campaign! Because the Sultanate armies hungrily attacked the one thing that was never attacked by any of the diseases. And that was one’s self-respect! Peoples’ self-respect was also being plundered along with their everything. Who was their saviour? Nobody! Jijau started getting restless.
And soon a vast Mughal army entered Marathwada. Varhad (Berar) was routed. The screams of the victims would make even stones shed tears. The pots and pans of poor households started breaking under the horses’ hooves. Malik Ambar, with Adilshahi support put together an army to stop the Mughals around Jalna (December 1615 AD). Finally, Nizamshahi’s Malik Ambar, Babaji Kate, Shahaji Raje and all his brothers, and the Adilshahi forces met in a very big battle with Delhi’s Mughal Sardars like Asaf Khan, Shahnavaz Khan, Raja Mansingh etc. (Dt 4 February 1616), and Malik Ambar was defeated. Mughals attacked Khadki (Aurangabad). They completely routed Khadki and the region around it. Mughals, with heaps of loot, went on towards the Balapur fort via Rohinkhed.
At this time Daulatabad was the capital of Nizamshahi. Because Ahmednagar itself had been won by the Mughals.
Emperors at Delhi were thirsty for Deccan since many years. Immediately after this battle, Mughal prince Khurram alias Shahjahan started his campaigns taking large armies from Delhi. The same saga of destruction continued. He again destroyed the Khadki town (Dt 5 May 1621).
In all these battles, utmost damage was borne by the Marathas. Maratha youth were dying. But for whom? Some or the other Sultan. Finally, Marathas would turn to dust! Why? Why? Why? These questions kept burning like crackers in front of Jijabai’s eyes. All these brave Marathas were fighting and dying for some or the other Sultan; some on the Nizam’s side, some on Adilshah’s side, while some others with the Mughals. But nobody was ready to fight for their own families! Jijau’s heart was growing plaintive due to this.
People used to start running helter-skelter the moment they heard the sound of horses’ hooves on the village border. Whole families used to be torn asunder. Elders who couldn’t run used to die. Once the raid was finished, people used to witness houses burnt, people killed and many young women gone missing! Whom to call for help? Weren’t the Maratha Sardars looking at all this? Maybe, but if one decides to close eyes and ears, then what else would be left? Selfishness and shameless helplessness!
Bhosale and Jadhavrao families became sworn enemies of each other. Jijau’s maternal connection was broken!
Jijabai’s life, however, went on. Bhosales and Jadhavraos were permanently estranged after the fight involving the elephant. Blood relations snapped quickly. But neither Jijau nor Shahajiraje allowed to let this fight between the two families impact their day-to-day life. Shahajiraje did not turn his anger with his father-in-law towards his wife. Instead, he used to respect Jijabai a lot in family matters. He used to love her a lot. Around the same time Jijau was pregnant. Soon she gave birth to a son. He was named ‘Sambhajiraje’ (around 1623 AD). Even before Sambhajiraje and after, Jijabai had given birth to four sons. But all four of them were snatched away by death. Sambhajiraje however lived and was growing up slowly but surely.
Finally, there was a terrible battle (October 1624 AD). It was fought at Bhatwadi near Ahmednagar. Thousands of men died. Shahajiraje, along with all other Marathas fought with great valour. Especially Shahajiraje’s prowess knew no bounds. The enemy side had his own father-in-law Lakhuji Jadhavrao himself! Actually, whose enmity, and who were fighting! What relation did the Marathas have with this human sacrifice? The sacrifice definitely had the Marathas dying! Thousands were being sacrificed. Father-in-law and son-in-law were fighting each other passionately.
Finally, Bhosales also ended up offering their own blood! Sharifjiraje died fighting. Shahajiraje’s own younger brother was killed. Jijau’s sister-in-law was widowed! For whom? This sacrifice was to sustain another Sultanate! Finally, Shahajiraje and other Marathas completely routed the combined Mughal and Bijapur forces, and made Nizamshah and Vazir Malik Ambar victorious. They won the war (October 1624 AD).
The battle of Bhatwadi was amongst the Sultans. But to recover the expenses of that battle an extra tax was imposed on the Maratha territory! Campaign expenses! Who would fight and die in huge numbers in these battles – Marathas! Who would bear the campaign expenses – Marathas!
Another similar battle is reported in the region around Pune at this time. Who died? Marathas! (Dt 4 February 1626).
Whole of Maharashtra was living in such misery. Especially during the times of one Sultan’s campaigns against the other, the invading armies would crush all crops, households, and their self-respect under the marauding feet. Which man would be able to stop thousands-strong armies alone? Almost as impossible as trying to stop the waves in the sea. Army officers and soldiers used consider it a sign of valour to have tortured people in the other Sultan’s kingdom! These campaigns were more terrifying than a swarm of locusts. Where would you hide? Actually, the need of the hour was to unite and stand tight instead of running away. That would need unity. It would need courage. And it would most importantly need a leader, immovable like a mountain. All these things were lacking.
People were annoyed. They were not able to bear the kidnappings and laments of their own daughters and daughters-in-law. They were not able to do anything other than putting fingers in their ears and closing their eyes tightly and weep silently. Absolute misery. All this oppression had increased all the more since the Mughals started their Deccan campaigns. However, the true-born Marathas serving the Sultans, were impervious to all this misery and insults. They were not even thinking of these. Who would think, one with a mind! Who would feel, one who thinks! Who would become restless, one who feels! But all those minds had gone paralysed.
But numerous silent but alive minds which were angry at such insults and stung by this oppression, and angry souls of countless men, women and children who had been sacrificed so far, were raising a clamour at the door of the dormant Goddess Bhavani,
“Mother, open your door! Mother, open your door! Mother, open your door!”
The drums of thoughts started rolling. The flames of dissatisfaction were pumped up by the gale. The clamour went on increasing in the sanctum of these dissatisfied minds. That lament started echoing at the doors of Maharashtra’s Bhavani,
“Mother, open your door! Mother, open your door! Mother, open your door!”
And hearing Maharashtra’s lament and wails, the Mother awoke. Mother got restless. She got angry. The Mother who had exterminated demons like Shumbha, Nishumbha, Chanda, Munda, and Mahishasura etc. stood up with her lion. Mother threw open her doors with a snap and stood on the threshold of a Revolution. This Mother of orphan, sorry, insulted, Maharashtra –
Jijabai! A thunderbolt personified!
Only One Aim - Swarajya
Shahajiraje’s wealth had increased so much that he could maintain elephants. Such wealth, right to maintain palanquins and associated paraphernalia, servants, elephants and horses kept Bhosale family’s big mansion all the time busy. If Jijabai wished, it was easily possible for her to just spend her whole life dressing up, decking herself up in ornaments, and strutting around. Her bedroom had a big vessel-full of ornaments. Bhosale family’s respect in the society was very high. They had everything.
But Jijabai was thirsty for Swarajya. She wanted their own independent kingdom. This thirst was impossible to be quenched with any other mirage. She was in a different league altogether. She was a devotee of Tulajabhavani. Like the Mother Goddess Jagadamba, who fought for nine days and nine nights continuously and killed all the demons, she used to feel, she should also start a war against the Sultanates, and free this land of Gods and Saints. She was not able to bear the misery being wrought on the Maratha households, region, Hindu Gods and religion. She was not to be imprisoned in palanquins and ornaments, like any other Sardar-wives. She always felt, they were the original Marathas, Kshatriyas; motive of their birth was to take care of the subjects, their lands, saints and righteous people. This whole land was overcome by these Mlenchhas. So instead of freeing it and establishing the righteous throne, should one bow down to these arrogant Sultans? She used to despise such yes-men.
Jijabai could not stand the idea of slavery. She wanted her own kingdom. She wanted an independent throne. She wanted her own standard (flag), own army, own artillery, own commanders and own ministers! Our country will be ruled by our own sovereign Sun and Moon, and our own sovereign King! This was her dream.
If the Sultans knew that such an anti-Sultanate person, who had such terrible dreams, lived in such and such house, they would have aimed their cannons just roughly at the whole village and would have blasted the person, their family and the whole village out of existence. And that too at the hands of other Marathas! An independent king and kingdom of the Marathas? Impossible!
She (Jijabai) was dissatisfied. She used to get angry at these Jagirdars and Sardars. They did not have self-respect, no consideration of their family name, no anger against the demeaning treatment given to them. These helpless, selfish slaves won’t even think twice about selling their own mothers for Sultanate recognition. These were men? Man is one who would guard Gods, religion and the country!
Jijabai had also realised that, some mighty hero like Ram was needed to bring all these brave Marathas together and revolt against these Sultans, what if some mighty powerful man was born…?
She was really fond of Ramayana, Mahabharata. Her mind was deeply influenced while listening to the stories of Ram, Hanuman, Sita, Krishna, Draupadi, Kunti, Vidula etc. She felt, whether she would be able to be listed alongside Kunti ever? Kunti’s Bheem and Arjun were mighty and powerful. They had killed the demons and the Kauravas. They had established a happy, prosperous, and righteous kingdom. Kunti became renowned as the mother of bravehearts, the mother of Kings. Jijabai wanted to be like her!
Her dissatisfaction started increasing. Her devotion towards Jagadamba started increasing. She started feeling confident, that she would be instrumental in changing the situation and Mother Bhavani would help her in it. But she had grown to be extremely impatient. One could fight to one’s last breath for tomorrow’s cow getting dragged away by the butcher, but what she couldn’t bear seeing was today’s cow dying at their hands.
However, even in this explosive mental state she never forgot that she was a married woman. She was the wife of a very courageous man. She knew that Shahajiraje was serving Nizamshah out of sheer helplessness. Sometimes unknowingly she used to get a feeling that Shahajiraje himself should throw away all these Sultanate bonds of slavery, and should start the enterprise of an independent kingdom himself. But she was aware of the difficulty and caustic nature of the ordeal it was. She was ambitious, but not indiscreet. She knew that she would have to bide her time patiently for the favourable opportunity. She was looking out for the ray of hope with discretion, so that she could pounce at the opportune moment. Jijabai was truly the Goddess Durga in Bhosale’s sanctum sanctorum. But her real form lay dormant. Her thousand hands were invisible so far. So far, this Ambika hadn’t stepped out of the sanctum into the battlefield.
Jijabai was learning the many intricacies of politics in the company of old experienced stewards in the Bhosale household like Sonopant Dabir, Naropant Mujumdar, Balkrishnapant Hanmante etc. She used to continuously hear the various happenings from the four Sultanates. She used to understand the situation of the country and her people. She was directly witnessing Shahajiraje’s political moves. She had perfectly gauged the silent minds of her people. If you left out selfish Sardars and big Watandars, the common poor Maratha public was fed up of the Sultanate power; but it did not have the courage. If someone gave these hardworking, honest and brave Marathas some support, this Sahyadri with hundreds of its forts and this Maharashtra with its tough Marathas wouldn’t remain a slave even for one more second. The devotees of Tuljapur’s Bhavani were brave like their deity. They just needed a leader. She (Jijabai) understood.
Jijabai understood and internalised politics. She started feeling all the more impatient. She started requesting Jagadamba to satisfy her deepest wish!
Jyeshtha days were passing like one would finish reading the chapters of Ramayana. Jyeshtha ended. Ashadh began. Jijabai’s face started glowing with some extraordinary light! Her joy became a little bashful! The chains of cradle started clinking! All the flames of the traditional lamps became aglow! The face of the Goddess in sanctum got its smile back! Astute ladies in the family quickly recognised the signs! Shahajiraje also understood! Jijabai’s eyes started talking! Jijabai was pregnant! Pregnant! Trees and creepers in the courtyard started showering their flowers on the ground! Monsoon started wetting the thirsty earth!
Shahajiraje was happy. Jijabai’s behaviour started changing slowly. A different kind of brilliance started showing around her. New desires, wishes started growing in her heart. Mothers and sisters around her started asking her what she desired?
Independence! Might! Vengeance for insults!
Answers unspoken were clearly visible in her eyes.
Leaving Jijabai in the watchful care of trusted old stewards, Shahajiraje again started on a campaign. He turned his attention towards Beed now.
Now everybody busied themselves in Jijabai’s care. The family ladies were always ready to fulfil her every wish. Now they started taking a special interest. Stewards started keeping their ears attuned to hear any new orders.
But Jijabai’s desires were extraordinary! She didn’t want sweetmeats. She didn’t want Pomgrenates from Muscat. She didn’t want perfumed syrups. She didn’t want the rose-water sprays. She didn’t want any other perfumes either. She didn’t desire for boating or roaming around in beautiful gardens, she had different kind of desires. She felt like sitting atop elephants. She started feeling like climbing hilly forts. She had a great desire of sitting on a golden throne and perform charitable donations with Chhatra (umbrella, part of royal insignia) held over her head. She suddenly became eager for other royal insignia as well. Planting very high standards and listening to the welcoming clamour of war-drums, was something she longed for. A wondrous desire was produced in her heart to fight with full armour, bow and arrow, spear, swords etc. weapons. She started longing for winning forts and registering big victories. And most extraordinarily, she started feeling like sitting on a Tiger!
Like Tuljabhavani! With all her weapons! All these desires, wants were almost like Parvati and Subhadra!
Jijabai’s head was giddy with the stories of Kurukshetra and was fluttering with the chapters of Mahabharata. Abhimanyu’s mother Subhadra learnt the art of breaking the Chakravyuha (a battle arraignment involving concentric layers of various types of soldiers) from Shrikrishna during her pregnancy. While Jijabai was learning the ropes of arranging various political arrays and breaking them as well from her clever stewards.
All the ladies in her family were taking extreme care. The moment she uttered anything, her friends were up and away to fulfil it. They were doing everything as per her wishes.
Jijabai was engrossed in religious rituals and lent. First trimester began.
Lakhujiraje Jadhavrao's Assassination
Jijabai’s household had been filled with joy. The rituals and lent were going on. The family deities were being worshipped as appropriate. Every morning and evening the house used to get filled with the beats of auspicious drums. It was the month of Shravan. Shravan is the month of rains, serene green carpets of grass, showers of flowers, festivals, lent, joy, and swings. Each day was opening up as the petals of a flower. The shower of Parijatak flowers was covering the whole courtyard like a blanket. It was the new moon fortnight of romantic aspirations. The moon was waxing day-by-day. Jijabai’s swing of joy was rising with it. The full-moon of Shravan arrived, and…! The rope of the swing of joy suddenly snapped! A terrible thing happened!
Like a lightning that terrible news flew from the Daulatabad fort, and crashed on Jijabai’s mansion. A wail of grief suddenly arose. The auspicious drums stopped. Jijabai was drowned in grief! On the auspicious festive day of Shravan Pournima (full-moon) saka 1551, Jijabai’s maternal home was destroyed completely!
And Jijabai’s mother and sisters-in-law were rendered widows in an instant! In fact, Jadhavrao family was a descendant of Devagiri’s Yadav Emperors. They were the rightful owners of the Devagiri throne. And the dead-bodies of these rightful owners of Devagiri throne, were now lying unclaimed in a pool of blood in front of the same throne, while bowing down humbly to the insolent Sultan sitting on the same throne! Lakhuji was killed by Safdar Khan, while the three sons were killed by others. They tried to serve the Sultan in all sincerity. This was their reward for the sincerity!
Jijabai’s own father and three brothers were killed, especially under Sultan’s own supervision. The doors of her maternal homes had already been closed to her (because of the previous feud). But today that home itself was destroyed completely. She was overcome with grief and anger. The fire of vengeance in her mind flared up all the more. That fire was now making its way from her mind to her womb. To the life which was growing there. The foetus had started clenching its fists with vengeance even before its birth!
Jijabai’s family ladies performed Sati (self-immolation) after reaching Sindakhed. Jagdevrao Jadhav and Bahadurji got extremely angry with Nizamshahi due to the whole affair. They left Nizamshahi and started serving Mughals! This was the only change!
Shivneri & Shahajiraje's First Revolt
Raje entrusted Jijabai’s responsibility to Vishwasrao. He also accepted the risk very affectionately.
The sacred rebellion Shahajiraje had started, was burnt to ashes. How would a weak Swarajya last? But everybody witnessed what happens if one acts against the Sultanate, how everything gets destroyed, and the symbolism in broken skull and torn sandal. Jijabai also saw it. Everybody was filled with terror. But Jijabai? Of course, not! In fact, her brow clouded all the more with fury!
And suddenly terrible cries were heard. ‘Save me, leave me alone! Help! Help!’ Such helpless cries were heard in Nashik-Panchavati! Another Ravan had lifted one more Sita from the banks of Godavari in the bright light of the day! Abducted! Kidnapped! Godavari herself was terrified! This youthful Sita had come to bathe in Godavari for earning some virtue! She was the daughter-in-law of a renowned family. She was Jijabai’s sister-in-law herself! Shahajiraje’s cousin Khelojiraje Bhosale’s wife. Getting the news of this visit by Bhosale family’s young lady on the banks of Godavari, Mughal Sardar Mahabatkhan had kept his lookouts, and suddenly raided the party when they arrived! And picked her up! Mughal horsemen ran away with her towards Dindori! Jijabai’s sister-in-law herself was abducted!
Jijabai’s brow clouded further in her fury!
Her brow was now taking the shape of a bow. Her heart was burning in the fire of vengeance like Draupadi. But today she was exactly like Draupadi, helpless.
Was this pitiful condition for just one-off cases like Kheloji Bhosale? All women were facing this disgrace. How many would one count?
An erstwhile Mughal Sardar Daryakhan Rohilla had come to the Deccan in Marathwada after revolting against Shahjahan. Shahajiraje was given the task of defeating this Daryakhan. Shahajiraje took leave of Jijabai and started his campaign against Daryakhan from Shivneri.
Raje left. Jijabai was left behind on the fort. She used to look at the high peaks and huge cliffs of Sahyadri from the fort.
She was looking at Sahyadri with high hopes.
Even Sahyadri was looking at her with equally high hopes.
Jijabai was surrounded by her loving friends. She had trusted stewards like Naropant, Balkrishnapant who treated her like a daughter. She had an ardent caretaker in the fort commander Vishwasrao himself. Everybody was taking really good care of her now. Her feet were slowing down day-by-day. Naturally. Motherhood isn’t easy! That is why mother is more valuable than anything on this earth.
Jijabai now started feeling even the weight of her ornaments. She felt tired. A touch of paleness creeped up her face.
Falgun full-moon arrived. The villages around Shivneri celebrated the festival of Holi. Children started blowing their play trumpets. It was also celebrated on the fort. At least Holi was celebrated on each of the forts having a Maratha commander.
Jijabai now couldn’t move much. Skilled and experienced midwives guessed, today-tomorrow, the time was near…! The whole fort’s minds were impatient for that moment, that news, that handful of sugar. The queen of a big Sardar like Shahajiraje was about to give birth on the fort. Naturally curiosity across the fort knew no bounds.
The appointment of old, experienced midwives and highly skilled, experienced and trusted Vaidyas had already been made at the fort. Those Vaidyas were at Jijabai’s service round-the-clock. All the family members in Jijabai’s household started staying awake nowadays.
One of the more secure rooms on the fort had been prepared for the childbirth. The room had been painted brilliant white on the inside with lime. Swastikas and other auspicious symbols had been imprinted on the inner walls with vermilion. Curtains had been hung on the doors and windows. Paintings of sacred deities adorned both sides of the door. The room had been kept well-lit round the clock. A set of the necessary items and medicines had been kept at the ready, along with vessels full of water. Auspicious white mustard seeds had been thrown in all corners of the room.
Now the longing had reached its limit!
Falgun Vadya Tritiya dawned (third day of the new-moon fortnight in Falgun month). Stars in the sky started vanishing slowly. Sending sharp arrows of bright light, and destroying the darkness, Usha (morning) arrived on the horizon. The whole creation started shining. It seemed as if, the heavenly deities had started throwing red colour with both their hands, to receive the infant Sun. East was full of colour. The wind was overjoyed. Flocks of birds started flying around in the sky. Sounds of shehnai (clarinet) and chaughada (auspicious drums) started filling Shivneri’s precincts and the infant Sun’s chariot arrived on the horizon pulled by its fastest seven horses!
Hours after hours went past. Jijabai went into labour. Midwives, Vaidyas started bustling around her. Jijabai entered the room appointed for childbirth.
Vishwasrao, Naropant, Gomaji Naik etc. all loving people got engrossed in the concern as well as the curiosity towards Jijabai. Joy, curiosity, fear, again joy, again concern, again curiosity, all these emotions kept flashing on all their faces. How could they all have managed to sit tight? These people were really devoted.
Curiosity was increasing. The past moment was asking the next one in curiosity, ‘What?’
‘Nothing yet!’ the next one would reply.
Each minute was becoming tough to while away like an hour.
And the curtain over the door moved. Was swept away. Curious brows asked. Necks craned. And the news came onto the lips with a smile.
What? What? What?
Son? Son? Son! Son!! Son!!!
And an instant clamour of joy exploded on the fort. Drums started beating. Cymbals started clapping. Shehnai and Chaughada started their music on the fort. Nagaras (bigger drums) started their thousand beat challenge. Rivers, winds, stars, fire, everybody was overjoyed. That day was made of pure gold! That day was made of pure jewels! That day was made of Kaustubh bead, of elixir! Forget it! There is no analogy! It was as if all the auspicious planetary arraignments, constellations, stars, auspicious hours, minutes and seconds were roaming around Shivneri for the past three hundred years just to capture this auspicious moment! Today they felt the moment was nigh! Today they all stopped, waited patiently, lost their patience at the door of Jijabai’s maternity room, but finally they captured that moment! After three hundred years! Three hundred long years! How should one describe the value of that golden moment? Simply impossible! Such an auspicious moment comes, not one in centuries, but one in several eras. It is invaluable! In the Shalivahan saka’s year 1551, the year named Shukla, in the summer semester, in the month of Falgun, on the third new-moon of the waxing-fortnight (Vadya Tritiya), in Shishir season, on Hasta Nakshatra (constellation), with Leo as ascendant, on Friday after the sunset during the twilight, on this auspicious moment, at the time when the five heavenly bodies, that express the power to impart the whole earth’s empire, were opportune and powerful, Mother Jijabai gave birth to a son on Shivneri fort! (Dt 19 February, Friday, 1630).
Shukla (bright) Sanvatsar (year) had stood up to its name finally! People were unnecessarily cursing it as ‘dark’! Shukla sanvatsar! Auspicious sanvatsar! Shiv (sacred) sanvatsar!
The whole fort had a taste sweeter than sugar in their mouths. The front of Jijabai’s mansion was washed with torrents from big vessels that were kept filled. The flowing torrent started from there with the good news in all directions. One clamouring torrent came up to the border! The news reached the border, ‘Whose son?’ Jijabai’s son! Shahajiraje’s son! Sahyadri’s son! Maharashtra’s son! Bharatvarsha’s son! Each of these torrents was winding its way to the borders of Delhi, Bijapur, Goa, Murud-Janjira, and Golconda. To give this news to the arrogant Sultans there, ‘He has arrived! Oh Sultans, your nemesis has taken birth! To break you and your thrones to pieces, Krishna has taken birth!!’
The news accompanied by traditional sugar pouch was dispatched to Shahajiraje. At this time Raje was busy fighting Daryakhan Rohilla.
Cool, fragrant winds started blowing atop the Shivneri fort. The news of childbirth reached the small villages in the general area of the fort. The whole Junnar region was overjoyed at the news of the birth of a son to noble Shahajiraje and equally noble Jijabaisaheb.
The maternity room now became a site of hustle and bustle of midwives. All of them were working their hearts out. All the typical healing treatments for the new mother had begun. Those Maratha mothers were taking great care of Mother Jijabai like a flower. All of them gathered round Jijabai after the birth. No! These poor ladies who wore traditional Marathi nine-yards, were not midwives and nurses! Then who? They were as if, Neeti (Policy), Dhriti (Patience), Kirti (Fame), Bhakti (Devotion), Shakti (Power), Vidya (Knowledge), and Priti (Love) themselves personified! It seemed as if, these deities had worn the Maratha attire and were standing around the new-born baby to bless him.
The old stewards busied themselves in their joy. They called up the learned Vedic Brahmins. Those Brahmins blessed the child, did the childbirth ritual. The midwives gave both the child and the mother a hot water bath.
Jijabai was wearing a yellow nine-yard saree with golden work. She had decked herself with her usual heavy jewellery. She was truly looking like the serene morning radiance. She took the young child in her lap. The child had also worn special clothes. Clothes with golden work. Cap with golden work. It was really impressive! The cap had a border of pearls, and a golden leaf woven in the centre was resting on his forehead. He also wore a sacred pendant made of a tiger claw ensconced in gold. It was decorated with emeralds. Hands and wrists were adorned too. Anklets of pure gold were looking beautiful at the feet. He was wearing eye-shadow in his eyes. And a small beauty spot was imprinted on the side of his forehead.
Married ladies did the aarti for the child and Jijabai. They took the child in their arms for the naming ceremony. Some said, name him Govind! Some others said, name him Gopal! All directions started looking attentively. What was the child’s name? What was the name of this Govind, this Mukund, this Anand (bliss)?
The child was named.
‘Shivaji! Shivajiraje! Shivajiraje!’
The cradle was rocked. Swung. Musical instruments were played, Goddess Shivai nodded in appreciation. Shivneri smiled. Eight arms and eight ladies of Maval (basin) started rocking Shivba’s cradle. Lulling him to sleep! But urging him to grow up quickly!
He was named ‘Shivaji’ because he was born at Shivneri.
Only three syllables, Shi-Va-Ji! But one of them encompassed the epic Ramayana within! Second one covered the Mahabharata! And the third one contained the Shivabharata! And all three letters together had the eternal prowess to forge a great Indian nation!
Shivneri fort was really lucky. It heard the lullabies sung for Shivajiraja. Shivajiraja was also very lucky. The first bath and drink of water he received was from the Ganga and Yamuna! How so? Shivneri had two water tanks. One of them was named ‘Ganga’ and the other ‘Yamuna’! Shivajiraja was born on this fort which was surrounded by hilly forts, rivers, sacred temples, towering peaks of the Sahyadri and small villages and hamlets of the Maval basin. A relation was built between him and these forts, ramparts and turrets since his birth.
This dark night saw the first hour of the dawn in Sahyadri’s lap on Shivneri fort! The east was lit after the terrible darkness of three hundred years! A new day had arrived!
Jijabai used to follow the familial as well as all other religious traditions with firm belief in them. Since the family’s own purohit Malharbhat Arvikar was himself present on Shivneri, all such rituals were being carried out perfectly. The aged stewards were ensuring there were no needs unfulfilled. The purohit was asked to determine the auspicious occasion for the Suryadarshan ritual (showing the sun to the child for the first time) for Shivba. One morning, after his bath, wearing new clothes, and other preparations, Shivba was readied up for the ritual. Jijabai took Shivba in her arms and stepped into the light from her maternity ward’s darkness. This was Shivba’s first time to cross a border. Lord Surya was slowly climbing up in the east from behind the mountain. The light was flushing out the darkness from all corners of Shivneri. Shivba was shown the sun in that morning light. Shivba took in the first sight of the sun. Sun also took the first sight of Shivba. Both were overwhelmed by the radiance!
Jijabai & Shivajiraje in Pune
Six years before (in 1630 AD), Pune was thus turned into a cemetery. Pune, which once housed more than three thousand inhabitants, was now home to two to four helpless and lost households, living in some obscure corner under some cactuses or crumbling, half-burnt hutments, always terrified like a small bird. A life of cemetery ascetics.
But one day, the sun brought a reddish novelty with it. Hooves of a few horses made way towards Pune. The town which was living in constant terror was startled. Now whose campaign is this? The well-appointed convoy also had a few palanquins with it. The retinue told that there were ladies with the convoy. Whose convoy? This was a convoy of Sakala Saubhagya Sampanna (Blessed with a stable marriage) Vajra Chude Mandit (bedecked with unbreakable bangles) Rajashree Jijausaheb Bhosale. With her there was a six years young boy as well. Shivajiraje Bin (son of) Shahajiraje Bhosale. Palanquin was accompanied with the Maratha cavalrymen in the front and back. There were announcing Lagis (small sized drums) on camels in the convoy. There were drummers sitting atop those camels. There were men blowing horns and trumpets. There were some musketeers, some spearmen and some shield-men. The whole convoy entered into Pune through the fallen gateways. Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje entered Pune. As if the Goddess Gauri and Ganesha themselves. Pune’s eyes sparkled. The desolate faces suddenly brightened like daisies. Suddenly the defeated look vanished. Pune suddenly took up the sheen of a marriage ceremony. Horns were blown. Goddess of wealth Lakshmi herself had entered Pune with her golden feet. But the royal armies had burnt down the mansions that belonged to this son and mother pair. So, they didn’t even have a place to call their home. Where would they stay? The mansion of Pune’s Patil was somehow still holding itself together. Patil was named Zambre Patil. Zambre Patil welcomed these Gauri and Ganesha in his own mansion. The convoy had found its place of stay. Now Jijausaheb and young Raje were going to live in this mansion belonging to Zambre Patil, until they built a new house of their own. Of course, on annual rent.
Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje had the whole retinue of Rajdeshmukhi (Royal revenue official) with them. Servants, workmen, guards, personal soldiers, clerks, Diwani (criminal) stewards, fadnis (civil) stewards, and a senior experienced Headclerk who used to manage the whole retinue with or without a sword, but definitely with his pen. His aura used to be on display through his speech, body language and eyes. The old man could easily be around seventy-five. Still he was erect and tough. He used to behave with all humility in the company of Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje. This old head-steward was named Dadaji Konddev Malthankar.
When Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje arrived at Pune, it wore a completely funereal look. Jijausaheb decided to settle it again. And she started with the ritual worship of Shri Kasba Ganpati. Vinayakbhat Thakar owned a temple housing the deity here. Vazir Malik Ambar himself had arranged for some land revenue as income for the management of this temple earlier. This was around twenty years back (around 1615 AD). But the Ganesha temple had been completely demolished in the royal campaigns. The deity’s idol was there. But there was no temple. Jijausaheb planned to build the temple and again restarting the regular worship, offerings, and other standard rituals for Ganesha. She started to build the temple also using the old temple’s Hemadpanti style pillars. The auspicious beginning of Jijau’s dream started with the worship of Shriganesha. The work for management of the new temple and its rituals was assigned to Vedmurti Vinayakbhat Thakar through Shivajiraje’s charter, i.e. via a royal order. This is the famous Kasba Ganpati of Pune. This Ganpati has been referred to as ‘Shreemoraya’ in Shivajiraje’s and Jijabaisaheb’s correspondence.
Jijausaheb ordered Dadaji Konddev to start building their own houses in Pune and the catchment villages around it. Accordingly, Dadaji selected a few locations for the mansions. One of these locations was beyond the Katraj hill, near a village called Khed. All this area belonged to the Konde-Deshmukh family. Konde was a big and famous family. Jijausaheb had plans to settle a whole new town near Khed over the old tell mound, and converting the arable land around in an orchard. Dadaji’s experienced foresight also thought this was an appropriate thing to do. The location was amicable to everyone. High mountain ranges on all sides, Kondhana fort on the west, soft soil like jaggery, and river Shivaganga flowing through the area. First mansion was to be built like a ‘palace’, and the town was to be named after Shivajiraje – ‘Shivapur’. Pant started the work. Kondhana on one side, and Konde-Deshmukh family, as powerful as a fully grown tiger, both would come handy to protect Shivapur’s importance and power. And this was confirmed. Various trees, especially mango trees, were planted in the fields around the town. The orchard was named after Shahajiraje. ‘Shahabag’.
Dadaji had recognised the dreams that were continuously going through Jijausaheb’s mind and constantly visible in her behaviour and speech, they were to establish an independent Maratha Swarajya. The initiative taken by Jijausaheb moments after entering Pune to wipe out the insulting signs of slavery was itself a brave move. She had started an attempt to heal the wounds inflicted on Pune by the Adilshahi demons. She had uprooted the crowbar that had been hammered here. She had begun to renovate the demolished temples and households. Small lamps had started lighting up Pune, which had been rendered dark. A different kind of plough was replacing the donkey-plough that the Sultanate had paraded. Shivajiraje’s independent seal was being put to use. All twelve standard village artisans and other village workmen had begun this reconstruction work along with Shivajiraje with high hopes. All these signs were clearly indicating that a glorious dawn was upon the whole region. The way a mother awakens her children on the Diwali morning with a bright smiling face, in the same manner Jijausaheb was awakening the Pune region. Whom was she trying to awaken? The youth of Maval.
Jijausaheb had left no stone unturned to improve Pune town’s condition. Improving Pune was a very difficult task. It required continuous efforts. The original leather-working space was changed, and another different place was allocated for it. The original place was on the east bank of Mutha river towards southwest. Now it was relocated to the north of Parvati village, in the surrounding fields. In this work, the animal skins have to be soaked for a long time. Naturally so far, the smelly runoff from this work would be let into the Mutha river’s stream. This gave rise to many other problems. To resolve these and to ensure people also benefited, Jijausaheb built thirty feet high, eight feet wide, and one-hundred-and-twenty-five feet long rock-built check-dam on the Ambil stream, that used to flow to the northeast near Parvati village. The benefit of this was, this Ambil stream used to flow from south to north into the Mutha river, and whenever flooded, it used to create a hazard for the surrounding farms and the Pune settlements itself, this potential hazard was removed. To the west of the check-dam there was a canal dug and the water stopped by the check-dam was let into the Mutha river through this canal. And on the banks of this redirected Ambil stream, the leather-tanners were resettled afresh. To ensure year-round water flow in the Ambil stream, dams were also built at three distinct places. All this benefited the tanners as well as the farmers.
Pune slowly started growing. Jijausaheb and Shivbaraje used to stay in the Shivapur mansion also sometimes. Shivapur’s Bapuji Mudgal Deshpande was in the service of Jijausaheb’s family. This was a very loyal family. Bapuji and his three young sons were special Shiledars (military chiefs) under Shahajiraje. Bapuji was looking after Shahajiraje’s whole Jagir encompassing thirty-six villages, with the responsibility of an unwavering security guard. Bapuji’s three sons were named Naroji, Babaji and Chimnaji. This Deshpande family had their own mansion in the new Shivapur. Just near Shivapur, one more dam was built on the Shivaganga river.
It was a very difficult task to set up each and every aspect of Pune, which was completely destroyed. Jijausaheb had taken it upon herself, like it was her own household. All her staff was readily standing at her service to ensure all this work was completed diligently. Even the inhabitants of all the surrounding villages then stood behind all this effort equally diligently. All local artisans and workmen were involved in this effort. There were other families like Pasalkar, Shitole, Konde, Paygude who also got involved. Dadaji Konddev owned the responsibility to ensure all the decided tasks were correctly done. He was vigilant without exceeding his remit. This elder who would perfectly follow a given word and appointed time, was running this administration of thirty-six villages with spotless hands, equally pure heart, but strict advocacy. This important responsibility was entrusted to Dadajipant by Shahajiraje himself.
Impressions for Shivba
The newly initiated settlement at the new town of Shivapur started growing as well. Dadaji Konddev personally felicitated the new town’s Patil, Kulkarni, Deshpande, Deshmukh right up to Yeskar, Joshi and Gurav families, by issuing them these posts through ritual ceremonies. All this planning came from Jijausaheb. Dadaji also built his own house in all this arrangement. During this time (1637-38 AD) Jijausaheb and Shivajiraje used to stay mostly at Shivapur. Jijausaheb used to keep a very careful eye on Shivba. In this playful age, she was ensuring education and correct impressions are imparted to his young mind.
There were quite a few temples around Pune. Jijausaheb by nature was a spiritual person. She used to go out to seek the blessings of these deities once in a while. Little Shivba would tag along as well. She used to visit these temples along with her usual retinue. Her ardent devotion was making her seek blessings from Moraya Ganesha of Chinchwad, Dnyaneshwar Mauli of Alandi, Gajanan of Theur, Khandoba of Jejuri, Bhuleshwar, Bhawani of Kondhanapur etc. Sometimes she used palanquins, some other times she went on horseback. All these temple visits and darshans was her way of securing these impressions deep in Shivba’s young and innocent mind. Jijausaheb made some arrangements for regular worship, lighting lamps and daily offerings by attaching some regular landed-income at Alandi. She also arranged for daily food distribution at Chinchwad. She was performing similar charitable acts at other places as well. She was especially devoted to their family deity Tuljabhawani. Ultimate devotion. She absolutely believed, that this Ashtabhuja Jagadamba (World’s Mother with eight arms) will definitely grant her wish. This devotion, the power, and this certainty was being imparted to Shivba as well. Only one name was playing on his lips, Jai Bhawani!
Aaisaheb was fond of Puranas-Pravachan-Kirtan (Puranic storytelling). Shivba also picked up this liking. He used to listen to the stories from epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagwat etc. He fell in love completely. He used to visualise these mighty humans and gods. Ram, Hanuman, Krishna, Abhimanyu, Bheem, and their maces, bows and arrows, and swords and chakras! Whenever any righteous sage or learned intellectual Shastri Pandit visited Pune, he used to be felicitated at the court hall in Lal Mahal. Aaisaheb would sit in the purdah, while Pant would get this felicitation done at Shivba’s hands. And then meeting such learned and righteous men would turn into a hobby for Shivba. Shivba’s life was shaping by with such long-lasting impressions.
Jijabaisaheb used to be called Aaisaheb or Aausaheb by everyone. Shivba used to refer to Shahajiraje as Maharajsaheb. He had picked up an ardent devotion towards his parents. In fact, Aaisaheb was everything to him.
Shivba was also loved by everyone. There was no comparison to Aaisaheb’s love. Man is yet to invent the scales and weights to measure a mother’s love for her child. Raje was quickly becoming everybody’s favourite. Young and old. Raje had a sweet voice, serene smile. His behaviour was similar to Ram and Shiva. But the young child was also equally naughty like Hanuman and Narada. Slowly he had started accumulating his small Wanar-sena (a reference to Shriram’s monkey-army) from the Maval region around. Even in the surrounding Maval basin, the children as well as newly planted trees, had started maturing physically and mentally. Jijausaheb, who was dreaming of establishing an independent Marathi kingdom, had started looking at and thinking about, this land of thirty-six villages and its Maval people, as if they were a hidden treasure of gold coins, currently under the wraps inside a cauldron buried deep down in the ground.
Many times, Aaisaheb herself used to sit in the court hall for some judgments. She used to listen to the whole dispute and used to give perfect judgment. It was her who had adjudicated the dispute between the guravs of Jejuri. Many such instances she was the judge. Pant alone had adjudicated the Watan dispute of Shirvalkar Deshpande previously. But that didn’t satisfy Ramji Vitthal Deshpande. He met Aaisaheb and requested her to bring his dispute in front of the assembly of elders, and demanded justice from the Panchayat. Aaisaheb agreed for this and ordered Pant to hear the said dispute in the Panchayat. Pant also accepted Aaisaheb’s order and complied.
All this administration by Pant and Aaisaheb was influencing Shivba deeply. The principal of ‘Justice’ was getting ingrained in his veins. He was slowly understanding what was meant by injustice. He started getting impatient with it. And he was witnessing the biggest injustice of them all – the foreign Sultanate!
Pant had ensured perfect arrangement for the personal expenses of Aaisaheb. The revenue income from two villages Kelvade and Ranjhe near Shivapur was assigned for Aaisaheb personal expenses. The income from these two villages was handed over to Aaisaheb. She was free to do whatever she like with it. To perfectly manage all her expenses and administration, an independent steward had been appointed. His name was Naro Tryambak Pingle.
Visit to Bengaluru
It was four years now. Shivba and Aaisaheb were in Pune. Even though living in Bengaluru, Raje’s attention was continuously directed towards them in Pune. He used to continuously send letters, clothes, and his favourite things to his favourite Shivba in Pune. Pant Dadaji Konddev also used to send regular reports about Pune’s progress to Raje. Raje used to feel satisfied hearing the progress of Pune Jagir. Now he started feeling anxious to meet his first queen and Shivba. He wrote a letter to Pant asking himself to visit Bengaluru in Karnataka, accompanied by Jijabaisaheb and Shivba.
The messenger from Bengaluru came to Pune’s Lal Mahal. Bengaluru’s message reached. Pant read the message. He rushed straight to Aaisaheb to give her the message. Jijabai was overjoyed. Shivba was happy too. He would get to meet his father! Immediately the preparations for the travel to Karnataka started. Palanquin, horses, camels, treasury, cavalrymen, servants, tents etc. all material required for the impending travel started getting collected. Pant took a stock of all the accounting records of the Jagir so far, and the collected revenue as well as saved treasury, and packed all of it up for the journey.
An auspicious day was fixed, and on the day the journey began. The convoy took the path leading to Bengaluru. Shivba was going to witness a new region, new people, new behaviours, overall a wholly new world. This was also going to be an important learning point in his education. Vision doesn’t grow unless one visits ten different places.
The convoy started travelling and taking scheduled stops along the way. The message that Jijausaheb and young Raje was travelling towards Bengaluru had already been sent ahead. Shahajiraje was waiting anxiously. Shivba’s elder brother, Jijau’s elder son Sambhajiraje was also in Bengaluru. He used to always accompany his father from the beginning. Similarly, his step-brothers and everybody else would meet Shivba for the first time.
Pant entered through Bengaluru’s gateway with the whole convoy and the associated retinue. Shivba was avidly taking in new houses, new roads, high ramparts, imposing gateways, beautiful turrets, equally beautiful buildings, big plazas, fountains and the fort itself. This was the beauty of Bengaluru.
The whole palace was bustling with activity for receiving its eldest queen. And she came! Pant entered the palace gates with all the palanquins, the retinue and Shivba, and there was an instant commotion of meetings, bowing down, touching feet, seeking blessings, embraces, and celebration. Father met his son after a long time. Such joy! The whole palace was full of joy.
Shahajiraje’s second queen Tukabaisaheb and her first-born Ekojiraje met Jijausaheb and Shivba. Shivba’s own elder brother Sambhajiraje also met. Everybody felt full of satisfaction.
Diwali had come early to Shahajiraje’s household. These were the days of highest familial happiness in Raje’s household. Everybody had gathered round him. Such familial delight never again arrived in his life. Raje felt ultimate appreciation. He held Shivba close to his heart. Shivba seemed like the Syamantak gem living inside Raje’s heart (a reference to the mythological story of Syamantak gemstone).
Each day was being spent in the joy of togetherness.
Since Raje himself could not attend Shivba’s marriage, he decided to marry him one more time! Shivba was married one more time to Soyarabai, the daughter of the well-known Mohite family, in royal style. Raje celebrated this second marriage of Shivba with all his passion. Like the best father in the world!