Malojiraje Bhonsle





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Malojiraje Bhonsle

Malojiraje Bhonsle was the grandfather of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He was a devotee of Lord Shiva and a discerning Maratha warrior of true blue lineage. He was instrumental in renovating the Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga temple near Verul or Ellora. He was the son of Babaji Patil Bhonsle.

Malojiraje Bhonsle

Date of death 1605
Son Shahajiraje Bhonsle
Death place Indapur
Wife Umabai Bhonsle
Grandson Shivajiraje Bhonsle
Father Babaji Patil Bhonsle

Malojiraje Bhonsle was the grandfather of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Son of Babaji Patil Bhosale, Malojiraje was a devotee of Lord Shiva and a discerning Maratha warrior of true blue lineage. He was instrumental in renovating the Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga near Verul or Ellora.


Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga

Grishneshwar was a very old ancient temple. Although claims exist about the temple being built by the Pandavas, or Lord of Ayodhya Shriram in his exile, there is no clear indication of the architect of this temple, although it is widely accepted that the temple is ancient. The temple itself had become decrepit in the seventeenth century, having lost much of its splendour witnessed during the heydey of the Yadava empire.

It was a prosperous temple. It was one of the twelve Jyotirlingas spread across the whole India. Like the Somnath temple from Prabhaspattan in Saurashtra, this was Grishneshwar at Verul near Devagiri. In the face of invasions, the temple got damaged and in an abysmal state of affairs by the seventeenth century. 

Malojiraje & Vithojiraje

The temple - however decrepit - had one regular visitor in the sixteenth century. Well-built body, countenance filled with devotion. His attire was of a true Maratha, and behaviour was like a resolute genteel man. He used to enter that decrepit Shiva temple on the fallow plateau, with a very heavy heart. He looked aggrieved at the plight of Grishneshwar due to the terrible state it was in. He felt his whole presence and devotion was being wasted if he failed to keep his beloved deity's temple secure and in good condition. He dreamt of repairing it from its present decrepit condition.

His face betrayed such sad emotions quite clearly. His heart used to flutter like an injured bird. In that passionate emotion he kept asking for something. His demand was known only to that Ghrishneshwar. But it sure was ambitious.

This was a regular feature. With him, another man, slightly younger than him, but exactly like him, used to bow down to Ghrishneshwar in the hope of blessing, and with a secret ambition. Both were brothers. The elder was named Maloji and younger Vithoji. They were sons of Verul’s Babaji Patil Bhosale. Their whole life till date had been spent in Verul’s fields, and on the banks of Bhima river.

Babaji Patil Bhonsle

Babaji Bhosale was Patil for ten surrounding villages. His ancestors had earned these Patil rights. It meant they had purchased these rights. Babaji Bhosale ran his own farming household and the Patilki rights of Deulgaon, Hingni, Beradi, Jinti etc. villages on the banks of Bhima river in Pune district, and Verul, Vavi, Mungi, Bansendre villages in the erstwhile Yadav region. He was a farmer and a Patil, but addressed himself with the epithet ‘Raje’. Babajiraje Bhosale. He used to honestly believe in the ancestral tradition that he was a descendant of Prabhu Ramachandra and also had a Rajput ancestry. He had a direct bloodline stretching up to Udaipur’s Maharana Pratap Singh’s Sisodia clan. He believed that Rana Lakshman Singh who died with his seven sons in the siege of Chittorgarh fighting with Allauddin Khilji, was the original progenitor of his bloodline. 

Although he remained a namesake Raje, Babaji continued to perform usual charity, family rituals, and ancestral activities in such a manner, that in it the ‘kingship’ of the Bhosales would reflect like a fading rainbow. Babajiraje Bhosale had donated 11 Chawar (local unit of land measurement) land to his family purohit (Dt 25 December 1597), and had mentioned himself as ‘Raje’ in that land-grant.

Maloji & Vithoji's Early Years

Maloji and Vithoji had become experts in wielding weapons and riding horses. But their horses were roaming around only in the Patilki-grant regions. They felt like displaying their might, to add more land to their control, to establish temples and religion; to renovate the decrepit Ghrishneshwar temple.

Maloji’s devoted, utmost religious heart saw the ambitious thoughts germinate. His heart did not have the thirst of consumption. He was fervent with the desire to perform religious and utilitarian works. Maloji was a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva and Goddess Bhavani. He was also a devotee of Pir Sheikh Mohammed of Shrigonda. He had become a sworn disciple of Pir Sheikh Mohammed. This Pir was a great ascetic. Originally a butcher by caste, he was also a devout worshipper of Vitthala. 

Looking at the decrepit condition of the Ghrisneshwar temple, Maloji’s heart felt piercing pain. He used to visit Shikhar Shingnapur also. Even that deity was so sacred, pure. Somnath of Saurashtra had come down to the Maan country and had halted at Shikhar Shingnapur. He too was the guardian deity of the Bhosales. But he was also in such a bad condition. The devotees lining up for the darshan did not even get drinking water there! People almost died of thirst. Maloji could not see those thirsty faces. He used to feel, that he should give these people potable drinking water. He believed in removing all those issues that plagued devotees at such religious places. 

Temple Renovation & Charity

One day, it is believed that, while digging in the field Maloji and Vithoji’s mattocks hit a metallic sound. They removed the topsoil and found a big cauldron. They found gold staring at them from below. Maloji considered this to be a blessing of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He decided to hand over the wealth collected to Sheshappa Naik of Shrigonda, with whom he shared generations of close friendship. Sheshappa, a renowned moneylender in Shrigonda market, accepted all the attendant risks, and kept the wealth with him. 

Maloji gave the new-found wealth to Sheshappa for safekeeping, and started spending it slowly, small amounts at a time. He started the restoration work of Ghrishneshwar temple. He also started rebuilding of the Sheval Teertha there. He ensured continuous Abhisheka on the deity accompanied by the Laghurudra chants. Maloji and Vithoji performed an excellent restoration of the Ghrishneshwar temple. Maloji also incised an inscription on the temple wall -

‘Your Servants Maloji Babaji and Vithoji Babaji Bhosale.’

The brothers appointed Verul’s Timanbhat s/o Damodarbhat Shedge as the temple priest for daily Abhisheka and rituals.

After this, Maloji ordered able men to start digging an artificial tank on the Shikhar Shingnapur hill for the Shiva temple. They found groundwater. The square-built tank filled completely with water. Every one of the devotees started remembering the Bhosale brothers while drinking that sweet cold elixir. The number of devotees in the seasonal devotional visits to Shingnapur started increasing. Bhosale brothers felt a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

On the same hill, there was an ascetic who used to live there serving the deity. His name was Godadswami. Swami was an recluse and a complete sanyasi. Maloji’s attention got drawn to his naked body. He built a Math (monastery) for the Swami beside his tank. The righteous man got shelter. Maloji felt that every pilgrim should eat a bellyful and drink sweet water, and only then should start on his return journey. Maloji arranged for daily distribution of food-grain sufficient for bellyful of food for five needy guests to the temple.

Both these brothers donated horticultural, irrigated lands as income, for the arrangement of Ananda-Siddha Ghrishneshwar Jyotirlinga temple’s daily rituals and lighting lamps there. They also made similar arrangements for many other temples. They built big stone castles with huge gates for each of them. They built watering tanks, caravan sarais and wells at these religious places. Maloji performed many such charitable acts. His fame as a religious man, became more pronounced and began to spread.


While doing these religious duties, Maloji had kept a close watch on the sword as well. He collected armed Maratha youth under his command. Built a stable. Maloji became armed and armoured. He employed wise, dutiful, and loyal Brahmins. He left the administration of the production from his granted land to them. Collecting such people around oneself at that time was a challenge in itself. Normally such a person would be termed a rebel. But at this time, the Mughal campaigns had troubled Nizamshahi a lot. A very powerful enemy was trying to capture the Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar for himself. At this time, Nizamshah and his Vazir Malik Ambar themselves needed men to fight. Sultan heard about Maloji. Hearing that, one well-built, genteel Maratha was maintaining a cavalry on his own and is equally brave, Nizamshah himself sent a firman (royal order) to join the employ. His Vazir, Mamalqat Madar Yakut Malik Ambar Genghis Khani was a very wise, diplomatic and foresighted Abyssinian fighter.

Nizamshahi's Service

Immediately Maloji went to Daulatabad and stood in front of Nizamshah. Vithoji followed suit. The Sultan granted the Jagir of Pune and Supe Parganas to them, and asked them to join his employ. This Jagir amounted to five-thousand soldiers. Malojiraje was now in control of a region of land. Raje decided on a policy of making use of whatever he received in his own way. He had a brother like Vithoji who was always supportive. Malik Ambar through his own benevolence granted some more small villages to Malojiraje. And his wealth increased so much that soon he was able to afford elephants.

With wealth, however, Maloji’s devotion towards God and his people did not decrease even one bit. The Maratha public in his Jagir were happy as if sitting in a cool shadow of a Banyan tree. Raje maintained the population of the Parganas well. Held an umbrella of love over his subjects. He supported them. He used to feel, he should continue his benevolence as much as possible. Because the Sultan’s whims were well-known. Sultans were ungrateful. They would support until they had the utility. Once it was finished, they would hang the servant.

Family Life

Maloji’s wife’s name was Umabai. This Umabai of Malojiraje, was daughter of a big famous Sardar. She was the daughter of Phaltan’s Naik Nimbalkar family. Umabai was equally religious, calm and generous. Umabai’s brother Wanangapal alias Wangoji Naik Nimbalkar was a Sardar in Bijapur’s Adilshahi court.

But Malojiraje and Umabai had one problem for many days. They didn’t have any child! The couple kept asking for a child to all the Gods they visited. Raje and Umabai used to worship Lord Shiva, and perform various vows and lent to gain an offspring. Umabai was also devoted to various Saints and Sadhus. She had also promised something to Ahmednagar’s Shah Sharif Pir. Her one and only demand to all the Gods was, she should become a mother of a great child!

Shahajiraje's Birth

She gave birth to a son in c. 1594. The son was named ‘Shahaji Raje’. Malojiraje performed a lot of charity on childbirth. Two years went past and they had a second son. He was named Sharifji. Shahaji and Sharifji were the two names after the Pir Shaha Sharif of Ahmednagar. Shahaji Raje and Sharifji Raje were showered with love in their growing up years, and blossomed into great warriors and administrators themselves. 

Malojiraje had also grown up in stature at the Nizamshahi court. The court also had many other Maratha Sardars. But Malojiraje had slightly different notions about his own people and religion as compared to other Sardars. For the rest, worship was only limited to demanding something from God and fulfilling their promise upon getting the demand satisfied.


Malojiraje had kept the Pune district’s people happy. In 1605, the Nizam Shah once sent a sudden order one day to Malojiraje, asking him to fight a battle urgently. Raje stopped midway through his lunch, and embarked on the campaign. In a battle at Indapur, Maloji was struck with mortal wounds, and died. Umabai decided to commit Sati (self-immolation) after him. Shahajiraje and Sharifjiraje were just five and three years old respectively that time. Vithojiraje convinced Umabai not to do so and stay back to take care of young Shahajiraje and Sharifjiraje. Umabai decided to put the misery behind her, and did not eventually commit Sati. 

And Malojiraje’s ashes were entombed in a Samadhi at Indapur.[ref]

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