Shivaji was born in A.D. 1627 in shivner near Poona. His father, Shahji worked under the Sultan of Bijapur and was the jagirdar of Poona. Shivaji had the desire to unite the Marathas and the oust the Mughals. For this, he gathered a small army of his companions and started raiding and capturing forts. The first fort he captured was that of Throna. He gathered a big treasure here, which he used for raising an army. After this, he conquered many new forts of Raigarh, Singarh, kondana and Purandhar. Shivaji adopted guerrilla welfare to defeat the Muslims.
Hearing the news of the loss of so many forts, the Sultan of bijapur was enraged. So he sent Afzal Khan to punish Shivaji. Afzal Khan arranged for a private meeting with Shivaji. Shivaji went fully prepared for the meeting with Shivaji. Shivaji went fully prepared for the meeting. As they met, Afzal tried to kill Shivaji, but Shivaji was quicker. He plunged his tiger-claws into Afzal’s stomach and killed him.
The Maratha soldiers fell upon the army of Bijapur and routed them. This victory greatly enhanced the prestige of the Maratha chief.
When Aurangzeb heard of the growing power of Shivaji, he sent his general Shaista Khan. He set his camp in Poona. One night Shivaji entered Shaista’s camp with his men dressed in the guise of a marriage party. They attacked the sleeping Mughal troops. Shaista managed to escape.
Aurangzeb then sent Raja Jai Singh of Amber to capture Shivaji. Shivaji signed a treaty and was brought along with his son, Sambhaji to the court of the Mughal emperor at Agra. He received a very cold reception. Humiliated, he walked out of the court but was captured and imprisoned. But Shivaji tricked the Guards the escaped from the prison. After his return from Agra, Shivaji renewed his war with the Mughals. He recaptured many of the lost forts and also attacked the territories of Berar and Khandesh.
In June 1674, Shivaji was crowed king of Maratha. He assumed the title of Chattrapati. He captured Vellore and Jinji from Bijapur and also annexed a large part of Bijapur. His kingdom now extended from Ram Nagar near Surat to Karwar near Goa. Nasik, Poona, Satara and Kolhapur also formed a part of his empire. Thus, Shivaji succeeded in carving out an independent Maratha state.
Shivaji was not only a brilliant soldier, but also a good administrator. He divided his kingdom into two parts, the the swarajya, i.e., the land directly under the Marathas, and the mughalai, i.e., the adjoining areas under Mughal rule.
Shivaji was himself the head of the central administration. He appointed a council of eight ministers to assist him, known as the ashthapradhan. The peshwa (prime minister), amatya (finance minister) and the mantra (chronicler) were some important members of the council.
For better administration, Shivaji divided his empire into four main provinces. Each was put under the charge of a subedar. There were other officers to help the subedar discharge his duties. The provinces were further divided into parganas and these again into villages. The village headman, along with the panchayats, administered over the villages.
Shivaji introduced a few reforms in the revenue system. First of all he abolished the zamindari system and established a direct link with the peasants. The land was measured and the revenue was fixed according to its fertility. Revenue could be paid in both kind or cash. Loans were given in times of famines. The swarajya lands had to pay two-fifths of the land produce. The tax taken by them was called sardeshmukhi while the mughali territories paid chauth or one-fourth of the standard revenue. Chauth was paid by the people of the neighbouring territories to remain free from Maratha raids.
He began his career as the leader of a small band of soldiers. He trained his men in guerilla tactics to capture forts and treasures. Gradually he started maintaining a regular and a very disciplined army. His army comprised cavalry, infantry, artillery and the navy. The soldiers were paid regular salaries so that they did not rebel. A large number of forts were part of Shivaji’s empire. He took great care of these forts. They were garrisoned with soldiers.