Shahuji Bhosle (1682–1749 CE) was the fourth Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire created by his grandfather, Chhatrapati Shivaji. More popularly known as Chattrapati Shahu, he came out of captivity by the Mughals and defeated his aunt Tarabai in an internecine conflict to gain the throne in 1708.
He was the son of the second Chhatrapati Sambhaji, and grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
During the Mughal-Maratha war of 27 years Shahuji was held captive with his mother, Yesubai, by the Mughals from the age of 7 years after the fall of Maratha capital of Raigad in Feb. 1689. When the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb died in 1707, a war of succession ensued between his surviving sons. At the insistence of Mughal general Zulfiqar Khan and Nusrat Jang, Shahu was freed from imprisonment by Prince Muhammad Azam Shah. After the Battle of Jajua, the victor and next emperor Bahadur Shah also took the side of Shahuji against Tarabai at the insistence of his general Zulfiqar Khan, but under conditions which rendered him a vassal of the Mughal Empire. His mother was still held captive to ensure his good behavior, and he could only obtain her release in 1719 when the Marathas became strong enough.
After his release Shahuji had to contend with a competing claim by his aunt, Tarabai, and her son, Raja Shivaji II (son of Rajaram). With the assistance of Dhanaji Jadhav, Balaji Vishwanath who was later appointed the Peshwa or prime minister, and Sardar Khanderao Dabhade who was later appointed the Senapati (Marathi: Commander-in-Chief), Shahuji prevailed over Tarabai in 1709 and consolidated his power in Satara. Tarabai then set up a rival Maratha court at Kolhapur.
Expansion of the empire
It was under Shahu and his Bhat-Deshmukh family Peshwas (prime-ministers) that the Maratha empire became the largest in India. The Maratha empire expanded in four directions, in the north by Scindia, Holkar, in the east by Bhonsle, in the west by Dabhade and Gaekwad, and in the south by Fateh-Singh Bhosale with Peshwa Bajirao himself. Shahuji's primary accomplishment was in stabilising the fractured Maratha empire after the defeat of the Mughals by the Marathas. During the War of 27 Years many Maratha nobles became powerful. He was the binding force of the Marathas.Shahuji was instrumental in giving space to new talents irrespective of their background. During his tenure almost all sections of society rose to power. Perhaps the Maratha empire was the most socially mobile empire which accommodated many new socio-economic groups which hitherto were miles away from power and that caused a socio-political revolution.
His reign saw rise of many like Balaji, Shinde and many more talented people who later became the strong support on which the Maratha empire expanded and flourished, especially Peshwa Bajirao and the Holkars in the North. He is credited with establishing the position of Peshwa, which later became a hereditary position for those from a humble background.
Bahiroji Pingale, the younger son of Moropant Trimbak Pingle was the first Peshwa of Shahu I. When Kanhoji Angre attacked Satara in 1711, Bahiroji Pingale was taken a prisoner by him. Immediately Shahu I ordered Balaji Vishwanath to ensure his release and also gave him authority in the form of the post of Peshwa, so that he could negotiate with Kanhoji Angre on behalf of the king. After the premature death of Balaji Vishwanath he appointed a young Bajirao as Peshwa on April 17, 1719 . After 20 years tenure of Bajirao, he appointed Nanasaheb, as Peshwa. These three Peshwas were extremely efficient and Shahu always acknowledged their efforts to enhance the Maratha Empire. He is also responsible for appointing Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre to the position of first Maratha naval chief, in return for his shifting his loyalty from the Tarabai camp. Shahu appointed Sardar Khanderao Dabhade as his "Sarsenapati" or Commander-in-Chief.
Shahu had four wives, and fathered two sons and four daughters. He adopted two sons, Fatehsinh I and Rajaram II (who succeeded him as the Raja of Satara. Rajaram II had been brought to her by Tarabai, who initially claimed that the child was her grandson and a descendant of Shivaji, but later disowned him as an impostor.
Shahu died a natural death in 1749. His adopted son Rajaram II, claimed to be Tarabai's grandson succeeded him, but the actual power was held by others: first by Tarabai, and then by Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao.
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