Sai Bhosale(née Sai Nimbalkar; 1633 – 5 September 1659) was the first wife and chief consort of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha Empire. She was the mother of her husband's successor and the second Chhatrapati, Sambhaji.
Saibai was a member of the prominent Nimbalkar family, whose members were the rulers of Phaltan from the era of the Yadava dynasty and served the Deccan sultanates and the Mughal empire. She was daughter of the fifteenth Raja of Phaltan, Mudhojirao Naik Nimbalkar and sister of sixteenth Raja, Bajaji Rao Naik Nimbalkar. Saibai's mother Reubai was from the Shirke family.
Saibai and Shivaji were married while still in their childhood on 16 May 1640 at Lal Mahal, Pune . The marriage was arranged by Shivaji's mother, Jijabai, but was evidently not attended by Shivaji's father, Shahaji nor his brothers, Sambhaji and Ekoji. Thus, Shahaji soon summoned his new daughter-in-law, Shivaji and his mother, Jijabai, to Bangalore, where he lived with his second wife, Tukabai.
Saibai and Shivaji shared a close relationship with each other. She is said to have been a wise woman and a loyal consort to Shivaji. By all accounts, Saibai was a beautiful, charming, good-natured and an affectionate woman. She is described having been a "gentle and selfless person." All of her endearing personal qualities, however, were a sharp contrast to her husband's youngest wife, Soyarabai, who was an intriguing lady. Yet, there is no record of any friction or mutual differences between Saibai and Shivaji's other wives. As long as Saibai was alive, she was an asset to Shivaji, not only regarding the affairs of the State, but also regarding the household affairs. She also had significant influence over her husband and the royal family as well. During her lifetime, the entire household of Shivaji bore a homogeneous atmosphere despite the fact that most of her husband's marriages were performed due to political considerations.
After Saibai's untimely death in 1659 followed by Jijabai's death in 1674, Shivaji's private life became clouded with anxiety and unhappiness. His second wife, Soyarabai, though gained prominence in the household following their deaths, was not an affectionate consort like Saibai, whom Shivaji had dearly loved. Soyarabai was constantly working towards her own son, Rajaram's succession the throne despite the fact that Saibai's son, Sambhaji, was the eldest and thus, the heir-apparent to his father. Soyarabai's political intrigues further caused more domestic difficulties in Shivaji's life.
During the course of their nineteen years of marriage, Saibai and Shivaji became parents of four children: Sakhubai, Ranubai, Amanika or Ambikabai and Sambhaji. Sakavarbai or Sakhubai, was married to her first-cousin, Mahadji, the son of Saibai's brother, Bajaajirao Naik Nimbalkar. This marriage took place in 1657 with an objective to consolidate Bajaji's return to Hinduism as he had been converted to Islam by the Mughal viceroy Aurangzeb. Ranubai married into the Jadhav family. Amanika or Ambikabai married Harji Raje Mahadik in 1668. Saibai's fourth issue was her only son, Sambhaji, who was born in 1657 and was Shivaji's eldest son and thus, his heir-apparent. The birth of Sambhaji was an occasion of great joy and significance in the royal household for many different reasons.
Saibai died in 1659(aged 26) at Rajgad while Shivaji was making preparations for his meeting with Afzal Khan at Pratapgad. She was ill from the time she gave birth to Sambhaji and her illness became serious preceding her death. Sambhaji was two years old at the time of his mother's death and was brought up by his paternal grandmother, Jijabai, which must have entailed long spells of separation between Shivaji and his much-loved son, Sambhaji.
Saibai's samadhi(Memorial) is situated at Rajgad Fort.
In popular culture
- Literature - Shivpatni Saibai, a biography of Saibai's life written by Dr. Sadashiv Shivade.
- Television - In Colors TV's 2012 historical drama, Veer Shivaji, Saibai was portrayed by actress Palak Jain as a teenager and by Sonia Sharma as an adult.