(Last Updated on : 12/04/2014)
Early life of Shivaji was conditioned to a great extent by his mother, Jijabai
. Shivaji was the second son of Shahaji and Jijabai. If 1630 is accepted to be correct, the date of Shivaji's birth in that year is said to be February 19. Shivaji was born in the fort of Shivneri and from the time of his birth, he was said to be destined for greatness. There was much celebration among the local families, and the villagers brought varied offerings for the child and his mother. Shahaji, who was pursuing the Mughal rebel Darya Khan, heard the news of the birth of his second son through special couriers. The news delighted him, and from his coffers he distributed gold to those who brought him the glad tidings. Everyone regarded the birth of the little Shivaji as a happy omen for his father and a turn in his chequered fortunes.
In the years that followed, Jijabai always took her son along with her wherever she went. She constantly moved from fortress to fortress as Shahaji bid her to do. It has been seen that Jijabai's was more than a mother's influence on Shivaji. She has been credited with having given the young boy his education. Early in life he started to ride horseback and soon he learned how to groom a horse. With the soldiers in the fort he practised the use of a bow and arrow and learned how to use a rifle and a gun. He also learned to use the paita, the sword used by the Marathas. Education in a fort meant chiefly martial training but Jijabai saw to it that her son also learned how to read and write. From an early age, history records that Shivaji, because of his mother's earlier training in the mountains, put a high premium on simplicity of living. The exigencies of life in a fortress perhaps enforced such a simple way of life. Shivaji made a habit of simple living and expressed his abhorrence of all forms of luxury. He appeared to lack the accommodating ways of his father. He had respect only for those who revealed either wisdom or learning and expressed without fear his contempt for the idle rich.
Dadaji Kondadev was entrusted with the responsibility of being a guardian to Shivaji. Kondadev thus became a guide and tutor to the young Shivaji and as the need for living in a fortress was now not so acute on grounds of safety, Shivaji came down to the plains of Pune
with his mother. Later, according to one historical source, they moved south to meet Shahaji at Bengaluru
in 1640. Soon, Shahaji thought of Shivaji in terms of marriage, for marriage was a ceremony then performed at an early age. It was the privilege of the parents to match a boy with a girl. Status and position were taken into account and the pandits had to look over and approve the relative horoscopes of the two children who were to become man and wife. As Shahaji had by that time returned to Bijapur
after a successful military campaign in the Carnatic, he sent for his family, including the guardian Kondadev to perform the marriage of Shivaji in the Sultan's capital.
The young boy then spoke up. He had already acquired ideas of his own. A consciousness had come to him of the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim, not so much in terms of religion as in terms of domination and vassalage. The Muslim meant to Shivaji domination over the natives of the land and this was something he instinctively resisted. Shivaji indicated that he preferred to have his marriage performed at Poona with the simplicity of a Hindu ceremonial. He resented Mughal splendour and if he were married in Bijapur he would have had to bow to the Sultan himself who would surely come to the wedding as the honoured guest of his father.
As the young man appeared to have a will of his own, even at the early age of thirteen, he was allowed to be married at Poona. Being the son of a Hindu chieftain he did not escape the pomp and splendour which he had wished to avoid. But, without the Sultan present, he remained the focal point of the function and the limelight did not pass on to any Muslim overlord. He married the girl his parents chose for him, Sayibai, who came from the Nimbalkar family. But that was only to be his first marriage.
Shivaji held an attitude of contempt towards the inequality with which the Hindus were treated under the Mughal dynasty
. This was not so much any abhorrence towards the Muslims as against the inequality that existed in the kingdom and the status of the Hindu religion as mere superstition. He was unable to properly exhibit the code of conduct expected in the Muslim courts, and after his initial hesitation, ultimately chose to stay away from it. The Sultan was aware of this attitude and tried to pacify the young boy who was like a rebel in the making. Consequently, relationship between the two improved, and the Sultan even arranged for a second wedding of Shivaji to be carried in all pomp and splendour. Things were smoothed over and remained fine for a period of time. However, after sometime, the death of a butcher at the hands of an angry Shivaji led to a marked change in the relations with the Muslims. From her on began a new phase of activity in the life of Shivaji.
It has often been noted that behind Shivaji's behaviour was always his early realisation that he and his people were the have-nots of the land. If a few rose in rank or position as his father had done, it was because of the use the Sultan could make of them to prop up his own position. That Shivaji understood the implications of his situation at such an early age does him great credit. It was a feeling of national pride that the leader experienced at this biased state of affairs. That he was a Hindu and therefore different in religion from the Muslims was not so material to Shivaji as that he was a native of the soil along with his father and forefathers, part of the land itself. Classified regionally, he was a Maratha, but pride in being a Maratha was accidental to Shivaji. His main pride was that he was part of the land, an Indian by birth, although this term was not yet so clearly understood in Shivaji's time.