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Why Rajmata Jijau’s role was crucial for Maratha Empire?

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Who was Jijau? Why this lady has so much importance in the Maratha History? What was the role of Jijau in making of Hindawi Swaraj? Following lines will help you to understand why Jijau is called as the Mother of Swarajya.

Jija Bai :Mother of Swarajya

Everyone has heard about the bravery of Marathas and the Swarajya (Self rule) they established under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, but very few know these facts about his mother Jijau, the queen who was behind his idea of Swarajya.

Jijau Shahaji Bhosale, popularly known as ‘Jija-Mata’ / ‘Rajmata Jijau’ was the daughter of a Maratha warrior Lakhuji Jadhav. She was a royal grown-up. Her father Lakhuji was a Sardar (Courtier) of Nizam. The times of Jijau were too difficult for Hindus. Even the princesses of Hindu Kings were kidnapped, converted or sold in the slave market, imagine how tough it would be for common Hindus!

‘The Slave Market’ by Otto Pilny : A ‘Representative’ Painting of Slave trade in the Arab World

But Jijau was unaware of this in childhood. She lived in Sindakhed, a village under control of her father Lakhuji. Lakhuji had managed to keep Sultanate’s atrocities out of his village.

Years passed and Jijau was married to Shahaji Raje, another Maratha Sardar from Pune working under Sultan-Nizam shah. After marriage, the couple shifted to Devagiri (Near Today’s Aurangabad, Maharashtra)

Jijau saw the atrocities on Non-Muslims under the Sultanate, and felt perturbed. Also, the family members of Bhosale and Jadhav families fought and murdered each other in front of Nizam Shah, but he did nothing to stop his courtiers from Killing each other.

Jijau understood, that the Hindu warriors are fighting amongst themselves to be a better slave of Islamic invaders, instead they should focus on creating their own empire. Even her husband Shahaji Raje felt the same. But he decided to wait and settle things to avoid clashes with his master.

Just a few years later a black day came when Jijau’s father Lakhuji Jadhav was brutally killed in Nizam’s court in front of Nizam. This time Shahaji Raje could not settle down his anger. He got baffled and determined to revolt against the Nizam and vowed to establish a rule of Justice, a rule of Dharma, Hindawi Swarajya! For around 4 years, Shahaji Raje kept switching between the sultanates to attain maximum power as an administrator and managed to control entire Nizam Shahi by placing a puppet king on the throne. Although, his efforts could not give him the expected results as he could not save his territory from the combined forces Mughals and the Adil shah. He was later forced to work for Adil shah and was sent away from his power center Pune to Bangalore.

Shahaji Raje Bhosle — The ideator of Swarajya

Jijau witnessed all these dramatic political developments. So she decided to raise her son who resembles with her idea of Swaraj. When Shivaji was a child, she carefully narrated the stories from Hindu epics of Ramayana, Mahabharat and also told about the brave warriors of India like Maharana Pratap and Prithviraj Chauhan who fought for the motherland against the cruel rule of Islamic invaders.

Little Shivaji was nurtured in a systematic way and was trained under great army commanders. Jijau also percolated the importance of Nyaya- Justice to young Shivaji. Her teachings and teaching methods were so effective that at the age of 15, Shivba had vowed for Swarajya in front of a Shiva-lingam of Rayreshwar temple situated near Pune.

Mother Jijau teaching young Shivaji about Hindu ethos and values

The region of Pune and the outskirts was the Jahgeer (territory) awarded to Shahaji Raje by Adil shah. But since he was in Bangalore, the Pune region was governed by his son Shivaji along with Jijau. So, maintaining law and order was the responsibility of the duo. When any justice related issues or plea would arise, Jijau deliberately used to ask little Shivaji to sit with her. Her vision of Nationalism and justice influenced little Shivaji.

When Shivaji got coronated and became Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, women’s security was one of the top prioritised issues in his regime. He treated women with great respect and believed that his regime was nothing but a boon of his revered goddess ‘Tulaja Bhavani’. And so in his regime, not a single woman of any caste was legally supressed, forced or assaulted. According to him, this was the key difference between him and his counterpart Sultans.

Jijau as a warrior

Jijau was not just a great mother, but a great administrator as well. When she came to Pune with his son as an administrator, Pune was a devastated town. Famers were furious of consistent attacks by the Sultans and wild animals. Jijau fixed these issues quickly and bolstered the farmers to work on their profession fearlessly. She waived off taxes for few years in order to boost the village economy. She also invited intellectuals and Shastris from nearby regions in order to make Pune as the center of Indigenous academia. She took special efforts to rebuild the devastated temples in the Pune region including the famous Kasba Ganpati temple, which had two major effects:

1. A clear message was given to the people that if Sultans are destroying your temples, the Bhosle family is there with you. We will rebuild whatever we have lost.

2. Skilled artists of Pune had no option for survival than working as labour. Reconstruction works created ample amount of jobs for them.

British historians depicted women as downtrodden and less educated part of Hindu society. But in reality brave women like Rajmata Jijau not just wisely understood the medieval politics, but also intelligently found solutions to break the shackles of inferiority complex in Hindu masses.

Maratha Empire on its peak

Undoubtedly, the Swarajya that pioneered under Shivaji Maharaj and reclaimed large part of Indian subcontinent in the 18th century under brave hearts like Peshwas, Holkar, and Scindias had a strong foundation of values laid by Rajmata Jijau.

Jijau is the personification of Kshatra (warrior) Spirit in India. May her legendary life enlighten us to contribute for rebuilding the nation and keeping our national identity undaunted.

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