Even before the appearance of Shivaji on the scene, the Marathas had acquired training in the art of administration and also in the military field. According to Dr. Beni Prasad, "The chief importance of the Deccan campaigns of the Mughals lies in the opportunities of military training and political power which they afforded to the Marathas. Malik Ambar, who was a great master of the art of guerilla warfare as Shivaji himself, stands as the head of the builders of the Maratha nationality. His primary object was to serve the interest of his own master, but unconsciously he nourished into strength a power which more than avenged the injuries of the South on the Northern power."
This training the Marathas got in the Muslim states in the Deccan. The Marathas were employed in the Revenue Department of the States. Some of them were appointed even ministers by the Mohammedan Rulers. Murar Rao, Madan Pandit and many members of the Raj Rai family filled from time to time the posts of ministers and Diwans in the Golconda state. Narso Kale and Yesu Pandit were other important persons who served with distinction in the state of Bijapur. Brahman ambassadors were employed on diplomatic duties by the rulers of Ahmednagar.
The Maratha Siledars and Bargirs were employed first of all in the Bahmani kingdom and later on in the five states into which it was broken up. The training thus acquired in arms and civil administration brought to the Marathas education, power and wealth. It is a matter of history that a very prominent part was played in the politics of Ahmednagar and Bijapur by the Maratha Jagirdars, Shahji Bhonsla and Murar Rao Jogdev in the time of Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
It has rightly been stated that "the nominal Mohammedan rulers of Golconda, Bijapur, Bidar etc., were virtually controlled both in the civil and military departments by Maratha statesman and Maratha warriors and the hill forts near the Ghats and the country thereabout were in the hands of Maratha jagirdars who were only nominally dependant upon these Mohammedan souverigns."
Maratha Sardars and the House of Bhonsales
Period of Unrest :
As the saints preached devotion to God, the brave Maratha Sardars started a tradition of bravery. This was a period of great unrest. The Adilshahi and Nizamshahi Kindoms were constantly at war with each other. They made use of the armies of Maratha Sardars in these wars.
The brave Maratha Sardars :
The Marathas were both brave and tough. They were also fearless and loyal to their masters. They were very proud of their achievements on the battlefield. The brave Maratha soldier with a spear in hand and a sword at the side would ride in his Sardar's cavalry. All the Maratha Sardars had their own private armies. If such a sardar went to the Sultan with his army, the Sultan gave him employment, made him Sardar of his kingdom and sometimes conferred a Jagir upon him. The Sardar who received such Jagir considered himself a Raja.
There were many famous Maratha Sardars at the court of Ahmednagar and Bijapur. The more famous among them were the Jadhavs of Sindhkhed, Nimbalkars of Phaltan, Ghorpades of Mudhol, Moreys of Javali, Bhonsales of Verul. The Sindhkhed Jadhav claimed descent from the Yadhavs of Devgiri. Jijai, Shivaji's mother was the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhav of Sindhkhed.
Tradition of Valour :
All these Sardars were brave but sworn enemies of one another. They never thought that they should unite and do something for their own people. So all their valour and bravery served the interests of others. Even so, they kept alive the warlike spirit, especially among the young. Many famous soldiers were born in their families who kept alive the tradition of valour. Among the famous families the Bhonsales of Verul showed great bravery and enterprise.
The Temple of Ghrushneshwar :
It was about four hundred years ago. The temple of Ghrushneshwar near the Verul caves was falling to pieces. The walls had developed cracks. The priest also had deserted the temple. Thus the temple which was built in honour of a great god was totally neglected. All the devotees who came there mourned over the sorry state of the temple, but no one thought of repairing it.
A great devotee of Shiva visited the temple regularly. He would put flowers and 'bel' on the 'lingam' and express his innermost thoughts to the God.He carried out extensive repairs to the temple and restored it to its original condition. He also made arrangments for the proper maintenance of the temple. Now there were lights both inside and outside the temple and the lost grandeur of Ghrushneshwar was restored. Who was this devotee who did all this? He was Maloji Bhonsale.
The Bhonsales of Verul :
Maloji Bhonsale, the patil of Verul, was a great devotee of Shiva. Babaji had two sons. Maloji was the elder, and Vithoji the younger. Babaji Bhonsale had the rights of a patil in the Verul village.
Maloji and Vithoji were both brave and enterprising. They had in their service many armed Maratha troops. It was a period of great unrest. The Moghul emperor from Delhi had attacked the Kingdom of Nizamshah. Daulatabad was then the capital of Nizamshah. Malik Amber was his Vazir or chief Minister. The two capable and brave brothers from Verul soon caught his attention. On his recommendation, the Shah conferred on the two brothers the Jagir of Pune and Supa Parganas.
So the Bhonsales became rich and powerful. Malojirao's wife was Umabai. She came from the House of the Nimbalkars of Phaltan. They had two sons, Shahaji and Sharifji. Malojirao was killed in a battle at Indapur. At that time Shahaji was only five years old. Then Vithoji looked after the children and the Jagir. Later he asked in marriage for Shahaji the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhav. Jijai, the daughter of Lakhuji, was well favoured by the gods. Lakhuji accepted Vithoji's proposal and Shahaji Raje and Jijai were married with great pomp.
Shahaji Raje : Nizamshah transferred to Shahaji Raje the Jagir he had conferred to Maloji. Shahaji Raje was brave and capable man held in great respect at the court of Nizamshah. The Moghul Emperor decided to conquer the Kingdom of Nizamshah. For this, he made an alliance with the Adilshah of Bijapur. Shahaji Raje and Malik Amber put up a stiff resistence to the advancing forces of the Moghul Emperor and defeated them. But later on there was great unrest in Nizamshah's Kingdom. Tired of the unsettled conditions, Shahaji Raje left Nizamshah's service and went over to Adilshah of Bijapur. Adilshah conferred on him the tittle of 'Sar Lashkar'. In the meantime, many important events took place in Nizamshah's Kingdom. Malik Amber died and the Kingdom was in sorry state. At the same tim, Emperor Shah Jahan attacked the Kingdom. At this critical hour Shahaji Raje once again returned to the service of Nizamshah.