Jijabai Shahaji Bhosale (January 12-1598-June 17, 1674), sometimes referred to as Rajmata Jijabai or even simply Jijai, was the mother of Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire.
Jijabai, born on January 12, 1598 was a daughter of Lakhojirao Jadhavar in present-day Sindkhed Raja Buldhana district of Maharashtra State. As per the customs of that age, she was wed at an early age to Shahaji Raje Bhonsle, a nobleman and military commander under the Adil Shahi sultans of Bijapur Sultanate in present-day Karnataka. She was his first wife. Jijabai gave birth to eight children, six daughters and two sons. All the daughters died in infancy and only the sons Sambhaji and Shivaji grew to adulthood.
She wholeheartedly supported her husband’s cause. Shahaji had tried to establish a state on the ruins of the erstwhile Nizamshahi sultanate. However he was defeated by the combined forces of the Mughals and Adilshahi.Later Shahaji became a sardar in Adilshah’s army. He settled in Karnataka and got married again. As per the treaty he was forced to move south. In order to continue the struggle, he deputed her as queen regent.
The elder son Sambhaji remained with his father. Shivaji left Bangalore along with his mother, a council of ministers and chosen military commanders. When they arrived in Pune it was full of jungles and wild beasts. She encouraged cultivators to settle. She renovated the Kasaba Ganapati temple. A red sandstone palace of moderate size known as Lal Mahal was also built. She gave a number of decisions in legal and administrative matter known as majhars.
Jijabai was a very pious and intelligent woman with great vision for independent kingdom. She inspired Shivaji by telling stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Balaraja. Inspired by her, Shivaji took the Oath of Independence (SWARAJYA) in the fort temple of lord Raireshwar in 1645 when he was 17. In Shivaji’s impeccable, spotless character and courage, Jijabai’s contribution is enormous.
Jijabai’s elder son Sambhaji was killed while on a military expedition in Karnataka by Afzal Khan. When Shahaji died, Jijabai wanted to commit sati – burning oneself in the husband’s pyre, but Shivaji stopped her from doing so by his request. Jijabai is widely credited with raising Shivaji in a manner that led to his future greatness. She died soon after coronation of Shivaji on June 17, 1674. Shivaji was heartbroken by her death.