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Maratha clan
LocationMaharashtra, Tamil Nadu

The Bhonsle (or Bhonsale, Bhosale, Bhosle)[1] are a prominent group within the Maratha clan system. They claim descent from the Sisodia Rajputs but were likely Kunbi tiller-plainsmen.[2]


In the opinion of Barbara D. Metcalf, Susan Bayly, Abraham Eraly, and Jadunath Sarkar, Bhonsles originated from the Deccani tiller-plainsmen.[3][4][5] Known as Kunbi and/or Maratha, they were located outside the peripheries of Brahminism and did not form any caste.[3][4] Dominic Vendell as well as Ananya Vajpeyi note the Bhonsles to be a lineage.[6][7] However, according to R. C. Dhere, Bhonsles are the descendants of Hoysalas and Seuna Yadavas, who were originally cow-herding pastoralists.[6]

The earliest accepted members of the Bhonsles are Mudhoji Bhonsle and his kin Rupaji Bhonsle, who were the village headman (pāṭīl) of Hingani — this branch has been since known as Hinganikar Bhonsles.[7]{{ They seem to have split soon, who claimed an ancestral right to the post of district steward (deśmukhī) of Kadewalit — Suryaji Bhonsle during the reign of Ahmad Nizam Shah I (early 1490s), and his son Sharafji Bhonsle during the conquest of the region by Daniyal Mirza (1599) — this branch has been since known as Kadewalit Bhonsles.[7][lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 2]

The next significant Bhonsle was probably Maloji Bhosale from the Hinganikar branch.

Shivaji and claims

By 1670s, Shivaji had acquired extensive territory and wealth from his campaigns.[3][8] But, lacking a formal crown, he had no operational legitimacy to rule his de facto domain and technically, remained subject to his Mughal (or Deccan Sultanate) overlords; in the hierarchy of power, Shivaji's position remained similar to fellow Maratha chieftains.[3][6][8][lower-alpha 3] Also, he was often opposed by the orthodox Brahmin community of Maharashtra.[6] A coronation sanctioned by the Brahmins was thus planned, in a bid to proclaim sovereignty and legitimize his rule.[3][8][10]

However, on proposing the Brahmins of his court to have him proclaimed as the rightful king, a controversy erupted: the regnal status was reserved for those belonging to the kshatriya varna.[11][12] Shivaji's grandfather Maloji had been a tiller-headman, Shivaji did not wear the sacred thread, and his marriage was not in accordance with the Kshatriya customs; the Brahmins categorised him as a shudra.[8][10][13] Postponing his coronation, he had his secretary Balaji Avji Chitnis sent to the Sisodiyas of Mewar for inspection of the royal genealogies; Avji returned with a favorable finding.[6] Gaga Bhatt, a famed Brahmin of Banaras, was then hired to ratify Chitnis' find, and "Shivrajbhushan" was crafted.[6][12][lower-alpha 4]

The coronation was finally re-executed in June 1674.[6][lower-alpha 5] Designed by Bhatt, who employed traditional Hindu imagery in an unprecedented scale, the first phase had Shivaji penance for having lived as a Maratha, despite being a Kshatriya.[6][8][14] Then came the sacred thread ceremony ('upanayana') followed by the coronation ('abhisheka') — in what Vajpeyi deems as a public spectacle of enormous expense to herald the rebirth of Shivaji as a Kshatriya king.[6] Panegyrics composed by court-poets during these spans (and afterward) reinforced onto the public memory that Shivaji (and the Bhonsles) indeed belonged from the Sisodiyas.[6][12]

The claims to Rajput ancestry however vanished from the family's subsequent projections of identity.[6]


The accuracy of the claims remain disputed.

Vajpeyi notes the "veridical status" of Chitnis' finds to be not determinable to "historical certainty" — the links were tenuous at best and inventive at worst.[6] Shivaji was not a Rajput and the sole purpose of the lineage was to guarantee Shivaji's consecration as a Kshatriya, in a tactic that had clear parallels to rajputisation.[6][lower-alpha 6] She however found the summary rejection of Shivaji's ancestry claims in modern historiographical literature to often stem from a Brahminical anti-Maratha perspective, imbibed from the Peshwas.[6]

Sarkar as well as V. K. Rajwade found the genealogy to be fabricated, as did John Keay.[5][15][14] Allison Busch adopts a similar stance.[12] Stewart N. Gordon does not pass any judgement but notes Bhatt to be a "creative Brahmin".[6][8][lower-alpha 7] G. S. Sardesai notes that the descent is "not authentically proved".[16][lower-alpha 8] André Wink deems that the Sisodia genealogical claim is destined to remain disputed forever.[13]

Princely States

Akkalkot State,[17] Sawantwadi State[18] and Barshi[19] were amongst the prominent states ruled by the Bhonsles.

See also


  1. The precise familial relation between Mudhoji/Rupali and Suryaji is unclear.
  2. Stewart Gordon and other scholars deem the "deśmukhī" to have served as a 'hinge' between the local populace and the imperial authority which frequently changed. Without their loyalty, commanding authority in newly conquered territories was difficult.
  3. Most of the great Maratha Jahagirdar families in the service of Adilshahi strongly opposed Shivaji in his early years. These included families such as the Ghadge, More, Mohite, Ghorpade, Shirke, and Nimbalkar.[9]
  4. Gaga Bhatt was a preeminent legal scholar, whose scholarship focused on the relative status of different varnas across different regions. He hailed from Maharashtra.
  5. Contemporary Dutch East India Company archives indicate that even then, Shivaji's claim was contested twice at the ceremony.
  6. Vajpeyi notes that Shahaji had once used the term Rajput to describe himself in a letter to Adil Shah. She however interprets the term to signify an exalted royal status rather than any connection with the Rajput clans.
  7. In a footnote, Winks mentions of two letters, where Shivaji had referred to himself as a Rajput.
  8. Sardesai noted that the claims were supported by some 'firman's in possession of the Raja of Mudhol but many scholars [unidentified] considered them to be forged.


  1. Kulkarni, Prashant P. (6 June 1990). "Coinage of the Bhonsla Rajas of Nagpur". Indian Coin Society.
  2. Singh K S (1998). India's communities. Oxford University Press. p. 2211. ISBN 978-0-19-563354-2.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bayly, Susan (22 February 2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. pp. 57–59. ISBN 9780521798426.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Abraham Eraly (2000). Emperors of the Peacock Throne: The Saga of the Great Mughals. Penguin Books India. p. 435. ISBN 978-0-14-100143-2.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jadunath Sarkar (1992). Shivaji and His Times. Orient Longman. p. 158. ISBN 978-81-250-1347-1.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 Vajpeyi, Ananya (2005). "Excavating Identity through Tradition: Who was Shivaji?". In Varma, Supriya; Saberwal, Satish (eds.). Traditions in Motion: Religion and Society in History. Oxford University Press. pp. 239–268. ISBN 9780195669152.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Vendell, Dominic (2018). Scribes and the Vocation of Politics in the Maratha Empire, 1708-1818 (Thesis). Columbia University.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Gordon, Stewart (1993), "Shivaji (1630–80) and the Maratha polity", The Marathas 1600–1818, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 86–87, ISBN 978-0-521-26883-7, retrieved 26 June 2021
  9. Daniel Jasper 2003, p. 215.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Baviskar, B. S.; Attwood, D. W. (30 October 2013). "Caste Barriers to Initiative and Innovation". Inside-Outside: Two Views of Social Change in Rural India. SAGE Publications. p. 395. ISBN 978-81-321-1865-7.
  11. Rajmohan Gandhi (1999). Revenge and Reconciliation. Penguin Books India. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-0-14-029045-5.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Busch, Allison (2011). Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India. Oxford University Press. pp. 190–191. ISBN 978-0-19-976592-8.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kruijtzer, Gijs (2009). Xenophobia in Seventeenth-century India. Leiden University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9789087280680.
  14. 14.0 14.1 John Keay (12 April 2011). India: A History. Atlantic. p. 565. ISBN 978-0-8021-9550-0.
  15. Krshnaji Ananta Sabhasada; Sen, Surendra Nath (1920). Siva Chhatrapati : being a translation of Sabhasad Bakhar with extracts from Chitnis and Sivadigvijya, with notes. Calcutta : University of Calcutta. pp. 260, 261.
  16. Sardesai, G. S. (1946). "Shahji: The Rising Sun". New History of the Marathas. Vol. 1. Phoenic Publications. p. 46.
  17. Kulkarni, Sumitra (1995). The Satara Raj, 1818-1848: A Study in History, Administration, and Culture. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170995814.
  18. "Portuguese Studies Review". International Conference Group on Portugal. 6 June 2001.
  19. "The Gazetteers Department".

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