The origin of the royal bhosles

The problem of the origin of the royal Bhosles, or the clan of Shivaji the reviver of Hindu fortunes, has interested me at various points due to a variety of reasons. I had come across the notorious stone inscription in Thanjavur that gave a peculiar genealogy that did not match any other genealogy from Maharashtra. During my peregrinations in the Maharatta country I came across tribal Bhosles who were cattle-herders, and many other tribal groups bearing traditionally Maharatta last names- e.g. the Shinde, the Holkar and the Gaikavad. There is evidence that these later Maharatta princes were originally shUdras who attained royal status due their military distinction. So given the Thanjavur inscription, we did not find it impossible  that the royal Bhosles were also shUdras who attained royal status as the latter Maharatta princes had done. Per say, this phenomenon was pretty widespread: In Andhra, in the years of the great struggle, we have the Kamma and Reddi warlords (self-described as shUdras) attain royal status as a consequence of their valiant struggle against the Moslems (Though there are other lines of evidence that they were originally kShatriya-s who were merely reassuming their lost status). In support of such origins for the Bhosles we have the statement of Jadhavrao the father-in-law of Shahji. When Shahji’s father, Maloji, asked him for his daughter’s had he refused initially citing his higher status as result of his descent from the yAdava clan who were originally rulers of Maharashtra before the Islamic deluge. The name bhosle is variously hyper-sanskritized: paramAnanda makes it bR^iShabala. A smArta eulogist from Thanjavur made it bhAsvata-kula. This suggests that it probably did not really have a Sanskrit original.

Yet, we have many assertions to the contrary claiming royal Bhosles to be a Rajputs of the Sisodia dynasty. This idea greatly fascinated me, because it would mean that many primary Hindu heroes of medieval times had a common origin- linking the Ranas Hammir, Kumbha, Sanga and Pratap with Shivaji – a pretty remarkable thing if true. So what are the points that support the Rajput origins of Shivaji?
1) shiva-bhArata of paramAnanda: Shivaji and Shahji are of the ikShvAku lineage like the Sisodias
2) parnAla-parvata-grahaNAkhyAna: Shivaji is a Sisodia
3) Bhushan the Hindi poet states the same.
4) Shahji in his letter to the Sultan Adilshah states he is a Rajput.
5) Islamic raconteur Khafi Khan describes Shivaji as a descendent of the Ranas of Chittor.
6) rAdhA-mAdhava-vilAsa-champu of kavi jayarAma (~1654 CE) describes Shivaji as descending from the Sisodias of Chittor.
7) An intelligence dispatch of the East India company from 28th Nov 1659 reports: “Sevagy, a great Rashpoote issues forth from his fort Rayguhr to strike blows on the Emperor, Duccan, Golconda and the Portuguese.”
8) Colonel Tod and historian Ojha who had access to the Rajput vaMsha chronicles claimed that they apparently mention the Bhosles descending from Ajay Singh, the uncle of Vir Hammir.
The proponents of the Rajput theory mention that after Lakshman Singh and Ari Singh died fighting Khalji, the Rajputs fled to the Aravalis. Here, Ajay Singh brought up Vir Hammir the son of his brother Ari Singh. When Ajay Singh faithfully handed the throne to Hammir, his sons were furious and fled to the Deccan. One of them Sajjan Singh then founded the Bhosle clan in Maharashtra. In Rajasthan, Vir Hammir liberated Mewar from the Moslems after defeating them in many battles.

The following are the main dynastic accounts given for Shivaji (names phonetically rendered):
Kolhapur Royal chronicles:
lakshmaNa siMha -> sajjana siMha (reaches Maharashtra in 1310 AD) -> dilIpa siMha -> shivAjI-I -> bhosAjI -> devaraj-jI -> ugrasena -> mahulAjI -> khelojI -> janako-jI -> sambhAjI -> bAbAjI -> mAlojI -> shahAji -> shivajI Chatrapati

As per Tod’s account from Rajput chronicles:
ajaya siMha -> sajjana siMha -> dilIpa siMha -> shivAjI-I -> bhorAjI -> devaraj-jI -> ugrasena -> mahUljI-> khailujI -> janako-jI -> sattujI -> sambhAjI -> shivajI Chatrapati

Satara Museum chronicles:
lakshmaNa siMha -> sajjana siMha (reaches Maharashtra in 1310 AD) -> dilIpa siMha -> siMhajI-I -> bhosAjI -> devaraj-jI (came to south India) indrasen-jI -> shubhakR^iShNa -> rUpAjI -> bhumIndra-jI -> dhApAjI -> barbaTjI -> khelojI -> jaya-karNa -> sambhAjI-> bAbAjI -> mAlojI -> shahAji -> shivajI Chatrapati

Thanjavur stone inscription:
yekojI -> sharabhojI (came to south India) -> mahAsena -> ekashiva -> rAmachandra -> bhImarAya -> ekojI -> varAha -> ekojI II -> brahmAjI -> shahAjI -> ambAjI -> parasojI -> bAbAjI -> mAlojI -> shahAji -> ekojI or vyAnkojI (First Maharatta king of Thanjavur)

The Jintikars of Gwalior give the following genealogy:
bakhtAjI (came to south India from north) -> nAgojI -> ekojI/vyAnkojI -> bAbAjI -> mAlojI -> shahAjI -> sambhAjI (elder brother of shivAjI) -> umAjI -> parsojI (may not be real son) -> jinTikar bhosles

From royal Rajput documents with seals, termed sanads one can confirm the following:
lakshmaNa siMha -> ajaya siMha -> sajjana siMha -> dilIpa siMha -> sidhoji -> bhairoji (bhosAjI?) -> devaraj-jI -> ugrasena -> shubakR^iShNa

All reliable Maharatta accounts confirm:
bAbAjI -> mAlojI -> shahAji -> shivajI Chatrapati

The connection between the two is the major un-answered question. One might notice that most non-Shivaji lineages of Bhosles match with the Shivaji lineage’s claims only starting from Babaji Bhosle the Patil of Verul, associated with the shiva temple of ghR^iShneshvara. Hence, one might argue that the Sisodia connection is fictitious. The opponents of the Sisodia theory state that Gagabhatta, the great brahmin scholar of from Kashi, created this genealogy to legitimize Shivaji as a kShatriya and give him the yaj~nopavIta and savitrI.

However, there is another important point that supports this connection, albeit tenuously — the origin of the royal Bhosles of Nagpur who rose to power under their brave leader Raghuji, whose wife had an insatiable taste for French wine. The royal Bhosles of Nagpur too claimed a Sisodia origin from Sajjan Singh. But they had definitely branched off from Shivaji’s line before Babaji Bhosle; hence, we are already in the murky zone. The piece of evidence linking them Shivaji comes from a tale related to his death. Since Shambaji was under detention during Shivaji’s death and for reasons that are unclear Rajaram was also not around, Sabaji Bhosle an ancestor of the royal Nagpur Bhosle performed the funerary rites. Shahu also briefly considered appointing the Nagpur Bhosle as his successor because he lacked a son, but eventually chose Rajaram’s descendent as his successor, being a closer relative. This suggests that the royal Bhosle clans did consider each other related. Another Maharatta clan, the Ghorpades, also claim descent from the same Sisodia lineage and declare themselves as the elder line to the Bhosles. It is possible that their claim is a bit more solid based on preserved genealogies.

Recently, there has been a new theory that tries to ingeniously combine the cattle-herder origins with royal origins. This theory derived in part from the book “shikhar shingaNapUrchA shambhu mahAraj” in the marahaTTi language has the following elements: 1) Bhosle is etymologically related to Hoysala. The Hoysalas were old rulers of parts of what is now southern Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamilnad. 2) A chieftain of the Hoysala family baliyappA gopati, the grandson of mahabhillama was the ancestor of Shivaji. He was a major cattle-herder with numerous herds and built a temple for mallikArjuna in Shikhar-Shinganapur. The Bhosle surname was taken up by his descendants or herders unrelated to him but in his payroll. It was common even in the north for servants to take the surnames of Rajput masters. The royal Bhosles are direct descendents of baliyappA gopati, while the tribal ones might be those of his erstwhile herders. In support of this it is notable the mallikArjuna was a very important shrine for Shivaji — he spent a while performing rites there — he even wished to renounce the world and become a shaiva ascetic but his men forbade him from doing so. His brother Ekoji/Vyankoji built the Malleshvaram temple in Bangalore again for the same form of shiva. The li~Nga of ghR^iShneshvara also seems to be a representative of mallikArjuna. They were all equated with the South Indian equestrian manifestation of rudra: khaNDoba or mallaNNa.

Even today Shikhar-Shinganapur is a major temple for Maharatti pastoralists and it had several vIra-kals in the vicinity that depict carvings of fallen cattle-raiders, similar to those of the Tamil poems, and women worshiping rudra.

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