Maratha clan
LocationMaharashtra, Tamil Nadu

The Bhonsle (or Bhonsale, Bhosale, Bhosle)[1] are a prominent group within the Maratha clan system and are of Kunbi origin.[2][3] Traditionally, they were peasants i.e. tillers of soil.[4][5]

Akkalkot State,[6] Sawantwadi State[7] and Barshi[8] were amongst the prominent states ruled by the Bhonsles.


The Bhonsles originated among the populations of the Deccani tiller-plainsmen who were known by the names Kunbi and Maratha.[9][2]

At the time of coronation of Shivaji, Bhonsles claimed their origin from Suryavanshi Sisodia Rajput.[10][11][12] Allison Busch, Professor at the Columbia University states that Shivaji was not a Kshatriya as required and hence had to postpone the coronation until 1674 and hired Gaga Bhatt to trace his ancestry back to the Sisodias. While the preparations for the coronations were in process, Bhushan, a poet, wrote a poem about this genealogy claimed by Bhatt in "Shivrajbhushan". Using this example, Busch shows how even poetry was an "important instrument of statecraft" at the time.[13][14]

Scholars suggest that Pandit Gaga Bhatt was secured in charge of authoritatively declaring him a Kshatriya as Bhonsales being Marathas did not belong to Kshatriya nor any other upper caste but were mere tillers of soil as Shivaji's great-grandfather was remembered to have been. Bhatt was made compliant, and he accepted the Bhonsle pedigree as fabricated by the clever secretary Balaji Avji, and declared that Rajah was a Kshatriya, descended from the Maharanas of Udaipur. Bhatt was rewarded for the bogus genealogy with a huge fee.[15][16] The Brahman acknowledgement of Kshatriyahood is therefore taken as political. The passage from the Dutch records suggest the plausibility of this argument.[17] The report of Shivaji's coronation in the contemporary Dutch East India Company archives indicates that Shivaji's claim was contested two times at his crowning ceremony itself. The Brahmins were not ready to grant him the Kshatriya status as he was a Bhosale and then they refused him the recitation of the Vedas which was only reserved for higher Varnas. Susan Bayly views Shivaji's coronation as an indication of fluidity in the caste system.[18]

Historians such as Surendra Nath Sen and V. K. Rajwade reject the Sisodia origin by citing the temple inscription of Math, dated to 1397 and holds the view that the genealogy was forged by Shivaji's men.[19][citation needed] Some Mudhol firmans in the possession of the Rajah of Mudhol claim the descent of the Ghorpades under the Adil Shahs and the Bhonsles, from the Sisodia Rajputs of Udaipur. However historians consider these firmans spurious as these are the copies (not originals), written by a scholar of Bijapur dated to c.1709, much after the coronation of Shivaji.[20][21] André Wink, a professor of History at University of Wisconsin–Madison, states that the Sisodia genealogical claim is destined to remain disputed forever.[18] Following historical evidence, Shivaji's claim to Rajput, and specifically Sisodia ancestry may be interpreted as being anything from tenuous at best, to inventive in a more extreme reading. Although Shivaji's father Shahaji once used the term Rajput to describe himself in a letter to Adil Shah, in that context he apparently meant it as "honourable warrior-chieftain", similar to the term "Raje" instead of literally a person of Rajput descent from North India. According to Hallissey, the term Rajput in the context of Shivaji denotes a member of a clan with its own "clan-state", a political form prevalent in the Rajvada region, which is present-day Rajasthan.[22]

According to R. C. Dhere, Bhonsles are descendants of Hoysalas and Seuna Yadavas, who were cow-herding pastoralists. As per Dhere's story, first cousin (on mother's side) of Seuna Yadava king Singhana I moved to Satara from north Karnataka in the first half of the 13th century. This cousin was "Baliyeppā Gopati Śirsāṭ", also known as Balip, who was a Hoysala. Dhere claims that Shivaji is a descendant of Balip. His middle name Gopati means "Lord of the Cows" and he moved north with a considerable herd of cattle. He was born in Soratpur in 1190, a place where both Seunas and Hoysalas fought a decisive battle. He belonged to the Gavli community and worshipped deity Shambhu Mahadev, a local form of Shiva who is the Kuladevata of Bhonsle family. He settled down in Shinganapur where he established a shrine for his deity, dated by scholars between 1250 and 1350, which coincides with the reign of Singhana I. However, the earliest known Bhonsle Kheloji, great-grandfather of Maloji, does not have genealogical records that connect him to Balip, a 250 years of missing link. But, there is a branch of Bhonsle clan extant in Maharashtra that goes by the name "Śirsāṭ Bhosale". Dhere argues that the name Bhosale is linguistically descended from Hoysala.[23] Shambhu Mahadev is a god of Dhangars and Gavlis.[24][25] Shivaji's first official expedition after his consecration was to a number of religious sites including Shambhu Mahadev temple at Shinganapur. The resting places of Shahaji, Shivaji and Sambhaji are right next to this temple. Many communities in India went through the process of occupational change from pastoralism to settled agriculture in the transition from medieval time to modernity. This is also seen in the Rajputization process of tribal communities.[23][need quotation to verify]

See also


  1. ^ Kulkarni, Prashant P. (6 June 1990). "Coinage of the Bhonsla Rajas of Nagpur". Indian Coin Society.
  2. ^ a b Guy Deleury (2005). India, the Rebel Continent. Macmillan India. ISBN 978-1-4039-2488-9. The founder of the Bhosle dynasty , the great Shivaji , was a Kunbi...
  3. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (2006). Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and Fighting Caste. Permanent Black. p. 39. ISBN 978-81-7824-156-2. His theory, which is based on scant historical evidence , doubtless echoed this episode in Maharashtra's history,whereas in fact Shivaji, a Maratha-Kunbi, was a Shudra. Nevertheless, he had won power and so expected the Brahmins to confirm his new status by writing for him an adequate genealogy. This process recalls that of Sanskritization, but sociologists refer to such emulation of Ksatriyas by Shudras as 'Kshatriyatization' and describe it as a variant of Sanskritization.
  4. ^ Jadunath Sarkar (1992). Shivaji and His Times. Orient Longman. p. 158. ISBN 978-81-250-1347-1. The Bhonsles were popularly known to be neither Kshatriyas nor of any other twice - born caste , but mere tillers of the soil , as Shivaji ' s great grandfather was still remembered to have been . How could an upstart spring from such a Shudra ( plebian ) stock aspire to the rights and honours due to a Kshatriya ?
  5. ^ 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. The early history of the marathas is obscure, but they were predominantly of the sudra(peasant) class, though later, after they gained a political role in the Deccan, they claimed to be Kshatriyas(warriors) and dressed themselves up with pedigrees of appropriate grandeur, with the Bhosles specifically claiming descent from the Sidodia's of Mewar. The fact however is that the marathas were not even a distinct caste, but essentially a status group, made up of individual families from different Maharashtrian castes..
  6. ^ Kulkarni, Sumitra (1995). The Satara Raj, 1818-1848: A Study in History, Administration, and Culture. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170995814.
  7. ^ "Portuguese Studies Review". International Conference Group on Portugal. 6 June 2001.
  8. ^ "The Gazetteers Department".
  9. ^ Bayly, Susan (22 February 2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780521798426.
  10. ^ The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society (Bangalore). 1975. p. 18.
  11. ^ Singh K S (1998). India's communities. Oxford University Press. p. 2211. ISBN 978-0-19-563354-2.
  12. ^ Maharashtra (India) (1967). Maharashtra State Gazetteers: Maratha period. Directorate of Government Printing, Stationary and Publications, Maharashtra State. p. 147.
  13. ^ 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. (190,191)Another concern was an ancestry problem that threatened to derail his coronation. Shivaji was not a Kshatriya as required by classical political thought. This proved not to be insuperable, however. Shivaji postponed the coronation until 1674 and hired Gaga Bhatt, a celebrated pandit, who was able to trace the Maratha King's ancestry back to the Sisodiayas of Mewar...
  14. ^ "MESAAS | Allison Busch". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  15. ^ Sarkar, Jadunath (1992). Shivaji and His Times. Orient Longman. ISBN 9788125013471.
  16. ^ John Keay (12 April 2011). India: A History. Open Road + Grove/Atlantic. p. 565. ISBN 978-0-8021-9550-0. marathas not being accounted as of kshatriya status, a bogus genealogy had to be fabricated
  17. ^ Shiri Ram Bakshi (1998). Sharad Pawar, the Maratha legacy. APH Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 978-81-7648-007-9.
  18. ^ a b Kruijtzer, Gijs (2009). Xenophobia in Seventeenth-century India. Leiden University Press. p. 143. ISBN 9789087280680. Susan Bayly views Shivaji’s success in obtaining his desired caste as a sign of the “fluidities of caste” in the precolonial and a stage in a development towards the “rigidities” of the high colonial era, but more recently Ananya Vajpeyi has given the impact of rigid Brahmin views at the time itself centre-stage, asking: “from whose perspective was he [Shivaji] a low-caste person, an upstart trying to seize a royal title, and why did the existence of this point of view seem to affect Shivaji’s perception of himself.”--In the elaborate report of Shivaji’s abhiseka in the Dutch East India Company archives, we see that Shivaji’s claim was already contested twice at the ceremony itself.Firstly the gathered Brahmins did not want to grant Shivaji the status of Kshatriya and then they did not want to allow him recitation of the Vedas, which dharmashastric texts reserved for the three higher varnas--The Dutch report has it that, having gathered 11,000 Brahmins and Boots (Bhattas)156 — “being their scriptural scholars and of the finest caste” — at Raigarh: Shivaji announced to the principal and most learned of them his intention, and that he could not be crowned before he had left his present caste of Bhonsla [Bhousula] and had adopted the caste of Kshatriya [Kettery], and that they should give him that caste, to which the scriptural scholars replied that such could scarcely happen his ancestors had always been Bhonslas--but Susan Bayly, while speaking of the mid-eighteenth century, writes: “In both north and central India, some new dynasts encouraged the itinerant quasi-Brahman bards known as Bhats or Charans to attach themselves to these armed hill lineages. The idea of recruiting Bhats to sing praises was that these hill chiefs could thereby be exalted in the heraldic style associated with Rajputs, thus becoming more plausibly ‘royal’.” Molesworth, Dictionary, s.v.Bhatta; Susan Bayly, Caste, 45.
  19. ^ Krshnaji Ananta Sabhasada; Sen, Surendra Nath (1920). Siva Chhatrapati : being a translation of Sabhasad Bakhar with extracts from Chitnis and Sivadigvijya, with notes. University of California Libraries. Calcutta : University of Calcutta. pp. 260, 261.
  20. ^ Indica. Heras Institute of Indian History and Culture, St. Xavier's College. 1983. p. 89.
  21. ^ Sardesai, Govind Sakharam (1957). New History of the Marathas: Shivaji and his line (1600-1707). Phoenix Publications. p. 46.
  22. ^ Varma, Supriya; Saberwal, Satish (2005). Traditions in Motion: Religion and Society in History. Oxford University Press. p. 250. ISBN 9780195669152.
  23. ^ a b Varma, Supriya; Saberwal, Satish (2005). Traditions in Motion: Religion and Society in History. Oxford University Press. pp. 260–268. ISBN 9780195669152.
  24. ^ Dhere, Ramchandra (2011). Rise of a Folk God: Vitthal of Pandharpur South Asia Research. Oxford University Press, 2011. pp. 266–267. ISBN 9780199777648.
  25. ^ Thirumaavalavan (2003). Talisman - Extreme Emotions of Dalit Liberation. Bhatkal and Sen. p. xxii. ISBN 9788185604688.