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Shivaji’s naval prowess, a brief at the Maratha Navy

Published: 8th Dec, 2023

Context

On Navy Day December 4, PM paid tributes to ChhatrapatiShivajiMaharaj and unveiled a grand statue of the 17th century Maratha king at the coastal fort of Sindhugarh, Maharashtra.

About

Maratha Naval Power:

  • The origin of naval power lay in Shivaji foresighted strategic vision. Shivaji’s empire reached the west coast after 1656-57, when his dominions touched Kalyan.
  • In the same year, he decided to establish a navy in order to protect his territory. He realised the importance of having a secure coastline and protecting the western Konkan coastline from the attacks of Siddis’ [Afro-Indians allied with Deccani Sultans) fleet.
  • Secure ports would ensure maritime trading, which brought in revenue and customs duty,
  • His vision for establishing a naval wing of his military was based on his belief in ‘Jalamevayasya, balamevatasya’ i.e ‘He who rules the seas is all powerful’.
  • The Maratha Naval Power at its peak included 400-odd ships of various kinds and sizes. These included both larger battleships, and other vessels of varying shapes and purposes, such as the gurabtarandegalbatshibad, and pal.
  • Shivaji’s navy tasted its first success when he used 85 ships to attack Basuru near Kundapura in today’s Karnataka — a mission which yielded a huge booty.
    Between 1653 and 1680, Shivaji ordered the construction of multiple naval forts, starting with the Vijaydurg in 1653, and followed by the likes of Sindhudurg and Kolaba.
  • These forts, many of them unconquered, were used for strategic purposes, to keep a watch on enemies approaching via the seas. North Konkan’sKalyan and Bhivandi, which were part of the Bijapur territory, came under Shivaji’s control by 1657.
  • Even after Shivaji’s demise, the Maratha Navy continued to be a formidable force, led by admirals such as Angre.

Admiring Maratha naval power- The valued heritage

  • The Indian Navy has always acknowledged the sea-faring prowess of the Marathas, under Shivaji and later.
  • It has named its training establishment in Lonavla as INS Shivaji, and the shore-based logistics and administrative hub of the Western Naval Command, Mumbai, as INS Angre — after KanhojiAngre (1669-1729), the celebrated Maratha naval commander.
  • The use of the octagonal design of the seal of Shivaji on the new Naval Ensign. The Indian Navy’s new Ensign (flag) based on the seal of Shivaji.

Limitations of the Maratha Naval Power

  • While Shivaji showed incredible military acumen in developing a naval force, its strategic objectives remained limited “to counter and, possibly, pre-empt the marauding Siddis [of Janjira] adept at projecting power on land from their sea bases.
  • Though formidable but could not challenge the new naval might and power of Portuguese or later on British. Maratha never challenged the foreign power in the high seas. Even they paid Portuguese a special custom duty which was paid by merchant vessels heading towards West Asia.

Sindhugarh Fort:

  • A historical sea fort located in Arabian Sea near the Konkan region of Maharashtra in Western India. The fort, commissioned by ChhatrapatiShivaji, was constructed between 1664 and 1667. 
  • It was constructed using locally available laterite stone.
  • The fort lies off the shore of Malvan taluka of the Sindhudurg District in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, 450 kilometres (280 mi) south of Mumbai. It is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.
  • Main objective was to counter the rising influence of English, Dutch, French and Portuguese merchants in the Konkan coast, and to curb the rise of Siddhis of Janjira. The fort was built on a small island known as the Khurte Island.
  • There are three templeson the fort namely Jari Mari Temple, ShriBhavani Temple and Shri Shiv Rajeshwar Temple.
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