Shivaji is one of the most inspirational historical figures in contemporary India. This is especially true for the Marathi speaking region to which he belonged. He was born in the 17th century in Western India at a time when the area was under the oppressive rule of the neighboring states of Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmadnagar. Shivaji's father, a brave general, worked for the Bijapur state and held the rights of a sub-ruler in two districts in south India. Shivaji and his mother were left to administer the district around Pune, for which the family held hereditary ruling rights. Shivaji grew up in an unsettled time when the Deccan was in dispute between the southern Sultanates and the Mughal emperor who ruled in Delhi. Shivaji's mother tutored him from an early age to take up the cause of the liberation of his people from both the Mughals and the Sultanates. As a young price of an independent small principality, Shivaji collected a loyal band of followers and steadily proceeded to wrest control of more and more forts - the key seats of power. Shivaji's expansion lead to several battles with the neighboring states in which he prevailed despite a much smaller army through a combination of clever strategy and the support of the local population. Shivaji was one of the first Indian rulers to perceive a threat from European traders and to build a navy to keep them under check. Shivaji finally emerged a popular ruler and in 1674, a grand coronation ceremony was held in Raigad declaring Shivaji the 'Supreme King'. The Shivaji-inspired Maratha Empire continued in some form for more than a century after his death in 1680.
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