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|Empress consort of the Maratha Empire|
|Father||Mudhoji Rao Naik Nimbalkar|
Phaltan, Maharashtra, India
|Died||5 September 1659 (aged 26)
Rajgad Fort, Pune, India
Saibai was a member of the prominent Nimbalkar dynasty. The members of the Nimbalkar dynasty were the rulers of Phaltan from the era of the Yadava dynasty until the integration of the princely states into the new nation of India in 1947. She was the daughter of the fifteenth Raja of Phaltan, Mudhojirao Naik Nimbalkar, and the sister of the sixteenth Raja, Bajaji Rao Naik Nimbalkar. Saibai’s mother Reubai was from the Shirke dynasty. The inscription at Thanjavur mentions Saibai’s maiden surname as Pawar. But this is not in contradiction with other references as the original surname of the Nimbalkar dynasty was Pawar.
In the year 1630, Mudhojirao ruled over Phaltan. Before that he was a prisoner of Adil Shah at Satara Fort. Shahaji (Shivaji’s father) helped him escape prison. Out of appreciation, Mudhojirao gave his daughter Sai to Shivaji. The two of them got married on 16 May 1640.
By all accounts, Saibai was a beautiful, charming, good-natured and an affectionate woman. She is described as being a “gentle and selfless person ” and was a wise woman and a loyal consort to Shivaji. All of her endearing personal qualities, however, were in a sharp contrast to her husband’s second wife, Soyarabai, who was an intriguing lady. Yet, there is no record of any friction or mutual differences between Saibai and Shivaji’s other wives. As long as Saibai was alive, she was an asset to Shivaji not only regarding the affairs of the State but also the royal family as well. During her lifetime, the entire household of Shivaji bore a homogeneous atmosphere despite the fact that most of her husband’s marriages were performed due to political considerations. Throughout their marriage, Saibai and Shivaji shared a close relationship, she also had significant influence over her husband and the royal household.
After Saibai’s untimely death in 1659 followed by Jijabai’s death in 1674, Shivaji’s private life became clouded with anxiety and unhappiness. Her husband’s second wife, Soyarabai, though gained prominence in the household following their deaths was not an affectionate consort like Saibai, whom Shivaji had dearly loved. Soyarabai was constantly working towards her own son, Rajaram‘s succession the throne despite the fact that Saibai’s son, Sambhaji, was the eldest and thus, heir-apparent to his father. Soyarabai’s intrigues further caused more domestic difficulties in Shivaji’s life.
They had three daughters namely Sakhubai, Ranubai and Ambikabai followed by their son Sambhaji. On 7 September 1651, a girl was born to Shivaji at Rajgad. She was named Sakhubai. Ranubai was their seond daughter born in 1653. Ambikabai was their third daughter born in 1655. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj was their only son born on 14 May 1657 at Purandar fort. It is said that on his deathbed his last word was “Sai”.
During the course of their nineteen years of marriage, the royal couple became parents of four children, three daughters followed by a son:
- Sakavarbai or Sakhubai (born in 1651)
- Ranubai (born in 1653)
- Amanika or Ambikabai (born in 1655)
- Sambhaji (born on 14 May 1657 at Purandar Fort).
Their first daughter Sakhubai, was married to Mahadji the son of Bajaaji Naik Nimbalkar i.e. son of Saibai’s brother . This marriage took place in year 1657 with an objective to consolidate Bajaji’s return to Hinduism as he was converted to Islam byAurangzeb. Ranubai was married in Jadhav family. Amanika or Ambikabai married Harji Raje Mahadik in year 1668.
Saibai died at the age of 26 at Rajgad Fort while Shivaji was making preparations for his meeting with Afzal Khan at Pratapgad. She was ill from the time she gave birth to Sambhaji and her illness became serious preceding her death. Sambhaji was two years old at the time of his mother’s death. He was brought up by Jijabai, mother of Shivaji Maharaj. To nurture the newborn child Sambhaji, Jijabai appointed Dharai Gade Patil as his wetnurse.
Saibai’s samadhi (tomb) is situated at Rajgad Fort.
In popular culture
- Literature – Shivpatni Saibai, a biography of Saibai’s life written by Dr. Sadashiv Shivade.
- Television – In Colors TV‘s 2012 historical drama, Veer Shivaji, Saibai was portrayed by actress Palak Jain as a teenager and by Sonia Sharma as an adult.
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