The biggest myth around Maratha navy is that, 'Maratha navy was the only naval establishment of an indigenous Indian kingdom during medieval period.'
Nothing could be further from truth.
When people claim such a thing, they indirectly imply that India, having a main coastline of 5,423 kilometers, was never blessed with able monarchs. That the said kings never thought of maintaining a trade fleet, let alone an armed navy.
However these critics forget that they themselves were so focused on mainland politics that they never saw the naval traditions which dot the coastline of India.
These men go so far as to say that the Muslim rulers ignored naval growth.
Now; for the myth-buster.
India's Military tradition has been interrupted from time to time, but its naval tradition has been continuous right from the time of Chandragupta Maurya, in 300 BC. The Cholas actually went as far as Malay Archipelago.
As far as medieval India is concerned, India’s naval strength was by far greater than Spain or Portugal. It was only in 1500s that the naval superiority of Sindhu Sagar (western sea) was successfully claimed by Portuguese.
Some of the many Indian Kings, & Princes (Pre-Shivaji) who maintained their own naval fleet were:
- Raja of Honavar circa 1370s
- Naik of Sangameshwar 1200s
- Raja of Vishalgad 1400s
- Koli Patil of Dabhol
- Koli Patil of Rajpuri (His capital later became Janjira) 1500s
- Samuthiri Raja of Kozhikode
- Sultan of Gujarat till 1500s
Of the above mentioned Sultan of Gujarat was known as lord of the sea. (When Jahangir conquered Gujarat, he was presented with a gilded belt of the vanquished sultan. Jahangir saw the belt and exclaimed, 'Behold, for these are the articles of the Lord of the Sea').
Not only this, the Admiralty as established by Nizamshah of Ahmadnagar, later evolved into what we know today as the principality of Janjira.
Later after the death of Ahmadnagar Empire, Siddi of Janjira moved his allegiance to Adilshah of bijapur. The Bijapur sultan himself maintained a naval station at Karwar.
Qutubshah of Golconda also maintained his own fleet. His trade fleet travelled to Mecca each year.
Akbar, a Central Asian Mongol, established a Naval fleet based in Bengal (Bengal or Ancient Anga has been a centre for shipbuilding for centuries.) Shaitakhan(the one whose fingers were cut by Shivaji), was a great reformer of the Mughal fleet at Bengal.
What I want to convey to you, is that to enhance the greatness and ingenuity of Marathas, do not ignore the rich contribution of so many other naval leaders. They deserve the credit which has been denied to them.