The Srijan Foundation organized a talk by Aneesh Gokhale at INTACH, Lodhi Estate, Delhi. The topic of his talk was ‘Maratha – Mughal War”.

This is the first part of the transcription of the talk.

Wish everyone, very Good Evening. I would like to first of all thank Srijan Foundation also Mohit Bharadwaj and all those present here for inviting me. I will be talking on the topic of Mughals and Marathas, between especially time period between 1680-1707 and I hope that everybody likes this small lecture of mine.

So, this will be about three or four parts- one on Chhatrapati Shivaji, then Chhatrapati Rajaram before that Chhatrapati Sambhaji and Maharani Tarabai. These four persons between them, ensured that, the Mughals were kept out of the Deccan after fighting a very long war against them. This particular war we are talking about was fought over a long period of time, that is 27 years and 27 years is, one entire generation. So, one full generation of people was spent just fighting a war. Lakhs of persons, lakhs of soldiers sacrificed, much money was lost and an enter empire fell down, as a result of this long war of attrition.

So, the reasons why the Marathas won at the end of this, we have to start right from the time of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Before the advent of Chhatrapati Shivaji, three important events had taken place in India’s history – one was the Second Battle of Panipat, one was the Battle of Talikota and third was the fall of the Devagiri Yadavas. Between these three events, we had the last possible Hindu Empire in North India finished, the last Hindu Empire in South India finished and the Devagiri Yadavas were the last Hindu power in Maharashtra, before the advent of Chhatrapati Shivaji.

So, it was important for us to know, as to why these powers, which were powerful, which had the numbers with them, lost, against invaders. The Second Battle of Panipat was lost mainly because of the loss of Hemachandra. The Battle of Talikota was lost because the kind of policies set into the kingdom, earlier on were not followed. There were a lot of dynasty politics going on. Again, this entire battlefield was person centric, it was centric on one person, and so when that one person died, in fact captured and killed, the whole battle was affected, the whole battlefront fell apart. There was no plan B, there was no plan to survive and fight again. This was how we lost the kingdoms in North India and South India.

Thirdly, the Devagiri Yadavas controlled the richest city in Maharashtra at the time, it is Devagiri, near todays Aurangabad. It had a very strong fortress, but the fall of Devagiri Yadavas is a textbook example of how not to fight with a fortress in hand. Alauddin Khilji attacked from Delhi, and until his 15000 strong army was 15 miles away from Devagiri, these people did not know an invasion was happening because he thought that these problems are North India’s, they are not going to come to the South and till the time this huge army came and crossed that mountain range, Satpura mountain range, he had no idea what is happening.

At the same time Alauddin Khalji’s own intelligence department was very strong. He had exactly found out that, this is the point of time when Devagiri is going to send its best generals and it’s Prince on a southern campaign and they’re not going to have the strongest army present to defend themselves. So his intelligence was so strong that he would plan his campaign properly. They attacked this Devagiri Fort, which had only one entrance for entry and exit. So, all you have to do was come and block that one entry. Even so the person, the Devagiri Yadav believed that they had sufficient stock of grain, to last them for six, eight months, ten months, till the time their army, which was in South India came back. But it was so unprofessionally managed that, this whole place that when they opened their granaries, they found it was filled with Rock salt and not grain.

The end result was, that Alauddin Khalji could score a very easy victory and from that point about 1298 AD, there was no Hindu power in Maharashtra for quite some time, till the advent of Chhatrapati Shivaji.  The reason I’m telling all this is that, these were the kind of challenges that would have to be faced by Chhatrapati Shivaji, when he came to power and the  real test of Hindavi Swarajya ,was whether it could withstand these shocks, whether it could withstand loss of these key personalities, whether the Forts could withstand an invasion, a large scale invasion and whether it could have an administrative and military system in place, which can handle a shock, the scale of, say, Talikota or the Second Battle of Panipat.

So Chhatrapati Shivaji instituted many administration and military reforms, which stood the Marathas, in good stead later on. All of these are given in a book called Adnyapatra, written by Ramchandra Pant, we will talk about this personality later on. He was the Amatya or one of the revenue officers, in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s government. He was the youngest of the Ashta Pradhan and later on he assumes much more importance among Marathas and Maharashtra’s politics. But at the time Chhatrapati Shivaji instituted some very key reforms, which stood the test of time and enabled his future generations to fight on, first and foremost what he did was, he got rid of the Vatandari system. Every fort, up to that point every Fort was a fiefdom. It was a completely built up Fort and each of these persons controlling, each of these Deshmukhs, was a king in himself. He got rid of these land-based emoluments and instead, he instituted a salaried army. Salaried Army, he would pay them rates that were around the best in India at the time. Always the military commanders would be paid higher than their civilian counterparts. So as a result, he could draw all these different people, all these Vatandars into his own Army and create a salaried Army which is a concept of at least 150 to 200 years, ahead of his time.

Also in this we see that, Chhatrapati Shivaji recognized a flaw, in what was the prevalent system at the time, the Mughal Mansabdari system was was prevalent. It was strong, it was going strong. It had built up an entire Empire stretching from Kashmir, all the way to Kalyan and Narmada River. But Chhatrapati Shivaji recognized that, this Mansabdari system had a flaw in it. In that it required a very strong central figure to be able to hold those Mansabdars in place, plus it was a system of dog eat dog, every Mansabdars was trying for higher Mansabdari, there was no other motivation for them. A person with a 500 Mansabdari,would go fight some war and in return would expect a thousand Mansabdari. There was no feeling of fighting for the Mughal flag or fighting for the Mughal Empire in that, it was just a case of people fighting for themselves, getting in a competition and having sufficient money and forces to empire, to expand the empire.

So Shivaji recognized this flaw and hence, he first did the Vatandari system, secondly he introduced the whole concept of Hindavi Swarajya. He said that we are going to fight for an ideal, this was something totally different from the times when people were just fighting, actually for the king. The king died, the whole battlefront switched 180 degrees, which is what happened during the time of the Second Battle of Panipat. One stray arrow found its way to Hemachandra, he fell off from his elephant and the entire battlefield simply ran in four different directions. Why, because there was no ideal in place, the whole ideal was about “Jiski Lathi Uski Bhains.” So, once this “Lathi” was not in Hemachandra’s hand, the whole battlefield was lost.

So this sentiment Chhatrapati Shivaji controlled, by introducing this concept of Swarajya, that you are fighting for a certain ideal, fighting for a certain flag, and this kingdom is not about me, “he swarajyahvave hi shrinchiiccha”, this Swarajya is God’s will, it is not my will, it’s not Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Swarajya, it is God’s will, that you are fighting for and it is this ideal which stood demonstrate for the next 27 years. So, these are the things that he did on a temporal level.

Then we come to the Forts, as I mentioned how the Fort of Devagiri was fought or rather lost. And what Shivaji did was, he brought about wide range changes in how the Forts were constructed. He built multiple entry and exit points. If you go to Maharashtra, each of these Forts, will find having multiple entry and exit points. For example, this is Fort of Torna, Zunjar Machi, there is one entry from here and there is one more entry at the opposite end of the Fort, from Budhla Machi. So multiple entry points, then he devised architecture accordingly, he had double walled forts such as Rajgad. He ensured that, it had a sufficient amount of not only grain stocked properly on Fort, but Forts were made self-sufficient, you could actually grow your grain on the Fort, (you could). There are plenty of water. He built many water tanks and essentially Forts could fight all by themselves. For example, the fort of Ramsej, which is north of Nasik somewhere. This Fort is not such a large place; is a smaller Fort of Shivaji. But when Aurangazeb attacked, this single fort fought for 6 years, alone. So, this is the kind of capabilities Chhatrapati Shivaji’s policies had managed to put in the Maharashtra’s forts.

Another important change he brought about, he knew when he had escaped from Mughal custody in 1668, that Mughals are going to come one fine day to the Deccan. Aurangazebis going to come and he is going to try and wipe out whatever he has built. Chhatrapati Shivaji has built over year and with that in mind, right in 1670, we can see how visionary was Chhatrapati Shivaji, that right in 1670, he kept aside money, One lakh twenty five thousand for restoration of forts, One lakh seventy five thousand for training people and recruiting soldiers to fight for the Forts and distributed all this money fort wise, about 5,000 to Sinhagad, 10000 to Torna, 5000 to Raigad, all these different places, because he knew that when the Mughal army attacks, it may not be possible for a central location like Raigad, to control everything. Forts are going to be cut out from each other and at this time, they may not have either the ability or the time, or the money, to every time run to Raigad, ask for funds, ask for help and then again go back to the Forts back. At that time that Fort is lost.

So he gave this money to each of these Forts and that is why, they were able to withstand sieges for long periods of time, because they didn’t have to worry about repairs and recruits. He also instituted Double-Double forts, such that if one fort was about to fall or if it required supplies, it could be easily supplied from the nearby Fort, that is why we find Forts in pairs. You have Purandargad and Vajragad together, you have Rajgad and Torna together, we have this Ramsej and fort called Trimbak together. It was the fort of Trimbak, which was giving supplies to Ramsej and enabled it to withstand 6 years of continuous warfare. So this was the situation, this was the kind of Empire built by Shivaji.

After doing this, after getting coronated, Chhatrapati Shivaji, embarked on a campaign to South India and he built almost an empire stretching all the way to Gingee, you can see this is the core kingdom built by Chhatrapati Shivaji. It is Swarajya, can stretch all the way from Karwar to this north of Nasik, almost the Gujarat border. But in 1676 he embarked on campaign to South India, for various reasons. One reason was that, there was lot of wealth in the Adil Shahi Kingdom. Adil Shahi kingdom was around here, this part. There was Qutb Shahi, around this part. There were somewhat semi-independent Hindu kings to the deep South, so one was wealth.

Secondly, he wanted to have an option, or a fallback option to the south of Swarajya, in case there is an attack from the north, where does this go? They are encircled here, they need to have a place to go back to and that’s how he got hold of few places Kopbal and also Vellore and Gingee. The Tanjore Marathas, he also had a small conflict unfortunately with Tanjore Marathas, who were his step brothers, but eventually ended up controlling this large area. It is interesting to see that the fort of Gingee, which is in Tamil Nadu, he was able to get without firing a single shot or killing a single soldier. There was Habshi or Ethiopian officer of the Adil Shahi Bijapur, at Gingee, named Abdul Muhammad Syed and (there was) he was inside the Fort, Chhatrapati Shivaji laid siege to it. In the meantime, one person started from here, from Bijapur, named Sher Khan Lodi and Shivaji able to invite, I mean instigate a conflict between them and because of that he was able to get the Fort of Gingee. This Fort becomes very important in later years, when comes the time of Chhatrapati Rajaram. So, this was a situation that Shivaji had built by the time, he died in 1680. He had all these policies in place, he had conquered all these different areas and this at a time, when the war about to start, he died 1680.

Aurangazeb attacked about 1681-82. He came with an army that was about four to five lakh strong, he set up a camp at Aurangabad. Aurangabad was entirely in Mughal hands at that time. He setup camp at what was today’s Aurangabad. Camp extended for circumference of 30 miles and all these camp followers and all these people put together came to around 6 to 7 Lakhs. You can compare this with the fact that the Marathas, when they fielded their largest army at Panipat, it was around one-and-a-half to two lakhs that’s all. So, this the kind of force, that has been faced. In fact it is reckoned, that this army which had assembled at Aurangabad, was in fact among the largest armies to assemble at one place in the Medieval ages. We have Aurangabad about here and these are places that would later on become important in the warfare.

So at the cusp of a long war with the Mughals, Shivaji died and he was succeeded by Chhatrapati Sambhaji, who at the time of accession, he was about 25 years old. Chhatrapati Sambhaji was faced with a huge Mughal Army and he fought at least 60 to 70 battles. He himself fought personally about 10 to 15. But under him, the Marathas fought about 60 to 70 battles, which you can see all the green dots in this chart here. All these ones are the battles fought by the Marathas against Mughals between 1682 to 1689. These 7 or 8 years of continuous warfare, they fought about 70 battles and were victorious, or considered victorious, but able to survive throughout the 70 battles. An important person named Hambirao Mohite, died about 1687 in one of these battles at Wai. He was the Sarnobat Senapati under Chhatrapati Shivaji also, continued under Chhatrapati Sambhaji and he was one of the important person on the Maratha side who died.

All the red dots you see, are the battles fought against the Portuguese. Many of these battles Chhatrapati Sambhaji was fighting himself and this was the time when the inquisition was going on. The Portuguese Inquisition was also somewhat in force in Konkan region in Goa and Chhatrapati Sambhaji has a lot of credit to him, for capturing a lot of places from Portuguese and extending Swarajya all the way to Goa and the Konkan region. The blue dots are the battles fought by Chhatrapati Sambhaji against the Siddi of Janjira, this person was an Ethiopian or Abyssinian, who had captured a small island along the coast of Murud around this area. And he used to regularly launch attacks on the Konkan region. So Sambhaji fought various battles with him also. So his entire life span, about 10 years was spend fighting the Mughals or the Portuguese and the Siddis of Janjira.

And the first phase of the war, in which the Mughals had an extremely fresh army, he was able to counter them, he was able to fight them and you can see from the entire chart that, he was fighting practically all over Western Maharashtra. This is the region extending, this about Surat extending from Surat to around Northern Karnataka. The entire battlefield was Chhatrapati Sambhaji’s and he was able to stave off the Mughals onslaught. Unfortunately, Chhatrapati Sambhaji was captured in 1689 in the month of February. He captured in a place called Sangameshwar. There’s bit of controversy regarding his capture all this, but the fact is that he was captured and taken to the Mughal camp, which was at Tulapur. At Tulapur camp, Chhatrapati Sambhaji he was a king in his own right. He was taken in a clown’s costume and made to wear a cap with bells, then he was made to ride on a donkey to the Mughal camp of Aurangazeb. After he was captured, he was chained, he was put in a torture chamber kind of thing, where his eyes were put out first, then his tongue was cut, all this when he was alive and after destroying his eyes and cutting his tongue, he was peeled alive, there was no water given, no food given and about 5 or 10 days later, he was killed by beheading and after the head was cut off, without the eyes, without the tongue, this head was cut off, put on a spike and Aurangzeb’s order was to take it, to all the various places in Maharashtra, the important forts at the time, such as Satara and Panhala  and make a display of the head, so that people will be demoralized. For a time, there was demoralization – that how are you going to fight this enemy which has captured our Chhatrapati, chopped off his head, paraded his body everywhere and between the months of February up to the month of about June or July, large number of Maratha forts were lost to the Mughals.

On the side, of the Marathas, obviously there was a large crisis because they had no king now. The king had been killed, Chhatrapati Sambhaji had a son, who was about 6 years old at the time, was on Raigad along with his mother named Yesubai. He was six years old, he was actually the heir apparent, but it was certainly not a time for a six-year-old person to start governing. Chhatrapati Sambhaji had a younger brother named Rajaram, who was 19 years old and was under practical house arrest, he had not been under any kind of governing duties or any kind of administration duties for past at least; all his life in fact but at that point of time, he was the most suitable person, according to his age. So one of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Sardar, who had survived so far named Yesaji Kank, he brought him to Raigad and he was declared the ruler of the Marathas in 1689. This was March of 1689.

So essentially, they had lost most of their forts, their Chhatrapati was killed, their new Chhatrapati did not know anything about Administration so far, he had not really participated, he knew, because he was trained under that, but he had not participated in any kind of government or governance duties so far, and Aurangazeb was closing in on the capital. So all the conditions which were there, at the battle of, Second Battle of Panipat or Talikota or at the time when the Devagiri Yadavas were defeated, had almost been fulfilled here. So now came Chhatrapati Shivaji’s real test as to whether his policies were going to stand the real warfare with Aurangazeb, because we are now having a kingdom without a king, a capital which is about to be lost and a bunch of soldiers, army which is totally demoralized. This was all happening at Raigad.

So Chhatrapati Rajaram and some of his advisers such as Ramchandra Pant and Santaji, Pant Sachiv and others got together and decided that the best course of action right now, is to escape from this place because the Mughal Sardar called Zulfiqar Khan, was closing in on the capital. (Which is around this area) and it was decided that best course of action is to escape from Raigad and seek shelter far away in Gingee, it was very ambitious plan because this entire region, say for a few pockets, was entirely in the hand of the Mughals. So that to actually go through Mughal territory, in order to reach Gingee. The whole idea behind was to diffuse the war. it had concentrated around Western Maharashtra, but by doing this Rajaram wanted to divide the Mughal army into fighting in various fronts, fighting in the western Maharashtra and open another front at Tamil Nadu, so as to have them fighting in two different places and diffuse the warfare.

So this is the escape route he took, he started at Raigad, he escaped to a  place called Panhala, escape from Raigad was made when Zulfiqar Khan already surrounded the fort and he was about to be capture it, but from a back entrance, by one of  the secret exits known as the Wagh Darwaja, Rajaram managed to escape and he first escape to Panhala, then the Mughal Army came to Panhala, so he had to again escape to another fort in Satara and after going to three four other Forts, escaped South to Bellary. He escaped another time from Mughal capture on the island on the Tungabhadra, somewhere around here. Rani Chennamma of Bednur, gave him shelter and it is one of the unknown stories, where a Queen in Karnataka, a Kannadiga Queen gave shelter to Maratha King, knowing fully well that, he was Shivaji’s son and Shivaji’s contribution towards Hindavi Swarajya. And finally, about October 1689 Rajaram managed to reach the fort of Gingee.

Once Chhatrapati Rajaram had reached Gingee, obviously there have to be a plan, put a plan in place to able fight the Mughals. So once, two divisions have been made obviously there are people in Western Maharashtra the core Hindavi Swarajya, which was fighting against Aurangazeb and Mughals had now send Zulfiqar Khan and a few other Sardars about 25000 soldiers to Gingee, in order to lay siege to the fort and capture Rajaram.

So now Rajaram appointed two persons, one was Ramchandra Pant Bawdekar, other was Shankaraji Pant Sachiv. Ramchandra Pant Bawdekar was, as I mentioned earlier was the youngest minister in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s court. He was now given the title of Hukumath Panna. Essentially what he meant was, that he was in charge of whatever happening in the Deccan, in Western Maharashtra, particularly given charge of Southern regions. Northern region Shankaraji Pant Sachiv was given charge. Under them were given two very proficient soldiers, commanders named Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav. These two persons are the reason why Marathas managed to win, essentially between 1690 and 1707. They were very capable soldiers. Santaji Ghorpade had started of right in time of Chhatrapati Shivaji, when he was about 18 or 19 years old. He had continued under Chhatrapati Sambhaji, under Hambirao Mohite also, who was the commander in charge at the time, and when Hambirao Mohite died and Chhatrapati Sambhaji had been captured, these two persons who were by then about, I think 30 years old. They became the Sarnobat or Senapatis of the Maratha army and between them, they fought many battles, to be able to counter the Mughals.

(Will continue in second part)