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

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.

But first in 1690, when Rajaram was on his way to Gingee and there was a little hope for the Maratha Army and lot of Maratha Sardars started defecting to the Mughal Army. Ramchandra Pant had to decide on doing something that will go into raising their morale, because defeat looked imminent, at this point of time. So looking at the entire land, except three or four forts in Maharashtra, Fort at Gingee, Fort at Vellore and maybe a Fort at Koppal, everything else from Kashmir around to South was defect to Mughal territory. Some places they weren’t very strong, some places they were strong, but all these places technically, there was Mughal rule. And at that time, it would have been very easy for the Marathas to say that, at this point of time we had enough of warfare, please accept our vassalage, we are finishing our Hindavi Swarajya. But they did not do this because Ramchandra Pant Amatya and Chhatrapati Rajaram and many Maratha soldiers believed that this is a war that could be fought, and it could be won.

So, first thing had to do is to raise the morale and for doing so Ramchandra Pant had started a campaign from Vishalgad North into Satara. At the same time, Santaji Ghorpade started a campaign from Vishalgad south towards Panhala and then in North towards, the forts in Satara, which are in Western Ghats. These tactics were not expected by the Mughals, they expected the Marathas to bow down and get defeated. But it was a very rapid campaign, which not only created an area for the Marathas where they could launch attacks, but it also reposed lot of faith in the Maratha soldiers that, they could still fight and win.

Apart from this, there was a very daring raid by Santaji Ghorpade on Aurangazeb’s own camp. At this point of time Aurangazeb’s camp was in, the camp was at Koregaon, which is near Pune and they were planning to take the fort of Chakan from here. His entire camp was set up here. But Santaji Ghorpade and his spies accurately found out the entire layout of the camp. You can compare this story with what is happening in the time of the Devagiri Yadavas. They did not know what is happening 15 miles away. Santaji Ghorpade managed to find out the layout of the entire camp, where is Aurangazeb’s tent? Where are all the soldiers?

In the dead of the night he managed to get entry, he was stopped by a guard. He had about 50 soldiers were with him, with Santaji Ghorpade and the whole plan was to go to the tent where Aurangazeb was staying, chop his head off and bring it with him to Vishalgad, that was the plan. They managed get entry by faking that they were actually with Aurangazeb. There was some Maratha Sardars, who were working for Aurangazeb. They managed to fake this, by saying that we are just soldiers working under so and so Maratha Sardar, he is working under Aurangazeb, so obviously, we are going to join him. As you gain entry, kill the guards.

Unfortunately, Aurangazeb was not in his tent at that point of time, but Santaji Ghorpade, managed to cut away the ropes of his tent, bring down the whole imperial tent, to talking about a tent, that is at least 500 hundred meters long, brought down imperial tent, there were golden spires fixed on top of the tent, to signify that it is Aurangazeb’s tent. Santaji Ghorpade chopped off those golden Spires, after this obviously big alarm was raised because they can see the whole imperial tent go down. He escaped alive, came to Sinhagad, about maybe the same few hours by horse, is a fort called Sinhagad, he stayed at base of Sinhagad. He did not ascend to the fort and stay at the top of the fort. Santaji Ghorpade, with those golden spires in hand stayed at the base of Sinhagad. Mughals were thinking, this is the end of whatever he was trying to do, he’s at Sinhagad, he is going to stay there.

Next morning, Santaji Ghorpade started again, with fresh cavalry travelled from here to Raigad, which is again about half a day’s journey by horse. Zulfiqar Khan was laying siege to that place, he broke that siege halfway, killed many soldiers, turn around, came to Vishalgad and presented Chhatrapati Rajaram with the golden spires, saying, this is what I got from Aurangazeb’s tent. This is the general kind of warfare that was being done by the Marathas, throughout the 27 years. We don’t have too many battles. That is like in the time of Peshwa Bajirao and others, where we have large troop movements, and events building up slowly over a period of time, and in clashing at one location, and then the battle happening. Finally, we have a treaty. Sardars going out from all sides, saying this yours, this is mine. This was essentially the battle of attrition, where the Marathas knew they were outnumbered, they were outnumbered 1:5 at least. So, they could not face the Mughals in the open field, that was suicide.

So, what they did was, they opened 20 fronts. They were fighting on 20 fronts. Many a time used to happen, that Santaji Ghorpade used to attack a Mughals Army, used to fight fight fight, reach a point, where fighting anymore was going to be detrimental, retreat from that place. Once the Mughal commander had seen that the Marathas had retreated, he used to write a letter to Aurangazeb, I have defeated so-n-so Maratha Sardar and obviously expect many presents, as a result. The same Maratha army used to retreat to a place where the Mughals were weak, especially if they had drawn soldiers for fighting them earlier, capture that place and that place used to send another letter to Aurangazeb saying that, we have lost so and so place. So, this was the kind of warfare going on throughout the years.

This you can see are the battles fought by Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, throughout the years between 1690 and 1707. As you can see he captures whole of the western Maharashtra, not only that but also the regions of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Another important campaign led by Santaji Ghorpade was to lift the siege at Gingee. As I mentioned earlier Chhatrapati Rajaram was at Gingee, it was a 20,000-strong army outside. Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, both traveled from Vishalgad all the way to Tamil Nadu. Dhanaji Jadhav went to Madurai, where there was a Mughal commander, defeated him and captured him. In the meantime, Santaji Ghorpade led a very strong and very fast attack on the siege at Gingee, not only did he lead a strong attack, he drew away about 2-3 contingents. Then he went into Karnataka, fought two three battles here. He again went South and basically made Zulfiqar Khan run around, three or four places before finally retreating and going back to Kolhapur, which was essentially capital of the Marathas under Ramchandra Pant.

So, these are the kind of battles being fought. You can see about 6 to 7 battles also, when the Rani Chennamma of Bednur was protecting Rajaram, in fact allowed him to go through her territory towards Gingee, and Aurangazeb had got wind of it and he declared war essentially. He decided to do away with the small Kingdom and he had sent three or four Saradars to attack Bednur, because she had helped Chhatrapati Rajaram. Although Rani herself send letters to Aurangazeb saying that, I did not know he was passing through my territory, and what happened was that, these three of four Sardars were intercepted by Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, before they could reach, and Aurangazeb got news of another defeat happening over here. He was very fast and they did not carry any kind of camp followers, any kind of heavy artillery. As a result, they could easily move between regions, between Western Maharashtra, between Northern Karnataka, between Tamil Nadu.

Another important policy change brought about at this point of time, was to introduce a Saranjam system. Chhatrapati Rajaram introduced a system where he had to do away with the Vatandari system, that had been abolished by Chhatrapati Shivaji and he decided to allow people to be paid in land instead of salary. In hindsight we can say whether it was correct or wrong but at point of time, they did not have any option because Maratha Sardars were going in large numbers to the Mughals, for the simple reason that, the Mughals give them payment or Mansabdari. So what Chhatrapati Rajaram did was, with, along with his Hukkumath Pana, he said that please come and join us, we will allot lands to you and whatever land you manage to capture, that is yours. Only problem was that this land was in Mughal hands and the historian, Surendranath Sen has written very good book on Chhatrapati Shivaji. He says, this was like asking people to get bear skins, as many bearskins as they wanted with the only problem being that, the bear was still inside the skin. So at least some incentive was there because all these people still believed in Hindavi Swarajya. They did not want to really fight for the Mughals, but there were no options, because everybody has a stomach to feed.

So given this opportunity, many Maratha Sardars came and joined Chhatrapati Rajaram, important among them was, Nemaji Shinde and Nagoji Mane also Mankoji Pandhre. Among these, the last two were important only for that period. But Nemaji Shinde, became very important later on. In fact, he’s the person who started the family, which later on famous as the Scindias of Gwalior. So, if there had been no Nemaji Shinde in the Maratha Army, may be no Mahadaji Shinde, may be no Daulat Rao Sindhia also and perhaps no Marathas in North India also. He was with the Mughals at the siege of Gingee, he defected to Chhatrapati Rajaram.

First thing he did was, attack the Mughal army, laying siege to Gingee and because of this policy many Sardars, many Maratha Sardars, who later on really shine in the Maratha empire, in fact, built the Maratha empire came into prominence. We had Parsoji Bhosle, who later on established the house at, Maratha house of Nagpur, who came into prominence at the same time. We had Damaji Thorat, also coming into prominence in the 1690s. We had Khanderao Dabhade, who would later on captured most of Gujarat and attach it to the Maratha Empire, who also came into prominence in the 1690s and we have Kanhoji Angre, who built a very strong Maratha Navy on the coastline. So, this is the effect of the war in the 1690s, that Marathas were able to raise really strong armies. They followed the same guerrilla warfare tactics of Hit and run, it was a war of attrition and many places wars are fought.

The Mughal coffers were getting completely drained as a result. They were losing around 15,000 men every year, in the war. Treasures at the time of Shah Jahan, Jahangir, right from the times of Akbar, Shah Jahan, Jahangir, the vaults which have not been opened at the Red fort were now being opened to pay. Many places the Marathas would capture a Mughal commander, ask for payment, release him, retreat. Many places that use to sell forts, they fight fight fight a fort, come to a point when it is impossible to fight it, ask for money, take that money, release that fort, use that money to raise an army, come back and capture that fort. Because the Mughals relied on siege warfare throughout, (they did not) except for one case that it will come later on, where they captured Torna. They did not indulge in commando style attacks like the Marathas or use the cover of the night. Useless number of peoples, it was always about Siege Warfare. As a result, it used to take a lot of time to capture a fort and used to lose it within no time.

Also by this time, in the 1690s the Mughal Army commanders, Mughal Sardars were getting frankly bored of the whole war, because they’ve been there for 15 years, maybe perhaps almost 20 years, nothing was coming to them. They were losing wars every day, and hence it had become very easy for the Marathas to draw them away, defeat them, get money from them and release them. And this is how Aurangzeb, in spite of fighting for about 15, 16, 18 years was unable to capture too much of territory or whatever he captured he lost quickly and wasn’t able to hold it for too much time.

About 1698, when the conditions of Maharashtra had somewhat improved, Chhatrapati Rajaram left Gingee, he managed to escape from that siege also. Now there are various theories about how he managed to escape. There were lot of diplomatic tact on Chhatrapati Rajaram’s part on this case, where he managed to convince Zulfiqar Khan that releasing him was in his advantage. Aurangazeb was ninety years almost, he’s about to die and Mughal Sardars in South India are going to become more important, so at such point of time the Marathas are going to be the key players. So, Zulfiqar Khan did not press the siege, like he should have. He had already had been at the siege for eight years. So, one siege at Ramsej for 6 years, another siege of Gingee for 8 years. The Mughals had spent 14 years for two forts and took about 300 forts in Maharashtra.

So Chhatrapati Rajaram, came back to Maharashtra in 1698 and first thing he did was to embark on a campaign in Northern Maharashtra. This region. He first reached Panhala, then Vishalgad, then made a base at Satara, from there he went north to Jalna and all these places, embarked on a big campaign, trying to capture Mughal forts, he retreated towards Satara and then to Sinhagad. In this campaign, along with Chhatrapati Rajaram, there was Dhanaji Jadhav, there was Khanderao Dabhade, there was Parsoji Bhosle, there was Nemaji Shinde, there was a person Nimbalkar also. Practically the whole of the Maratha Empire was marching in tune at the same time. All these people, their descendants would go on to build Maratha Empire, which would stretch from Attock to Cuttack.

Kanhoji Angre was also a part of this campaign, it was a very bold campaign and lot of Mughal forts in Northern Maharashtra where re-taken as a result of this. Chhatrapati Rajaram, perhaps lead this only campaign in his life, because he came back to Sinhagad and died at this place, where you can still see a Samadhi. It is generally reckoned that he was a weak Chhatrapati, but as we can see that under him, very crucial part of Maratha history took place, where they were able to stave off Mughal attacks, throughout this region. He implemented policies which were correct for that time, enabled the Marathas to fight the Mughals, for about 10 years continuously. He was definitely visionary. He in fact send letters, reprimanding his commanders, who have looted Temple wealth, in a few places, was from opinion that, the wealth of temples belongs to that Village, to those people and it should not be touched, even if it is for building Maratha armies. So these kind of letter was sent by him, interestingly there is a letter by Rajaram, where he speaks of taking Delhi also. There is one letter, addressed to two of his Maratha Sardars, where he says that, we’ll take these these places, this will be the payment given. We will take Aurangabad, we will take South India, we will take Gujarat and finally we will lead ourselves towards Delhi.

It was really difficult to do this at that point of time, but we can see that this kind of concept was there, that we have to go North and capture and also, not only stave off but totally demoralized them and defeat their armies and draw maximum wealth from them. Unfortunately, in the year 1700, Chhatrapati Rajaram died and now the Marathas were faced with a problem, for third time, that somehow withstood the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji in 1680, by way of Chhatrapati Sambhaji who was just 25 years old, but had managed to fight off the Mughals for 10 years. then he had been captured and killed and it was thought all is lost for the Marathas, especially when their own King had to escape all the way to Tamil Nadu, but Chhatrapati Rajaram managed to stave them off, another 10 years and he died, when he was 30 years old. Now the Marathas had only one person, that is Maharani Tarabai, who was 25 years old, facing Aurangazeb.

At this point of time when Maharani Tarabai was about 25 years old, Aurangazeb was touching 85 or 90. It is in fact quite fantastic to know that, Aurangzeb’s age was the sum total of Chhatrapati Sambhaji, Rajaram and Tarabai put together. He was essentially fighting his grandkids and at this point of time obviously Mughals must have thought who are we facing now? A woman, a woman who is 25 years old. Who else is with her? Her son is 9 years, old her stepson is 3 years old, it is now just a matter of time that, whatever is left of the Marathas, because the Mughal Army had completely ravaged the land, completely emptied, of people, of wealth, of anything because the war had been going on for 20 years.

So, this point of time Aurangazeb decided, I’m going to embark on the last campaign, going to take all the Forts and established Mughal rule in Western Maharashtra. And as a result, in 1700, at the age of 85, Aurangazeb embarked on his last campaign of his life. It was supposed to be an easy campaign for the Mughals, where they were going to capture all the forts and since there was a 25-year-old woman at the helm, nothing going to come from the Marathas. He couldn’t have been more wrong because he (fought), he used to go to one fort fight fight fight, but Maharani Tarabai was herself leading the forces. Many letters sent to these Killdeers who were fighting, that they were doing a very good job of fighting off the Mughals. These were, these places were fought for a year or so, eventually like they followed the policy earlier on, they would sell that Fort, to the Mughals for very, very high prices because Aurangazeb was on hell bent on of taking the Forts by anyhow you got them, whether you got them, by paying money. So, this actually is Aurangzeb’s last shopping list.

He gave to 2 lakh rupees at Vishalgad, he gave 50,000 for Sinhagad, he gives 70,000 for other Forts, at a point of time were, three or four rupees was the monthly salary for average soldier. 50,000 was a huge amount, for which they could easily raise an army to capture the fort again, which they did. In fact at Rajgad, Mughals have managed to capture the outer boundaries of the place but the Bālēkillā, the citadel, which is the main part of the fort continued to fight 15 days after that. And slowly and surely by giving huge amounts of money, he was able to take all these forts, with the exception of Torna. Torna is the only place where, Maratha Saradars in Aurangzeb’s army, managed to put rope ladders, managed to climb up the fort, the way Chhatrapati Shivaji’s soldiers did and captured that Fort. All other places were purchased, by paying huge amounts of money and so this time period was laying siege to (all the) various places and taking them.

Marathas for that part were leading campaigns in North India. Nemaji Shinde, in this point of time in 1703 led a campaign to North of Bhopal, to a place called Sironj, it was the northernmost expansion of the Marathas, at that point of time. It was completely impossible to think that, when whole of the Mughal Army 5 lakh of them had come to Aurangabad, that 25 years later, there would be a Maratha Sardar galloping and capturing Mughal soldiers at Sironj, which is near Bhopal. Dhanaji Jadhav, in 1703 when Aurangazeb was busy capturing these Forts had went North up to Gujarat, to a place called Ratanpur, where a large Mughal Army faced him, but he managed to inflict a very crashing debacle on them. This defeat of the Mughal Army in Gujarat basically wiped out Mughal forces from Gujarat for good because after this Khanderao Dabhade fully established himself.

This defeat of the Mughals in Gujarat was so severe, that it inspired people in Rajputana and Malwa, to start rebelling against the Mughal Empire. Finally, Aurangazeb retreated from Western Maharashtra and went to a place called Wakinkhera, which is in Northern Karnataka, which is about, around this place. So this place, where the person was, Pidiya Naik. Pidiya Naik was a local ruler Wakinkhera, and under him were a caste or people named the Berads, various places referred to as Berads, various places referred to as Bidars. They were as against the Mughals as was Santaji Ghorpade, Chhatrapati Rajaram all these people and he appealed for help. There are few cases where, the Hindu Kings of Karnataka of South India, helped the Marathas and the Marathas helped them to stave off Mughal onslaughts. In fact, there was a general order, general request given out by Chhatrapati Rajaram when he was in Gingee, that all these Hindu King who had become free from Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi, should come together and fight off this Mughal threat. It was not very effective, but few numbers of them such as the Pidiya Naik of Wakinkhera or the Poligar who was at Dodderi and a few other places, they majorly helped the Marathas. Some of them decided to join the Mughals and some of them remained neutral, but certainly there were a few cases where the Marathas and the Kannadiga Kings combined together, to fight of the Mughal Empire and Wakenkhera was one such place.

So, the Berads were essentially marksmen or riflemen, they were joined by Dhanaji Jadhav and the siege was broken, by the time the siege was going on, broken by the Marathas, all these Forts, which had been taken, all these forts which had been taken by Aurangazeb were again re- taken by the Marathas under the leadership of Maharani Tarabai. So, by 1705, Aurangazeb was in a position where he had lost almost everything, including what he had won, during his last campaign. He retreated to Ahmednagar, at Ahmednagar he had retreated, he had lost everything that he had won so far in the Deccan.

There were rebellions happening in North India, there was no Rajputana with the Mughals anymore. All the Mughal Sardars, which had been second and third rank Sardars had now become very powerful, because they had nothing to do except govern their own province for very long length of time and Aurangazeb did not have the military power or the wealth left anymore to fight them. What Aurangazeb did was, when he had captured all these places, first thing he did was to rename them, as you can see he has put all kind of Persian and Arabic names meaning various things, such as Brahmapuri. Brahmapuri was Aurangzeb’s camp for about 4 years, which he had dutifully renamed Islampuri. During these four years he also managed to, his own army is falling apart, his wealth is getting depleted, all his Sardars getting defeated, he still found the time to attack the Khandoba temple at Jejuri, in 1702 and imposed Jaziya tax on whatever controlled territories in South India.

So all these places, if he had been in charge of them for any extended length of time, they would have been renamed as in Azim Tara, Islampuri and Rahman Baksh and all this. For example, Sinhagad was Bakshindabaksh, it was named as Gift from God, that is Bakshindabaksh, but almost immediately after the Marathas had retaken all these forts, they were renamed to what their original name was. So, the Mughal Empire was crumbling and in Ahmednagar, his camp was established.

At this point an interesting event took place, this is Aurangazeb who had been leading large Mughal Army 5 lakh strong about 20 years ago. He found out that Dhanaji Jadhav and Nemaji Shinde and few others were coming to attack his camp at Ahmednagar and what he did was, he took his Taweez, he recited Quranic verses and gave it to his commander, you take this, this will help you fight the Marathas. That is all the Mughal Emperor could do. in 1706 his camp was attacked, but Dhanaji Jadhav and Nemaji Shinde spared the Mughal Empire, I mean Emperor. Why? Because at this point of time, they had become so powerful, they were easily able to reach up to Northern Gujarat, up to Malwa, to Bhopal. That it was more profitable to wait there, wait for treasures and money going from Delhi towards Maharashtra, capture it midway and use it for your own armies, instead of killing that person and getting the whole problem started again, for it had come to a stage where it was more profitable to keep Aurangazeb alive than to see him dead.

In 1707, this is Maharani Tarabai’s statue in Kolhapur, 1707, Aurangazeb died, nobody was interested in fighting his war in any case. He had four sons, all of them were retreated to Delhi, they had been fighting in the various capacities in the war, all of them retreated to Delhi. All these armies, which had been fighting in the Deccan, they all knew that, this is the time of big success and war is going to take place. They all retreated from Maharashtra and these 7 years Maharani Tarabai, who was 25 years old, had managed to steer properly. They were now masters of Gujarat, they had started going into Malwa, from a time where, it had come to a place where the Marathas held four forts in the Sahyadri’s small strip of land, in the Konkan, two forts in Tamil Nadu and everything else was Aurangzeb’s, where he wanted to establish the law of Sharia. They had come to a stage where the Maratha Empire was half established in Nagpur, it has reached Malwa, it has reached in Gujarat, it has reached all the way to Hyderabad also, as also we had seen before in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Aurangazeb had died, his Empire had died with him and we had a new Empire to talk about that is the Maratha Empire.

And I would end my talk here with this.

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Medieval History Miscellaneous

The legacy of loyalty by the great Mughals 


1 The Mughal emperor Humayun blinded his own brother Kamran & murdered his brothers Askari and Hindal.

2 Akbar the “great” killed his own foster brother Adham Khan by throwing him down from the palace walls at Agra, in 1562. Akbar’s murder of Adham Khan was illustrated in the Akbarnama by the Mughal court artists Miskin and Shankar.


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Weapons from Punjab and Rajasthan seized in Maharashtra


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