The wanton interference by the English outside the purview of their trade relations with Indian rulers and invaders at the siege of Panhala did not go unnoticed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. After Kartalab Khan and Rai Bagan were mousetrapped at Umberkhind and sent back with their honour intact, Maharaj appointed Netaji Palkar to keep an eagle eye on the movements of the Mughals while he made plans to teach the English a befitting lesson.
He decided to move a formidable army against the East India Company stationed at the maritime trade centre of Rajapur. This was part of two-pronged strategy to further weaken the power of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur by seizing its territory in the South Konkan and to wreak havoc on the East India Company for their support to the Adil Shahis at the siege of Panhala.
Dabhol, Rajapur and Karwar were wealthy ports thriving on foreign trade of saltpetre, pepper, calicoes and cotton. Rustam-i-Zaman who had previously allowed Maharaj a free run on his fertile land of Kolhapur chose to keep quiet yet again and allowed Maharaj to pass through his land that extended up to Ratnagiri and some parts of Canara.
The chiefs of Pali and Shringarpur had joined forces with the Adil Shahis and mounted an attack on Maharaj at Vishalgad. Maharaj decided to pay them both a visit. Maharaj, in the early months of 1661 made steady progress through the Konkan territory plundering Nizampur and capturing Dabhol with little resistance. He entered Pali to find that the chieftain had fled to Shringapur. He offered prayers at the ancient shrine of Lord Parasuram near Chiplun and then entered the rich port of Sangameshwar that had been abandoned by the Adil Shahis.
He asked his two trusted officers Tanaji Malusare and Pilaji Nilkanth to stay back here and decided to march towards Rajapur. The small force that was posted here was no match for the large army of Maharaj and soon all the traders, English and Dutch had to submit to him and pay heavy tributes. Rumours of inestimable buried treasure reached the ears of Maharaj who demanded that even that should be handed over to him.
A long list of articles of merchandise was seized. He plundered the English factory and took six officials of the East India Company as prisoners. He appointed his own administrators at the port and also at nearby Kharepatan.
Ali Adil Shah was anguished on hearing that the affluent trade port of Rajapur had been looted and directed the chief of Shringapur, Surya Rao Surve to launch an attack. He came in surreptitiously with an army at night and fell upon the army of Tanaji Malusare at Sangameshwar. Tanaji was caught off guard but rallied his forces to valiantly push back the inimical Surya Rao Surve.
On hearing that the chief had tried to attack Tanaji at night, Shivaji left immediately from Rajapur to Tanaji’s succour. Maharaj reached Shringapur on 29 April, 1661 and found Surve scrambling to safety. The prosperous town was conquered and his territory stretching from Sangameshwar to Dapoli fell into the hands of Maharaj without a fight.
Maharaj assiduously took up the task to build new forts for its protection. They were named Prachitgad, Palgad and Mandangad. Trimbak Bhaskar was put in charge of this new territory. A peace treaty was drawn up after Rajapur was plundered between Maharaj and the Bijapur invaders. The administrative affairs of the Surves of Shringapur was looked after by Waghoji Shirke of Kutre who had the greatest respect and admiration for Maharaj. The marriage of his daughter was fixed with Maharaj to cement his loyalty to Shivaji’s ambitious cause of Hindavi Swarajya.
The Konkan expedition resulted in two powerful chiefs namely the Surves and Shirkes shifting to Shivaji’s camp and the whole west coast from Bassein (Vasai) to Malwan together with the inland territory stretching into the Sahyadri in Shivaji’s possession. Along with this newly acquired territory and the land to the east of the Sahyadri from Junnar to Vishalgad, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had carved out a strong dominion from the invaders.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about the Conquest of South Konkan is taken from archives