On the history trail: The Karnatak Campaign (Capture of the Fort of Kopbal) by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Though Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was at peace with Bijapur, the threat of a Mughal invasion loomed large. It was necessary to arrange for more funds to support the army and man the forts. Maharaj conceived a plan for acquiring territory down south in the rainy season of 1676 as he resided in Panhala.


Ekoji, his half-brother, had fought against him in the Bijapur army on several occasions, on the premise that he held the jagir inherited from the late Shahaji under Bijapur. Ekoji had also managed to acquire Tanjore when the Nayak of Tanjore had quarrelled with the Nayak of Madurai and the latter sought the help of the Bijapur State. Ekoji was asked to subdue the ruler of Tanjore and he did exactly that and also crowned himself as king on 17 March 1675.


Maharaj had heard about the riches and impregnable forts of Vellore, Gingee and Tanjore and began his preparations to demand his rightful share of his father’s dominion. A fortuitous meeting with the astute Golkonda minister, Madanna or Madanpant who had helped his king Abul Hassan, the youngest son-in-law of the late ruler, Abdullah Qutb Shah of the Qutb Shahi dynasty assert him to become the ruler of Golkonda was in the making. Abul Hassan had full faith in Madanna and his brother Akkanna who wished to secure Shivaji’s support on behalf of Golkonda against possible attacks from the Mughals.


Meanwhile, Raghunath Pant who served Ekoji after Shahaji’s demise with zeal and capacity found himself out of favour with the newly crowned king.


He left Tanjore with his whole family and worked out an ingenious plan after learning that even Golkonda wished to seek the help of Shivaji. He decided that Maharaj should claim his share and proceeded to Bijapur to study the political intrigues of the court. Raghunath Pant then visited Madanna at Bhagyanagar to understand their stand. They took Abul Hassan into confidence and persuaded him to work with Maharaj to keep the Mughals at bay.


Abul Hassan agreed to receive Maharaj and instructed his minister to arrange for a meeting. In the meantime, Bahlol Khan decided to make peace with Bahadur Khan, the Mughal general signalling a need for strong relations between Golkonda and the Marathas.


Raghunath Pant left Bhagyanagar and headed to Satara to meet with Maharaj and apprise him of the entire plan of the southern campaign. By the end of 1676, Maharaj had gathered a force of forty thousand foot soldiers and thirty thousand horse for the Karnatak campaign.


Maharaj asked his envoy in the Golkonda court, Prahlad Niraji to secure funds from Golkonda and free passage through their territories. A personal interview with Abul Hassan and contribution towards the expenses for this campaign was asked. Abul Hassan was fearful of Maharaj and his large army and consented to paying tribute.


When the Hindus of the south learnt of Shivaji’s expedition, they begged for his help to overcome the cruel Bijapur court. The fort of Kopbal in Karnataka was commanded by the Adil Shahis. Two Afghan captains, Hussain Khan Miana and his brother Abdul Rahim Khan secured the fort that lay between the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers.


Famously called ‘The Gate of the South’, this fort of strategic importance would give Maharaj control of the entire Karnatak. The Hindus of Tungabhadra region sent fervent appeals to Maharaj to rescue them from the atrocities handed to them by the Miana brothers.


Shivaji decided that it was necessary to subjugate these two Afghan chiefs to prevent a sudden attack during his campaign. Maharaj had decided to march southwards early in January 1677. He despatched a strong force in two divisions under Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite and Dhanaji Jadhav to secure Kopbal.


A fierce battle ensued and the Marathas succeeded in inflicting decisive defeats upon the Afghans. Abdul Rahim Khan was killed and his brother was taken alive. He surrendered the fort to Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite and was allowed to walk away.


Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite and Dhanaji then left for Bhagyanagar in March to join Maharaj. The gate of eastern Karnatak was now firmly in their hands and its possession opened another memorable phase of Shivaji’s life.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)

* Information about The Karnatak Campaign is taken from archives

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