On the history trail: The Karnatak Campaign (Forts of Gingee and Vellore captured) by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, pursuant to the arrangement made by Raghunath Pant with the ministers of Golkonda court headed to Bhagyanagar from Raigad at the end of January 1677 leaving Moropant Pingle and Annaji Datto in charge of the Deccan. The presence of Maharaj and his mighty army alarmed the citizens of the city who went into a state of panic. Maharaj had given strict instructions that the town and its citizens should not come to any harm.


Abul Hassan who was known to be very timid by nature hesitated to meet Maharaj. But the assurance given by Raghunath Pant and his ministers calmed him down, and he allowed himself to be persuaded to meet Maharaj. The grand meeting between Maharaj and Abul Hassan proved to be fruitful for both parties and Maharaj stayed back in Bhagyanagar for a month to learn more about the southern provinces.


Keen on seizing the territories of Bijapur, Maharaj left Bhagyanagar at the end of March 1677 and proceeded south where his armies were waiting for him. He took the opportunity to visit sacred shrines and places of pilgrimage on the way. He visited the confluence of the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers known as Nivritti or Sangameshwar and performed the requisite rites and rituals and charitable acts.


His men collected five lakh hons as chauth from Kurnool and proceeded to Anantapur while Maharaj made his way to Srisailam to have darshan of Lord Mallikarjuna (Jyotirlinga). Srisailam is located in a deep valley of the Krishna River in the midst of stunning natural beauty. Maharaj was overcome with divine ecstasy and spent ten days here in deep meditation.


He then joined his army at Anantapur in the first week of April. Maharaj pushed forward with his cavalry and a section of Mavalis travelling via Nandyal, Kadapa, Tirupati and Srikalahasti and reached the periphery of Madras.


He despatched a force of five thousand troops to capture Gingee Fort that belonged to Bijapur. This fort was ably defended by Rauf Khan and Nasir Muhammad Khan. They began preparing to lay siege to the fort but the two agreed to handover the fort to Maharaj for jagirs with an annual income of fifty thousand rupees.


Maharaj made his way to Gingee to inspect his latest acquisition. He pulled down its old fortifications and rebuilt the whole for permanent defence. He appointed Rayaji Nalge to command the fort and Vithal Pildev Atre to look after the revenue affairs of the whole territory. He also introduced the highly successive Maratha system of revenue and accounts. Maharaj made Gingee the principal seat of power of his Karnatak territory and constructed official and residential buildings for civil and military officers.


The Adil Shahis had a weak control over the east coast region and the surrender of Gingee Fort by a Bijapuri commander did not go unnoticed. A Pathan noble of Bijapur, Sher Khan Lodhi who resided at Valikandapuram ruled as an independent and held considerable sway over the territory. Another Bijapuri officer, Abdulla Khan lived at Vellore. Sher Khan Lodhi on hearing the fall of Gingee Fort decided to oppose Shivaji’s march and secured the support of the French of Pondicherry.


Maharaj proceeded to Vellore on 23 May 1677 and laid siege to this strong impregnable fort. A part of Maharaj’s army had been left in the rear to supervise the siege of Vellore. The fort was well-fortified and had a moat wide enough to enable large crocodiles to move about freely in the water. The ramparts were so wide that they were designed to allow the movement of a pair of carts without any difficulty.


There were two adjoining hills which Maharaj captured from which he directed an artillery fire against the main rampart. The cannonade went on for some time. Vellore Fort was finally captured a year later on 22 July 1678 by Raghunath Pant and Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite.


In the meanwhile, Maharaj proceeded to the south to battle with Sher Khan Lodhi who had gathered over five thousand troops at Thiruvadi (Trinomali). After repeated skirmishes, Sher Khan found it impossible to fight back and found himself greatly outnumbered and surrounded on all sides. He offered to surrender and a large booty of elephants, horses and incalculable wealth fell into the hands of the Marathas. He received Maharaj personally on 5 July 1677 and paid him twenty thousand hons as expenses and offered his son as collateral for the balance of the tribute. He ceded the whole territory to Maharaj. The balance was paid in February 1678 and his son was sent back to him.


The entire coastal stretch from the Tungabhadra to the Kaveri was possessed by Maharaj. He established a system of defence and administration. A large number of men from Maharashtra were appointed in this belt for revenue and military service.


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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