On the history trail: The Grand Meeting of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj with Ekoji I (Vyankoji Bhonsle)

After the decisive rout of Sher Khan Lodhi, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj headed towards Tanjore to meet his half-brother Ekoji to effect a reasonable division of their father’s holdings. He encamped at Tirumalavadi (Thirumalvadi) that lies on the north bank of the Coleroon River, a few miles from Tanjore.


As Maharaj was awaiting the arrival of Ekoji, Chokkanatha Nayak of Madurai sent his agents to greet him. Maharaj had already demanded a heavy tribute from Madurai and after a great deal of hesitation, Chokkanatha Nayak agreed to pay six lakh of hons.


Meanwhile, Ekoji arrived at Maharaj’s camp to pay his respects. He was accompanied by Peshwa Jagannath Pant and his troops. The first formal meeting took place in a Shiva Temple. Though the two brothers spent almost a week together having lengthy discussions on numerous subjects both in public and private, a peculiar reserve displayed by Ekoji surprised Shivaji. Maharaj in his typical manner was upfront about his views and plans to establish Hindavi Swarajya. Ekoji curiously though merely listened and never voiced any opinion.


Shivaji demanded half of his father’s share to which Ekoji only vaguely replied. Ekoji was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the magnetic personality of Maharaj. He was already plotting to withdraw himself from the company of Maharaj and his retinue. He asked his men to keep a raft ready on the banks of the river under the pretext of necessity.


One night he surreptitiously escaped from the camp and made his way to the bank of the river. He threw himself on the raft and went back to Tanjore. When Maharaj heard of his escape, he was confounded. He famously said, “Was I going to imprison him? My fame has spread over the sea-girt earth. I asked for my father’s property, only because one should keep his heritage. If he does not wish to part with it, he is under no compulsion to give it. Why did he flee for nothing? He is very young and has acted like a child.”


It was soon clear that Ekoji had fled on the advice of Peshwa Jagannath Pant and his trusted advisors. The two brothers did not meet again. Maharaj captured his districts of Jagdevgad, Chidambaram and Virudhachalam and laid siege to Kolar.


Maharaj then despatched three agents to meet Ekoji at his palace and sent a personal letter to him with them, demanding half of his father’s property with no room for hesitation. However, Ekoji’s wishes would be respected in arriving at the actual amount, should he agree to the terms.


Ekoji was in no mood to share his father’s holdings. He instead sent an impertinent reply that ran thus, “Whatever our father Shahaji Raje acquired was by means of service to the Bijapur State against whom Shivaji Raje had all along rebelled and been disloyal, thereby causing harm to our father. There is no ancestral property as such beyond what was acquired by service. I am even now the Bijapur Shah’s loyal servant and as such would be guided by his orders.” It was clear that Ekoji was ready to call in the help of the State of Madurai and Mysore to oppose Shivaji should the need arise.


Ekoji reported the matter to the Bijapur State but surprisingly did not receive any response. Bijapur was totally in shambles and did not wish to risk yet another war with Maharaj. Maharaj was keen on heading back to Raigad and left Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite and Raghunath Pant and a major portion of his troops to deal with Ekoji.


Maharaj began his return march from the bank of the Coleroon River on 27 July 1677. On his way back, he seized all the territories of Ekoji on the north side of the Kaveri River including the districts of Arni, Kolar, Hoskote, Bangalore, Balapur and Sira. He appointed his trusted men to govern and defend these newly acquired territories.


When Maharaj reached Gadag in November 1677, he learned that Ekoji had launched an attack on Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite at Valikandapuram on 16 November and suffered a crushing defeat. His illegitimate brothers had been taken captives.


Maharaj attempted to effect yet another reconciliation and wrote a long letter of warning to Ekoji in which he again demanded a share of his father’s acquisitions and held out a threat of severe reprisals, adding that he was perfectly ready to adjust matters to his brother’s satisfaction, but that he would not allow him to shirk away from the primary demand.


An interesting excerpt of that letter runs thus, “Gods and Goddesses have favoured me; through their favour I have been able to beat down the Turks. How could you hope to win against me with the help of these Turks? You should not have gone to the length of standing in open opposition to my armies. You cherished the wicked intention like Duryodhan’s and caused unnecessary bloodshed. But what has come to pass cannot be remedied. You have only to take a lesson from what has occurred and give up your obstinacy.


For thirteen long years you have usurped all of father’s property and now I have wrested away my share by force of arms. Please deliver to my officers Arni, Bangalore, Kolar, Hoskote, Sira and other minor districts including Tanjore: give up also a half share of the cash, ornaments, horses, elephants and other property and make your peace with me. I shall bestow on you a jagir yielding three lakhs annually of districts between the Tungabhadra and Panhala. Or, if you do not wish to accept this as a gift from me, I shall request the Qutub Shah to confer on you a similar jagir in his dominion. Thus, I offer you two alternatives, choose whichever you like. Give up your obduracy and stop this domestic dissension. It is no use sulking. As an elderly person, I have all along treated you affectionately and again repeat the same sentiments of your welfare. If you have the good sense to accept my advice, I am sure you will be happy and at ease. If not, you will only add to your distress, which it will not then be in my power to relieve.”


Ekoji was most anguished on reading the letter but his shrewd wife Dipa Bai gave him sound advice to reconcile with Maharaj. She urged him to dismiss his evil Muslim advisors and accept the counsel of Raghunath Pant again. Ekoji wrote a respectful letter to Raghunath Pant and asked him to visit him. Raghunath Pant arrived promptly and arranged the terms for an amicable settlement between the two brothers.


All necessary deeds and papers were prepared and sent to Maharaj for his approval and ratification. Maharaj was most pleased to see that this long-standing dispute would be resolved and ratified the whole agreement at once.


Maharaj wrote a letter of thanks to Raghunath Pant that ran thus, “I cannot too highly commend the wisdom and foresight of my sister-in-law Dipa Bai, who with uncommon zeal and skill induced her husband to come to terms with me and thereby so satisfactorily solved a knotty question. I am supremely gratified at this happy result. In fact, I was all along concerned to secure the best interest of my brother. In asking a half share, I had his own lasting welfare at my heart. The paltry lucre was not my object. It was for the sake of higher aims, I had to make that stern demand. We must treat our servants and subordinates respectfully and effect the lasting good of our State, which it behoves us both to serve with all our powers.”


The dedication and service of the family of Raghunath Pant to Shahaji and his sons is a great credit to them. In conclusion, what Maharaj resented most was that Ekoji allied himself with the Turks and Pathans of Bijapur who had been open enemies of the Hindus.


It was the life mission of Maharaj to extricate the rich land of Hindustan from the Muslim invaders whose religious intolerances, brutalities and barbarian acts towards Hindus, women and children, penchant to plunder and deprive the original citizens (residents) of the country their freedom that had pained him the most.


The Maratha Empire is the last indigenous sovereignty of Akhanda Bharat and the sheer excellence, ingenuity, wisdom and foresight of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who had the assurance, blessings and guidance of Bhavani Devi every step of the way to restore Hindustan to its former glory and independence is as inspirational and as it is extraordinary.


||  जय भवानी ||    ||  हर हर महादेव ||


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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