On the history trail: Bloody beginning to Chhatrapati Sambhaji’s reign

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was a genius way ahead of his time. In the midst of uncertainty, savagery, brutalism and widespread plunder by the desert barbarian, Aurangzeb, Shivaji Raje was a beacon of hope for Hindus. He was a self-taught man who had no experience in the workings of a great capital or court or camp and relied only on Bhavani Devi and his Mother Jijabai to dispense wisdom as and when required. He possessed the rare gift of quickly judging every man’s character, capacity and their role in his greater plan of Hindavi Swarajya.


Raje created his own administrative and military systems to suit the needs of the country and time. He carried out progressive reforms and measures, gathered together and trained a sizeable number of people who were extraordinary on their own. Their loyalty to him and determination to carry on his legacy is the ethos of the Marathas and their history.


It is no exaggeration to say that he is the creator of the Maratha nation and the last Hindu nation builder Akhanda Bharat produced. He injected the spirit of nationalism, pride, independence and self-reliance and proved by example that Hindus can retake their heritage and rightful ownership of their land, defend and protect their borders, maintain navies and ocean-trading fleets of their own, engage in naval battles on equal terms with the mlechchhas and most importantly, fight for their survival from centuries of oppression and bondage under the Muslim invaders.


Aurangzeb had long dreamt of conquering the whole of Akhanda Bharat, which his ancestors and predecessors had vainly tried to accomplish with deceit and force but had failed miserably. With the demise of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Aurangzeb prepared for his ambitious mission which he felt would be done with comparative ease.


Sambhaji was crowned Chhatrapati on 16 January 1681 after capturing Raigad and imprisoning Rajaram. In November 1680, he decided to fight the Mughals and sought advice from his father’s loyalists. Meanwhile, Akbar, son of Aurangzeb had rebelled against his father and sought refuge with the Marathas increasing the tensions between the two.


After learning that Akbar had fled to Sambhaji in June 1681, Aurangzeb assessed the gravity of the situation and immediately despatched Azam Shah and followed him in September.


He left with his most trusted commanders, sons and grandsons and the best equipment and provision available and reached Burhanpur on 13 November 1681. He advanced south and set up camp at Aurangabad on March 1682.


The trusted aides of Shivaji Raje realized that an alliance with Veer Durgadas Rathore and Akbar was the opportunity to complete Raje’s task of releasing the Motherland from the Mughal’s grasp. But Sambhaji was unable to grasp the importance of such an alliance and did not possess the temperament of his father who was adept in grabbing every opportunity that came his way. Sambhaji was unfortunately impatient, suspicious of his father’s loyalists and paranoid.


Aurangzeb took advantage of this and sought detailed information on the activities of Sambhaji and Akbar through his wide network of spies. He offered inducements to Sambhaji’s supporters and sowed distrust among them.


Sambhaji’s own position in Raigad was shaky at best and weakening slowly because of dissensions in his own family and administration. Having discovered a plot to kill him, Sambhaji arrested and put to death all those whom he suspected of being involved. All their supporters and extended family members were mercilessly slaughtered and these atrocities went on for three months from August to October 1681.


The severity of the punishments alienated most of his servants and the atmosphere about him became charged with suspicion and hatred. As precious time was wasted because of this and the heavy rains, Sambhaji was unable to meet Akbar for four months and finally had a formal meeting with him on 13 November 1681.


Bereft of loyalists and advisors to guide him, Sambhaji selected Kavi Kalash, a Brahmin of Kannauj to help him and entrusted all matters of administration to him even though he retained his father’s council of eight ministers.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


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

* Information about Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj is taken from archives

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