The year of 1682 – 1683 presented Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj a great opportunity to strike a mentally and physically weak Aurangzeb either at his treasured palace or as Muhammad Akbar suggested to ride through Gujarat into Rajputana. It is unclear why Sambhaji Raje did not take advantage of Aurangzeb’s invasion but one surmise that it was most likely due to the lack of a definite strategy.
Aurangzeb on his part was getting increasingly uneasy and suspicious of his family members and began questioning the loyalty of his son, Shah Alam (Muhammad Mu’azzam), who was supposed to be in cahoots with Muhammad Akbar. He constantly felt his life was in danger while he remained on the land of Shivaji Raje and his brave comrades.
Even the Mughal army lived in constant fear of a sudden premeditated attack by the Marathas – a signature move of the late Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. While Aurangzeb pondered over how to secure a decisive victory over the Marathas, he gathered from his generals that the soldiers were fearful of the Marathas and did not want to face them in battle.
He therefore, decided to call his eldest son to lead an expedition against Sambhaji Raje. Shah Alam agreed on the condition that Aurangzeb will recall Amir Khan from Afghanistan and appoint him as his deputy. But Aurangzeb felt the removal of such a capable man from the North-West Frontier Province would mean the loss of that part of his dominion.
Aurangzeb had become mentally disturbed from the time Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had engineered his miraculous escape from captivity. The persistent rebellions in every part of the land combined with the glorious legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj that seriously threatened his own had severely impacted his cognitive thinking.
It was increasingly clear that Aurangzeb’s health was failing and it wouldn’t be too long before his successor would ascend the seat of power. Aurangzeb began to distrust his own generals and his crazy and unpredictable behaviour made his own children afraid of him.
Aurangzeb called Muhammad Mu’azzam and Diler Khan to his presence. They both did not respond immediately which further angered Aurangzeb. Diler Khan on hearing that he would receive the harshest punishment, consumed poison. Diler Khan had been the most trusted of Aurangzeb’s generals and had served him faithfully in the Deccan for over twenty years.
That such a faithful servant would take the extreme step of suicide revealed how perverse Aurangzeb had become. After a full inquiry into the current positions of his army and that of the Marathas, Aurangzeb planned his next campaign to attack Sambhaji Raje’s dominions.
He assigned specific duties to each general and decided to attack the Marathas and Portuguese simultaneously as it had been reported that the latter was sheltering Muhammad Akbar.
Shah Alam was given charge of the attack on the Portuguese. He had some success initially but somewhere along the way began to suffer heavy losses. It is unclear if he deliberately inflicted these losses upon his army to save his brother.
On hearing the defeat of the Mughal army, Aurangzeb decided to abandon the expedition against Muhammad Akbar and Sambhaji Raje. He instead directed his attention to the subjugation of Bijapur and Golconda who had been allies of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
As both the provinces were of the Shia faith that Aurangzeb of the radical Sunni faith denounced, he moved his armies further south in 1685 and besieged Bijapur on 27 March 1685. He captured it after great resistance on 12 September 1686. Golconda was besieged on 28 January 1687 and captured on 1 October 1687 and the king of Golconda was kept in confinement at Daulatabad.
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