Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s bloody beginning gradually eased into a more restrained reign and he began his operations on the Siddi of Janjira and the Portuguese of Chaul who had been cowed into submission by Aurangzeb in his typical tyrannical manner.
The Siddi has been appointed as Aurangzeb’s admiral and was egged on to step up the attack on Sambhaji Raje. He began to raid the Maratha territory with alarming fury managing to reach the foot of Raigad at the end of 1681.
Sambhaji Raje was not one to run from a fight and launched his naval force of 150 fighting ships and 5000 sailors against Janjira and surrounded the place by both land and sea. The fearless general Dadaji Raghunath went on a rampage in the early months of 1682 making the position of Siddi untenable.
As Siddi Kasam struggled against the assault of the Marathas, Aurangzeb arrived in the Deccan and Sambhaji was forced to raise the siege of Janjira to prepare himself and his army for possible attacks by the Mughals.
Aurangzeb used the siege to attack the Marathas from all sides. The Portuguese were summoned to wage war against the Marathas. The Portuguese who had managed to maintain friendly relations with the Marathas after their decisive defeat in the hands of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1663 decided to cut all their ties with the Marathas fearing the wrath of Aurangzeb.
Aurangzeb employed his trusted generals and family members to secure the forts and strategic passes in North Konkan and capture both Sambhaji Raje and his rebel son Muhammad Akbar. The British who had set up trading establishments in Surat and Bombay, the Dutch in Vengurla and the Portuguese on the west coast were made participants in this war making Sambhaji Raje’s situation all the more precarious.
Though Sambhaji Raje was well and truly surrounded, he remained undeterred and conducted a heroic war and managed to resist the evil machinations of Aurangzeb’s best generals. He even managed to create a serious threat on Ahmednagar and Aurangabad, two strongholds of the Mughals in this period.
The British were asked by both Aurangzeb and Sambhaji Raje to join their side but managed to stay neutral by sending their envoys to both parties while quietly watching the proceedings on the sidelines. In 1683, the Marathas led by Sambhaji Raje attacked the Portuguese at Chaul and Goa. The Portuguese Governor was caught between the Marathas and the Mughals and found the situation hopeless.
A great battle ensued before Ponda between Sambhaji Raje and the Portuguese during the months of October and November of 1683 and finally, the Portuguese were wiped out by the Marathas and lost hold of Ponda.
The Governor gave up all hopes to defend Goa and instead opened the grave of Francis Xavier, “saint” for the Christians and Vatican but in reality, nothing more than a merciless butcher who engineered the worst genocide of Hindus ever seen, documented and conveniently forgotten about and glossed over by “eminent historians” on the payroll of the British and Vatican. He oversaw forcible conversions of Hindus using a Vatican “approved” manual that graphically described Vatican “approved” heinous forms of torture.
The Governor along with the priests held a congregation and prayed to “Saint” Francis Xavier, the “saviour” of their race to protect them. It would appear that the “Saint” worked his magic and as Goa was on the point of surrendering, Sambhaji withdrew on hearing that the Mughal army was moving in quickly to trap him.
Shah Alam was hot on his trail and the Marathas retreated to save themselves. This happened towards the end of November 1683.
Though the period of 1681 to 1683 provided both Muhammad Akbar and Sambhaji Raje several opportunities to attack Aurangzeb’s camps, lack of consensus between the two leading to constant friction along with Aurangzeb’s immense resources proved too much for these two fiery youths.
Though the Konkan held out for several years and struck terror in the heart of Aurangzeb which itself is a great achievement, the two lacked the patience, foresight, vigilance and genius of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to execute such an extensive project.
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