The wily Aurangzeb continued to put pressure on the Marathas by despatching Shahâb ud-Din and his son, Chin Qilich Kamaruddin Khan to grab their territory in North Konkan and Baglan. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj was outraged on hearing the devious tactics employed by father and son to win over the Marathas.
He launched a furious attack in the beginning of 1685 and devastated Mughal territory from Aurangabad to Burhanpur and carried away enormous wealth which was then sold in the open market. Seventeen flourishing cities were sacked by Sambhaji Raje while Aurangzeb was busy trying to capture Bijapur and Golconda.
Sambhaji Raje took up his residence in Panhala to keep a check on the Mughal army movements. After conquering Bijapur and Golconda with ease, Aurangzeb amassed a great deal of wealth, troops and stocks of arms and provisions that had been sitting quietly in these two capitals for a long period.
With more money and resources at his disposal, Aurangzeb worked on his new strategy to draw out Sambhaji Raje in an open battle fully aware of the latter’s rapidly depleting resources, troops and wealth.
Sambhaji Raje had been unsuccessful in adding new income during his seven years of war and reign even managing to exhaust the income accumulated with great difficulty by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
On receiving the news that Muhammad Akbar had deserted Sambhaji Raje, Aurangzeb encamped at Akluj on the Bhima River near Pandharpur to corner the friendless Sambhaji Raje. A cunning Bijapur general named Sharza Khan who was well-versed with the terrain of the Maratha territory invaded Satara district.
Senapati Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite came charging to protect the Maratha lands. A great battle ensued between them near Wai towards the end of 1687 in which Senapati Hambirrao Hansaji Mohite died fighting. His death effectively sealed the fate of Sambhaji Raje who was now left with no followers willing to fight for him.
The Mughal army quickly occupied all the difficult passes and important roads making communication next to impossible between Panhala and Raigad. The hilly regions of the Sahyadri between Kolhapur and Satara was held by the Shirkes who had become sworn enemies of Sambhaji Raje and had a tacit agreement with Aurangzeb to handover Sambhaji Raje.
They carefully monitored his movements and reported them to the Mughals. This game went on for a year. In November 1688, Kavi Kalash had a severe brush with the Shirkes and was pursued. He managed to save his life by taking shelter at Vishalgad.
When Raje received this news at Raigad, he attacked the Shirkes near Sangameshwar and defeated them decisively. He then joined Kavi Kalash at Vishalgad but with very few men on his side, his position became increasingly untenable.
The Shirkes were smarting from their defeat and continued to send regular reports on the movements of Sambhaji Raje. Shaikh Nizam, a former general of Golconda had been placed at Kolhapur with strict instructions to pounce on any opportunity to capture Sambhaji Raje.
During January 1689, Sambhaji Raje and Kavi Kalash started with their men from Vishalgad to Raigad by the Amba Ghat. Shaikh Nizam received information that they would be halting at Sangameshwar and fell upon them on 1 February 1689 and caught a few of his men.
Many Marathas lost their lives in the light skirmish that followed while a handful managed to escape to Raigad. Maloji Ghorpade sacrificed his life while trying to save his master’s. Shaikh Nizam seated Raje on his own elephant and the other captives on horses and camels.
They were taken to Aurangzeb’s camp by the Amba Ghat.
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