Shock, quickly followed by a wild outburst of rejoicing was witnessed when Aurangzeb and his men received the news of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s capture at Akluj. The young king who had tried his best to follow in the footsteps of his father, the late Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had terrorized Aurangzeb and the Mughals in his short reign.
Aurangzeb attributed this capture to the revenue and stocks of supplies, food grains, arms and ammunition gathered at Golconda and Bijapur. He left for Bahadurgad immediately to inspect his latest accomplishment where the captives were under the guard of Hamid-ud-din Khan.
Under the orders of Aurangzeb, Sambhaji Raje and Kavi Kalash were made objects of public ridicule and were dressed as buffoons in long fools’ caps with bells attached to them and mounted on camels and brought to Bahadurgad amidst drum beating and trumpets pealing.
Thousands of people lined the roads to see the young Maratha king shedding tears as they were paraded slowly through the entire camp stretching several miles. They were brought into the court where Aurangzeb was already seated with his trusted generals.
On seeing the Maratha king, Aurangzeb descended from his seat and kneeled down on the carpet offering thanks for what he deemed as his crowning glory. The captives were looked over thoroughly and sent to their cells.
The following day, Aurangzeb sent his trusted personal officer Ruhulla Khan to speak to Sambhaji Raje and make him an offer of his life on the condition that he surrendered all his forts, disclosed all his hidden treasures and revealed the names of the Mughal officers who were in cahoots with him.
Sambhaji Raje had already become outraged over his public humiliation and out of bitterness, spurned the offer of life with all the vehemence he possessed. The young king remained fearless in great peril and hit back at Aurangzeb abusing him for his religious fanaticism, Islamic radicalism, obsession with jihad and Ghazwa–e–Hind and even demanded one of his daughters as the price of his friendship.
The envoy only reported to Aurangzeb the gist of the conversation omitting the abusive language. Sambhaji Raje’s behaviour was in accordance with an honourable Hindu king who was defending his people and the land of the Hindus from the atrocities of a Mlechchha.
Aurangzeb had never displayed any magnanimity throughout his tyrannical rule resorting only to complete domination using the most barbaric means and he was not about to change his ways for a young Hindu king whom he despised. In his eyes, Sambhaji Raje was an infidel who had insulted his faith and religious beliefs and looked down upon his self-proclamation of being a true propitiator of Islam. He did not have it in him to tolerate such an insult and that too, from a Maratha.
That very night, he gave the abominable order to blind Sambhaji Raje. The Mughals were only too happy to execute this order and did so in the most heinous and inhumane way. The next day, the tongue of Kavi Kalash was cut off.
Like a true king, Sambhaji Raje bore the tortures heaped upon him to subjugate him. After a fortnight’s torture and insult, both were removed from Bahadurgad and shifted to Koregaon on the river Bhima and put to a cruel and painful death on 11 March 1689.
On that fateful Amavasya in the month of Phalguna, their limbs were hacked off one by one and their flesh thrown to the dogs. Their severed heads were stuffed with straw and put on display in the prominent cities of the Deccan with great pomp and show.
Their heads were discovered later in the thorny bush at the village of Vadhu and secretly cremated at Tulapur at a spot where the two rivers of Bhima and Indrayani meet.
The courageous manner in which Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj met his end united the Marathas and set in motion, the next chapter that saw them avenge the death of their sovereign.
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