With mounting pressure and constant assaults on the Marathas by the Mughals, Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj revisited his strategy of staying put in Panhala. The situation was getting increasingly dangerous for him and his men and it was decided that they would make their way to the safe haven of Jinji in the Deccan.
Jinji or Gingee Fort had been captured along with the Vellore Fort by the late Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1677 – 1678. Shivaji Raje had used the natural defences of this fort to form the next line of the Maratha dominance in the South.
Shivaji Raje known for his visionary thinking pulled down its old fortifications and rebuilt the whole for permanent defence. He had also introduced the highly successive Maratha system of revenue and accounts. Maharaj had consequently made Gingee the principal seat of power of his Karnatak territory and had constructed official and residential buildings for civil and military officers.
The strong Maratha presence in the Deccan had been maintained despite the Mughal aggression. Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj faced many a peril and hair-raising incidents and narrow escapes from the Mughals who were hot on his trail.
Rajaram Raje left Panhala at the end of September 1689 and reached Vellore in a month just managing to slip past the Mughal spies using various stratagems. He arrived at Gingee on 15 November 1689.
He took up residence in this fort and awaited the arrival of his trusted ministers and commanders. Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav were guarding the front and rear of the Maratha convoy.
In fact, it can be categorically stated that Rajaram Raje owed his life to these two valiant warriors and the men serving under them. Gingee soon began buzzing with activity and became the new seat of power. The whole court was assembled and formed with the traditional council of eight ministers with the ninth titled Pratinidhi, a position specially carved out for Prahlad Niraji who was recognized for his extraordinary services to the Motherland.
Tanjore was already a reputed Maratha capital and ruled by Shahji, the eldest son of Ekoji and cousin of Rajaram Raje. The chiefs of the Karnatak applauded the leadership of Rajaram Raje hailing him as an uncommon hero and unanimously decided to support his cause as their own. They brought him wealth, supplies, provisions and actuated with a spirit of vengeance against the Muslim invaders.
They wished to be of service to the Maratha king and worked towards the common goal of Hindavi Swarajya. Interestingly, a few Muslim chiefs also wanted to ally with the Marathas as they felt they were being persecuted by the Sunni radicals. This proved to be advantageous for the Marathas to exercise their influence over the Karnatak.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)
* Information about Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj is taken from archives