On the history trail: Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj’s death

Just as the Marathas looked poised to reclaim their lost lands and begin the final battle for Akhanda Bharat, tragedy struck. Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj who had fought tirelessly against the Mughals found the strain of camp life unbearable and his health began to fail rapidly.

 

He became so ill during the march that he had to be carried in a palanquin when Satara was besieged by Aurangzeb. With utmost difficulty, Rajaram Raje made his way to Sinhagad only to breathe his last immediately after his arrival on 2 March 1700.

 

Rajaram Raje was only 30 years old and his untimely demise following the tragic death of Santaji Ghorpade was a serious blow to the rising fortunes of the Marathas. Maharani Ambika Bai, one of his wives burnt herself on hearing of her husband’s death. Maharani Tara Bai and Maharani Rajas Bai, though engulfed in grief stood resolutely with the Marathas and played important roles in the years to come.

 

Rajaram Raje was only 10 years old when he was chosen to succeed his late father Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. He had not received any formal education during his detention in Raigad and did not have any allies or friends.

 

He ascended the throne after his late brother Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj met a horrific end. He was blessed to have wise counsel in Ramchandra Pant Amatya and Pralhad Niraji. Mild in disposition, Rajaram Raje made best use of his diplomatic nature to resolve issues between the Marathas and Mughals to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

 

Due to the prevailing circumstances, Rajaram Raje was forced to deviate from the late Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s policy of not conferring lands on military commanders for their services. As it became imperative to keep the flock together against the aggressive poaching tactics of Aurangzeb, Rajaram Raje was forced to counter Aurangzeb’s gifts of lands to the Marathas by offering the same inducements.

 

These inducements were necessary to raise the required armies for war. The Maratha leaders and soldiers were asked to devastate Mughal territories and conquer lands on the promise that these would become their own hereditary possessions when the Maratha Raj was fully established. The battle of wits and inducements began between Rajaram Raje and Aurangzeb.

 

Maratha leaders borrowed funds from bankers on the mortgage of their prospective conquests and personally monitored the activities in the lands they decided to ravage. This system, a serious departure from the late Shivaji’s Raje policy began as a countermeasure to squash Aurangzeb’s evil machinations but laid the foundations of the future.

 

The system of jagirs had its fair share of good and evil with the former helping the Marathas expand rapidly while the latter led to its eventual ruin and capitulation.

 

Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

 

* Information about Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj is taken from archives

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