Upon hearing Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj’s sudden demise, Ramchandra Pant Amatya headed to Sinhagad and conveyed the news to the various officers and generals requesting them to continue their good work and perform their respective duties as before. He appealed to them to exert themselves with more fervour and reminded them of their ambitious goal of Hindavi Swarajya.
He invited the allies of the Marathas and eminent chieftains, envoys and ministers to attend the funeral rites of the late king and held lengthy deliberations with them on their future plans. In accordance with Maharani Tarabai’s wishes, young Shivaji was crowned Chhatrapati at Vishalgad although the rightful succession of young Shahu was not excluded. Shivaji was just about 4 years old when he was crowned king.
Unfortunately, Maharaja Shivaji II did not possess the competency to handle the complex matters of the state and Maharani Tarabai stepped in to protect the Marathas. Maharani was an inspiration to one and all and displayed extraordinary courage, spirit, enthusiasm, vigour and devotion in her battles against Aurangzeb.
She possessed the rare ability to organize the various factions to work harmoniously to combat the sinister movements of the Mughals. On his part, Aurangzeb was bitterly disappointed that Rajaram Raje had managed to escape from Jinji and saw his dream of Ghazwa e hind rapidly disappearing.
He felt that his generals were not earnest in their efforts and incapable of executing the tasks handed to them. He therefore, took it upon himself to lead the forces in the difficult terrain of the Western Ghats.
The Mughal officers and soldiers had become battle weary and fed up of the hardships of camp life. But Aurangzeb famous for his savagery, insensitivity, religious intolerance and cruelty turned a deaf ear to their cries and started making elaborate plans to besiege the inaccessible forts of Panhala and Vishalgad that had been chosen as the residences for the newly crowned king.
After a titanic battle of wits that raged on for 6 years (1699 – 1704), Aurangzeb managed to capture only four major forts and a few minor ones of no strategic importance. These were Satara on 21 April 1700, Panhala on 28 May 1701, Vishalgad on 4 June 1702 and Sinhagad on 8 April 1703.
Interestingly, these were secured only after a hefty payment was made and were quickly recaptured by the Marathas after a year or so, as soon as Aurangzeb proceeded to the south. The conquered forts were given new names in the Muhammadan style – Satara was renamed Azam-tara, Parali became Noor-e-Satara, Panhala was called Nabishahdurg and so on.
However, the conquest of Sinhagad in 1703 pleased Aurangzeb to a great deal and he coined it Bakshinda Baksh.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Information about Maharani Tarabai is taken from archives