Shahu Raje lost no time in marching towards Satara after defeating the mighty army of Maharani Tarabai, halting for a short period at Shirwal. The faithful follower of Maharani, Sachiv Shankaraji Narayan had his official residence in Fort Rohida near Bhor. Shahu Raje asked him to either surrender or face the consequences of refusal.
This transfer of power confounded the Sachiv and he decided to end his life by swallowing poison on 27 October 1707. As he had failed to reply to the peremptory summons, Shahu Raje personally led his men to meet the Sachiv.
But to his dismay, while ascending the Fort, the Sachiv’s body was being brought down for cremation on the banks of the stream below. Shahu Raje was mortified and immediately went up to the Sachiv’s palace to console his family. The wife of the late Sachiv, Yesubai was extremely shrewd and sensing an opportunity to win over the young king, comforted him and managed to get him to confer the hereditary office of Sachiv upon her young son, who was then about a year old.
The tact and judgement displayed by Shahu Raje gained the affection of a sizeable section of the Marathas of the Mawal region. Shahu Raje then went on to secure the forts of Chandan and Vandan on the way to Satara before making his appearance in Satara in November.
Maharani Tarabai and her son had already deserted the capital and taken refuge in the fort of Panhala leaving the defence of Satara to the Pratinidhi, who refused to submit to Shahu Raje. The Pratinidhi openly defied Shahu to an open fight.
The commander of the garrison, Shekh Mira, a Muslim officer who had already received assurances of safety and monetary gain from Shahu Raje confined the Pratinidhi and opened the gates for the rightful heir of the Marathas.
Shahu Raje entered the capital on a Saturday in December, seven months after leaving the Mughal camp. The entire nation rejoiced the return of the young king who had been through unimaginable trials and tribulations. Shahu was crowned Chhatrapati on 12 January 1708 with all the customary rituals and celebrations.
Shahu Raje made fresh ministerial appointments on the momentous occasion, thus, ushering in a new era of success and moderation, with which his name came to be associated during succeeding generations. His piety and simplicity have been much appreciated by one and all.
His first act as Chhatrapati was to appease his aunt Maharani Tarabai and put an end to the unfortunate domestic strife by offering generous terms. But Maharani did not accept this and prepared to carry on battling him using all the tricks of diplomacy she could conjure up.
Finally, Shahu Raje marched towards Panhala in March 1708. Upon hearing his approach, Maharani Tarabai fled to Rangana Fort. She was now left only with Ram Chandrapant who fought her cause in spite of dwindling resources. Maharani Tarabai then moved to Malwan on the west coast. The fast-approaching monsoon compelled Shahu Raje to give up the pursuit and return to Panhala where he spent the rainy season.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives