On the history trail: Sambhaji of Kolhapur subdued

The evil machinations of Sambhaji of Kolhapur were revealed for one and all to see when Udaji Chavan sent agents to murder Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj when he was out hunting. Shahu Raje immediately set aside his friendly disposition towards his cousin and instructed Trimbakrao Dabhade to lead the army to march into Sambhaji’s territory.


Shahu Raje himself encamped on the Warna River while waiting for news from his commanders. In March 1730, the Pratinidhi launched a brutal attack on Sambhaji’s camp on the other side of the Warna. Both Sambhaji and Udaji Chavan were completely routed and managed to escape to Panhala.


Maharani Tarabai, Rani Jijabai and the whole staff were captured and brought before Shahu Raje. Shahu Raje possessed all the nobility and valour of the late Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and accorded the ladies with the respect due to them. He conversed with them and ensured that all their needs were taken care of.


They were sent back to Panhala with utmost care. Maharani Tarabai had been confined by Sambhaji and chose to live with Shahu Raje at Satara having her manager Yado Gopal Khatavkar to look after her comfort. She was to have similar restraints upon her liberty though.


Both Shahu Raje and Maharani Tarabai returned from the camp to Satara before the monsoon and gave up the plan of pursuing Sambhaji in favour of conciliation. It was evident that Sambhaji’s position had been rendered weak with his latest misadventure.


Bhagwantrao Amatya writes about the state of Sambhaji, “The affairs of Sambhaji sank lower day by day. Justice, character, wisdom and similar virtues became conspicuous by their absence in his administration. There exists not a single person here who can be called a gentleman.”


Sambhaji was strongly advised by both Rani Jijabai and his well – wishers to make peace with Shahu Raje and arrive at a deal that would be advantageous to him rather than continue in this hopeless path of maintaining hostilities. It was also clear that his men would have no chance of success against the army of Shahu Raje as he neither possessed the resources nor the loyalty of his men.


Shahu Raje had already despatched forces to capture Vishalgad and other strategic posts belonging to Sambhaji. Udaji Chavan on hearing the multiple forces converging on him abandoned Sambhaji and sought to serve Shahu Raje.


Maharani Tarabai’s presence in Satara was instrumental in opening a channel for communication. It was suggested that Sambhaji should make a visit to Satara as he and Shahu Raje had never met.


Shahu Raje wrote to his cousin personally inviting him and assuring him of a warm reception. In October 1730, Sambhaji replied thus, “Your very warm greetings and your sincere and hearty wishes for a cordial and lasting understanding between us, conveyed by the revered Matushrisaheb (Tarabai) have reached me and gladdened my heart immensely. Coming from an elderly person of your eminence, the message is most welcome and in the fitness of things. l reciprocate your sentiments with equal warmth. What can redound to our credit more than that our differences should be finally settled and that perfect amity should forever exist between us? Her Highness had long since advised me to send Babaji Prabhu to discuss and arrange an agreed course. But ill-health prevented him from undertaking the journey earlier. He is now better and takes this letter from me as a token of my sincere wish for a happy termination of the troubles between us.”


Bhagwantrao Amatya also wrote to Shahu Raje, “As the Court of Kolhapur has become a refuge of mean and ill – mannered beings, I would feel grateful if your Highness would allow me to serve at your feet.”


The agent sent by Sambhaji Babaji Nilakanth Prabhu Parasnis was known to be an extremely astute and resourceful man. He strived hard to bring about lasting peace between the royal cousins. In fact, Shahu Raje was so impressed with him that he readily agreed to all his requests and sent him back with abundant gifts and a flattering letter that even managed to evoke some pleasant feelings in Sambhaji’s heart.


Sambhaji wrote a short reply to Shahu Raje, “Your divine grace and extraordinary affection have touched me to the quick. You are a father to me. It behoves you in that capacity to take care of me. This conduct will redound to your lasting credit.”


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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