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Early Modern India

The Marathas: Chatrapati Rajaram Maharaj

by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 4 April 2010

Chatrapati Rajaram Bhosale was the youngest son of Shivaji. He was born in 1661 at Fort Raigad.

At the time at which his elder (half) brother, Sambhaji, was executed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Rajaram was under house arrest (on the orders of his brother, after his mother, Soyrabai, had attempted an unsuccessful coup attempt against Sambhaji). However, after Sambhaji's execution, the Marathas felt the need to unify in the face of Mughal dominance.

Following the coronation of her infant son, Shahuji, as the next Maratha king, Sambhaji's widow, Yesubai, ordered the immediate release of Rajaram. She also somewhat magnanimously requested that Rajaram be made regent.

In 1689, a traitor by the name of Suryaji Pisal, who was the killedar of Fort Raigad, surrendered the fort (along with Queen Yesubai and the infant King Shahu) to the Mughals. Rajaram was then at Fort Vishalgadh.

With both the queen mother and the young king being taken away as captives by the Mughals, the Maratha ministers (such as Ramchandrapant Bavdekar, Prahlad Niraji, Khando Ballal Chitnis, and Hanmante) felt the need to ensure an immediate succession in order to fill the leadership vacuum. Rajaram was soon declared the next king, in 1689.

Rajaram has been described as someone who had a congenial demeanour, someone who was flexible in his approach and accommodating towards one and all. He wasn't a warrior in the real sense like his predecessors, but he was able to evoke the loyalty of his men.

Rajaram's wives

Rajaram was married to Jankibai, daughter of Prataprao Gujar. His second wife was Tarabai, the daughter of Hambirao Mohite, and thirdly he married Rajabai, from the Ghatges family of Kagal.

Victorious battles

Rajaram's resistance to the Mughals was carried forward by his two commanders, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav. On one occasion in 1689, Santaji even conducted a daring raid into the Mughal camp at Tulapur, where Aurangzeb himself was staying. Aurangzeb managed to escape with his life.

  • September 1689: the Mughal commander, Sheikh Nizam, is routed by Santaji Dhanaji at Fort Panhala.
  • 25 May 1690: Sarzakhan, also known as Rustamkhan, is defeated and captured by Ramchandrapant, Santaji, and Dhanaji at Satara.
  • 1692: Rajgad (led by Shankar Narayan Gandekar) and Panhala (led by Parshuram Trimbak) are both recaptured by the Marathas.
  • 8 October 1692: Dharwad in Karnataka is captured by Santaji Dhanaji.
  • 14 December 1692: Santaji defeats Alimardan Khan and takes him as a captive to Jinji.
  • 9 January 1693: Santaji defeats and captures Ismailkhan Makha and Janisaar Khan for ransom.
  • 5 January 1693: the Mughal camp at Desur is looted by Santaji Dhanaji.
  • 21 November 1693: Santaji defeats Himmat Khan.
  • 1693: Sidhoji Gujar, the sarkhel (naval admiral), captures the naval forts of Suvarnadurg and Vijaydurg [1].
  • 1693: Vishalgad is retaken by Parshuram Trimbak.
  • July 1695: Santaji traps the Mughal army at Khatav.
  • 20 November 1695: Qasim Khan is killed by Santaji at Doderi.
  • 1699: Parsoji Bhosale of Nagpur, Haibatrao Nimbalkar, Nemaji Shinde, and Atole, along with Rajaram, overwhelm the Mughal force at Godavari Valley. Dhanaji Jadhav defeats a Mughal contingent at Pandharpur. Shankar Narayan clears out another contingent led by one Sarzekhan near Pune.

Fort Raigad
Fort Raigad, the birthplace of Chatrapati Rajaram Bhosale, was handed over to the Mughals by its commander, or killedar to use the Maratha designation

[1] After Sidhoji Gujar, the mantle of sarkhel was passed on to the famous Kanhoji Angre.


Later Santaji fell out with Rajaram and Dhanaji, and was murdered in July 1697 by a man named Nagoji Mane who bore a grudge against Santaji. (It is rumoured that Nagoji Mane murdered Santaji at the behest of Dhanaji Jadhav, who had fallen out with Santaji Ghorpade.)

Rajaram's ministers

Rajaram's ministers were as follows: Nilo Pant Pingale (son of Moropant Pingale), the peshwa or finance minister; Janardhan Hanmante (son of Raghunath Hanmante ex-governor Jinji), the amatya or finance minister; Ramchandra Bavdekar, the viceroy of Maharashtra; Shankar Malhar Nargundkar, the pant sachiv or accountant general; Shamji Pinde, the mantri or home minister; Shrikaracharya Kalgavkar, the panditrao or chief priest; Mahadji Gadadhar, the sumant or foreign minister; Niraji Ravji, the sarnyayadhish or chief justice; Santaji Ghorpade (later Dhanaji Jadhav), the sarsenapati or army commander-in-chief; Parsoji Bhoosale, who became governor of Berar; Nemaji Shinde, governor of Khandesh; and finally Khanderao Dabhade, governor of Nasik.

Rajaram's escapes

Aurangzeb was determined to crush Maratha resistance. To achieve this he had himself encamped in the Deccan with a huge force. Due to continuous Mughal onslaughts, Rajaram had to escape in 1689, to Jinji in Tamil Nadu (a fort that had been captured early on by Shivaji). From there he continued the Maratha struggle until the fall of Jinji in 1698. Then he managed to escape the clutches of further Mughals under the command of Zulfikar Khan.

Death

Unfortunately his life was cut short due to illness in 1700. He died at Fort Sinhagadh, near Pune.

Rajaram left behind two sons and one daughter, these being Shivaji by Tarabai, Sambhaji by Rajasabai, and the daughter, Soyrabai, by Jankibai. His youngest wife, Ambikabai, whose only daughter had died, became a sati. There was also said to have been an illegitimate son by the name of Raja Karna (from a mistress named Sagunabai).

The war continues

Rajaram's feisty wife, Tarabai, took up the reins of commanding the Maratha army and continued Maratha resistance against Aurangzeb until the release of Shahu (the son of Sambhaji and Rajaram's nephew) from Mughal prison. What followed was a brief power struggle for Maratha leadership between Tarabai and Shahu, which was eventually won by Shahu.

Shahu was declared king with Satara as his capital.

 

Main Sources

Bendre, W S and Patil, Vishwas - Works on Sambhaji

Duff, James Grant - History of the Mahrattas, Associated Publishing House, New Delhi, 1971

Kincaid G A - A History of the Maratha People, Oxford University Press, London, 1918

Pagadi, Setu Madhavrao - Chatrapati Shivaji, Continental Prakashan

Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History, Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000

Sardesai, G S - Riyasat

Sarkar, Sir Jadunath - Shivaji and his Times, Orient Longman

Spear, Thomas George Percival - Penguin History of India Volume II, Penguin, London, 1999

Takakhav, N S - The Life of Shivaji Maharaj, adapted and translated from the work in Marathi by K A Keluskar, Manoranjan Press, Bombay.

Vaidya, C V - Shivaji, the founder of Maratha Swaraj, S R Sardesai, Navin Samartha Vidyalaya's Samartha Bharat Press, Poona.

Plus P Bhosale, J Pawar and M Tendulkar.

 

 

     
Text copyright © Abhijit Rajadhyaksha. An original feature for the History Files.