Home Variety Culture and History Once upon a time, there was the great Maratha Sambhaji, who continued to haunt Aurangzeb even in death

Once upon a time, there was the great Maratha Sambhaji, who continued to haunt Aurangzeb even in death

There has been a certain code of conduct that honourable men have tried to adhere to during war across the ages. These codes are difficult to adhere, especially since you have to apply them while dealing with a sworn enemy. But then, having the resolve to adhere to them is what honour is all about.

The previous chapter in our story ended with the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. His death was seen by the Mughals as a great opportunity to demolish the Maratha confederacy for good. And why wouldn’t they like their chances? The Mughals had an army which numbered at half a million, more than three times the Maratha numbers. They had more artillery, more elephants, more horses and more importantly, the royal treasury possessed wealth far more than what the Marathas could cope with. To turn the tides further in their favour, their enemy no. 1 was gone, a man who had thwarted them at every step in his life.

If the rise of a small-time Mansabdar’s son under the all-pervasive Mughal empire to the stature of a King in charge of Hindu Rashtra appears extraordinary to you, what happened after the death of Shivaji will leave you further disbelief. Through meticulous planning and sheer talent, Shivaji had firmly established the Marathas as a strong power in the Deccan. He constructed a series of forts for defence which would prove extremely crucial in the wars that were to come.

After a brief spell of a power struggle in the royal family, Sambhaji assumed the throne as Shivaji’s successor. For all his ability, Sambhaji did have his problems with his father leading Shivaji to confine him to Panhala twice. However, he did demonstrate that he had inherited the same ingenuity that his father possessed in such large measure when he escaped from his first confinement and then returned after a year, unrepentant. And again, he was promptly confined to Panhala. Nevertheless, he was Shivaji’s eldest and the rightful heir to the throne and as it turned out, the crown did kill the boy and a man was born.

- Advertisement - - Article resumes -

1681 was the year when war finally began between the Marathas and the Mughals in its true sense. It became obvious that the vast lands under his control was not enough to satiate Aurangzeb’s lust for power and the ambition to unfurl the Kesari Dhwaj across the lengths and breadths of Bharata meant that the Marathas could not and would not back away from the war.

That year, Sambhaji attacked Janjira but without much success. During the same time, a Mughal general, Hussein Ali Khan, attacked Northern Konkan. However, Sambhaji managed to push him back to Ahmednagar. It was now 1682 and monsoons had begun forcing both sides to halt their military operations. However, Aurangzeb was conspiring to secure a deal with the Portuguese which would have allowed the Mughals a supply route to Deccan via the sea. Of course, the Marathas could not let that happen and thus attacked the Portuguese and penetrated deep into their territory. However, the Portuguese were able to secure their headquarters.

The Marathas, for an overwhelming majority of the War, were terribly ill-equipped when compared to the Mughals. Therefore, they could not afford a head-on battle. They would be obliterated. And, as the situation with the Portuguese demonstrated, they were surrounded by enemies from all sides.

What they did have working in their favour was their superior knowledge of the territory they ruled and were acutely aware of the unique features of the terrain which they could exploit to maximize their gains. Thus, it turned out to be a war of attrition and under those circumstances, a war of attrition was the only one they could win.

Aurangzeb had a good beginning to the war. Using a pincer move, he attempted to surround the Marathas from the North and the South. Shah Alam, Aurangzeb’s son who commanded one of the two divisions entered Goa and marched North via Konkan. However, soon enough, the Marathas increased their pace of attacks on him, attacking his supply chains reducing his forces to starvation.

Ultimately, he had to be rescued and brought back to Ahmednagar. Thus, Aurangzeb’s first pincer move had failed miserably. In 1684, Mughal invasions suffered a similar fate. Instead of clashing with the Mughals directly, the Marathas resorted to harassing their forces with sharp swift attacks that rendered them incapable of carrying forward their march.

Thus, a year later, Aurangzeb was forced to rethink his strategy. Instead of further attacks on the Marathas directly, he attempted to consolidate Mughal power in the south by conquering Bijapur and Golkonda. The rulers of those empires were Shia Muslims and being the fanatic Sunni that he was, Aurangzeb did not hesitate to sever his treaty with them. However, the Marathas saw an opportunity to take the offensive to Mughals in the North Coast while the latter was busy in their expeditions in the South.

They suffered minimum damage but inflicted maximum destruction. It became the dominant theme in the battles to come. The Marathas were quick and sharp in their attacks while the Mughals, vast as their resources were, were often caught unaware until the very last minute. In many ways, the Marathas had successfully implemented a very cunning strategy, using the resources of the Mughals themselves to wage war against them.

Bijapur and Golkonda, however, soon fell to Mughals and their rulers were captured and imprisoned. With the Shia empires out of his way, he could again shift his focus to his primary target: The Marathas.

The next couple of years Aurangzeb was unable to make any major dent on his Hindu foes as the latter continued to strengthen their position. However, in 1687, at the battle of Wai, the Mughals succeeded in inflicting a severe blow to Maratha aspirations. The key Maratha commander Hambirao Mohite fell in battle and troops began deserting the Maratha forces. The real tragedy, nevertheless, befell the Hindu empire in 1688 when Sambhaji was captured by Mughal forces at Sanghameshwar. The events that followed would perhaps definitively seal the fate of the Mughal empire in India and of Aurangzeb himself.

There has been a certain code of conduct that honourable men have tried to adhere to during war across the ages. These codes are difficult to adhere, especially since you have to apply them while dealing with a sworn enemy. But then, having the resolve to adhere to them is what honour is all about. And it’s also a fact that invariably, it has been monotheistic rulers who have demonstrated time and again that their religious zeal often prevents them from honouring such dignified traditions. Aurangzeb was no different. His treatment of Sambhaji would resonate across the ages and would serve as a testament to the grave peril our forefathers suffered under and the great threats they braved in their battle to restore Dharma in the ancient land of our Gods.

Following Sambhaji’s capture, which was felicitated by treacherous men in his own ranks, he was presented in front of Aurangzeb who presented him with the option to convert. Accounts differ as to what exactly transpired but it’s well accepted that Sambhaji refused to convert which led to the brutal treatment he was subjected to.

In addition to conversion, it is said, he was asked to surrender all his forts and treasures as well.

Following such failed attempts, Aurangzeb had him paraded on a donkey wearing the clothes of a clown. His eyes were plucked and so was his tongue. The nails on his fingers were removed and so was his skin. Sambhaji was made to rot in prison under such circumstances and his torture was prolonged over a fortnight. He was finally killed in March 1689 by having his body torn apart with metal “tiger claws” and beheading him with an axe at Tulapur.

In hindsight, Aurangzeb had sealed his fate with this act of exceptional barbarity. There were many, previously, who were averse to siding with the Marathas openly due to their personal dislike for Sambhaji. However, the horrid cruelty that the Maratha King was subjected to inspired everyone to rally underneath the banner of the Kesari and swear a sacred vow that they would not rest until the last vestiges of the Mughal empire were uprooted from this sacred land of ours.

Those not of a religious disposition would not lay many stores in sacred vows but for those who are sufficiently aware know that the history of humanity has been defined through the ages by sacred vows sworn by great men to vanquish their foes. Thus began a new chapter in the war between the Marathas and Mughals. And this time at the helm was Rajaram who assumed the throne that his half-brother had vacated.

(This is the second article in a series of three. You can read Part 1 and Part 3 here)

Share This Post With Your Friends & Fans:
We need your support to survive in the media industry. Please consider paying us for the content we produce:

To know more about these payments, please click here.

Election 2019 Live Updates

Track all the updates on one page as the results and trends trickle in

Shehla Rashid remembers 2014, says she had wanted Kejriwal as PM

Shehla Rashid loses it early on counting day, says “Felt like a Muslim when ‘mass murderer’ won in 2014”

As early trends show an NDA victory, Shehla Rashid calls him a mass murderer, says she had wanted Arvind Kejriwal as PM in 2014 and she had felt like a 'Muslim'.

Live updates: According to EC, BJP leading in 299 seats on their own, clocks victory in 2, taking their tally possibly to 301

Latest results, trends, updates, and news about 2019 Lok Sabha election counting. Find out who will form the next government.
NYT peddles Modi 2.0 as victory of India's most divisive leader

Dear New York Times, India has chosen Modi 2.0, deal with it

When India gives a thumping, unprecedented, overwhelming victory to a man who has made every single Indian feel proud of their nation and heritage, the NYT's heartburn is expected. 
Rana Ayyub had a meltdown seeing BJP securing an unprecedented victory

Unprecedented Modi victory triggers meltdown for controversial journalist Rana Ayyub

Prospect of a stunning Narendra Modi victory in 2019 Lok Sabha election triggered a mental collapse for controversial journalist Rana Ayyub

IIT graduate and an IAS officer explains in detail why EVMs can’t be ‘hacked’ or ‘tampered’ with

Bhavesh Mishra, IAS 2015 batch, B.Tech IIT Delhi, on Quora gave a detailed explanation regarding why EVMs cannot be 'hacked' or 'tampered' with.
Reactions of Liberals after NDA appearing to secure majority

‘Liberals’ have a meltdown as result day trends indicate a massive victory for PM Modi

Trends indicate that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will once again take an oath for the post of Prime Minister. This has not gone down well with the Liberal intelligentsia and they are losing their cool over this prospect

Kanhaiya Kumar’s family uses LPG stove to prepare for his victory, contrary to his claims just a few weeks ago

Kanhaiya had claimed that his mother cooked on a Chullah and not on an LPG stove as it was not viable because of being too expensive and also exhausted within 3-4 days.

Barkha Dutt expresses deep anguish over the fact that the mainstream media can no longer influence elections

Barkha said it doesn't make her happy that mainstream media cannot influence the voters to vote in a particular way anymore.

AAP’s Sanjay Singh wants Arnab Goswami to either go to a mental asylum, be jailed or drowned

AAP's Sanjay Singh was reacting to a clip by Arnab where he was mocking the Opposition for their EVM drama
PM Modi slammed Mayawati for not defending the people of UP and Bihar against TMC government's accusations

23rd May 2019: When the future of Bengal politics was changed forever

Whatever the ultimate result may be, one thing is for certain, going into the 2021 Assembly Elections in the state, for the first time in history, West Bengal will have a party of saffron hue as the primary opposition.
Subscribe to Day's Top Stories

Latest articles

Connect with us

Share This Post With Your Friends & Fans: