The eldest son of the famed Maratha emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Sambhaji was the alternate sovereign of the area after his father’s death. (Wikimedia Commons) In the afterlife of 1687, the Mughal and Maratha forces faced each other in the thick timbers near Wai and Mahabaleshwar in Deccan India. The Battle of Wai, as it came to be called, was won by the Marathas, but during its course, the dynasty lost out on one of its most significant leaders — Sambhaji Maharaj. The eldest son of the famed Maratha emperor, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Sambhaji was the alternate sovereign of the area after his father’s death. In his short rule gauging nine times, Sambhaji gained recognition for his valour and nationalism. He continues to be celebrated, particularly in Maharashtra, as the sovereign who chose death over conversion.
A dramatic accession
Chhatrapati Shivaji passed away in April 1680, and for a good nine months Sambhaji was entangled in a bitter accession struggle with his half- family Rajaram, who was 10 at the time. Soyrabai, Sambhaji’s mammy and the mama of Rajaram, colluded against to keep him down from the throne. Eventually however, Sambhaji gained the support of Maratha commander-in- chief Hambirrao Mohite and in January 1681 was officially culminated sovereign of the Marathas. Rajaram, Soyrabai, and their associates were put under house arrest.
Face-off with the Mughals
The Mughals were the steadfast adversaries of the Marathas during Sambhaji’s reign. One of the first major conduct taken by Sambhaji against the Mughals, was when his forces attacked Burhanpur, a fat Mughal megacity in Madhya Pradesh. Sambhaji had planned the attack, being apprehensive of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s plans to expand into the Deccan. Burhanpur was an important trading center and Sambhaji’s attack came as a huge blow for the Mughals.
For the coming six times, between 1682 and 1688, the Marathas under Sambhaji and the Mughals under Aurangzeb were engaged in multiple battles in the Deccan. The Mughals wanted to acquire possession over the castles held by Marathas in Nashik and Baglana regions. In 1682, they attacked the Ramsej stronghold near Nashik. Still, despite months of failed attempts, the Mughals failed to take control of the stronghold and were forced to retreat. The Ramsej stronghold had come an important morale supporter for the Marathas.
Battles with other important 17th century dynasties in India
The Marathas under Sambhaji also came into conflict with the Abyssinian Siddi autocrats who wished to acquire control over the Konkan seacoast. Sambhaji fought them, confining their presence to the islet of Janjira, located in the present- day Raigad quarter of Maharashtra. The Siddis were also stopped from intruding into Maratha regions.
Sambhaji also led a crusade on the Portuguese colony of Goa in late 1683. The Portuguese pioneers were completely weakened by the Maratha raid, and sought help from the Mughals. Sambhaji was forced to retreat from Goa in January 1684, with the appearance of the Mughal army and cortege.
In 1681, Sambhaji also tried to take control over Mysore, also ruled by the Wodeyar king Chikkadevaraja. Still, he was driven back from there.
A gallant rendition to death
The Maratha commander-in- chief, and one of the most important sympathizers of Sambhaji, Hambirrao Mohite, was killed in the Battle of Wai in 1687. While the Marathas were victorious in the battle, the prosecution of Mohite, came a blow to them, and a large number of Maratha colors began deserting Sambhaji. In January 1689, the ultimate was captured by Mughal forces.
There are variegated literal accounts of what happed later, but nearly all of them point to the fact that Sambhaji was asked to surrender all his castles and treasures, and eventually to convert to Islam. Sambhaji refused to do so, and as result was put to a torturous death.
The act of guarding his faith over life earned him important praise, particularly among Hindu nationalist chroniclers. HistorianY.G. Bhave, in his book,‘From the Death of Shivaji to the Death of Aurangzeb The Critical Times,’writes about Sambhaji “ His leadership of nine times had been relatively inspiring for the Maratha spirit of resistance. But his death by torture at the hands of the fanatic Moghul emperor set the Maratha hearts on fire.” The prisoner and death of Sambhaji is believed to have invested new determination among the Marathas to overcome the Mughal power.