Sambhaji Maharaj: The Maratha King who kept the dream of Swaraj Alive after Shivaji Maharaj

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Background: Early Life of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj

After the demise of the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj his son, Sambhaji ascended the throne of the Maratha Empire at the age of only 25. However, the road toward the throne of the Maratha Empire was not easy for young Chhatrapati.

Maratha King Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj

From the beginning of Sambhaji’s reign, the Maratha Empire was surrounded by many enemies. Whether the Mughals, Sultanates, or Portuguese.

Throughout his life, Sambhaji had learned 13 languages including Sanskrit and even Portuguese. But after gaining significant strength at Panhala Sambhaji ascended the throne of the Empire in July 1680.

Rise of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj

During his initial years as a king, Mughals concentrated all their energy on the Deccan region. But the military leadership of the young king successfully checked the invasion of the mighty Mughals and neighbouring sultanates.

He is famous for his surprise raids which created terror among his rival empires. Furthermore, when the Rajputs of Marwar revolted against the bigoted policies of Aurangzeb, Sambhaji audaciously gave shelter to another charismatic Hindu Rajput Warrior named Durgadas Rathore, about whom you can read HERE in detail.

Later Prince Akbar was also welcomed by the Maratha king at the time when the former decided to the coup against his father i.e. Alamgir Aurangzeb.

Mughal King Aurangzeb

Note: In 1684 Sambhaji signed a treaty with the English to modernize the Maratha military system and weaponry.

Due to the presence of prince Akbar, Aurangzeb himself went to Deccan to finish the Maratha threat once and for all.

Military Campaigns of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj

Against Siddis of Janjira

At the same time, Sambhaji decided to expand his dominance and his first target was the arch-rivals the Siddis of Janjira. It is believed that Sambhaji with 20,000 Maratha troops and cannon guns disintegrated the fortification of the Siddis.

Note: They bombarded the island for 30 days till its final collapse.

Some other battles fought between these two were

  • Sambhaji Vs Siddi of Janjira Jaitapur (1687)
  • Seige of Janjira fort
  • Maratha vs Siddi Underi fort 1681

Maratha Mughal Battle during Sambhaji’s reign

During the extraordinary reign of this Maratha leader tons of battles were fought against the Mughals. Some of the battles are

  • Muzzafar Khan vs Marathas 1681
  • Shahbuddin Khan vs Rupaji Bhosale 1682
  • Maratha vs Mughal Aundha June 1682 and 1688
  • Mughals vs Marathas Kanchangad 1683
  • Maratha vs Mughals Jalna 1683
  • Chhatrapati Sambhaji vs Raud Andaz khan Sinhagad Region 1685
  • Chhatrapati Sambhaji, Akbar vs Mughals Konkan 1683

One of the strongest trading centers of the Mughals was also attacked by the valiant Sambhaji. The city of Burhanpur was brutally attacked by the valiant king. 

One thing that should be noted is that Sambhji relentlessly fought key battles against the Mughals and the above list only covers some of them.

Against Portuguese

Next, the Maratha King went against the Portuguese. The immediate cause for this attack was that the Portuguese were indirectly helping the Mughals against the Marathas.

The Marathas attacked the villages of Tarapur, Bassein, etc. Next Sambhaji decided to shake the center of the Portuguese i.e. Goa. With a cavalry of 7,000 and 15,000 infantry, they captured the island of Santo Estevao and captured Salsette. But the Goa campaign also resulted in heavy losses in the Maratha camp.  

  • Maratha vs Portuguese Tarapur fort 1683
  • Maratha vs Portuguese Kamandurg 1685
  • Chhatrapati Vs Portuguese Daman (1683), Revdanda(1682), Defence of the fort of Phonda(1683)

It is believed that in the span of 9 years Sambhaji Maharaj had fought 120 battles and didn’t lose a single battle. During the reign of Sambhaji, the Marathas had fought about 70 battles with the Mughals.

Last Days and Torture of Mughals

Chhatrapati Sambhji successfully resisted the Mughal onslaughts for nine years. The credit for this heroic resistance should be given to two gallant warriors Hambirrao Mohite and yesaji Kank who ably guided the Maratha Prince.

But tragedy struck when Hambirrao got killed in the battle of Wai in 1687. Though the Maratha won the battle the Martyrdom of their commander-in-chief deeply saddened the Marathas.

Due to this various conspiracies were started against the young Chhatrapati. Soon some Maratha nobles or probably troops began to desert Sambhaji.

Due to this on 1 February 1689, the Mughals captured him at Sangmeshar. From here he was taken to Bahadurgad in Ahmednagar. This was a big success for the Mughals as they had captured the Lion who from the last decade stopped their advance finally captured.

Aurangzeb sent Rahullah khan to learn from Sambhaji where he kept his treasures hidden and which of the imperial officers used to correspond with him.

The Mughals demanded three things from Sambhaji. First was that the young prince should surrender all the forts to the Mughals. The second was to accept Aurangzeb as his sovereign ruler. The third was that the Maratha Prince should accept Islam.

The audacious Chhatrapati refused to accept any of the Mughal demands and chose martyrdom. To demoralize the Marathas the Mughals crossed all limits of barbarism. They tortured Chhatrapati Sambhaji to his death.

Note: Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash both were tortured.

They removed his eyes, cut his tongue, and even chained him without food or water for a whole week. But the gallant Maratha leader didn’t accept any of the Mughal demands.

For his great service to Hindavi swaraj & his refusal to accept Islam and rather chose death, Sambhaji Maharaj is remembered as Dharamveer

Historians like Y.G.Bhave had mentioned that the capture and death (through barbaric tortures) of the great Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj had set the Maratha heart on fire and infused new determination in them to overcome the Mughals.

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