Tarabai Bhosale (“Queen of the Marathas” title given by the Portuguese) who at the age of only 25 ,successfully led several wars against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (Alamgir) and protected the Maratha Empire from disintegration.
Tarabai Bhosale-Early years and rise to Queen Reagent of the Maratha Empire
Tarabai Bhosale was the daughter of Maratha general Hambirao Mohite. She was married to Rajaram Bhosale (younger son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) when she was only 8 years old.
After the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1680, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb relentlessly attacked the Maratha Empire. In 1680 Aurangzeb himself arrived in Deccan to conquer his arch enemies.
However, after the death of Shivaji Maharaj his elder son Sambhaji gave stiff resistance to the Mughal forces for almost ten years. But the he was eventually captured in 1689 and mercilessly tortured to death. After his death, the Marathas under Rajaram Bhosale (crowned at Raigad) continued the war through Guerilla tactics.
But unfortunately Rajaram Bhosale died in 1700 due to a chest disease. The Mughals were delighted after hearing this news.
There were no legal heirs to the throne, due to this Tarabai Bhosale proclaimed her son Shivaji 2 (age 4 years) as the heir to the throne and successor of Rajaram and declare herself as Queen Regent and took charge of the administrative, judiciary and military powers of the empire.
Continuous Battles with Aurangzeb and Expansion of the Maratha Empire under Tarabai bhosale
At the age of only 25, Tarabai Bhosale decided to collide against the wrath of Aurangzeb even when he had captured more than half of the Indian sub-continent.
She started raiding the Mughal territories beyond Deccan and was able to establish a secure base for collecting revenue there. She moved from fort to fort to mobilize resources and men for war.
Khafi Khan (court historian of Aurangzeb) wrote about the continuous raids waged by Tarabai Bhosale.
“They penetrated deep into the old territories of the Imperial throne, plundering and destroying wherever they went.Khafi khan (court historian of Aurangzeb)
The commanders of Tarabai cast the anchor of permanence wherever they penetrated and having appointed Kamaish dars (Revenue collectors), they passed the years and months to their satisfaction, with their wives and children, tents and elephants.
Their daring went beyond all bounds. They divided all the disticts (Parganas) amongst themselves and following the practice of the imperial rule they appointed their Subadars (Provincial governors), Kamaish dars (revenue collectors), and Rahdars (toll collectors).”
He also states that
“ She (Tarabai Bhosale) won the hearts of her officers and or all the struggles and schemes and seizes of Aurangzeb up to the end of his reign the power of the Marathas increased day by day.”Quoted from saffron swords
The war between the Marathas and the Mughals continued for 27 years. Later it was known as the Maratha war of Independence.
Due to continuous attacks of Tarabai Bhosale, Aurangzeb shifted his full focus on the south India and towards the hills of Western Ghats. Due to this the area of Gujrat and Malwa became vulnerable. Tarabai took this advantage and invaded the region of Malwa (region of Ujjain, Burhanpur,Munda, Sironji) and Surat even when the Mughals were able to capture their important forts.
Unlike most leaders, Tarabai Bhosale , being a skilled warrior and strategist ,herself accompanied the soldiers on the missions. Some of her major military campaigns were:
- In 1700, she sent a forces of 50000 soldiers in the region of west Chanderi (present day Madhya Pradesh)
- In 1702 she invaded Khadesh (region of northwestern Maharashtra), Berar and Telangana.
- In 1703, she attacked urban centers in Khandesh.
- In 1705, the Marathas under Tarabai again attacked Gujarat and Khandesh.
Later years and Legacy of Tarabai Bhosale
After the death of Aurangzeb (at age of 82) in 1707, the war of the Marathas against the Mughal ended and after some time to develop a civil war in between the Marathas the Mughals released Sambhaji Maharaj’s son Shahuji.
The Maratha leaders supported Shahuji and he became their leader in 1708 after defeating Tarabia Bhosale at the battle of Khed.
Later Tarabai and her son Shivaji 2 were imprisoned till 1730. But She died at the age of 86 in 1761 after third battle of Panipat. But even then her importance was remembered and soon she was given her sovereign independence and remained a dignified elderly woman that ran numerous affairs and took important decisions for the Maratha Kingdom.
It is because of Tarabai Bhosale’s courageous efforts that saved the Maratha Empire from the wrath of Aurangzeb and the Marathas dream of Swaraj survived only because her. Had she not took Charge of the Maratha Empire at the time she did, the Maratha empire might not have survived to reach the glory it did.
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Also read: 300 marathas vs 10,000 enemies: Bajiprabhu Deshpande and the battle of Pavan khind ,the forgotten heroic last stand to save Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj