The ancient (pre-Muslim) Maratha dynasties were the Chalukyas (500 CE to 750 CE), the Rastrakutas (750 to 978), and the Yadavas or Jadhavs (1175 to 1318). They fought against the Muslim invasion under the last Yadava king in 1314, but were defeated and became vassals and mercenaries (Sardars or generals) for the Muslim rulers, collecting revenue for them.
Jijabai, Shivaji’s mother, was a direct descendant of the Yadava royal family of Devagiri, and she had a profound influence on her son, as did his teacher Dadaji Kondeo and great saints like Jnanesvara and Tukaram.
At the age of 17, Shivaji and his friends took a blood oath to establish a free Hindu state called ‘Hindavi svarajya’ in 1645, at the cave temple of Shiva Rairesvar in the Sayhadris.
Over time, it grew to be India’s most powerful state, with territories stretching from Attock in present-day Pakistan to Cuttack in Orissa. Shivaji began by seizing Torana fortress from the Muslim ruler of Bijapur. Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur, dispatched his most powerful general, Afzal Khan, to punish Shivaji. His strategy was to drive Shivaji from the Sahyadri hills by destroying Hindu temples in the plains at Tuljapur, Pandharpur, and Shikhar Shenganapur. Shivaji invited Afzal Khan to come up into the hills with him and a few select soldiers for a duel, which Afzal Khan accepted. On November 10, 1659, he arrived in Pratapgad.
Afzal Khan approached the seemingly unarmed Shivaji and attempted to stab him while embracing him, but Shivaji was wearing a coat of armour beneath his heavy silk robes and concealing two small weapons, a Wagh Nakh, or sharp blade resembling tiger’s claws, and a Bicchwa, a small curved dagger. Shivaji retaliated, and Afzal Khan was killed. The Marathas who jumped out of the jungles around Pratapgad fort defeated the Khan’s army, which was waiting in the valley. Later, Adil Shah dispatched another general, Siddhi Jouhar, who besieged Shivaji’s fortress in Panhalgad for several months before escaping to Vishalgad. The Bijapur ruler then abandoned the idea of fighting the Marathas, and Shivaji turned his attention to the Mughal Empire.
Aurangzeb was enraged by Shivaji’s attacks and dispatched his uncle Shaista Khan with a large army that destroyed temples, forts, towns, villages, and fields along the way. Shaista set up camp in Shivaji’s home, the Lal Mahal in Pune, and established his harem in Shivaji’s Devghar (prayer room). Finally, in April 1663, Shivaji crept into the Lal Mahal late at night and attacked the Khan, cutting his fingers as he tried to escape through the window.
He spared the Khan’s life at the request of the Khan’s wife, allowing the Khan to call his troops. Shivaj managed to flee. Aurangzeb was enraged by Shivaji’s attacks and dispatched his uncle Shaista Khan with a large army that destroyed temples, forts, towns, villages, and fields along the way. Shaista set up camp in Shivaji’s home, the Lal Mahal in Pune, and established his harem in Shivaji’s Devghar (prayer room). Finally, in April 1663, Shivaji crept into the Lal Mahal late at night and attacked the Khan, cutting his fingers as he tried to escape through the window.
He spared the Khan’s life at the request of the Khan’s wife, allowing the Khan to call his troops. Shivaj managed to flee. The Khan returned to Delhi, and Aurangzeb dispatched another general, Mirza Raja Jai Singh of the Suryavanshi Kachhawaha, to replace him.
Shivaji signed a treaty with Mirza Raja Jai Singh, and one of the conditions was that he accompany him to Agra to meet Aurangzeb. He was imprisoned in Mirza’s house before. He escaped with his son Shambaji while hiding in two large baskets of fruits and sweetmeats that were to be sent from the house as gifts to brahmanas while waiting to be transferred to the Mughal dungeons. Netaji Palkar, Shivaji’s general, was also apprehended and forced to convert to Islam and change his name to Quli Mohammed Khan while serving as a Mughal soldier in Afghanistan, but he managed to escape and return to Shivaji and his Hindu faith. However, some of his other friends were tortured to death.
After fleeing Agra, Shivaji reorganised his army and reclaimed all of the forts he had been forced to surrender to the Mughals under the Purandar Treaty, including Kondana, a strategic position near Pune in the centre of a line that included Rajgad, Purandar, and Torna. Tanaji’s bravery, who died in the fight, enabled the conquest of Kondana.
As a result, the fort was renamed “Singhagad” after their “lion” warrior.
Then Ganga Bhatt, a Brahmana from Benares, crowned Shivaji as Marathas’ king. On June 6, 1674, the coronation took place in Raigad.
A Maratha Sardar (general) kidnapped the daughter-in-law of the Muslim Subahadar of Kalyan near Mumbai in the days following the coronation in order to offer her as a Nazarana (tribute) to the new king. To his surprise, Shivaji returned the girl to her family with dignity and rebuked the general’s threat that any Maratha general who committed a similar offence against women would have his hands amputated. According to legend, the girl then addressed him as “an angel” and prayed to the Lord to bless him with all success. Shivaji later launched his campaign in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu all the way to Thanjavur. From 1674 until Shivaji’s death in 1680, his kingdom was relatively peaceful because the Mughals had abandoned their attempts to molest the Marathas. The kingdom of Shivaji, like the kingdom of Mewad, was bold enough to issue their own coinage in gold and copper with Sanskrit inscriptions. Following Shivaji’s death, Aurangzeb ordered that all of these coins be collected and melted.
Shivaji’s son Shambaji succeeded his father as king, but he lacked his father’s qualifications. As previously stated, he was finally captured by the Mughals and tortured to death. Rajaram, his stepbrother, was crowned king at the time, but he was also weak and fled Raigad as the fort was about to be besieged by Aurangzeb, leaving behind his wife and son, who were captured by the Mughals. He spent the rest of his life fleeing while his generals, including Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, fought a guerrilla war against Muslims. Rajaram died of illness in 1700, and his wife Tarabai reigned from 1700 to 1707, with the support of the two generals.
Aurangzeb died in 1707, and his son Azamshah declared himself Emperor. To gain the support of the Marathas, Azamshah released Rajaram’s son Shahu, who had been imprisoned from 1689 to 1707, and Shahu claimed the throne against Tarabai. He defeated the Maratha army and established himself as Chatrapati (king of the Marathas). However, he had to rely heavily on his assistant, who rose through the ranks to become Prime Minister (Peshwa) and the actual ruler. Prime Ministers became more powerful than the king after that. In an alliance with the Syed brothers against the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyyar, the Maratha forces led by the first Peshwa, Balaji Vishvanath, defeated the Mughal army in Delhi.
This marked the start of the Maratha infl uence on Delhi, which lasted until 1803, when it was supplanted by the British. In 1740, about 80 years after Shivaji, the Marathas fought against the Afghan Nadir Shah and his general Ahmed Shah Durrani (Abdali), who had attacked north India while the Mughal Empire was in decline. Najib Khan, another ambitious general, wished to become Emperor and Ruler of India by capturing Delhi. He formed an alliance with Ahmed Shah, but both were defeated by the Marathas, led by Srimant Raghunatha Rao and Malhar Rao Holkar. The Marathas pursued the Afghans into Punjab, all the way to the Afghan border at Khyber Pass.
Najib Khan persuaded Malhar Rao Holkar to release him, but as soon as he was free, he organised the murder of Dattaji Shinde, Mahadji Shinde’s eldest brother, and encouraged Ahmed Shah to invade India once more.
The continuous court intrigues in Pune gradually weakened and divided the Marathas. Despite the Marathas’ conquest of Delhi and Kunjapura, the ensuing war against the Afghans lasted a year, from January 1760 to January 1761. (the treasury and armoury of the Afghans).
100,000 Maratha troops were killed in the final battle at Panipat in 8 hours, but the Afghans, who had also suffered heavy losses, decided to retreat back to Afghanistan, never to return to India again. Later, the Sikhs, led by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, completed the Marathas’ task by invading Abdali’s kingdom and capturing Kabul, his capital city.
Between 1761 and 1790, Mahadji Shinde, Nana Phadnavis, and Shrimant Madhav Rao Peshwa fought three Anglo-Maratha wars against the British’s growing power.
Finally, they were defeated in the third war of 1817.
Source: Crimes against India by Stephen Knapp
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