Chhatrapati Rajaram was the younger son of Shivaji Maharaj. He was born in 1661 at the fort of Raigad.
When his elder brother (step-brother), Sambhaji Raje, was killed by Mughal King Aurangzeb, Rajaram Maharaj was kept under detention under the orders of Sambhaji Raje.
This was because of a rumor that the mother of Rajaram Maharaj, Soyrabai, had plotted a conspiracy against Sambhaji Maharaj.
However, after the death of Sambhaji Raje, the need of the hour was to unite the Maratha to fight against the Mughal supremacy.
The son of Sambhaji Raje, Shahuji, who was indeed very young, ascended the throne as the next heir of the Maratha Empire.
After the enthronement, the widow of Sambhaji Maharaj, Yesubai, ordered to free Rajaram Maharaj and requested him to take care of the throne till Shahu Maharaj turned old enough to take care of the empire.
In 1689, the custodian of Raigad fort, Suryaji Pisal, along with Queen Yesubai and the young prince Shahu, deceitfully handed over the fort to the Mughals. Rajaram Maharaj was at Fort Vishalgad at that time.
When Queen Yesubai and the young prince Shahu were made captives by the Mughals, the Maratha ministers (like Ramchandrapant Bavdekar, Prahlad Niraji, Khando Ballal Chitnis and Hanmante) immediately took the decision and announced Rajaram Maharaj as the next king of the Maratha Empire in the year 1689.
Records say that though Rajaram Maharaj was not physically strong enough to become a warrior or was not quite brave, he was very inclusive and social by behavior which made his ministers trust him and become more loyal towards him.
Rajaram Maharaj was married three times. His first wife was Jankibai, the daughter of Prataprao Gujar; second wife was Tarabai, daughter of Hambirrao Mohite; and the third wife was Rajabai belonging to the Ghatge family that hailed from Kagal.
Rajaram fought with the Mughals with the help of his two brave noblemen, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav.
It is even said that in 1689, Santaji sneaked into the Mughal camp at Tulapur and exhausted Aurangzeb. However, Aurangzeb successfully took to heels from there.
September 1689: Santaji Dhanaji made Shaikh Nizam, the Mughal commander, a captive and took him to Fort Panhala.
May 25, 1690: Sarja Khan, known as Rustum Khan, was defeated by Ramchandra Pant, Santaji and Dhanaji at Satara.
1692: The Maratha take back the custody of both the forts, Rajgad (under the leadership of Shankar Narayan Gandekar) and Panhala (under the leadership of Parshuram Trayambak).
October 8, 1692: Santaji Dhanaji taken the custody of Dharwad in Karnataka.
December 14, 1692: Santaji defeated Alimardan Khan and made him a captive at Jinji.
January 09, 1693: Santaji defeated and caught Ismail Khan and Janisar Khan for ransom.
January 05, 1693: Santaji Dhanaji looted the Mughal camp at Desur.
November 21, 1693: Santaji defeated the Himmat Khan.
1693: Sidhoji Gujar and Sarkhel (the Head of Navy) took possession of Suvarna Durg and Vijay Durg.
1693: Vishalgad was again taken over by Parshuram Trayambak.
July 1695: Santaji set a trap for the Mughal army in Khatav.
November 20, 1695: Santaji killed Kasim Khan at Dodri.
1699: Along with Rajaram, Parsoji Bhosale from Nagpur, Haibatrao Nimbalkar, Nemaji Shinde and Atole defeated the Mughal army in the Godavari valley.
Dhanaji Jadhav defeated the Mughal army at Pandharpur. Shankar Narayan conquered that group of the Mughal army which was led by Sarje Khan at Pune.
Later, Santaji separated himself from Rajaram and Dhanaji and, in July 1697, a person named Nagoji Mane plotted against Santaji and killed him. (There was a rumor back then that, Santaji Ghorpade was killed by Nagoji Mane by the order of Dhanaji Jadhav.)
Ministers are as follows: Nilopant Pingle (the son of Moropant Pingle),
Peshwas or the Finance Ministers,
Janardan Hanmante (the son of Raghunath Hanmante, the Former Governor of Jinji),
Amatya or the Finance Ministers; Ramchandra Bavdekar,
A representative of Swarajya; Shankar Malhar Nargundkar,
Pant Secretary or Chief Accountant; Shamji Pinde,
Minister or Home Minister; Shrikaracharya Kalgavkar,
Panditrao or Chief Priest; Mahadji Gadadhar,
Sumant or Foreign Minister;
Chief Justice Neerji Raoji; Santaji Ghorpade (later Dhanaji Jadhav)
Commander-in-chief or Army Chief; Parsoji Bhosale, who was the Head of State of Berar;
Namaaji Shinde, the Head of State of Khandesh; and lastly,
Khanderao Dabhade, the Head of State of Nashik.
The Maratha army had totally exhausted King Aurangzeb. It is said that the Mughal army and Aurangzeb himself were so terrified by the noblemen Santaji and Dhanaji, that they could see them even in the water.
The Maratha had created a lot of fear. With a strong determination of crush the Maratha Revolt, Aurangzeb set his base on the Deccan plateau.
Due to the successive attacks by the Mughals, Rajaram Maharaj ran away to Jinji, Tamil Nadu (a fort captured by Shivaji Maharaj) in 1689.
He continued the Maratha struggle till the time the fort collapsed in 1698. After that, he was successful in escaping from the clutches of the Mughal army led by Zulfikar Khan.
Unfortunately, he had a very short life. His illness led to his death in 1700 at Sinhagad near Pune.
After his death, the throne of the Maratha Empire became vacant again, because in 1689, Yesubai and her young son Shahu were imprisoned by Aurangzeb.
Rajaram Maharaj had two sons and a daughter; Shivaji from Tarabai, Sambhaji from Rajasbai and Soyrabai from Jankibai. He had another young wife, Ambikabai, who lost her one and only daughter.
Ambikabai sacrificed her life (as a Sati) after the death of Rajaram Maharaj. It is also said that he had an illegitimate son by the name of Raja Karna (from a lady named Sagunabai).
Tararani, the wife of Rajaram Maharaj, took the responsibility of leading the Maratha army and Shahu (the son of King Sambhaji and the nephew of Rajaram Maharaj) continued the Maratha revolt against the rule of Aurangzeb till the time he was freed from prison.
A silent contention began between Tararani and Shahu Maharaj after his freedom from prison, but ultimately Shahu won.
King Shahu was appointed as the next heir of the Maratha Empire, and he moved the capital of the empire to Satara.
This is a fascinating account of the short reign of Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj; and includes everything right from his term at Jinji, his fight against the Mughals from there, to his escape.
With the aim of expansion in the south, the Mughal administrator Aurangzeb set up his base there and started achieving his goals one by one. To begin with, he put a complete end to the Adil Shahi which had already almost ruined by King Shivaji. He then set his goal for Qutub Shahi.
On successfully achieving these goals, with the aim of putting an end to the Maratha Empire, he imprisoned Sambhaji Maharaj and killed him cruelly after torturing him for a week. Aurangzeb thought that this would weaken the Maratha and their belief of Swarajya or self-rule would go downhill.
However, Aurangzeb was absolutely wrong and the fire that Shivaji Maharaj had ignited in the minds of the warriors was flaming every warrior fought and bled for Swarajya; the situation was so dire that, on one end, the Mughal army had surrounded the Maratha forts and on the other end, Zulfikar Khan, the Mughal Commander, captured the Maratha capital, Raigad fort.
In these trying times, keeping aside all the differences, Queen Yesubai generously decided to enthrone Rajaram Maharaj in the presence of all the chief administrators and, by performing all the religious rituals, announced him as ‘Chhatrapati’.
Through this action, she demonstrated that the Maratha Empire was still strong and was capable of giving a tough fight. For the enthronement ceremony, the entire force of the Maratha had gathered at the base of Raigad. This was for the purpose of spreading to everyone, in case of a deadly attack by enemies like the Mughals.
Queen Yesubai suggested that Rajaram Maharaj should continue his fight by going to different forts; one of the suggested forts being Jinji in Karnataka, which Shivaji Maharaj had brought into his Empire.
But even going there was a huge problem for Rajaram Maharaj. Following the advice of Yesubai, Rajaram Maharaj went to Pratapgad.
From Pratapgad, he went to Sajjangad, Satara and then to Vasantgad and finally reached Panhala fort. The Maratha army made incessant efforts to save themselves.
In just a few days, the Mughals captured Panhala fort as well. The future of Swarajya was again in danger and hence, Rajaram Maharaj decided to move to Jinji as advised by his chiefs.
Aurangzeb was chasing Rajaram Maharaj frantically. Rajaram Maharaj was equally prepared to deceive the enemies and reach Jinji. Aurangzeb was also very shrewd and knew that the newly enthroned Rajaram would seek shelter at Jinji.
He had ordered us to be strict vigilance on all the routes going to Jinji. Aurangzeb had even asked the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa to let him keep an eye on the sea route.
On sensing this, Rajaram Maharaj easily changed his route and instead of going south, he went east. Rajaram Maharaj applied the same trick that Shivaji Maharaj had used while escaping from Agra.
In 1689, when the Mughals captured the Panhala fort, Rajaram Maharaj and his allies escaped from the fort on September 26, 1689, disguised as Lingayat merchants.
Mansingh More, Prahlad, Niraji Krishnaji Anant, Nilo Moreshwar, Khando Ballal, Baji Kadam accompanied him and at the time of sunrise, they reached the banks of the Krishna river at Nrusinhawadi. To deceive the enemies, they took aid of this four-way route.
They crossed the Krishna River and marched southwards because in order to reach Jinji, they would have to cross the Krishna River one more time. The journey of Rajaram Maharaj till Shimoga was via Gokak, Savdatti, Navalgund, Anegari, Laxmishwar, Haveri and Hirekarur.
The Mughals realized this plan soon and Aurangzeb himself took the responsibility of catching hold of Rajaram Maharaj.
Before that, Rajaram Maharaj had sounded Bahirji Ghorpade, Maloji Ghorpade, Santaji Jagtap, Rupaji Bhosale and a few more chiefs, who now came for his rescue.
In this skirmish, Rajaram Maharaj was caught by the enemies at Vardha river. However, he again managed to escape with the help of Bahirji and Maloji.
Rajaram Maharaj reached the state ruled by Queen Chenamma and went to meet her in Bidnur. The queen was awed by the idea of Swarajya mooted by Shivaji Maharaj and was aware of the struggle and power of Shivaji Maharaj.
In good conscience and by ignoring the effects of the wrath of Aurangzeb, she offered a helping hand to Rajaram Maharaj. She arranged a secret journey for Rajaram Maharaj. And only because of her selfless help, Maharaj be able to reach Shimoga, located at the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
When Aurangzeb came to know about this, he sent a massive army to punish Queen Chenamma, but, Santaji Ghorpade, in the nick of time, reached to rescue the queen, and he captured the Mughal army.
Another calamity fell upon Rajaram Maharaj in his struggle with the Mughals. He and his allies were based on the banks of Tungabhadra River. While they were there, the Chief of Vijapur, Sayyed Abdulla Khan, along with his army, attacked them.
Following the orders of Aurangzeb, Khan carried out a strong invasion for three days and three nights. But, the Maratha had sensed the Mughal attack in advance and hence they courageously fought in order to save their king.
A lot of Maratha soldiers died in this skirmish. Khan believed that one of the prisoners must be Rajaram. The Elated Mughals sent this message to Aurangzeb, who immediately sent an officer to bring Rajaram Maharaj to the royal court.
But in no time did Abdul Khan realize that he was deceived, because the prisoner was not Rajaram Maharaj. Even before this incident, Shivaji Maharaj had deceived the Mughals with the help of Shiva Kashid.
Many such countless and unknown sacrifices have consecrated the Swarajya movement. A lot of replicas of the King have happily sacrificed their lives for their King. A salute to all such brave soldiers and the guardians of Swarajya!
The Mughals placed their spies on all possible routes that Rajaram Maharaj and his people could have taken. Rajaram Maharaj and his troop members were riding horses till Shimoga.
But the skills of these spies made it impossible to carry on this journey further. And because of this, they continued walking as common travelers, hermits, saints, merchants or beggars. This is how they were successful in avoiding the Mughals and ultimately reached Bengaluru, which was 300 kilometers away.
Another incident happened against the Maratha in Bengaluru. Some locals saw a man washing the feet of Rajaram Maharaj. The news that “an eminent Maratha King had been here”; spread like wildfire and reached the local Mughal police.
But the Maratha became vigilant now. Khando Ballal, a Maratha officer, got Rajaram Maharaj and other troop members together and requested everyone to take different routes.
Khando Ballal and a few other men stayed back to fight against the Mughals. When the Mughal patrol arrived to inquire, they came to know that Maharaj had already left the place, and hence, they captured Khando Ballal and others.
Khando Ballal and others who were in Mughal custody were tortured inhumanly. They were beaten mercilessly. Heavy rocks were kept on their heads. In spite of all this, they fearlessly told the Mughals that they were just innocent travelers.
The Mughals ultimately decided to free them. With one and only dream of a Hindu Swarajya in mind, an unknown power was supporting these soldiers and hence they could remain loyal even after enduring so much torture.
Rajaram Maharaj and his other soldiers went away from there and reached Amber. This fort was under the domination of Maratha Chief Baji Kakde. Baji Kakde heartily welcomed Rajaram Maharaj and with this his exile ended.
From Amber, Rajaram Maharaj reached Vellore on October 28, 1689. It took him thirty-three days to reach Vellore from Panhala. At Vellore, Rajaram Maharaj, along with his army, met a few other chiefs who had come from Karnataka. From there, he decided to go to Jinji in Karnataka.
The fort of Jinji (currently Tamil Nadu) became the center of the Maratha Empire in Deccan. Shivaji Maharaj himself had won this fort and made it unconquerable. The fort was capable of providing shelter to any Maratha in danger. When Aurangzeb invaded Deccan, Shivaji Maharaj himself took shelter at the Jinji fort. But the step-sister of Rajaram Maharaj became a new obstruction in the way of Rajaram Maharaj.
During the reign of King Sambhaji, Shri Harjiraje Mahadik was the Chief Commander of the Maratha in Karnataka. His wife, Ambikabai, was the step sister of Rajaram Maharaj. She took control of Jinji after the death of Harjiraje.
When she came to know about the plan of Rajaram Maharaj to take shelter in the fort, she decided to oppose this and started to prepare for a battle.
However, neither the locals, nor her advisors were in her support. Ambikabai had to open the doors of Jinji Fort for Rajaram Maharaj. In the first week of November 1689, Rajaram Maharaj reached the fort of Jinji with his troop. In this way, the saga of the journey of Rajaram Maharaj came to an end.
The Maratha magnanimously welcomed Rajaram Maharaj on Jinji Fort, because the idea of Hindu Swarajya was again taking shape. There was a wave of excitement everywhere in the region. The soldiers had got their king back. This new Chhatrapati of Swarajya began his work from the fort of Jinji and established his new ministry. This was the history of the new generation of Maratha.
Santaji and Dhanaji, who had a good command of the Ganimi tactics, harassed the Mughals. Aurangzeb sent Zulfikar Khan to attack Jinji and catch Rajaram Maharaj.
In 1690, Khan surrounded Jinji and tried for almost eight years to conquer it. Ramchandra Pandit, Shankarji, Narayan, Santaji, Dhanaji and other warriors put up a fierce fight under the leadership of Rajaram.
The Maratha were continuously going from Nashik to Jinji. In 1697, Zulfikar Khan conquered Jinji, but Rajaram Maharaj had left the fort by then and settled in Maharashtra to challenge the Mughals.
Unfortunately, his health deteriorated suddenly, and he passed away on Sinhagad on the ninth day of Falgun month in the year 1700.
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