Indian history is broad, and it still keeps growing every day. It has three parts- Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History. So yes, there’s a lot to know, learn and understand. Through the three periods we have had, rulers, tribes, kingdoms, wars, social reformers, scientists, philosophers, saints, and patriots make up India’s great nation’s history. Without all these, there wouldn’t be any history at all.
This article outlines the life and achievement of the famous Hambirrao Mohite of the Maratha Kingdom. He was a great man committed to serving his people with much devotion and effort. He led the army during the era of Shivaji Maharaj. Then later proceeded with the same position as tenure after coronation of Sambhaji Maharaj. He was the first Military commander in the Maratha’s history.
May 1, 1630
Army general (Senapati)
1670-87 ( 17 years )
Soyarabai, Harifrao, Sankarji and Annubai
Birth and Early Life
Hambirrao Mohite was one of those lucky kids born in the 17th century. His father was a well-known individual in the community and was a powerful chief. That means he was wealthy and prominent. He had a connection to the reigning g government. That could translate to Hambirrao having a perfect life during his childhood.
Hambirrao was not born alone. He had four siblings, i.e., two brothers and two sisters. His brothers’ names were Harifrao and Sankarji, while his sisters were Soyarabai and Annubai.
Hambirrao had no choice but to acquire the best leadership skills and qualities as a son of a brave and mighty chief. He grew up under the close watch of his father and became as powerful and devoted as him.
Invariably, the most determined and focused get the favors. So yes, Hambirrao managed to land a job in Shivaji Maharaji’s government. He was appointed to work as the Sersenapati, or the commander in the Shivaji’s army.
Did you know that Hambirrao is not his real name? That was just but a title. His real name was Hansaji Mohite.
Hambirrao Mohite is not just inscribed in Indian history for the sake of records. He was a hero worth remembering. He was a powerful and courageous army head and pocketed a couple of victories in battles. Below is a list of a few battles the Maratha army won under his leadership and guidance.
The Battle of Koppal
Koppal was a province within Karnataka. It happened once; the Koppal province was under the rule of two brothers, Hussein Miyana and Rahimkhan Miyana. These two were the biggest dictators of the time. They were devoted to making the lives of the Koppal people brutal and cruel. They forced the people to submit their grains to them after harvesting.
The farmers got tired of being mistreated and submitted their grievances to Shivaji Maharaji. Shivaji was a man of the people and sent his able General, Hambirrao Mohite, out of goodwill. So Hambirrao did not waste time; he got to plan for the mission.
At the beginning of the year 1677, the battle between Hambirrao’s army and that of the two brothers was on. As usual, Hambirrao portrayed outstanding competence on the battlefield. More than half of the enemy army died in this same war. Hambirrao himself made sure that he killed the leader, Abdul Miyana, and apprehended the brother-in-crime, Hussein Miyana.
As you already know, Hambirrao had two sisters marrying two brothers. One, Soyarabai, married the famous Shivaji Maharaji, who was then the ruler (Chhatrapati) of the Maratha people. The other sister named Annubai married to step-brother of Shivray, Venkoji.
At some point, Shivaji Maharaji and Venkoji disagreed because Venkoji was adamant about sharing his father’s wealth with Shivaji, his brother. Shivaji was unhappy about Venkoji’s stubbornness and decided to take what belonged to him by force. So, the war was on for some time, and Hambirrao managed to retrieve the major provinces from Venkoji.
Venkoji, being the adamant person he was, got upset with Shivaji’s action of grabbing his territories. This was when he decided to strike back. The battle started on the 6th of November, 1677. However, this battle was never between Venkoji and Shivaji directly; Hambirrao represented Shivaji here. In the beginning, Venkoji seemed to be winning. However, Hambirrao was so powerful and determined. In the end, Hambirrao got the victory.
This battle lasted about two months and stopped when Shivaji Raje came to talk about peace between the two brothers.
Trading center named Burhanpur was in between north and south India. Burhanpur Linked the two regions and was considered the best spot for trading. On the 30th of January 1681, Hambirrao Mohite collaborated with Sambhaji to attack the Burhanpur trade center under Subedar Khanjahan.
Burhanpur was a small region with only a few soldiers to protect it. Hambirrao had a total of 20000 soldiers in his army. So, attacking Burhanpur was easy for him and his accomplice Sambhaji. The Mughals did even waste time resisting, they just retreated, and the Marathas got straightforward access to the trade center and looted it for three days straight.
The Marathas managed to gather a lot of assets during this their raid on Burhanpur.
Hambirrao helped Sambhaji Maharaji retrieve Inheritance
When Shivaji died, some evil-minded ministers plotted to crown Sambhaji’s half-brother, Rajaram, to become the Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire. Rajaram was then too young to take over the rulership. When Sambhaji learned of their evil plot, he was up for resistance. But the ministers ordered his arrest, and he was detained.
Hambirrao Mohite was still the head of the army then. When he learned what transpired, he went ahead and arrested all the evil ministers and presented them to Sambhaji. And that’s how Sambhaji retrieved his rightful position as the Chhatrapati of Maratha.
It is very important to know that Hambirrao was never defeated during his life as a military head. However, he once went to a battle with Rustumkhan and, as usual, won. However, just when he had won the battle, a cannonball hit him to death. This happened in the year 1687.
In 1687, the Delhi ruler Aurangzeb conquered the Deccan Sultanates as his ancestors had wanted. He took over the Adil Shah kingdom established by Prince Adil Khan, brother of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II Fathi of Turkey.
He also overcame the Qutb Shahi kingdom, defended until the end by the brave Turk Abdur Razzak. Aurangzeb accused some Islamic places of not being serious about fighting non-believers. He thought they were being too kind to them. The only remaining independent kingdom in the. Deccan was the Maratha kingdom.
Sambhaji was Shivaji’s son. He enjoyed a life of pleasure with women and alcohol, while spending time with the lazy poet Kalash. Sambhaji didn’t listen to his friends’ warning about the Islamic threat. He didn’t act against Aurangzeb and lost an important chance.
Aurangzeb relentlessly attacked Bijapur and Golconda,. but Sambhaji failed to respond. Hambirrao Mohite saw how serious the situation was. So, he tried to weaken the Mogol army by attacking them while they were busy fighting against Golconda.
However, Sambhaji was not keen on pursuing this strategy. It horrified Sambhaji to find out that Aurangzeb had taken over two sultanates in Deccan. Aurangzeb’s primary goal was to conquer all the Hind and make it an Islamic state.
Hambirrao Mohite, the Valiant Leader
Hambirrao was the chief of the Maratha army. Shivaji appointed him as chief because he did well in battles. He killed Hussain Khan Miana in the Battle of Bankapur and helped the Marathas win a big victory. They beat 5000 Afghans.
In late 1674, he led a successful counter-attack against the Mogol outposts in Khandesh. Then, he quickly moved to Bengal, Gujarat, and other places. Shivaji gave him the commander-in-chief title after he did great things. This happened during a big troop gathering.
Hambirrao stayed as Sambhaji’s commander when Shivaji died in 1680. He was smart and strategic, as well as brave on the field.
Maratha Expansion and Aurangzeb’s Threat
Hambirrao wanted to capture more land for the Marathas. He thought that the destruction of the Deccan Sultanates by the Mogols would help them. So, he started some campaigns to gain some territories from the Deccan Sultanates.
After Aurangzeb conquered the capitals, he could not conquer the territories. Hambirrao then quickly took control of the areas for the Marathas. Aurangzeb was furious at the Marathas for being successful. He promised he wouldn’t come back to Delhi unless he brought Sambhaji’s head with him.
He found out that his plan to defeat Bijapur and Golconda made the Marathas stronger by mistake. Consequently, Aurangzeb launched a two-fold attack:
- He sent to steal from South India and ruin the Maratha base in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- He deployed a second division led by Sarja Khan. The goal of this plan was to trap the Mahrattas in Maharashtra and make them go to the west.
Sarja Khan’s army marched without stopping. This was a big threat to the Marathas who lived in Maharashtra.
Hambirrao’s Bold Defense
It was hard to stop the enemy’s advance, so Hambirrao led a group of soldiers to attack them. He put his troops in the hills near Mahabaleshwar to win the fight.
The Mogols fought in a big battle. Hambirrao bravely fought back and retreated smartly to draw the Mogols into the hills. The Marathas took advantage and attacked the Mogols, who were unaware. They used muskets and arrows to attack them from their hiding places. Sarja Khan, however, continued to reinforce his troops, attempting to encircle Hambirrao.
To deal with the Marathas, the Mogols placed bombs on two hills leading to them. The blasts shook. the Marathas, causing chaos and scattering their forces. The Mogols quickly. deployed their heavy artillery, bombarding Hambirrao’s army.
Hambirrao knew that if he lost, the Maratha resistance in Maharashtra would end. So, he had to act fast to change the outcome. He led a team of 100 trained soldiers and attacked Sarja Khan head-on to defeat him.
The Marathas fought fiercely and left many dead and wounded among the Mogols. Hambirrao was a skilled swordsman. He defeated many enemy soldiers and destroyed their cannons with his men. .
The Maratha soldiers turned the tables and started fighting again. Overwhelmed by the ferocity of the attack, it annihilated the Mogol army.
Hambirrao’s Costly Sacrifice
The Maratha army won, but it was hard for them during Sambhaji’s rule. Hambirrao’s exceptional leadership, understanding of the terrain, and strategic skills were unmatched.
He was the only one who dared to challenge the negative influence of Kalash on Sambhaji. According to Kincaid, if Hambirrao had survived, he could have stopped the Mogol attack using his skills and resources.
However, when he died, the Maratha army in Maharashtra lost a skilled leader. This happened shortly after Mughals captured and executed Sambhaji Raje.
1. Featured Image Credits: Hambirrao Mohite Painting, Author: Sadashiv Shivade, Source: Front Cover of “Senapati Hambirrao Mohite” Book
2. Samadhi of Sarsenapati Hambirao Mohite, Author: Pmohite, Source: Wikimedia