Rani Tarabai: The Wall of Maratha Empire

by Jan 8, 2023

Introduction

Rani Tarabai’s bravery, courage, and leadership are written in golden words in the history of India. She was not only famous in her kingdom, but colonial rulers like Portuguese gave her the title of “Maratha Queen.” This made her different from other women of her time.

She was one of the few women at her best, such as Rani Abbakka Chowta of Ullal and Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, who has preserved her name in history due to her dedication to face every hardship and worked for the betterment of the empire.
Rajaram Bhosale, a son of Chhatrapati Shivaji got married to Tarabai.

Rani Tarabai Rajaram Bhosale was her after-marriage name. She was the daughter-in-law of the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhosale. Rajaram was the son of Soyarabai and step-brother of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Bhosale.

As the elder son, prince Sambhaji became the king. Rajaram Bhosale ascended to the throne after the unfortunate capture and death of Chhatrapati Sambhaji.

Upon Rajaram’s sudden death in seventeen hundred (1700), his four-year-old son Shivaji ll became the ruler, but actually, Tarabai became the de facto ruler of the mighty Maratha Empire. People know less despite her glorious rule and fantastic story.

Fact and Information

Facts
Information
Identity
The Queen of Maratha Empire and was daughter-in-law of Shivaji Maharaj. She was the regent of Shivaji II during his minor years of the Maratha Empire after the death of Chhatrapati Rajaram.
Born
April 1675, Satara, India
Parents
Spouse
A third Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire, Rajaram Bhonsale (1670-1700) was her husband.
Children
Shivaji II
Grandchild
Rajaram II of Satara
Reign
1700-08, 1710-14,1751-60
Predecessor
Jankibai
Successor
Rajasbai
Achievements
After death of her husband, she contributed in bad time of Maratha kingdom when throne of kingdom is empty. She led the Maratha forces to save the honor of the kingdom.
Death
Tarabai passed away at the age of 86 years in the year 1761.

Early life and girlhood

There was a strong commander in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s army called Hambir Rao Mohite. Mohite was well known for his good fighting skills on the battlefield. In 1975, his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl by name, Rani Tarabai.

When she was a child, she learned about politics, war tactics, horse riding, and swordsmanship. Those were the skills that would later be used against the hostile Mughal Empire and to save the mighty Maratha Empire. She came, prepared, many would say.

After the death of Sambhaji Raje on 11th March 1689, the war between Maratha and Mughal empires began. His sudden death greatly weakened the Maratha Empire and the Mughal Empire took full advantage of it.

After that, Rajaram I tried hard to restore the dignity of the umpire, but he also died suddenly in 1700. His wife Turabai and son Shivaji II were left without a father.

The Maratha Empire became an orphan after those bitter incidents, increasing Turabai’s responsibilities greatly.

At a young age, Shaviji ll became the ruler of the Maratha Empire and his mother took over as governor.

The Mughal ruler believed that the Maratha Empire no longer had that power and would not stand again.

According to the Mughals, only a small child and a helpless woman can stop us from the destruction of the Maratha Empire.

But her excellent administration, skills, dedication and leadership qualities proved all those myths and folk tales wrong. [1]

Military Career of Rani Tarabai

Rani Tarabai painting-during War campaign

Resistance and Opposition to Mughals

Widowed at the age of 25, Tarabai provided excellent leadership to the Maratha Empire after Shivaji’s death.

She concentrated all her attention on rebuilding the army with the best strategy against the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

She was an excellent warrior, and during her husband’s rule, she studied civics and was involved in various political affairs.

She was also skilled in javelin, cavalry women, carabiner and horsemanship.

Patriarchal mindset dilemma for women

Some influential people and prominent administrators in the Maratha Empire did not accept the commandership of a woman.

They disliked and detested it strongly. Nevertheless, Tarabai had all the qualities of a commander.

After Rajaram’s death, Aurangzeb and his commanders said that the weak and despicable Tarabai posed no threat to the mighty Mughal Empire.

His commander Khafi Khan said that the shattered and weak Maratha Empire could no longer stand.

At the age of 25, she placed her four-year-old son Shivaji ll on the throne and made him king and began to compete with the people of her own kingdom.

Consequently, Rajasbai and her son Sambhaji were kept under house arrest by Tarabai. But through bribe, she got support from important courtiers and generals.

She bribed, promoted and encouraged various generals and administrators to support her.

From 1700 to 1707, she led the Maratha army against Aurangzeb, the strongest ruler in the world at that time.

She learned and defended the tactics of Aurangzeb to buy military leadership and bribe enemy generals.

She had prepared the best strategy at that time. In her leadership, Sarsenapati Santaji Ghorpade attacked Mughal camps; she took special care of arms supplies, timely arrival and distribution of rations and visiting wounded soldiers. [2]

And this earned her praise from both friends and foes. A Mughal historian, Khafi Khan described her as an intelligent and far-sighted woman.

She started taking part in military matters from the time of her husband’s rule.

She made Ajinkyatara Fort her capital. Tarabai used to manage all work from there. Despite being a woman, not a single court member objected to her jurisdiction.

She won the hearts of the soldiers and commanders with her excellent strategy. Despite Aurangzeb’s fierce battles and sieges, the Maratha Empire progressed and became stronger.

Wars fought against the Shahu

The enmity between the Mughal and Maratha umpires had reached such an extent that it continued even after Aurangzeb’s death. The 6th ruler of the Mughals died due to terminal illnesses in 1707 at the age of 88.

Mughal king Azamshah thought the release of Shahu Maharaj would result in conflict for succession. He believed it ultimately decreased Maratha power, which could be beneficial to them.

The Mughals were well aware of the transition of rule and its issues. This infighting in Maratha territory weakened the Maratha Empire. So their attacks on the Mughal Empire became very few and fragile. [3]

Fierce resistance by Rani Tarabai

She refused to accept Shahu as the ruler of the Maratha Empire and justified it as a representative of the Mughals.

This opposition and rivalry led to a major war. Shahu had external support and some of Tarabai’s own people deserted her.

Similarly, the war turned against her and the situation worsened due to some diplomatic people lobbying against her.

However, she started a resistance but was eventually overthrown. Consequently, she was removed from the throne due to internal conspiracy and external interference by the Mughals.

Active Political role and heartbreaking ending

Despite the defeat, she tried hard to regain her stand but failed. A court was also established at Kolhupar in 1709, but it did not last long. Rajram’s second wife overthrew her because she wanted her son Sambhajill to be the ruler.

Similarly, Tarabai’s son Shavijill died in prison in 1726, and she was deeply traumatized. In 1930, Shahu agreed and allowed her to do some limited social work. She secretly continued to work in the politics and public sector, but she did not tell anyone she was doing this.

When Shahu died, he wanted to appoint a new king by himself. Suddenly, Tarabai surprised everyone by revealing her grandson Ramraja. So ultimately, Ramraja became the new king.

Although he was the adopted son of Chhatrapati Shahu, after his death, Ramraja became his ultimate successor.

After the death of Shahu in 1749, Ramraja became the sole successor. Tarabai wanted Ramraja to relieve the mighty Peshwas, but he refused to do so. And because of his actions, she said that Ramraja is not her genuine grandson but an imposter. [3] [4]

Rebellion against Rani Tarabai

Peshwas started a rebellion against her, and she did not know how powerful they were. She successfully crushed the revolt that had started initially in Satara. But in the end, she bowed down to the Peshwas because the administration did not support her.

She alone raised a rival in Kolhapur court. However, Rajasbai and Shahu I made an alliance and put Sambhaji II on the throne of Kolhapur.

Then, Tarabai and her son Shivaji II were both put into prison for 16 years until her son died. This, however, did not deter Tarabai; he rather remained influential in Maratha politics.

Conflict arose with Balaji Baji Rao

Shahu’s rule remained stable, but he had no heir. Not having an heir was his great weakness.

In 1740, Tarabai gave him a young man claiming to be her grandson and a famous member of the Shivaji.

The boy was named Rajaram ll and Shahu brought him up as he had no son of his own. Tarabai claimed to have hidden him (Rajaram ll) as a child for his safety and was raised by the warrior’s wife.

After Syahu’s death in 1749, Rajaram ll became the ruler and again, Tarabai became influential and powerful. Tarabai’s enmity with Paswas was old, and she wanted to overthrow Balaji Baji Rao Peshwa through Rajaram ll.

Tarabai made contact with another enemy of Balaji named Umabai. Umabai also had enmity and many grievances with Peshwa. He sent a 15,000-strong army under Commander Damaji Rao and a terrible battle was fought in the north of the Satara.

On the other hand, the Peshwa sent a 20,000-strong army under the leadership of Trimbakrao Purandare. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but defeat was written in Purandare’s fate.

After that, the conqueror Damaji Rao proceeded to Satara where Tarabai welcomed him. Meanwhile, Purandare again reorganized his army and attacked Damaji Roa’s army. At that time, Damaji’s army was encamped on the bank of the Vienna River.

After suffering a lot of losses in this battle, Damaji was defeated and fled. [5]

Negotiations between arch rivals: Balaji Rao and Tarabai

The situation turned so dramatically that the two worst enemies sat down for negotiations.

On 24th April, after having a series of battles, Balaji Rao reached Satara where he was welcomed after some skirmishes.

When Rao reached Satara, he conquered Yavateshwar’s stronghold and overran the weak Tarabai army outside the castle.

Nevertheless, she was still present inside the castle with her special and trusted soldiers.

She confined Rajaram ll in the castle where his mental and physical condition deteriorated. Rao pleaded to release the prisoner (Rajaram ll) but she refused.

A siege of the fort was attempted but failed as it was a strong and well-supplied one. So he went to Pune disappointed. And at that time, the Pashwas were so strong that they detained both Gaekwad, Umabai and their family members and loved ones.

Meanwhile, some of her troops rebelled against her inside the castle, and she left the fort and went to Pune, where Balajai Baji Rao was already residing.

She went to negotiate with him and make a peace treaty. The negotiations between the two were successful, and she recognized his authority.

Both Rani Tarabai and Balajai Baji Rao took oath to live in peace and harmony at Jejuri Khandoba Shrine. Tarabai admits Rajaram II was not her grandson and took oath on September 14, 1752.

Ascendancy and profound influence of Rani Turabai

If anyone studied any of tarabai’s life riddles, then such a person will get a deep lesson. She was a warrior, an excellent soldier, a mother and a brilliant administrator.

Charismatic personality and best leadership

Tarabai’s personality was so diverse that even her enemies failed to recognize her. That unique personality was her best asset, and she used it everywhere.

She had understood the tricks of the enemies just as Aurangzeb used to buy the officers of the enemy’s army with money.

She and her companions ventured into the Mughal Empire using different tactics. She hired or appointed people called Kamaishdars to collect taxes for income purposes.

She tried to protect Forts from the hands of the Mughals, keeping resources under control. If failed, then resources should be extracted from it on time.

Tarabai led Maratha’s struggle against the vast army of Aurangzeb during her seven years of reign. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was considered as the most powerful tyrant during her time.

Last years and Legacy of Tarabai Bhosale

The never-ending war between the Marathas and the Mughals ended when Aurangzeb died in 1707. After that, the Maratha empire started fighting among themselves (civil war), leaving it very weak and irreparably damaged.

Mughals had a hand in those civil wars, and they supported the opposite parties. With that intention, the Mughals freed Sambhaji’s son Shahuji. After defeating Tarabai in 1708, Shahuji became the Maratha ruler. That war is known as the “Battle of Khed”.

After that defeat, Tarabai and her son were kept in prison for more than 20 years. During that imprisonment, she endured all kinds of hardships.

At the age of 86 years, Tarabai died at Satara in the year 1761. People always remembered her services to the Maratha Empire.

She saw many ups and downs in her life and made very useful decisions for the empire. She played a very vital role in saving the Maratha Empire from the wrath of Aurangzeb. Without her interference and leadership, it could have been quite a hard time for the Maratha Empire to survive. [6]

Personality of Rani Tarabai

Maharani Tarabai of Kolhapur

Tarabai Bhosale was a brave, aspirational, energetic, good decision-maker, and warrior lady, who never compromises on her principles.

And because of that, the commanding position was taken away from her several times and her government was also overthrown. She thought more than her personal gain and tried to end the Mughal rule.

She took active part in politics till the last part of her life. After her husband’s death, she took over the Maratha kingdom at a time when her son was only four years old.

Perhaps the empire would have fallen long ago if she had not played that important role. However, due to external and internal conspiracies, she was not successful in her mission and was defeated several times.

Turabi thought ahead of her time and hence Peshwa Balaji and Shahu used to come to her for negotiations and different treaties.

She played the best role in the men dominant and patriarchal society and as a result, some people were against her. Tarabai is a perfect model for women all over the world, especially for women of this region.

They were amazed at how a woman kept her name alive in the history books with hard work, dedication and bravery.

Death

She closed her eyes forever when she was 86 years old. If she hadn’t, she would have witnessed the third battle of Panipat, which marked the end of the mighty Maratha Empire. This time, Tarabai was not present to resurrect the empire.

She had to battle society’s chauvinism and the savagery of her adversaries since she was a Maratha lady.

She surprised everyone by impressing both of them. Unfortunately, a name that ought to serve as an example of contemporary women’s empowerment appears to have been forgotten in the annals of time.

Sources

Bibliography

BYJU’S. (2020). Rani Tarabai Bhonsle. BYJU’S, BYJU’S. BYJU’S. Retrieved from https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/tarabai-1675-1761/

FIRST, N. (2021). TARABAI BHOSALE: VALOROUS MARATHA QUEEN. NATION FIRST, NATION FIRST. NATION FIRST. Retrieved from https://yuvvabharat.com/tarabai-bhosale-valorous-maratha-queen/

Godbole, T. (2018). Rani Tarabai – A Formidable Maratha Warrior. Feminism In India, Feminism In India. Feminism In India. Retrieved from https://feminisminindia.com/2018/03/14/rani-tarabai-maratha-warrior/

Pal, S. (2018, May 14). The Forgotten Story of Rani Tarabai, The Indomitable Warrior Queen of the Marathas. the better India. Retrieved from https://www.thebetterindia.com/121097/rani-tarabai-warrior-queen-maratha-shivaji-aurangzeb-inspiring-woman/

Prasher, D. (2018, July 20). GREAT INDIAN WOMEN. RANI TARABAI ( 1675–1761), THE WINNER OF WARS AGAINST AURANGZEB, THE BARBARIC MUGHAL RULER. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@prasher/great-indian-women-3e121b9f3a2b

Sikarwar, D. (2020). This is the Samadhi of Maratha Queen Tarabai Bhosale, who defeated Aurangzeb in a battle. The Youth, The Youth. The Youth. Retrieved from https://www.theyouth.in/2020/02/07/this-is-the-samadhi-of-maratha-queen-tarabai-bhosale-who-defeated-aurangzeb-in-a-battle/

References

BYJU’S. (2020). Rani Tarabai Bhonsle. BYJU’S, BYJU’S. BYJU’S. Retrieved from https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/tarabai-1675-1761/

FIRST, N. (2021). TARABAI BHOSALE: VALOROUS MARATHA QUEEN. NATION FIRST, NATION FIRST. NATION FIRST. Retrieved from https://yuvvabharat.com/tarabai-bhosale-valorous-maratha-queen/

Godbole, T. (2018). Rani Tarabai – A Formidable Maratha Warrior. Feminism In India, Feminism In India. Feminism In India. Retrieved from https://feminisminindia.com/2018/03/14/rani-tarabai-maratha-warrior/

Pal, S. (2018, May 14). The Forgotten Story of Rani Tarabai, The Indomitable Warrior Queen of the Marathas. the better India. Retrieved from https://www.thebetterindia.com/121097/rani-tarabai-warrior-queen-maratha-shivaji-aurangzeb-inspiring-woman/

Prasher, D. (2018, July 20). GREAT INDIAN WOMEN. RANI TARABAI ( 1675–1761), THE WINNER OF WARS AGAINST AURANGZEB, THE BARBARIC MUGHAL RULER. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@prasher/great-indian-women-3e121b9f3a2b

Sikarwar, D. (2020). This is the Samadhi of Maratha Queen Tarabai Bhosale, who defeated Aurangzeb in a battle. The Youth, The Youth. The Youth. Retrieved from https://www.theyouth.in/2020/02/07/this-is-the-samadhi-of-maratha-queen-tarabai-bhosale-who-defeated-aurangzeb-in-a-battle/

Citations

1. Prasher D. Great Indian women: [Internet]. Medium. Medium; 2018 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://medium.com/@prasher/great-indian-women-3e121b9f3a2b

 2. Pal S. The forgotten story of Rani Tarabai, the indomitable warrior queen of the Marathas [Internet]. The Better India. 2017 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://www.thebetterindia.com/121097/rani-tarabai-warrior-queen-maratha-shivaji-aurangzeb-inspiring-woman

3. Godbole T. Rani Tarabai – a formidable Maratha warrior: #indianwomeninhistory [Internet]. Feminism in India. 2018 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://feminisminindia.com/2018/03/14/rani-tarabai-maratha-warrior

4. Admin AA. Tarabi: Early life and later years [Internet]. BYJUS. BYJU’S; 2022 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/tarabai-1675-1761

5. First N. Tarabai Bhosale: Valorous Maratha queen [Internet]. Nation First. 2021 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://yuvvabharat.com/tarabai-bhosale-valorous-maratha-queen

6. The youth By Dharam Sikarwar Tyouth Tyouth. This is the Samadhi of Maratha queen Tarabai Bhosale, who defeated Aurangzeb in a battle: The youth [Internet]. The Youth | New Era Journalism !! 2020 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://www.theyouth.in/2020/02/07/this-is-the-samadhi-of-maratha-queen-tarabai-bhosale-who-defeated-aurangzeb-in-a-battle

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our HN list to receive the latest blog updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed to HN list!

Subscribe Now to Grab your FREE E-Book!

Join and recieve all future updates for FREE!

Congrats!! Now you are part of HN family!

Pin It on Pinterest