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Vithoji Chavan and Raghuji Bhosale had reorganised most of the Maratha army after
defeats at Panhala and Vishalgad.
In late 1691, Bavdekar, Pralhad Niraji, Santaji, Dhanaji and several Maratha
sardars met in the Maval region and reformed the strategy. Aurangzeb had taken four
major forts in Sahyadrais and was sending Zulfikar khan to subdue the fort Jinji. So
according to new Maratha plan, Santaji and Dhanaji would launch offensives in the East
to keep rest of the Mughal forces scattered. Others would focus in Maharashtra and
would attack a series of forts around southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka to
divide Mughal won territories in two, thereby posing significant challenge to enemy
supply chains. Having a strong navy established by Shivaji, the Marathas could now
extend this divide into the sea, checking any supply routes from Surat to south.
Now war was fought from the Malwa plateau to the east coast. Such was the
strategy of Maratha commanders to counter the might of the Mughals. Maratha generals
Ramchandrapant Amatya and Shankaraji Niraji maintained the Maratha stronghold in
the rugged terrains of Sahyadri.
In several brilliant cavalry movements, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav
defeated the Mughals. Their offensive, and especially that of Santaji, struck terror into
the hearts of the Mughals. In the Battle of Athani, Santaji defeated Kasim Khan, a noted
Fall of Jinji (Jan 1698)
Jinji Fort itself was under the control of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur since the year
1649. Until in the year 1677, Sivaji, routed the Bijapur forces and captured Jinji Fort.
The fort itself was chosen as a hideout for the Maratha leader Rajaram and his allies
Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav.
Outraged by the deaths of the Mughal Sowars in the region the Mughal Emperor
Aurangzeb dispatched Zulfiqar Ali Khan to besiege and capture the massive Jinji Fort.
But besieging the fort was no easy task. It enclosed an area of 7 km2 (2.7 sq mi),
and its walls were 30 ft high and 66 ft thick. It is elevated 800 ft (240 m) high, and
protected by an 80 feet (24 m) wide moat. There were three very important hills within
the fort and a large pond containing fresh water.
Immediately after encircling the fort in the year 1690, with his Mughal Sowars
and Zamburak, Zulfiqar Ali Khan placed Swarup Singh and young Mehboob Khan (a
Tamil Muslim nicknamed Maavuthukaran) in command of the Sepoys. Daud Khan was
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appointed Mir Atish or lead gunner of 60 cannon placed at various locations. Fatah
Muhammad was the lead commander of the Rocket artillery consisting of 50 men.
Muslim Mappila and Tamils were recruited and good relations were established with Ali
Raja Ali II.
Zulfiqar Ali Khan then ordered the Maratha to surrender but Rajaram refused and
the bombardments began but with little success. Desperately searching for a quick
victory Zulfiqar Ali Khan made all efforts to gather men, ammunition and money for a
successful war with them. He even allied himself with Fort St. George's English
Governor Elihu Yale.
In the coming years Zulfiqar Ali Khan would attempt to breach the walls with
limited resources he managed to protect the trade routes and make contact with Ghazi
ud-Din Khan Feroze Jung I on many occasions. He defended nearby land owners, and
led four massive assaults upon the Marathas inside the fort. However, most of his focus
was towards the vicinity of the fort and he continuously expected and correctly predicted
Maratha ambushes instead of besieging the fort itself.
Zulfikhar Ali Khan was briefly joined by Aurangzeb's son Prince Muhammad Kam
Baksh. On one occasion when the Mughal encampments around Jinji fort were
surrounded by the Maratha rebels, actually decided to defect his plans were foiled and
was put to chains and imprisoned in a ditch which was covered by a tent by Zulfikhar Ali
Khan, who managed to expel the roving Marathas with Matchlocks. Zulfikhar Ali Khan
then wrote a letter informing the Mughal Emperor of his son's betrayal, Aurangzeb then
sent his trusted vizier Asad Khan to retrieve Prince Muhammad Kam Baksh. Asad Khan
arrived with the finest weapons, carriages and thousands of reinforcements. When
Prince Muhammad Kam Baksh, was brought in chains before Aurangzeb, the Mughal
Emperor almost had him beheaded, but Aurangzeb was deterred by the pleas of his
own daughter Zinat-un-nissa.
Queen Mangammal had realized that the renegade Rajaram had entrenched
himself within Jinji and had been bent upon attacking Thanjavur and Madurai if the
Mughal Army was to withdraw. Mangammal soon recognized Aurangzeb as her
suzerain and began to assist Zulfikhar Ali Khan.
Zulfikhar Ali Khan then set up a base in Wandiwash. In 1697 Zulfikhar Ali Khan
led 18,000 men from his camp (8000 Sowars and 10,000 Sepoys) in order to fight an
assembling Maratha force in Tanjore sent by Shivaji II and Ramchandra Pant Amatya
and possibly aided by the Madurai Nayaks, consisting of over 40,000 men, with the
objective to relieve the siege of Jinji Fort and continue their hostilities against the
Mughal Empire. Zulfikhar Ali Khan and his considerably smaller battalion then defeated
the ill-equipped Maratha and routed them.
Because Zulfikhar Ali Khan did not often receive assistance and supplies from
the Mughals he began to forage the countryside in order to recover his losses. In 1697
Rajaram offered to negotiate, but Aurangzeb ordered Zulfikhar Ali Khan to initiate an all-
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out assault. Zulfikhar Ali Khan returned he made efforts to hire European gunners and
then led his final fourth assault into Jinji Fort in the year 1698. Forced into action, the
Mughal Army battered the walls with cannon fire, which eventually allowed them to
scale the walls and capture the lower citadels, which were armed with cannons that
bombarded the higher citadel. After heavy bombardments the Mughals captured the
higher citadel. Zulfikhar Ali Khan captured four of Rajaram's wives, three sons and two
daughters, while Rajaram himself fled.
According to Mughal accounts Zulfikhar Ali Khan named Jinji Fort, "Nusratgarh"
after its capture, but the condemned Maratha leader Rajaram had somehow escaped
earlier on during the siege, causing much dismay for Zulfikhar Ali Khan. However, the
Mughal rule at Jinji eventually paving way to the establishment of the Nawab of the
Carnatic and the Sultanate of Mysore.
But according to Hindu accounts: it was due to the efforts of Swarup Singh of
Bundela, that the Mughals were successful, the Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, himself
granted Swarup Singh a position of Mansabdar of 2,500 and gave him total command
and administration of Jinji Fort in 1700 AD. But after Sawrup Singh died of old age in
1714, his newly arriving son De Singh was given command according to an official
Firman by the Mughal Emperor Jahandar Shah. This action was considered outrageous
to Muhammed Saadatullah Khan I who personally marched to Jinji Fort with 18,000
men and killed De Singh and declared himself the administrator of Jinji Fort.
Revival of Maratha fortunes
The Marathas again consolidated and began a counter-offensive. Rajaram
appointed Dhanaji Jadhav as commander-in-chief and the army was split into three
divisions, headed by Jadhav himself, Parshuram Timbak and Shankar Narayan. Jadhav
defeated a large Mughal force near Pandharpur and Narayan defeated Sarja Khan in
Pune. Khanderao Dabhade, who led a division under Jadhav, took Baglan and Nashik,
while Nemaji Shinde, a commander with Narayan, scored a major victory at Nandurbar.
Enraged at these defeats, Aurangzeb took charge and launched another counter-
offensive. He laid siege to Panhala and attacked the fort of Satara. A seasoned Maratha
commander, Prayagji Prabhu, defended Satara for a good six months but surrendered
in April 1700, just before the onset of the monsoon. This foiled Aurangzeb‘s strategy to
clear as many forts before the monsoon as possible.
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In March 1700, Rajaram died. His queen, Tarabai, who was daughter of the
Maratha commander-in-chief Hambirrao Mohite, took charge of the Maratha army and
continued the fighting for the next seven years.
Signs of strain were showing in the Mughal camp in late 1701. Asad Khan,
Julfikar Khan‘s father, counselled Aurangzeb to end
the war and turn around. The
expedition had already taken a giant toll, much larger than originally planned, on the
empire and it looked possible that 175 years of Mughal rule might crumble due to being
involved in a war that was not winnable.
Mughals were bleeding heavily in the treasuries but Aurangzeb kept pressing the
war on. By 1704, Aurangzeb had Torana and Rajgad. He had won only a handful forts
in this offensive, but he had spent several precious years. It was slowly dawning to him
that after 24 years of constant war, he was no closer to defeating Marathas than he was
the day he began.
The final Maratha counter-offensive gathered momentum in the North, where
Mughal provinces fell one by one. They were not in position to defend because the royal
treasuries had been sucked dry and no armies were available. In 1705, two Maratha
army factions crossed Narmada. One, under the leadership of Nemaji Shinde, hit as far
north as Bhopal; the second, headed by Khanderao Dabhade, struck Bharoch and the
west. Dabhade with his 8000 men,attacked and defeated Mahomed Khan‘s forces
numbering almost fourteen thousand. This left entire Gujarat coast wide open for
Marathas. They immediately tightened their grip on Mughal supply chains. By 1705 end,
Marathas had penetrated Mughal possession of Central India and Gujarat. Nemaji
Shinde defeated Mughals on the Malwa plateau. In 1706, Mughals started retreating
from Maratha dominions.
In Maharashtra, Aurangzeb became despondent. He started negotiations with
the Marathas, then cut them abruptly and marched on the small kingdom of Wakinara
whose Naik[disambiguation needed] rulers traced their lineage to the royal family of the
Vijaynagar empire. His new opponents had never been fond of the Mughals and had
sided with the Marathas. Jadhav marched into Sahyadris and won almost all the major
forts back in a short time, while those of Satara and Parali were taken by Parshuram
Timbak, and Narayan took Sinhgad. Jadhav then turned around, taking his forces to
help the Naiks at Wakinara. Wakinara fell but the Naik royal family escaped.
Aurangzeb had now given up all hope and planned a retreat to Burhanpur.
Jadhav attacked and defeated his rearguard but Aurangzeb was able to reach his
destination with the help of Zulfikar Khan. He died of a fever on 21 February 1707.
The Indologist Stanley Wolpert says that:
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the conquest of the Deccan, to which, Aurangzeb devoted the last 26 years of his
life, was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory, costing an estimated hundred thousand lives a
year during its last decade of futile chess game warfare. The expense in gold and
rupees can hardly be accurately estimated. Aurangzeb's encampment was like a
a city of tents 30 miles in circumference, with some 250 bazaars, with
a 1⁄2 million camp followe
rs, 50,000 camels and 30,000 elephants, all of whom had to
be fed, stripped the Deccan of any and all of its surplus grain and wealth ... Not only
famine but bubonic plague arose ... Even Aurangzeb, had ceased to understand the
purpose of it all by the time he was nearing 90 ... "I came alone and I go as a stranger. I
do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing," the dying old man confessed to his
son, Azam, in February 1707.
After the death of Aurangzeb, the Marathas began an expansion northward. They
crossed the Narmada, the traditional boundary between northern plains and peninsula,
and marched into Delhi itself. Within a decade, the Mughals were confined to Delhi itself
and had to release the grandson of Shivaji, Shahu, from captivity. By 1758, the
Marathas had reached Delhi, Multan and Peshawar.
The Mughal empire was split in small kingdoms, with the Nizam of Hyderabad,
Nawab of Oudh and Nawab of Bengal quick to assert the independence of their lands.
War with Siddis of Janjira
Entering the 1680s, the Marathas came into conflict with the Siddis, who were
Muslim of African descent settled in India and held the fortified island of Janjira. At the
start of 1682, a Maratha army, later joined by Sambhaji personally, attacked the island
for thirty days, doing heavy damage but failing to breach its defenses. Sambhaji then
attempted a ruse, sending a party of his people to the Siddis, claiming to be defectors.
They were allowed into the fort, and planned to detonate the gunpowder magazine
during a coming Maratha attack. However, one of the female "defectors" became
involved with a Siddi man, and he uncovered the plot and the infiltrators were executed.
The Maratha then attempted to build a stone causeway from the shore to the island, but
were interrupted halfway through when the Mughal army moved to menace Raigad;
Sambhaji returned to counter them, and his remaining troops were unable to overcome
the Janjira garrison and the Siddi fleet protecting it.
Having failed to take Janjira, in 1682 Sambhaji sent a commander to seize the
coastal fort of Anjadiva instead. The Marathas seized the fort, seeking to turn it into a
naval base, but in April 1682 were ejected from the fort by a detachment of 200
Portuguese. This incident led to a larger conflict between the two regional powers.
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The Portuguese colony of Goa at that time provided supplies to the Mughals,
allowed them to use the Portuguese ports in India and pass through their territory. In
order to deny this support to the Mughals, Sambhaji undertook a campaign against
Portuguese Goa in late 1683 storming the colony and taking its forts, while local Goans
uprose against the Europeans. The situation for the colonists became
so dire that the Portuguese viceroy, Francisco de Távora, conde de Alvor went with his
remaining supporters to the cathedral where the crypt of Saint Francis Xavier was kept,
where they prayed for deliverance. The viceroy had the casket opened, and gave the
saint's body his baton, royal credentials, and a letter asking the saint's support.
Sambhaji's Goa campaign was checked by the arrival of the Mughal army and navy in
January 1684, forcing him to withdraw.
Meanwhile, in 1684 Sambhaji signed a defensive treaty with the British at
Bombay, realising his need for British arms and gunpowder, particularly as their lack of
artillery and explosives impeded the Maratha's ability to lay siege to fortifications. Thus
reinforced, Sambhaji proceeded to take Pratapgad and a series of forts along the
Much like his father Shivaji's Karnataka campaign, Sambhaji attempted in 1681
to invade Mysore, then a southern principality ruled by Wodeyar Chikkadevaraja.
Sambhaji's large army was repelled,:91 as had happened to Shivaji in 1675. The
Chikkadevraja later made treaties and rendered tribute to the Maratha kingdom during
the conflicts of 1682-1686. The Chikkadevraja however began to draw close to the
Mughal empire and ceased to follow his treaties with the Marathas. In response,
Sambhaji invaded Mysore in 1686, accompanied by his Brahmin friend and poet Kavi
The 1687 Battle of Wai saw the Maratha forces badly weakened by the Mughals.
The key Maratha commander Hambirao Mohite was killed, and troops began to desert
the Maratha armies. Sambaji's positions were spied upon by Shirke clan Marathas who
had defected to the Mughals. Sambhaji and 25 of his advisors were captured by the
Mughal forces of Muqarrab Khan in a skirmish at Sangameshwar in February 1689 .
Accounts of Sambhaji's confrontation with the Mughal ruler, and following torture,
execution, and disposal of his body, vary widely depending on the source, though
generally all agree that he was tortured and executed on the emperor's orders.
The captured Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash were taken to Bahadurgad, where
Aurangzeb humiliated them by parading them wearing clown's clothes, and they were
subjected to insults by the Mughal soldiers. Accounts vary as to the reasons for what
came next: Mughal accounts state that Sambhaji was asked to surrender his forts,
treasures, and names of Mughal collaborators with the Marathas, and that he sealed his
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fate by insulting both the emperor and the Islamic prophet Muhammad during
interrogation, and was executed for having killed Muslims. Maratha accounts instead
state that he was ordered to bow before Auguranzeb and convert to Islam, and it was
his refusal to do so that led to his death, lending a religious martyrdom to the narrative.
By doing so he earned the title of Dharmaveer ("protector of dharma"). Aurangzeb
ordered Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash to be tortured to death; the process took over a
fortnight and included plucking out their eyes and tongue, pulling out their nails, and
removing their skin. Sambhaji was finally killed on 11 March 1689,
reportedly by tearing him apart from the front and back with wagh nakhe (metal "tiger
claws") and beheading with an axe at Tulapur on the banks of the Bhima river, near
Other accounts state that Sambhaji challenged Aurangzeb in open court and
refused to convert to Islam. Dennis Kincaid writes "He (Sambhaji) was ordered by the
Emperor to embrace Islam. He refused and was made to run the gauntlet of the whole
Imperial army. Tattered and bleeding he was brought before the Emperor and repeated
his refusal. His tongue was torn and again the question was put. He called for writing
material and wrote 'Not even if the emperor bribed me with his daughter!' So then he
was put to death by torture".
Some accounts state that Sambhaji's body was cut into pieces and thrown into
the river, or that the body or portions were recaptured and cremated at the confluence
of rivers at Tulapur. Other accounts state that Sambhaji's remains were fed to the dogs.
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be
challenged and removed. (September 2014)
The Maratha confederacy was put into disarray by Sambhaji's death, and his
younger half-brother Rajaram assumed the throne. A few days after Sambhaji's death,
the capital Raigad fell to the Mughals and Sambhaji's wife, Yesubai, and son, Shahu
were captured. Rajaram shifted the Maratha capital far south to Jinji, while Maratha
guerrilla fighters under Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav continued to harass the
Mughal army. Yesubai and Shahu, who was 7 years of age when captured, remained
prisoners of the Mughals for 18 years from February 1689 until Mughal Emperor
Aurangzeb's death in 1707. Shahu was then set free by Emperor Muhammad Azam
Shah, son of Aurangzeb.After his release Shahu had to fight a brief war with his aunt
Tarabai, Rajaram's widow who claimed the throne for her own son, Shivaji II.
The Mughals kept Yesubai captive to ensure that Shahu adhered to the terms of
his release. Yesubai was finally released in 1719 when Marathas became strong
enough under Shahu's rule.
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