After the unfortunate demise of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1680, the Maratha empire faced a great challenge. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had been confounded and defeated by the repeated battles with the Marathas and the high spirit of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. With the forces of fanaticism released throughout South Asia and to sustain himself, the aged emperor leaned ever heavier on the clerics and upon religious exclusivism. The king of the Marathas with his slaying of the Afghan war leader, Afzal Khan, the daring attack on Shaista Khan and the escape from the very depths of the Mughal Empire in Delhi, were the stuff of legend in the lifetime of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj himself. The deaths of the great Rajput Chiefs, Jai Singh and Jaswant Singh around the same time seemed to open the floodgates of repression and extremism even further. Orders were issued to demolish the Hindu temples and impose the hated poll tax on non-Muslims – the Jizya.
As the empire groaned in its agony, resistance began to multiply and leading to further repressions. The Bundelas in central India began fighting; the Jats of the Mathura region and the Rajput clans of the Rathores and Sisodiyas in Rajasthan even leading to a son of Aurangzeb named Akbar to join the Rajput’s. In fury, the enraged Emperor led the main imperial army to crush his son and his erstwhile rebellion.
Further south, the Mughals believed that the Marathas would be unable to repeat their exploits under the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Sambhaji Maharaj), thinking that the sustenance of this new Hindu kingdom rested on one able man alone. Like so many other rebellions in that period, he thought that the Maratha movement too must have received its death-blow with the passing of its able leader, and by the fact that Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had been succeeded by son, Sambhaji Maharaj. Sambhaji Maharaj had the courage, which he indeed demonstrated on various occasions, but also indulged in excesses, leading his father on occasions, forced to consider a severe punishment for his own son. Sambhaji Maharaj in his rage left and joined the Mughals. This was an intensely painful time in Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's life. Sambhaji Maharaj left the Mughals when he witnessed first-hand the atrocities against Hindus.
Shambaji Maharaj offered refuge to Akbar and in 1682, the lost son of Aurangzeb escorted by the Rajputs, arrived safely in Maharashtra. Close behind the Emperor entered the Maratha Kingdom in the same year. Few would have guessed that he would never return after spending the last 27 years of his life in a futile and eventually failed war with the Hindus.
The war was engaged and raged from this period onwards in a steady ebb and flow in the hills of western India with neither side able to emerge over the other. The steady courage of Sambhaji Maharaj was only matched by his impetuous and rash nature. Only his minister, Kavi Kalash, was able to exercise any control over the headstrong king. An equal measure of the rage of Sambhaji Maharaj was directed towards any perceived rivals or dissenters in his kingdom and he dealt with the same with extreme severity and with all the rage for which he was justly famous.
Blood flowed over the mountains and the land was ruined but the people fought on. The full force of the empire was now borne down on the barren hills, and the prime generals and troops of the Mughals all now began to unravel. For seven years more, that war continued with its monotonous tale of attack and counter-attack. Of determined sieges of forts by the Mughals, only to be retaken months later by the equally determined sieges of forts by the Marathas and this cycle of destruction continued.
In the Battle of Wai in the year 1687, the Maratha forces were hit hard by the Mughal army. The army General and staunch Shivaji Maharaj's loyalist Hambirao Mohite was killed. The troops had started to desert the Maratha army. Sambhaji Maharaj himself was under scrutiny by his own relatives, the Shirke family. Shirke had defected to the Mughals. Finally, as a result of this betrayal, Sambhaji Maharaj was captured by the Mughal forces of Muqarrab Khan along with 25 of his loyalists. This happened in the battle at Sangameshwar in February 1689.
In 1689, the Maratha king was at Sangameshwar unaware of the nearness of his enemies and with an inadequate force around him. After a sudden raid under Muqarrab Khan, a Mughal force reached the place and after a bitter fight, succeeded in capturing Sambhaji Maharaj and Kavi Kalash.
After the capture of Sambhaji Maharaj and Kavi Kalash, they were taken to Bahadurgad. This is the same place as the present day Ahmednagar. At this location, Aurangzeb grossly humiliated them. He was paraded by making them wear clown's clothes. They were subjected to insults by Mughal soldiers.
Sambhaji Maharaj was asked to surrender his forts which he had recaptured from the Mughals. He was asked to return all his loot which he had looted in his battles with Mughals. Most importantly, he was asked to reveal the names of the conspirators from within the Mughal army who had collaborated with Sambhaji Maharaj. Bravely, Sambhaji Maharaj refused to divulge the names of his collaborators and also rejected the other demands of the Emperor. As a strong response and in a fit of anger, he insulted the Prophet Muhammad and the Emperor. As a result of this, and for having killed Muslims, he was given the death sentence as per Islamic law.
Sambhaji Maharaj was asked to bow down before the Emperor. He refused. He was also offered to get converted to Islam in return for the Emperor’s favor of less harsh punishment. This was also rejected by Sambhaji Maharaj.
For his adherence to the Hindu Dharma, the people named him ‘Dharamveer’ the warrior of Dharma.
He and Kavi Kalash were tortured for over a fortnight. His eyes were gouged out and tongue was cut. His nails were pulled out. Skin was removed. He was finally killed on 11th March 1689.
He was torn apart from the front and back with tiger claws (wagh nakhe – same arms with which Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj killed Afzal Khan).
Finally, he was beheaded with an axe at Tulapur on the banks of Bhima river near Pune.
His body was cut into pieces. It was thrown in the river. Some body parts were recovered by the villagers and cremated at the confluence of rivers of Tulapur.
His head was cut off and placed in public display around the cities and towns of Maharashtra as a warning. But it did not have the desired effect.
There were many people who did not like Sambhaji Maharaj and thus, were sympathetic to the Mughals. But this barbaric treatment made everyone angry. Maratha generals gathered on Raigad. The decision was unanimous. All peace offers were to be withdrawn. Mughals had to be repelled at all costs. Rajaram Bhosle I (younger son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and half-brother of Sambhaji Maharaj), succeeded as the next king. He began his reign by a valiant speech on Raigad. All Maratha generals and councilmen united under the flag of a new king, and thus began the second phase of the epic war.
In the moment of his apparent triumph, Aurangzeb was beset by an even greater tide of enemies. The Marathas under their warbands and leaders took to fight all over the western and southern parts of India from coast to coast. Their soldiers everywhere continually harried and fought the Mughals in an even greater tidal wave of resistance. The harried and worn out emperor continued to fight in the face of ever increasing odds. The people of the north of India began to rise in rebellions and struggles which eventually lead to the destruction of the Mughals. For 27 long years, Aurangzeb continued with his fight against the Marathas only to die in despair in 1707.
Alone, lost, depressed, bankrupt, and far away from home, he died a sad death on 3rd March 1707. “I hope God will forgive me one day for my disastrous sins”, were his last words.
The son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had redeemed the pledge of his father of Hindu Padshahi – His heroic death led to the eventual victory over the forces and the Maratha Hindu empire rose on the ruins of the Mughals and a hundred years after the execution of Sambhaji Maharaj, a defeated and blinded Mughal Padshah, Shah Alam fell at the feet and mercy of the Maratha warrior and kingmaker Mahadaji Shinde.
Thus ended a prolonged and grueling period in the history of India. The Mughal kingdom fragmented and disintegrated soon after. And Deccan saw the rise of a new sun, the Maratha empire.
”What some call the Muslim period in Indian history, was, in reality, a continuous war of occupiers against resisters, in which the Muslim rulers were finally defeated in the 18th century” - Dr. Koenraad Elst
The remarkable things that Sambhaji Maharaj achieved in his short life had far reaching effects on the whole of India. Every Hindu should be grateful to him for that. He valiantly faced the 8 lakh strong army of Aurangzeb and defeated several Mughal chieftains on the battlefield forcing them to retreat. Because of this, Aurangzeb remained engaged in battles in Maharashtra, thus keeping the rest of India free from Aurangzeb’s tyranny for a long time. This can be considered as the greatest achievement of Sambhaji Maharaj. If Sambhaji Maharaj would have arrived at a settlement with Aurangzeb and accepted his proposal of being a tributary prince, then within the next 2 or 3 years Aurangzeb would have captured North India again. However, because of Sambhaji Maharaj and other Maratha rulers’s (Rajaram and Maharani Tarabai) struggle, Aurangzeb was stuck in battles in South India for 27 years. This helped in the establishment of new Hindu kingdoms in the provinces of Bundelkhand, Punjab, and Rajasthan in North India; thus providing safety to the Hindu society there.
Why didn't Aurangzeb achieve victory against the Maratha empire?
Because Aurangzeb wanted to win the war against Marathas. But Marathas were fighting for their freedom. It is super hard for an occupying force to win a war against the resisting militias.
Though Aurangzeb's men were well equipped and well fed, they weren't motivated as the Marathas were. A well motivated army with a firm leader can beat a force with technical and numerical superiority if the superior force doesn't strategize well. The Mughal soldiers were fighting the war because that paid their salary. But the Marathas were fighting for freedom, to escape tyranny, to live the life the way they wanted to live without paying Jizya and to be independent of Muslim rulers like Mughals and Adil Shahis.
An important message for everyone who is reading this.
The main motive behind such rubbish posts which we see often on r/India is to defame our heroes and demoralize us by twisting the facts and portraying our idols as weak. This same strategy was used by the Congress to keep the Hindus in check by emphasizing on history written by Marxists which antagonized Hindu nationalists like Veer Savarkar and others. It is a perfect example of psychological warfare. A civilization only survives as long as people take pride in it and this is exactly what these people are trying to do — to strip us off of our pride. Please whenever you come across such posts which peddle misinformation, don't hesitate to counter it with facts because you never know when an innocent fencesitter might fall for this deception. The fact that these leftists and Islamists have to rely on lies is proof enough that they are on the wrong side (also losing side?) of this war just like their revered 'Aurangzeb'.