After the death of Shivaji in 1680, his 23-year-old eldest son Sambhaji ascended the Maratha throne. Aurangzeb was relieved at the news of Shivaji’s death. By 1681, Aurangzeb reached Burhanpur. He intended to uproot the Maratha race, destroy temples, crush Hindu resistance for good &go back to Delhi as victor within 1 year. The most powerful and richest person in the world came with 5 Lakh Mughal troops, the largest army in the world.
But Aurangzeb had little idea he’d spend the next 27 years of life in Decca, ultimately failing his objective and meeting a sad death. Aurangzeb also enlisted the services of Sidis and Portuguese who attacked Marathas from the West while Mughals attacked them from North and East. Sambhaji was encircled & the death of the newly formed kingdom of Shivaji, the hope of millions of Hindus, seemed imminent. But Sambhaji decided to fight fire with fire. His small bands dispersed & battled Mughals in all directions. In the first year, he invited Subedar Bahadur Khan for war.
In 1682, the Mughal army at Ramsej(Nasik) was defeated, repulsed by Marathas. This defeat dealt a blow to Aurangzeb’s prestige. In 1683, Sambhaji attacked Portuguese Goa & successfully captured the Ponda fort. He was on his way to annihilate Portuguese traces in India for good. Just then, the Mughals came in support of the Portuguese & attacked Sambhaji from the East. Heavily outnumbered and encircled, Sambhaji still managed to hold onto his territories & invaded/successfully raided Mughal-held Gujarat in 1685. Even the Mughal base at Aurangabad was not safe.
Sambhaji invited other Hindu kings to join his dharmayuddha. He wrote “We can’t bear the persecution Aurangzeb is inflicting upon Hindus. We’ll sacrifice our lives to capture Aurangzeb so we practice our religion without molestation. Muster courage and nothing can stop us”. In his short reign of 9 years, Sambhaji and his troops ruling over a tiny territory of Konkan waged at least 15 battles with the Portuguese and 69 battles with the Mughals. That they still held on is one of the greatest stories of Hindu resistance.
Sambhaji’s conquests in Blue.
Ultimately, he was betrayed by his own people & his whereabouts told to Mughals. In 1689, Mughal troops suddenly fell upon a resting Sambhaji. This came as a shock to him and he was completely ambushed at Sangameshwar along with 25 of his advisors.
Sambhaji Maharaj was dressed as a buffoon and paraded. His wife and daughters were captured and enslaved. Aurangzeb offered to spare Sambhaji’s life if
- He converted to Islam
- surrendered forts, men, and treasures
- Divulged information of those who secretly sided with him.
“I won’t convert to Islam even if Aurangzeb offered his daughter to me” thundered Sambhaji Maharaj. This was it! His eyes were plucked off. His tongue was cut out. After a fortnight of physical torture, his limbs were hacked into pieces and fed to dogs.
Finally, Sambhaji Maharaj was beheaded at Tulapur. His severed head was paraded and put on public display in an ISIS-like fashion.
Maasir I Alamgiri is the official" Mughal-sponsored history of Aurangzeb. While describing ISIS-like punishments meted out to “Kafir” Sambhaji with glee, it says Aurangzeb did it “out to his devotion to Islam so that Muslims might be heartened and (Hindu) infidels disheartened”.