Sambhaji Sambhaji
Maratha ruler
Sambhaji Sambhaji
Sambhaji Bhonsle was the eldest son and successor of Chhatrapati (sovereign) Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire and his first wife Saibai. Sambhaji's rule was largely shaped by the ongoing wars between the Maratha kingdom and the Mughal Empire, as well as other neighbouring powers such as the Siddis, Mysore and the Portuguese in Goa. Sambhaji was captured, tortured, and executed by the Mughals, and succeeded by his brother Rajaram.
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  • 1689
    Age 31
    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 Pune.
    More Details Hide Details 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. 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.
    Sambhaji and 25 of his advisors were captured by the Mughal forces of Muqarrab Khan in a skirmish at Sangameshwar in February 1689.
    More Details Hide Details 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 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.
  • 1686
    Age 28
    In response, Sambhaji invaded Mysore in 1686, accompanied by his Brahmin friend and poet Kavi Kalash.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1684
    Age 26
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Thus reinforced, Sambhaji proceeded to take Pratapgad and a series of forts along the Ghats. 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, 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.
    Sambhaji's Goa campaign was checked by the arrival of the Mughal army and navy in January 1684, forcing him to withdraw.
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  • 1683
    Age 25
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1682
    Age 24
    Having failed to take Janjira, in 1682 Sambhaji sent a commander to seize the coastal fort of Anjadiva instead.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1680
    Age 22
    Sambhaji then plundered and ravaged the city in 1680, his forces completely routed the Mughal garrison and punitively executed captives.
    More Details Hide Details The Marathas then looted the city and set its ports ablaze. In contrast to his father's tactics, Sambhaji permitted torture and violence by his forces. Sambhaji then withdrew into Baglana, evading the forces of Mughal commander Khan Jahan Bahadur. In 1682 the Mughals laid siege to the Maratha fort of Ramsej, but after five months of failed attempts, including planting explosive mines and building wooden towers to gain the walls, the Mughal siege failed. 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.
    Sambhaji formally ascended the throne on 20 July 1680.
    More Details Hide Details Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyarabai were imprisoned. Soyarabai was executed in October 1680 on charges of conspiracy.
    Shivaji's widow and Sambhaji's stepmother, Soyarabai, started making plans with various ministers to crown her son Rajaram as the heir to the Maratha kingdom and the ten-year-old Rajaram was installed on the throne on 21 April 1680.
    More Details Hide Details Upon hearing this news, Sambhaji plotted his escape and took possession of the Panhala fort on 27 April after killing the commander. On 18 June, he acquired control of Raigad fort.
    When Shivaji died in the first week of April 1680, Sambhaji was still held captive in Panhala fort.
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  • 1678
    Age 20
    Sambhaji escaped from the fort with his wife and defected to the Mughals in December 1678 for a year but then returned home when he learnt of a plan by Dilir Khan, the Mughal viceroy of Deccan to arrest him and send him to Delhi.
    More Details Hide Details Upon returning home, Sambhaji was unrepentant, and was again confined to Panhala.
    Sambhaji's behaviour, including alleged irresponsibility and "addiction to sensual pleasures" led Shivaji to imprison his son at Panhala fort in 1678 to curb his behaviour.
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  • 1666
    Age 8
    He and his father Shivaji presented themselves at Aurangzeb's court at Agra on 12 May 1666.
    More Details Hide Details Aurangzeb put both of them under house arrest but they escaped on 22 July 1666. Sambhaji was married to Jivubai in a marriage of political alliance, and per Maratha custom she took the name Yesubai. Jivabai was the daughter of Pilajirao Shirke, who had entered Shivaji's service following the defeat of a powerful Deshmukh who was his previous patron. This marriage thus gave Shivaji access to the Konkan coastal belt.
  • 1665
    Age 7
    At the age of nine, Sambhaji was sent to live with Raja Jai Singh of Amber, as a political hostage to ensure compliance of the Treaty of Purandar that Shivaji had signed with the Mughals on 11 June 1665.
    More Details Hide Details As a result of the treaty, Sambhaji became a Mughal sardar and served the Mughal court of Aurangzeb and the father and son duo fought along the Mughals against Bijapur.
  • 1657
    Born on May 14, 1657.
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