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Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje Bhonsle
2nd Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire
Reign 20 July 1680 - 11 March 1689
Coronation 20 July 1680, Panhala
Predecessor Shivaji
Successor Rajaram
Born (1657-05-14)May 14, 1657
Purandar Fort, near Pune, India
Died March 11, 1689(1689-03-11) (aged 31)
Tulapur-Vadhu Dist. Pune, Maharashtra, India
Spouse Yesubai,durgabai
Issue Bhavani Bai
Father Shivaji
Mother Saibai
Religion Hinduism

Sambhaji Bhonsle[1] (14 May 1657 – 11 March 1689) was the eldest son of Chhatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire, and his first wife Saibai. He was successor of the realm after his father's death. 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,[2] and succeeded by his brother Rajaram.


  • Early life 1
  • Accession 2
  • Attack on Burhanpur 3
  • War against the Mughal empire 4
  • War with Siddis of Janjira 5
  • Portuguese and the English 6
  • War with Mysore 7
  • Capture and execution 8
  • Succession 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12

Early life

Sambhaji was born at Purandar fort to Saibai, Shivaji's first and favourite wife. His mother died when he was two and he was raised by his paternal grandmother Jijabai. 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.

As a result of the treaty, Sambhaji become a Mughal sardar and served the Mughal court of Aurangzeb and the father and son duo fought along the Mughals against Bijapur. He and his father Shivaji presented themselves at Aurangzeb's court at Agra on 12 May 1666. 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.[3]:47

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. Sambhaji escaped from the fort with his wife and defected to the Mughals for a year but then returned home unrepentant, and was again confined to Panhala.[3]:551


When Shivaji died in the first week of April 1680, Sambhaji was still held captive in Panhala fort. 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. 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. Sambhaji formally ascended the throne on 20 July 1680. Rajaram, his wife Janki Bai, and mother Soyarabai were imprisoned. Soyarabai was executed in October 1680 on charges of conspiracy.[3]:48[4]

Attack on Burhanpur

Bahadurkhan Kokaltash, a relative of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was in charge of Burhanpur, a Mughal stronghold. He left Burhanpur with a portion of his army to attend a wedding, giving the charge of the city to Kakarkhan. Sambhaji tricked Mughals into thinking that Marathas were going to attack Surat that had been plundered twice by Shivaji, but Hambirrao Mohite, the commander of the Maratha army, surrounded Burhanpur. Sambhaji then plundered and ravaged the city in 1680, his forces completely routed the Mughal garrison and punitively executed captives. 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.[5]

War against the Mughal empire

Statue of Sambhaji at Tulapur

Sambhaji gave shelter to Sultan Muhammad Akbar, the fourth son of Aurangzeb, who sought Sambhaji's aid in winning the Mughal throne from his emperor father. Upon the death of Shivaji, Aurangzeb came to Deccan in 1680 CE with about half a million troops and 400,000 animals. He defeated the Adilshahi (Sultanate of Bijapur) and Qutubshahi (Sultanate of Golconda) empires, acquiring two generals, Mukarrabkhan and Sarjakhan, from Qutubshahi and Adilshahi empires respectively. He then turned his attention to the Maratha kingdom, engaging Sambhaji's armies. 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.[6]

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.[7]

Portuguese and the English

Sambhaji with his infant son Shahuji.

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.[7]:171

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.[8]

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 Ghats.[9]:91

War with Mysore

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,[9]:91 as had happened to Shivaji in 1675.[10] 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 Kalash.[11][12]

Capture and execution

Stone arch at Tulapur confluence where Sambhaji was executed.

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 .[3]:47

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.[5] 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.[13] By doing so he earned the title of Dharmaveer ("protector of dharma").[14] 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 Pune.

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".[14]

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.[15][16] Other accounts state that Sambhaji's remains were fed to the dogs.[3]


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.

Preceded by
Chhatrapati of the
Maratha Empire

Succeeded by

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 199–200.  
  3. ^ a b c d e J. L. Mehta (1 January 2005). Advanced Study in the History of Modern India: Volume One: 1707 - 1813. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.  
  4. ^ Sunita Sharma; K̲h̲udā Bak̲h̲sh Oriyanṭal Pablik Lāʼibrerī (2004). Veil, sceptre, and quill: profiles of eminent women, 16th- 18th centuries. Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library. p. 139. Retrieved 30 September 2012.  - By June 1680 three months after Shivaji's death Rajaram was made a prisoner in the fort of Raigad, along with his mother Soyra Bai and his wife Janki Bai. Soyara Bai was later put to death on charge of conspiracy
  5. ^ a b  
  6. ^ Itihas. Director of State Archives, Government of Andhra Pradesh. 1976. pp. 100–103. Retrieved 3 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Shanti Sadiq Ali (1 January 1996). The African Dispersal in the Deccan: From Medieval to Modern Times. Orient Blackswan. pp. 171–.  
  8. ^ Dauril Alden (1 September 1996). The Making of an Enterprise: The Society of Jesus in Portugal, Its Empire, and Beyond, 1540-1750. Stanford University Press. pp. 202–.  
  9. ^ a b Stewart Gordon (16 September 1993). The Marathas 1600-1818. Cambridge University Press. pp. 91–.  
  10. ^ Pran Nath Chopra (1992). Encyclopaedia of India: Karnataka. Rima Pub. House. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  11. ^ B. Muddhachari (1969). The Mysore-Maratha relations in the 17th century. Prasārānga, University of Mysore. p. 106. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  12. ^ A. Satyanarayana; Karnataka (India). Directorate of Archaeology & Museums (1996). History of the Wodeyars of Mysore, 1610-1748. Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. p. 94. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  13. ^ S. B. Bhattacherje (1 May 2009). Encyclopaedia of Indian Events & Dates. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. pp. A80–A81.  
  14. ^ a b Y. G. Bhave (1 January 2000). From the Death of Shivaji to the Death of Aurangzeb: The Critical Years. Northern Book Centre. pp. 60–.  
  15. ^ Kamal Shrikrishna Gokhale (1978). Chhatrapati Sambhaji. Navakamal Publications. p. 365. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  16. ^ Organiser. Bharat Prakashan. January 1973. p. 280. Retrieved 2 October 2012.  - When they were finally thrown away, the Marathas brought Sambhaji's head to Tulapur and consigned if to fire at the confluence of the Bheema and Indrayani rivers.

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