The Maratha War of Independence

The Maratha War of Independence

The Maratha War of Independence (also war of 27 years) consists of series of battles fought between the Maratha Army and the Mughal empire during the period from 1680 to 1707. Chhatrapati Shivaji died on 3rd Apri, 1680, but he had already given birth to the Maratha Independence Movement. He had already created an independent Maratha with Raigarh as its capital.

Maratha war under Sambhaji Maharaj ( 1680-1689)

Sambhaji Maharaj, son of Shivaji Maharaj, ascended to the throne on 1680. Aurangzeb, after the fall of Bijapur and Golkunda, redoubled his efforts against the Maratha king, Sambhaji Maharaj and had him captured and put to death in 1689. After the fall of Raigarh and the family members of Sambhaji Maharaj, including his son Shahu, then a boy of seven, were taken prisoner.

The Maratha capital Raigarh was captured by the Mughals. But Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj, younger brother of the deceased Sambhaji escaped and shifted the Maratha capital to Jinji in 1689.

By the end of 1689, Aurangzeb, became the master of the entire country including the Deccan, but his success was short lived and within a few years the Marathas not only challenged his supremacy but also made his position precarious by countless raids on his territory and camp. The emperor again sent Zulfiqar Khan and Jinji was conquered by Mughal army. However, Rajaram Maharaj managed to escape.

After the death of Sambhaji Maharaj in 1689, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb tried to weaken the Maratha power and during 1690 and 1691, he occupied himself with taking possession of the Bijapur and Golkunda dominions. Very soon, however, he was awakened to the reality of the situation when he found himself confronted by a people’s war of independence.

Maratha war under Rajaram Maharaj (1689-1700)

After the death of Sambhaji Maharaj, his brother Rajaram became the king of Maratha Empire. Since, Rajaram Maharaj had shifted his capital to Jinji, there was lack of common leadership for some time.

The disappearance of a common leader among the Maratha army increased the difficulties of Aurangzeb. Every Maratha captain now fought and plundered in a different quarter on his own account. The Marathas became on of the dominating factor of Deccan politics. They disturbed the regular administration of Mughal empire throughout the Deccan and even in Malwa, Gondwana and Bundelkhand. The Mughal army suffered huge losses.

The Maratha leaders like Ramchandra Pant Amatya, Parashuram Trimbak and Prahlad Niraji planned a comprehensive campaign against the Mughal invader on several fronts under a number of competent and enthusiastic commanders. Ramchandra Pant Amatya (Bavdekar) became the dictator with full authority over all the officials and commanders in Maharashtra. He appointed two capable generals, Dhanaji Jadav and Santaji Ghorpade to conduct operations against the Mughals. These Marathas moved across the Deeccan peninsula and by their guerilla tactics inflicted the greatest loss on the Mughal emperor and caused boundless confusion among the Mughals.

The Maratha people were paralyzed for about one year only after the death of Shambhuji, the siege of their capital and the flight of their new king Rajaram to Jinji, but seeing that the emperor was occupied in taking possession of the territories of the fallen Bijapur and Golkonda kingdoms, they recovered themselves from the shock and organized two theatres of warfare against the Mughals;

  1. In Maharasthra proper under Ram Chandra Bavdekar with the powers of a dictator, and
  2. The other under Prahlad Niraji with the same powers in the eastern region in Karnataka.

The actual operations were in the hands of Dhanaji Jadav and Santaji Ghorpade.

The eastern Karnataka which had been conquered by the Muslims in the middle of the 17th century was divided into two parts known as the Hyderabadi and Bijapuri regions. In 1677, Shivaji Maharaj had conquered Jinji and the adjoining districts. Thus, Karnataka now became divided into three independent parts. The Maratha territory in the Karnataka, conquered most of the Hyderabadi Karnataka. Later on, in 1698 Jinji was also conquered by the Mughal army of Aurangzeb.

During this period both the Mughals and the Marathas suffered great losses, the former much more than the latter. After the fall of Jinji the war was transferred to the western part of the Maharashtra .

The Maratha war of independence continued in Maharashtra. The first Maratha success was a victory over Sharza Khan who was captured near Satara on 4th June, 1690, along with his whole family and entire camp after losing 1,500 of his troops. The Marathas quickly regained Pratapgarh, Rohira, Rajgarh and Torna. In 1692 they recovered Panhala. Santaji and Dhanaji kept falling on the confused Mughals and harassing them. Santaji succeeded even in levying chauth in the imperial region of Malkhed. In December 1695, Santaji by swift march surprised Qasim Khan, who was ordered by Aurangzeb to intercept that commander, inflicted upon him a crushing defeat and plundered the Mughal general’s camp. After the death of Qasim Khan, the remnant of his force had to promise to Santaji a ransom of 20 lakhs of rupees. In January 1596, Santaji defeated and killed another Mughal general, Himmat Khan.

The Maratha war of liberation continued under the reign of Chhatrapati Rajaram.

Maratha War under Tarabai (1700-1707)

Rajaram died on March 2, 1700  and after a short dispute Tarabai, wife of Rajaram Maharaj,took control of the Maratha government. She crowned her 4 year old son, Shivaji Maharaj II, and became his regent. Tarabai continued the Maratha war of independence against the Mughals.

The Mughals failed to achieve a considerable success even in Maharashtra. They, however, took Kalyan and some other places in the northern Konkan. Eventually, Aurangzeb realized that it was impossible to crush the Marathas and therefore in May 1695, he sent prince Shah Alam to take charge of Punjab, Sindh and Afghanistan and later look after the affairs of Northern India, while he personally established his headquarters at Brahmapuri, in Maharashtra to continue war with the Maratha army, but he did not succeed.

The Marathas by their ceaseless guerilla activities compelled the Mughal emperor to be on the defensive in Maharashtra. The Mughal administration, had really broken and only the presence of the Aurangzeb held it together.

Aurangzeb, in the circumstances, followed the illusive policy of besieging the Maratha forts in person but did not succeed, as when he captured one fort, another slipped out of his possession and this continued till his death.

The long Deccan wars desolated Southern India and caused great misery. The Deccan policy of Aurangzeb proved barren and emboldened the Marathas on account of its failure. The Maratha generals followed Aurangzeb on his journey to Ahmednagar, cutting off his supplies and communications, falling upon the stragglers and threatening to attack the emperor’s own camp.

The Maratha army were equipped with artillery and other requirements of a regular army. When the emperor reached Ahmednagar they besieged his camp and were repulsed only after a long and severe fighting in May 1706. At this time, Marathas began breaking in and invading the adjacent Mughal provinces, like Gujarat, Khandesh and even Malwa. Dhanaji Jadav invaded Berar and Khandesh. The Marathas plundered an imperial convoy which was on its way from Aurangabad to Ahmadnagar. In the midst of these troubles, Aurangzeb died on March 3, 1707.


Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy had met with a disastrous failure. Far from crushing the Marathas, it had compelled them to organize themselves into a nation and to take up the offensive against the empire.