After Shivaji’s death in 1680, the Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb thought to himself that the Marathas would henceforth be easy to crush, erroneously thinking that the sustenance of this new Hindu kingdom rested on one able man alone [Shivaji]. Like so many other uprisings in that period, he thought the Maratha movement too would receive its death blow with the passing of its able leader, and furthermore due to the fact that Shivaji had been succeeded by his brave but undisciplined and intemperate son, Sambhaji.
Sambhaji had great courage, which he demonstrated on numerous occasions, but he was allegedly involved in vice, indulged in many excesses, and was known to be arrogant and uncontrolled. In 1678 Shivaji himself had Sambhaji imprisoned in a fort to curb his behaviour. Sambhaji in outrage left his people and joined the Moghuls! This was an intensely painful time in Shivaji’s life. However Sambhaji left the Moghuls when he witnessed first hand the atrocities against Hindus.
Sambhaji led the Marathas after his father’s death. He fought courageously. Aurangzeb had himself led his imperial forces to crush the Hindu kingdom, but he met stiff resistance and neither side was able to gain a decisive advantage. The steady courage of Shambaji was unfortunately matched by his impetuous and rash nature; his rage was particularly 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. Only his minister Kavi Kalash was able to exercise any control over the headstrong king. The unity and resolve of the Marathas was not the same as it was under the inspiring and disciplined leadership of Shivaji.
In spite of all this, this wayward son of Shivaji proved to be an equal to his great father at one crucial time – in the hour of his death. In 1689 he was captured by the Moghuls and refused to barter his religion for his life. He was told to convert to Islam or die. Swearing allegiance to Hindu Dharma he ferociously hurled abuse at his captors, their logic and theology not being spared. Finding it impossible to tame him, Aurangzeb ordered to put the infidel to death. His eyes were pierced and pulled out by red hot iron pincers, but he carried on his verbal defiance. His tongue was pulled out and his body mutilated, but still his spirit refused to be subdued. Finally he was beheaded, and fell victim to Muslim fanaticism. For his steadfastness in the face of torture, he is remembered by the title “Dharamveer”.
The following are accounts of Sambhaji’s death in the words of contemporary sources:
In the words of the : Masir I Alambiri, the official history of Aurangzeb’s reign:
Shamba was brought before the court. The Emperor out of his devotion to Islam ordered that from four miles before the camp Shambha should be made an object of ridicule …..so that the Muslims might be encouraged and the Hindus discouraged by the sight. The night in the morning after which he was brought to the Court …in the joyous expectation of seeing the spectacle, and the day was like the day of Eid because all men, old and young went out to see such a scene of joy and happiness.
The Emperor ordered that man to be removed to the prisons and in that moment Aurangzeb descended from the throne and kneeling down on the carpet of prayer bowed his head to the ground in thanksgiving and raised his hands in prayer to Allah….and drops of marvel(lit tears) fell from his far reaching eyes As the destruction of this wicked infidel in consideration of the harshness and disgrace that he had inflicted by slaying and imprisoning Muslims and plundering Muslims — and by the decision of the Doctors of the Law all were in favour of killing Shamba and thus he was killed with Kavi Kalash.
After two days the Emperor ordered Ruhullah Khan to ask Shamba where he had kept his treasure . In these circumstances that haughty man opened his mouth in defiant and vain words about the Emperor (Aurangzeb) – So the Emperor ordered him to be blinded by driving nails into his two eyes -So it was done. But that proud man from his high spirit gave up taking food from that day onwards and continued to shout defiance to The emperor and the tenets of Islam.
Maratha sources report:
When they were brought face to face with Aurangzeb, the latter offered to let Sambhaji live if he surrendered all the Maratha forts, turned over all his hidden treasures and disclosed the names of all the Mughal officers who had helped him. Sambhaji refused, and instead sang the praises of Mahadev (Lord Shiva). Aurangzeb ordered him and Kavi Kalash to be tortured to death. Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash were brutally tortured for over a fortnight. The torture involved plucking out their eyes and tongue and pulling out their nails. The later part involved removing their skin. On March 11, 1689, Sambhaji was finally killed, reportedly by tearing him apart from the front and back with ‘Wagh Nakhe’ (‘Tiger claws’, a kind of weapon), and was beheaded with an axe. This grievous death was given to him at Vadhu on the banks of the Bhima river, near Pune.
From the Persian history (Fatuhat I Alamgiri) :
At last the case was reported to the Emperor and by his order Shambaji was taken to the place of execution and his limbs were hacked of one after the other- his severed head was publicly exposed across the Empire and taken to Delhi and hung on the gate of that city
At this point in time, all of Shivaji’s material gains had been lost beyond hope. His treasuries were diminished; his forts and castles were taken. Even his capital had fallen to the Moghuls. Sambhaji had not been able to prevent this. But by his last act of self-sacrifice he added gains of another kind to his father’s kingdom – a spirit of wrath and vengeance amongst the people. The Hindus of Maharashtra arose in arms to avenge the death of their king, whose misdeeds were readily forgotten and forgiven with his last act of bravery. They resolved resourceless and penniless, to secure their national independence, and assembling together under their leader, Rajaram, the second son of Shivaji, solemnly swore to fight and die in defence of the Hindu Rajya. The noble and defiant religious teachings of Ramdas, Shivaji’s Guru, were not forgotten and became the living faith of a whole people. Some of the heroes of the colossal struggle that followed in the fight for survival of the Maratha independence were Nilo Moreshwar, Prahlad Niraji, Ramachandra Pant, Shankarji Malhar, Parashuram Trimbak, Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav, Khanderao Dabhade, Nimbalker and Nemaji Parsoji.
At this time, as mentioned, all of Shivaji’s kingdoms were groaning under the military sway of Muslim commanders. It seemed as if Shivaji and his generation had fought and died in vain. But what of castles and capitals? The strongest castle is the determination of a nation firm in its quest for independence, and its forts are its ideals and thirst for sacrifice. “If all Maharashtra is lost, let us carry the fight to Madras, if Raigad falls, let us plant the flag of Hindu Pad-Pad-Shahi at Junji, but let us not give up the struggle.” With such unswerving resistance, the Marathas faced the huge forces of the Moghuls, personally led by Aurangzeb, for some twenty years, and ultimately sent him back, broken and disillusioned to die in agony in Ahmednagar in 1707.
To illustrate the patriotic spirit that animated the chief actors in this period, it is enough to refer to the attempt of Khando Ballal to win over the few Maratha nobles who still sided with the Moghuls, and were taking part in the siege of Jinji against the Marathas. The siege had trapped the king Rajaram. Secret negotiations were opened up with Nagoji Raje to convert him to the greater cause. It was explained to him how easy it was to destroy the Mohammedan forces at Jinji, if he would but join Rajaram, and how it was his duty to help in their attempt to defend the Dharma and free the land from molestation. This appeal won over Nagoji Raje, who with 5,000 followers backed the Marathas. Thereupon, Khando Ballal decided to persuade a Jamindar named Shirka, who still remained with the Moghuls. But Shirka was indignant and said: “What do if care if not only Rajaram but the whole family of the Bhonslas are wiped out from this Earth? Did not Rajaram’s brother Sambhaji massacre members of my family.” Khando Ballal said persuasively: “Listen friend it is true what you say, but is it not also true that Sambhaji had three members of my own family trampled to death by elephants? But today’s predicament is not the elevation of the Bhonslas, or of any other individual or family. We are fighting for the defence of the commonwealth of the Hindus.” Shirka could no longer resist this appeal to serve a higher cause. He forgave and forgot his private wrongs and promised to help Rajaram escape the siege, and rendered invaluable service. Thus the people rose above their individual feuds of the past and strove together. Never again could the Moghuls invade Maharashtra. Soon, uplifted by the success of the Marathas, groups in all parts of the the Indian subcontinent revolted, reducing the Moghul Empire to a virtual non-entity by the end of the century.
HINDU RESISTANCE: Hindu civilisaton alone out of all the ancient civilisations of the world has survived in a continuity with its past, againt many determined attempts to exterminate it. This series of articles will focus on contributions of different persons and sections of Hindu society to this phenomenal achievement.