There is a famous line about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj, ‘Shivaji Maharaj taught us how to live for the better life of a common man, and Sambhaji Maharaj taught us how to die fighting for the rights of people’. The Swarajya (established by Shivaji Maharaj) Yuvraj, Sambhaji Maharaj was the warrior of great vigor who was unconquered for nearly nine years. Sambhaji Maharaj was not only an ordinary king but an excellent warrior, an engineer, the best in politics, and also ‘Jaanta Raja’ (the Wise king) who ruled the hearts of people. However, various myths about the life of Sambhaji Maharaj are propagated; many people negatively think of him. Hence, in this series of articles, we will go through the various events that happened in the life of Sambhaji Maharaj and will try to understand the truth behind the myths and rumors about the Maratha King.
The curse associated with the name ‘Sambhaji’!
Born on the 14th of May 1657, Sambhaji Maharaj was the elder son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. In the Bhosale family, the name ‘Sambhaji’ in itself had an unfortunate history. First Sambhaji, the cousin brother of Shahaji Maharaj (Father of Shivaji Maharaj), a great warrior served under the Nizam Shah of Daulatabad. There is a well-known incident of an elephant going out of control, killing many people. Sambhaji, brother, of Shahaji Maharaj, died in this incident and this incident resulted in the fight between Bhosale and Jadhav family (Family of Jijabai). After the fierce battle between Jadhav and Bhosale, Second Sambhaji, the elder brother of Shivaji Maharaj along with Shahaji Maharaj went to the Karnataka region. This Sambhaji was killed when Afzal khan attacked Shahaji Maharaj. Two people in the Bhosale family had to suffer a lot and faced horrifying deaths. However, Shivaji Maharaj or Jijamata without being scared of past failures or negative things named the elder son of Shivaji Maharaj as ‘Sambhaji’(one of the names of Lord Shiva). Shiva had to drink poison ‘vish’, for the purpose of ‘Amrit’. Similar predictions turned out true for the future of Shivaji’s son.
Sambhaji orphaned at the age of 2!
The first difficult situation occurred when Sambhaji was almost two and a half years old. In the November month of 1659, Afzal khan, the Adilshahi General with all his mighty force came to capture Pratagadh. To combat Afzal khan and his forces, Shivaji Maharaj had to leave for Pratapgadh. However, at the same time Yamraj came to take the life of Sambhaji’s mother. It was a tough situation for Shivaji Maharaj, he couldn’t leave Saibai, on the death bed. Saibai, the fearless queen of a Marathi warrior even on her death bed, told Shivaji Maharaj, ‘Maharaj, I am proud that I could see my husband fighting for the Swarajya. I am sure that you will come back after defeating Afzal khan; however, I won’t be there to greet you. I am leaving Sambhaji to you. I know Jijamata is there to take care of my child. However, while taking any decision related to Sambhaji, just remember one thing, you have a mother, and he doesn’t. At any point, if you feel sad and demotivated, you have Jijamata to express your feelings, but Sambhaji won’t have his mother.’
Young Sambhaji lost his mother at the mere age of 2 and as Shivaji Maharaj was fighting for Swarajya he couldn’t even find solace in Shivaji’s fatherhood. Grandmother Jijamata took Sambhaji’s responsibility. Jijamata used to narrate stories from Puranas and ancient scripts like Mahabharata, Ramayana, she would also tell the stories of accomplishments of his father. Stories of ‘How Shivaji Maharaj killed Afzal Khan’, ‘How Siddhi Jauhar came with a massive army to PanhalaGadh and Shivaji Maharaj’s escape’, ‘Shivaji Maharaj’s fierce attack on Shahiste khan’, etc. Like Shivaji Maharaj, Young Sambhaji’s character was also shaped by Jijamata. At the age of 5, Umaji pandit was appointed as Sambhaji’s Guru. Along with the lessons on political science, Moral Ethics, and history he was being groomed in Horse Riding, YudhhaNiti, and thus the Yuvraj of Swarajya was nurtured in both ‘Bauddhik’ and physical skills.
Capture of young Sambhaji by Aurangzeb
Sambhaji Maharaj was almost 8 yrs old when MirzarajaJaisingh and Dilerkhan, the Sardars of Aurangazeb came to the south to win forts and regions of Shivaji Maharaj and destroy Swarajya. Shivaji Maharaj tried hard to convince Mirzaraja to help him and join Swarajya instead of working for Aurangazeb. However, Mirzaraja was firm and did not listen to Shivaji Maharaj. He had lakhs of troops in his army, and Shivaji Maharaj had only a few thousand, it was not possible to fight him. ‘Treaty of Purandar’ (1665) was then signed in which Shivaji Maharaj had to give almost four-fifth of his area and forts to Aurangazeb. Sambhaji Maharaj was made ‘PanchaHazariMansabdar’ of Aurangzeb (Tasked with the command of a 5,000-strong force under the Mughals). It was a political move taken by the Shivaji Maharaj. Aurangazeb was ruling the north and was the most powerful king at that time. If Sambhaji Maharaj is Mansabdar for Aurangzeb, then other people trying to fight Shivaji Maharaj and oppose his work of Swarajya would have felt threatened. At the same time, Mirzaraja suggested Shivaji Maharaj travel to Agra and meet Aurangzeb personally and have a discussion about the regions in the south. It was indeed a good idea, having Aurangazeb’s backup to rule Swarajya and destroying five Mughal kings in the south opposing the same.
Shivaji Maharaj decided to travel north along with Sambhaji Maharaj to celebrate Aurangzeb’s 50th birthday. However, Dilerkhan, the Sardar who came along with MirzarajaJaisingh was suspicious about getting all forts and region in Swarajya that was promised under this treaty. He was not sure if the warriors of Shivaji Maharaj, the Marathas will readily hand over these forts. Hence, he asked Sambhaji Maharaj to be kept as a hostage! So as to avoid wars while taking over these forts and regions. Handing over young Sambhaji as a hostage was the most difficult decision taken by the Shivaji Maharaj. In case even if a single Maratha would have opposed handing over the fort, they would have murdered Sambhaji Maharaj, the Yuvraj of Swarajya! Unfortunately, SambhajiMaharaj was kept hostage for nearly three months when he was just eight years old.
In March 1666, Shivaji Maharaj decided to travel north to meet Aurangzeb and join him for his birthday celebration. The birthday was on 11th May, and the ceremony was planned in Agra. Shivaji Maharaj, along with Sambhaji Maharaj, decided to attend this function. Before leaving for Agra, Jijabai asked Shivaji Maharaj to write his testament! In Maharaja’s life, it was the second time when Shivaji Maharaj wrote his Will. Yuvraj Sambhaji was observing the mindset behind this. The decision of Shivaji Maharaj’s leading army of thousands of Marathas and becoming the king wasn’t for his benefits, but it was for the people struggling to live under the rule of Mughals. Shivaji Maharaj and Jijabai made a detailed plan to continue the work of Swarajya under the guidance of Jijamata. In case, if Shivaji dies in the north, further plans were decided to ensure the expansion of Swarajya. Sambhaji Maharaj was learning all this!
After traveling for almost two months, finally, Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj reached Agra. They saw Agra for the first time, and the beauty of this place was mind-blowing. However, Shivaji Maharaj was not treated with respect, while going to the palace of the celebration, they were not taken on time, and finally, they reached for the last gathering. It is worth noting here that, Aurangzeb had sent his maternal uncle ShaistaKhan to kill him, and Shivaji had defeated him (April 1663) and his lakhs of troops at Lal Mahal in Pune. Everyone was scared and excited at the same time to see the king in the south Shivaji Maharaj, the warrior with saffron cap (BhagavaJiretop) with saffron kurta, Shivgandha (traditional tika on the head), known for his valor and strategical tactics. Darbar was about to end, and Shivaji Maharaj was waiting to have interaction with Aurangazeb. However Aurangzeb was least interested. To bring his attention, Shivaji Maharaj got a chance when the gifts of honor were being distributed. Shivaji Maharaj was intentionally missed out and taking this opportunity, Maharaj shouted in the darbar, where everyone would fear uttering a word without permission. Shivaji Maharaj shouted in disgust about the disrespect, and left the darbar in front of everyone. Young Sambhaji Maharaj followed him too. The king of Dakkhan had shown how to keep pride even in the darbar of his enemy and the most powerful king in the whole of India. At the same time, the Yuvraj of Swarajya had learned a lesson of fighting for honor, values and courage that needs to be shown when required.
It is worth mentioning an incident written by many historians which can be considered valid as per the history of Sambhaji Maharaj and Shivaji Maharaj. It was during the time of handing over SambhajiMaharaj as a hostage. Before going to Mirzaraja, Shivaji Maharaj was explaining everything to Sambhaji Maharaj. Shivaji Maharaj’s clear instructions were to follow orders of Prataprao Gujar who would accompany him. He was told to respect Mirzaraja and behave with him as if he is a Grandfather. ShambhajiMaharaj’s Palkhi came to the place where Mirzaraja and Dilerkhan were staying. Everyone present there were excited to see the cub of the lion, Son of Shivaji, Yuvraj of Swarajya! Sambhaji Maharaj came out of Palkhi, and everyone was expecting that he would do the traditional Mujra (way of showing respect at that time). Instead of doing so, Sambhaji Maharaj directly went near Mirzaraja, and kept his head on the feet and said, ‘Please accept my regards, my dear grandfather!’. That was the most exciting incident. In one move, Sambhaji Maharaj won the heart of Mirzaraja. Instead of ordering him to sit on the asana (seat) in front, Mirzaraja asked Sambhaji to sit on his asana. That was the political move taken by Sambhaji Maharaj at the age of 8! Sambhaji knew the way to win the hearts of enemies at this age.
Everyone accompanying Shivaji Maharaj got scared! Maharaj had dishonored Aurangazeb, and he had to face the consequences. Shivaji Maharaj was house arrested in a guest house by Aurangazeb and Sardar named Faulad khan was appointed as an in-charge for this activity. The 9th birthday of Sambhaji Maharaj was celebrated at Agra. During the stay in Agra, Sambhaji Maharaj being a Mansabdar of Aurangazeb would meet with him and attend his darbar. There is an incident mentioned in the history of the intelligence of Sambhaji Maharaj when Aurangazeb gifted him with a unique and costly garland. Shivaji Maharaj and SambhajiMaharaj managed to bribe one of the ‘Bakshi’ (post similar to MLA) in Aurangazeb’s darbar to their side. The Bakshi played an essential role in convincing Aurangazeb for various appeals done by Shivaji Maharaj. The first thing that Shivaji Maharaj did was to take permission to send his troops back to the south and as a result almost 2500 Maratha warriors were released. To bribe a Bakshi and then release 2500 warriors it took nearly two months and by that time preparations of Krishna Janmashtami were in full swing in Agra. A plan to help Shivaji Maharaj in escaping from the Agra was made. To avoid getting caught, the unexpected and challenging road was decided. The journey would start from Agra, they would go to Mathura, then Jagannath puri, to Karnataka then goa and finally from goa to Konkan. After reaching Mathura, it was decided to ride on horses dressing like sadhus. At various check posts, these people could have been captured, hence to avoid this, sanyasis and sadhus started riding on horses on the path decided by Maharaj. Saint Ramdas swami, (Guru of Shivaji Maharaj) and his followers played a significant role in this journey. The Shishyas of Samarth Ramdas ensured that all the check posts on the way accepted the fact that ‘Sadhus traveling on horses to attend Krishna Janmashtami festival at Mathura’ was quite common. Shishyas of Ramdas Swami would always accompany Maratha soldiers throughout the way to get rid of the language barrier and help Shivaji Maharaj plan his escape.
The second appeal of Shivaji Maharaj to the Bakshi was to distribute sweets to sadhus & get necessary approvals from Aurangzeb. Here two important people helped in the whole plan; the first one was Kavi Kalash and a person named Saxena. Shivaji Maharaj and young Sambhaji were carried out of the guest house in two big baskets. Each day two baskets were being sent out of the guesthouse. The guards at the gate checked the baskets every day for the first two three days but soon let them pass unchecked as it had become routine. Clever Shivaji was waiting for this opportunity. Krishnaji pant, a relative of MoropantPingle (a member of Ashtapradhan Mandal of Shivaji Maharaj), lived in Mathura, and the plan was to keep Sambhaji Maharaj with him for some months. Eventually, Krisnaji Pant’s responsibility was to bring back Sambhaji to the south. The day when Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj escaped was in the evening between 4-7 pm on Friday. (There is a confusion about the exact day when he escaped, some references say it was July end some say it was in August.) Why this time? On Friday evening all the Sardars of Aurangazeb would go to Jama mosque for evening prayers and chances of getting caught were minimal. Sambhaji Maharaj, at the age of nine, was observing these intelligent moves taken by his father! Hiroji Farzand, a stepbrother of Shivaji Maharaj, stayed in place of Shivaji Maharaj in his guest house and Madari Mehtar accompanied him.
Young Sambhaji’s escape from the Jaws of Aurangzeb!
Shivaji Maharaj and Sambhaji Maharaj managed to escape and reached Mathura. Shivaji Maharaj then assumed Sanyasi’s form with appropriate clothes. Madari and Hiroji escaped after getting news of Maharaj reaching Mathura, thanks to the Bakshi! Four important people that sacrificed a lot in this mission were Raghunath pant, TrambakPant, Kavi Kalash and Saxena. Unfortunately, these people were captured by Aurangazeb. However, these loyal people did not say a word about Sambhaji or Shivaji Maharaj. Even small information regarding Sambhaji Maharaja staying in Mathura would have him killed at the age of 9. After coming back to Maharashtra, Shivaji Maharaj declared that Sambhaji Maharaj is dead and did his last rites to ensure that Aurangazeb stops searching for him. Once Aurangazeb got this information, all check posts were ordered to stop the search mission for Sambhaji. Taking advantage of this situation, KrishnajiPant took Sambhaji Maharaj to Maharashtra.
If Sambhaji Maharaj had seen Mughals attacking poor people, doing injustice with Hindus, had seen Dilerkhan torturing people, knew that the self-respect is important (a reference to Shivaji Maharaja leaving Auragzeb’s Darbar with anger!), one who had seen his father spending his life for the Swarajya and risking everything at various stages just to give freedom to Hindus, how can one believe that he betrayed Shivaji Maharaj and Swarajya? Jijamata whose reading of Puranic stories made Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj out of Shivba on equivalent terms how would it be possible that Jijamata’s nourishment would result in Yuvraj Sambhaji Maharaj betraying Swarajya in future? Did he betray Shivaji Maharaj and Swarajya? What was the truth behind various negative things famous about him in history? Was he an alcoholic? Was he on the wrong path? We will see the answers to these questions in the next part.
To be continued…