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Shivaji's Successors

In 1681, Sambhaji, one of Shivaji's two competing sons, had himself crowned and resumed his father's expansionist policies. To nullify any Rajput-Maratha alliance, as well as to resume his long relations with the Deccan Sultanates, in 1682 the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb himself headed south with his entire imperial court, administration, and an army of about 180,000 troops which proceeded to conquer the sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda. In 1688, Sambhaji was caught, tortured, and then painfully dismembered.

Rajaram, Sambhaji's brother and earlier rival, now assumed the throne. In 1700 Satara, to which Shivaji earlier had moved the capital, came under siege and eventually was surrendered to the Mughals. At about the same time Rajaram died. His widow, Tarabai, assumed control in the name of her son, Sambhaji II. A truce was offered which promptly was rejected by the emperor. Tarabai heroically led Marathas. By 1705, Marathas had crossed Narmada and entered Malwa, then in Mughal possession.

This battle was a decisive one. The Mughals lost their eminent position on the Indian subcontinent forever. The Marathas emerged as victorius after a long drawn-out and fiercely-fought battle. The soldiers and commanders who participated in this war achieved the real expansion of the Maratha empire. Internal feuds occurred later on, and continued until the Marathas were defeated by the British in 1818.

After the emperor’s death, Shahuji, son of the dismembered Sambhaji (and so grandson of Shivaji), was released by Bahadur Shah, the next Mughal emperor. He immediately claimed the Maratha throne and challenged his aunt Tarabai and her son Shambhaji II. This promptly turned the now-spluttering Mughal-Maratha war into a three-cornered affair.



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