Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj (Shambhu Raje) is one among the several Hindu kings who has never got his due place in history. There have either been attempts to malign his image by making baseless allegations regarding his character or secularize him (just like Chhatrapati Shivray) or totally ignore him as is the case with most Hindu rulers.
Very little is spoken of his political acumen and military achievements and even less about his Dharmic works, particularly in history textbooks. In his nine-year reign, Shambhu Raje had not just carried forward the legacy he had inherited from Chhatrapati Shivray but also left a distinct stamp of his own that is yet to be acknowledged.
He had shown his political acumen when he was merely 8-years-old and was sent to Mirza Raje Jaising as ‘surety’ in accordance with the Purandar treaty on 18th June 1665. It takes extraordinary courage to put oneself in the enemy camp and that too ‘single-handedly’ at an age when children usually play and enjoy themselves. Everybody including Mirza Raje was astounded by the intelligence and bravery of Sambhaji Raje.
Undoubtedly, he was a child prodigy who excelled in the shastras right from a young age. He is said to have mastered as many as 9 languages (16 as per some accounts but not verifiable) including Sanskrit, Marathi, Urdu, and Persian among others by the time he was 9 years old. Additionally, he attained expertise in economics, politics, Dharma Shastra, philosophy (Niti Shastra), and warfare techniques.
He ascended the throne 10 months after the sudden demise of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj to become the second Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire. In his short reign of 9 years, he expanded the Maratha Empire by five times and increased the royal treasury by three times. In a span of 9 years, he fought 145 battles without losing even a single battle and extended the boundaries of Swarajya both in the northern and southern direction.
He had ascended the throne with the promise of carrying forward the works of his father and he did so in every aspect. We shall look at some of the Dharmic works of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje in keeping with the Hindavi Swaraj vision of Rajmata Jijau & Chhatrapati Shivray.
Following the demise of Swami Ramdas in January 1682, Sambhaji Maharaj commissioned the construction of a Hanuman Temple at Sajjangad. Vigrahas for the Sajjangad temple and Chafal rathotsav (chariot festival) were specially commissioned from Karnataka. Shambhu Raje also made arrangements for their upkeep and daily pooja rituals.
In his order dated 13 March 1682, Maharaj instructs Javali’s Kashi Ranganath to make the necessary arrangements. On the same day, Maharaj also wrote to Satara’s Koner Ranganath ordering him to assure that Sajjangad and Chafal receive monetary assistance from the state treasury and that security is provided to those devotees participating in the chariot festival.
The core of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s reign is evident from a letter dated 22 August 1685 written by Maratha officials. It also throws light on the main objective of Maratha politics – Hindutva as a means of national integration.
Mughal Sardar Sultan Tara overran the village of Navalgunda and in this campaign extensive damage was caused to the village. Everything was razed to the ground including temples thereby forcing villagers, officials, and businessmen to flee the place. The Mughals also destroyed the Vigrahas housed in the temples.
Maratha officials wrote to Maharaj apprising him of the situation and urged him to restore the temples which were energy centers and since Maharaj was the ruler the onus was upon him to ensure that Hindu holy places don’t lie in ruins.
Sambhaji Maharaj ordered the reconstruction of the temples with immediate effect. He was also aware of the fact that temple restoration is very important because these temples served as the education centers of Hindus. In addition to the restoration of temples, Shambhu Raje made arrangements for Puran Katha Vachan (narration of Puranas) the expenses of which were to be borne by the state.
Venkatibhatt Varanasikar was nominated for the narration of Puranas. An inam of 72 bigha land spread over two villages was granted by Maharaj for the upkeep of the temple and other religious work in the village. The emphasis laid on Hindutva by the Maratha officials as well as the urgency shown by Maharaj is to be noted.
Chhatrapati Shambhu Raje even ensured temple restoration work through Maratha officials in Tamil Nadu which was a part of the Maratha Empire. A 1685 inscription in the Chidambaram temple attests to the fact that Sambhaji Maharaj had commissioned the construction of a Shiva temple.
The inscription reads “Son of Shivaji Maharaj and grandson of Shahaji, Sambhaji has ordered Gopal Dadaji Pandit to construct a Shiva temple and the Shivaganga tank; in compliance with the order the temple and tank have been constructed”.
A pillar inscription dated 6 July 1686 states that Ekoji Raje’s nephew Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje has ordered Gopal Dadaji Panditrao to grant 800 kuli lands to Tukaji for the Vishwanath Swamy Temple restoration work done by him. Similarly, four copper plate inscriptions of Sambhaji Raje dated between 1684 and 1686 talk about the Chidambaram temple restoration work commissioned by him.
When we speak of the dharmic works of Chhatrapati Shambhu Raje, it is important to mention the ban on religious conversion in addition to the ban on the trading of slaves introduced by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. In the 1684 pact with the English one of the 30 conditions laid down by Maharaj says “English can neither buy slaves from my empire nor convert my people to Christianity”.
Similarly, condition number 7 in the pact between the Marathas and English with regard to the Karnataka region explicitly reiterates the above condition. In fact, it was Raje who facilitated the reconversion of Gangadhar Ranganath Kulkarni who was forcibly converted by the Mughals while he was serving them.
We have given a mere introduction to Maharaj’s voluminous works. We shall close with Shri Keshav Pandit’s words attesting to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj’s deep Hindu pride (Jajwalya Dharmabhimaan) “Victory be to Shambhu Raje, who is Indra descended on the earth, whose fame has spread all around, and to whom dharmic people are very dear”.
Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj dedicated his life and death to the cause of Hindavi Swaraj and carried forward the legacy of his ancestors while creating a legacy of his own that inspired his successors. His work and policies need more in-depth study and the onus is upon the Hindu society to carry forward the legacy of such great rulers.
- Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharajanchi Rajniti – Shri Kedar Mahadevrao Phalke
- Mahaprakrami Dharmveer Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje
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