Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj
Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj was the younger son of Shivaji Raje Bhosale. He was born on February 24, 1670. After the death of his brother, Sambhaji Maharaj, he become the king of Maratha empire in 1689. He was just 19 years old at that time.
The mother of Rajaram Maharaj was Soyarabai, the second wife of Shivaji Maharaj.
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had sent Zulfiqar Khan against the Maratha army of Rajaram Maharaj, to capture Raigarh.
The widow of Shambhuji Maharaj, Yesu Bai, advised Rajaram Maharaj to move to Pratapgarh for safety, while she herself boldly stood the siege at Raigarh. Under this lady’s inspiration the Maratha army started an unprecedented fight against the Mughal army. They tried to prevent reinforcements from reaching Zulfiqar Khan at Raigarh, but the Maratha capital fell through the treachery of one of their own officers. Suryaji Pisal opened the gates to Zulfiqar Khan on 13th November, 1689 on the promise of the grant to him of the Deshmukhi watan of Wai which he had coveted for a long time. Yesu Bai and her young son Shahu and many other notable persons were taken prisoner and carried away by Zulfiqar Khan to the Mughal camp. Thereafter, Aurangzeb captured many other forts, but his triumph was short lived, for now the Maratha war of independence took the turn of a people’s war.
Rajaram Maharaj who was not a great organizing genius like his father. But he had support of many influential personalities, the most important among whom were Prahlad Niraji and Ram Chandra Nilkanth. They toiled hard to roll back the tide of the Mughal invasion. Under these two inspiring leaders, four lieutenants of exceptional abilities, namely, Paras Ram Trimbak Pratinidhi, Shankarji Narayan Sachiva, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, worked wonders, frustrated Aurangzeb’s schemes and secured Maratha independence which had been lost by the capture of Shambhuji and the fall of their capital Raigarh.
After the capture of Raigarh, Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj shifted the Maratha capital to Jinji. Aurangzed again sent the Mughal army under the leadership of Zulfiqar to Khan to capture Jinji. Though Maratha army was strong and enthusiastic, Jinji was finally captured by the Mughals in 1698.
The siege lasted for eight years, but Rajaram Maharaj had already escaped to Maharashtra. The struggle continued and Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav inflicted unspeakable misery on the imperialists, hovered round Aurangzeb’s own camp and plundered it more than once.
Chhatrapati Rajaram moved to Vishalgarh early in 1698. He established his court at Satara, and although it was lost soon afterwards, the Marathas recovered it in 1704. Rajaram Maharaj made a tour of his country and cheered up his officers in the various forts. The Maratha spirit by that time had risen high and they were gradually becoming confident of rolling back the tide of the Mughal invasion.
But Rajaram Maharaj soon after fell ill and died on March 2, 1700 at Sinhagad fort. He died at the early age of thirty.
Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj was barely ten years of age at the time of Shivaji’s death. He had not been given proper education. His great virtue as a ruler was that he gave his confidence and support to his ministers and rarely interfered with their work. Sambhaji’s capture and death, however, raised him to the throne. He was fortunate in having two advisers, Ramchandra Pant and Prahlad Niraji, of exceptional ability and two brave warriors, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, to carry out his plans and policy.
Though, Rajaram Maharaj did not possessed the military genius of his father, his reigh is considered as the turning point in the history of Maratha war of Independence.