27 Year War that Saved Hinduism – Mughal–Maratha Wars

If you are considering yourself as a proud Hindu, practicing ancient vedic culture & rituals, celebrating Hindu festivals, worshiping Hindu God in temples, living in a Hindu majority country called ‘ India/Bharat’ then you must know about thousand years of Hindu resistance against Islamic invasions and peak of all that resistance called ‘ 27 year war’. 27 year war is often considered as the last stand of Hinduism against Islamic invasions in India.If there was no 27 year war, there might be continuous Islamic belt from Morocco to Indonesia. Indian subcontinent might be Muslim majority. Before 27 year war, almost 1/3rd population of the Indian subcontinent became Muslim due to Islamic invasions & missionary activities of sufi saints. If there was no 27 year war, there might be no British Empire in India, Mughal Empire might had ruled Indian subcontinent for more 300 years and still be ruling. 2/3rd population of the Indian subcontinent might be Muslim, Hindus would have become minority in a modern country called ‘ Mughalistan’!

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat their mistakes

India didn’t achieve freedom in 1947 but India actually achieved freedom after 27 year war! India was under British rule for 150 years but before that much of India was under Islamic rule for 500 years. Our history books are loaded with glorification of Mughal Empire, India’s freedom struggle through non violence etc but our history books never taught us real freedom struggle of 27 year war. Our history books deliberately neglected history of Vijayanagar Empire, Maratha Empire, Rajput kingdoms, Sikh Empire, Ahom Empire etc who played major role in preserving Hindu culture & Hindu identity.

What is 27 year war?

27 year war also known as Mughal-Maratha war was mother of all wars and bloodiest war ever fought in the Indian subcontinent. Over 5milion (50lakh) soldiers plus civilians died because of this war. You can imagine brutality of this war by the fact that average life expectancy of people in Maharashtra was just 30 years during this war. 27 year war which consisted over 100 battles were fought between Mughal Empire and Maratha Empire during period of 1680 to 1707. Battlefield was stretched from Southern Gujarat to Tamil Nadu. Maratha Empire defeated Mughal Empire in this war. Aftermath of this war Maratha Empire established Hindu rule over Delhi after 500 years of Islamic rule, expanded from Peshawar in Pakistan to Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu.

Why 27 year war is important?

  1. 27 year war was a unique war. We often hear about how superpower Soviet Union was defeated by Afghan tribes of Afghanistan, Superpower United States was defeated by Northern Vietnamese people of Vietnam through guerilla warfare but we never talk about how the superpower of that time the mighty Mughal Empire, which controlled 27% GDP of the world, was defeated by guerilla warfare of Marathas. For the first time in Indian history Hindu Empire from Deccan/South India not only defeated central Asian Islamic power but also captured their territory in North & northwestern India. Maratha Empire emerged in a crucial situation when Vijayanagar Empire was destroyed by combined armies of Bahamanian sultanates, Most of the Rajput kingdoms became allied to Mughals, Sikhs were slaughtered by Mughals during their initial freedom struggle, Western Assam & Guwahati was captured by Mughals from Ahoms. Islamic rule was established in India after defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan and Islamic rule of India declined after 27 year war.27 year war greatly inspired and helped Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats to rebel against Mughals.
  2. 27 year war greatly affected Indian freedom struggle ideas of ‘Hindu Rashtra’, ‘ Hindu Self Rule’, organisations likes RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, right wing political parties like Shivsena, BJP etc. So, 27 year war had major role in Indian politics.
  3. India was destroyed economically due to 27 year war. Quin Chinese Empire surpassed India as the largest economy on earth but India still held the title of prosperous country and remained 2nd largest economy before British takeover of India.
  4. 27 year war greatly restored faith of Hindus in Hinduism, Hindu culture, fighting spirit of Hindus and reduced feeling of foreign superiority over their religion, their nation etc. Overall 27 year war greatly influenced India militarily, politically, economically and socially.

What was the reason behind 27 year war?

Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb became highly intolerant, Islamised. Aurangzeb destroyed many temples. Imposed cruel Jizya tax, pilgrimage tax on Hindus. Forced Hindus to convert in Islam. He even tried to impose Sharia law. Though there were many Hindu officers in Aurangzeb’s court, one and only goal of Aurangzeb was complete domination of the Indian subcontinent and complete Islamisation of India. He would have never tolerated young and only Hindu kingdom in Islamic India established by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Sooner or later, Aurangzeb was going to invade Deccan and crush Maratha kingdom with his mighty Mughal Army. But Aurangzeb never attacked Deccan until Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was alive. Aurangzeb had already tried to crush Marathas by sending his uncle Shiasta Khan with 1 lac 50 thousand army. Shivaji Maharaj slashed 3 fingers of Shiasta Khan by his sword in a daring surgical strike at night.Shisha khans luck was great that he survived & left Maharashtra. Angered by this news Aurangzeb transferred Shiasta Khan to Bengal. In contrary to Aurangzeb, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharajs one and only goal was ‘ Hindu self rule’ of India. As per Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Mughals were foreigners and they had no right to rule India. Shivaji Maharaj was not against any particular religion, in fact many high ranking officers including Shivaji Maharaj’s bodyguards were Muslim. Shivaji Maharaj was against foreign powers. Shivaji Maharaj was against forceful conversion of Hindus, Jizya tax & pilgrimage tax, destruction of Hindu temples, cow slaughter, etc. Sooner or later, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was going to attack North India. Because of these 2 opposing thoughts, war was inevitable between Marathas and Mughals.

27 year war map)

Aurangzeb invades Deccan ( south India)

After death of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 1680, Aurangzeb arrived in Aurangabad, a Mughal headquarter of Deccan, with an army of over half million (5lac), thousands of elephants & camels, massive artillery, enormous treasury & resources. 1 lac 50 thousand Maratha Army was ready to welcome Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb hoped to crush Marathas within months.

At that time Maratha kingdom was under Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, an eldest son Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.Aurangzeb dispatched his army to capture ‘ Ramsej fort’ near Nashik city which was frontier fort of Maratha kingdom..He hoped to capture Ramsej fort within days. Aurangzeb tried his best to capture fort but not for 1, not for 2 not for 5 or 6 but for almost 7 years few thousand Marathas successfully defended Ramsej fort to death. And there were 300+ forts under Marathas!!! Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj once said that Badshaha Alamgir ( Aurangzeb) will have to live for 300 years to capture my kingdom!

Aurangzeb underestimated rough mountainous terrain of Sahyadri ( Western ghats) & fighting spirit of Marathas. This time Aurangzeb worked with British of Mumbai, Portuguese of Goa, Siddis(Africans) of Janjira, Bijapur & Golconda sultanates to encircle Marathas from all sides. Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj first tried to break this encirclemnt by attacking Siddis of Janjira but his campaign failed against invincible Janjira fort ( Janjira is a fort in an Arabian sea).Sambhaji Maharaj wanted to teach a lesson to Portuguese of Goa for helping Aurangzeb. Sambhaji Maharaj attacked and destroyed Portuguese Goa, Portuguese were on the verge to surrender but luckily at the same time massive Mughal army under Husain Ali khan invaded Maratha territory elsewhere. Sambhaji Maharaj had to left Goa and fight Mughal army.Maratha navy kept check on movements of sea powers & their supplies to Mughal army. Aurangzeb now divided his troops in 2 which were commanded by his 2 sons Shah alam and Azam Shah. One force had to attack from north and another force had to attack from south. Aurangzebs plan was pincer movement strategy that is attack from both sides.Aurangzebs strategy was successful initially but as soon as they reached rough mountainous terrain of Western ghats they were continuously harassed by Marathas. Their supplies were cut down by Marathas. Mughals were starved to death. This mission of Aurangzeb failed. Aurangzeb even tried direct attack on central Maratha capital ‘Raigad fort’ but Marathas successfully defended Raigad fort. Chatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj fought 110 battles against mughals without losing any battle! For almost 9 years Aurangzeb and his army was traveling through Maratha territory without any gain. Aurangzeb healed his depression by conquering deccan shia sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda( Hyderabad) within 18 months. After gaining treasury of these 2 sultanates and access to diamond mines of Golconda Aurangzeb attacked Maratha territory with full force but again he was repulsed by Marathas. Aurangzeb had now realised that it is impossible to defeat Sambhaji Maharaj in a war. He looked for treachery within Marathas. Unfortunately, Sambhaji Maharaj was captured by Mughals during secret meeting due to trachery of his own relative. Aurangzeb demanded Sambhaji Maharaj to handover Maratha Kingdom and to get converted in Islam. Sambhaji Maharaj refused. Angered by Sambhaji Maharajs reply Aurangzeb issued torture of Sambhaji Maharaj until he bows before his demands. Sambhaji Maharajs nails and hair were uprooted, his tongue was cut out, his eyes were gorged out,his fingers were cut everyday, his skin peeled off, his hands and legs were cut. For almost 40 days Sambhaji Maharaj witnessed torture but never bowed before Aurangzeb and not accepted Islam. He was beheaded but he preferred to die as a Hindu.

Aurangzeb praised fighting spirit of Sambhaji Maharaj. Aurangzeb now relaxed that his biggest hurdle Sambhaji Maharaj has been executed. He thought Maratha Empire was nothing but dead. But this was the biggest mistake of Aurangzeb. The way Aurangzeb treated and executed Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, it enraged Marathas. Marathas were united now like never ever before and took oath for revenge of Sambhaji Maharaj that they will never let Aurangzeb return to his capital Agra. Maratha forces started to attack Mughal territory now. Sambhaji Maharaj’s younger brother Rajaram now became Chhatrapati of Marathas.

It was advised by Maratha generals to Rajaram that he should travel to Ginji fort in present day Tamil Nadu to avoid full scale war against Mughals. Rajaram along with few thousand Maratha army travelled to Ginji fort. After hearing successful escape of Rajaram to Ginji, angered Aurangzeb and he dispatched a small mughal army to Ginji to capture Rajaram. Here in Maharashtra, 2 brave Maratha generals Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav continuously harassed and defeated Mughal army by guerilla warfare. Once Santaji and Dhanaji did single most daring attack on Mughal camp. Duo attacked tent in which Aurangzeb used to sleep. Luckily Aurangzeb was elsewhere but his few bodyguards were killed . Not only that they cut golden apex of Aurangzebs tent to remind him this incident that how close he was near to death and teach him lesson. Mughal historian Kafi khan has written that whenever Mughal horses used to refuse drink water, then they must have seen reflection of Santaji and Dhanaji on water. That’s how Santaji and Dhanaji terrorised Mughals. Meanwhile in south, Rajaram successfully escaped from encirclemnt of Ginji fort by Mughals. For almost 8 years Ginji fort resisted against Mughal Army. Ginji fort fell to the Mughals thereafter. Rajaram returned to Maharashtra. That excited Marathas to attack mughal territory. Unfortunately Rajaram died jus after few years. Maharani Tararani, widow of Rajaram put her son Shivaji II to the throne of Chatrapati and led Maratha campagining against Mughals. For almost 7 years Maharani Tararani successfully repelled Mughals.

Aurangzeb had now given up all hopes and planned a retreat to Burhanpur. Santaji attacked and defeated his rearguard but Aurangzeb was able to reach his destination. He died on 12 Feb 1707.

The Indologist Stanley Wolpert says that:

The conquest of the Deccan, to which, Aurangzeb devoted the last 26 years of his life, was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory, costing an estimated hundred thousand lives a year during its last decade of futile chess game warfare. The expense in gold and rupees can hardly be accurately estimated. Aurangzeb’s encampment was like a moving capital – a city of tents 30 miles in circumference, with some 250 bazaars, with a ​1⁄2 million camp followers, 50,000 camels and 30,000 elephants, all of whom had to be fed, stripped the Deccan of any and all of its surplus grain and wealth … Not only famine but bubonic plague arose … Even Aurangzeb, had ceased to understand the purpose of it all by the time he was nearing 90 … “I came alone and I go as a stranger. I do not know who I am, nor what I have been doing,” the dying old man confessed to his son, Azam, in February 1707.

Tomb of Aurangzeb, Khuldabad, Maharashtra

The Biggest success of Marathas was that Aurangzeb not died in Fergana( Uzbekistan) from where his ancestors attacked India, not in Kabul not in Lohore, Not in Delhi, Not in Agra but he died in Maharashtra. With his death 27 year war was over.

The Epic 27 Year War That Saved Hinduism

Mughal–Maratha Wars – WikipEmpire

Maratha Empire – Wikipedi

Please do share. Let others know real freedom struggle.

Wriiten By: Amit Jambhale

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