In this article we will discuss about the causes of Maratha war of independence (1689-1707 A.D.).
After the death of Shambhuji, the Marathas declared Raja Ram as their Chhatrapati (king). Raja Ram was hardly twenty years of age at that time. On the advice of Yesu Bai, widow of Shambhuji, he fled to Visalgarh while Raigarh was defended by Yesu Bai herself. The Mughuls, however, captured Raigarh and Yesu Bai along with his son Sahu was imprisoned. Raja Ram was forced to leave Visalgarh. He fled to Jinji.
Nearly the whole of Maharashtra was occupied by Aurangzeb. It seemed that the efforts of Shivaji had all gone waste. But in that hour of their defeat and humiliation, the Marathas stood up as one force to fight against the invader. The Marathas decided to give a life or death fight to Aurangzeb with the object of regaining the independence of Maharashtra.
The Maratha war of independence started from that time and continued till Sahu was accepted the Chhatrapati of the Marathas by the Mughuls after the death of Aurangzeb. First, Raja Ram led this war of independence. He had inherited some virtues of his father.
He was a determined man and could give and take confidence from others. He never regarded himself as the king of the Marathas. He simply claimed to be the representative of Sahu who was in the prison of Aurangzeb.
Raja Ram could get the services of many capable Maratha chiefs. Prahlad Niroji, Raghunath Pant, Hanumante and Ramchandra Nilkantha were his ministers while Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav became his famous military commanders.
Raja Ram permitted every Maratha chief to organize his own army and attack the Mughul territory wherever he liked. To provide them further incentive, he declared that every land conquered by Maratha chiefs from the Mughuls would be given to them as their Jagir. Every Maratha chief, therefore, organised his own army and started attacking the Mughuls.
They did not fight pitched battles with the Mughuls but fought only guerilla-warfare. Aurangzeb was not prepared for such fighting. His attempt to capture Raja Ram also failed. Raja Ram fled from place to place but escaped capture by the Mughuls. The Maratha chiefs started raiding the prosperous territories of the Mughuls in Gujarat and Malwa.
They were bent upon to free Maharashtra and the common people supported them whole-heartedly. In a way, every individual of Maharashtra was a soldier, every Maratha-home was a place of refuge for Maratha soldiers and every village was a fort against the Mughuls. Raja Ram died in 1700 A.D., but the Marathas continued their struggle.
Tara Bai, widow of Raja Ram, placed his four-year son, Shivaji II, on the throne and fought against the Mughuls in his name. Aurangzeb and his soldiers felt desperate and negotiations for peace were started. But, the Marathas did not agree. They had already captured many forts in Maharashtra like Visalgarh and Panhala and, afterwards, they captured the forts of Basantgarh, Singhgarh, Raigarh, Satara, etc.
They also made successful raids in the Mughul territories of distant provinces and cities like Burhanpur, Surat, Broach, etc. The Marathas, thus, succeeded not only in regaining independence of Maharashtra but in raiding even the emperor’s camp. The Maratha war of independence, therefore, succeeded in its aims. It also resulted in the growth of Maratha power and influence.