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The 27 Year War That Changed Course Of Indian History – I


pratapgad-fort

Schoolchildren in India learn a very specific blend of Indian history. This school version of history is stripped of all the vigor and pride. The story of Indian civilization spans thousands of years. However for the most part the schoolbook version dwells on the freedom struggle against British and important role played in there by the Indian National Congress. We learn each and every movement of Gandhi and Nehru, but not even a passing reference is made to hundreds of other important people and events.

My objection is not to the persons Gandhi or Nehru. They were great men. However the attention they get and the exposure their political views and ideology gets is rather disproportionate.

And thus it comes no surprise to me that rarely we talk about an epic war that significantly altered the face of Indian subcontinent. The war that can be described the mother of all wars in India. Considering the average life expectancy that time was around 30 years, this war of 27 years lasted almost the lifespan of an entire generation. The total number of battles fought was in hundreds. It occurred over vast geographical expanse spanning four biggest states of modern India- Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. For time, expanse and human and material cost, this  war has no match in Indian history.

It started in 1681 with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s invasion of Maratha empire. It ended in 1707 with Aurangzeb’s death. Aurangzeb threw everything he had in this war. He lost it all.

It’s tempting to jump into the stories of heroics, but what makes the study of war more interesting is the understanding of politics behind it. Every war is driven by politics. Rather war is just one of the means to do politics. This war was not an exception.

Shivaji’s tireless work for most of his life had shown fruits by the last quarter of seventeenth century. He had firmly established Marathas as power in Deccan. He built hundreds of forts in Konkan and Sahyadris and thus created a defense backbone. He also established strong naval presence and controlled most of the Western ports barring few on end of Indian peninsula. Thus tightening the grip on trade routes of Deccan sultanates, he strangled their  weapons import from Europe and horses import from Arabian traders.  These Sultanates launched several campaigns against Shivaji, but failed to stop him.

On the Northern front, several Rajput kings had accepted to be the vassals of Mughals. Aurangzeb had succeeded to the throne after brutal killing of his brothers and imprisonment of his father. With Rajput resistance mostly subsided and the southern sultanates weakened, it was only matter of time before Marathas were in his cross-hair.

At the time of Shivaji’s death in 1680, Maratha empire spanned an area far more than the current state of Maharashtra and had taken firm roots. But it was surrounded by enemies from all sides.  Portuguese on northern Coast and Goa, British in Mumbai, Siddies in Konkan and remaining Deccan sultenates in Karnataka posed limited challenge each, but none of them was capable of taking down the Marathas alone. Mughal empire with Aurangzeb at its helm was the most formidable foe.

For the most part, Aurangzeb was a religious fanatic. He had distanced Sikhs and Rajputs because of his intolerant policies against Hindus. After his succession to the throne, he had made life living hell for Hindus in his kingdom. Taxes like Jizya tax were imposed on Hindus. No Hindu could ride in Palanquin. Hindu temples were destroyed and abundant forcible conversions took place. Auragzeb unsuccessfully tried to impose Sharia, the Islamic law. This disillusioned Rajputs and Sikhs resulting in their giving cold shoulder to Aurangzeb in his Deccan campaign.

Thus in September of  1681, after settling his dispute with the royal house of Mewar, Aurangzeb began his journey to Deccan to kill the Maratha confederacy that was not even 50 years old. On his side, the Mughal king had enormous army numbering half a million soldiers, a number more than three times that of the Maratha army. He had plentiful support of artillery, horses, elephants. He also brought huge wealth in royal treasuries. Teaming up with Portughese, British ,Siddis, Golkonda and Bijapur Sultanates he planned to encapsulate Marathas from all sides and to form a deadly death trap. To an outsider, it would seem no-brainer to predict the outcome of such vastly one sided war. It seemed like the perfect storm headed towards Maratha confederacy.

Enormous death and destruction followed in Deccan for what seemed like eternity. But what happened at the end would defy all imaginations and prove every logic wrong. Despite lagging in resources on all fronts, it would be the Marathas who triumphed. And at the expense of all his treasure, army, power and life, it would be the invading emperor who learned a very costly lesson, that the will of people to fight for their freedom should never be underestimated.

( continued…)

29 Responses

  1. […] the Maratha empire. The war lasted 27 years and Aurangzeb lost. Kedar has a seven part series (1,2,3,4,5, 6,7) on this war which is barely mentioned in our books. For the most part, Aurangzeb was […]

  2. excellent article i request your permission to translate this artice in tamil

  3. The true history of India is always suppressed by the Congress Govt. right from the elementary school books just to please the minor community (Muslims). The british rulers on India have done the worst to India by just devide and rule policy and systematically developing the Congress leadership as outwardly impartial but anti Hindu and pro muslim from within . The secularism of the Congress govt right from the Gandhi and Nehru can be summarised as – to please the minor community (muslims) and to do injustice to the major Hindu community of India by partialities to the minor communities muslim and also hindu bc obc etc, supressing the true history and atrocities done by muslim emporers and others on Hindus for last so many years . All the efforts are just to get their votes and keep the cong govt running all the time to hold the power and money for party and individual purposes. (AND NOT TRUE NATIONAL DEVELOPEMENT) .
    However the Marathas and the overall Hindu community in India is much thoughtless to understand the real face of congress behind it and just tolerate these without any true thought for India developement. The history of Marathas is also full of disputes and ” fund fituri ” and many efforts of many true patriotic people have gone in vain. None of the political parties including BJP are much concerned for the real development of India and the majority Hindu community in India , no political leader has the true love and partiotism for India , etc. etc. No leader thinks that India as country is bigger than any political Party.
    None of the muslim contries in the world gives any financial help to their muslim citizen for the haj yatra even the U A E , but Indian Govt is spending thousands of Crore of Rs as subsidies /aid to the Muslims for their haj pilgrimage every year, which is collected from the taxes of the people and from the coffers of the India. Only God can save India from this situation.

  4. Excellent one Kedar.. Keep posting up…

  5. […] 27-year War Jump to Comments Shivaji’s 27 -year War that Changed the Course of Indian History by Kedar […]

  6. Excellent post Kedar. I came across this via Bharat Rakshak. BTW, are you Kedar Soman from Somaiya?

  7. It is pointless referring to Nehru and Gandhi as “great men” and leaving it at that—the misguided policies and actions of these two have caused untold harm and misery. The “chacha” and his “bhatijas” currently in power are the scum of the earth. Imagine refusing a UNSC seat when it was offered to India, just for starters–sentimental fools are NOT leaders.
    I say good riddance to bad rubbish!

  8. Loved your writeup Kedar. We really don’t know our history at all.

    I know the focus of your writeup was on the mughal-maratha war, but perhaps there is another story here, not so uplifting? That is about the toll that the war took on the Marathas themselves, in lives, economy, and missed opportunity cost to consolidate build a prosperous and formidable nation. There was also the failure to build a unified rulership with a system to share power among the contenders. And in turn, this contributed to the defeat at Panipat in 1761, and later loss to the British.

    • Failure at Panipat was not predetermined. Marathas could have won Panipat and were winning. Things turned sour later. There are some blog posts on that.

      The main failure I would say was the inability of Marathas to get allies especially Suraj Mal on their side.

      They also could not prevent Shuja from crossing over.

  9. Kethar ji, you show the correct angle of our history. I please you that you work more time to complete this post at earlier.
    thank you

  10. I only hope that the war on 27 years of Dravidian rule in Tamilnadu find its victory and thus make it to history.

  11. Kedar, excellent description. I am currently reading Shivaji and Maratha history in detail and I have to say the contribution of Shivaji and the Marathas to the Hindi cause cannot be described in words.

    Shivaji needs to be worshipped by Hindus.

    The fact that Marathas became the dominant power of India in the 18th century is not known to most Hindus.

    Most think that after the Mughals, the British were ruling. The correct history needs to be told to the Hindus and Shivaji and Marathas given their right place.

  12. Hi Kedar,
    nice post, pls dont misunderstand but r u the author and if so then need to email u in person. Need to talk to u about this. But not on ur blog
    thanks
    Vishwas Dixit
    Mumbai

  13. Thank you Kedar for an excellent post on Maratha history.With your permission I will be using this material in my history blog http://history.blog.co.in while discussing Maratha history in future.

  14. excellent analysis, thanks

  15. Thanks Kedar…. Excellent work….

  16. […] ఇంగ్లీష్ లో చదవదల్చుకున్న వాళ్ళు అక్కడే  చదవవచ్చు. ప్రస్తుతానికి ఈ పోస్టులో […]

  17. Hi,

    I would like to know if I can refer this article on Wikipedia – I tried once but the contents were removed. in the name of copyright perhaps by British Apologists who make it look like the British liberated India from the Mughals.

    Thanks.

  18. […] got great response to the 27 year war posts on my blog. I sincerely appreciate all of you for […]

  19. Found this app on the iTunes store – thegloryofindia

    They have a free version too (though limited in content) and a video that shows how it can be used to navigate through 2000+ years of history

  20. Remove muslim from my country.

  21. […] The 27 Year War That Changed Course Of Indian History Military: Aurangzeb Ancient Indian Weaponry Aurangzeb’s rule and his treatment of the Hindus […]

  22. It is an important war, an important era too. It would have been more significant had it not been for the arrival of the Brits. Just as the Mughals reached their strategic boundary by the annexation of the states of Bijapur and Golconda, the Marathi expansion into North India fizzled out after Panipat. The British entry into the Indian political arena changed everything however. For better or for worse, their legacy in India is far greater then either Mughals or Marathis. Late 17th century was an important time but the 19th century is truly where many of the roots of modern India are to be found.

  23. […] a larger size can become disadvantage at times. I could not help but see the similarities in the 27 year war I wrote about in the previous […]

  24. I agree with incidences and logic. There is one nominal error in 8th para. At the time of death of Ch. Shivaji, the shivaji’s kingdom at just 1/3 size of today’s Maharashtra e.g. today’s districts 1/2 Ahmednagar, 1/2 Nashik, Pune, Satara Sangli, Kolhapur, 4 Konkan districts, Belgaum, Dharwad, area in Tamilnadu of about 2 districts. Though Shahaji ruled in Bengaluru, Mysore’s ownership on Trichy, indicates the at the time of Sambhaji it was not under Shivaji or Sambhaji. Sanjay Jadhav

    • Sanjay That is correct.

  25. Kedar can you please explain your statement ‘This disillusioned Rajputs and Sikhs resulting in their giving cold shoulder to Aurangzeb in his Deccan campaign..’

    I found it casual, uninformed and surely out of context. In your desire to highlight the greatness of King Shivaji, you cannot incorrectly portray the role of other communities.

    I am a Sikh, born and educated in Maharashtra and have a lot of respect for King Shivaji and we studied about him in school. I also work in Raigad district for the developement of Nagar Parishad schools. I also have a very good knowledge about Sikh history and know that your statement is incorrect.

    For your benefit I am sharing a link which would educate you abut the role Sikhism played in their struggle against the Moghuls and Afghans. http://www.sikh-history.com/sikhhist/events/khalsa.html

    Am sure that you will provide a suitable corrections the your above statement.

    Thank you!
    gs

  26. Gurmeetsingh,

    Indeed you are right. Sikh story is different. I realized that at some point, but most of my audience was from Maharashtra and they did not spot this.

    Sikhs put up an awesome fight against Mughals. I will make correction when I will get time next. Thanks a lot for pointing out and providing resource.

    K

  27. Brilliantly explained facts about the history of Maratha! I was recently reading about Maratha coinage on websites like Mintage World after which I happened to read your article.. thanks for sharing such insights.

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