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Rani Tarabai: Most celebrated woman in Indian History

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was one of the most progressive and sensible rulers in the history of our country. Tales of his bravery are countless and stories of his victories are numerous. There are other family members of Shivaji Maharaj who have made great contribution in fighting against Mughals but hardly have any mention, we all know Jhansi ki Rani but are unaware about Tarabai. Rani Tarabai the dowager Queen was the wife of Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj, and the daughter-in-law of the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Incidentally, she was also the niece of Shivaji’s wife Soyarabai (Rajaram’s mother and her mother-in-law) and the daughter of Hambirao Mohite, the famed Sar Senapati (commander in chief) of the Maratha army. After the death of Rajaram, his widow Tarabai took over the reins of the Maratha kingdom and continued their resistance against the Mughal onslaught led by Aurangzeb himself. She offered the much needed leadership to the Maratha army at the crucial hour.

The Queen of Maratha Empire was a spirited lady who did not waste time or tears on the fall of the new Maratha capital Satara within a month of Rajaram’s death. She infused vigour in her people and organised a tough opposition to Aurangzeb. Tarabai exhibited wonderful powers of organisation and inspired the Marathas with a sense of devotion to their national cause. After the death of Shahu in 1749, Tarabai supported the succession of Ramraja (Tarabai’s putative grandson and later adopted by Shahu) to the Maratha throne. But Tarabai impressed upon Shahu, that her grandson, whom everyone had thought had died, was in fact alive, and that she had kept him hidden to ward of assassination attempts on him by her dead husband’s other wife, Rajasabai and her son Sambhaji. Tarabai thus presented Ramraja as a more direct descendent with greater right to succeed Shahu. Shahu also never wanted Sambhaji to succeed him (as Sambhaji himself was quite old and had no heir) and was keen on an adopted son instead.

Shahu, thus after much deliberation agreed and adopted Ramraja as his son. The Peshwa too decided to abide by his masters wishes and acquiesced the adoption of Ramraja, thwarting Sagunabai’s plans of grabbing power through the Bhosale’s of Nagpur and that of Sakwarbai through Sambhaji (Karveerkar). By doing so, he also kept his rivals like Dabhades (who were from the Sakwarbai camp) at bay. In fact it was impressed upon the council of ministers (mainly by Tarabai), that Sakwarbai as per tradition should attain Sati (which she eventually had to agree to).Through Ramraja, Tarabai tried to exercise control over the affairs of the Maratha kingdom. She even tried unsuccessfully to remove the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao from his post, as she found him an impediment challenging her power. Later, finding Ramraja out of control, Tarabai imprisoned him. She even declared that Ramraja was not really her grandson but someone whom she had pretended to be one to gain the throne.

There was a brief power struggle between the Peshwa Balaji Bajirao and Tarabai. But eventually the power of the Peshwas prevailed. The old queen agreed to a compromise whereby Tarabai will accept the power of the Peshwas, leaving them in sole control of the Maratha kingdom. In return, the Peshwa would allow Tarabai independent control over her principality. Ramraja remained Tarabai’s prisoner to her last.

Though the Marathas were perturbed by the unbridled ambition of the dowager queen, all grudgingly accepted that if Tarabai hadn’t intervened at the crucial juncture after Rajaram’s death, the hard fought kingdom of Shivaji would have disintegrated. So all her shortcomings were overlooked, after all, Tarabai , despite all her faults was one of the most fearless and competent leaders the Marathas had seen. She was the only lady capable of taking over six provinces of the Moghul Empire, a great feat indeed!

Sambhaji II was the second son of Rajaram from another wife Rajasabai. He succeeded to the Kolhapur throne after Rani Tarabai was imprisoned by Rajasabai (Shivaji II’s natural mother) and a coterie of ministers. He was initially supported by Shahu and his Peshwa. But his conspiracies along with Nizam Chin Quli Khan against Shahu (over territorial disputes) earned him Shahu’s wrath. Shahu’s armies defeated Sambhaji and forced on him a treaty in 1730, by which Sambhaji II was forced to give up all territories, north of river Warna. His sovereignty being acknowledged over the tract of country lying between the rivers Warna and Krishna on the north and north-east and the river Tungbhadra on the south, and over the part of the Konkan between Salsi and Ankola. He died at Vadgaon on December 18, 1760. His only issue being a daughter, a son was adopted to succeed him to the throne of Kolhapur.

Tarabai died old in 1761. Kolhapur was the seat of Rani Tarabai. Shivaji was the son of Chatrapati Rajaram and Rani Tarabai and the first king of Kolhapur. Installed on the throne at Vishalgad on March 10, 1700 reigned under the regency of his mother until October 12, 1707. He became Raja of the separate state of Kolhapur in 1710. He died young in 1712 by small pox in confinement at Panhala. Maharashtra history books have no chapter about this great Maratha warrior. Now Sambhaji Raje the direct 13th heir of the royal family of Shivaji and the erstwhile social reformer, Shahu of Kolhapur the elder son of the present Maharaja and 12th direct descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shrimant Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, is insisting on restoring the forts where his ancestors belong, also asserting on including these forgotten great personalities of Maratha history to be included in school syllabus.

Note- Inputs about Tarabai are from various agencies

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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