After worshiping rudra at mallikArjuna for 10 days shivAjI rapidly moved via Nandyal, Kadappah, Tirupati and Kalahasti and approached the vicinity of Jinji. He then sent 5000 troops to besiege the fort of Jinji which was held by Nasir Mohammed Khan. After a short siege the Moslems surrendered the fort to the marATha-s and paid a tribute of 50,000 rupees. In return they were allowed to continue living in the province under the condition that they fought on the Hindu side. shivAjI rebuilt massive fortifications at Jinji and having placed the whole region commanded by the fort under a Hindu civilian and military administration headed by his son-in-law quickly advanced towards Vellore. shivAjI captured the two hills flanking Vellore and set a several artillery posts on them to begin the bombardment on the ghazi Abdullah Khan who was holed up in the fort. Having kept a strong marATha force to continue the siege he advanced to Tiruvadi. Vellore fell to the maraTha force after an year long siege. At Tiruvadi the marATha army attacked another jihadi, Sher Khan, who was being assisted by European mercenaries from France and Portugal. These mercenaries were put to sword by the marATha army and the Moslem army was decimated. Sher Khan’s son was taken hostage after which he surrendered and ceded all territory in his control to shivAjI. He also paid a tribute of 20,000 gold coins to secure his and his son’s release. Then shivAjI threatened the Hindu chief chokkanAtha nayaDu of Madhurai to accept him as his overlord. The mahAraTTi brAhmaNa raghunAtha paNDita (who composed a famous administrative lexicon) counseled shivAjI that they take a non-military course and was able to extort 600,000 gold coins from chokkanAtha while allowing him to retain administrative control over Madhurai.

At that point shivAjI’s half brother, ekojI, came with the mahAraTTi brAhmaNa jagannAtha paNDita serving as a mediator, to meet shivAjI. While they spoke cordially in public and held a few private meetings brokered by the brAhmaNa in a shiva temple on the banks of the Kollidam River, they continued to have profound differences in terms of their paternal inheritance. Feeling threatened by his half-brother’s strength ekoji suddenly decamped to Thanjavur leaving his troops. Then shivAjI promptly arrested jagannAtha paNDita, who commanded ekojI’s army. Taking advantage of this shivAjI dispatched hambirrao to seize Jagaddevgad, Chidambaram and Vriddhachalam and he advanced rapidly to besiege the Kolar fort. Then shivAjI declared that he was claiming the rightful part of his inheritance from their father shAhaji, released jagannAtha paNDita and sent a letter to ekojI to meet him in person and settle the territorial claims. In response ekojI sent a letter simply saying he submitted to shivAjI’s commands, but added that he was loyal to the Adil Shah and would act upon the orders of the Moslem ruler. Then ekoji sent a letter to the Moslem sultan to aid him and also incited chokkanAtha nAyaDu to join him against shivAjI by reminding him of the gold coins extorted from him. However, shivAjI moved swiftly by taking the Kolar fort and using it as base to capture Arni, Hoskote, Bangalore and Balapur and placed garrisons there. With this his knew that the Adil Shah’s entire southern base had been destroyed. He placed hambirrao mohite and raghunAtha paNDita with a large force at Valigandapuram to deal with his half-brother. When shivAjI moved back north, ekojI attacked hambirrao but was routed by him. In course of the fight, shAhaji’s illegitimate sons, pratApjI and bhivjI, via south Indian concubines, were arrested by hambirrao and held hostage. With that ekoji surrendered to shivAjI, who sent him a stern letter which begins with: “The deva-s and devI-s have favored me and with their help I have been able to crush the Moslems. With the help of these same Moslems you hope to fight me and caused bloodshed like duryodhana. Surrender all your territory and take up an estate in my domains or that of the Qutb Shah…”

Additionally, shivAjI realized that the Moslem officials at ekojI’s court were controling his brother. So shivAjI secretly sent raghunAtha paNDita to meet and negotiate with ekojI’s wife dIpAba.i ingLe. She was convinced of the trouble from the Moslem officials, and after dismissing them she appointed raghunAtha paNDita as his prime minister. The learned brAhmaNa then drew up plans for an amicable settlement and extensively negotiated with both sides to reach an acceptable settlement with 19 clauses. A noteworthy part of the settlement was that the Thanjavur state would never appoint Moslem ministers, would ensure the protection of Hindus in its domain and would never offer protection to any one who is an enemy of Hindu dharma or a criminal. Interestingly, shivAjI brought up a document ratified by shAhaji that claimed that neither shivAjI nor ekojI would ever be servants of the Moslem sultan and claimed violation of this by ekojI. shivAjI also returned a good part of the territory captured by him to ekojI and separately gifted some territory to dipAba.i as exclusively her possession over which ekojI could not lay a claim. However, ekojI lost all interest in life as he saw himself as being humiliated by his brother and stopped administering his kingdom and wanted to renounce the world. Alarmed at this raghunAtha paNDita wrote to shivAjI, who responded with a conciliatory letter and asked ekojI to take up the responsibility of upholding his territory. Shortly after sending this letter shivAjI died. Urged by dipAba.i, ekojI took up the administration of his territory in right earnest and for some more years ruled as benevolent monarch who did much good to his people. He was able aided in this by raghunAtha and dipAba.i until his death in 1685.

Those who have studied the Thanjavur efflorescence have debated regarding the roles of raghunAtha paNDita, dIpAba.i and ekojI. Some drAviDa-s have accused him of having suppressed classical Tamil while furthering Sanskrit and Telugu. Some mahArAShTrI-s have accused him of being a Machiavellian individual who induced shivAjI to go on the southern campaign in order to impose himself in Thanjavur and gain monetarily in the process. He has been represented by some as a typical unscrupulous mahArAShTri brAhmaNa like those in the Deccan Sultanates wanting to plunder the rich south. But on the whole even the smArta-s of drAviDa desha had a positive opinion of him – he was seen as encouraging Brahminical learning even amongst his coethnics’ rivals i.e. the local smArta community, a just tax-reformer and an executer of public works. This is in line with shivAjI-s own assessment of him: “I have endeavored to rear up number of my officers and helpmates but you belong to a different category. You served our father and like him possess power to correct and guide us when we cannot see our way. No other person can exercise such influence in our affairs. We look upon you fully in the place of our revered father and cannot adequately praise your services to us.” The first marATha king of Thanjavur, while usually cast in negative light in mahArAShTra, actually did shield this fertile fragment of the choLa heartland from any direct Islamic depredations. His wife was an astute woman and was behind several public works that greatly benefited my ancestral families. She was also the mother of 3 sons, the first of whom was to spark off the great Thanjavur intellectual efflorescence. A marAThi verse summarizes this:
tIna puruShArtha tighe bhUpa | jiyeche putra kuladIpa | dIpAMbikA yathArtha-rUpa | nAma mhaNauni shobhatase ||

[An aside: My part time RV teacher’s ancestor, who was involved in the reconquest of Panhala had moved to Thanjavur along with raghunAtha paNDita. He had renovated a kumAra temple at Viramalai. Our teacher said that his family deity has been kumAra and that it was so even before their migration to the south. He mentions that there is a single mahArAShTri brAhmaNa clan living still in mahArAShTra who also have a kumAra as their kula-devatA. The origins of these clans would be of some interest.]

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on December 16, 2008.

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