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Maharani Tarabai
A 1927 depiction of Tarabai in battle by noted Marathi painter M. V. Dhurandhar
Died1761 (aged 85–86)
SpouseRajaram Chhatrapati
IssueShivaji II
FatherHambirao Mohite

Maharani Tarabai Bhonsale (1675 – 9 December 1761[1]) was the regent of the Maratha Empire of India from 1700 until 1708. She was the queen of Chhatrapati Rajaram Bhonsale, daughter-in-law of the empire's founder Chhatrapi Shivaji Maharaj and mother of Shivaji II. She is acclaimed for her role in keeping alive the resistance against Mughal occupation of Maratha territories after the death of her spouse, and acted as regent during the minority of her son. Her efforts for preservation of indigenous culture is widely lauded.

Early life[edit]

Tarabai came from the Mohite clan[2] and was daughter of famed Maratha general Hambirao Mohite. She also was the niece of Soyarabai and therefore a cousin of her husband, Rajaram.

On Rajaram's death in March 1700, she proclaimed her infant son, Shivaji II as Rajaram's successor and herself as the regent.[3]

Commander of Maratha forces[edit]

As the regent, she took charge of the war against Aurangzeb's forces. Tarabai was skilled in cavalry movement and made strategic movements herself during wars. She personally led the war and continued the fight against the Mughals. A truce was offered to the Mughals in such a way that it was promptly rejected by the Mughal emperor and Tarabai continued the Maratha resistance. By 1705, Marathas had crossed the Narmada River and made small incursions in Malwa, retreating immediately. The Maratha country was relieved at the news of the death of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who died at Khuldabad in Aurangabad in 1707.[4]

Of the years 1700–1707, Jadunath Sarkar has opined: "During this period, the supreme guiding force in Maharashtra was not any minister but the dowager queen Tara Bai Mohite. Her administrative genius and strength of character saved the nation in that awful crisis."[5]

Battle with Shahu[edit]

In order to divide the Maratha onslaught, the Mughals released Shahuji, Sambhaji's son and Tarabai's nephew, on certain conditions. He immediately challenged Tarabai and Shivaji II for leadership of the Maratha polity. Shahu eventually prevailed thanks to his legal position and in part to the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath's diplomacy and Tarabai was sidelined. She established a rival court in Kolhapur in 1709 but was deposed by Rajaram's other widow, Rajasabai, who put her own son, Sambhaji II, on the throne. Tarabai and her son were imprisoned by Sambhaji II. Shivaji II died in 1726. Tarabai afterwards reconciled with Chhatrapati Shahu in 1730 and went to live in Satara but without any political power.[6]

Conflict with Peshwa Balaji Bajirao[edit]

In 1740s, during the last years of Shahu's life, Tarabai brought a child to him: Rajaram II (also known as Ramaraja). She presented the child as her grandson, and thus, a direct descendant of Shivaji. She claimed that he had been concealed after his birth for his protection and had been raised by the wife of a Rajput soldier.[7] The child was adopted by Shahu who did not have a son of his own.

After Shahu's death in 1749, Rajaram II succeeded him as the Chhatrapati. When Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao left for the Mughal frontier, Tarabai urged Rajaram II to remove him from the post of Peshwa. When Rajaram refused, she imprisoned him in a dungeon at Satara, on 24 November 1750. She claimed that he was an impostor from Gondhali caste and she had falsely presented him as her grandson to Shahu. Tarabai urged other ministers, such as the Pratinidhi and the Pant Sachiv, to rebel against the Peshwa, but they refused to help her. She also sought help from Ramdas, a Brahmin in the service of Nizam Salabat Jung, offering him to make the Peshwa. However, Nizam's treaty with the Peshwa prevented him from dispatching a force to Satara.[8]

Earlier, in October 1750, Tarabai had met Umabai Dabhade, who also held a grudge against the Peshwa. Umabai dispatched a 15,000 troops led by Damaji Rao Gaekwad in support of Tarabai. Gaekwad defeated a 20,000-strong force led by the Peshwa loyalist Trimbakrao Purandare at Nimb, a small town north of Satara. He then marched to Satara, where he was received by Tarabai. However, Trimbakrao re-formed his army and on 15 March, attacked Gaekwad's army, which was encamped on the banks of Venna River. Gaekwad was defeated in this battle and forced to retreat with heavy losses.[8]

Meanwhile, Peshwa returned from the Mughal frontier, reaching Satara on 24 April. He stormed the Yavateshwar garrison in Satara, defeating Tarabai's forces. He surrounded the Satara fort, and asked Tarabai to release Chhatrapati Rajaram II, whose physical and mental condition had deteriorated considerably. Tarabai refused and the Peshwa left for Pune, since a siege of the well-provisioned and strong Satara fort would not be easy. Meanwhile, Damaji Gaekwad, Umabai Dabhade and their relatives were arrested by the Peshwa's men.[8]

A section of Tarabai's troops in the Satara garrison unsuccessfully rebelled against her. She beheaded Anandrao Jadhav, the leader of the rebels. However, she realized that the she would not be able to fight Peshwa, and agreed to meet him in Pune for a peace agreement. Janoji Bhonsle, also a rival of the Peshwa, was in neighbourhood of Pune with a strong army and agreed to protect her against any harm. In Pune, Peshwa treated her respectfully and after some reluctance, Tarabai accepted Peshwa's superiority. She agreed to dismiss her lieutenant Baburao Jadhav, whom the Peshwa disliked. In return, the Peshwa forgave her. On 14 September 1752, the two took oaths at Khandoba temple in Jejuri, promising mutual peace. At this oath ceremony, Tarabai also swore that Rajaram II was not her grandson, but an impostor from the Gondhali caste.[8] Nevertheless, Peshwa retained Rajaram II as the titular Chhatrapati and a powerless figurehead.[7]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Jadhav, Bhagyashree M (1998). "Ch. 5 - His Contribution to Maratha History". Dr. Appasaheb Pawar a study of his life and career. Shivaji University. p. 224.
  2. ^ Pati, Biswamoy (editor); Guha, Sumit; Chatterjee, Indrani (2000). Issues in modern Indian history : for Sumit Sarkar. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. p. 30. ISBN 9788171546589.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 201. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  4. ^ Eaton, Richard M. (2005). A Social History of the Deccan, 1300–1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 177–203. ISBN 0-521-25484-1.
  5. ^ Life and letters under the Mughals, Pran Nath Chopra, p.122
  6. ^ Sumit Sarkar (2000). Issues in Modern Indian History: For Sumit Sarkar. Popular Prakashan. p. 30. ISBN 978-81-7154-658-9.
  7. ^ a b Biswamoy Pati, ed. (2000). Issues in Modern Indian History. Popular. p. 30. ISBN 9788171546589.
  8. ^ a b c d Charles Augustus Kincaid and Dattatray Balwant Parasnis (1918). A History of the Maratha People Volume 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 2–10.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ "Peshwa Bajirao Review: Anuja Sathe shines as Radhabai in the period drama", India Today, 25 January 2017
Preceded by
Rajaram Chhatrapati
Regent of the
Maratha Empire

Succeeded by
Chhatrapati Shahuji