Rajaram Bhonsle (24 February 1670 – 3 March 1700 Sinhagad) was the younger son of the first Maratha chhatrapati Shivaji, half-brother of the second Chhatrapati Sambhaji, and took over the Maratha Empire as its third chhatrapati after his brother’s death at the hands of the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb in 1689. Rajaram belongs to sisodia rajput clan. His grandfather Shahaji in his letter to adil shah mention and called himself a sisodia rajput. This incident was also mentioned by his poet Jayram Pindye in his book Radhav Vilas Champu. He had a very short reign, during which he was engaged in a struggle with the Mughals.
He was brought up by his mother Soyarabai. He was declared Chhatrapati at the age of 10 (on 21 April 1680) by a faction of the court after Shivaji’s death. However, Sambhaji prevailed and assumed the throne.
Coronation and escape to Jinji
After the death of Sambhaji, Rajaram was crowned at Raigad on 12 March 1689. As the Mughals started laying siege to the region around Raigad on 25 March 1689, the widow of Sambhaji, Maharani Yesubai and her minister Ramchandra Pant Amatya sent young Rajaram to the stronghold of Pratapgad through Kavlya ghat. The Maratha army fought with the Mughals and led the new Maratha king, Rajaram to escape through Kavlya ghat to the fort of Jinji in present day state of Tamil Nadu via Pratapgad and Vishalgad forts, where he reached after a month and a half long journey on 1 November 1689. Details of this escape are known from the incomplete poetical biography of Rajaram, the Rajaramacharita written by his Rajpurohit, Keshav Pandit, in Sanskrit.
Siege of Jijin
Aurangzeb deputed Ghazi-ud-din Firoze Jung against the Marathas in the Deccan, and specially sent Zulfiqar Khan to capture the Jingi Fort. He laid siege to it in September, 1690. After three failed attempts, it was finally captured after seven years on 8 January 1698. Rajaram, however, escaped and fled first to Vellore and later to Vishalgarh. Rajaram tried to counter with a siege of the town of Berar, but was checked by PrinceBedarbakht and Zulfiqar Khan had to return.
Santaji and Dhanaji
Though Rajaram was not able to move out of Jinji, his young generals Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav continued to counter the Mughal army through guerrilla tactics. Kafi Khan wrote that whenever Mughal horses used to refuse to go to the water to drink water, it was feared they had seen Santaji and Dhanaji.
Santaji Ghorpade whose father Senapati Maloji Ghorpade died in the battle of Sangameshwar along with Sambhaji, was directed by Sambhaji to Raigad to rescue the queen and Rajaram. He secured the release of Rajaram from the siege of Raigad. At this stage, the Marathas were nearly defeated. But Santaji managed to ford the River Bhima despite floods, and attacked the Mughal camp. Aurangzeb, however, survived.
Santaji is credited with the defeat of at least three major Mughal chiefs. One Mughal general Kasim Khan was driven to suicide. Later, however, he fell out with Rajaram and Dhanaji Jadhav. He was killed while taking a bath by Nagoji Mane.The severed head of Santaji was presented to Aurangzeb for reward.
Rajaram died of an unspecified illness in 1700 at Sinhagad near Pune in Maharashtra. Thereafter the Maratha empire suffered a power vacuum until the release of his nephew, Shahuji in 1707. In the interim, Rajaram’s wife, Tarabai ruled the empire as regent for her young son, Shivaji II. Eventually, Shahuji succeeded Rajaram as the fourth Chattrapati in 1708.