One of the grittiest characters in Indian history, Rani Tarabai was also called the ‘rainha dos Marathas’ or the ‘Queen of the Marathas’ by the Portuguese. Rani Tarabai, the daughter-in-law of Shivaji and an indomitable and shrewd queen.
Tarabai was the daughter of the famed Maratha general Hambirao Mohite and was the wife of Rajaram, Shivaji’s son from his second wife Soyrabai. After Shivaji’s death in 1680, his first son Sambhaji took over the throne. As he was captured (and later killed), Rajaram was brought into power. He died an untimely death in 1700, leaving behind an heir, Shivaji II, who was only four years old at the time. In his name, Tarabai became the ruler.
Tarabai was then 25 years old. Aurangzeb’s army had assumed that women and children would not provide resistance but were to learn otherwise. Tarabai took charge of the army 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 insurgency against the Mughals. A truce was offered to the Mughals in such way that it was promptly rejected by the Mughal emperor, and Tarabai continued the Maratha resistance.
Under her leadership, the Marathas were able to recapture lost territories and also raided southern and western regions in Malwa and Gujarat. Rani Tarabai took lessons from Mughal warfare techniques and learnt to bribe commanders from the enemy camp. Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 happened to be a setback to the Mughal Empire.
In order to divide the Maratha onslaught, the Mughals released Shahu on certain conditions. He immediately challenged Tarabai and Shivaji II for leadership of the Maratha. Shahu eventually prevailed thanks to his legal position and in part to the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath’ diplomacy, and Tarabai was sidelined for some time.
in 1709, Tarabai even set up a parallel court in Kolhapur. She was deposed by Rajaram’s other widow Rajasabai, who wanted her own son Sambhaji II on the throne. Eventually, she and her son Shivaji II were imprisoned, where he died in 1726. Rani Tarabai reconciled with Shahu in 1730, who allowed her to live in Satara only if she agreed to be stripped of all political powers.
When Shahu Maharaj was on his deathbed, looking for an able heir,Tarabai, at the age of 73, surprised everyone by revealing the existence of her grandson, Ramraja, who had been brought up by a soldier’s wife in secrecy.
His identity had been concealed because she feared Rajasabai and Sambhaji II would be after his life. Shahu agreed to have him take over the throne and make him his heir.
However, Ramraja defected to the side of the Peshwas. Tarabai denounced her grandson for this. When Ramraja refused, she imprisoned him in a dungeon. Due to his actions, she believed that this was an impostor sent to her and not her biological grandson.
In 1752, she and the Peshwa took oaths of mutual peace at the Jejuri temple. Balaji Baji Rao, in turn for her political passiveness, had to let her control her principality.Tarabai died in 1761, at the age of 86. Tarabai was a brave and ambitious ruler, who put her kingdom above everything else.