During most of Shivaji’s ascent to power, the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb refused to acknowledge him as a threat, seeing him only as a glorified zamindar. However, he was forced to pay attention to the Maratha ruler’s rising influence after he attacked and plundered Surat, one of the most important ports of the Mughals. In retaliation to this insult, Aurangzeb decided to bring out the heavy machinery, and sent his best general to teach Shivaji a lesson. This general was Mirza Raja Jai Singh.
Jai Singh came from a humble background, and owed his successful career in the royal court to Shah Jahan, who took him in and helped him rise in the ranks to become a skilled military strategist and an influential court advisor. However, when the war of succession came around, Jai Singh chose to side with Aurangzeb over Shah Jahan, and became his principal advisor.
Aurangzeb held Jai Singh in high esteem, and made sure he was well equipped to take on Shivaji, giving him a force of 100,000 men. Thus armed, Jai Singh’s first move was to send columns of soldiers to attack the countryside that is now Pune. Shivaji was unsuccessful in holding off this powerful attack. Meanwhile, Jai Singh himself poached some of Shivaji’s most important commanders, recruiting them into Mughal service, thus severely weakening Shivaji’s strategic strength.
When Shivaji finally managed to break out from the onslaught, Jai Singh’s troops did not pursue him; instead, they used their technical expertise at building siege equipment to systematically take down Shivaji’s forts.
The attack finally ended with Shivaji trapped inside a fort. He had no choice but to surrender.
He was then taken to Aurangzeb at the Agra Fort. Jai Singh was in no mood to negotiate with this growing threat to the Mughal Empire, and a treaty was signed, costing Shivaji a lot of money and even more land. Shivaji himself was sentenced to house arrest.
Thus, Jai Singh had successfully captured Shivaji.
Alas, the ending of this story isn’t as neat as Jai Singh would have liked. While under house arrest, Shivaji expressed his desire to do penance, and sent enormous baskets of fruit out to the poor every day. And it was in one of these baskets that he managed to smuggle himself out of captivity and return home, where he was heartily welcomed.
Still, Jai Singh had accomplished what many others could not – he challenged Shivaji, and through a series of highly strategic manoeuvres, he emerged victorious over the self-made Maratha ruler, and successfully captured him (albeit not for very long).
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