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Dhanaji Jadhav (1650–1708) was a warrior of the Maratha Empire. Along with Santaji Ghorpade he made terrifying campaigns against Mughal Army from 1689 to 1696. After Santaji, Dhanaji became the chief of the Maratha army in 1696 and remained on the post until his death in 1708.
Dhanaji was born in or around 1650, to the Maratha family from Sindh khed. Dhanaji’s father Santaji  was brought up by Shivaji’s mother Jijabai after assassination of Dhanaji's grandfather Achloji, Jijabai’s brother. Santaji’s son Shambhu (Sambhaji) also was brought up by Jijabai with her son Shivaji after Santaji's[who?] death at the Battle of Pavan Khind with Baji Prabhu Deshpande
At an early age, Dhanaji joined Maratha army under Shivaji’s Military Chief Prataprao Gujar. In the battles at Umbrani and Nesari, Dhanaji’s performance attracted attention of Shivaji for the first time. He was named by Shivaji on his death bed among six pillars of Maratha Empire who would save the kingdom in hard times.
Contribution to the Maratha War of Independence
At the beginning of the Rajaram’s regime, Dhanaji was a Pancha Hajari, a chief of 5,000 soldiers. In September 1689 along with Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji attacked Aurangzeb’s general Sheikh Nizam who had blockaded Maratha fort in Kohlapur Panhala. Nizam was dealt a severe beating and most of his supplies, horses and elephants were captured.
During 1689 – 1690, Santaji and Dhanaji were directed to prevent the Mughal army in Maharashtra to enter into Karnataka after Rajaram’s flight to Gingee. On 25 May 1690, Sarjahkhan alias Rustamkhan was defeated and captured near Satara by Ramchandra Pant Amatya, Shankaraji Narayan, Santaji and Dhanaji and this defeat proved to be a big blow to Aurangzeb. In the month of December in the same year, Santaji and Dhanaji were promoted and were placed respectively under the supervision of Ramchandra Pant Amatya and Shankaraji Narayan Sacheev.
In the last quarter of 1692, Dhanaji and Santaji were sent to Karnataka to beat back the Mughal blockade of the new Maratha capital of Gingee. On the way south to Karnataka on 8 October 1692, Dharwad was captured and annexed by 7000 Maratha soldiers under both of them. In December 1692, the Mughal army under Zulfikhar Ali Khan around fort Gingee was beaten soundly by Santaji and Dhanaji as a result of which Zulfikhar Ali Khan had to approach to king Rajaram for accommodation and compromise.
On 9 January 1693, Dhanaji captured Aurangazeb’s General Ismailkhan Makha, arrested him and took him to Gingee. After lengthy negotiations with Rajaram, Zulfikhar Ali Khan was granted a safe passage out in March 1693 which Santaji did not like. He argued with Rajaram and left the place without his permission as a result of which Dhanaji was given tentative charge of the army chief. Santaji, however, soon resumed his duties.
In September 1695 during a great battle against the Mughals at Chandan Vandan, Dhanaji lost one of his sons on the battlefield. On 20 November 1695, Kasimkhan; Aurangzeb’s powerful General in Karnataka, was attacked, defeated and killed by Santaji and Dhanaji at Doderi near Chitradurga.
In December 1695, Dhanaji was defeated in a battle near Vellore by Zulfikhar Ali Khan. In June 1696, by order of Rajaram, Dhanaji attacked Santaji for his rebellion near Vriddhachalam but was forced to retreat. Soon thereafter Santaji was officially sacked and his charge was given to Dhanaji again.
Later career and death
In 1700 after the death of Rajaram, his illegitimate son Raja Karna was placed on his throne by his Ministers with the help of Dhanaji. However, Raja Karna died of smallpox within 3 weeks.
In November 1703, Aurangzeb opened talks with Dhanaji through his son Kambaksh to handover Shahu to him. The talks, however, could not succeed due to the so-called extravagant demands by Dhanaji made on behalf of the Maratha king. In 1705, Maratha army containing about 40,000 soldiers headed by Dhanaji, Dado Malhar and Rambhaji Nimbalkar smashed into Surat and looted entire region of Gujrat up to Bharoch.
Dhanaji also vanquished the Mughal army under Nazar Ali, the Nawab of Baroda, at Ratanpur and brought huge treasure to Maharashtra. In 1708, with mediation by his assistant Balaji Vishwanath (who would later become Peshwa in 1713) Dhanaji left Tarabai and joined hands with Shahu at Khed. Soon thereafter he died. Subsequently, his son Chandrasen was placed on his post. A monument to Dhanaji Jadhav is in Peth Vadgaon town in Kolhapur district.
In popular culture
- Manohar Malgonkar (1971). Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur. Popular Prakashan. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- ‘Marathi Riyasat Volume II’ (Marathi) by Govind Sakharam Sardesai
- ‘Marathyanche Svatantra Yuddha’ (Marathi) by Setu Madhavrao Pagadi
- ‘Anecdotes of Aurangzeb’ (English) by Sir Jadunath Sarkar
- G. S. Chhabra (1 January 2005). Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-1: 1707-1803). Lotus Press. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-81-89093-06-8. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- "Dhanya Te Santaji Dhanaji 1968". Marathi Cinema Database. Retrieved 2013-06-05.
- Mānnā De (1 January 2007). Memories Come Alive: An Autobiography. Penguin Books India. pp. 401–. ISBN 978-0-14-310193-2. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- Sanjit Narwekar; Raghuvir Kul; D. B. Samant (1995). Marathi Cinema: in retrospect. Maharashtra Film, Stage & Cultural Development Corp. Retrieved 5 June 2013.