Sakal Rajkarya Dhurandhar Vishwasnidhi Rajmanya Rajeshri
Suvarnadurg, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, India
|Died||4 July 1729 (aged 59–60)|
Alibag, Maharashtra, India
|Years of service||1689-1729|
|Rank||Sar-Subhedar (Grand admiral)|
Kanhoji Angre, also known as Conajee Angria or Sarkhel Angré (August 1669 – 4 July 1729) was an Indian admiral of the Maratha Navy. Kanhoji became noted for attacking and capturing European merchant ships and ransoming their crews. British, Dutch and Portuguese ships were often victims of these raids. Despite attempts by the Portuguese and British to put an end to his privateering activities, Angre continued to capture and ransom European merchant ships until his death in 1729. Kanhoji's naval prowess in capturing dozens of European trading ships and avoiding capture has led to many historians to appraise Kanhoji as the most skilled Indian admiral in the maritime history of India.
Angre was born on the fort Suvarnadurg, near Ratnagari in the year 1667. His surname "Angre" is derived from Angarwadi; the family's original name was Sankpal, and the family members before Kanhoji were known as Sankpals.
Historian Sen believes that Angre's origin is "obscure and he certainly did not belong to the nobility of the land". Citation of the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (historical archives of the Portuguese empire) is given to show that Kanhoji started his life as a humble servant of some Hindus in the island of Versova. According to the family history, he was a "Kshatriya" Maratha. According to Reginald Edward Enthoven, Kanhoji had east African ancestry. Historian V. G. Dighe, in 1951, cites G. S. Sardesai's Selections from the Peshwa Daftar, and calls them "blue-blood Marathas" who "would spurn to marry in families lower than those of Deshmukhs, Jadhavs, Jagtaps and Shitoles." However, S.R.Sharma seems to agree with the Portuguese opinions and believe him to have been a "Maratha Koli captain". Historian Dr.Arunchandra Pathak, in 2007, has published details from earlier records of Kolaba districts which he considers "authentic and useful information on several aspects of the district and is considered to be of great value to administrators, scholars and general readers" and K.K.Choudhari in the late 20th century also consider it authentic. According to these records, Mr. Grose, a Bombay Civil Service Officer, who was a well-informed writer and was well acquainted with the country, and took special interest in matters connected with the Hindu religion and with Hindu castes has given information on Kanhoji's heritage. According to the editors, "The unlikeliness of the story is a strong argument in favour of its truth". Grose writes that Tukaji was an African Muslim who was born in the Gulf of Ormuz and in 1643 was shipwrecked near Cheul. He helped Shahji in the war with the Moghals and married the daughter of Shahji's minister, and their son Parab was the father of Kanhoji. This is an example of foreign warriors being admitted into the Hindu fold and marrying Hindu wives and other such examples are given in the chapter on Thana History.
In 2009, modern Dutch historian Rene Barendse, specializing in South Asian history as well as history related to the Indian Ocean, summarized that Kanhoji Angre's origin is highly controversial. He writes:
Most likely he was a Son Koli. To the British he was of Siddi (East African) descent, to the nationalist Maratha literature an impeccable Maratha. He adroitly used his vaunted Ethiopian descent to gain ascendancy over the other bands of seafarers and their leaders along the Konkan Coast, a group that the Dutch with some justification called "Shivaji's roving and robbing armadas".
Angre's mother was Ambabai and his father, Tukoji, served at Suvarnadurg under Shivaji with a command of 200 posts. Little is known about his early life except that he was involved in daring exploits at sea with his father. He spent much of his childhood in the Suvarnadurg Fort, where he would later become the governor.
He was originally appointed as Sarkhel or Darya-Saranga (Admiral) by the chief of Satara in c. 1698. Under that authority, he was master of the Western coast of India from Mumbai to Vingoria (now Vengurla) in present-day state of Maharashtra, except for the property of the Muslim Siddis of Murud-Janjira who were affiliated with the powerful Mughal Empire.
Kanhoji started his career by attacking merchant ships of the East India Company and slowly gained respect from all the European powers. In 1702, he abducted a merchant vessel from Calicut with six English sailors and took it to his harbor. In 1707, he attacked the East Indiaman Bombay which blew up during the fight. In time, the European thought that he could capture any merchant ship except large, heavily armed ships. When Maratha Chhatrapati Shahu ascended the leadership of the Maratha Empire, he appointed Balaji Viswanath Bhat as his Senakarta (Commander) and negotiated an agreement with Angre around 1707. This was partly to appease Angre who supported the other ruler, Tarabai, who claimed the Maratha throne. As per agreement, Angre became head of the Maratha Navy.
When the Maratha empire was weak, Angre became more and more independent and in 1713, an army was sent headed by Peshwa Bahiroji Pingale to control Angre, but Angre won the battle and captured and held Bahiroji Pingale as his prisoner. Angre planned to march to Satara where Chhatrapati Shahu was acting as a head of state and where Angre was requested to appear for negotiations, after which Angre was confirmed as Admiral (Sarkhel) of entire fleet. Angre was also placed as chief of 26 forts and fortified places of Maharashtra.
Europeans on rolls
Angre employed Europeans, generally Dutch, to command his best vessels. He also employed a Jamaican pirate named James Plantain and entrusted him with significant responsibilities such as the chief gunner post. Angre employed Manuel de Castro, a Portuguese soldier who was about to punished by the East India Company for his failure in capturing Khanderi Island, which was controlled by Kanhoji Angre.
- In 1698, Angre located his first base at Vijayadurg ('Victory Fort') (formerly Gheriah), Devgad Taluka, located about 485 km from Mumbai. The fort which was originally built by king Bhoj and strengthened by Maratha ruler Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, is located on the coast and has an entrance hollowed out in it to accommodate entry of a vessel from the sea.
- Angre created an operating base from the fortified islands of "Kolaba" at Alibaug. Khanderi and Underi off the coast of Thal, Alibaug, and attempted to levy a tax on every merchant vessel entering the harbour.
- He established a township called Alibag on seashore at southern tip of Mumbai. The main village at that time, was today's Ramnath. Kanhoji even issued his own currency in the form of a silver coin called the Alibagi rupaiya.
- In 1724, Angre built a port at Purnagad, located in Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra. Seven guns and 70 cannonballs were found in the port. The port was also used for limited trading activities.
Kanhoji intensified the attacks on European ships on the western coast of India. On 4 November 1712, his navy even succeeded in capturing the yacht HCS Algerine of the President of Bombay, William Aislabie, killing the chief of their Karwar factory, Thomas Chown, and making his wife a prisoner, not releasing the captured yacht and Mrs. Chown until 13 February 1713 for a ransom of 30,000 Rupees. The release was done along with the return of previously captured territory, hoping that the East India Company will help him in his other wars, but later Angre made an alliance with Balaji Viswanath and continued fighting the company. He seized East Indiamen Somers and Grantham, near Goa as these vessels were on their voyage from England to Bombay. In 1712, he disabled a thirty-gun man-of-war which was conveying Portuguese "armado" and captured it.
Angre eventually signed a treaty with the East India Company President Aislabie to stop harassing the company's fleet. Aislabie would eventually return to England during October 1715.
After the arrival of Charles Boone as the new Governor of Bombay on 26 December 1715, Boone made several attempts to capture Angre. Instead of succeeding, in 1718 Angre captured three East India Company merchant ships, again ransoming their crews.
On 29 November 1721 a joint attempt by the Portuguese (Viceroy Francisco José de Sampaio e Castro) and the British (General Robert Cowan) to capture Kanhoji proved unsuccessful. This fleet consisted of 6,000 soldiers in four Man of war class ships led by Commander Thomas Mathews. Aided by Maratha warriors including Mendhaji Bhatkar and his navy, Angre continued to harass and plunder the European ships. Commander Matthews returned to Great Britain, but was accused and convicted of trading with the Marathas in December 1723. Also, during 1723, Governor Boone returned to Great Britain. After Boone's departure, relative calm prevailed between the British and Angre, until Angre's death in 1729.
- 1702 - Seizes small vessel in Cochin with six Englishmen.
- 1706 - Attacks and captures the Siddi of Janjira.
- 1707 - Attacked the East Indiaman Bombay which blew up during the fight.
- 1710 - Captures the Kennery (now Khanderi) Islands near Mumbai after fighting the East India Company vessel Godolphin for two days.
- 1712 - Captured the yacht, HCS Algerine, of the President of Bombay, Mr. Aislabie, releasing it only after obtaining a ransom of Rs. 30,000. (1713) 
- He seized East Indiamen Somers and Grantham, near Goa as these vessels were on their voyage from England to Bombay.
- He disabled a thirty-gun man-of-war which was conveying Portuguese "armado" and captured it.
- 1713 - Ten forts ceded to Angre by East India Company.
- 1717 - Angre captures the HSC Success, bombards the Kennery Islands and Angre signs treaty with Company paying Rs. 60,000.
- 1718 - Blockaded Mumbai port and extracted ransom.
- 1720 - British attack Vijaydurg (Gheriah), but are unsuccessful.
- 1721 - British fleet reaches Mumbai. British and Portuguese jointly attack Alibag, but are unsuccessful.
- 1722 - Angre attacks 4 yachts and 20 ships of an East India Company convoy near Chaul
- 1723 - Angre attacks two East India Company vessels, Eagle and Hunter.
- 1724 - Maratha and Portugees pact. Dutch attack Vijaydurg but are repulsed.
- 1725 - Kanhoji Angre and Siddi sign a pact.
- 1729 - Kanhoji Angre wins Palgad Fort.
By the time of his death on 4 July 1729, Kanhoji Angre had emerged as a master of the Arabian Sea from Surat to south Konkan. He left behind two legitimate sons, Sekhoji and Sambhaji; four illegitimate sons, Tulaji, Manaji, Yesaji and Dhondji. Angre's Samadhi (tomb) is situated at Shivaji Chowk, Alibag, Maharashtra.
After Kanhoji, his son Sekhoji continued Maratha exploits at sea till his death in 1733. After Sekhoji's death, Angre's holdings were split between two brothers, Sambhaji and Manaji, because of divisions in the family. With the Marathas neglecting naval concerns, the British soon found it easier to defeat the remnants of the kingdom. Angre and his sons' reign over the Western coast ended with the capture of Tulaji in a joint attack on the fort of Gheriah (now Vijaydurg) in February 1756 by the forces of the British East India Company and Maratha Peshwa Balaji Bajirao. The Peshwa's half brother Shamsher Bahadur commanded the Maratha forces.
Seals of Kanhoji Angre
Three seals have been known to be used by Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre. One during the reign of Chhatrapati Rajaram, and two during the reign of Chhatrapati Shahu.
The three seals, along with their inscriptions and meaning are given below.
सादर तुकोजी सुत
Kanhoji, son of Tukoji, Angre is forever present at the feet (service) of Rajaram.
राजा शाहू चरणी तत्पर
तुकोजी सुत कान्होजी आंगरे
Kanhoji Angre Sarkhel, son of Tukoji, is forever eager at the feet (service) of Shahu.
श्री शाहू नृपती प्रि
त्या तुकोजी तनुजन्म
ना कान्होजी सरखे
लस्य मुद्रा जय
King Shahu's favoured, Tukoji's son, Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre's seal is always victorious.
Kanhoji Angre stands as one of the most notable admirals of the Maratha Navy who caused significant troubles to the European trading companies. Kanhoji is credited with the foresight that a Blue Water Navy's ultimate and strategic role is to keep the enemy engaged far from the shores of the homeland. At one time, Kanhoji was so successful that he attracted enterprising Europeans in his fleet as mercenaries, including one Dutchman, whom he appointed to the rank of Commodore. At the height of his power, Kanhoji commanded hundreds of warships and thousands of sailors at a time when the Royal Navy had little in the way of naval resources in far-away India that could significantly offset the growing strength of the Maratha Navy.
Kanhoji's harassment of British commercial interests and the English victory over the Portuguese at Swally led them to establish a small naval force that eventually became the modern Indian Navy. Today, a statue of Angre stands in Indian Naval Dockyard in Mumbai. While the original fort built by Angre that overlooked the Naval Docks has vanished, its boundary wall is still intact and within it lays the Headquarters of Indian Western Naval Command and is called INS Angre (Indian Naval Station Angre).
The end of Angre family influences
The descendants of Angres continued to live in Kolaba till the 1840s and in 1843, the city was annexed to East India Company as per a despatch to Governor General of Bombay dated 30 December 1843.
Publication of family history
- Angria Bank, a submerged atoll structure located on the continental shelf 105 km west of the coast of Vijaydurg, Maharashtra, was named after Kanhoji Angre.
- The Western Naval command of the Indian Navy was named INS Angre on 15 September 1951 in honour of Kanhoji Angre. Other important naval offices are also located at INS Angre. His statue is erected at the old Bombay Castle located within the enclave located at the Naval Dockyard, South Mumbai.
- During April 1999, the Indian Postal Service released a Rupee 3 stamp showing a ghurab of Kanhoji Angre's fleet as depicted in a c. 1700 AD painting.
- The old Kennery Lighthouse, on Khanderi Island which marks the southern boundary of the Mumbai Port, was renamed as Kanhoji Angre Light House.
- The large residential colony of Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers at Alibaug is named as " Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre Nagar".
- During the Malwani Jatrotsav festival in 1995 at Parel, Mumbai, a simulation of the naval battle between Angre and the East India Company fleet led by Charles Boon was conducted using remote-control wooden boats in an open tank (70' x 30'). Radio Controlled boats carved out of Teak wood and powered by high torque motors were constructed by Vivek S. Kambli and Vishesh S. Kambli. A thrilling soundtrack complemented this Audio Visual 3 Dimensional depiction of an important chapter from Maratha Naval history. The show lasted 10 days and was witnessed by thousands of Mumbai denizens.
- An all-weather port at Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, named as Angre port, was inaugurated on 24 April 2012 by 9th descendant of Kanhoji Angre.
- The 2007 Hollywood film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End portrays a character named Sri Sumbahjee, a purported reference to Sambhaji, Kanhoji Angre's son.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kanhoji Angre.|
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For a short while, however, this sinister combination against the Marathas on the west coast was neutralised by the rise of a 'Shivaji of the Seas' — the Maratha Koli captain Kanhoji Angre
- Kolaba district. Government of Maharashtra.
About this time the Angria family, who during the eighteenth century rose to high power both in Kolaba and in Ratnagiri, first came to notice. The founder of the family was Tukaji Sankhpal. According to Grose, a well-informed writer, Tukaji was a negro born in an island in the gulf of Ormuz, a Musalman by religion, who in 1643 was shipwrecked near Cheul. He helped Shahji in his war with the Moghals, married the daughter of Shahji's minister, and had a son named Purab who was the father of Kanhoji. [Account of Bombay, II. 214. Mr. Grose, who was a member of the Bombay Civil Service, wrote about 1750. He was well acquainted with the country, and took special interest in matters connected with the Hindu religion and with Hindu castes. The unlikeliness of the story is a strong argument in favour of its truth. Shivaji's coronation at Raygad in 1674 (see below, Places of Interest) is an example of the case of a man of comparatively low caste rising to the highest rank among Hindu warriors by careful attention to Hindu rules and by liberality to Brahmans. Examples of successful foreign warriors being admitted to be Hindus and marrying Hindu wives are given in the chapter on Thana History. Thana Statistical Account, Bombay Gazetteer, XIII 411 note 3. According to Grant Duff (History, 163) Kaahoji's father was Tukaji a distinguished officer in Shivaji's fleet.]
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