Tarabai Raje Bhonsle (1675 – 9 December 1761 at Satara) was the queen of Chhatrapati Rajaram Bhonsle, son of Shivaji. She is acclaimed for her role in keeping alive the resistance against Mughal occupation of Maratha territories after the death of her husband in 1700.
Tarabai was the daughter of the famed Maratha general Hambirao Mohite. She also was the niece of Soyarabai. Tarabai was married to Shivaji and Soyarabai's son and therefore her first cousin, Rajaram at a very young age.
Commander of Maratha Forces
On Rajaram's death in 1700, she proclaimed her infant son, Shivaji II as Rajaram's successor and herself as the regent. As the regent she took charge of the war 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. By 1705, Marathas had crossed the Narmada and made small incursions in Malwa, retreating immediately. The Maratha country was relieved at the news of the death of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who died at Khuldabad in Aurangabad.
Of the years 1700-1707, Jadunath Sarkar has opined: "During this period, the supreme guiding force in Maharashtra was not any minister but the dowager queen Tara Bai Mohite. Her administrative genius and strength of character saved the nation in that awful crisis."
Battle with Shahu
In order to divide the Maratha onslaught, the Mughals released Shahu, Sambhaji's son and Tarabai's nephew, on certain conditions. He immediately challenged Tarabai and Shivaji II for leadership of the Maratha polity. Shahu eventually prevailed thanks to his legal position and in part to the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath' diplomacy, and Tarabai was sidelined. She established a rival court in Kolhapur in 1709 but was deposed by Rajaram's second wife, Rajasabai, who put her own son, Sambhaji II, on the throne. Tarabai reconciled with Chhattrapati Shahu in 1730 and went to live in Satara but without any political power.
After Shahu's death in 1749, Tarabai helped to get her grandson, Ramaraja to the Satara throne. Afterward, however, she denounced Ramaraja on the grounds that he was not her grandson as he claimed. During this period of weakened royal power, Tarabai exercised great influence in the Maratha state. She headed one of several factions vying for control within the increasingly fractious confederacy.
Hailed as Bhadrakali, her name is still celebrated in the countryside in parts of Maharashtra. Noted historian Jadunath Sarkar has written about her, "In that awful crisis her character and strength saved the nation".
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- Eaton, Richard M. (2005). A Social History of the Deccan, 1300-1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 177–203. ISBN 0-521-25484-1.
- Life and letters under the Mughals, Pran Nath Chopra, p.122