Colonialism Vs. the Maratha Empire - Portuguese and Maratha Empire




Portuguese and Maratha Empire:

The Portuguese had their forts at Diu, Daman, Sanjan, Atori, Vasai, Karanja, Chaul, etc. Because of these forts, the region of Bardesh was well protected. They used to store all ammunition at Panvel. The northern region of Goa was known as ‘Bardesh’. 

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj first came in contact with the Portuguese when he established his control on Kalyan and Bhiwandi. The Portuguese were alarmed when Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj built a strong Maratha navy. Soon, the Portuguese were brought to a point of despair by the Marathas. In fact, in the beginning, the Portuguese had extended technological help for shipbuilding to the Marathas. However, the Portuguese Governor of Goa withdrew this help. The Portuguese now promptly provided help to Siddis when the Maratha army was organising an attack on the Janjira fort against them.

Both the Portuguese and the Marathas, in the matters of diplomatic relations, adopted policies to suit the situation. In 1665, the Portuguese waylaid 13 ships of the Marathas, while it was passing by the ports on the Karnataka coast. However, they soon released those ships as they were scared of the powerful Maratha navy. In 1666, while the Fort of Fonda ruled by Adilshah was under siege by Marathas, the Portuguese supplied ammunition to the Adilshahi Killedar.

In the 15th century, major parts of Goa were ruled by Adil Shah Empire. In 1525, Alfonso De Albuquerque, Portuguese Commander General waged a war and captured Tiswadi from Adil Shah. On the other side, Shivaji Maharajah captured the Dicholim Mahal and took total control over it. This was the first footstep charged by the Maratha Empire on Gomantak (name in which Goa was known as).

During this era, Portuguese inquisitions raised atrocities on local Hindus and destroyed hundreds of temples. One such temple was Saptakoteshwar Temple in Narve, Diwar. When Shivaji came to know of these atrocities he donated a huge piece of land and funds to reconstruct this temple in Dicholim Mahal. Shivaji Maharajah also built a Fort in Dicholim on the banks of the River Mandovi. Ponda in those days was ruled by Adil Shah Empire where they had built a huge Fort known as “Fonda Kott” (Kott means Fort). In 1664, Shivaji along with his forces attacked this Ponda Fort but was unable to capture it as the Portuguese came for Adil Shah’s rescue. In 1675, once again Shivaji Maharajah attacked Ponda Fort and captured it from all sides. There was rigorous bloodshed and deaths in this battle. Adil Shah Armies faced a strong defeat in this battle. Even today if we observe minutely people of Ponda get highly motivated when it comes to the name Shivaji Maharajah. Shivaji Maharaja was one of the greatest leaders Marathas had who was intelligent and a great administrator who believed in the power of secularism and unity in society.

The Portuguese established a factory at Dabhol by obtaining a sanction from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. At the same time, the local people were unhappy because of the Portuguese laws, which were favourable for religious conversions. Therefore, in 1667, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj decided to attack the region of Bardesh. The people of Bardesh welcomed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj wholeheartedly. Again, when the region of Dandarajpuri, under the Siddi rule, was under the Maratha siege, the Portuguese supplied war provisions and ammunition to the Siddis. During the Adilshahi Sultanate versus Maratha conflict, the Portuguese, while acting neutral, were surreptitiously helping Adilashah. Prior to that, Gonsalo Martez, the Portuguese emissary, had met Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Both agreed to avoid any future conflict between them. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, with an intention of uprooting the Portuguese rule, started sending small groups of his men to Goa. It was decided that once their number was enough in Goa, they should strike a revolt against the Portuguese rule. The Portuguese viceroy somehow became aware of the plan. Hence, the plan failed. A treaty was signed between the Portuguese and the Marathas on 10th February 1670. The following conditions were agreed upon – if either of them plundered the other’s ships, then the victim party should be properly compensated, all those concessions given to the Mughal ships in transit should also be given to the Maratha ships, no help be extended to the Siddis against the Marathas and not to build forts in the territory of Ramnagar (presently a village in Jawhar Tehsil, Thane). There was a dispute about the issue of collecting Chauthai between the Portuguese and the Marathas which remained unresolved till the end. To resolve this issue Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had appointed Pitambar Shenavi and Jivaji Shenavi as mediators. However, they were not much successful in their negotiations. In 1679, the Portuguese secretly helped the British in their conflict with the Marathas for Khanderi-Underi islands.

Chauthai is a type of revenue collected from the external territories, protected by the Maratha rulers. It used to be one-fourth of the total income of the taxpayer.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj had determined to humble the Portuguese. There were many reasons for it, such as, the Portuguese opposing the construction work by the Marathas in Chaul, forcing their subjects in Goa for religious conversion, and pillaging of the trading ships. The Marathas defeated the Portuguese during the siege of Fonda fort.

The Maratha army gathered at Fonda in 1680. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, himself was to lead the campaign, but for some reason, it could not happen.

The panic felt by the Portuguese because of the warfare skills of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is clearly reflected when the Portuguese Governor said, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was no doubt a mighty warrior but his strategies against the enemy during the peaceful times were much more daunting. Now his death has relieved the Portuguese authorities from his terror.”

A treaty was signed between the Marathas and Husain Ali Sayyad, the chief representative of the Mughals in the south, which gave the right of collecting chauthai to the Marathas from the Kalyan-Bhiwandi region. Accordingly, they asked the Portuguese to make the payment. However, the Portuguese governor of Vasai refused to pay. To counter the Marathas, the Portuguese established outposts in Vasai, Asheri, Tarapur, Kelwe, Mahim, Daman, and Chaul (Revdanda). They also increased the intensity of their atrocities on the local people.

Chimajiappa, the younger brother of Peshwa Bajirao I, was assigned the responsibility of the campaign against the Portuguese. At the onset of the campaign, Chimajiappa took over the fort at Thane. In March 1737, the Maratha army conquered the Sashti island. On another front, Shankaraji Phadke entered Vasai island. However, taking over Vasai was not enough to establish permanent control over the Portuguese territory until there was a complete victory over the fort of Vasai. The Marathas fought valiantly but their naval force was not strong enough. The Maratha siege of Vasai fort continued for two years and in the end, the Marathas defeated the Portuguese.

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