The Tanjore Bhosales or Thanjavur Bhosales were a
dynasty that was started in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, in the later half
of the seventeenth century by Venkoji Raje Bhosale, the son of
Shahaji raje Bhosale, and step-brother of the famous Shivaji raje
Bhosale, the great Maratha warrior king.
List of kings
Venkoji (Ekoji I) raje Bhosale (born 1630
as per Maratha records and 1700 or later as per English records -
died 1683) was the son of Shahaji raje Bhosale and his wife Tukabai
(from the family of Mohites hailing from Bijapur, Karnataka). His
father Shahaji raje was a noble in the Adilshahi court of Bijapur
and held entrusted with the jagir of Bangalore. (It is to be noted
that he stayed with his parents and his eldest step brother
Sambhaji, who died early. His younger step-brother, Shivaji, the
natural brother of Sambhaji, stayed at their Poona jagir along with
mother Jijabai, who was Shahaji raje's eldest wife). Like his
father, Venkoji too became a noble in the Bijapur court, and often
assisted the Bijapur armies in their fight against his half brother,
In 1673, the Madurai Nayak invaded the Thanjavur
kingdom. Its erstwhile ruler appealed to the Bijapur court for help,
which in turn deputed Venkoji to drive out the Nayak of Madurai from
Thanjavur. Venkoji successfully drove away the Nayak from Thanjavur,
but became king himself (as per Wilkes, after the deposed ruler
of Thanjavur refused to pay for Venkoji's war expenses). After the
death of the Bijapur sultan, Venkoji crowned himself king of
In 1676, Shivaji embarked on his southern campaign
to unify the South under the Maratha rule. Shivaji first captured
Gingee in Tamil Nadu with help from Sultan Tanashah of Golkunda.
Since Gingee was in his control, he wanted a link between Maharashtra
and Gingee, which was the Mysore region. This was a region that was
traditionally the jagir of his father Shahaji raje, but had since
been neglected. Therefore he approached his step-brother and
demanded Mysore as his share of the paternal estate. Predictably,
Venkoji refused. Venkoji even walked away from their meeting place
without informing his brother (probably fearing detention).
Angry at this insolence from his younger brother.
Shivaji attacked and took possession of Venkoji's territory
(Jagdevgad and its surrounding regions, Chidambar,Vridhachal and
Kolar). Shivaji placed another half-brother, Santaji, to watch
Venkoji's movements along with his lieutenant, Hambirrao Mohite.
Venkoji retaliated by attacking Santoji's and Hambirrao's forces
at Ahiri (6 November 1677). But Venkoji was completely routed.
Shivaji also conquered Venkoji's territories in the Mysore region
(but a small portion, the regions of Bangalore, Hoskat, and
Asilikatte in Balapur were given to Venkoji's wife, Dipabai, as
a maintenance grant). Eventually Venkoji sued for peace and paid
almost 600,000 rupees as compensation to Shivaji.
In 1680, Shivaji came to an understanding with
the Bijapur court, whereby Venkoji, the vassal of Bijapur, was
forced to accept his elder brother Shivaji as his overlord and
pay him an annual tribute (the tribute stopped after the death
of Shivaji, which took place in the same year).
Thanjavur Palace, providing both watch tower and armoury
Kilavan, the chief of Ramnad, wanted to free
himself from the yoke of his overlord, the Nayak of Madurai.
He sought Venkoji's help in order to achieve this. In the war
which followed, Venkoji and his partner won the day.
Venkoji was a great patron of the arts and
literature. Venkoji himself wrote an telegu version of the
epic Ramayana. He also constructed several temples
which stand testimony to the grandeur of Thanjavur.
Shahuji I (born 1672). He was the
eldest son and successor of Venkoji. He inherited his father's
throne at the tender age of twelve.
Shahuji helped his cousin Rajaram (the younger
son of Shivaji of Maharshtra) recapture the fort of Jinji from
the Mughals. As a result a Mughal force under Zulfikar Khan
attacked Thanjavur (in 1691) and made Shahuji I a vassal. The
Mughals even took away lands conquered from Nayaki (Queen)
Mangammal of Tiruchirapalli which had earlier been captured by
Shahuji. In 1700, Shahuji's lieutenant, Babaji, attacked
Tiruchilapalli along with the king of Ramnad. But the Nayaki
Mangammal inflicted a defeat on the forces of Shahuji and
Meanwhile Shahuji found common cause with
the Nayaki and switched sides. This infuriated the Ramnad
Sethupathy Kilavan. He sent a huge army which defeated the
forces of Nayaki Mangammal and even captured the fort of
Aranthangi (in 1709) from Shahuji.
Shahuji I patronised the arts, literature
and architecture during his tenure, but in 1709, he abdicated
the throne of Thanjavur and became an ascetic.
Serfoji I (1675-1728) was the brother
and successor of Shahuji I
He captured the Marava kingdom and annexed it
to Thanjavur. He also created two zamindaris of Sivaganga and
Ramnad from a portion of Marava.
Serfoji was also said to be a great patron of
the arts and literature.
Tukoji (1677-1735) was the younger brother
and successor of Serfoji I. He aided Meenakshi, the queen of
Tiruchirapalli in quelling a revolt by the Polygars.
Sadar Madi in Thanjavur
He was responsible for introducing Hindustani music
in Thanjavur. He also composed a musical work called Sangeeta
Samamrita. He was also said to be a linguist.
Ekoji II (1696-1737) was the son and
successor of Tukoji. He resisted a attack by Chada sahib, the nawab
of Carnatic. But Ekoji couldn't rule for long . He died within a
year due to supposed ill heath.
Sujanbai was the widow and successor (1737)
of Ekoji II. She fought a succession battle with Katturaja, a
pretender to the throne, who claimed to be a son of Serfoji I.
She also had to cope with an ambitious minister named Sayyid.
Katturaja sought the help of the French and Chanda Sahib and
eventually usurped the throne of Thanjavur. He was also helped
by Sayyid in his endeavour, who in turn imprisoned Sujanbai
and let Katturaja take her place instead.
Katturaja assumed the name Shahuji II when he ascended the throne of
Thanjavur (in 1738). Katturaja had earlier promised Karaikkal to the
French. But Katturaja dithered on his promise. As a result the
French encouraged Chanda Sahib to overthrow Katturaja. They did the
same with the pretext that Katturaja was not a legitimate son of
Serfoji (and was born the son of a washer-woman). Katturaja was
Katturaja then exhorted Pratapsingh, a son of Tukoji
and his concubine Annapurna, to ascend the throne, lest an outside
claimant usurp the throne.
Pratapsingh did ascend the throne. But he had
to face a challenge from Katturaja who wanted to make a comeback
to power, along with Chanda Sahib and some palace officials like
Sayyid and Koyaji Kattigai. The plot was discovered and Sayyid
Pratapsingh (died 1763) ascended the
throne in 1739. In 1748, when Katturaja made his attempts
to seize power, he sought the help of the French. The English
(in the form of the British East India Company) sided with Pratapsingh,
but switched sides to Katturaja when he offered them Devekottai.
The Company tried to seize Devekottai by force on two occasions.
However after the second attempt Pratapsingh entered into a
treaty with them and gave them Devekottai.
Dost Ali, the nawab of Carnatic, overthrew Pratapsingh
and seized temporary power at Thanjavur. But Marathas from Maharashtra
launched an attack, killing Dost Ali, and Pratapsingh was reinstated.
Soon afterwards (in 1742) the nizam of Hyderabad
attacked Thanjavur, making its people his vassals.
The nawab of Carnatic, Muhammad Ali, attacked Thanjavur.
However, their common ally, the British East India Company, mediated
a truce between them. Pratapsingh had to pay 2,000,000 in arrears and
an annual tribute of 4,000,000 to the nawab of Carnatic. In return,
Coiladdy and Yelengadu were ceded to Thanjavur.
Pratapsingh also lost Hanumantagudi to the
raja of Ramnad. He died on 16 December 1763.
Thuljaji (1738-1787) was the eldest son and
successor of Pratapsingh. He tried wresting back Hanumantgudi from
the raja of Ramnad, but was defeated by the joint forces of Ramnad
and the nawab of Carnatic. Thuljaji was also deposed (in 1773) from
Thanjavur as a consequence of this war.
Thuljaji was restored to the Thanjavur throne by
the British East India Company in 1776, but thereafter he had to
pay annual tribute to both the company and the nawab of Carnatic.
In 1780, a war broke out between Tipu Sultan of
Mysore and the British, and Tipu's forces attacked and plundered
Thanjavur (1784) leaving behind an impoverished state.
Thuljaji was well versed in Sanskrit, Telugu and
Marathi. He was a great patron of arts and litreture. He died in
1787 at the age of forty-nine. He had no son, so his adopted son,
Serfoji II (from within the Bhosale family), ascended the throne
at the tender age of ten. Thuljaji's brother, Amar Singh, acted
as his regent.
Serfoji II (1777-1832). His uncle, Amarsingh
(Ramaswami Amarsimha Bhosale), deprived Serfoji of even a basic
education after usurping his throne soon after the death of
Thuljaji. So his father's confidante, Rev Schwartz, a Danish
Missionary, sent him to Madras, where he became proficient in
Tamil, Telugu, English, French, German, Latin, Danish, Dutch,
Urdu, and Sanskrit.
A glimpse inside the Thanjavur Court
He was restored to the Thanjavur throne by the
British East India Company, but the real power remained with the
company. Thuljaji however proved an efficient administrator, social
reformer and educationist. He constructed several schools, hospitals,
public conveniences, water tanks, buildings, zoological garden, a
meteorological station, and a shipyard in Thanjavur. He patronised
the arts and literature and personally penned works such as
Kumarasambhavachampu, Mudrakshachaya, and Devendra
Kuruvanji. He contributed immensely to the Saraswati Mahal
Library. He introduced western music into Thanjavur. He also had
the history of the Bhosale dynasty engraved in the Brihadeshwara
Serfoji II died on 7 March 1832. His funeral
procession was said to have been attended by almost 90,000 people,
indicating his popularity.
Shivaji II (died 1855) was the son and
successor of Serfoji II. He ruled from 1832 to 1855 and patronised
the arts and literature.
After the death of Shivaji II, and in the absence
of any legitimate heirs, the Thanjavur kingdom was annexed by
the British East India Company under the terms of their 'Doctrine
of Lapse' (which was abandoned in 1858). The kingdom of Thanjavur
continued to have titular monarchs, but with no political power.
These later titular maharajahs were: Rani Vijaya
Mohana bai (1845-1886), the daughter of Shivaji II,
Shambhusinghji rao (died 1891) was the adopted son of Rani Vijayabai.
The adoption and succession were not recognised by the government of
India, and therefore Shambhusinghji rao was not allowed to use the
royal titles of his predecessors.
A painting from Tanjore representing the god Ganesha
Majumdar, R C - Ancient India, Motilal
Banarsidass Publishers Ltd, 1987
Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History,
Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000
Thapar, Romila - Penguin History of India,
Volume 1, Penguin Books, London, 1990