The Fearless Hindu Maratha Admiral Who Defended Konkan from the Europeans!
In the late 17th and mid 18th century, when the British, the Portuguese and the Mughal Navy base of Siddis were utilizing India’s huge coastline to enter the nation, it required a dire requirement for Indian rulers to anchor the naval bases. So Far this point, Indian rulers had viewed the ocean as a base just for Trade, however now, as foreign forces were entering the Country on their Ship, the need to reinforce the naval branch of the military was foremost.
In the Konkan region of the then Maratha empire, Kanhoji Angre was the man for the job. He was the Admiral who had defeated the Dutch, the British and the Portuguese until his final breath, and guarded the sovereignty of the Maratha rulers.
Indeed, even as Shivaji Maharaj Bhonsle, the Maratha ruler who controlled the Deccan areas of India, concentrated his dominance on the inside parts of India, his farsightedness had guaranteed an military base, yet a little one, along the Konkan districts of Maharashtra.
This very step by Shivaji would prove to be a thorn in the side of the foreign powers—in the form of Kanhoji Angre.
Kanhoji Angre was Born in 1669 in the Ratnagiri districtof Maharashtra. His family originated from Angarwadi, Poona (which is the manner by which Kanhoji got the surname, Angre. His forefathers conveyed the name Sankpal—guardians of a state called ‘Vir Rana Sank.’
At the point when Shivaji vanquished the coastal regions of Konkan, he selected Kanhoji’s Father to charge the Suvarnadurg Fort there, in 1657. Kanhoji took birth on this fort and as destiny would have it, proceeded to protect the coasts like he was Born for it.
He grew up watching ships of the Maratha Empire set sail from the shores of Ratnagiri. Kanhoji even become friends with the ‘Koli’ or fishermen community, who showed him the skills of the Sea. In 1669, at 19 years old years, Kanhoji was named as the Surkheel or Darya-Saranga (Admiral) “by Royal Command in independent charge of 150 miles of totally open coastline.”
This was in 1698, 18 years after Shivaji’s death and under the rule of Tarabai. At the point when appointed as the Admiral, Kanhoji had only ten ships under his command. He built up his Navy from that strength—utilizing the forest cover in Konkan to Build his ships and the expertise of the fishermen in building man force
The Rise of Foreign trade the Arabian Sea was still not a reason for worry for Kanhoji.
Even if the Portuguese, British or Dutch entered the country, he might not have risen arms against them, but then the Portuguese tried to dominate over the sovereignty of the Maratha empire.
As per Michae Snyder, “Because of their undisputed domain over trade routes over the Indian Ocean, the Portuguese had since quite a while ago demanded that all ships pay for and carry official papers in return (for the most part nominal) protection against the European pirates marauders the Trade Routes carrying spices and luxury items from India to Europe over the Indian Ocean.”
Kanhoji waited until his own Navy was established and imposed his registration process called ‘dastak. He offered rewards that were nominal, Just like the same as the Portuguese did, and grabbed each ship that arrived on the Konkan coast without the proper registration papers.
This was the first occasion when that Indian forces had opposed the European strength on the ocean. In any case, the Europeans, all things considered, had challenged the Maratha power and they should have been taught a due Lesson.
Shivaji’s territorial tactics highly influenced Kanhoji’s strategies to fight the mighty profoundly of the Portuguese and the British.
Since he didn’t have enough resources—human or arsenal—to attack them head-on, Kanhoji utilized guerrilla tactics to win his fights.
He never strayed far from the coast since the land gave a few advantages to his armed force, and utilized the element of surprise to Attack the European Ship, vanquish them and flee from the Route he knew best. The Europeans, for quite a while, couldn’t keep up.
These strategies and ensuing plunders of the European vessels had earned him the name ‘Prince of Pirates,’ yet all Kanhoji was doing was protecting the Maratha sovereignty against foreign forces.
Dr BK Apte, in his book ‘The Maratha Navy and Merchant Ships’ notes, “sovereignty of the home seas was the principal goal of the Maratha Navy and the economic factor was its corollary. But, the result was not legitimately comprehended by the Marathas.”
Eventually, in 1713, Kanhoji signed a settlement with Aislabie, the then President of the East India Company (EIC) calling for a truce and agreeing to let all vessels, carrying the company papers to be let on tallowed Konkan coasts without having to pay any dastak.
However, in 1715, Aislabie returned to England and was replaced by Charles Boone who went to show his own dominance on the Marathas.
He demanded that all vessels that carried the company good, irrespective of whether they had appropriate company papers or not, be permitted to the ports without obstruction. This invited the anger of Kanhoji who restarted his guerrilla plunders against the EIC’s boats after this disrespect to the treaty.
From 1715 to 1729, until his death, Kanhoji proceeded to safeguard his ports, attacking enemy vessels and rendering every one of their Attacks totally useless. The British never succeeded in any of their Attacks. Kanhoji even resorted on keeping prisoners, plundering and setting surprise attacks on the Europeans.
Infact, KKN Kurup says, “By 1727, Kanhoji Angre’s naval supremacy in the Coastal waters was at its pinnacle. He caught numerous English, Dutch and French Ships. It is expressed that Kanhoji’s piracy caused the East India Company and piracy use of 50,000 pounds in securing their trade against it.”
If we take a neutral look, Kanhoji was not a long way from being a pirate. In any case, from his own particular position, he was safeguarding the ports that the Europeans were hoping to rule, with no interference.
After his death, his son, Sekhoji took over the Navy command, but the force was never as strong before Kanhoji, and would never be, after him. Sekhoji continued his father’s legacy up until 1733 when he died. But that would also mark the end of Kanhoji’s coastal defence system.
Owing to internal politics against the Peshwas, who were in power in the interiors of India, the Maratha Navy suffered heavy losses after Sekhoji’s death. The holdings were split between Sambhaji and Manaji—the former being Kanhoji’s younger legitimate son and the latter, his illegitimate son. The Maratha empire too was not keeping up its Naval defence and the British found it increasingly easier to penetrate through India.