Dhanaji Jadhav (1650–1708) was a warrior of the Maratha Empire. Along with Santaji Ghorpade he made terrifying campaigns against Mughal Army from 1689 to 1696. After Santaji, Dhanaji became the chief of the Maratha army in 1696 and remained on the post until his death in 1708.
Dhanaji was born in or around 1650, to the Maratha family from Sindh khed. Dhanaji’s father Santaji was brought up by Shivaji’s mother Jijabai after assassination of Dhanaji’s grandfather Achloji, Jijabai’s brother. Santaji’s son Shambhu (Sambhaji) also was brought up by Jijabai with her son Shivaji after Santaji’s death at the Battle of Pavan Khind with Baji Prabhu Deshpande
At an early age, Dhanaji joined Maratha army under Shivaji’s Military Chief Prataprao Gujar. In the battles at Umbrani and Nesari, Dhanaji’s performance attracted attention of Shivaji for the first time. He was named by Shivaji on his death bed among six pillars of Maratha Empire who would save the kingdom in hard times.
LATER CAREER AND DEATH
In 1700, after the death of Rajaram, his illegitimate son Raja Karna was placed on his throne by his Ministers with the help of Dhanaji. However, Raja Karna died of smallpox within 3 weeks.
In November 1703, Aurangzeb opened talks with Dhanaji through his son Kambaksh to handover Shahu to him. The talks, however, could not succeed due to the so-called extravagant demands by Dhanaji made on behalf of the Maratha king. In 1705, Maratha army containing about 40,000 soldiers headed by Dhanaji, Dado Malhar and Rambhaji Nimbalkar smashed into Surat and looted entire region of Gujrat up to Bharoch.
Dhanaji also vanquished the Mughal army under Nazar Ali, the Nawab of Baroda, at Ratanpur and brought huge treasure to Maharashtra. In 1708, with mediation by his assistant Balaji Vishwanath (who would later become Peshwa in 1713) Dhanaji left Tarabai and joined hands with Shahu at Khed. Soon thereafter he died. Subsequently, his son Chandrasen was placed on his post. A monument to Dhanaji Jadhav is in Peth Vadgaon town in Kolhapur district.