Baji Rao I

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Baji Rao I
Peshwa Baji Rao I riding horse.jpg
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Peshwa of Maratha Empire
In office
1720–1740
Monarch Chhattrapati Shahu Raje Bhonsle
Preceded by Balaji Vishwanath
Succeeded by Balaji Bajirao
Personal details
Born August 18, 1700
Died April 28, 1740
Religion Hindu

Baji Rao Ballal Balaji Bhat (Marathi: श्रीमंत बाजीराव बल्लाळ बाळाजी भट) (August 18, 1700 – April 28, 1740), also known as Baji Rao I, was a noted general who served as Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Maratha Chhatrapati (Emperor) Chhatrapati Shahu Raje Bhonsle from 1720 until Baji Rao's death. He is also known as Thorale (Marathi for Elder) Baji Rao. He was also popular with the nickname 'Rau' (in Marathi 'राऊ').

Despite belonging to the (Chitpavan) Brahmin caste that had hitherto engaged primarily in priestly or administrative duties, Bajirao took up the charge of leading his troops. He is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire, especially in the north, which contributed to its reaching a zenith during his son's reign twenty years after Baji Rao's death. Baji Rao is acknowledged as the most influential of the nine Peshwas from the Bhat family. He is said to have fought for the establishment of Hindu Pad Padshahi.[1]

Origins[edit]

Baji Rao was the son of Balaji Vishwanath, first Peshwa of Chhattrapati Shahu. The Bhat family of Bajirao belonged to the Chitpavan Brahmin[2] community and held the Deshmukhi rights in an area in Konkan. At the age of 20, he was appointed by Shahu as Peshwa upon the death of his father, keeping aside all other claimants. It is quite clear from this appointment that Shahu recognized his talent even as a boy and positioned him as Peshwa. Bajirao was popular with his soldiers and even today his name is an honorable one.

Maratha empire at its zenith in 1760 (yellow areas)

Legend has it that standing before Shahu Maharaj and his court, the young new Peshwa Baji Rao is said to have thundered:

Let us transcend the barren Deccan and conquer central India. The Mughals have become weak indolent womanizers and opium-addicts. The accumulated wealth of centuries in the vaults of the north, can be ours. It is time to drive from the holy land of Bharatvarsha the outcaste and the barbarian. Let us throw them back over the Himalayas, back to where they came from. The Maratha flag must fly from the Krishna to the Indus. Hindustan is ours.

. He fixed his piercing gaze on Shahu Maharaj and said, “Strike, strike at the trunk and the branches will fall off themselves. Listen but to my counsel, and I shall plant the saffron flag on the walls of Attock”. Shahu was deeply impressed and exclaimed, “By heaven, you shall plant it on the Himalayas”.[citation needed]

This story indicates the vision of Bajirao and Shahu Maharaj's faith in the young man. Shahu Maharaj appointed him as a Peshwa at a young age, recognising his talents and entrusting to him imperial troops who had recently emerged victorious in the Mughal-Maratha conflict that ended in 1707. Baji Rao's greatness lay in that, true to the judgment of his master and seasoned troops at his disposal, he struck terror with the Maratha armies in conquering the Indian sub-continent.

Accomplishments[edit]

  • Baji Rao, who fought over 41 major battles and many others, is reputed never to have lost a battle. General Montgomery, British general and later Field Marshal after WWII, affirmed this in his writings.
  • He was one of the first to understand and exploit the weaknesses of the fragmenting Mughal Empire, following the footsteps of his father. The declining influence of the Syed Brothers at the Imperial court was another factor influencing his decision to attack.
  • He moved the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Satara to the city of Pune in 1728. His general, Bapuji Shripat, persuaded some of the richer families of Satara to settle in the Pune city, which was divided into 18 peths (boroughs).
  • In 1732, after the death of Maharaja Chhatrasal, a long-time ally of the Maratha Empire, Baji Rao was granted one-third of Chhatrasal's kingdom in Bundelkhand.
  • An outstanding cavalry leader, Baji Rao was loved by his troops and his people. He fought for the protection of Hindu Dharma, and freed central and western India from Mughals. Under his command, Marathas defeated the Siddis(Moghul admirals), Portuguese, and Nizam, Bangash and other generals.[3]

Later Mughal-Maratha Wars[edit]

An equestrian statue of Pradhanpant Shrimant Bajirao Balaji (Bhat) Peshwa outside the Shaniwar Palace in Pune, India

Clash with Nizam Ul Mulk[edit]

Bajirao had many stumbling blocks in his quest for creating Maratha hegemony. There were the Siddis at Janjira and the Portuguese challenging Maratha dominance on the western coast. But the foremost amongst Bajiraos foes was Nizam ul Mulk the mughal viceroy of Deccan (seated at Hyderabad), who sensing the weak control of the Mughal emperors, had decided to establish his own independent kingdom in the Deccan.

The Nizam ul Mulk disregarded the right of the Marathas to collect chauth in the Deccan. Initial efforts towards a peaceful settlement (Chikalthan parley 1721) of the matter also failed despite the reaffirmation of the Mughal Maratha treaty from the Delhi court. But in 1722, Nizam ul Mulk's personal ambitions lay exposed before the mughal emperor and the latter (Muhammed Shah) started sidelining him. Nizam ul Mulk now rebelled openly against the mughal emperor and declared his regions as independent with the capital being Hyderabad. When the imperial army led by Mubariz Khan tried to seize the errant Nizam, the latter sought the help from his old enemies the Marathas and agreed to accept all their earlier demands. Shahu instructed Bajirao to send an contingent to assist the Nizam. Their collective armies subdued the imperial forces at Sakherkheda in 1724.

But true to his nature, Nizam ul Mulk after seeing the danger had passed by, once again provoked the Marathas by refusing to honour his word. To rub salt on the wounds, Nizam ul mulk propped up a coalition of Sambhaji II of Kolhapur, Chandrasen Jadhav, Udaji Chavan and Rao Rambha Nimbalkar against Shahu. When Peshwa and his troops had gone to collect Chauth in the south (in 1727), the Nizams forces made a surprise attack on Poona, whereby he proclaimed Sambhaji II to be his accepted Chatrapati. (Satara too came under threat and Chatrapati Shahu himself had to seek refuge in fort Purandar near Saswad).

Battle of Palkhed[edit]

Hearing the news of the attack, Bajiraos troops proceeded towards Poona . The Nizam was already waiting for the Peshwa with a huge army and artillery. But the clever Peshwa was obviously a step ahead of the Nizam as far as war machinations were concerned. Instead of confronting the powerful Nizam's artillery in a pitched battle, he created a detour by plundering Nizams territories like Jalna, Khandesh and proceeded toward Burhanpur a rich mughal outpost in the control of the Nizam. Bajirao thus provoked the Nizam into leaving his base and give the Peshwa a chase. However the Nizam had to leave behind his heavy artillery in order to catch up with the Peshwas army. This was preciscely what the wily Peshwa wanted. As the Nizams army progressed towards the Peshwa, midway at Palkhed (a hill tract near Aurangabad) the Peshwa managed to trap and surround the Nizam. The Nizam found himself in a precarious situation, surrounded as he was, without food and water supplies for days. The Nizam was soon forced to sign a humiliating treaty at Mungi Shevgaon (6 March 1728), whereby the Nizam agreed to accept Shahu as the sole Maratha Chatrapati and give up the cause of Sambhaji II forever. The Maratha rights for chauth were also recognized.

Malwa campaign[edit]

In October 1728, Bajirao and his troops launched an attack on Malwa. His contingent consisted of his brother Chimaji Appa, Tanoji Shinde, Malharrao Holkar and Udaji Pawar, all of whom were destined to great heights in the near future. The Marathas subdued the mughal forces and captured Malwa. The mughals later tried to dislodge the Marathas by deputing first Sawai Jaisingh of Amber and then Muhammed Khan Bangash. But their attempts to dislodge the Marathas from Malwa proved unsuccessful and they found themselves humbled.

Bundelkhand[edit]

Mughals under the governor Muhammed Khan Bangash had laid a siege in Bundelkhand since 1727. Its king Chatrasal (considering his friendly relations with the Marathas since the time of Shivaji ) appealed to the marathas for help, but the Maratha armies being engaged elsewhere, Shahu wasn’t able to send timely help.

Chatrasal offered a stiff resistance to the mughals but eventually was wounded and captured by Muhammed Khan Bangash at Jaitpur. Chatrasal again appealed to Peshwa Bajirao (in 1729) to come to his aid. This time around Bajirao himself was in proximity to Bundelkhand (at Garha,Malwa) and with his army came to the rescue of Chatrasal. The Mughal commander Muhammed Bangash was surrounded at Jaitpur (and his son's army, which coming to his aid was also routed), forcing Bangash to accept defeat . He pleaded with Bajirao for a free passage to Delhi which Bajirao accepted in return for a promise that Bangash would never trouble Chatrasal ever again. Extremely gratified towards Bajirao, Raja Chatrasal declared in an open durbar that the Peshwa was now onwards his adopted son, and accorded him a personal jagir (one third of his kingdom) which included Sagar, Banda and Jhansi (Bajirao entrusted its administration to Govind Pant - who later came to be known as Govind pant Bundele). Chatrasal also gifted Bajirao his beautiful daughter Mastani (from his Persian Muslim concubine). Mastani later bore Bajirao a son who was named Shamsher Bahadur.

Gujarat[edit]

Gujarat had a lot of free booters (Maratha confederates who often acted independently in the province of Gujarat). Prominent amongst these were Pilaji Gaekwad and Kanthaji Kadam Bande. They owed their allegiance to Sarsenapati Khanderao Dabhade who wielded influence in those regions.

The Maratha senapati Khanderao Dabhade was officially given charge for Gujrat by Chhattrapati Shahu himself after the former had subdued the mughal officers in that state. After the death of Khanderao in 27th Sept,1729 his son Trimbakrao Dabhade was made senapati.

In Gujarat there was another player in the form of Hamid Khan who was a protégé of the Nizam ul Mulk. When the mughal emperor despatched Sarbulund Khan in July 1724, to get control of Gujrat which was engulfed in rivalry between mughal nobility, Hamid Khan entered into an understanding with Bande to prevent the imperial interference. He gave him rights to collect chauth towards the north of river Mahi. Bajirao then asked (through his representative Udaji Pawar) Sarbulund Khan to grant him the chauth rights of Gujarat but was spurned. So Bajirao despatched his brother Chimaji Appa to Gujrat who looted the towns of Petlad and Dholka. Sarbulund Khan was unable to simultaneously tackle Bande as well as the Peshwas armies and he was forced to sign an agreement with the Peshwa in 1730 whereby the Peshwa was given chauth and sardeshmukhi rights for Gujarat region (seaport of Surat was excluded from this agreement). But this didn’t go very well with the mughal court and they replaced Sarbulund Khan with Abhay singh, son of Ajit singh of Jodhpur. But Abhay singh too reconciled with the idea that the Peshwa was the only person who could rein in the free booters and compromised with him. Meanwhile the treaty between the Mughals and the Peshwa didn’t go well with Maratha Senapati Trimbakrao Dabhade, who considered the Gujrat affairs his heridatory right . He was already having ego clashes with the Peshwa, whom he wasn't entirely comfortable accepting as a second supreme authority after the king. Note the Peshwa on his part was also encouraging new blood like Holkar-Shinde-Pawar and starting on war campaigns without consultations with the sarsenapati.Now this Gujarat issue only aggravated matters further. Sarsenapati Trimbakrao Dabhade accused Peshwa Bajirao II of breaching the contract made between the Dabhade family and Chatrapati Shahu.Finding the king also evasive in the matter, he decided to take on Bajirao directly. In a skirmish that followed at Dabhoi in April 1731, Trimbakrao Dabhade was killed (Pilaji Gaekwads son Sambhaji also died in that battle). Also captured were rebels like Udaji Pawar (he had fallen out with Bajirao) and Chimnaji Damodar who were fighting from Dabhades side.

The Elephant War with the Siddis[edit]

The trouble between Marathas and the Siddis (Abyssinian Muslims) resurfaced when a Siddi (Abyssinian) faujdar, Siddi Satt desecrated the Hindu temple at Parshuram in the Konkan and insulted a saint by the name of Bramhendra swami. This happened in the year 1729, after an elephant gifted by the Nawab of Savnur to the Siddis of Janjira was being transported through Maratha territory by the disciples of Bramhendra swami and enroute it had been captured by a contingent of the Maratha sarkhel(admiral) Kanhoji Angre. Presuming it to be a conspiracy of the swami, the Siddis faujdar roughed up the swamis disciples and vandalised the Parshuram temple. Bramhendra swami was a highly revered person and this strained the historically stretched relations between the Marathas and the Siddis. Meanwhile Siddi nawab Rasul Yaqut died in 1733 and a succession war started between his sons. Kanhoji Angre had also died on 4 July 1729 and was succeeded by his son Sekhoji Angre as the Maratha sarkhel. Bajirao sensing an opportune time despatched his army and besieged Janjira by sea. The fort was just about to fall, but for the untimely death of Sekhoji in 1733. Sekhojis brother Sambhaji refused to take orders from the Peshwa and due to his non cooperation the siege had to be called off. Luckily for the Marathas, the Siddis son Abdul Rehman approached Bajirao for a succession settlement with his uncles and cousins whereby Marathas gave him the desired help. In return the previous territories of the Siddis like Raigad,Rewas, Chaul and Thal were recognized as parts of Maratha territory (1736).The other brothers too found it futile to resist the marathas and gave in. Siddi was thereafter confined only to the territories of Janjira, Anjanvel and Gowalkot, with his powers greatly diminished. The main antagonist Siddi Sat was also killed in an encounter with Chimaji Appa in few months time. Thus concluded what is now termed as the ‘elephant war’.

Bajirao's sacking of Delhi[edit]

By 1735, the Marathas had gained control over entire Gujrat and Malwa. But some towns and areas under the influence of local mughal officers and zamindars refused to acknowledge Maratha control. The Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah was also dillydallying over passing an official order chartering chauth and sardeshmukhi rights to the Marathas. Efforts by Bajirao to seek audience with the mughal emperor were also ignored. The Marathas decided to assert themselves and started plundering the adjoining territories of Rajasthan. The Mughals also retaliated by sending troops in under their Vazir Qamruddin Khan and Mir Bakshi Khan i Dauran. But both the contingents were routed by Maratha commanders (Pilaji Jadhav defeated the forces of the Vazir and Ranoji Shinde, Malharrao Holkar subdued the forces of the Mir Bakshi).

The Peshwa then decided to teach the mughal emperor a lesson of his lifetime. Bajirao personally marched towards Delhi with a large Maratha army in Dec 1737. He divided the army into two. One contingent was led by Peshwa Bajirao and the other by Pilaji Jadhav and Malharrao Holkar. The contingent of Holkar was however anhilated by a much larger army led by Sadat Khan, the Nawab of Oudh and mughal governor of Agra . Malharrao Holkar himself managed to escape and reach the other group led by Bajirao. Meanwhile, thinking that the Maratha threat was over, Sadat Khan sent the good news to Delhi. To join in the celebrations of his perceived success, the other mughal commanders also joined in, leaving Delhi virtually unguarded. That was when the contingent of Bajirrao, in a swift movement, completely bypassed the encamped mughal army and reached the outskirts of Delhi (28 March 1737), covering a ten day journey in just forty eight hours.

What followed thereafter was the total loot of the suburbs of Delhi. The Mughal emperor himself hid in the safe confines of Red Fort, while Bajirao and his men plundered the countryside in glee abandon. An eight thousand strong mughal army led by Mir Hassan Koka did try to take on Bajirao, but they were hopelessly outmanoeuvered and Mir Hassan himself was wounded in the skirmish. Then before the main mughal army could gather their wits, Bajirao with his entourage returned to the Deccan. On 31 March 1737, the victorious Maratha army left Delhi with their large booty leaving behind Delhi, mauled and humbled. On the way back to Pune, Bajirao planted his trusted lieutenants at various places in north and central India, which were to remain their permanent places of influence in the near future.

Treaty of Bhopal[edit]

Now the emperor turned back to Nizam ul Mulk who had earlier fallen out with him. Nizam ul mulk was made the supreme commander of the imperial forces and sent with an seventy thousand strong contingent to attack the Maratha dominions. On the way, many mughal officers, chieftains joined him. This large mughal contingent reached Bhopal to exact revenge from the Marathas. But it was again a futile exercise. The Marathas led by Bajirao himself and his brother Chimaji Appa were all ready for the imperial army. They completely surrounded the Mughals in Bhopal, cutting off all their supplies. Finally forcing the Nizam to sign yet another treaty, this time the treaty of Bhopal (7th Jan 1738, Dora Sarai) whereby, the mughals conceded entire Malwa, region between Narmada and Chambal rivers, besides fifty lakh rupees as war indemnity.

Bajirao and the Portuguese[edit]

Bajirao had already quelled the Portuguese threat to Manaji Angre in the Konkan. In return Angre promised him an annual tribute of 7000 rupees. Bajirao was also having a grouse against the Portuguese over the island of Salsette (part of Mumbai, which the Portuguese had refused to lease out to the Marathas for construction of a commercial factory), following which Bajiraos brother Chimaji Appa (d.1741) attacked the Portuguese regions (near Bombay/ Mumbai) in March 1738. He successfully captured the regions of Thane,Parsik, Belapur, Dharavi, Arnala and concluded his campaign with the capture of Versova(Feb,1739) and Bassein (Vasai,May 1739).

Last campaign of Bajirao[edit]

Bajirao desired a corridor to Delhi through certain regions of Nizam ul Mulk (which earlier had been promised to the marathas in the treaty at Bhopal). Nasir Jung the Nizams son however refused. Hence he was besieged by Bajirao at Aurangabad. He sued for peace (28th Feb 1740) and ceded the districts of Handia and Khargon in Nemad, south of river Narmada to Bajirao. Unfortunately this proved to be the last campaign of the great Peshwa.

Battle tactics[edit]

An information plaque just below the statue of Bajirao Peshwa describes him as RanMard or 'Man of the battlefield'

Baji Rao is famous for rapid tactical movements in battle, using his cavalry inherited from maratha generals including Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav, Ananadrao Makaji. Field-Marshal Bernard Montgomery, in his "History of Warfare"[4] likened Baji Rao's approach to that subsequently made famous by U.S. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman during his 1864 "March to the Sea": the use of rapid movements where his troops lived off the land, with minimal concern for their own supply and communication lines, and employing "total warfare" on the enemy civilian population. He is often called a cavalry general. Two examples are the Battle of Palkhed in 1728 when he outmaneuvered the Mughal Governor of the Deccan province, and again in the battle against the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah at Delhi during 1739. He concentrated on using local terrain to cut the enemy supply-lines with the help of rapid troop movement. He followed Maratha traditional tactics of encircling the enemy quickly, appearing from the rear of enemy, attacking from the unexpected direction, distracting the enemy's attention, keeping the enemy off balance, and deciding the battlefield on his own terms.

Marriage and family[edit]

Baji Rao was married to Kashibai, and had two sons together: Nanasaheb was later appointed Peshwa by Shahu in 1740. Their second son was named Raghunathrao.

Mastani[edit]

Mastani

Baji Rao also took Mastani as a wife. She was the daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal of Panna by a Muslim wife. She bore him a third son, who was named Krishnarao at birth. To take advantage of the situation, local politicians of the times refused to accept the boy as a pure Hindu Brahmin since his mother was a Muslim. They refused to accept the marriage. This marriage with Mastani caused a rift in the orthodox Hindu Pune society of the time, and led to a major crisis within the royal Peshwa family.

Bajirao ardently wanted Krishnarao to be invested with the "sacred thread" of Hinduism and be declared a Brahmin. But he could not get the orthodox Pune Brahmin priests to. He had to bring up the boy as a Muslim. Renamed Shamsher Bahadur, their son fought valiantly for the Marathas in the Battle of Panipat 1761, where he was killed at the age of nearly 27. Shamsher Bahadur's own son, Ali Bahadur, later ruled over Baji Rao's lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda which now lies in the present Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The historian D. G. Godse claims that Baji Rao's brother Chimnaji Appa and mother, Radhabai, never accepted Mastani as one of their own. Many attempts were made on her life, presumably by Chimaji Appa; she survived with the help of Chhattrapati Shahu.[citation needed]

Peshwa Baji Rao built a palace for her in Pune, which was called the 'Mastani Mahal.' A reconstruction of it can be seen at the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune, including remains from the original palace.

Death[edit]

Baji Rao died on April 28, 1740, while still in his prime. He died of a sudden fever, possibly heat stroke, while inspecting his jagirs. He was en route to Delhi with one lakh (100,000) troops under his command at his camp in the district of Khargon, near the city of Indore. He was cremated on April 28, 1740, at Raverkhedi on the river Narmada.sanawad, khargone. A memorial was built by the Scindias. Remains of his residence and a Shiva temple are also located near by.

Representations in modern media[edit]

  • In 2010, ETV-Marathi, a leading Marathi entertainment channel, began a daily serial Shrimant Peshwa Baji Rao Mastani, produced by Nitin Chandrakant Desai Production. It was telecast Monday to Friday at 2100 hrs.
  • A Bollywood Hindi movie, ''Bajirao Mastani'', about the romance between Baji Rao and Mastani, is being planned. The movie is to be directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and to star Ranveer Singh as Baji Rao Peshwa, with Deepika Padukone playing Mastani and Priyanka Chopra playing Kashibai.
  • A Marathi serial, Rau, was produced in the 1990s about the story of Baji Rao and It was based on the book of the same name by N. S. Inamdar.

Quotes[edit]

He died as he lived, in camp under canvas among his men, and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa and the incarnation of Hindu energy.

English historian Sir Richard Carnac Temple, Shivaji and the Rise of the Mahrattas

The Palkhed Campaign of 1727–28 in which Baji Rao I out-generalled Nizam-ul-Mulk, is a masterpiece of strategic mobility.

British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, The Concise History of Warfare, 132

Remember that night has nothing to do with sleep. It was created by God, to raid territory held by your enemy. The night is your shield, your screen against the cannons and swords of vastly superior enemy forces.

—Baji Rao was said to have told his brother Chimaji Appa

Bajirao was a heaven born cavalry leader. In the long and distinguished galaxy of Peshwas, Bajirao was unequalled for the daring and originality of his genius and the volume and value of his achievements.

—Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foreword in V.G. Dighe's, Peshwa Bajirao I and Maratha Expansion

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Review of Hindu Empire of Maharashtra OR Hindu-Pad-Padshahi", Publisher – Bharti Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi , First edition- 1925, Fourth edition -1971
  2. ^ Singer, Milton B.; Cohn, Bernard S. (1968, 2007). Structure and Change in Indian Society. CHICAGO: ALDINE PUBLISHING COMPANY. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-202-36138-3. 
  3. ^ Veer Savarkar, "Review of Hindu Empire of Maharashtra OR Hindu-Pad-Padshahi", Publisher – Bharti Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi , First edition- 1925, Fourth edition -1971
  4. ^ A History of Warfare: Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (January 1983), ISBN 978-0688016456

Further reading[edit]

  • PRATAP-SURYA "THORALE BAJIRAO PESHWE" by DR. P.V.VARTAK (Marathi)
  • "Peshwa Pahila Bajirao (Purvardha)" by Prof. S.S.Puranik (Marathi)
  • "Peshwa Pahila Bajirao (Uttarardha)" by Prof. S.S.Puranik (Marathi)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Balaji Vishwanath (Bhat) Deshmukh
Peshwa
1720–1740
Succeeded by
Balaji Baji Rao