Baji Rao I
|Baji Rao I|
|Peshwa of Maratha Empire|
|Preceded by||Balaji Vishwanath|
|Succeeded by||Balaji Bajirao|
|Born||August 18, 1700|
|Died||April 28, 1740|
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) Shahu 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.
Baji Rao was the son of the first Bhat family Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath. At the age of 20, he was appointed by Chhattrapati 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.
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”.
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.
- 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.
- The later Kingdoms of Scindias (Ranoji Shinde) of Gwalior, Holkars (Malharrao) of Indore, Gaekwads (Pilaji) of Baroda, and Pawars (Udaiji) of Dhar were created by Baji Rao as part of a Maratha Empire, as he wreaked havoc on the disintegrating Mughal Empire and set up his jagirdars (fiefdoms).
- 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.
- Malwa – December 1723
- Dhar – 1724
- Aurangabad – 1724
- Battle of Palkhed – February 1728
- Ahmedabad – 1731
- Udaipur – 1736
- Firozabad – 1737
- Delhi – 1737
- Bhopal – 1738
- Battle of Vasai – May 17, 1739
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"  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
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, 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.
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. Bajirao-mastani's story was indeed an unfortunate love story.
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. A memorial was built by the Scindias. Remains of his residence and a Shiva temple are also located near by.
Balaji Vishwanath Bhat
Balaji Baji Rao
Representations in other media
- 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 Rani Mukherjee as Kashibai, Aishwarya Rai as Mastani and Shahrukh Khan or Abhishek Bachchan as Baji Rao Peshwa. Hindus object to the project, as they feel that it will portray a questionable affair, rather than highlight Baji Rao's revival of Hindu society and values.
- 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.
|“||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.||”|
|“||The Palkhed Campaign of 1727–28 in which Baji Rao I out-generalled Nizam-ul-Mulk, is a masterpiece of strategic mobility.||”|
|“||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
- Veer Savarkar, "Review of Hindu Empire of Maharashtra OR Hindu-Pad-Padshahi", Publisher – Bharti Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi , First edition- 1925, Fourth edition -1971
- A History of Warfare: Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (January 1983), ISBN 978-0688016456
- Palsolkar, Col. R. D. Bajirao I: An Outstanding Indian Cavalry General, India: Reliance Publishers, 248pp, 1995, ISBN 81-85972-93-1. http://www.sahyadribooks.org/books/BajiraoI.aspx?bid=799
- Paul, E. Jaiwant. Baji Rao - The Warrior Peshwa, India: Roli Books Pvt Ltd, 184pp, ISBN 81-7436-129-4.
- Dighe, V.G. Peshwa Bajirao I and the Maratha Expansion, 1944
- N. S. Inamdar, Rau (1972), a historical novel about Baji Rao and Mastani. (Marathi)
- D. G. Godse, Mastani
- Grantt Duff, A History of Marathas, online book covering history from Shahaji Bhonsle till end of Peshwa regime
- 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)
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