Battle of Palkhed
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|Battle of Palkhed|
|Part of Later Mughal-Maratha Wars|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Peshwa Baji Rao I|| Muhammad Shah
Asaf Jah I
The Battle of Palkhed was fought on February 28, 1728 at the village of Palkhed, near the city of Nashik, Maharashtra, India between the Maratha Peshwa, Baji Rao I and the Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad. The Marathas defeated the Nizam.
The battle is considered an example of brilliant execution of military strategy.
The seeds of this battle go to the year 1713, when Maratha King Shahu, appointed Balaji Vishwanath as his Peshwa or Prime Minister. Within a decade, Balaji had managed to extract a significant amount of territory and wealth from the fragmenting Mughal Empire. In October 1724, the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah appointed Nizam-ul-Mulk as the Governor of Deccan.
The Nizam set about strengthening the province by attempting to control the growing influence of the Marathas. He utilized a growing polarization in the Maratha Empire due to the claim of the title of King by both Shahu and Sambhaji II of Kolhapur. The Nizam began supporting the Sambhaji faction, which enraged Shahu who had been proclaimed as King. The Nizam further decided to halt the payment of a 25% of the revenue being given by many landowners of the Deccan province to the Marathas, as had been agreed by the Syed Brothers in 1719.
The battle plan was set by the withdrawal of Baji Rao's army from the southern reaches of the Maratha empire during May 1727. This was followed by Shahu breaking off negotiations with the Nizam-ul-Mulk about restoration of the chauth.
The Nizam pursued Baji Rao's army around the vicinity of Pune for about six months, where Baji Rao executed a series of thrust and parry moves to finally corner the Nizam at Palkhed.
The Campaign 
The Palkhed campaign of 1728, is notable for two reasons. First, this campaign has been chosen as brilliant in strategy ("A masterpiece of strategic mobility...") by Field Marshal Montgomery in his book, A History of Warfare. Whether this was a completely pre-planned strategy, or clever improvization in response to circumstances, is not known. Secondly, the success of this campaign established the Maratha supremacy in the Deccan – and gave way for further adventures.
It also ensured the handover of the claim of the chauth and sardeshmukhi from Nizam-ul-Mulk to the Shahu.
Various factors contributed to the campaign of Palkhed:
- The primary factor was the suspension of the payment of chauth and sardeshmukhi by Nizam-ul-Mulk on the grounds that it was unclear, between Shahu and Shambhaji, who the rightful claimant of the chauth and sardeshmukhi was. Also the timing was important because the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Maratha Armies were in Karnataka (the state, south of Maharashtra).
- Existence of hostility between the courts of Satara (Shahu) and Kolhapur (Shambhaji). This hostility was turned to advantage by Nizam-ul-Mulk, who formed an alliance with Shambhaji, against the Shahu (and Baji Rao)
- Differences between the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Pratinidhi (Shripat Rao). The latter preferred to have good relations with Nizam-ul-Mulk, whereas Baji Rao pursued and advocated an expansionist policy.
Baji Rao and the Maratha armies were called back from the south, from the Karnataka campaign. In May 1727, Baji Rao then asked Shahu to break of negotiations with the Nizam-ul-Mulk (Nizam-ul-Mulk had called for an arbitration over the payment of the chauth and sardeshmukhi) and started mobilizing an army. With the monsoons over and the land ready for this exciting campaign, Baji Rao moved towards Aurangabad.
After a skirmish near Jalna (the Marathas by now had become famous for their strategy of not engaging with the enemy) with Iwaz Khan (the General of Nizam-ul-Mulk), as could have been predicted, Baji Rao moved away from the battlefield, towards Burhanpur.
Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army pursued Baji Rao. Baji Rao then moved westwards to Gujarat from North Khandesh. However, the Nizam-ul-Mulk gave up the pursuit and moved southward towards Pune. This is an interesting reason and comparison between how the two armies functioned. The Nizam is known to have carried huge armies with him, including supplies to last for the duration of the campaign. In fact, the Nizam used to carry his jenana or womenfolk with him during his campaigns. The Maratha armies however were very light and found supplies on the way by plundering and looting out-posts on the way.
As Nizam-ul-Mulk left the pursuit of Baji Rao and moved towards the headquarters of the Shahu stronghold, posts like Udapur, Avasari, Pabal, Khed, and Narayangarh surrendered to Nizam-ul-Mulk, who then occupied Pune and advanced towards Supa, Patas, and Baramati.
In Baramati, Nizam-ul-Mulk got news of Baji Rao moving towards Aurangabad. Nizam-ul-Mulk began moving northwards to intercept the Maratha Army. By this time he was confident of crushing Baji Rao and his army. It was not to happen so. The Raja of Kolhapur, Shambhaji (not to be confused with Sambhaji, son of Shivaji) refused to join him in this campaign against Baji Rao. Nizam-ul-Mulk was cornered in a waterless tract near Palkhed of 25 February 1728. Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army refused to fight. Through Iwaz Khan, the Nizam-ul-Mulk sent out word of his plight, and his army was allowed to move to the vicinity of the river.
The Nizam was defeated by the Marathas, and signed a peace treaty on March 6, 1728 at the village of Mungi-Paithan.(citation needed])[
By the treaty of Munji Shivagaon, the Nizam was forced to make certain concessions.
- Chhatrapati Shahu was recognised as the only Maratha ruler.
- Marathas were given the right to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi of Deccan.
- Those revenue collectors driven out would be reappointed.
- The balance revenue was to be paid to Chhatrapati Shahu.
- "A masterpiece of strategic mobility." - British Field Marshal Bernard "Monty" Montgomery describing the battle in his book, The Concise History of Warfare.
- A History of Warfare: Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (January 1983), ISBN: 978-0688016456
- ^ Montgomery, Bernard Law. A Concise History of Warfare, Great Britain: William Collins Sons, 1968, ISBN 1-84022-223-9, pg. 132
Further reading 
- Palsolkar, Col. R. D., The life of an outstanding Indian Cavalry commander - 1720-1760 the Peshwa., India: Reliance Publishers, 248pp, 1995, ISBN 81-85972-93-1.
- Paul, E. Jaiwant. Baji Rao - The Warrior Peshwa,India:Roli Books Pvt Ltd, 184pp, ISBN 81-7436-129-4.