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Madhavrao I

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Madhavrao I
Portrait of Madhavrao I by Bhoj Raj at the Yale Center for British Art c. 1763
9th Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy
In office
23 June 1761 – 18 November 1772
MonarchRajaram II of Satara
Preceded byBalaji Baji Rao
Succeeded byNarayan Rao
Personal details
Madhavrao Bhat

(1745-02-15)15 February 1745
Savanur, Savanur State, Maratha Confederacy
(modern day Karnataka, India)
Died18 November 1772(1772-11-18) (aged 27)
Theur, Pune, Maratha Confederacy
(modern day Pune district, Maharashtra, India)
(m. 1758)
RelativesVishwasrao (elder brother)
Narayan Rao (younger brother)
Sadashivrao Bhau (uncle)
Raghunathrao (uncle)
Shamsher Bahadur I (uncle)
Bajirao I (grandfather)
Kashibai (grandmother)
Residence(s)Shaniwarwada, Pune, Maratha Confederacy
Military service

Madhavrao I (15 February 1745−18 November 1772) was the son of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao and grandson of Peshwa Bajirao I who served as 9th Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy. During his tenure, the Maratha Confederacy recovered from the losses they suffered during the Third Battle of Panipat, an event known as Maratha Resurrection.[2]

Early life and ascendancy to Peshwa[edit]

Madhavrao Bhat was the second son of Peshwa Nanasaheb, son of Bajirao. He was born in Savnur in 1745. At the time of his birth, the Maratha Confederacy was stretched across a sizeable portion of Western, Central, and Northern India. On 9 December 1758, Madhavrao married Ramabai in Pune.

Nanasaheb had greatly expanded the Maratha Confederacy and had tried to establish better governance. However, he was held partially responsible for the severe defeat of the Marathas by Ahmad Shah Abdali at the Third Battle of Panipat in early 1761. The Maratha forces suffered heavy losses, including Nanasaheb's eldest son and heir Vishwasrao Bhat, and cousin, Sadashivrao Bhau. He died on 23 June 1761, at Parvati Hill in Pune.

After his father's death, the sixteen-year-old Madhav Rao was made the next Peshwa of Maratha Confederacy.[3] His paternal uncle, Raghunathrao was to act as regent.

Early reign and Battle of Uruli[edit]

painting depiction Madhavrao I

At the ascendancy of Madhavrao, the Maratha Confederacy was in complete shambles as their defeat at Panipat had accumulated big debts to their wealth. At Shaniwar Wada, the prime residence of the Peshwa, religious rituals and ceremonies were frequently being conducted. The discipline required for the smooth running of administrative affairs was almost non-existent. The security at the treasury was poor. When these weaknesses were brought to Madhavrao's notice, he introduced changes

by personally looking into the administration, accounts and the treasury. He also reduced the religious practices being followed at Shaniwar Wada.

In February 1762, Peshwas set out to conquer Karnataka. This was one of the earliest wars against the Nizam (Battle of Uruli). When conflict arose between Madhavrao and his uncle Raghunathrao. Due to difference of opinion between the two, Raghunathrao decided to abandon the troops midway and return to Pune, while Madhavrao continued. Eventually, a treaty was signed with the Nizam and Madhavrao returned. Both Madhavrao and Raghunathrao had their preferences even over the Sardars (Generals). Madhavrao usually preferred the company of Gopalrao Patwardhan, Tryambakrao Mama Pethe, Nana Fadnavis and Ramshastri Prabhune; while Raghunathrao was dearer to Sakharam Bapu Bokil, Gulabrao and Gangoba Tatya.

Disputes with Ragunathrao[edit]

The discord between Madhavrao and Raghunathrao was increasing, and on 22 August 1762, Raghunathrao fled to Vadgaon Maval where he started grooming his own army. Raghunathrao's men started looting the nearby villages for warfare and this act angered Madhavrao. He decided to wage a war against his uncle Raghunathrao on 7 November 1762. However, Madhavrao didn't wish to battle against his own uncle and thus, proposed for a treaty. Raghunathrao agreed to sign the treaty with Madhavrao and asked him to move back to a non-attacking position. Madhavrao did so. However, Raghunathrao deceived Madhavrao. When the Maratha camp under Madhavrao was relaxed and unsuspecting of a battle, they were caught unawares as Raghunathrao attacked treacherously. Thus, Madhavrao was defeated in the Battle of Alegaon and on 12 November 1762, surrendered near Alegaon. After the surrender, Raghunathrao decided to control all the major decisions under the assistance of Sakharam Bapu. He also decided to befriend the Nizam, but this proved to be a wrong move as the Nizam slowly started infiltrating the zones of Maratha Confederacy. As time slipped by, Madhavrao pointed out the gravity of the situation to his uncle. Eventually, on 7 March 1763, the Peshwas, once again under Madhavrao's leadership, decided to attack Aurangabad to crush the Nizam. After months of chasing, the Peshwas faced the Nizam's army on 10 August 1763, in the Battle of Rakshasbhuvan near Aurangabad.[4] the Nizam's army suffered huge losses in this war, and Nizam retreated.[5]

War against Hyder Ali and Mysore[edit]

In January 1764, for the second time, Madhavrao gathered his defences and conquer Hyder Ali. This time his massive army included efficient generals like Gopalrao Patwardhan, Murarrao Ghorpade, Vinchurkar and Naro Shankar. Raghunathrao declined his offer to join him, and instead chose to visit Nashik. This was a particularly long conquest which went for almost a year in and around the districts of Karnataka. However, Hyder Ali somehow managed to escape the clutches of the Peshwas. In November 1764, the major Dharwar Fort came into the charge of young Peshwa with the assistance of Gopal Rao and Anand Rao. Only Bankapur was left under the control of Haider Ali. Again Madhavrao defeated Hyder ali on many occasions on such occasion of Battle of Jadi Hanwati and Battle of Rattihalli which eventually gives Hyder Ali many casualties. Eventually, Madhavrao decided to call Raghunathrao for his assistance, but Raghunathrao only signed a treaty with Hyder Ali, much to Madhavrao's disappointment. Raghunathrao intentionally made this move, since he was now fearfully aware of Madhavrao's burgeoning power. The power of the Young Peshwa Madhav Rao could be seen from a letter which Raghunath Rao wrote to Gopika Bai in 1765 which was as follow.[6] " He has become very wise. He is managing everything and doing more than Nana Saheb Peshwa and Bhau Saheb ever did." Additionally, his loyal assistant Sakharam Bapu also warned him against the consequences of conquering Hyder Ali. The Peshwa's failure to impose his authority over Hyder Ali triggered a major setback on Madhavrao's health[citation needed]. In 1767, Madhavrao I organized a 2nd expedition against Hyder Ali and inflicted defeats on Hyder Ali in the battles of Sira and Madhugiri and made a surprise discovery of Queen Virammaji, the last ruler of the Keladi Nayaka Kingdom and her son who were kept in confinement in the fort of Madhugiri by Hyder Ali.[7] They were rescued by Madhavrao I and were sent to Pune for protection.[7]

Alliance with Nizam[edit]

A memorial commemorating "The Great Peshwa Madhavrao" at Peshwe Park in Pune, India

The Peshwas were expanding their territory in the northern regions of India. Raghunathrao, Holkars and Shindes together marched towards Delhi with the intention of expanding the Maratha Confederacy in these territories. Meanwhile, Madhavrao made a bold decision of bonding with his old rival, Nizam Ali Khan, Asaf Jah II.[citation needed] The Nizam also genuinely expressed his desire to do so, and thus the two met at Kurumkhed on 5 February 1766. The next few days saw some cultural exchanges and open expressions of concern. A level of mutual understanding was reached and this relationship started growing stronger.

Relations with the East India Company[edit]

20th century depiction of Madhavrao

On 3 December 1767, an East India Company officer named Mastin arrived in Pune. Mastin wanted to establish a military presence in the regions of Vasai and Sashthi, but was confronted by Madhavrao who was suspicious of his intentions. Mastin's repeated requests to acquire these regions in return for defeating Hyder Ali fell on deaf ears, and Madhavrao never agreed to them.[citation needed]

Raghunathrao faces house arrest[edit]

Though Raghunathrao had marched to the north to expand the empire, he failed to do so. Instead, he came back to Anandvalli and was again tempted to form an alliance with his generals and fight against Madhavrao. This time, however; Madhavrao was extremely agitated with his uncle's repeated attempts to overthrow him. On 10 June 1768, he waged a war against Raghunathrao, captured him and put him under house arrest at Shaniwar Wada along with his assistant Sakharam Bapu Bokil.

Assassination attempt[edit]

A memorial marking the death place of Madhavrao Ballal Peshwa and where his wife committed Sati. The memorial is located in the town of Theur, Maharashtra.

The incident occurred on the evening of 7 September 1769. Madhavrao was returning from the Parvati temple at Pune with his comrades, when one of his generals Ramsingh suddenly attacked him with a sword. Madhavrao was warned just in the nick of time, and he suffered a blow from the sword on his shoulder as he tried to dodge Ramsingh. Madhavrao believed that this was Raguhnathrao's attempt to murder him, but he imprisoned General Ramsingh.

Northern campaign[edit]

In 1769, Madhavrao sent a large army under the command of Ramchandra Ganesh Kanade and Visaji Krushna Biniwale in order to recover territory lost in the North due to the defeat of Third battle of Panipat they were joined by Mahadji Shinde and Tukoji Rao Holkar. This Maratha army marched towards Udaipur. The Rajputs there agreed to pay him 60 lakhs as tribute. On 5 April 1770, the Marathas defeated Jats of Bharatpur. In October 1770 they vanquished Najib Khan Rohilla, the main opponent of the Battle of Panipat (1761). In November 1771, Visaji Krushna Biniwale was appointed ‘In Charge of the Northern front of Marathas’ by Peshwa Madhavrao I. In February 1772, along with Mahadji Shinde, he overpowered the Rohillas of Rohillkhand at Shukratal by defeating Zabita Khan. They avenged the defeat of Panipat by breaking the tomb of Najib Khan, by looting the artillery and wealth of the Rohillas, and by recovering from them an additional tribute of Rs.40 lakhs. Mahadji Shinde made his mark as a Maratha general while serving with Biniwale in North India.[8] During his northern campaign Biniwale persuaded the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam to return to Delhi and reclaim his throne in 1771.[9] Peshwa Madhavrao I was so delighted with Visaji Krushna's grand victory in the Rohilkhand that he specifically mentioned in his written will to shower golden flowers on him during his arrival at the border of Pune.

The Capture of Delhi was a battle in 1771 when the forces of the Maratha Confederacy led by Mahadaji Shinde captured Delhi along with the Red Fort, and gave Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II the throne back with the treaty.[10][11] The Marathas captured Delhi from Najib Khan's son Zabita Khan who was put in charge by the Afghans. With this capture, Marathas regained their lost supremacy in North India after the Third Battle of Panipat and conquered much of the lost territories which they lost after the Third Battle of Panipat.

Shah Alam spent six years in the Allahabad fort and after the capture of Delhi in 1771 by the Marathas, left for his capital under their protection.[12] He was escorted to Delhi by Mahadaji Shinde and left Allahabad in May 1771. During their short stay, the Marathas constructed two temples in Allahabad city, one of them being the famous Alopi Devi Mandir. After reaching Delhi in January 1772 and realising the Maratha intent of territorial encroachment however, Shah Alam ordered his general Najaf Khan to drive them out. In retaliation, Tukoji Rao Holkar and Visaji Krushna Biniwale attacked Delhi and defeated Mughal forces in 1772. The Marathas were granted an imperial sanad for Kora and Allahabad. They turned their attention to Oudh to gain these two territories. Shuja was however, unwilling to give them up and made appeals to the English and the Marathas did not fare well at the Battle of Ramghat.[13] The Maratha and British armies fought in Ram Ghat, but the sudden demise of the Peshwa and the civil war in Pune to choose the next Peshwa forced the Maratha army to retreat.[14]


The cremation of Madhavrao and the sati of his wife Ramabai

In June 1770, the Peshwas set out to conquer Hyder Ali for the third time. However, Madhavrao was infected with tuberculosis, and his health started deteriorating. Tuberculosis was also termed as "Raj-Yakshma" or the "prince of diseases". Madhavrao had to return from Miraj as the effects of the disease had started becoming prominent. He was even recommended an English doctor for treatment of the terrible disease, and he would follow the advice given by the doctor. However, there were no signs of improvement and slowly it started developing further. The disease had affected his intestine. There was no cure for tuberculosis in those times. Madhavrao decided to spend his last days in his favourite Ganesha Chintamani Temple, Theur. According to Grant Duff "The third battle of Panipat was not that much fatal to the Maratha empire than the early death of Peshwa Madhav Rao in 1772. "[citation needed]

On 6 October 1772, Raghunathrao tried to escape from the house arrest at Shaniwar Wada, but he was caught again. Madhavrao had become excessively weak, and he could no longer bear such incidents. He had constructed a garden, a wooden hall and a fountain outside this favourite temple.[citation needed]

18 November 1772, early morning approximately at eight: Madhavrao died at the temple premises of Chintamani, Theur. Thousands of citizens visited the site and paid their last respects. Madhavrao was cremated on the banks of the river which was about half a mile from the temple. A small memorial carved out of stone rests today at that place as a memorial.[citation needed]

His wife Ramabai chose to commit sati with his body at the time of cremation.[citation needed]


Madhavrao Peshwa I was a prominent figure of the Maratha Empire, renowned for his administrative acumen and leadership. During his tenure, he implemented significant reforms and exhibited a deep sense of empathy for the populace.

Humanitarian and Administrative Abilities

An incident highlighting Madhavrao's compassion occurred during the aftermath of a war. Pune's citizens, facing dire circumstances due to the conflict, sought relief at Shaniwar Wada. Despite being occupied with treasury management,Madhavrao personally met with the affected families, ensuring their losses were compensated. This episode exemplifies his reputation as a benevolent ruler.

Despite a strained relationship with his uncle Raghunathrao, Madhavrao maintained personal affection. He imposed a fine on Raghunathrao for misconduct during the Nizam's invasion, a decision that led to a temporary estrangement from his mother, Gopikabai. However, their bond remained strong, as evidenced by their correspondence.

Madhavrao was instrumental in reforming the Maratha administration. He introduced stringent measures to combat corruption, including public flogging of errant officials. The judicial system was overhauled under the guidance of Ram Shastri, establishing a reputation for impartiality. Furthermore, Madhavrao prioritized the welfare of the citizens,optimizing revenue utilization for public benefit and strengthening the empire's military capabilities.

Character and Leadership

While feared by his servants, Madhavrao was approachable to the common people. His leadership style was characterized by decisiveness and a disregard for conventional constraints. An anecdote involving the Bhonsle chief of Nagpur illustrates his ability to gather intelligence and enforce his will.

Madhavrao Peshwa I is remembered as a transformative leader who left an enduring legacy on the Maratha Empire. His contributions to administration, welfare, and military might solidified his position as one of the most capable figures of his era.Justice Kashinath Trimbak Telang citing James Grant Duff narrates an amusing story[15] that illustrates Madhavrao's ruthlessness, omniscience and disregard for religious restrictions.[16]


Assessing the impact of the loss of Madhavrao, the writer James Grant Duff eulogised:

And the plains of Panipat were not more fatal to the Maratha Confederacy than the early end of this excellent prince…[17][18]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 1987 Marathi TV series Swami, Madhavrao's character was portrayed by Ravindra Mannkani.
  • In the 1994 Hindi TV series The Great Maratha, Madhavrao's character was portrayed by Rahul Awasthee.
  • Alok Rajwade portrayed Madhavrao in the 2014 Indian Marathi-language historical drama, Rama Madhav
  • Chinmay Patwardhan plays Madhavrao in the Indian Marathi-language television serial Swamini which airs on Colors Marathi.
  • Swami, a Marathi book written by Ranjit Desai on the life of Madhavrao.[19][20]
  • "श्रीमंत माधवराव पेशवा: व्यक्ति आणि कार्य" A Marathi Political biography written by historians Guruprasad Kanitkar and Parag Pimpalkhare.
  • "The Mastery of Hindustan - Triumphs & Travels of Madhavrao Peshwa", a book written by Uday S. Kulkarni on the life and tenure of Madhavrao Peshwa. (ISBN 978-8192076935; published in 2022)[21]
  • "Pratishodh Panipatcha",a marathi novel written by Kaustubh Kasture on the life of Madhavrao Peshwa.(published in 2019)[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sir Jadunath Sarkar (1971). 1754-1771 (Panipat). 3d ed. 1966, 1971 printing. Orient Longman.
  2. ^ Banerjee, Anil Chandra (1943). Peshwa Madhav Rao 1.
  3. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (1991). The Maratha Supremacy (2nd ed.). Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhaban. p. 201.
  4. ^ SarDesai, D.R. (2007). India : the definitive history. Boulder, Colo. [u.a.]: Westview Press. pp. 194–195. ISBN 9780813343525.
  5. ^ Mallik, Samar Kumar (2018). Adhunik Bharoter Dersho Bochor (1707-1857) (in Bengali) (18th ed.). Kolkata: New West Bengal Publishers. p. 82.
  6. ^ "Peshwa Madhav Rao - The Man who revived the Maratha Power". 17 September 2023. Retrieved 20 September 2023.
  7. ^ a b Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1707–1813 by Jaswant Lal Mehta p.458
  8. ^ Rathod, N. G. (1994). The Great Maratha Mahadaji Scindia. Sarup & Sons
  9. ^ Duff, James Grant (1873). A History of the Mahrattas. Bombay: Times of India. p. 350.
  10. ^ Kadiyan, Chand Singh (26 June 2019). "Panipat in History: A Study of Inscriptions". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 64: 403–419. JSTOR 44145479.
  11. ^ Rathod, N. G. (26 June 1994). The Great Maratha Mahadaji Scindia. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 9788185431529 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ A. C. Banerjee; D. K. Ghose, eds. (1978). A Comprehensive History of India: Volume Nine (1712–1772). Indian History Congress, Orient Longman. pp. 60–61.
  13. ^ Sailendra Nath Sen (1998). Anglo-Maratha relations during the administration of Warren Hastings 1772–1785, Volume 1. Popular Prakashan. pp. 7–8. ISBN 9788171545780.
  14. ^ Chaurasia, Radhey Shyam (1947). History of Modern India: 1707 A.D. up to 2000 A.D.
  15. ^ Transactions of the ninth International congress of Orientalists, Volume I (London, 1893) p268
  16. ^ Morgan, Edward Delmar (1893). "Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists ( Held in London, 5th to 12th September 1892.)".
  17. ^ Kapoor, S. (2002). Indian Encyclopaedia. Vol. 1. Cosmo Publications. p. 5611. ISBN 9788177552577. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  18. ^ Bakshi, S.R.; Sharma, S.R.; Gajrani, S. (1998). Contemporary Political Leadership in India: Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, Chief Minister of Assam. APH Publishing Corporation. p. 64. ISBN 9788176480079. Retrieved 1 January 2015.
  19. ^ "स्वामी-Swami by Ranjeet Desai - Mehta Publishing House - BookGanga.com".
  20. ^ Swami,Mehta Publishing House ISBN 978-817-766-644-1
  21. ^ "Buy The Mastery of Hindustan – Triumphs & Travails of Madhavrao Peshwa Book Online at Low Prices in India". Amazon.in. Retrieved 8 April 2024.
  22. ^ "Pratishodha Panipatcha". BookGanga.com. Retrieved 8 April 2024.

Further reading[edit]