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|5th Peshwa of the Maratha Empire|
13 December 1772 – 30 August 1773
|Preceded by||Madhavrao I|
|Born||10 August 1755|
30 August 1773 (aged 18)|
Narayan Rao (10 August 1755 – 30 August 1773) was the fifth Peshwa or de facto ruler of the Maratha Empire from November 1772 until his murder in August 1773. He married Gangabai Sathe who later gave birth to Sawai Madhavrao Peshwa.
Early life and ascendancy to Peshwa throne
Narayan Rao was the third son of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao (also known as Nana Saheb) and his wife Gopikabai. Narayan Rao's eldest brother Vishwas Rao, heir to the title of Peshwa, was killed during the Third Battle of Panipat. The second brother, Madhavrao, succeeded their father after the latter's death in 1761. Their uncle Raghunathrao was appointed as regent to Madhavrao, but conspired against his nephew, and was eventually placed under house arrest.
Madhavrao I died in 1772 from tuberculosis and was succeeded by the seventeen-year-old Narayan Rao, with his uncle Raghunathrao again acting as regent after being released from house arrest. Differences soon arose between the immature Narayan Rao and his ambitious uncle, who had wanted to become Peshwa since Balaji Baji Rao's death. Both men were surrounded by ill-intentioned advisors, who further poisoned their minds against each other. As a result, Narayan Rao had his uncle again confined to his house.
Murder of Narayanrao
Rao writes that "the guiding spirits behind the conspiracy were Anandibai, the disgruntled wife of Raghunath and Tulaji Pawar, a servant. He [Tulaji] was the main link between the smarting couple in the palace and the clamoring sepoys outside". During the Ganesh Festival of 1773 (the actual date was 30 August 1773, the last day of Ganesh Festival i.e. Anant Chaturdashi), several Gardi guards, led by their captain, Sumer Singh Gardi, entered the palace and started creating a commotion. They intended to release Raghunathrao. Raghunathrao and his wife Anandibai, who were opposed to Narayanrao, had promised the Gardis that they would mediate in their dispute with Narayanrao. Narayanrao ran to Raghunathrao, assuming that his uncle would not let them harm him. The Gardis followed Narayanrao to his uncle's chamber and the menial Tulaji Pawar pulled him while Sumer Singh Gardi cut him down. At the scene, a total of 11 persons were killed. Historian Sardesai writes that these 11 victims included seven brahmins (including Narayanrao), two maratha servants and two maids. The entire carnage happened within half an hour. This happened at around 1 p.m. Narayanrao's corpse was cremated secretly by the river at midnight.
According to popular legend, Raghunathrao had sent a message to Sumer Singh Gardi to fetch Narayanrao using the Marathi word dharaa (धरा) or 'hold' (actual phrase in Marathi - " नारायणरावांना धरा"/"Narayanrao-ana dhara"). This message was intercepted by his wife Anandibai who changed a single letter to make it read as maaraa (मारा) or 'kill' . The miscommunication led the Gardis to chase Narayanrao, who, upon hearing them coming, started running towards his uncles' residence screaming, "Kaka! Mala Vachva!!" ("Uncle! Save me!"). But nobody came to help him and he was killed in the presence of his uncle. Rumour has it that Narayanrao's body was hacked into so many pieces that they had to carry the pieces in a pot, henceforth it was taken near the river and cremated at midnight. This act brought ill fame to the Peshwa administration, which was being looked after by the minister Nana Phadnavis. The Chief Justice of the administration, Ram Shastri Prabhune was asked to conduct an investigation into the incident, and Raghunathrao, Anandibai and Sumer Singh Gardi were all prosecuted in absentia. Although Raghunathrao was acquitted, Anandibai was declared an offender and Sumer Singh Gardi the culprit. Sumer Singh Gardi died mysteriously in Patna, Bihar in 1775, and Anandibai performed Hindu rituals to absolve her sins. Kharag Singh and Tulaji Pawar were handed over by Hyder Ali back to the government and they were tortured to death. Swift punishment was given to the others too.
Narayanrao's widow, Gangabai (Nee, Sathe) was pregnant at the time of his murder. After Narayanrao's murder, Raghunathrao became Peshwa but was soon was deposed by the courtiers and knights of the Empire. They instead installed Gangabai's new born son, Sawai Madhavrao as the Peshwa with the courtiers themselves, led by Nana Fadnavis, as the Regents. A popular rumour says that Narayanrao's ghost still hovers about Shanivar wada and calls out for help just like the way he did on the fateful night of his murder.
The Narayan Peth area in Pune is named after Peshwa Narayanrao.
There is a belief in Pune that Narayanrao's ghost roams the ruins of Shaniwar Wada at every full moon night and one can hear his voice saying "Kaka Mala Vaachva" ("Save Me Uncle" in English) as nobody came to help him at the night of his death.
Bajirao II believed in the ghost superstition too and planted thousands of mango trees around Pune city and gave donations to Brahmins and religious institutions in the hope that this would propitiate the ghost.
- Unknown (1796). Narayanrao Peshwe yaanchi bakhar.
- Govind Sakharam Sardesai (1968). New History of the Marathas: Sunset over Maharashtra (1772-1848). Phoenix Publications. p. 27.
Thus within the short space of about half an hour eleven persons came to be murdered in cold blood in that famous palace, seven being Brahmans, two Maratha servants, two maids.
- S.Venugopala Rao (1977). power and criminality. Allied Publishers Pvt Limited. pp. 111–121.
- Shripad Rama Sharma (1951). The Making of Modern India: From A. D. 1526 to the Present Day. Orient Longmans. p. 302.
It is worth noting," Sardesai points out, "that out of the 49 persons found guilty of the murder of Narayanrao (Peshva), 24 were Deccani Brahmans of the murdered Peshva's caste, 2 Saraswats, 3 Prabhus, 6 Marathas, 1 Maratha maid-servant, 5 Mussalmans, and 8 North Indian Hindus"
- Preeti Panwar. "Top 10 most haunted places in India". Zee News. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- Huned Contractor (31 October 2011). "Going ghost hunting". Sakal. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "Pune and its ghosts". Rediff. 19 July 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "Security guard at historical Peshwa palace murdered". 2009.
A popular belief still prevails among people belonging to older generation here who claim that they had heard heart rending shouts of 'Kaka Mala Vachva' (Uncle please save me), at midnight emanating from the relics where Narayanrao Peshwa, one of the last heirs to the Peshwa throne, was slain on August 30, 1773 by 'Gardis' (royal guards) in a contract killing ordered by his uncle, Raghoba, in a power struggle.
- S. G. Vaidya (1976). Peshwa Bajirao II and The Downfall of The Maratha Power. Pragati Prakashan. p. 249.
It was to propitiate the ghost of Narayanrao, that haunted him throughout his life, that the Peshwa planted thousands of mango trees around Poona, gave gifts to Brahmins and to religious establishments