The daring history of Malhar Rao Holkar under Peshwa | Founder of Indore

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Brief introduction

The history of Malhar Rao Holkar is a powerful act of spreading Maratha empire along with Chimnaji Appa , Ranoji Scindia under Peshwa to the northern states after defeating Islamic invaders one after another and greatly ruling the estate of Indore .

Malhar Rao Holkar, the founder of the Indore state, was initially a simple trooper under kadam Bande and lastly established himself as a remarkable Subedar Or chief- commander under the great king Peshwa Bajirao. 

The time he was born, a serious tussle was going on between Maratha and Mughal. Maratha had splendidly revived the Hindu religion throughout the country which had started to doom because of the forceful conversion of hindu into Islam. 

His remarkable career of 46 years made him a brilliant and successful Warrior who had served the four successive Peshwas – Balaji Vishwanath, Bajirao, Balaji Bajirao and Madhavrao I.

Malhar rao holkar was the most distinguished character who played a major role in expanding the power of Maratha all over India. 

The most extraordinary thing in him was his deep rooted devotion, his unmatched spirit and courage on the field of battle.

He was nearly familiar with all the tactic wars used in the battlefield as he was doing it since childhood. He was also a great diplomat who had settled multiple tussles among the kings. 

His Guru Shri Brahmendra Swami and Shri Naray Dikshit greatly encouraged him to establish Swadharma and Swaraj all over India .

Malhar Rao Holkar – Founder of Indore state

On 29th July 1732, the Indore state was founded when the great Baji Rao Peshwa granted Malhar Rao Holkar 28 and half Parganas in Malwa .

The Emblem of Indore state which is also called “Arms of Indore state” consists of a sun under a royal umbrella which signify the holkars who claimed to be the descendant of the Suryavanshi clan and the umbrella shows about an incident of his childhood when a Cobra said  to have expanded its hood for a long time to protect the Malhar holkar from the danger. 

The horse and sword represent the warrior God khande Rao, the avatar of Shiva. The Bull represents the career of Shiva and the spear, the favourite weapon of Malhar rao. 

Lastly the wheat and poppy signify the principle agriculture of the state. 


He had three wives Gautamabai , Banabai and Dwarka Bai. Gotmabai was the one who always used to encourage him in the most critical situation. 

He had two daughters Vdabai and Suntubai and one son khande rao Holkar whose wife was the most celebrated Ahilyabai Holkar.

 His only grandson Male Rao Holkar who was recognised as the successor to Malhar Rao Holkar died very soon due to his mental illness. 

Early life

Malhar Rao Holkar was born on 16th March 1693 in the village of “Hol” on the banks of the river Nira near Jejuri in the Pune district. 

He belonged to dhangars or Shepherd caste. His father ,Khanduji virkar, was on the post of chief village officer and his mother was from the family of people who held lands and served as soldiers under Kadam Bande . She belonged to Talode in Khandesh. 

Malhar Rao lost his father when he was only 3 years old.

After losing him, his mother returned back to his father’s home from where the talent of Malhar Rao started to get the shape under the care of his maternal uncle Bhojraj who enlisted him as a trooper in the service of Kadam Bande and from there his extraordinary talent took his career to a path of highest glory. 

He joined his first expedition for Satara as a silleder in sirdar Pandhare’s Paga. This military expedition was then headed by Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath .

His remarkable talent was also noticed by Vishwanath during his successful expedition for Satara. 

After the successful expedition in Satara , Malhar rao holkar was married to Gautamabai. 

Malhar Rao achieved the post of a trusted Sirdar on his extraordinary talent under the great Bajirao. 

War against Mughal

Some of the major war battles and expeditions executed by Malhar Rao were the battle of Tirla , Delhi war ,the Bassein war , conquest of Bhopal , war with Pathan and conquest of Punjab.

The battle of Tirla

On 12th October 1731 , the battle of Tirla took place between Maratha and Mughal in which Maratha was victorious. 

In this War the contribution of Malhar Rao Holkar was remarkable . Getting pleased with the service of Malhar Rao ,in 1732 Malhar rao got Indore as Inam

Indore was originally the part of Kampel Pargana which was initially developed by Nandlal Choudhary but when Malhar rao took the control of Indore it started to reach  new heights. 

Indore which was founded in 1732  under Malhar rahulkar went through the great construction of Rajwada. 

Delhi war

In 1736 the great war of Delhi between Bajirao and Mughal took place. the chief commander Malhar Rao Holkar had given a biggest contribution in this warfare.

The consequences of this great war became the major reason for decaying of the Mughal power in India.

The Bassein ( Vasai) war

Bassein ,the older name of Vasai City , had started to face the torture of the Portuguese who was forcefully started to converting hindus into Christianity.

Chhatrapati Shahuji and Bajirao arranged to send an expedition against the Portuguese after obtaining full details of the Portuguese affairs.

Malhar Rao Holkar ,Chimna ji Appa Ranoji Raosindhiya were ordered to seize the Fort of Thana and directed to attack the Other Forts on the coast.

Many great warriors were appointed to proceed this expedition which was considered as one of the greatest expeditions that Peshwa had ever executed for the protection of Hindus. 

Finally the great efforts of Malhar rao holkar and other dignified officers took over the Fort of Vasai over which the bhagava Jhanda was unfurled in May 1739 and Portuguese was expelled from the district.

It was Malhar rao holkar’s great efforts of creating a secret tunnel which led to the victory of Vasai for Maratha.

Death of king Bajirao

Malhar rao holkar was very closed to  Bajirao. For Bajirao, malhara Holkar was a precious gem in his Army who had the ability to turn the losing war into a victorious one.

The death of Bajirao on 28th April 1740 left Malhar Rao in deep sorrow.

After the death of Bajirao Peshwa , Balaji Bajirao took the charge of new Peshwa of Maratha empire .

The another great Peshwa Balaji Bajirao died soon after the battle of Panipat in 1761 because of mental stress he had to go through after loosing his son Vishwasrao and cousin Sadashivarao .

His son Madhav Rao now became the new Peshwa of Maratha empire under whom Malhar Rao Holkar achieved multiple successes .

War with Pathan

In 1750 Malhar Rao was invited by Vazir Safdar Jung to help him against the cruelity of Pathan of farakkabad.

He accepted the call and reached Farrukhabad where Pathan Army had already taken up the position to defeat Malhar Rao’s Army but the unremarkable skill of Malhar Rao to enter Rohilkhand and cut off the supplies which Pathan Army was recieving changed the whole game upside down.

Pathan became helpless and agreed to make peace with Vazir. 

In 1751 the great Peshwa sent many congratulations to Holkar and his companion Sindhiya for their successful peace settlement. Balaji Bajirao honoured Malhar Rao Holkar by giving him the title and designation of “Subedar of Malwa ” for his unstoppable and selfless service to Peshwa.

Death of his son Khande Rao Holkar

During the siege of kumbheree on 24th March 1754 the only son of Malhar Rao was killed by a Cannon ball. No words could describe the intensity of pain Malhar Rao had felt.

The untimely demise of his son and then founding his daughter-in-law, Ahilyabai, going to perform Sati in the funeral Pyre of his husband khanderao Holkar doubled the extent of his pain. 

The pain and the request of Malhar Holkar compelled Ahilyabai to drop her idea of performing sati. 

However the anger in Malhar Rao of losing his only son made him to take revenge from the Jat chief Surajmal who was responsible for his unbearable pain. But the intelligency of Jayappa Sindhiya and Raghunath Rao successfully settled the whole situation . 

Death of Malhar Rao Holkar

The successful end of the “siege of gohud” in 1766 rescued Mahadji Sindhia from the danger which he had to face from the Jatt chief . Malhar Rao Holkar was the hero of this rescue .

Mahadji thanked Malhar Rao for his great service. The old aged  Malhar Rao holkar wanted to take some rest in Alampur because of so much stress. 

Finally the gallant Malhar Rao Holkar took his last breath on 20th May 1766 at Alampur where a Cenotaph was built in his honour. 

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