Amazing history of Bajirao Peshwa I | empire builder of Maratha

Brief Introduction

Bajirao Peshwa was a great conqueror and a distinguished empire builder of Maratha under the rule of Shahu Ji Maharaj , the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji , in the 18th century. He defeated the well- established general Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah, the founder of the Hyderabad state and expanded the territory of Maratha in the Deccan, Malwa ,Gujarat, Delhi, Bhopal ,Central India and beyond. 

Peshwa Bajirao was considered to be of the same characteristics as of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja who librated India from the grasp of Mughal invaders and expanded Swarajya from South to North. And this is how historian relate Bajirao with Shivaji.

Bajirao had defeated the Nizam , the legal Turani chief of the day, who was one of the biggest threats to the Maratha empire . The defeat of Nizam-ul- Mulk at Palkhed established the stronghold of Marathas in the Deccan. 

He liberated Konkan from the sidis of Janjira and island of Bassein and Salsette from the tyranny of Portuguese. Bajirao had nearly brought back the same Imperial power and the glory which Chhatrapati Shivaji had built in his lifetime.

Bajirao was the most trusted Peshwa on whom the Maratha could believe without any hesitancy. He was the one who was always true of his words, beloved by his troops and capable of shouldering heavy responsibilities. He was called as the man with iron nerves. He had taken the responsibilities in his early 20’s. 

During twenty years of his successful war, Peshwa Bajirao had acquired a great military strength which was comprised of or exotically assisted by chimma ji Appa ( his own brother), Malhar Rao Holkar, Pilaji Yadav, Ranoji Sindhia, Dhamdheri and other great warriors . 

Peshwa Bajirao was such a dynamic personality that in his entire life ( 1720 – 1739 AD) , he never lost a single war.

Early life

Bajirao was born on 18th August 1700 in the Bhat family of Konkanastha Brahmin at Sinnar near Nasik. He was the eldest son of Radhabai and Balaji Vishwanath who had started his career as a revenue collector (adhikari) of shrivardhan in Janjira state and then started to climb the ladder of success with his own merit after moving to Poona and giving his services to Maratha chiefs as revenue collector. 

His immense dedication and loyalty towards his duties made him come into the contact of Chhatrapati Shahuji. He fought his first battle for Chhatrapati Shahuji against Chandrasen Jadhav to save Satara. In 1713 for his fearless war, he was chosen as the Peshwa.

Bajirao was raised by his father Balaji Vishwanath as a gallant and courageous child who was well-versed in reading ,writing, accounting and diplomacy, military expedition and great observer of nuances of war tactics. He used to accompany his father in his military expedition. At a very young age he had acquired expertise in home land politics as well as foreign politics. He was well prepared to take on the Peshwaship. 

He became Peshwa in 1720 in succession to his father Balaji Vishwanath. The policy of territorial expansion outlined by his father Balaji Vishwanath was later on taken up by his great eldest son Peshwa Bajirao who had the head to plan and execute it brilliantly. 

Military campaign

War with Nizam

Bajirao fought his war with Nizam on 27th August 1727. The Peshwa entered Aurangabad district and destroyed Jalna and immediate districts surrounding it.

He then reached Burhanpur to take the control of it. The Nizam in retaliation sent the force under Ewaz Khan but nothing went in favour of Nizam. He had to face a brutal loss in the battle. 

Bajirao then turned his legs towards Poona where Nizam had appointed Faisal Beg to hold Poona. A war took place on 28th February 1728 into the hilly tract near the town of Palkhed in which Bajirao became victorious. 

After this ruthless defeat, Nizam left with no option but to go in negotiation with Bajirao on recognition of Chhatrapati Shahuji as the only sovereign of the Marathas entitled to chauth and sardeshmukhi in the 6 subahs of the deccan and many other terms were settled down by the Marathas . 

The great Bajirao

War with Sidis

The geographical location of Konkan was between the Ghats and the sea and it was stretching from Daman to Goa which made it hard to conquer. These territories were dominated by the Sidis. But the death of Sidi Rasool Yakut Khan in 1733 made it easy for Peshwa Bajirao to conquer Janjira. 

Bajirao marched into the Konkan and captured rajpuri, khokri. His another force under Pratinidhi on 8 June 1733  also successfully captured Raigadh from the Sidis. Sekhoji Angre captured Thal , Rewas and khanderi.But the Joint Action of English and Sidis and the faultine between Peshwa Bajirao and Pratinidhi lost the big opportunity to win the whole territories. 

But the entry of Chimna ji Appa on 17th April 1736 changed the whole scenario upside down. Chimnaji Appa fought a battle in Charegaun and kamarlen in which he completely destroyed the Sidis force and killed the captain Siddi Yakut and Subhanji Ghatage. 

It was a terrible loss for Sidis which compelled them to come into an agreement with Peshwa Bajirao on 25th September 1736 in which Sidis’s power was restricted to the island of Janjira and to Anjanwek and Gowalkot on the mainland. 

Thus Bajirao Peshwa was able to push back the Janjira pirates into the sea and protect the Konkan from the depredation of sidis. 

War with Portuguese

The cruelty and barbaric forced conversion of Hindus of the West-coast by Portuguese led the Maratha empire to act vigorously on them. And the other major factor was the illegal capture of Indian ports one after another by the Portuguese government . 

Though the enemity of Maratha with Portuguese had started since the establishment of Maratha empire by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj but the enemity reached its highest peak in the reign of Sambhaji Maharaj

The attack of Sambhaji Maharaj on Portuguese was that much horrific that they had nearly planned to leave the country but as soon as they got the news of the death of Sambhaji Maharaj on 11th March 1689 , they found the breathing space to stay back in India. 

But the Peshwa Bajirao was not in mood of giving them any kind of relaxation. It was not a war only to get the grip on the sea port of Western coast but to liberate Hindus from the tyranny of Portuguese government.

Peshwa Bajirao and Chimnaji Appa with their Maratha forces moved towards Thana Fort on 26th March 1737 and captured it. Then they started to capture the fortress of Parsik, Arnala , island of Dharavi and ghodbunder. They had nearly captured the whole territories of Salsette. 

After conquering Salsette, Peshwa Bajirao turned his eyes towards sieging of Bassein. To repulse the attack of Maratha, Portuguese sent Antonio Cardim froes with his Army but nothing came out of it for Portuguese. 

The Maratha successfully blew up the two impregnable towers of Portuguese named as Sebastian and Nossa Senhora dos Remedios . After this great loss a terrible war took place between the two armies which ultimately went into the favour of the Great Marathas. 

The Portuguese Army surrendered themselves to the Marathas and a terms of surrender signed on 16th May 1739 between Marathas and Portuguese.

On 12th may 1739, the Marathas entered the fortress of Bassein and on 23rd May, the saffron flag of Maratha was unfurled on the walls of Bassein. 

Bajirao of Maratha empire

Death

Peshwa Bajirao died on 28th April 1740 because of high fever during his encamped in raverkhedi. There, he was preparing for his next war and military expedition. He was cremated on the bank of Narmada river. Sudden death of him dragged everyone into a deep shock .

 It was a great loss for Marathas . Chhatrapati shahuji had lost his precious gem who was giving him victory after victory. The death of Peshwa Bajirao had scattered the strength of Marathas which led to the loss of territories. 

Is Bajirao Mastani real story

The story of Bajirao Mastani was real but not the way it was portrayed in the movie . It has very different picture which needs to be known by us . Peshwa Bajirao is portrayed as a debauchery in cinemas and other places ignoring all the intrepid and vallant acts of him in spreading the Maratha empire.

 Indeed Peshwa Bajirao was in a romantic relationship with Mastani who was the daughter of Raja Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand . She was born from a Muslim mistress. 

Mastani has been presented by Chhatrasal to the Peshwa Bajirao as a mark of his affection and gratitude for his help in protecting him and his dynasty from Mohommad Khan Bangash in 1733 . Chhatrasal also asked him to take his help whenever he needed. 

She was a great dancing girl or a courtsean with high spirit and courage. She was cultivated in Arts and was well-equipped in riding and handling the sword and spear. 

Mastani’s great charm , intellect and divine beauty captured the young peshwa’s heart. She was equally in love with the great Peshwa. She was loyal and completely dedicated to Peshwa. She had also accompanied the Peshwa in his expedition for Delhi in 1737. Mastani gave birth to his child in 1734 who was named Shamsher Bahadur

When the news of Peshwa’s relationship with Mastani came to his wife, Kashi bai,she went into a shock. But soon she started to accept this bitter truth in her life and handled the situation greatly. This made her a pronounced lady. But the family of Peshwa never accepted the relationship with Bajirao. 

The reason for the death of Mastani is not clear. According to some historians, she died immediately after the death of Peshwa Bajirao by committing sucide . Another theory goes like that she jumped into the funeral of Peshwa Bajirao .

Important Notes :

  • Nizam-Ul-Mulk – He was the son of Qilich Khan who was working under the mughals and very close to Aurangzeb . Qilich Khna in 1691 AD became the leader of Turani element . Later , he was titled ” Nizam-ul-mulk ” and appointed as a viceroy of the six Deccan Subahs ( Khnadesh , Berar , Aurangabad , Bidar , Hyderabad and Bijapur )
  • Sidis – Sidis is an Arabic word which means my master . These Sidis came from East-coast of Africa and were much employed by the Deccan Sultanates .

Who founded the Peshwa dynasty

The Peshwaship was started by Chatrapati Shahuji , the son of Sambhaji Maharaj , in early eighteenth century . The first Peshwa was Balaji Vishwanath ( father of Bajirao ) who was credited for the rise of Shahuji’s leadership as Maratha .

Who was the last Peshwa

The last Peshwa was ” Bajirao II ” , the son of Raghunath Rao . Baji Rao II lost his Peshwaship in 1818 AD against the British .

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