Miraculous history of Yashwantrao Holkar | first war with british

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Brief Introduction

Yashwantrao Holkar Biography – Yashwantrao Holkar , also popular as Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Sawai Shrimant Yashwant Rao Holkar , was one of the most prominent young warrior king of Indore in early 19th century . He accessed the throne on 6th January 1799 AD .

He had played a significant role in destabilizing the British power in his period . That was the time when the Marathas were seeing their downfall and loosing one after another territories to the British . He was a very learned king in accountancy , Persian language , sanskrit as well as Urdu . He had expertise in guerilla warfare which he had used against Bajirao II and the British .

Belonging to the Holkar dynasty , Yashwantrao Holkar was the first revolutionary king of Malwa kingdom who single-handedly fought with the British for his rights in the early 19th century. He was also referred as “Napoleon of India ” by some of the scholars for his dynamic act against the British.

Yashwantrao Holkar was the son of the great warrior Tukojirao Holkar who had dedicated his life to provide Ahilyabai Holkar a great administration in her court and later became the king of the Malwa after her death.

Though Yashwantrao Holkar didn’t succeed in his ambitious work of taking the full rights of his demands from the British due to lack of collective co-operation from Indian kings , he left a great impression in the history of India through his audacious , courageous and heroism act.

Many of the dynasties ruling then had accepted the superiority of the British and had agreed to rule under the British but Yashwantrao Holkar was one of those kings who chose freedom for himself and for his motherland.

His power and his extraordinary skill to deal with opponents made him a great warrior of the early 19th century.

He must be celebrated with great jubilation among Indians . Even he had fought tooth and  nail with Marathas ( Bajirao II) who were then filled with a wicked mindset. 

His life was always surrounded by conspiring people who were always ready to harm him or taking his life away. If he would have got the support of his native kings and Warriors, then he would have definitely won the battle against the British. Below , we will know the history of Yashwant Rao Holkar in great detail .

Early life

Yashwantrao Holkar was born on 3rd December 1776 AD and was the third son of the great warrior Tukoji Rao Holkar who succeeded the most celebrated woman Ahilyabai Holkar after her demise in 1795. His mother name was Yamunabai Holkar. He was valorous, full of adventurous and gallant who took the charge of Indore as regent after the death of Malhar Rao Holkar II  by Daulat Rao Scindia.

After the death of Tukoji Rao Holkar on 15th August 1797, chaos started to occur between two of his sons Kashi Rao Holkar and Malhar Rao Holkar II. Kashi Rao Holkar was of wicked mind, reckless ,violent and carried a complete ruffian behaviour. Both of them were killed later.

Due to jealousy, Kashi Rao paid a heavy amount of 14 lakh rupees to Daulat Rao Scindia to kill Malhar Rao II. He was killed in a surprise Night Attack at Bhamburda on 14 September 1797 . 

The Infant son of Malhar Rao II, Khande Rao Holkar II, was made the lawful head of the house of Holkar and himself became regent and working head of the state. 

On 6th January 1799 AD, Yashwant Rao Holkar became the king of Indore at the age of 21.

Tussle with Marathas


It is known that during the end of 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century was proven to be the darkest century for the Maratha empire .

It was due to incompetent leaders who were entrusted the Maratha empire.  Like the last Peshwa Baji Rao II (1795-1818 ) and Daulat Rao Sindhiya ( Daulat Rao Scindia ( son of mahadji Scindia’s nephew Anand Rao) who was officially installed as successor of Mahadji Scindia on 10th May 1794). 

The incompetency of Peshwa Bajirao II was seen and written by Krishna ji Sohoni, the author of Peshwyanchi Bakhar, who was an officer in the last days of the Peshwa and the closed observer of events. He remarked as follow  

 ” Words fail to describe Peshwa Bajirao II, who unlike any other member of the family was lacking in manly character, suspicious of nature, incapable of choosing wise advisors and was all together wanting in military talent “.

The heinous act of Daulat Rao Scindia of killing Malhar Rao II compelled Yashwant Rao to challenge the Maratha empire.

Yashwantrao Holkar first started to capture Maheshwar in 1799 and brought widespread ravages in Malwa. He was later supported by Wazir Hassan, Mihrban Singh, sahmat Khan, Amir Khan , Fateh Singh, Harmat Sinha, Parashar Dada, Abhay Sinha, Rana Bhao Sinha, Govardhan Nayak ,Jaman Khan and many others. They became a great source of strength for him. 

 Khanderao Rao II was confined in the Fort of asirgarh by Daulat Rao Scindia and wasn’t released . Even Daulat Rao Scindia refused to confirm the agreements between Mahadji Sindhiya and Tukoji Rao Holkar. 

In retaliation, Yashwantrao took to plundering Sindhiya’s possession north of Ujjain and defeated sindhiya’s officer Macintyre at Newari on 25th June 1801 . He then captured Ujjain on 18th July 1801 . 

Killing of Vithoji

Vithuji was brutally killed (trampling by elephants ) by Peshwa Bajirao II for making devastation round Pandharpur . The killing of Vithuji ignited the fire in Yashwant Rao to take revenge from Bajirao II and so, he immediately wrote a letter to the Peshwa which was as follow :

” If you wish to avoid blood-shade send to me at once Baloji and Dajiba Deshmukh ( responsible of killing vithoji) on your behalf and Baburao Angariya and Neema ji Bhaskar on behalf of  Sindhiya to negotiate terms. “

Yashwant Rao Holkar

On 25th October 1802, Yashwant Rao defeated sindhiya’s general Sadashiv Bhaskar in the Plains of Hadapsar. This defeat set a fear in the core of Peshwa Bajirao II ‘s heart and made him to flee from Pune. 

Now, Yashwantrao Holkar had declared himself as the general commander of the troops and Amrit Rao assumed to be the headship of the Pune state. This was a commendable victory for Yashwant Rao . 

Conflict with British

As the “Treaty of bassein ” had been signed between the Peshwa Bajirao II and the British on 31st December 1802 which was considered to be the last nail in the coffin for the Maratha empire . 

Bajirao II again on 13th May 1803, restored his position of Peshwa with tremendous support of the British bayonets. 

The coalition of the Maratha confederacy failed miserably for the second- Anglo Maratha war because of Daulat Rao Scindia’s wrong intention towards Yashwantrao Holkar. 

On 8th October 1804, Yashwantrao attacked Delhi to release Shah Alam II who was captured by the British.Though Yashwant Rao Holkar didn’t succeed, he won the title of “ Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Alija Bahadur ” by Shah Alam for his vallant and bravery act. 

Daulat Rao Scindia had also signed treaty with British and had accepted the treaty of bassein . Knowing about the Treaty, Yashwant Rao Holkar sent an envoy to Sindhiya to persuade him to withdraw from the British Alliance but nothing favourable happened.

As Yashwantrao was aware of the British tactics, he refused to give up the chauth upon Indian chiefs and also wanted to have the possession of the territories which were hold by his Holkar clan like the Doab, Bundelkhand, Etawah and others too. 

The British not at any cost agreed to fulfill the demands of Holkar which eventually resulted in a severe war which took place in April 1804.

War with British

  • Yashwantrao Holkar killed 3 major British officers. 
  • In March 1804, he ravaged Pushkar and Ajmer. 
  • Brigadier colonel William Monson advanced about 50 miles from the Mukundra pass, was defeated by great Warrior Yashwantrao Holkar. That was a disastrous defeat for the British. 
  • The havoc of Yashwant Rao was such that the Governal – general in Council wrote to the secret committee of the court of directors as ” The reduction of that predatory power ( Yashwant Rao Holkar ) was manifestly a measure not only of just policy and necessary security but of ultimate economy with reference to the finances of the Honorable company. “

Seige of Bharatpur 

The War fought between Lord Lake and Holkar at Farrukhabad on 17th November 1804 , was concluded as a defeat for Holkar. 

This defeat compelled him to take the moves towards Ranjit Singh , the Raja of Bharatpur, for supplies of money and arms. 

Ranjit Singh assigned the Fort of dig to Holkar and placed his Diwan Rai Singh and his son Lachman Singh with two fully armed battalion under the Maratha chief. 

Fort of dig which was assigned by Ranjit Singh to Holkar was captured by Lord Lake on 23rd December 1804 . After this the Holkar’s army settle themselves in the Fort of Bharatpur. 

The siege of Bharatpur took place between 2nd January to 22 february 1805 . The siege of Bharatpur was one of the great war which took place between the British and the Holkar .

Three attempts to take the fort by assualt having failed by Lord Lake. The Jatts of Bharatpur revealed the green resolution of their race. Lake made hurried and over confident attempts with an insufficient battering train.

Though Raja Ranjeet Singh and Yashwantrao Holkar were in a position of winning the war against the British, Ranjeet Singh decided to surrender himself to the British as he had found that eventually he would be defeated. 

 Yashwant Rao Holkar didn’t get assist from the chief Sikh Ranjeet Singh of Amritsar in 1805 against Lake and neither from other neighbouring leaders .

Yashwantrao holkar was conclusively defeated by the British in 1805 AD and this defeat compelled him to conclude the ” Treaty of Rajpurghat ” with Lake on the banks of the Beas on 24th December 1805. Some other treaties were also signed between the British and Yashwantrao.

Treaty signed with British

  • He had to renounce his rights to every place to the north of the Chambal and all claims on Pune and Bundelkhand.
  • According to the Treaty, he was restrained to employee any European in his service without the permission of the British.
  • Even he was not permitted to go his own dominion by his own choice of route. He could only go through the route which was prescribed by the British commander.


Yashwantrao Holkar died on 27th October 1811 AD at Bhanpura before completing his 34 years of life. After his death, Tulsa Bai, a mistress of Yashwant Rao Holkar, became regent of Malwa kingdom for her four years old son Malhar rao Holkar II. So, Malhar rao Holkar II became the ruler after Yashwant Rao Holkar death.

The last ruler of the holkar dynasty was Yashwant Rao Holkar II.

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