Mahadji Shinde Biography | Rise of Maratha empire post 1772

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Mahadji Shinde Biography : Mahadji Shinde popularly known as Mahadji Scindia was a great military commander of the Marathas and the leader of Gwalior who had successfully uplifted the sovereignty and legacy of Marathas under the Peshwa Madhava Rao , after losing third battle of Panipat in 1761 .

 After the death of Madhav Rao, Mahadji Shinde and Nana fadnavis successfully subdued the appalling and ever changing obstacles in their path with their inflexible determination to maintain the strength of the Marathas empire. 

Mahadji Shinde’s suppleness, royal gift judging character, his moderation, his  unwavering cleverness and skill to handle the cunningness of the English and his power of adhering made him to super succeed the strength of marathas in the 18th century.

His role of re-establishing the Maratha empire in North India is unforgettable. He turned his whole attention towards North after the Treaty of salbai with the British. He launched several military expeditions to gain this strength in the North . 

Delhi had then become one of the most disturbed political places where Mahadji Shinde showed his power and installed Emperor Shah Alam at the Delhi throne . Shah Alam was working under the administration of Mahadji . 

He was adorned with the title of “ Vakil-E-Mutalik “ . He intervened in the affairs of Bundela states and smartly prevented the British from entering Bundelkhand.

In his memory , ” Mahadji Shinde Chhatri “ a memorial was established at Wanawadi in Pune . This memorial is completely dedicated to him to show the gratitude for leading the Marathas military in the 18th century with utmost courage and power .

Mahadji Shinde Chhatri
Mahadji Shinde Chhatri

Kini, the English biography of Mahadji Shinde, has described him as the greatest man in Asia in the 18th century. 

Mahadji miserably defeated Zabita Khan and took the revenge upon the Rohilla Pathans of North India for participating against the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat.

Mahadji Shinde’s key role in the victorious war against Nizam on 27th November 1751, gave him the  Peshwa’s attention and later became the pillar of the Marathas . 

After the death of Peshwa Madhavrao in 1772, the treacherous murder of Narayanrao Peshwa on 30th August 1773,the intrigues of Moroba Fadnis , the ambition of Raghunath Rao for the Peshwa Throne and the Maratha-English war put a grave threat to the survival of Marathas Supremacy. During this threatening time, Mahadji Shinde emerged as the super commander of the Marathas who hold the legacy of the empire. 

Peshwa Madhav rao II ( son of Narayanrao Peshwa) was installed as the Peshwa of the Marathas empire after Raghunath Rao and Nana Fadnavis ( Prime minister ) became the regent of the Peshwa and Mahadji Shinde became one of the greatest pillars of the Marathas . 

He had a great military army comprising of great warriors like Ranckhan, Ambaji Ingle, khanderao Hari, Rayaji Patil, Jiwbadada Baxi, Devji Gawli, Ladojil Deshmukh and many other loyal followers.

Mahadji Shinde was born in May 1727 AD Or may be in 1730 AD in Kanherkhed village, 15 miles from Satara . He was the youngest son of Ranoji Scindia and Chimabai who was a Rajput.

He had four brothers. Out of them one was his biological brother, Tukoji. And three Step-brothers named Jayaji, Jyotiba and Dattaji

The great commander-in-chief Mahadji Shinde

He lost his all four brothers by the end of 1761 in the service of the Maratha state. He too had participated in the third battle of Panipat in 1761 and had given a tough battle to his opponents but the Marathas lost the battle terribly. Only a few leaders of the Marathas survived in the war and fortunately Mahadji Shinde was one of them. 

From this loss , he took a great lesson and gave his complete dedication to strengthen his army and was always ready for any expedition against the opponents. 

In 1766,Raghunath Rao besieged the Gohad Fort which was held by the Jats. However, Jats refused to surrender . Only after the intervention of Mahadji, the matter was settled down. A treaty was made on 2nd January 1767 that the Jats should pay tribute of 15 lakhs.

This valorous act of Mahadji was keenly noticed by the Peshwa Madhava Rao who sensed the ability of him . To show his immense respect, he adorned him with the title of ” Sardar Mahadji Shinde “ and the heir of Ranoji Shinde. 

When Mahadji on 6th April 1770, advanced to the North, he was repelled by Jat King Naval Singh. A tough battle took place between them and eventually the Jats had to surrender and make a peace treaty with marathas. According to the treaty, Jats were to give 65 lakh rupees to marathas. Later, Marathas successfully captured Agra and Mathura.

When Emperor Shah Alam was under the grip of the British and was feeling helpless then he sought the help of marathas. It was a golden opportunity for Mahadji Shinde to take the control of Delhi politics under the Marathas. 

Mahadji Shinde proposed his terms to Badshah Shah Alam before providing his assist. Initially he did not agree to the terms but after getting the ultimatum of Mahadji  he agreed. 

Shah Alam
Shah Alam and the British

Zabita Khan ( son of Najib-ud-Daulha Khan) had snatched the rank and the title of Mir Bakshi from Emperor Shah Alam and was compelled to leave Delhi.

Mahadji Shinde with his forces advanced for the capture of Delhi in early 1771 AD . He seized Delhi on 10th February 1771 and successfully returned back the throne of Delhi to Shah Alam. An agreement was signed between the Mahadji Shinde and Shah Alam on 12th February 1771.

To take the revenge of the defeat of marathas in Panipat and treacherously killing of Dattaji Scindia ( elder brother of Mahadji ) by Najib-Ud-daulah who was full of wily and wicked deeds, Mahadji Shinde and Visaji Krishna along with Shah Alam entered Doab to wage war against Zabita Khan ( son of Nazib-ud-daulah who played a key role in the Panipat battlefield) . 

Zabita Khan was chased up to Pattargad and captured the territory in April 1772. The family of zabita Khan were captured while Zabita Khan disappeared somewhere into jungle. 

Mahadji destroyed the grave of Najib and regained the booty which Rohilla had looted at Panipat. 

After the treacherous death of Narayan Rao Peshwa on 30th August 1773 by Raghunath Rao’s supporters ,the Maratha empire was torn by internal Strife. Raghunath Rao recognised himself as the new Peshwa which was opposed by Barbhai council ( Nana fadnavis and Mahadji Sindhiya played a key role in Barbhai Council). 

First Anglo- Maratha war

Raghunath Rao felt humiliated and disgraced and to meet his goal of becoming Peshwa, he sought the help of the British to fight against the Marathas in Pune. And eventually Mahadji Shinde with the co-operation of Nana fadnavis defeated the British during the first Anglo Maratha war.

At the instigation of Raghunath Rao and Hyder Ali , Tarabai and Sambhaji attacked from Kolhapur on the territories of Peshwa in 1776. In retaliation ,Mahadji Shinde and his military took the situation in their hands and started to seige Karvir and made a Cannon charge upon it . Kolhapuri surrendered themselves after sensing that they were no match for Mahadji. 

A treaty was signed between Kolhapur court and Mahadji. According to the agreement , they had to pay a penalty of 15 lakhs and to return the lands of Patwardhans. 

The Battle of Wadgaon was fought between the British and the marathas in which Mahadji Shinde played a key role. 

To provide their assistance to Raghunath Rao , the British troops in November 1778 under the command of colonel Egerton, marched towards Pune with Raghunath Rao. Meanwhile Mahadji Shinde with his military actively cut-off the line of supply of the British and attacked the British troops.

On 4th January 1779, Captain Stewart was killed . The British somehow reached Wadgaon on 8th January 1779. The Marathas had already devastated the entire area by burning and conflagrations according to their plan. The British troops were starving due to unavailability of food and water. They started to retreat to Mumbai but were already surrounded by Mahadji’s military. 

The British were left with no option but to surrender themselves to the marathas.The Marathas too had exhausted their military power in the war which made them agree to sign a treaty with the British. 

The Treaty of Salbai was signed on 17th may 1782 between Mahadji Shinde and the British East India company ( Warren Hasting) after a long first Anglo-Maratha war. 

Treaty of Salbai
Warren Hasting

As per the Treaty of Salbai :

  1. All the Forts ,lands and territories which were taken by the British after Treaty of Upton including Bassein would be returned back to the marathas within 2 months.
  2. The British will retain their control on Salsette, the neighbouring 3 small islands and Broach. 
  3. The British agreed to not provide shelter to Raghunath Rao. In return ,Pune court should pay him 25000 per month for his expenses.
  4. Marathas would defeat Haider Ali and regained the territories in the Carnatic. 
  5. As per the Treaty, Madhavrao II was considered the Peshwa of the marathas by the British too . 

Mahadji Shinde attacked Rajadhar , the king of Chanderi in April 1782. He sent Gosavi troops to attack Chanderi under the command of Balwant Rao Dhaonddeo Naigaonkar. In the battle of the Chanderi, Rajdhar was miserably defeated and new king Ramchandradhar was installed on the throne of Chanderi.

Gwalior was conquered by Mahadji Shinde from the hands of Chatrajit , the Rana of gohad, on 21st July 1783 after a long seiging of the Fort of Gwalior for around 5 months.

Then ,he conquered the Fort of gohad on 23rd February 1784. Chhatrjit tried to get the assist of the English but didn’t succeed as the English had no courage to take tough battle with the military of the marathas.

Treaty of sambar signed between Mahadji Shinde and Vijay Singh ( a Rajput ruler ) on 24th Jan 1791 after victory of the Marathas in a long battle. Vijay Singh was the one who treachously murdered Jayapa Scindia. 

As per the Treaty

  • As a part of the compensation of the loss during the war, Vijay Singh agreed to pay 60,00,000 . Out of this, 15 lacs should be paid as cash into installments .The first installment of 8 lakh should be paid before 4 February 1791 and second installment of 7 lakh should be paid up to 4th April 1791.
  • Mahadji’s Senapati ,Gopal Rao Bhav should be paid 15 lakh rupees for disbursement of the payment of the army. Out of that one lakh should be paid as gift.
  • He agreed to vacate the Fort of Ajmer and province of Ajmer to Mahadji Shinde. He also agreed to hand over 29 towns belonging to Sambar, Khamba, Masuda and Bheema regions. 
  • He agreed to pay the arrears of Tribute of the previous year for Marwar and Godwad. He will not interfere in the Marwar area which legitimately belongs to the marathas.

By the end of 1791, all the enemies of Mahadji in North India were defeated and crushed. He had regained his hold on North India politics and in the court of Badshah Shah Alam. Now it was time to return back to Pune to strengthen the marathas hold in south as the Pune court had filled with irresponsible people who had no interest in maintaining the strength of Marathas against English. 

He mainly came to Pune to complete his three purposes . 

  1. To complete the accounts relating to the military campaigns in North India.
  2. To call Alibahaider and Tukoji Rao Holkar back from north India. 
  3. To raise a joint front of the native rulers against the English to drive them out completely from every part of India.

According to the great historian Jadunath Sarkar, the first and the second point mentioned above, are more convincing than the third point but the regular meeting of Mahadji Shinde and Shrimant Madhavrao II indicate that he was preparing a warrior king against the British. He had started to train him to tackle the enemy. 

Mahadji Shinde took his last breath on 12th February 1794 in Pune. His health had started to deteriorate from May 1793. He suffered from a high fever.  

The death of Mahadji Shinde had caused a great harm to the marathas as he was one of the pillar of the Maratha empire. His death was the beginning of the Fall of the Maratha empire. 

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