The Rise of Regional Powers after the Death of Aurangzeb!

The Marathas:

With the burial of Aurangzeb Alamgir was also buried the glory and prestige of the Mughal Empire. Dismember­ment of the empire began and the Marathas who were the most formidable of the Hindu powers made a bid for supremacy.

Despite ‘all the struggles and schemes, the campaigns and sieges of this prince (Aurangzeb) the power of the Marathas increased day by day.

They divided all the districts among themselves and in the imperial fashion they appointed their Subahdars, Kamaishdars and Hahdars.


They attacked and destroyed the country as far as the borders of Ahmadabad and the districts of Malwa and spread their devas­tations through the provinces of the Deccan to the environs of Uj- jain’.

The Marathas were the only likely successor to the Mughal empire. But internal dissensions kept them absorbed for some years after the death of Aurangzeb.

On the death of Aurangzeb, Azam the second of the surviving sons of Aurangzeb and a contender for the throne released Shahu, son of Shambhuji and grandson of Shivaji who had been taken cap­tive on the death and execution of his father in 1689 and brought up at the Mughal court. Zul-Fiqr Khan’s suggestion to release Shahu was not due to any motive of mercy but with some ulterior motive. Shahu was allowed to return to the Deccan and claim his patrimony and should he succeed in his attempt he would be a friendly prince and ensure the safety of the Mughal dominions in the south. Or should he fail to obtain a hold on his patrimony, he would embroil the Marathas in a civil war and remove this danger for some time.

Shahu informed the ruling party at Satara of his return and invited their proposals about the future government of the Maratha state. He entered Satara and was crowned in January, 1708. After Shambhuji’s death the affairs of the Marathas fell into the hands of his half-brother Rajaram who carried on a relentless struggle against the Mughals till his death. Tara Bai, widow of Rajaram and a strong and masterful woman declared herself regent on behalf of her infant son and assumed the direction of the Maratha affairs.


The return of Shahu threw an apple of discord before the Marathas. Tara Bai did not recognise Shahu’s claim and commanded her officers to swear fidelity to her minor son. The officers swore no doubt with rice and milk in hand but with grave reservations.

The people and the Maratha officers were on the side of Shahu both sentimentally and due to the legitimacy of his claim, and above all to uphold the dignity of the house of Shivaji. A protracted civil war began and ultimately Shahu emerged victorious. Shahu’s suc­cess was mainly due to the help and advice of Balaji Vishwanath, a Chitpaban brahmin from Konkan. Balaji Viswanath was born of a poor family and was appointed a carcoon, i.e. revenue clerk by Dhanaji Jadav, the commander-in-chief of Shahu; he was sub­sequently raised to the position of the agent in charge of the army. Thus he acquired experience both in the civil and military depart­ments of the government. In 1713 Shahu appointed him Peshwa, i.e. prime minister in recognition of his valuable service.

Balaji Vishwanath:

Balaji Bishwanath was an astute politician and a statesman. He did not fail to utilize the distractions of the tottering Mughal empire to the advantage of the Marathas. He obtained important concessions from Hussain Ali one of the Sayyid brothers who held the emperor as puppet in their hands.

Hussain Ali concluded a treaty with the Marathas on the following terms:


(i) Shahu was to get back all the territories which once formed’ the conquests of Shivaji from the Mughal empire as’ also the provinces of Khandesh, Gondwana, Berar and the districts of Hyderabad and the Karnatak.

(ii) Chauth and Sardeshmukhi of the six Deccan subahs were to be realized by the Marathas in return for the mainte­nance of 15,000 horses for imperial service and payment of an annual tribute of ten lakhs and to maintain peace and order in the Deccan.

The treaty entered into by Balaji Vishwanath with’ the Mughals has been a matter of both criticism and admiration to different writers. Some have praised it as diplomatic triumph of Vishwanath and others have questioned its moral basis. But a third school of historians condemn the minister for accepting the Mughal suzerainty and there­by perpetuating Muslim rule. Their basic arguments are: that Shivaji had fought for an independent Maratha state but the Peshwa threw away the jewel of liberty accepting in exchange the badge of Mughal slavery.

But on a dispassionate consideration it will become evident that there are times when solutions of problems require such face-saving devices and that terms of the treaty were not likely to be worked in actual practice. In fact, the Marathas were granted chauth and sardeshmukhi over six Deccan provinces but eventually they claimed these from the entire Mughal dominion. It is, there­fore, a very pragmatic step of immense value particularly during the rule of the Mughal roi faineants who succeeded Aurangzeb.

The treaty has been rightly looked upon as a ‘landmark in the Maratha history’ as it placed them as recognized partners in the revenues of the imperial provinces and a corollary to political power there. Vishwanath also perceived that the revival of the Maratha power in its old monarchical form was no longer possible and it was necessary to harness the military resources of the country to the common cause by granting concessions to the war-lords who had carved important places for themselves.

He, therefore, had assigned the collections of Gujarat to the Senapati, of Berar and Gondwana to the Bhonsle of Nagpur, of Satara to the Pratinidhi, of Khandesh, Baglan and Central India to the Peshwa himself, Poona to the Sachiva, of the basin of Godavari to the Sarlashkar, etc. It was also dictated by the policy of recognizing the immediate rulers of the different regions who had entrenched themselves in practical power. Yet it must be pointed out that the arrangement placed too much power in the hands of the feudatory chiefs without providing for checking them when necessary.

The jagir system thus initiated in place of Shivaji’s wise policy of payment to the officers led to the eventual dismemberment of the Maratha power. This was perhaps, as some say, because Vishwanath had recognized the lack of commanding talent and energy in Shahu. He tried to arrest the onslaught of the Mughals and eventually turn­ing the tide against them.

He cannot be in all reasonableness held responsible for what became of the Marathas State in the future. He was truly the second founder of the Maratha State and piloted the ship of the State in a stormy sea and steered it safely to a good haven. He did not live long to work out his scheme. But his term of peshwaship may be regarded as a transition from the royal period to the period of the Peshwas.

Baji Rao I (1720-40):

On the death of Balaji Vishwanath in 1720 his son Baji Rao I became Peshwa thereby the office of the Peshwa went dynastic. Shahu appointed him to the post despite objection of his counsellors on the ground of the very young age of Baji Rao who was then only’ twenty. But Shahu’s gratitude to his for­mer Peshwa made him brush aside the objection of the counsellors.

The problems that confronted the young Peshwa were of very difficult nature and the legacy of his father’s policy. The feudatory states who were acting independently posed a great problem. The Nizam challenged the Maratha position and their right to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi from the six Mughal subahs of the Deccan, parts of the Swaraj territory was yet in the hands of the Mughal officers. Shambhuji of Kohlapur, a branch of Shivaji’s family refused to recognise the superior position of Shahu and was actually in col­lusion with the Nizam who posed a serious challenge to the very existence of the Maratha State. To add to these problems was the problem of solution of the Maratha claims on Gujarat and Malwa not yet admitted by the Mughal court. With boldness and imagina­tion Baji Rao addressed himself to the task and ultimately succeeded in solving the impending problems.

He perceived that the Mughal empire was nearing its end and suggested to his master Shahu: “Let us strike at trunk of the withering tree. The branches will fall of themselves. Thus should be Maratha flag fly from the Krishna to the Indus”. Shahu having approved of his plan, Baji Rao launched upon a policy of expansion beyond the Narmada with a view to strik­ing at the centre of imperial power. To evoke the support of the Hindu chiefs and rulers Baji Rao preached the ideal of a Hindu Empire which he called Hindupadpadshahi.

The Province of Malwa served as a link between the Deccan and northern India. Besides being a business centre it had a great strategic importance since any invading army could move easily from Malwa to Gujarat, Rajputana, Bundelkhand or Deccan. Sir Jadunath remarks that first invasion of Malwa by the Marathas began in 1699 and the ‘path thus opened was never closed again till at last in the middle of the eighteenth century Malwa passed into the regu­lar Maratha possession’.

During Vishwanath’s time the treaty signed with Hussain Ali provided for the collection of Chauth and Sardesh­mukhi by the Marathas from Malwa and Gujarat. But the Mughal court rejected this claim. Vishawanath’s negotiations failed to per­suade the Mughal to concede the Maratha claim. What his father failed to achieve through diplomacy Baji Rao sought to wrest by force. Baji Rao invaded Malwa in December, 1723. The local Hindu zamindars assisted him making enormous sacrifices in men and money.

Gujarat was then torn by a civil war. Nizam-ul-Mulk who had been placed in charge of the province had been replaced by Sarbu- land Khan. Nizam unwilling to surrender his authority ordered his Deputy to defy the new Governor. A conflict began between the out-going and the newly appointed governors taking advantage of which the Marathas established their hold on Gujarat. Baji Rao’s success in Gujarat was not to the liking of the hereditary Maratha senapati Trimbak Rao Dhabade as well as Shambhuji of Kohlarpur branch of the Marathas. Nizam-ul-Mulk jealous of Baji Rao’s suc­cess joined hands with Trimbak Rao and Shambhuji II. But by superior genius Baji Rao frustrated the plan of his enemies. Sena­pati Trimbak Rao was defeated and slain in a battle (April 1, 1731) at Bilhapur near Dhaboi (also called the battle of Dhaboi). Nizam’s fond hope of taking advantage of the difference among the rival Maratha leaders with whom he sided, was belied. The province was under Maratha control by 1737.

The battle of Bilhapur or Dhaboi was a landmark in the history of the Peshwas and it left the Peshwa without a rival at home and ‘with all but nominal control of the Maratha sovereignty’. The Nizam whose intrigues against the Peshwa were thoroughly exposed thought it wise to come to terms with him. By an agreement with the Peshwa “the former (Nizam) was to be at liberty to gratify his ambitions in the south, while the Peshwas obtained free hand in the north”.

Baji Rao was fortunate to secure the friendship of Jay Singh of Ambar and Chhatrasal Bundela. In 1737 he marched right up-to the vicinity of Delhi but did not enter the city in order that he might not wound the sentiment of the emperor. The emperor, however, summoned the Nizam to get rid of the Maratha menace.

The Nizam forgetting his agreement with the Peshwas in 1731 (1732) by which he agreed to give a free hand to Peshwa in Hindusthan, i.e. north India did not feel any scruple to march against the Peshwa. The two met near Bhopal and the Nizam was defeated and compelled to beg for terms (Jan. 7, 1738). By the agreement that followed the Nizam was to grant the subahdari of the province of Malwa to the Peshwa and the full sovereignty of the territory between Narmada and Chambal, to obtain from the Emperor confirmation of the ces­sion of this territory and to promise payment of Rs.50 lakhs to meet Peshwa’s war expenses. The Emperor having ratified the agreement the Peshwa who had established a de facto control of a part of Hindusthan became the dejure authority over the area.

While the Peshwa was operating in northern India another Maratha army under Chimanji Appa succeeded in wresting Salsette and Bassein from the Portuguese. These places were seized by the Portuguese nearly two hundred years ago from the Marathas and made Bassein capital of their province and raised strong fortifica­tions there. The conquest of these two districts meant liberating a part of the Maratha homeland (1739).

The news of Nadir Shah’s invasion of India in 1739 purturbed Baji Rao and like a true patriot he made an attempt to offer a united resistance to the invader sinking all his differences with his Muslim neighbours. Nadir’s sack of Delhi bewildered the Peshwa. He was all the more stupefied at the infamous act of the Nizam in suggest­ing to the Persian adventurer to seize the person of the emperor.

The Peshwa felt that a person of Nizam’s character should not be allowed to rule in the Deccan. The Peshwa also received the ear­lier report that Nadir Shah intended to punish the Maratha aggres­sors. He at once sent for his brother who was in his campaign in Bassein. But the confrontation with the Persian adventure did not take place since he left Delhi. But his plan to punish the Nizam did not materialize because of his premature death in 1740 at an early age of forty-two.

Estimate of Baji Rao I:

Opinions are at great variance with regard to the achievements and statesmanship of Baji Rao. Some historians re­gard Baji Rao as a man of extra-ordinary qualities, a born leader and not merely a capable soldier but also a wise statesman. In his states­manship he perceived that the Mughal Empire was on the throes of dissolution and the Marathas should take advantage of the situation.

It was also to his credit that he understood the need of rousing the Hindu sentiment and to that end he preached the ideal of Hindupadpadshahi. ‘Bold and imaginative he definitely formulated the policy of Maratha imperialism initiated by his father, the first Peshwa. He knew how to deal with his enemies and his masterly handling of the situation had frustrated the plan of his rivals Trimbak Rao Dhabade, Shambhuji II and the Nizam.

It was his quality of leadership that helped him to pick up war-loards like the Holkars, Scindias, Phadkes, Pawars etc. He also realized in his deep insight that the Hindus like the Rajputs, Bundelas, Jats etc. were his natural allies against the Mughals. His friendly relations with Sawai Jay Singh and Chhatrasal stood him in good stead in times of need.

He was an expansionist, an empire builder and his policy of northward drive brought the provinces from Punjab to Bengal under the Marathas by 1760. As Sardesai points out, as the result of the work of Baji Rao “Shahu was no longer the petty raja of a small self-contained one race, one language kingdom as his father and grandfather had been, he was now monarch over a far-flung and diversified dominion”. Rajwada, Savarkar and many other writers credit him with founding a Hindu empire supplanting the empire of the Timurids. K. M. Panikkar also remarks in the same strain. He says that “..if Shivaji was the founder of the Maratha state, Baji Rao could claim that he transformed what was a national state into an empire. He was the first man to see the possibilities of suc­ceeding to the Grand Mughal estate and building up a Maratha empire”.

Some historians, however, make mention of his domestic life and personal character and say that Baji Rao had exceeded all bounds of decent life and religious prohibitions by getting infatuated with a dancing girl and partaking of meat, this policy of northward ex­pansion before completely crushing the Nizam in the Deccan has been criticized by some historians. The only success he had over the Nizam was to force him to recognise the Maratha right to collect chauth and sardeshmuki and not beyond that. It has also been ques­tioned that if security of the homeland was his main objective why should he have gone over to conquer Hindusthan leaving a jealous enemy in Nizam behind.

Dr. Dighe observes that Baji Rao did not make any effort to reorganize or reform the political institution of the state for the permanent benefit of the people. He also did not repress the feudal tendencies which were raising their ugly heads after the death of Shivaji, on the contrary he himself became the great military vassal of the time.

But the balance of judgment is in favour of Baji Rao. Sir Jadunath. sees in Baji Rao great constructive foresight and remarks that Baji Rao was besides his many other achievements which entitle him to be regarded as a great statesman and bold military leader, was like Sir Walpole of England the founder of the institution of the prime minister of the Maratha raj. By far the overwhelming majority of the writers are full of praise for the activities and achievements of Baji Rao I.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740-61):

Baji Rao was succeeded by his eldest son Balaji Baji Rao on his death in 1740. Some of the Maratha chiefs were opposed to Balaji’s succession to the Peshwaship, but the post had already gone dynastic in the famility of Vishwanath. Balaji was also called Nana Saheb. He was a young-man of only nineteen years but had already acquired enough ex­perience as he was associated with his father and uncle in the work of civil administration and warfare. In-spite of the opposition and adverse influences of persons like Raghuji Bhonsle and others, Shahu did not agree to brush aside Balaji Baji Rao’s claim because of the qualities of the young man.

Balaji Baji Rao was a man of ability and ‘after the manner of his father, engaged vigorously in the prosecution of hostilities, the organisation and equipment of a large army, and the preparation of the munitions of war’. He was wise enough to secure the services of some of the trusted and experienced officers of his father.

Balaji’s Peshwaship may be divided into two phases, the first one from his appointment as the Peshwa to the death of Shahu, that is, from 1740 to 1749. During the first phase of his office he was under the direction of Shahu who although would not take any active part in military campaigns did determine the policy of the State. Shahu divided the work and various spheres of Maratha actives of the south and the north and placed them under separate ministers, generals and nobles in-order to minimise conflict amongst them. His aim was to bring whole of India under the Maratha influence while maintaining the nominal existence of the Mughal Emperor. His idea was to establish a Mughal-Maratha governance of India as a whole.

This was to be done by accepting governorship of the Mughal provinces and administering them directly or to obtain the right of collecting chauth and sardeshmukhi from certain territories leaving the administration in the hands of the Mughals, on condition of protecting the area against foreign aggression.

Balaji set himself in right earnest to complete the half-finished task of his father. He organised four expeditions to the north be­tween 1740 and 1748, the first one being against Rajputana which was then torn by wars of succession and civil wars for the thrones of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Kota and Bundi and everywhere Maratha help was sought. As the imperial power in Rajputana had been com­pletely destroyed, the Marathas became a stronger power there by invitation. Unfortunately the Maratha sardars began to side with the party that paid them more, often changing sides for higher amounts.

Peshwa was not in a position to check this wrong, sel­fish policy of the Maratha sardars, the result was that no permanent solution of the problems of Rajputana could be found and a great opportunity to bring it under permanent control of the Marathas was lost. Rajputana remained in permanent turmoil, economically ruined by constant pecuniary demands by the Marathas. But the net result of the first campaign to the north was the payment of rupees fifteen lakhs to him by the Emperor who also promised a firman granting chauth and sardeshmukhi of Malwa. Peshwa, however, demanded chauth over, all the imperial provinces.

Balaji Baji Rao’s second campaign towards the north took place between 1741 and 1743 when he passed into the provinces of Bihar and Bengal through Bundelkhand. These subahs were captured by Alivardi Khan defying imperial authority in 1740.

The Peshwa wanted to establish Maratha claim of chauth and sardeshmukhi over these provinces. Raghuji Bhonsle claimed these provinces as lying within his sphere of influence, this led to a conflict’ between the Peshwa and Raghuji. Alivardi Khan sought the help of the Peshwa against Raghuji. The Emperor granted the chauth of these provin­ces to Shahu on condition of their being protected from any inter­ference.

But Raghuji made a number of expeditions against Bengal and Orissa whereupon Alivardi implored the help of the Peshwa who expelled Raghuji from the province of Bengal. Raghuji appealed to Shahu who transferred four subahs of Malwa, Agra, Ajmer and Allahabad, and Tikari and Bhojpur in Bihar to Peshwa as within his sphere of influence and Bengal, Orissa, Oudh and parts of Bihar to Raghuji.

They were asked not to interfere in each other’s sphere of influence. Raghuji invaded Bengal six times before Alivardi agreed to pay 12 lakhs of rupees annually to him as chauth of Bengal and Bihar and also to pay to him the surplus revenue of Orissa. Raghuji agreed not to enter Bengal again. Later on Bhonsles of Nagpur annexed Orissa to their kingdom of Berar and established their full sovereignty over it.

Returning from Bengal the Peshwa led a third campaign to settle the affairs of Rajputana and Bundelkhand. In this expedi­tion Bhilsa was captured from the Nawab of Bhopal but the hostilities continued till 1747.

The fourth campaign to the north was undertaken in 1747. One or the objects of the Peshwa was to assist the Emperor against Ahmad Shah Abdali who invaded India in 1747. The other objective was to settle the affairs of Rajasthan and to realize the Maratha claims. Abdali having been defeated by the Emperor’s forces, Peshwa was not required to proceed further (1748). He returned after mak­ing some arrangement with regard to Rajasthan.

In 1749 Shahu died but on the eye of his death he left a testament giving the Peshwa supreme power in the State with certain reservations. The Peshwa was enjoined to preserve the dig­nity of the house of Shivaji through the grandson of Tarabai and his descendants and to perpetuate the name of the Raja. He was also required to treat Kohlapur State as independent and to re­cognise the rights of all jagirdars with power to make adjustments as might be ‘beneficial for extending Hindu power, for protecting the temples of the gods, cultivators of the soil, or whatever was sacred or useful’.

Tarabai challenged the arrangements made by Shahu in his last testament and rose in arms acting in concert with Damaji Gaikwar and threw the young Raja into confinement. Balaji defeated this concerted move and restored the Raja on the throne who ever since became virtual prisoner at the hands of Balaji who now became the teal head of the Maratha confederacy.

During the second phase of his career (1749-1761) Balaji was busy in his campaigns as well as in the politics of the south.. On the death of Nizam-ul-Mulk Nasir Jang succeeded as the Nizam but the succession was challenged by his nephew Muzaffar Jang.

The war of succession that followed gave opportunity to Balaji to liberate Khandesh and Berar and by the treaty of Bhallci, in 1752, with Sala-bat Jang, the new Nizam, it was agreed that both parties would con­duct joint campaign against Karnataka. There was no conflict be­tween the Peshwa and the Nizam during 1752 to 1756. But the Nizam’s failure to pay 25 lakhs jagir as promised, led to a campaign by the Peshwa against the Nizam in 1757. The Nizam made peace with the Peshwa by again promising the jagir but again failed.

In 1759 Balaji decided to crush the Nizam finally and in the campaign of udgir in 1759 the Nizam was completely defeated. The Marathas captured Daulatabad, Burhanpur with fort Asirgarh. Ahmadnagar and Bijapur. In the peace that followed the Nizam ceded to the Marathas rupees sixty lakhs worth of jagir territories, Asirgarh, Bija­pur and Burhanpur. Ahmadnagar had already been possessed by the Marathas. But the battle of Panipat in 1761 prevented the Peshwa to take full advantage of his victory over the Nizam.

During 1753 to 1760 the Peshwa conducted several campaigns in Karnataka to establish Maratha supremacy there and to ensure a regular flow of tribute. In different campaigns he entered into Savnur, Harihar, Bidnur, Srirangapattam. He also got a lot of tributes and occupied certain territories but matters were not finally settled.

The Peshwa with the help of the British destroyed the naval power of Tulaji Angria because Tulaji did not maintain good terms with the Peshwa and often proved disloyal and arrogant. The Peshwa, therefore, sought the help of the English to crush Tulaji.

This was the most indiscreet action of the Peshwa for while he allowed the foreigners to meddle in the home affairs of the Marathas it liquidated a strong naval base which was necessary to maintain security of the south against sea powers. Tulaji could defy the western power because of his strong navy. The English were too glad to liquidate with the help of an Indian power the possible enemy of theirs on the Indian soil.

Repeated attacks of Ahmad Shah Abdali taking advantage of the progressive decay of the Mughal power drew the Marathas also into the Delhi politics. Terrified by the invasion of Abdali in 1751 the wazir Safdar Jang requisitioned the Maratha help. An agree­ment was concluded and the wazir agreed to the payment of 50 lakhs to the Marathas for the protection of the empire against the invader, surrender of Agra and Ajmer, and right of chauth from Sind, Punjab and the Doab.

The Emperor on the other hand bought peace with the invader Abdali by surrendering Punjab, although it was pro­mised that the Marathas would be allowed the chauth therefrom. The agreement entered into by the wazir with the Peshwa was not rati­fied by the emperor but this whetted the ambition of the Marathas.

In 1757 Ahmad Shah Abdali crossed Punjab ravaged the entire territory from Delhi to Maratha during the course of which he des­troyed Hindu temples, looted their treasures and killed innumerable Hindus. Raghunath Rao and Malhar Rao were sent against the Afghan invader.

In 1758 Abdali left for Kabul while the Maratha army reached Delhi. Raghunath Rao reinstated the emperor on the Delhi throne and established Maratha supremacy over the entire region from Sutlej to Benares. The Maratha expansion was a chal­lenge to ambitions of Ahmad Shah and he marched towards Delhi (1759). Attempts were made to check the progress of Ahmad Shah at Thaneswar and again near the Jamuna. But in the encounter Dattaji Scindia was killed, Malhar Rao’s attempts to check the troops of Abdali also proved unavailing. A reinforcement was sent from Poona under the command of Sadasiv Rao Bhau to check the Afghan invader.

The two armies met at the historic plains of Panipat on January 14, 1761. It became clear that only force to reckon with in India was not the Mughals but the Marathas. The Marathas lost the day and the Maratha dream of an all India Hindu empire was dashed to the ground. It was a national disaster. The Peshwa who was already suffering from a wasting disease died, heart-broken, at Poona on June 23, 1761.

Significance of the Third Battle of Panipat (1761):

When the Delhi empire under the Mughals was on the throes of dissolu­tion it became an open invitation to the foreign invaders. Nadir Shah had already dealt a moral blow to the Empire in 1739. His successor Ahmad Shah Abdali repeatedly invaded India. The Mara­thas regarded it as a challenge to their policy of expansion and supremacy over whole of India. Abdali on his part regarded the Marathas rather than the Mughals as the obstacle on his way to invasion and loot of India.

The Marathas who had acquired great strength and vast territories and dreamed of a Hindu empire posed as the defenders of the Mughal empire against external invasion for their interest lay in keeping the fiction of the Mughal empire alive till Maratha supremacy was finally established over India.

The wazir Safdar Jang also thought the Marathas to be the only saviour against the Afghan invader and he invited the Marathas to the help of the emperor and entered into an agreement with them. The agreement was, however, not ratified by the emperor, but it was enough recognition of the fact that the Marathas were the only power in India that could save the country against foreign invasion.

Once in 1748 the Peshwa marched in defence of the emperor against Abdali but there was no confrontation as Abdali had left India in the same year. In 1758 the Maratha forces under Raghu-nath Rao crossed into the Punjab and drove out Prince Timur son of Ahmad Shah whom the latter had left as the governor of the Punjab. Adina Beg Khan was appointed governor of Punjab and on his death Sabaji Scindia took over as the governor. Abdali took up the Maratha expansion as a challenge and appeared in the scene.

He received the support of Najib Khan and the Bangash Pathans who saw in the invasion of Abdali the prospect of the revival of the Pathan rule in India and. they exhorted Abdali to free the emperor from the control of the infidel Marathas. Najib Khan also exer­cised his influence to enlist the support of Suja-ud-daulah’ the nawab of Oudh, the Ruhela chiefs Hafiz Rahmat Khan, Sadulla Khan, Malla Khan, Dundi Khan etc. “Abdali as a devout Mussalman resented Maratha aggression on his co-religionists in Hindusthan. The cup of his fury was full, and he resolved to bring to a decisive issue his quarrel with the Hindoo power which had thus crossed his track of conquest, ill-treated his allies, and made war on true believers” (Sydney Owen).

The Marathas on the other hand could not act in combination with the Rajputs who were alienated by the unsympathetic policy pursued by Balaji and preferred to remain neutral. They could not also secure the alliance of the Sikhs who were rising in the Pun­jab. Short-sighted policy of Balaji deprived him the support of many of the Indian powers at a critical juncture of Indian history.

In a few minor skirmishes and battles for about two months between the Marathas and the Afghan forces in 1760 the Maratha army suffered losses and was reduced almost to starvation level for want of adequate provisions. It was in such circumstances of dis­advantage that the Marathas marched to give battle with the Afghan invader in the morning of January 14, 1761 in the field of Panipat.

The Maratha leader like Malhar Rao Holkar, Jankoji Scindia, Sadasiv Rao Bhau commanded the Maratha army. Due to superior military tactics, fanatic zeal and larger forces and an intrepid cavalry on the side of the Afghan invader the advantages were definitely against the Marathas. After some initial success the day was lost to the Marathas. Viswas Rao was shot dead and Sadasiv Rao fell and his head cut off by five Durani horsemen greedy for the costly dress of Sadasiv Rao.

“The supreme leaders of the Marathas fell in the field of Pani­pat and thousands of soldiers and other people of all descriptions, men, women and children were massacred”.

The impact of the Maratha defeat in the Third battle of Pani­pat was as deep as wide. It produced disastrous consequences for the Marathas and seriously deflected the course of Maratha imperialism. The loss in men and money was immense. But the mural effect of the defeat was even many times greater. It made clear that Maratha friendship was no better than leaning on a weak reed. The Maratha confederacy lost its cohesion and authority of the Peshwa was seriously damaged. The Maratha could never re­cover their pre-1761 position or status.

From the human point of view the battle of Panipat was a decimation of Maratha youth and leaders as it happened with France in the first-world war. As Sir Jadunath states: “There was not a home in Maharastra that had not to mourn the loss of a member and several of their very heads, and entire generation of leaders was cut off at one stroke. It was in short, a nation-wide disaster like Flooden Field”.

Why were the Marathas Defeated ?:

The factors and forces that combined to bring about the defeat of the Marathas at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 were numerous.

In the strength of army the Afghans had a decisive advantage over the Marathas. The Afghan strength was 60,000 of which Abdali’s own forces comprised 23,000 horse and 7,000 foot and of his Indian allies, 7,000 horses and 23,000 foot. Thus the deficiency of his own foot soldiers had been covered by his Indian foot soldiers while his sufficient number of cavalry had been added to by the Indian cavalry.

The Maratha army on the other hand comprised 45,000 both foot and horse combined. Trained in hilly terrains Abdali’s cavalry was more agile, quick and efficient compared to the Marathas. Abdali’s officers were clad in armour while only few of the Marathas wore armour. This made the latter more vulnerable. There was better discipline among the Afghan side and their plan was more suitable for the field and definitely superior.

The skirmishes for more than two months that had preceded the battle of Panipat resulted in the cutting off the rear of the Marathas and the road to Delhi was delinked. This relegated the whole conflict into a siege operation. With their supply line cut off the Marathas were half starved when they had to face the enemies in the field of Panipat and they fought with the enthusiasm touched by despair. Two days before the actual operation there was not a mor­sel of food and officers and soldiers approached Sadasiv Bhau not to let them perish in that miserable condition. But Bhau’s reply was ‘Let us make a valiant struggle against the enemy and then what fate has ordained will happen’. The famine condition precipitated action by the Marathas.

While most of the Muslim powers of northern India, particularly the Afghans, had rallied round the invader, the Marathas had not been able to enlist the support of the Rajputs or the Sikhs or the Fats. The Hindu powers remained neutral in a fight that was to decide the political history of India.

There was also no want of mutual jealousies and recriminations among the Maratha leaders. There was no love lost between Malhar Rao and Sadasiv Bhau. There was naturally, lack of discipline among the Maratha soldiers and of unity among the commanders so very necessary in battles.

While Abdali was by far the best military general of Asia of the time the Maratha leader Sadasiv Bhau though an intrepid sol­dier was high-browed and offensive in his manners and dealings with his men and officers.

The Marathas failed also because their leaders and captains did not understand the tactics and strategy of their Afghan enemies’. .the Maratha habits and character and their own equipment in men, money and resources were not adequate for such a huge task in the face of foreign military powers and internal selfish and aggrandising rulers and officers’. The Maratha historians have a tendency to minimise the effects of the battle of Panipat (1761).

As Sir Jadunath points out: “It has become a fashion with the Maratha histo­rians to minimise the political results of the third battle of Panipat. But a dispassionate survey of Indian history will show how unfounded this chauvinistic claim is. A Maratha army did, no doubt restore the exiled Mughal emperor to the capital of his father in 1772, but they came there not as king-makers, not as the dominators of the Mughal emperor and the real master of his nominal ministers and generals. That proud position was secured by Mahadji Scindia in 1789 and by the British in 1803”.

Maratha historian Sardesai is of opinion that by the battle of Panipat the Marathas did not practically lose anything of importance except the loss of number of soldiers and Abdali also did not gain anything, for, the battle was not decisive on any count. The two leaders Nana Fadnavis and Mahadji Scindia who had miraculously escaped death on that fatal day later on resuscitated the Maratha Power to former glory.

But it may be pointed out that the efforts of Nana Fadnavis or Mahadji Scindia did not succeed in restoring the Marathas to pre-1761 position in India.

Sir Jadunath also remarks that the Battle of Panipat by removing nearly all the great Maratha captains left the path absolutely open and easy to the guilty ambition of Raghunath Rao, ‘the most in­famous character in the Maratha history.’ Sardesai’s counter argu­ment that the Panipat brought to the Marathas a unique experience in politics and war and heightened their national pride and senti­ment as nothing else could have done, does not seem to be con­vincing.

After all, the Panipat had beyond doubt lowered the status and prestige of the Marathas in Indian politics and they were looked upon as weak reed to depend upon and no Indian power again sought their help. Panipat proved to be the burial ground of the Maratha dream of an all-Indian-embracing empire.

Estimate of Balaji Baji Rao:

Balaji was a youth of eighteen when he succeeded his father to the Peshwaship. Although he did not possess his father’s talents, he was not devoid of ability, military skill, power of organisation etc. Shahu in recognition of his ability had supported his claim to the Peshwaship despite opposi­tion of a section of high officials, and even gave him the supreme power of the State by his testament.

He was determined to further the cause of Maratha imperialism and he did not falter in taking advantage of every favourable circumstance to expand the Maratha power. Doubtlessly, under him the Maratha dominion reached its zenith.

In internal administration he followed a policy of paternalism by causing vast improvements in the judicial department and in both civil and criminal laws thereby making the government the true guardian of the people. His administration was both humane and benign. The collectors of revenue were made to keep proper ac­counts and this by itself resulted in great improvement in collections and reduction in unnecessary expenditure. The law-breakers at Poona were brought under control by the establishment of a strong police force. He was also not unmindful of the need for develop­ment of trade, building of good roads. He also spent for the build­ing of a number of temples. Speaking generally, the condition of the people of Maharastra improved considerably under his rule.

Despite all this, Balaji Baji Rao had taken certain steps which did not prove helpful to the Maratha State. Under him the Maratha army underwent a revolutionary change, which was a departure from the policy of his father. He increased the number of cavalry but the tactics of fight remained traditional. He admitted into his army many non-Maratha mercenaries of all descriptions with a view to introducing western mode of warfare.

But while he did not give up the old tactics of fighting, he by introducing non-Maratha mercenaries destroyed the national character of his army. With alien elements in the army who fought for money, it was difficult to main­tain discipline in them and to control them at times. Balaji ‘deli­berately gave up his father’s ideal of Hindupadpadshahi which aimed at uniting all the Hindu chiefs under one flag. “The evil effect this mistaken policy was seen in the neutrality of the Hindu chiefs when the Marathas fought in the Battle of Panipat”.

Balaji also did not forsake the policy of predatory warfare against the Muslim. Maratha raids against the Hindu chiefs alienated the sympathy of the Rajputs and other Hindus. Under him Maratha imperialism ceased to stand for an all-embracing Hindu nationalism and naturally it was no longer possible to unite the Hindus under one banner against the Muslims. Thus while in the field of Pani­pat all the Muslim chiefs of northern India put up a united fight the Marathas had to fight single handed.

Balaji’s unwise crossing over to the Punjab wherefrom Abdali’s son Timur was expelled incurred the wrath of Abdali. It was also unwise on his part not to recognise that another formidable power the English was taking roots in India and he assisted them by liquidat­ing the naval strength of Tulaji Aneria with the help of the English, to the advantage of the latter. Thus while we may credit Balaji Baji Rao with military ability, boldness, and praise his humane adminis­tration, he could not raise himself to the status of a statesman.


Under the Mughal the subah of Oudh comprised Oudh proper, Benares, some districts near Allahabad, some territories to the west of Oudh and Kanpur. The founder of the kingdom of Oudh was Sadat Khan. On his death in 1724, his nephew Safdar Jang be­came the subahdar of Oudh. He began to rule independently. When Nadir Shah invaded India and sacked Delhi the nobles and lards were forced to pay levies. Safdar Jang had to pay a sum of rupees two crores in cash and kind which had been levied on him by the for­eign invader.

He was appointed wazir, that is, Prime Minister of the Delhi emperor in 1748. He was regarded as an interloper by the old nobility of the court whose pedigree went back to reign of Aurangzeb. Javid, Khan was the real power behind the Delhi throne and he opposed the new wazir. The Afghans also opposed him and they defeated him and he had to enter into a peace treaty with them in 1752. But soon after he caused Javid Khan to be killed (1753) after which he assumed all powers of the state.

In his anxiety to grab all powers he antagonized the nobles of the court who began a conspiracy against him. The emperor himself was a party to the conspiracy. In the civil war that followed Safdar Jang could not fare well and had to leave for Oudh in 1753. Safdar Jang was a man with no administrative ability nor was he possessed of states­manlike qualities. But he gave peace to the people of Oudh and when the Rohillas and Bangashes attacked Oudh he saved Oudh by making peace with them. Of course it was under the orders of the emperor that he entered into the peace treaty with them. With his death in 1754 ended the inglorious period of his wazirship.

Safdar Jang’s son Suja-ud-daulah succeeded him as the subahdar of Oudh, From Jean Law we know that Suja-ud-daulah was the most handsome person of India at that time. His figure towered above that of the wazir Imad-ul-Mulk, his heart was more gener­ous than that of the wazir but his spirit was inferior, for he gave him­self up to pleasures, hunting and most violent exercises. His perso­nal character had little commendable in it.

The middle of the eighteenth century in the history of India was a period of significance and rapid political changes and Suja played a significant part in it. His relations with the wazir Imad-ul-Mulk were extremely bitter which led to plots and counter plots between the two. There were also open fight between the two, but ultimately peace was restored between then in 1757.

But the jealously and hostility of Imad-ul-Mulk, however, did not end with that. Imad-ul-Mulk’s usurpation of all powers of the emperor and the fear of life that he generated in the mind of Prince Ali Gauhar (later Emperor Shah Alam II) threw him into the arms of Suja-ud- daulah. Ali Gauhar took shelter with Suja-ud-daulah and at his request Ali Gauhar invaded Bihar with no success (1759).

On the death of his father Alamgir II in 1759, Prince Ali Gauhar declared himself Emperor with the name Shah Alam II and in 1762 he appoint­ed Suja-ud-daulah his wazir. Shah Alam II was still in Oudh avoiding going to Delhi for fear of life. At the instance of Suja-ud-daulah, his wazir, Shah Alam led an expedition against Hindupati, lord of the major part of Bundelkhand and compelled him to pay a fine of seventy-five lakhs of rupees and an annual tribute of twenty-five lakhs.

In 1763 Mir Qasim, nawab of Bengal after his initial defeat at the hands of the English East India Company came to Suja-ud-daulah for help. Both Suja-ud-daulah and Shah Alam agreed to join hands with Mir Qasim against the English. But in the battle of Buxar the combined forces were defeated by the English. Shah Alam became a pensioner of the English, the territories of Suja-ud-daulah fell under the control of the English and Mir Qasim had to fly for his life. Thus ended the independent rule of the Subahdar of Oudh.

The Sikhs:

In 1708 Guru Govind Singh was stabbed to death by an Af­ghan assassin. But the Sikhs got a leader in Banda. He was a trusted disciple of Guru Govind but about his early life and antecedents very little is known which may be regarded as trust­worthy. With Banda began the Sikh war of independence against the Mughals. With 40,000 Sikh armed men Banda defeated the Mughal army near Sirhind and occupied Sirhind.

This was done as a retaliatory measure against the Faujdar of Sirhind who had mur­dered Guru Govind’s children. The Faujdar was also killed by a gun shot. Great atrocities were perpetrated by Banda and his armed men in Sirhind by way of vengeance. Banda placed Bar Singh as governor of Sirhind. He also occupied the whole area between the Sutlej and the Jamuna and built a strong fort at Lohgarh where he assumed the title Saccha Padishah i.e. true sovereign and struck coins in his name.

Bahadur Shah marched against Banda and besieged his new stronghold Lohgarh. After some desultory fighting Banda with a large number of his followers took shelter in the hills near Lahore and began to levy contributions on the fairest parts of the Punjab. Bahadur Shah hastened to Lahore but on reaching there he died in 1712. Banda lost no time in coming out of the place of his hiding and recovered Lohgarh. He occupied the town of Sadhaura and built another fort at Gurdaspur.

The fort was as large as massive. It had very high and thick walls. The Mughal Viceroy of Lahore marched against Banda with a large force but was defeated at the hands of Banda. Emperor Farrukhsiyar ordered Abdus Samad Khan, governor of Kashmir to march to assume command in the Punjab and sent some chosen troops to assist him in his task (1715). Abdus Samad Khan succeeded in defeating Banda who gave stiff fight. Banda was trailed and he had to move from place to place. But he fought valiantly against the Mughal and inflicted severe loss on them. But ultimately he had to take shelter at his fort at Gurdaspur.

The Mughal forces besieged the fort and there was fierce fighting between the two sides. For eight months the Sikhs fought desperately ‘against all the forces that the empire could bring against them for the space of eight months’. Banda had to surren­der ultimately on December 17, 1715. Banda and his followers were sent to Delhi and a reward was given for each Sikh head. Banda was sent in an iron cage on an elephant. Inhuman torture on Banda led to his death. Before his death his son was killed before his eyes. After Banda’s death a systematic persecution of the Sikhs went on and the fortunes of the Sikhs were reduced to the lowest ebb by 1716.

But a people in whose hearts the tenets of Nanak and Guru Govind had taken roots could not be completely crushed. They nursed their faith in secret and clung to the hope of adequate re­venge and recovery of their power. The disorganized Sikhs found a leader in one Kapur Singh and began to raise their heads again. Invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739 which brought disorder and confu­sion in upper India gave opportunity to the Sikhs to recover their lost strength.

Invasion of Nadir Shah enfeebled the Mughal govern­ment in the Punjab and the confusion that prevailed helped the Sikhs to increase their financial resources and to increase their military strength. ‘The suppression of the Sikhs, difficult under all circumstances, became even more difficult now’. By 1745 they be­came so strong that Jassa Singh came down to the plains and raided Kasur. The Sikhs built a fort at Dalewal and organised themselves.

On the death of Zakariya Khan, Governor of the Punjab in 1745 the appointment of a governor there was delayed due to the intrigues in the Delhi court. Ultimately wazir Qamar-ud-din Khan was appointed governor of the Punjab. But he was an absentee governor. All this led to disorder in the Punjab.

The efficient rule of Zakariya Khan had given Punjab peace and security but now all lawless men, plunderers and adventurers who were so long in hiding came out and began to destroy the land. To cope with the situation Zakariya Khan appointed Yahya Khan as deputy gover­nor of the Punjab. Yahya Khan passed orders for the massacre of the Sikhs but this could not be done as a serious quarrel broke out between Yahya Khan and his brother Shahnawaz Khan.

It was about this time that Ahmad Shah Abdali began his raids of India (1748-67). Abdali’s career of repeated incursions into India had a decisive influence on the rise of the Sikh power and helped their struggle for independence. The first invasion of Abdali was gallantly fought back by Mir Mannu, son of wazir Qamar-ud-din.

The Sikhs pursued the Afghan army up-to the Indus and looted their belongings. In the general confusion the Sikhs con­solidated their position and occupied a large portion of Bari and Jullundur Doab. Sikh Sardars who now organised the Sikhs and raised an army of nearly seven thousand valiant Sikh fighters were Jassa Singh, Chharat Singh, Bharo Singh and Karora Singh.

Mir Mannu, son of wazir Qamar-ud-din Khan, was now the governor of the Punjab continued the policy of ruthless suppression of the Sikhs. But the jealousy of the new wazir Safdar Jang who was appointed on the death of wazir Qamar-ud-din in 1748, to­wards Mir Mannu, the rivalry of the son of Zakariya Khan and other conflict of interests, and above all the repeated invasions of Abdali gave the Sikhs opportunity to reorganize them-selves. They took all the advantages offered by the distractions of a falling empire in ex­tending and establishing their power.

When Ahamad Shah Abdali invaded India for the fourth time in 1756, the Sikhs did not face him openly but hung about his camps plundering and cutting off his provisions. Abdali put the Mughal emperor to such a fear that he ceded the Punjab, Kashmir, Tatta and Sirhind to him. Abdali returned to his country leaving his son Timur Shah as governor of the Indian territories and Jahan Khan as his wazir. Timur and Jahan Khan began to pursue a policy of ruthless subjugation of the Sikhs.

They massacred a huge number of Sikhs in Amritsar and desecrated the Sikh holy shrine there. All this coupled with insult done to one of the Sikh religious guides by Jahan Khan led to Sikh rebellion on all sides. In consequence, utter lawlessness and disorder prevailed in the Punjab. The Sikhs began to plunder even the suburbs of Lahore. Under the Maratha advice the Sikhs began to attack Abdali’s Indian territories and expelled the Afghan outposts from several places. All attempts at defeating the Sikhs proved unavailing.

Adina Beg who was the Mughal officer placed in charge of Jullundur Doab invited the Marathas to help him against the Afghans. The Marathas invaded the Punjab in 1758. This was their first invasion of the Punjab. The Marathas combined with the Sikhs looted Sirhind. Here was a chance for a combination of two strong forces of Hindustan which could have changed the history of India.

But the unbecoming pride and presumptions of the Marathas, their greed for plunder, the clever manipulations of Adina Beg to keep the Marathas and the Sikhs divided in order to serve his selfish ends and the lack of appreciation of the political situation and far-sighted-ness on the part of the Marathas and the Sikhs kept the Sikhs and the Marathas apart.

When Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India again in 1761, he had to fight against the Marathas who had become the most formidable power in India. Abdali had to fight with the Marathas and not against the Mughals for supremacy in India. In the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 (Jan. 14th) the Maratha forces were defeated.

As Abdali was returning he was much harassed by the Sikhs who plundered the booties that were being carried away by the Afgan forces. Abdali could not do anything as his army was heavily loaded with loots and booties. As he had crossed Attock, the Sikhs blockaded Lahore. The invasion of Abdali had thrown the Punjab into disorder and confusion which afforded opportunities to the Sikhs to assert their power. ‘The most glorious chapter of Sikh history was now to begin.’

The Sikhs had valiantly withstood the persecutions of the Mughals and the attacks of the Afghans but their undaunted spirit eventually became triumphant and in 1764 they assembled at Amritsar and made the first declaration of Sikh sovereignty and struck coins with the incriptions Deg Teg Fateh. After the final depar­ture of Abdali the Sikhs recovered Lahore and between 1767 and 1773 they extended their power from Shaharanpur in the east to Attock in the west and from Multan in the south to Kangra and the Jamuna to the north. They organised themselves into thirteen Misls or confederacies. These were the Misls of Bangi, Ahluwalia, Faizullapuria, Ramgarh, Kanheya, Sukerchakia, Nakhai, Dalewalia, Karora Singhia, Phulkia, Nabha, Jhind and Kythal.

The Ruhelas or the Rohillas:

The Mughals had wrested mastery of Hindustan from the hands of the Afghans in the sixteenth century and in the eighteenth century when the Mughal empire was in the process of disintegration the Afghans made a bid for supremacy. With the Mughal victory in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, there was no Afghan state anywhere in India nor any Afghan ruling house.

But there were some Afghan settlements in Allahabad, Darbhanga, Orissa and Sylhet. In the first half of the eighteenth century there was a fresh wave of Afghan migration into India and the Afghan immigrants were employed as mercenaries by different rulers of India. Many of the Afghans had settled as solid blocks between Agra and Delhi in the west and Allaha­bad and Oudh in the east.

One of the Afghan settlements was Ruhelkhand or Rohilkhand which was settled by an Afghan soldier of fortune named Daud. Daud and his followers served as mercenaries of the local landowners and later of the imperial governor of the area. His adopted son Ali Muhammad Khan succeeded to the command of Daud’s followers and began to pursue an ambitious plan of expansion of his estate. He served under the imperial faujdar of Muradabad and by gradually depriving the local zamindars and jagirdars of their territories he built up a vast estate in the Bareilly district.

In 1727 Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla defeated Muhammad Salih and occupied his territory which had been granted to him by the imperial court. He then declared himself Nawab and appointed officials in the manner of a royal court. Wazir Qamar-ud-din Khan prevailed upon him and he agreed to be appointed a revenue col­lector in the place of Muhammad Salih, under the emperor of Delhi.

But when Nadir Shah invaded the Mughal empire and carried on depredations at Delhi, Ali Muhammad Rohilla began to seize terri­tories of the Mughals on all sides. The wazir ordered Raja Harnand Arora, Deputy Governor of Muradabad, to proceed against the Rohilla Chief. In the battle that followed between Ali Muhammad Rohilla and Raja Harnand the latter was defeated and killed.

This immensely enhanced the power and prestige of the Rohilla Chief and thousands of Afghans flocked to his leadership. Ali Muhammad Rohilla now launched upon a career of conquest and extended his territories to few parganas of Badaun, and Bareilly. He also occupied Pilbhit and the kingdom of Kumaun. In 1748 the whole of Bijnor passed under his control.

The Afghans were intrepid soldiers, extremely mobile on foot, had accurate shots and knew the right moment to strike. The attempt of emperor Muhammad Shah at the persuasion by the wazir Safdar Jang to proceed against Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla led to a doubt­ful victory and ultimately the emperor had to make peace with the Rohilla Chief. Ali Muhammad agreed to surrender the imperial fiefs conquered by him and to dismantle the fortifications of Bangarh. The emperor appointed him faujdar of Sirhind and granted him mansab of 4,000. Two of Ali Muhammad Khan’s sons were kept at Delhi as hostages.

On hearing of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s intended march towards Delhi Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla left his post at Sirhind, returned to Rohilkhand, and made him independent of the Mughal empire.

Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla died in 1748 (Sept. 15). His eldest sons Faizullah Khan and Abdullah Khan who were captives at Delhi were sent by Abdali to Qandahar as captives. His four other sons were very young. Ali Muhammad Khan before his death nominated his third son Sadullah Khan to succeed him till such time his elder sons might return and also nominated Rahmat Khan as the hafiz, that is, regent. Dundi Khan was appointed commander-in- chief. Fatti Khan was to take special care of his three other minor sons and Sardar Khan was appointed paymaster of the troops. Hafiz Rahamat Khan, Dundi Khan and others were each the father-in-law of one or the other of the sons of Ali Muhammad Khan.

The arrangement did not work as was intended by Ali Muhammad Khan. Sadullah Khan was a profligate youth and the whole charge of the revenue, administration and the management of the troops passed into the hands of hafiz Rahamat Khan.

After some time Safdar Jang who did not feel it easy or safe to see Rohilkhand under the Afghans so close to his subah, ‘as ser­pents infesting his road to Delhi’ devised a plan to liquidate, them by setting one Afghan leader against another, in the hope that whosoever would lose, he himself would have one enemy less. He instigated the Bangash chief Qaim Khan to drive out the Afghans from Rohilkhand and to that end he appointed Qaim Khan faujdar of Rohilkhand.

The Rohillas refused to accept Qaim Khan as their faujdar and when the latter marched against Rohilkhand he was defeated and killed by a shot. All the territories under the posses­sion of the Bangash house on the eastern back of the Ganges came under Rohilkhand. Hafiz Rahamat Khan, however, persuaded his followers not to destroy the Afghans of the Bangash house thereby reducing the Afghan strength by internecine war.

The Bangash Afghans naturally became inimical to the wazir Safdar Jang and defeated him in a battle. This disgraced him at the Delhi court. To recover his lost prestige Safdar Jang entered into an alliance with the Jats and the Marathas for invading Rohilkhand. But on hear­ing of the approach of Ahmad Shah Abdali the emperor asked Saf­dar Jang to make peace with Rohilkhand. Safdar Jang was com­pelled to make peace with his enemies in 1752.

The Rohillas had to surrender some of the mahals they occupied from the Bangash chief Qaim Khan to his sons and were confirmed in their posses­sions of other mahals captured from the Bangash house and to pay revenue for these mahals. Some of the territories were put in pos­session of Govind Pant Bundela, the Maratha agent, and a small part was kept by Safdar Jang himself.

Matters remained unaltered till the third battle of Panipat, 1761. The Rohillas and the Bangash Afghans rendered help to the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali and thereby made some gains. Under Hafiz Rahamat Khan who was a brave warrior as also a wise ruler, the Rohillas lived in peace and prosperity particularly during the period 1761 to 1768.

The Nawab of Oudh and the Marathas coveted the land Of the Rohillas but Marathas were a common menace to Oudh and Rohilkhand. In the mean-time a third ele­ment came into the picture. This was the English East India Com­pany. The English also had a formidable enemy in the Marathas. In 1772 the Nawab of Qudh and the Rohillas signed a peace treaty in presence of Sir Robert Barkar. It was not long after that the Nawab of Oudh with the English help entered into a war with the Rohillas.

The Rohillas fought with great valiance but they were defeated. The Nawab of Oudh annexed the Rohilla province and only a small part of Rohilkhand together with Rampur was left in possession of Faizullah Khan, son of Ali Muhammad Khan Rohilla.

The Bundelas:

On the accession of Bahadur Shah to the throne of Delhi on Aurangzeb’s death Chhatrasal who had carved out a part of Bundel-khand for himself thought of becoming independent. For a time he did not obey summons to attend the Delhi Court.

But soon per­haps he changed his attitude and his sons met Bahadur Shah when he was on his march against his brother Kambaksh and received mansabs from the emperor. Chhatrasal himself also rendered help to the emperor in his campaign against Banda and participated in the assault on Lohgarh. He retained imperial favour under Bahadur Shah’s son emperor Farrukhsiyar and was granted the rank of 4,000 horses. His sons and grandsons were also rewarded by the emperor.

But in 1720 Muhammad Khan Bangash was granted the govern­ment of Allahabad for deserting Abdullah Khan, one of the Sayyid Brothers, the enemies of the emperor. Within the area of this province lay the whole of Bundelkhand including the part on which Chhatrasal had established his authority. Muhammad Khan Bangash appointed Dilir Khan to the charge of the area over which Chhatrasal was the master. This led to a revolt by the Bundelas and in 1721 Dilir Khan was defeated by Chhatrasal killing five hun­dred of Dilir Khan’s men.

The emperor thought it imperative to punish Chhatrasal but action was delayed as he had to deal with Ajit Singh of Jodhpur. After peace was concluded with Ajit Singh Muhammad Khan Bangash was asked to proceed against Chhatrasal (1723). Muhammad Khan Bangash occupied eastern part of Bundel­khand and by 1727 the Bundelas lost much of their possessions and were almost on the verge of surrendering.

But early in 1729 Chhatra­sal renewed his assaults with renewed vigour and Muhammad Khan met with reverses. Chhatrasal requested the Peshwa Baji Rao for help and he at once responded and attacked Muhammad Khan who with his men were reduced to great straits and had to suffer terribly for want of supplies. Qaim Khan came to the assistance of Ali Muhammad Khan but the Marathas defeated Qaim Khan and besieged the fort where Ali Muhammad Khan had taken shelter.

But as an epidemic broke out in the Maratha camp they raised the siege and left for the Deccan. In the circumstances Chhatrasal thought it prudent to come to terms with Ali Muhammad Khan who was allowed to leave with his men unmolested. Ali Muhammad Khan left Bundel­khand never to return.

Chhatrasal died in 1731 in the ripe old age of eighty-two and his sons Harde Shah and Jagat Raj divided the State between them­selves. A small part of the State was given to the Peshwa as jagir for his timely help. Harde Shah became the Raja of Panna and died in 1739. Jagat Raj who became Raja of Jitpur died in 1758. In this way the family of Chhatrasal lost its eminence.

The Jats:

The Jats were predatory bands who towards the end of the reign of Aurangzeb carried on depredations around Delhi and Agra and occupied some parts of the territories between Delhi and Agra. Their leaders at that time were Rajaram, Bhajja and Churaman. But in 1721 they lost their stronghold at Thun at the hands of Sawai Jay Singh II who defeated Churaman.

The latter committed sui­cide. Sir Jadunath observes that up to the middle of the eighteenth century the Jats had no king, had not become a nation nor did they have any State of their own. Their head men were no better than robber leaders, given to raids and loots. But under Badan Singh, nephew of Churaman the Jats established authority over the whole of Agra and Muttra districts and by matchless cunning and tireless patience and wise versatility Badan Singh united the scattered Jat families. On his death in 1756 his adopted son Suraj Mai succeeded him. He has been described by historians as ‘Plato of the Jat tribe’, the ‘Jat Ulysses’ etc.

With clear vision, political sagacity and fine intellect Suraj Mai extended the authority of his kingdom, Bharatpur, over the district of Agra, Dholpur, Mainpur, Hathras, Meerut, Aligarh, Rohtak, Mewat, Rewari, Etwah, Muttra, Gurgaon, Farrukhnagar etc. The reputation of the Jats reached its highest point under Suraj Mai who was the greatest warrior, ablest statesman that the Jats had produced. He died in 1763 after which decline set in the Jat power.


With the disintegration of the Mughal empire Mysore became practically independent. It was under a Hindu Dynasty but the Dalwai, i.e. the Prime Minister had usurped the powers of the State pushing the ruling monarch into the background. Nanjraj was the Dalwai when Hyder Ali an adventurer took service under him. Hyder Ali was uneducated and illiterate but possessed great courage, strong determination and extraordinary common sense.

He was highly ambitious and devoid of gratitude. Taking advantage of the dis­order and political confusion he increased his powers and eventually supplanted his patron Nanjraj and himself seized the power of the State. He extended his territories by conquering Sunda, Bednore, Canara, Sera, Guti etc. and by subjugating the Polygars of South India. He made Mysore a challenge to the Marathas and the Nizam and became one of the greatest enemies of the English in the South.