The Zari Patka in Delhi — A Talk by Uday S. Kulkarni
It’s indeed a privilege to be here today, and to be called all way from Pune, to speak to the select audience that has been invited here and the purpose of the talk is of course as the title says is Zari Patka in Delhi.
Now let u see what is the, what is Zari Patka, to start with. A Zari Patka is one of the flags that the Marathas had, which was mostly used for ceremonial purposes, it had a saffron swallow-tailed flag, which had a Zari border at its edges and there was another flag which was the plain Bhagava flag so sometimes both the flags were flown, in addition to these each of the Maratha Chiefs had their own flags like the Sindhyas had the sun in the centre with two snakes on the side, on a saffron background and so on and so forth.
Zari Patka in Delhi basically signifies that in the 18th century the Marathas came to Delhi again and again and again and they occupied it, they protected it, they defended it, they fought for it, they shed the blood for it. So it’s a long story of the 18th century which is often represented as an anarchy of swords which took place around Delhi. Part of it may be true but part of it is not and while 18th century generally regarded anarchy all over India, that is not really the case because if you go south of the Chambal, right up to the Kaveri or east of the Ganga into the Awadh, Bengal and Bihar regions, there is no chaos, the chaos was limited to few 100 miles around Delhi, which was because of the frequent changes in the person ruling the city.
So to start with the beginning, let us see what is so important about the 18th century. So among historians in general, there is a 18th century debate going on right now, what is signify, what does it stand for, whether it was anarchy, whether it was just the fall of the Mughal empire followed by the rise of the British empire and nothing happened in between.
Today my purpose is to show to you that there was an empire which was in existence in India, in large parts of India in the 18th century and Delhi was the centre of ancient capital of India which was the focus of all the efforts and for large parts of 18th century Delhi was under Maratha occupation or under Maratha control. At the same time I have to start the disclaimer that history is a very sensitive subject today, you can see in the debates and discussions in the media, the social media, on TV you will find that there are two very diametrically opposite view points about everybody who ever ruled in this country, some will be on the side of the Mughals or the slave dynasty, some will be favour the Marathas. You will find very heated arguments about this. So it is necessary to treat history with certain gentleness and deserves the respect it should be treated with respect as far as the facts are concerned and it is one of the most passionate of subjects but even then it has to be treated in dispassionate manner.
If you really want to understand what facts say and understand what happened in the past, let us not judge the 18th century and 17th century by the mores and the kind of dealings we have in the 21st century. At the same time, let us not replicate the lessons of the 18th century and bring them forward in the 21st century and try to impose them on the society of today. We are totally different, it’s a totally different country today and what happened in the 18th century cannot be kind of a reason for the same kind of circumstances to prevail in the 21st century. They are totally different, but the 18th century did play a role in defining where India stood and in defining India of today.
The British took over, they started the British Raj by taking over from the Marathas, not from the English and that should be borne in mind when you say Mughal Empire ended and British Empire started in 1757, which it did not. So, telling history as factually as present and we should have the maturity to take history of the 18th or 17th century with all its poke marks, all its moles, without, as a nation and not try to mould History in a manner, which suits the nation building which was very important in the early part of the post independent decades. So, I think by now the nation should be confident enough and mature enough to face the facts that happened in the past and not expect that History is going to deepen the fault lines that prevail in the Indian society even today. So a historian, before he starts talking needs to understand when he is talking about history, objectivity is difficult, but sensitivity or caution is necessary and all times a balance is essential. So with keeping these three caveats in mind I will try to discuss this 18th century and how it unfolded in this country and its specific reference to Delhi in today’s talk.
Recently we had a very funny instance of a person claiming to be a descendent of Bahadur shah Zafar, for which he had a certificate from Berlin saying that he has genetic proof that he had and he had also quoted some genes which had actually belonged to central Asia. Actually the Mughals came here in the early 16th century and in the 4th or 5th generation they were practically naturalised Indians, they married, inter married here, they stayed here. They broke off all connections with homeland and even the Marathas considered them as part of this country and the Marathas repeatedly came to north and fought several battles in order to defend the Mughal Empire. When Sadhashiva Rao Bhau, comes with a large army to Panipat, he writes letter to the potentates in the north and tells them that we are here to defend the ???? Dynasty and at no cost must the roots of an invader like Abdali be allowed to take roots in this country.
So at that time itself there is a clear cut idea that there is something that is Indian and there is something that is not Indian and that idea was expressed in those letters around 1760 and we still have those, so we know that the enunciation of the Indian nation state was probably around that time. Of course you can define India by saying two parts, one is the political state with rigid boundaries and one is the cultural state of India which prevailed for 1000s of year. That is why as long as back in the 8th century you will find Adi Shankara establishing four Mutts in the four corners of India. You can find one in Kedarnath, one in Dwaraka, one in Puri and one in Sringeri in the south. So on what basis did he define this was the four areas to establish his four Mutts? That was a cultural extend of India, in fact it was much further in the centuries before that. So we have to define what is India? (what are the )
Today we are leading a life were you have to accept the reality of a nation state. However universal your faith may be, belief may be, today we are living in the confines of a nation state and what is good for the nation state is good for you and good for all residents of this country. So any supranational loyalties have no place in nation state like India and that has to be very clearly understood by people who claim to be Indian citizens. Then where does the problem of Swarajya arise? Why was Swarajya, in the British rule Lokamanya Tilak said that, I am fighting for Swarajya, it’s my birth right and I shall have it and nearly 200 years before that Chhatrapati Shivaji used the same words – ‘I am fighting for my Swarajya’.
So there was a period during the Mughal rule and even the Deccan sultanates where there was a feeling that Swarajya was lost. My own rule is lost and somebody else is ruling over me. There is an oft repeated quote by a Irish patriot, when he was actually fighting with the English, where he says that, actually he says the men have their honour, will not lose their honour, women their chastity and the nation will not lose their freedom, if these three things are looked after you are living in your own Swarajya. But if you are gonna lose your honour, you are gonna lose your chastity and your gonna lose your freedom, you are not living in a free state. So when these three things happen, that is when there is a demand of Swarajya which comes up and that happened in the British rule and that happened in beginning of the Maratha Rajya, in the middle 17th century when Shivaji raised the banner of Swarajya. The similar thing happened from Jahangir’s time, right up to Aurangzeb’s time. When the Sikhs were being troubled by the Mughal emperors, they started fighting for their own freedom.
So these movements began because certain kinds of oppressive policies which the government of that time or kings of that time were following. And even later if you find the Mughal rule they still did claim that their lineage was either Torani or Irani followed the Persian culture. Today we understand these are not Indian cultures and even at that time they were not Indian cultures and therefore there was a certain animosity built up between the rest of the people and people who were rulers and the people who did not have the privileges and did not have the ancestry or the lineage from these particular but treated differently from what the ruling class was treated at that time. You cannot compare the raw ethos of the 17th and 18th century with the sophisticated debates we have today and we should not do that. Having said this and with this disclaimer, I will come to the 18th century and try to talk about India.
Now very often you read Indian history you find, it’s got a Delhi centric view, what happens in Delhi or what happened in Delhi, who was ruling Delhi, that’s how the narrative of Indian history is given in our text books. It starts with Qutb ud-Din Aibak came here, then the slave dynasty was there, the whole list of names, then the Mughals came, their whole list of names but nobody talks about the Kingdoms down south, the Cholas, their colonisation of Southeast Asia. They are not part of mainstream Indian History, which they are. So what I am trying to say is that Indian history is multi focal, you cannot stand at one vantage point in India and say this is Indian history. Indian history has to be told from different vantage points and a cohesive history has to be built up, cohesive narrative has to be built up today almost 70 years after independence.
So now let’s come to the topic of the day, the beginning as I said was always the concept among the Marathas always was that Delhi, is the ancient capital of India and one who possess Delhi actually is in control of the country. So there are mentions during Shivaji’s time that we want to finally go and capture Delhi. There are letters from Rajaram’s time, son’s time when he was in the Deep South in Gingee surrounded by Mughal forces. But he kept saying that we have kept aside funds for so many thousand hones and this much money is kept aside for the capture of Delhi. So in 1690s, the blackest days of the Maratha Kingdom, even at that time they dreamt, one day they will be able to go and capture Delhi. So this dream was always there. This I am saying with specific reference to Delhi because, this is the feeling that why did the Marathas ignore Bengal. The English probably got through from there or they got from Madras, from where they started their rule. Delhi was always the centre and Delhi was always the focus throughout the periods that the Marathas capture tried to have their movement here.
The first visit of a Maratha King was when Shivaji was asked to come to Agra, to meet Aurangazeb, this was in the year 1666 and this was because the large army lead by Mirzaraja Jai Singh, who was the king of Jaipur, took a large army to the Maharashtra region and during that almost one year, money of his forts were taken by Mirzaraja and eventually in the siege of Purandar, Shivaji realised there was no way out but come to terms with this person, who is so determined to bring him down and appealing to his Hindu identity, he appealed to him, allowed him to keep a few forts for himself. But he was told you must go and meet emperor in Agra and the purpose behind the meeting was, to recruit Shivaji for the and use him for the spread of the Mughal empire, that was the reason why he was called to Agra. Of course, he did go to Agra. Later on, he met him in the Agra fort in the Diwan-i-Khas because he had retired for the day there, it was a birthday celebration of Aurangazeb that day. His father has just died. So he had moved from Delhi to Agra and at that time there was no real interaction between the two of them. But Shivaji was not, was offended by the way he was treated in the court of the emperor and he walked away from the emperor turning his back towards him and went and sat at the back of the court near one pillar, where he send some nobles to check why is he got upset and the reason told to the emperor was that oh! It’s just that he is a Deccani person, he is not accustomed to the court manners and so on and so forth and some excuses were made but not a word was exchanged between Shivaji and Aurangazeb at that point in time.
Next Mirzaraja Jai Singh had given a promise to Shivaji that no harm will come to you. So Aurangazeb was in a slight of confusion, how should I deal with the person? So he put him in house arrest and from that house arrest within a few months Shivaji escaped and reached Maharashtra and began his struggle against the Mughals once again and this escape was lamented by Aurangazeb till his very last day because after Shivaji coronated himself as Chhatrapati in 1674 and died in 1680, by the time he had taken his kingdom right up to the Kaveri in the South.
Aurangazeb came down to Maharashtra in 1681 and for the last 26 years of his life, he stayed in Maharashtra, he never came back to Delhi or Agra and those 26 years, the state of Maharashtra and Deccan in general, the Bijapur and the Golconda kingdoms extinguished. The entire state of Maharashtra was captured by the Mughal forces. There were just a few enclaves left in the dep south, few islands off the coast of the Western coast of Maharashtra, a few forts somewhere in the deep hills of Sahyadris near Kolhapur, other than that the entire Maratha Kingdom was practically extinguished. But yet from the ashes, there was no peace, the emperor could not go back, his generals got tired, they kept telling him, let’s go back, the battle is over and he kept telling them, no it is not.
So till he died in 1707 this battle continued and that battle actually arising from the ashes of that 26 year war, when everything was ravaged in that entire region, arose the fresh sprout for the Maratha independence and Shahu the son of Sambhaji or grandson of Shivaji was in Mughal custody for many years after his father was killed. He was released by the Mughals. The idea of releasing him was that they will start a civil war between the existing rule by Tarabai, who was Rajaram’s wife and Shahu. The first 6 or 7 years were very very disturbed and they needed recognition, they needed money, they needed the army. They kept, in fact they kept asking for recognition from the Mughal emperor at that time was Bahadur Shah and it was only after Bahadur Shah died in Lahore and the Mughals began fighting among themselves. The Wazir became the supreme after the death of Bahadur Shah and from then onwards, practically speaking from the rule of the emperor became less important than who was the Wazir and Wazir was the man who was controlling the reigns of the empire.
In 1715 or so another civil war began in the Mughal kingdom, Farrukhsiyar was the emperor and the people who actually held the keys to the kingdom were the Sayyed brothers, Hussain Ali and Abdullah Khan and Farrukhsiyar. Though he owed his throne to these two brothers, he did not want them, he found them very over bearing. So he decided to send Hussain Ali to the Deccan and keep Abdullah Khan with him as the Wazir and Hussain Ali was posted to the Deccan as the Viceroy. After he went there he realised the whole purpose of this move, is for Farrukhsiyar to get rid of both of them, both the brothers and thanks to a Maratha minister called Shankaraji Mallar, who was with him at that time. He found a way of contacting the Marathas and soon we find, an unlikely alliance was building up between Hussain Ali and the Maratha king Shahu. That time Peshwa was Balaji Vishwanath, the first of the so called 5 or 6 Peshwas who ruled after that for the next 100 years and Balaji Vishwanath, he was probably at his last 50s at that stage along with the Senapathi who was Khanderao Dhabade.
At that time, these two people, thirty thousand Maratha troops joined Hussain Ali and they were promised that every day they spend the North of the Narmada river, they will be paid a certain amount. Now there was a reason required, why was such a big large Maratha army coming to the north, after all it was just Hussain Ali who needed to come. So story was circulated and told to the emperor that a son, a grandson of Aurangazeb is in the custody of Marathas because the son of Aurangazeb called Akbar had rebelled against his father and he was with the Marathas for fairly long time, so it says that a son of his was still with them and obviously son is with them, he was a challenge to the existing emperor who was Farrukhsiyar, so he wanted to get hold of this prince and they said that the Marathas don’t want to part with him, they will bring him to Delhi and in exchange they will take back Shahu’s mother and other members of the family, who are still in Mughals prison for a such a long time.
So this prince, this mythical prince was put in a special tent, put in a special elephant, nobody could go and meet him and along with him, escorting him this 30,000 Maratha troops along with Hussain Ali came and Balaji Vishwanath Peshwa, they started moving about to Delhi in about 2 or 3 months, they were in gates of Delhi and the situation here, the emperor was in a state of panic. The only supporter he had at that time was Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur. But the Wazir Abdullah Khan forced to send him away and at that point in time, the other Maratha Noble like Saadath Khan was there or Nisam ul Mulk was there in Delhi. At that time, they would not come and take side. So Hussain Ali, Abdulla Khan with Maratha troops surrounding the entire Red Fort, they had an altercation with the emperor. The emperor went and hid in the harem, in the women’s quarters and he was dragged out from there, he was blinded.
You will find blinding is a recurring theme in Mughal history, the emperors are usually blinded before they are deposed and then later on killed, that is because a blind person cannot be the emperor, it’s a kind of a, in Mughal custom, a blind person cannot be the ruler. So before anything is done the person is blinded first. So similarly Farrukhsiyar was first blinded, then put in prison and two days later he was strangled to death in the, in his prison cell. This was done using the support of these 30000 Maratha troops who were there in Delhi at that time. The first visit of a largely kind of people not used to the sophistication of a large city like Delhi with its fine buildings. You can imagine Shajahanabad that time, before the invasions began and it was one of the most beautiful cities in the world and when these Marathas came here, the rustics were walking through the streets here, they were stunned by the beauty of the city and that increased the attraction of Delhi along with Balaji Vishwanath, was his son, the young Bajirao, he was just 19 years of age and you can image the impact Delhi must have had on this boy.
At that time, the achievements, what they wanted was, they wanted three things from the Mughal emperor. First thing they wanted a Sanadh of Swarajya, saying that you have got the original kingdom of Shivaji Maharaj will be given to you. Secondly they wanted the right to collect Chauth from the six Subahs of the Deccan and which they insisted on till the very end. The six Mughal Subahs of the Deccan were to be governed by the Marathas and 1/4TH of the revenue was to be collected by them, that right they wanted. The third thing was a concept called Sardeshmukhi, which was 10% of the revenue which went to the King. So these three Sanadhs was what they wanted and these three sanadhs after Farrukhsiyar was deposed, the next man who was brought and put in his place by Hussain Ali and Abdullah Khan was a young, youth called, Rafiud-Darajat and this boy was made to sign all the sanadhs and these sanadhs were taken along with Shahu, who was the Maratha Chhatrapati at that time. His mother, his half-brother and any other members of the family who were imprisoned from 1689 onwards, they were all taken back with them to Maharashtra. That is like the magna carta of the Maratha rule and many people criticised the Marathas that by taking this sanadhs from the Mughal emperor, in a way they stopped asserting their independence. However it was a more nuanced and complex thing than just that because it was like a reign by the Mughals, but rule by the Marathas, and the same principle was followed by the British when they came over. They allowed the various rulers here like the Sindhyas, the Holkars, the Mughals in Delhi to continue ruling but they actually carried out all the transactions of the Kingdom.
So it was something of, some arrangement of that sort and when they went to the South, things started settling down, within a year Balaji Vishwanath die and Bajirao became the Peshwa. Actually Bajirao today, just an aside has become such a common name in India, thanks to the movie and the serial which was coming some days back but you will not believe that in the year 2000, when the Indian Postal Department was said, on his 300th birth anniversary a postage stamp should be brought out for and I think Colonel Jayanta Dutta, one of the ex-army medical core officer was in the lead because he was the Philatelic society president and he tried to convince the postal department, we should have a stamp of Bajirao, the postal department’s response was, who was Bajirao? So from there we have come a long way in the last 15, 16 years. Of course the stamp eventually did come out 4 or 5 years later and there is a 5 rupee first day cover which I have with me, which still have that one famous picture of him on a horse.
So when Bajirao became Peshwa in 1720, a young dynamic man who was always outdoors, he did not have the patience for deliberations and discussions and politics and he was always in camps, from a very young age, from the age of 10 he had tried fighting wars with his father, he had seen Delhi and the first thing he told as king is that, you, instead of making these small wars, you strike at the root, strike at the root which is Delhi and all these other branches whether its Nizam of Bengal or Gujarat, they will come down by themselves, just give me this order and watch how I take the frontiers of your kingdom right up to the Himalayas. Infact the word he used, I will take you to the Kinnarkhand, Kinnarkhand was supposed to be the area beyond Himalayas, which in our mythology is considered the lands of the Kinnaras.
So enthused by this thing, the Chhatrapati kind of supported his enterprise and from then on it was look North policy because in his entire career Bajirao went South only once and that was in 1726, when he went all the way up to Sreerangapattnam. So that was the only campaign he made south, for two years 1725-26. After that he started looking North. In the meanwhile in 1724, the Nizam-ul-Mulk, who belonged to the old school of Aurangazeb, he had come down and he started forming his own kingdom in Hyderabad. He won a famous battle in Shakarkhelda in 1724 and 1724 was the time when Nizam’s dynasty was established in Hyderabad and 1724 in the first few years the Nizam felt that he will be able to recruit the Marathas again to his cause and his way of thinking and use their armies to form his own autonomous kind of kingdom, out of the influence of the Mughal emperor and he found that the only obstacle in his path was Bajirao, who would not accept this kind of principle of being a junior partner of the Nizam-ul-Mulkand.
Therefore in time they realised that the clash between the two of them was bound to happen. The first clash of this sort took place in 1728 in Palkhed, which is near Aurangabad and Field-Marshal Montgomery has described at famous, as a masterpiece in strategic mobility because for almost 6 month Bajirao was taking the Nizam in a wild goose chase, till finally fought them in a place where he was trapped and he was separated from his artillery because artillery was one thing which the Marathas didn’t have it was a completely cavalry borne force. For every two riders there was one spare horse and they travelled like the Cossacks,30-40 50 miles per day, and they could change directions at will. So no army which was carrying a heavy baggage and lot of artillery could really keep pace with this kind of movements. So that’s what he did and situation just north of the Godavari River is where he trapped the Nizam, got him to accept all the terms that he, were already considered by the emperor in 1790 and write under his hand, I am giving you the right to collect Chauth from the 6 Subahs of the Deccan. After that the Nizam never for the next few years at least, he did not go out of his way to antagonise Bajirao.
The very next year two more campaigns went, his younger brother Chimaji Appa, he headed for Malwa, where the battle took place in Amjhera near Dar and the Mughal governor was killed at that time, the Mughal Subeidar Giridhar Bahadur and his brother Daya Bahadur, both were killed simultaneously. Bajirao by another route went to Bundelkhand, where he went to rescue Chhatrasal, from the individual named Muhammad Khan Bangash, who was the governor of Allahabad and these two territories were within that year become part of Maratha zone of influence and it is a letter written at that time by one of Bajirao’s aides called Pillaji sadarao saying our ream has touched Yamuna because Yamuna near Bundelkhand and Chambal near Malwa, is the where the Maratha territory had reached .
By 1730 they had even taken Gujarat into their fold, they had a slight internal challenge when the Senapati challenged Bajirao. They had a battle at Daboy, where the Senapati was killed accidently and Gujarat also came to the Peshwa’s ambit. At this point in time you find that suddenly the Maratha kingdom looks like, from 20 years in 1720 well do just restricted to a few districts around Pune to 1735, 1730-31 it suddenly reaches the Chambal and Yamuna and the Maratha raiders were going right up to Sreerangapattnam, the Konkan coast, which was partly under the Portuguese and partly under the Sidhi of Janjira. The Sidhi of Janjira had been already defeated by that time, large parts of his territory except island of Janjira had been taken into the Maratha kingdom and now he was trying to ensure that Malwa is not just defacto but de jure by a sanadhs from a Mughal emperor handed over to the Marathas.
So what was happening was Jai Singh was being appointed the Subaidar and deputy was being appointed as a Peshwa, so that kind of thing was going on for some time and between 1733-1734. Two years, large Mughal armies came across, came down to try to push the Marathas back, right from Gwalior to Mewar, it’s a big about 300 km wide belt, where these battles were taking place and they found they could not push them back at any stage and they had to sign off large amounts of territory and give huge amounts of money to send the Marathas back from the (indistinctive). So Jai Singh, Kamarudheen Khan, Khan Dhauran, they all tried but they could not succeed. So Sawai Jai Singh came up with the proposal that, like once upon a time they had tried to recruit Chhatrapti Shivaji into the cause of the Mughal Empire? Why not try to recruit Bajirao and get him to fight for the empire?
So discussions began with Mohammed Shah who was famously known as Rangeela at that time, that we should try to accommodate Bajirao and make him a part of the empire and try to make him fight for us rather than fight against us, so we can control him. For that purpose it was decided Bajirao will go to Jaipur and Udaipur and meet these people the envoys will go to Delhi and speak to Mohammed Shah, try to have meeting with the emperor and see what best can be.. What best solution can be found to satisfy Bajirao’s vaulting ambition, because he was not short of ambition he wanted the revenue of Bengal also. So he demanded, I wanted 50 lakh rupees from Bengal also. So just before that just an example to show what was the influence Bajirao had on the Indian landscape at that time. His mother Radhabhai, who has been showed quite villainish in the movie, quite wrongly portrayed actually, she was on a pilgrimage and she wanted to go to Udaipur, Jaipur the she wanted to go to Mathura, she wanted to go to Kashi, she wanted to go to Gaya and come back and there was a big war in those years waging all over the North between the Mughals and the Marathas but every stage after crossing the Narmada, she was escorted by the Rajputs to Udaipur , she would stay there for a month from there she went to Jaipur, where again she stayed for till the monsoons were over. From there escorted her to the Yamuna where at Mathura, Muhammad Khan Bangash, who had been defeated by Bajirao in Bundelkhand. He sent his escort and he said Bajirao sabs mother is like my mother, from there he escorted her to Kashi. She finished here pilgrimage in Kashi, Gaya. You find Bajirao writing to her, you come back mother please quickly I want to start another campaign in the north. So finally she reached back in 1735 and that is when Bajirao could start of again to go up to Rajasthan. 1736-35 you find Bajirao in Rajasthan.
Now it was a very peculiar way he treated the two kings, the Rana of Udaipur and King of Jaipur. The Rana of Udaipur was a Sisodiya and the family of Chhatrapati Shivaji claimed its ancestries from the Sisodiyas of Udaipur and Udaipur is the one house in Rajputs which never bowed before the Mughal emperor or in those 18th century terms, they never gave their daughters in marriage to the Mughal emperor. So Udaipur was always treated with a different kind of respect which the Marathas had, one because the family was, The Chhatrapati’s family and secondly, they had never served the Mughals.
So he went to the Udaipur Rana, though Udaipur Rana was much weaker than the Jaipur King at that time and the Udaipur Rana offered him an equal seat to sit on. He said ‘no I will sit at your feet because in your place, you are the place of my sovereign and I will not sit on equal basis with you’. After finishing his visit in Udaipur when he went to Jaipur. Naturally, the king of Jaipur expected a similar treatment but Bajirao said no. Then they had this discussion of how they will meet and how they will be received and so on. It was not face to face that he told Jai Singh this, he said I am not going to accept this unequal behaviour at Jaipur because you people have served and your covetousness with the Mughal emperor has made you serve him and you cannot get the same respect which the Rana of Udaipur get and we will set but today I allow you to be my equal that’s what he says and I will let you sit on my, along with me and he sat with him like the Hindi text says “ ghutnekoghutna, janukojanulagake bait gayi” and at one stage he even says that he was a rough soldier and at one stage there is also a reference that he blew the Hookah smoke on Jai Singh’s face. Of course, I think that is a bit of exaggeration because next two or three months they met several times, several gifts were exchanged and given to Bajirao.
Meanwhile the envoys were in touch with Mohammed Shah and there was lot of talk going on, what is good to be considered to the Marathas, what is not good and Mohammed Shah finding Bajirao so close with all his sardars. He considered whatever Bajirao asked him, you want Malwa given, you want the revenue of Bengal given, you want 50 lakh jagir in the Deccan given, you want fort of Mandu given, whatever was demanded was being agreed to. So Bajirao said Ok, if everything has been agreed to I have no I will just wait 2 months for this to happen. He told his vakeels in Delhi, please execute this agreements of Mohammed Shah, I will go and sit in Malwa. Before that summer was over, rainy season was going to start and nothing was happening. So he left an army of 15-20 thousand people with Scindhyas and Holkars and that was the first time, 1735. Marathas did not go back to their homeland at the end of the summer. They stayed in camp and that’s how Sindhyas and Holkars began their base in Malwa region for the first time. When he went back to Pune, by October the reply came from the emperor, he just gave him some kind of a title that you got 7000 swar and 7000 Jat and these are ranks actually, like we have in the army these days and his younger brother was also given some ranks, but there was no mention of Malwa. So Bajirao said this is the time when I have to show him what I can do and in the beginning of, end of 1736, it was usually after Dussehra, when they did this “semolangan” or cross the borders of the land and it was also good time because the monsoons were over, the cavalry could go because lot of slush would prevent the horses from going place to place and it began from here collecting his dues all the way from the Nawab of Bhopal and so on, right up to the town of Badhavar, Badhavar is just a place between Chambal and Yamuna . The place called Ater over there, where there was a king, this king was actually protected by the Nawab of Awadh at that time was Sadhath Khan, so he refused to allow Bajirao’s soldiers to pass and refused to give any kind of help to Bajirao. So there he had to fight with this Nawab and he had to defeat him and he took 20 lakh of rupees as tribute for defeating him, he took some.
Defeated the entire army and he made sure that Sadath Khan does not cross over by capturing all the boats so that crossing over the river from this side of Yamuna was not possible. After this the Mughal court woke up, when they found he is going to cross the Yamuna and next stop is going to be Agra, that is when they started sending out armies under Khan Dhauran, under Kamraudheen Khan who was the Wazir at that time. They started coming down, Saadath Khan was told that you must start from Awadh and stop this and three Mughal armies tried converging on Agra at that time. At that time Malhar Rao Holkar was with Bajirao, he made a small incaution across the Yamuna and began looting that place in his (indistinctive), between the Ganga and the Yamuna and that is when Saadath Khan came from Awadh and defeated Malhar Rao Holkar and surprised him and chased him back. When about 1000-1500 Marathas were killed in that raid also by Saadath Khan, immediately informed the emperor that I have defeated the Maratha army of Bajirao and pushed them back south of Chambal. The emperor promptly send them lots of gifts Khillats, robes of honour and so on and the three Mughal armies when they came near Agra, they all celebrated we have managed to push Bajirao south.
At this stage, there is a very nice letter, a four page letter in Marathi which Bajirao has written on the 8th of April, to his brother after he finished his entire attack. He said at that time I had two options, either I defeat Saadath Khan and bury him or I go to Delhi and show the emperors that the Maratha armies are still at the gates of Delhi. So he had three options, either he goes back to Pune because there three big armies of 50-60 thousand people baring his path to Delhi or he could have fought them face to face or he was saying, I will go and attack Delhi. Now what he did is between the two armies, there was a narrow path of few miles, between which he found, clinging to the hills in that region, away from Agra and Mathura to the west of it, that in the matter of 3 days, he made that, with all his army of 30000 men, he managed to reach, passing, bypassing this Mughal armies he reached in the outskirts of Delhi and the Kalka mandir which you have over here. In Marathi you use the word Jombajombi, means he did some kind of disturbance over there. All the pilgrims of Delhi had come out to go to Kalkar because it was a Ram Navmi day and lot of people were coming to pray and so on. There was a Mela also there, for that day. So he came and send some people, soldiers there, broke some shops, looted some people, got some horses and camels. So somebody realised that the Marathas are in Delhi.
One man went into the, Delhi was a walled city those days, went into the city and told the Mughal courts that the Marathas are here. He said you are being silly, there are three large Mughal armies south of Delhi, how can Bajirao come here and beside Saadath Khan has already told he has been send back to the south, so what they did is they send a beggar, a man disguised as a beggar, go and have a look, see who has actually reached here and the whole court was waiting with bated breath ki what news comes back. Around midnight that beggar came back and he showed what he got from the Maratha camp when he begged from them, he got dry gram, Channa and dry bread, which is Bakhri, which is call it is kind of dry Paratha which they make. So he said this what I got in alms. So when they saw this, so this was the staple diet of a Maratha trooper. He carried dry gram with him Channa and he had this dry baked Jowar or Bajraka roti, which is all he had on his way, when he marching, so when they saw this, they knew the Marathas are here and most of the armies being in the south, they had nobody much to really oppose them. Some row levies led by some guys, went and tried to oppose him and about 5-6 thousand people try to oppose, out of which they lost about a 1000 people in that battle and at that time you can see that Bajirao was not just a warrior but he was also a statesman of kind because he is writes to his brother, that I was thinking initially of burning down a few suburbs of Delhi to show I am here but then I considered, Delhi is a mahasthal, it has the respect being the capital from the time of the Pandavas, so burning a city down or burning it suburbs, breaks the code of diplomacy because his purpose was served, he had shown the emperor, Marathas are here and he could come back here a second time and a third time, if it comes to, if his demands are not met but diplomacy was still going on, after all it is said that war is just a diplomacy by other means, so he knew where to stop, he knew how much to go and he decided I am not going to burn down anything but I just want to show I am here, they know I am there and from there he says in his letter that he was staying in a place called Kushubandhi. If anybody in Delhi can enlighten me where is Kushbandhi,I will be happy but the nearest point I have found which resembles Kushubandhi is Kushakmahal which is in the Theen Murti Bhavan and that was the hunting lodge of Firoz shah, Tuglak form 13th century onwards.
So it is said that he stayed in Kushubandhi presumably stayed in the hunting lodge, which was in middle of the forest in those days and then from there, he went towards Palam and by that time Kamrudheen Khan had heard that Bajirao had attacked Delhi and start coming North and had a small skirmish before he had retired to Kotputli and Rajasthan, Jaipur state and went back to Malwa and this was the famous raid of 1737 and this raid was heard all over I mean even Nadir shah in Persia came to know that the bare backed Marathas came from the Deccan and attacked Delhi, so he wrote a famous letter to Mohammed Shah, what are you doing? How can you allow these guys to come and attack you, you are not doing your administration properly, I am coming there to teach you with my Kizilbash, how you are supposed to administer your kingdom. Before that happened in 1739, but before that the Mughal emperor tried one more last gambit and he called Nizam-ul-Mulk from the south and he said, now you must go and teach Bajirao a lesson. So Nizam-ul-Mulk, Bajirao was going south and Nizam-ul-Mulk was going North, they passed within a few miles of each other, they send courteous messages to each other and when the Nizam went to Delhi, he was treated like a great warrior has come and the only saviour of the Mughal empire and he was told, now you must go south and fight with Bajirao. So Nizam-ul-Mulk with a big army, at the end of monsoons, by the time in Delhi, he had given lots of titles also, AzafJha and all these titles, were all bestowed on them, he was made the biggest superior to Wazir also and with big army at the end of monsoons he began to go south and he told his son Nasir Jung, who was in Hyderabad that you come up and well catch Bajirao, in between our two armies. Bajirao had already started going North at the end of Dussehra and he knew Nizam-ul-Mulk was coming down to fight with him and he also knew that Nasir Jung was leaving from Hyderabad, he was also getting letters from there , that today so many people have been called, so much army has been collected and so on . So he posted his brother somewhere around the river Tapi and said don’t let Nasir Jung cross this river and he crossed the Tapi, he crossed the Narmada and when the Nizam found that he was marching towards Malwa, what he did is last time in Palkhed, he had been caught because he didn’t get provisions, he had no water, he had no food as the army was thirsty, they had to kill the bullocks and eat them and so on, so this time he thought he will take shelter in the fort of Bhopal, where there is a big lake at the back of the fort, so he entered Bhopal and Bajirao writes letter, I don’t know ,I thought Nizams are great soldiers but he has committed a blunder by going into the fort of Bhopal because next thing he knew is that, another siege around the fort of Bhopal and they started starving. There was some Rajput troops from Kota, Durjan Sal of Kota was also with him. Now the Rajputs being predominantly vegetarians would not eat the bullocks when they are starving, so they became very unhappy with the situation, they were in and soon negotiations began within the two sides and Bajirao said ok I will let you go but you have to concede all my demands and you have to get this sanction done from Delhi.
So when the treaty was signed at Doraha near Bhopal, Bajirao writes that Nizam was so unhappy that under his hand, he had to write that with his own mouth he had to utter the words that I am giving you the six Subahs of Deccan, I will make sure that you will get Chauthai of these places, make sure you get the Sanadh of Malwa and so on, this happened in 1738. In 1739 Nadir Shah attacked Delhi and at that time the Marathas were extremely busy on the Western coast because on 1737 onwards, there is a battle to evict the Portuguese from the western coast. The Portuguese was the most well entrenched par with very strong forts all along the border from Danu or Daman, right up to Goa leaving the except the island of Bombay, which was originally Portuguese but given to the English, the entire Konkan belt belonged to the Portuguese and the complaints the Peshwas used to get about the people living there was the inquisitions which you must have read, what kind of operation was going on local populous. So this was a very strong complaint which was coming to the Peshwa and Chhatrapati repeatedly but all these years they didn’t have the opportunity to really go and sort out the Portuguese and in 1737 Chimaji Appa, who was Bajirao’s brother, first took it upon himself and he liberated the island of Sashti, which is where todays Thane stands and Bandra, from Bandra to Thane, in the suburbs of Bombay is the island of Sashti, Sashti stands for 66 in Marathi it is called Sahashahst. So that’s why the island is called Sashti or Salset as they call in English. So that Island was liberated in 1737, then because Nadir shah came, Chimaji Appa had to leave that campaign half way and go and 1737 he said I am gonna finish this Vasai problem because the Fort of Vasai was one of the strongest port of the Portuguese that time. Vasai was those days called as Bassein and that battle took place just at the time Nadir Shah was here.
In fact it’s a coincidence Shahu had told Bajirao, you must go and help Mohammed Shah because I have promised Aurangazeb on his deathbed that I will make sure that Mughal dynasty is not extinguished, this is a very strange thing I am trying to tell you that Shahu’s father was killed by Aurangazeb, Shahu was a captive in Aurangzeb’s camp from 1689 to 1707 for a good amount of 18 years, he grew up there but when Aurangazeb died, he promised the emperor that I will make sure your dynasty is not extinguished. Probably Aurangazeb had a foreboding that the kind of problem he has landed up with the Marathas like they say the Spanish ulcer relationship with Napoleon, it was a Deccan Ulcer which ruined Aurangazeb. So he had a foreboding that after my death something is gonna happen here, which is not gonna be good for the empire, so he said, he got the promise from Shahu and Shahu told Bajirao to make sure that Mohammed Shah is not disturbed and go and help him. So they were waiting for this Vasai battle to get over and the Rajputs were writing to Bajirao that you are the only person we are waiting for and if Mohammed Shah has been deposed and Nadir Shah goes back then we will put the Rana of Udaipur as the king in Delhi but it can only be done with your arms and Bajirao was sitting in Burhanpur waiting for Chimaji to finish the Vasai campaign because Holkar was also involved in that campaign and all the army to join him at Burhanpur and then march North to confront Nadir Shah and Nadir Shah was writing letters to Bajirao that will make sure that you will obey the orders and you will not come North of Narmada and so on and so forth, otherwise I will come there and punish you, so while this was building up 4th of May 1739 was the day when Vasai surrendered , the Portuguese surrendered to the Marathas. Vasai’s fort was taken and coincidentally on the 5th of May, Nadir Shah left Delhi and went back to Iran and he restored Mohammed Shah back to the throne of Delhi but it was a completely denuded city, there was nothing left everything had been looted, a big massacre which took place at time here and unfortunately at that time the Marathas could not come to help against the invader because they were involved in the very big battle. 12000 Maratha soldiers were killed just liberating the fort of Vasai and island of Thane and today we got liberated, we liberated Goa in 1961, had the Portuguese not been removed from the entire Western Coast at that time, they would have remained there till 1961 because the English were not go fight them and remove them from there . So liberation of that entire coastal area was due to this 1739 battle which was carried out by Chimaji Appa.
In 1740 Bajirao died. He did not commit suicide; he died because of a heat stroke. For one week he had high fever in the month of April by the banks of Narmada and he died. His sudden death suddenly left a vacuum, his son was just 19 years of age. But Shahu has so much respect for this house of the Peshwas family, that immediately made his 19 year old boy next Peshwa. The month that Bajirao died Raghuji Bhonsle of Nagpur went on a raid to Trichanapalli and that is famous. From Trichanapalli he came north, he went to Orissa and Bengal, so that was all one continuum from 1740 to 1742 when Orissa and Bengal was also bought under the Maratha ambit. At the same time you find Mohammed Shah helplessly watching that Bengal was being raided by one of the Maratha Sardars of Nagpur and he asked Shahu that please help me to get rid of Raghuji Bhonsle. Shahu told Nana Saheb Peshwa that please do something about this Raghuji is not listening to me, he is gonna attack Bengal and you find Nana Saheb taking another army going North, passing through Gaya and fighting with Raghuji Bhonsle to evict him from Bengal and reports of that were coming to the Mughal empire every day, today Raghuji has reached here, Nana Saheb has reached there and so on and so forth.
Alivardi Khan gave Nana Saheb 20 lakh rupees to evict Raghuji Bhonsle from Bengal and Nana Saheb always knew that Bengal was always the richest province of the Mughal Empire. He always was interested in capturing Bengal and right up to his entire 21 years of his career. You find all his letters saying that please go to Bengal and get the revenue from there. So when this happened Shahu was very disturbed, two of his own officers was fighting with each other and when they came back in 1743 he divided the two areas of operation and he said Bihar, Bengal Orissa is the Nagpur Bhonsle’s territory, the Peshwa is not supposed to go there and this situation remained for the next 13 years as long as Raghuji Bhonsle was alive . Raghuji Bhonsle finally died in 1756.
Now let’s go into the politics of Delhi at that time, Ahmed shah Abdali became the king of Afghanistan in 1747, after Nadir Shah was assassinated over there, immediately he was short of funds and he decided he will attack Delhi, he had already come to Delhi once with Nadir Shah in 17739. So 1748 was the first invasion where he attacked Delhi and at that time Mohammed Shah send an appeal to Nan Saheb, please come to Delhi and help me and Nana Saheb went, the letter saying that Nana saheb met Mohammed Shah but by the time the battle was already over Abdali was defeated in that first battle and he was sent back and the prince Ahmed Shah, who was son of Mohammed Shah, at that time he led the battle. Safdarjung, who was the Nawab of Awadh, he fought at that time, so they actually managed to push Abdali back but by the time they came Mohammed Shah was dead and Ahmed Shah became the next emperor. The very next year Abdali came back 1749. But in 1749 Chhatrapati Shahu passed away and the next two years there was a civil war in Maharashtra for the succession, the Maratha succession, who will be the next king because Shahu had no sons. So that occupied the Peshwa till 1752 .
If you find these two vital years of Indian history when the Peshwa was stuck in this succession battle in around Satara, that was the time when the English and the French managed to make their mark in the Caranatic. 1751-1752 these were the times when and you will be surprised when Clive won at Arcot, there were 2000 Maratha soldiers with him. So the Marathas and English were cooperating with each other at that time because the French, who were rivals to the English were helping the Nizam, who was the enemy of the Marathas. So in one hand you find the Maratha-English collaboration and French-Nizam collaboration, on the other side that was the situation developing at the Deccan at that stage of time. In 1756 you find Watson, Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive, coming with the King’s navy to India because they wanted to defeat the French but a secret proposal was put to them because Angre, who was the head of the Navy, in Vijayadurg, in south Maharashtra was not listening to the Peshwa, so the Peshwa sent his army, the English sent their Navy and that fort of Viajydurg was captured and the Angre, who was the Tulaji Angre was imprisoned and handed over to the Peshwa, so that where the English Maratha Collaboration was going on; that was in 1755-56.
1756 within a few months after that, Siraj Ud Daula, who was in Bengal, he removed the English from Calcutta and Calcutta was taken by him. They came, Drake was the ruler, who was the agent in Calcutta. He came back to Madras and at that very time in 1757, Ahmed Shah Abdali made his fourth invasion of India, before that in 1752 the emperor of Delhi had signed an agreement, it’s called the Ahednama with Marathas that they will protect him against all the internal and external enemies of the emperor. Internal because in his own durbar there were plenty of conspiracies and he was not safe from his own courtiers. So he needed protection from them as well as the invaders. So in 1757 when Abdali attacked, it was necessary to do something to protect Delhi, but that time there was only 5000 men, 5000 Maratha soldiers in Delhi and there is this small Jat ruler called Surajmal Jat in Pallavghad. So these were the only two people who opposed Abdali at time.
Delhi was the for the first time occupied by Abdali and the loot in Delhi at that time has been described by several authors, even in one of my books described that finally when Abdali took all the treasure back to Afghanistan besides all the Massacres and so on which he did, there was not even a washer men’s donkey left in Delhi, he took whatever available animals were to carry all his treasure back, that was the amount of loot that Delhi was subjected to.
At that time Najib Khan Rohila, who had actually was an immigrant first generation immigrant from Afghanistan, he told him that the Marathas are getting too strong and all the powerful offices in the empire are going in the hands of the Hindus, the Muslims have become second laid citizens in this empire. Shah Walihulla was an ideologue at that time of the empire, even he wrote to Abdali, that you must come here and rescue us. So against all that background, Abdali march down to Mathura, it’s a big slaughter in Mathura, another big slaughter took place in Vrindavan. People were given money according to the number of heads that were cut and brought there. The only people opposed in Vrindavan wad sanyasis and sadhus over there at Vrindavan. They tried to oppose the Afghan invasion at that stage. At this time the Marathas were partly in Rajputana; Holkar was there, Raghunath Rao was the younger brother of Nana Saheb, he was somewhere in Indore and they just started collected about 10000 soldiers at that time, they had still took time to collect army to go and confront major, it was a major undertaking to confront Abdali at that stage, when the onset of monsoon took place in 1757, Abdali began his way back because he never stayed here during the monsoons, or during the summers in Delhi, that is the stage when the Marathas moved North.
Najib Khan was put in charge of Delhi, they attacked Delhi defeated Najib Khan and at that stage in fact Raghunath Rao who was just a 20 year old boy, son of Bajirao, he wanted to imprison Najib Khan but it was said that he gave a bribe to Holkar and escaped form there and went and stood, went back to his own territories, so from these tragedies future tragedies come up, from such small mistakes. From there after capturing Delhi, they moved further North, took the city of Sarhind, which was little north of Delhi, somewhere near Chandigarh today and at that point in time they were invited by the governor of Punjab, why don’t you come and liberate us from Abdali who was ruling over Punjab at that time. Timur Shah Abdali, who was son of Ahmed Shah along with one of his big, major called Jahan Khan were both sitting at Lahore. So next thing they knew, they took an undertaking to enter Punjab and that is when they stepped on Abdali’s toes, Abdali was not interested in Delhi. He was not interested in coming any further. He just wanted Punjab because that was a rich province from where he could get his supplies. Afghanistan was after all a desert but when they entered Punjab that’s is when they stepped on Abdali’s toes but the Mughals wanted Punjab back because from old days Lahore and all these were parts of Mughal empire, in fact emperor Jahangir died at Lahore, Bahadur Shah died in Lahore. Their mausoleums are there. So they wanted this Punjab to come back here and they recruited the Marathas and said you must take the Maratha armies and enter Punjab. So the Marathas along with the Sikhs a small Mughal contingent, they entered Punjab, they attacked Lahore. Jahan Khan and Timur Shah had to run away from there and Lahore, Multan, Attock and Peshawar, all these four cities were captured by the Marathas.
They stayed there for about good part of an year occupying these territories, that time Ahmad shah Abdali was in a bad state in his own country of Afghanistan, he was under rebellions in all sides and there is a famous letter which the Shah of Iran sent to Raghunath Rao Peshwa. Raghunath Rao was that time in Lahore and in fact he was treated with rose waters in the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore at that time and a letter came from Shah of Iran that between you and me, we will squash this Afghan ruler and we will divide the country among ourselves, you take whatever is on the other side of the Khyber pass, I will take Kabul and Kandahar on my side. So Raghunath Rao from there, from Lahore, writes a letter to his brother, who was the Peshwa. There is a proposal which come to me from the Shah of Iran, that we should divide up Afghanistan between us and you stay that side of Indus and well take parts this side, but I said, why should I agree to this proposal, after all till the time of Alamgir, that is Aurangazeb, till the time of Aurangazeb, Kabul was part of India and Kandahar was also part of India. So why should I concede Kabul and Kandahar to the Shah of Iran, we must go and capture, those parts also.
So this was, I mean, you are already one and half thousand kilometres from your power base which is Pune but over there they are still thinking that these are the parts of India, I mean this concept of India again comes into this letter. The letters of 1750s, 1758 that he still wants to go and get Kabul and Kandahar back into the Indian Territory because it was once upon a time part of, in fact it was lost by Shah Jahan, Kandahar was lost by Shah Jahan 100 years earlier because he wanted to go and get them back. From there Raghunath Rao came back and Dattaji Shinde, took his pace and Abdali came back in 1759 within 2 years after that was the famous battle of Panipat which I will not go into the details of that because that will take another hour to discuss and the big debacle in Panipat, for reasons I will not right now go into and over there hundred thousand Marathas laid down their lives.
But on his way to Panipat, Sadashiv rao Bhau was the Maratha leader, the Maratha general who was taking the army north, wrote some letters to the northern rulers and told them that there are two objectives before me, one objective is that the Chughtai Dynasty must remain and I am fighting for the Chughtai Dynasty,i.e. he is fighting for the Mughals and Abdali’s roots must not grow in this, must not be allowed to take root here, they must be uprooted from here. So again the concept that Mughals are belonging to India but the invader must be evicted, that kind of feeling you always get in this letters. So the Marathas are all time, were trying to protect the Mughals, they were allowing the Mughals to rule because they had become very weak by that time it was a Phantom, actually the Mughal empire that time has become phantom,the ruler was a phantom. Shah Alam, the rule extended from Delhi to Palam, that’s what is the famous saying, even at that stage and 1759 was when Shah Alam declared himself emperor sitting in Allahabad. After Panipat there was a debacle, there was an eclipse of Maratha power.The Peshwa died within 6 months after that, his son was just 17 years ofage. His uncle Raghunath Rao ambitions was such that he wanted to become Peshwa.
Within the Peshwa family a small civil war erupted and the neighbours were quick to take advantage that. Nizam attacked, in fact he attacked Pune. Hyder Ali, who was the on the souths was the new rising star, he began taking advantage because just before that he had been defeated by Maratha army and when the Maratha army heard that there is a debacle at Panipat they quickly took 3 lakhs from Hyder Ali and went back to Pune because Hyder Ali was surprised why they have settled for 3 lakhs because subsequently whenever they attacked Hyder Ali, they took 30 lakhs tribute each time, but that time because Panipat had happened Hyder Ali had not heard about it. They satisfied themselves for 3 lakh rupees and rushed back to Pune. So all these people started taking advantages and taking away chunks of the kingdom. Malhar Rao Holkar was the only Subaidar who was still surviving old days, he was 70 years of age by that time and but he was the only person who retained some amount of Maratha prestige north of the Narmada, remained in Malwa.
Madho Singh of Jaipur, who actually the Marathas had put in his throne, attacked their territories and there was a battle at Mangrole, where Madho Singh was defeated by Holkar. So next 2 years were very difficult, there is a running battle with the Nizam for the next 2 years, till he was defeated in 1763 at Rakshas Bhuwan and that is when Madhav Rao Peshwa actually came into his own.The reason that Raghunath Rao, kept on intriguing against his nephew and his nephew wouldnot take stern action against him like, just cut off his head that didnot happen in Maratha scheme of things, that you put somebody in prison and like here you find in Delhi, this emperor becomes the king , knocks of all other contestants, all the other brother knocked off before one guy becomes emperor that never happened there.
So four years of Madhav Rao’s time was spent concealing, controlling his uncle. Finally in 1760, he had to put him in prison and by that time he already had 3 attacks of Hyder Ali, right up to Sreerangapattnam. 1769 finally he found the time to send a large army, under 4 different chiefs, there was Ramchandra Ganesh Kanade, there was Visaji Krushna Biniwale, who were supposed to be seniors and they were supposed to be joined by Mahadaji Shinde, then a very junior man in the hierarchy, but the chief of Sindhia house and Tukoji Holkar, who had taken off from Malhara at that stage and these 4 people started moving north, they took tribute from the Rajputs, took tribute from the Jats. Najib khan was an old man that time, he came forward and said I will have a treaty with you, take care of my son, his son’s name was Zabita Khan. They went from the Dwaab, they defeated the Bangash at Farrukhabad and then the king who was sitting in Allahabad wanted to come back to Delhi. He was sitting in Allahabad protected by the English because he had lost a few battles with the Englishand he was sitting there ever since. So he was told by the Marathas we will put you back in your throne in Delhi.
So from 1759 to 1772 there was no emperor in Delhi, it was practically being ruled by the Mir Bakshi who was the Najib ad-Dawlah,for 8yrs Najib ad-Dawlah was the dictator of Delhi at that time. 1769 the Marathas came, 1770Najib ad-Dawlah died shortly after that, the Marathas took Delhi from Zabita Khan. One more year took for them to get the emperor from Allahabad,January 1772 Shah Alam was placed in the throne through the good officers of the Maratha chief, Mahaji Shinde actually. after he was placed in on his throne, the Marathas along with the Mughalsoldiers crossed the Ganga, first objective was to punish Najib ad-Dawlah, for his role in Panipatbecause he was the man who had invited Abdali and was the man who kind of plotted the fall of the Marathas in the massacre which took place afterwards. so they crossed the Ganga, they went and raided Patharghand,which is a big fortnorth, just south of Haridwar, near Najibabad and it is the root from Najibabad, fromPatharghand’s, there is a big list of that, they got about 10 lakh rupees worth of gold and silver and jewellery.
Many of the people inside the fort, threw it in the mote outside and the mote was drained and got the jewellery was obtained. 2000 fine horses, so all these thing were taken by charge of the Marathas and they felt now that they have kind ofavenged the role that Najib Khan played atPanipat.They evenwent and defaced his grave at Najibabad, they did not bury… dig it out, just defaced it.So this kind of, then they said that we will now kind of go towards Allahabad and take charge because getting Kashi and Allahabad into their car, Kashi and Prayag as they called it, under their charge was the long-time aim of the Marathas, right from Bajirao’s time, when he used to send his terms to the emperor, he used to say, give us Kashi and Allahabad and for Shuja-ud-Daula, it was a matter of prestige that he will not concede not these two places to a Hindu Power. So this tussle was going on, after taking Patharghad Delhi, the next item on agenda was to go to Allahabad. So he took Najaf Khan, who was here along with them, along with another Zabita Khan and he started moving towards Allahabad but in between they started having difference among themselves and that peeted out.
By the time the Allahabad was already under the English custody, so the battle never really took place at that stage but Madhav Rao Peshwa died in 1772 and brother who became the next Peshwa was assassinated following year, assassinated and the culprit for that was the same uncle, who had bothered them all these years. So a second civil war began at the Maratha capital itself and the English were quick to take advantage of it, they grabbed the island of Salset or Sashti, right next to Bombay and that’s how the first Anglo-Maratha War started. In 1775, it went on till 1772 and it was an alliance of the Nizam, Hyder Ali and the Marathas against the English, till finally in 1782 Mahaji Shinde lost Gwalior and he founded he could not face the English, who were coming on, he signed a treaty on behalf of the Peshwa at Salbey and since then there was peace between the English and the Marathas and that gave Mahaji Shinde, the chance to go to Delhi and take charge of the capital. 1784-85 one finds Mahaji is in Delhi, the emperor makes him the Vakil-ul-Mutlaq, Vakil-ul-Mutlaq is one of the highest regent plenipotentiary in, who looks after the office of the emperor and the emperor doesn’t have to do anything. So and in the History of the Mughal Empire there have been only three Vakil-ul-Mutlaq, of which Mahaji was the third, I think Farrukhsiyar has made somebody before that and I forget one more Vakil-ul-Mutlaq before that.
So this kind of situation was, I 1785 thing were looking very rosy, one of his chiefs Ambaji Ingle was sent north of Delhi to stop the Gujjars from attacking Delhi and they had a treaty with the Sikhs, like the Marathas Chauthai, the Sikhs at that time took what is called Raaki, for protecting you, they used to take a Raaki from you which is 8% of your total revenue. So this agreement was made with the Sikhs that you will not come to Delhi again and they posted a force north of Delhi. So things seem to be going alright but there was no money the emperor had no money, the emperor’s family required one and half rupees a month to look after them and Mahaji Shinde for all his efforts and his large army, he had got nothing in return . Now the dues from Jaipur from 1748 was still unpaid, which was running into crores of rupees. The dues to the Mughal Emperor and the dues to the Marathas, so the next item on the agenda was to extract these dues from the king of Jaipur, so expedition was planned against Jaipur. Jaipur and Jodhpur got together, in addition they got help of some other Mughal adventurers called Hamadani and between the three of them, Mahaji Shinde that time was a little wrong in his calculations and in 1787 he was defeated in the Battle of Lalsot and from there they had to retreat to Dheeg, then he lose Agra city, he did not lose Agra fort which was in his custody, his flag was still flying there but Agra city he lost and the Dwaab he lost and he was forced to retreat to the south of Chambal and without money and without sufficient power he could not come back North.
When Lalsot happened the grandson of Najib khan was Ghulam Khadir, he got his opportunity to come and strike Delhi and he came from the North, force which have been kept North of Delhi have been called to help him at Lalsot, he was South of Chambal, sitting in Gwalior at that stage and that is when Ghulam Khadir came and took over Delhi and declared him the Mir Bakshi here, Mir Bakshi, is the commander of the army actually and Ghulam Khadir in the next one and a half years, the atrocities he committed on the emperor here, like started from blinding him, from trying to extract whatever, he dug up the entire Red fort , nothing was left . He stripped all ladies, the princess, he exposed them on the towers of the Fort and for Hours together without their Burqas and these kind of ignominy which he did was probably worse than the Mughal family had ever been subjected to and the respect the Mughal family even at that stage had in society.
When the English author has written that he was going with a very thin guard from one place to another in the palanquin, when some people attacking him, when Gujjar’s began to attack him, so he told his Palanquin bearer that tell the Gujjars that, “IdharBaadshahkibibi sab jarahihai”, palanquin mein , though it was this guy sitting inside and when he said Badshahkibibi sab rahihai, those Gujjars moved back because they would not touch a lady from the royal zenana and that’s the respect the common people, the robbers and thieves were giving the Mughal family but here was Ghulam Khadir, who was stripping them for searching them for hidden jewels and valuables and that was when the lowest point of the Chugthai dynasty was left . From there once when Mahaji recovered he came the north of the Chambal, he again captured Agra city that time one of his chief officers was a man called, Rana Khan Bai, Rana Khan Bai was a Muslim but he was the most trusted man of Mahaji Shinde because when Mahaji Shinde was running away from Panipat and injured by Afghan chasing him, Rana Khan Bai was the man who carried him on his shoulders and brought him back to safety.
From there Rana Khan Bai remained with Mahaji became one of his four generals, so he was the man who took back Agra, took back Aligarh and Mathura and before he knew he was at the gates of Delhi and the chase began to catch Ghulam Khadir, he went back to Ghousgadand Shamliand all these places and Ali Bahadur was the grandson of Bajirao and Mastani , he came with a large army from the Deccan, he chased Ghulam Khadir, caught him 1788 and he was brought to Mahaji’s camp in Mathura and there Shah Alam demanded Mahaji that this man has blinded me, he sat on his chest and with a knife he removed his eyes of the emperor. So he said I want to feel his eyeballs, so send them to me that was the kind of vehemence the emperor felt for him.
So Mahaji called two doctors from his army and got his eyes removed and send the eyes to the emperor and the description of when the box was presented to the emperor, with what glee and happiness the emperor touched those eyes and felt that the person who had done this has been punished, so all these gory details, I mean this is the blackest period any people living in Delhi could experience that stage and in 1788, finally when the Ghulam Khadir episode was over, Mahaji’s flag fluttered on the Red fort along with the Badshah’s flag and for an uninterrupted period of the next 15 years, till 1803 when Mahaji is already dead but the British captured Delhi in 1803 in the battle of, fought near the PuranQuila and then of course the British rule began in Delhi, Lord Lake captured the city at that stage.
So this is a very dramatic period in the history of Delhi in the 18th century and the reason I am bringing it out today is to show two things, one is that for most of the 18th century, the Marathas were the predominant paramount power in the 18th century in most parts of India, I have only restricted my talk to what happened in the north but same time things were going on down below. At Srirangappatanm in 1771, they were firing on the fort when one of the cannon ball hit the temple there, it was considered a bad omen and they said ok, let’s not go any further, the temple has been hurt by a cannon ball so Hyder Ali was spared, so this kind of, was going on all over the place and to call the Battle of Plassey the beginning of the British empire will be an aberration and a misrepresentation of History, at the same time the Marathas whenever they came here, they fought for the empire, they fought to defend the Chughtai dynasty to reinstate the empire back in his throne, they had their own interest, Nobody is going to fight for if they don’t have any interest in mind but they shed their blood thousands of them gave their lives for thing but for the last two days when I walked around in Delhi, except for one Peshwa Marg and one Rani of Jhansi Marg I don’t see any representation of Peshwa in this city and Delhi has forgotten the Marathas and I hope that to the limited number of people who I have here I have been some way managed to convey what a role they played in that, very eventful 18th century in the History of India.
Thank you very much.