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Shrimant Baji Rao Balaji Bhat (Marathi: श्रीमंत बाजीराव बालाजी भट)(August 18, 1699 – April 28, 1740), also known as Baji Rao I, was a noted general who served as Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Maratha Chhatrapati (Emperor) Shahu from 1719 until Baji Rao's death. He is also known as Thorale (Marathi for Elder) Baji Rao.

Bajirao I

Despite being a Brahmin, he took up leading his troops. He is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire created by its founder, Shivaji, to help reach its zenith during his son's reign twenty years after his death. Baji Rao is thus acknowledged as the most famous of the nine Peshwas.

Contents

Origins

Baji Rao was the son of the first Bhat family Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath. At the tender age of 20, he was appointed by Shahu Maharaj as Peshwa upon the death of his father, keeping aside all other claimants, thus making the position of Peshwa hereditary in the Bhat family. It is quite clear from this appointement that Shahu recognised the talent of this boy and reared him as peshwa. Bajirao was well trained by the Maratha cavalry generals who were distinguished in the war of 27 years. Perhaps his early association with these Maratha cavalry made him a part and parcel of them. Like Shivaji, Santaji Ghorpade, Nemaji Shinde, Krishnaji Sawant, Nagoji Bhosale or Dhanaji Jadhav, Bajirao was popular with his soldiers and even today his name is an honorable one.

Maratha empire at its zenith in 1760 (yellow areas)

Standing tall, poised and confident before Shahu Maharaj and his court the young new Peshwa Baji Rao is said to have thundered, “Let us transcend the barren Deccan and conquer central India. The Mughals have become weak indolent womanizers and opium-addicts. The accumulated wealth of centuries in the vaults of the north, can be ours. It is time to drive from the holy land of Bharatvarsha the outcaste and the barbarian. Let us throw them back over the Himalayas, back to where they came from. The Maratha flag must fly from the Krishna to the Indus. Hindustan is ours”.

He fixed his piercing gaze on Shahu Maharaj and said, “Strike, strike at the trunk and the branches will fall off themselves. Listen but to my counsel, and I shall plant the Maratha banner on the walls of Attock”. Shahu was deeply impressed and exclaimed, “By heaven, you shall plant it on the Himalayas”.

This story itself indicates the vision of Bajirao and Shahu Maharaj's faith in the young man. Shahu Maharaj appointed him as a Peshwa at such tender age, recognising his talents and entrusting to him imperial troops which had recently emerged victorious in the Mughal-Maratha conflict which ended in 1707. Baji Rao's greatness lies in that true to judgment of his master and seasoned troops at his disposal, he struck terror of Maratha armies in the Indian sub-continent.

Accomplishments

  • Baji Rao, who fought over 41 battles, is reputed to have never lost one.
  • He was one of the first to understand and exploit the fragmenting Mughal Empire, following the footsteps of his father. The declining influence of the Syed Brothers at the Imperial court was another factor influencing his decision to attack.
  • He moved the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Satara to the new city of Pune in 1728 with permission of his master. His general, Bapuji Shripat persuaded some of the richer families of Satara to settle in the new city, which was divided into 18 peths (boroughs).
  • In 1732, after the death of Maharaja Chhatrasal, a long-time ally of the Maratha Empire, Baji Rao was granted 1/3 of Chhatrasal's kingdom in Bundelkhand.
  • Although a very capable cavalry leader, Baji Rao is thought by historians to not be a very able administrator[citation needed]. He did not organize the expanding empire or put a governance structure in place. This may have resulted in the eventual creation of smaller fiefdoms when the central authority of the Peshwas began declining[citation needed].

Major battles

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Battle tactics

Baji Rao is famous for rapid tactical movements in battle using his cavalry, hence he is often called a cavalry general. Two examples are the Battle of Palkhed in 1728 when he outmaneuvered the Mughal Governor of the Deccan province, and again in the battle against the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah at Delhi during 1739. His main focus was always on cutting the enemy supply-lines with the help of rapid troop movement and the local terrain. He revolutionised military tactics in his times. encircling enemy quickly, appearing from the rear of enemy, attacking from the unexpected direction, distracting enemy's attention, keeping enemy in surprise and deciding the battelfield on own terms were his trademark war-winning tactics.

Basic difference between the tactics used by Chhtrapati Shivaji Maharaj and that of by Thorle Bajirao Pehwe is that Shivaji Maharaj employed Ganimi Kava (i.e. Guerilla warfare). Bajirao did not use this tactic. The reason is that during Shivaji's period Hindavi Swarajya was too small, man-power was limited and resources were also short. In such adverse conditions Ganimi Kava was the best tactic. But in the mean time situation changed. When Bajirao took charge Swarajya was expanding, man-power was increasing and resources were accumulating. Hence Guerilla warfare was not useful in the changed scenario. Hence Bajirao developed this fast and furious military tactic.

Family

Baji Rao was married to Kashibai, and had three sons of whom, Nanasaheb, was appointed Peshwa by Shahu in 1740.

Mastani

Mastani

Mastani was the second wife of Bajirao. She bore him a son, named Krishnarao at birth, but the brahmins did not accept him as a pure Hindu brahmin since his mother was a Muslim, (the daughter of Maharaja Chattrasal of Panna by a Muslim wife) Mastani was also the single biggest complication in Bajirao's personal life. Their love affair caused much rift in the orthodox Pune society of the time and led to a major crisis within the royal Peshwa family.

Bajirao ardently desired that his son by Mastani be invested with the sacred thread and be declared a brahmin. But even the powerful Bajirao could not get the orthodox Pune brahmin priests to agree. With a heavy heart he had to bring up the lad as a Muslim. Renamed Shamsher Bahadur, Bajirao and Mastani's son died, aged barely 27, fighting valiantly for the Marathas in the Battle of Panipat 1761. Shamsher Bahadur's son, Ali Bahadur, ruled over Baji Rao's lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda, UP.

Historian D. G. Godse claims that Baji Rao's brother Chimnaji Appa and mother, Radhabai, never accepted Mastani as one of their own. Many attempts were made on her life, presumably by Chimanji Appa and she was able to survive these attempts only at the interference of Chattrapati Shahu.

A recreation of the 'Mastani Mahal', the palace Peshwa Bajirao had built for her can be seen at the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune. Parts of this exhibit are said to have been salvaged from the original palace that Bajirao had built.

Death

Bajirao died on April 28, 1740 still in his prime. He died of a sudden fever, possibly heat stroke, while inspecting his jagirs and en route to delhi with one lakh troops under his command at his camp in the district of Khargon, near the city of Indore. He was cremated on April 28, 1740, at Raverkhedi on the river, Narmada.
To visit the Peshwa Bajirao Samadhi Smarak, you have to get down at Sanavat Railway Station. Travel by Bus or Private Vehicle to Khedi (via Bedia village). From Khedi (Raverkhedi) Village, go to Raver village. On the banks of Narmada River, this archeological place is a picturesque landmark with beautiful landscape !
(It is around 110 km from Indore. Route - Indore - Sanavat - Bedia - Raverkhedi - Raver) Every Year on 28 April, People from Maharashtra (mainly Pune), Gujarat (mainly Baroda), Madhya Pradesh (Indore & Gwalior) come to this place to remember this Hero.[1]

Preceded by
Balaji Vishwanath Bhat
Peshwa
1719-1740
Succeeded by
Balaji Baji Rao

Trivia

  • Baji Rao built the palace, Shaniwar Wada in the city of Pune. A statue of Baji Rao stands in front of the palace.

Media

  • A Bollywood Hindi movie, ''Bajirao Mastani'' the romance between Baji Rao and his wife, Mastani is currently being planned. The movie is to be directed by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and is slated to star Rani Mukherjee as Kashibai, Kareena Kapoor as Mastani and Salman Khan or Abhishek Bachchan as Baji Rao Peshwa. The movie has drawn the ire of Hindus as they feel instead of highlighting his revival of Hindu society and values, the movie depicts a questionable affair.
  • A Marathi serial "Rau" was made on the story of Bajirao and Mastani in the 90s. It was based on the book of the same name by N. S. Inamdar.

Quotes

"He died as he lived, in camp under canvas among his men, and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa and the incarnation of Hindu energy."

- English historian Sir Richard Carnac Temple, Sivaji and the rise of the Mahrattas

"The Palkhed Campaign of 1727-28 in which Baji Rao I out-generalled Nizam-ul-Mulk , is a masterpiece of strategic mobility"

- British Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery, The Concise History of Warfare, 132

"Remember that night has nothing to do with sleep. It was created by God, to raid territory held by your enemy. The night is your shield, your screen against the cannons and swords of vastly superior enemy forces."

- Bajirao was said to have told his brother Chimaji Appa.

"Bajirao was a heaven born cavalry leader. In the long and distinguished galaxy of Peshwas, Bajirao was unequalled for the daring and originality of his genius and the volume and value of his achievements"

- Author Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foreword in V.G. Dighe's, Peshwa Bajirao I and Maratha Expansion

References

  1. ^ See the detailed plan of how to reach the threatened samadhi along with 21 photographs taken 19 April 2008 at [1]

External links

Additional reading

  • Palsolkar, Col. R. D. Bajirao I: An outstanding Indian Cavalry General, India: Reliance Publishers, 248pp, 1995, ISBN 81-85972-93-1.
  • Paul, E. Jaiwant. Baji Rao - The Warrior Peshwa, India: Roli Books Pvt Ltd, 184pp, ISBN 81-7436-129-4.
  • Dighe, V.G. Peshwa Bajirao I and the Maratha Expansion, 1944
  • The Marathi historical novel "Rau" (1972) by historical novelist N. S. Inamdar also deals with the story of Bajirao and Mastani and the later part of Bajirao's life. It also tells of the Peshwa's relations with his mother Radhabai, his wife Kashibai, his son Nana Saheb (later Balaji Baji Rao) and his sickly but brilliant brother Chimaji Appa.
  • "Mastani" by D. G. Godse
  • A History of Marathas - By Grantt Duff (Online book which mentions history from Shahaji Bhonsle till end of Peshwa regime.)
  • PRATAP-SURYA "THORALE BAJIRAO PESHWE" by DR. P.V.VARTAK (In MARATHI)

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