BAJI RAO AND MASTANI
Dr K Prabhakar Rao
Baji Rao I was the son of Peshwa Balaji Vishwa nath the first Peshwa appointed by Chatrapathi Sahu Maharaj. His success in military campaigns is phenomenal and probably he never tasted defeat. He has great fore thought and sensed that Mughal power was crumbling. He went to Delhi along with his father during his meetings with Mughal emperor and the nobles and could grasp the political scene with great accuracy. At a very young age of 25 years he became Peshwa and this was resented by the contemporary nobles. However Chatrapathi Sahu had great confidence in the young man and was impressed by the youthful warrior and made him the Peshwa the most coveted post in Maratha empire. In subsequent years Peshwa became the supreme ruler and the Emperor of Marathas was nominal. This was due to the political scene and Sahu maharaj spent many years in Mughal captivity and he thus lacked in the required qualities for a self asserting ruler that was the hall mark till Sambhaji Maharaj and to some effect Tarabai had the qualities although Raja ram was weak who ruled after Sambhaji but died soon.
The love life of Baji Rao I with Mastani is famous. It however affected the reputation in the Hindu family of Peshwa and among orthodox community. Mastani was the daughter of Chatrasal Bundela ( 1649-1731) through a Persian Muslim mistress. Baji Rao I helped Chatrasal in a military campaign by rushing with his troops. Earlier Mughal commander Mohammed Khan Bangash of Allahabad attacked ( 1727-28) Chatrasal and captured him and imprisoned him. Baji Rao was contacted secretly by Chatrasal and Baji Rao who was on a military campaign at a close by place at once rushed to his help and defeated the Mughal General and restored Chatrasal to his throne. In gratitude Chatrasal gifted his most talented daughter Mastai to Baji Rao. She became wife to him and was brought to Pune. He constructed a beautiful palace called Shaniwar Wada in Pune and lived with her. Mastani was a skilled horse-rider, and she accompanied Baji Rao on his military campaigns. According to legends, she was skilled in spear-throwing and swordsmanship. She was also a talented dancer and singer. Both Mastani and Baji Rao's wife, Kashibai, bore sons to Baji Rao within a few months of each other. Kashibai's child died at an early age. Mastani's child was named Shamsher Bahadur. He became a great warrior true like his father.,
However, Baji Rao's love for his half-Moslem wife Mastani, and neglect of Kashibai angered his mother, Radhabai. In deference to Radhabai, Baji Rao's brother, Chimnaji Appa, tried to send Mastani into exile. Baji Rao's son, Balaji, also tried to coerce Mastani into leaving his father, but she refused. Enraged by her growing influence on Baji Rao, and Baji Rao's neglect of Kashibai, Balaji had Mastani placed under house arrest for a time, while Baji Rao was on military campaign. In April 1740, while Baji Rao was inspecting his lands at Khargon, he suddenly became ill and died. Baji Rao's wife Kashibai, his brother Chimnaji Appa, his son Balaji (Nanasaheb) ( Peshwa later on), and Mastani came to Khargon. Bajirao's mortal remains were consigned to flames on 28 April 1740, at Raver Khed on the banks of the Narmada River. Mastani died at Pabal Village near Pune, soon afterwards. Some sate that she committed Sati on the funeral pyre of Baji Rao. Kashibai took Mastani's six-year-old son Shamsher Bahadur (also named as Krushnarao) into her household and raised him as one of her own. Shamsher grew up into a formidable warrior and fought in the Third Battle of Panipat in 14/1/1761 against Ahmed Shah Abdali Durani, alongside his half-cousin and the most valiant warrior Sadasiva Rao Bhau and his half-nephew Vishwasrao, Nanasaheb's son. Shamsher Bahadur, barely 27 at the time, lost his life along with Sadasiva Rao Bhau and Vishwasrao in that battle. Shamsher Bahadur son, Ali Bahadur, ruled over Baji Rao's lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda, Uttar Pradesh.Baji Rao beinga Brahmin, his association with a Muslim woman was most disliked by the orthodox Brahmin community and this Baji Rao into great stress and caused his early death. With this India lost a most dynamic warrior general from the land of Marathas who could surely establish Hindu padpadshahi at Delhi. But fate thought otherwise. It was not to be. Padpadshahi came very close and still it was very far away. The ways of destiny are strange. Most unexpected things take place taking history into another route. Baji Raos death and Battle of Panipat III are such incidents that put Hindu clock in reverse direction.