Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Dr K Prabhakar Rao


While Maratha power was rising in India, Mughal power was rapidly declining.Maraths were great force to reckon with and they were knocking at Delhi gates. Another most important personality in Maratha political scene was Mahadaji Sindhia of Gwalior.
He was the son of Ranoji Shinde and grand son ofe son of Jankojirao Shinde, the Patil of Kanherkhed in Maharashtra. Ranoji was put in charge of the Maratha armies in Malwa by the Peshwa. He conquered much of Malwa from the Mughal Empire, and fixed his headquarters in the ancient city of Ujjain, which ultimately became the capital of the Shinde dominion, which was known after its later capital of Gwalior. Ranoji died in 1745 and left five sons. Mahadaji was trained in the art of warfare from childhood and he rose to be abrave warrior and strategist.
Between 1745 and 1761, Mahadji fought in around 50 wars, including those in Malwa, Rajputana, Bundelkhand, Brij, Doab, Rohilkhand, Delhi, Kunjpur, and in the Battle of Panipat.At the time of battle of panipat he was not the ruler of Gwalior state. Among the campaigns which Mahadji assisted, the notable ones include the ones at Chandravati Ganj (1746), Fatehabad (1746), Badi Sadri (1747), Marwar (1747), and Himat Nagar (1748).
The army of Malharrao Holkar joined the Shinde army to bring all the Rajput states under Maratha control and force them to accept Maratha suzerainty, as directed by the Peshwa Balaji Rao. Under this campaign, several city states were added to the Maratha Empire such as Medtya, Ratangarh, Lalgarh, Bikaner, Laswari, Lachhmangarh, Kumher and Deeg and the states with territory of Jaipur and Jodhpur agreed to become vassals of the Maratha Empire. All the Jat states except Bharatpur and Vijaynagar too were conquered.
Mathura which was under Mughal rule was conquered by Mahadji in 1755 where he reconstructed various old temples and established a centre for Sanskrit learning. In January 1758, Mahadji established Gwalior as his headquarters. He was emerging as a great personality in Maratha politics.
Marathas by this time had conquered almost all Mughal territory in central and north India. Mughals had thus become just the titular heads of Delhi. After the death of Mohammed Shah Rangeela the Mughal emperors became powerless. 1748-1754. Ahmad Shah. He soon had quarrels with the Rohillas, who were Afghans of [the vicinity of] Oudh. (The Rohillas, Afghan tribe, emigrated from Kabul apparently first to the north-west Himalayas, named Rohilla Himalayas settled in the late 17th century in the north-eastern part of Delhi, between the Gogra and the Ganges, in what they named Rohilkhand.) He was unable to cope with them; they forced their way into Allahabad, and the Vizier, Safdar Jang, called in the Marathas to help him against them; the Marathas repelled [the Rohillas], and in recognition of their help the Maratha leaders, Mahdaji Sindhia and Holkar, were rewarded with jagirs. Ghazi-uddin [son of] Asaf Jah's eldest son with whom the Great Mogul had had quarrel, seized him, put out his eyes, deposed him, and proclaimed one of the princes of royal blood [Emperor] under the title of Alamgir II. 1759. Ghazi-uddin ( Eldest son of Nizammulk I of Hyderabad) murdered Alamgir II, the last Great Mogul with any real power. Thus Mughal emperors just became puppets and could be blinded and murdered at will by the treacherous ministers and Wazirs.

In 1761, they wanted to expand further north and north west, where their path crossed Ahmad Shah Abdali — the ruler of Afghanistan, who had recently captured the Punjab and appointed his son as it's governor. The Marathas had gained control of a considerable part of India in the intervening period (1707–1757). In 1758, they occupied Delhi, captured Lahore and drove out Timur Shah Durrani the son and viceroy of the Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah Abdali. This was the high-water mark of the Maratha expansion, where the boundaries of their empire extended in the north to the Indus and the Himalayas, and in the south nearly to the extremity of the peninsula. This territory was ruled through the Peshwa, who talked of placing his son Vishwasrao on the Mughal throne. However Delhi still remained under the nominal control of Mughals, key Muslim intellectuals including Shah Waliullah and other Muslim clergy in India and Punjab who were alarmed at these developments. In desperation they appealed to Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani, the ruler of Afghanistan, to halt the threat. This was the beginning of Panipat battle and Durrani’s aim was to cut down Maratha power and save Delhi from occupation. This was serious challenge to Maratha aim of padpadshahi.

. The Mughal power in northern India had been declining since the reign of Aurangzeb, who died in 1707. In 1751–52, the Ahamdiya treaty was signed between the Marathas and Mughals, when Balaji Bajirao was the Peshwa Through this treaty, the Marathas controlled virtually the whole of India from their capital at Pune and Mughal rule was restricted only to Delhi(Mughals remained the nominal heads of Delhi).Emperor Alam gir II was murdered by ghaziuddin and he proped up grandson of Kambaks under title Jaha shah. Marathas were now straining to expand their area of control towards the Northwest of India. Ahmad Shah sacked the Mughal capital and withdrew with the booty he coveted. To counter the Afghans, Peshwa Balaji Bajirao sent Raghunathrao. He succeeded in ousting Timur Shah and his court from India and brought Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on the Indian side of Attock under Maratha rule Thus, upon his return to Kandahar in 1757, Amidst appeals from Muslim leaders like Shah Waliullah, perturbed by Maratha influence and impending the threat to Muslim domination in North India Ahamed shaah Abdali Durrani decided to attack Marathas. He knew very well about the strength of Marathas and had to take risks. Ahmad Shah Durrani (Ahmad Shah Abdali) angered by the news from his son and his allies was unwilling to allow the Marathas spread go unchecked. By the end of 1759, Abdali with his Afghan (Pashtun) tribes with the help from the Baloch and his Rohilla ally Najib Khan had reached Lahore as well as Delhi and defeated the smaller enemy garrisons. Ahmed Shah, at this point, withdrew his army to Anupshahr, on the frontier of the Rohilla country, where he successfully convinced the Nawab of Oudh Shuja-ud-Daula to join his alliance against the Marathas.This in spite of the Marathas time and again helping and showing sympathy towards Shuja-ud-daula. The Nawab’s mother was of the opinion that he should join the Marathas. The Marathas had helped Safdarjung (father of Shuja) in defeating Rohillas in Farrukhabad.
The Marathas under Sadashivrao Bhau (referred to as the Bhau or Bhao in sources) responded to the news of the Afghans' return to North India by raising a big army, and they marched North. Bhau's force was bolstered by some Maratha forces under Holkar, Scindia, Gaikwad and Govind Pant Bundela. Raja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur, a powerful king around Agra and Delhi, also joined Bhausaheb. But he then left the alliance at Agra as the over-confident Bhau did not heed his advice (to leave soldiers' families (women and children) at Agra and not take them to the battle field), did not want his cooperation, insulted him and even tried to arrest him at Agra. Raja Suraj Mal had to leave Agra at night as the Holkars warned him of the Bhau's plan to arrest him. He had assured food supplies and logistics for the Maratha army and his withdrawal proved fatal to the Marathas. The combined army of over 100,000 regular troops (and about 500,000 women and children) captured the Mughal capital, Delhi, from an Afghan garrison in December 1759. As Delhi was reduced to ashes due to many invasions and there was an acute shortage of supplies in the Maratha camp, Bhau ordered the sacking of the already depopulated city. He is said to have planned to place his nephew and the Peshwa's son, Vishwasrao, on the Mughal throne. The Jats (with the exception of Ala Singh, the first Maharaja of Patiala), did not support the Marathas due to arrogance of their general Sadasiva Bhau and the plan of Marathas to subjugate them by imposing taxes on them. Their withdrawal from the ensuing battle was to play a crucial role in its result. The Sikhs, particularly Ala Singh of Patiala, played both sides with Ala Singh actually being granted and crowned the first Sikh Maharajah despite the Sikh holy temple being destroyed by the Afghans. Thus there is a general agreement that Sadasiva Rao Bhau although was very brave and committed to Maratha cause was haughty and his high handedness put off some important chieftains such as Raja Suraj Mal and Shujauddaula the Nawab of Oudh. Even Mughal emperor was against Marathas ad sided Ahmed Shah Abdalis. Sikhs did not help Marathas as they considered them, as occupants. Sadasiva Rao also turned down the suggestion of Holkar that Maraths should adopt Guerilla tactics. This cost Marathas very dearly in course of the battle.

The Battle of Panipat III was not fought in one day. There is a great similarity between the battle of Rakshasa Tangadi fought in 1565 between Muslim Deccani armies and Hindu armies of Vijaynagar in South led by Araveeti Rama raya. Ram Raya was about to win the battle when the Muslim generals defected to the enemy at the call of jihad and this resulted in the defeat of Hindu forces and killing of Ramaraya. In Panipat war III too. The both armies did not come to grip immediately and they waited facing each other for long and this resulted in depletion of supplies. On the other hand Marathas took thousands of women and children to the war front. Supplies suffered badly. Sadasiva Rao declared Shah Alam II as the emperor on October 10, 1760 with Shujauddaula as the vazir with a hope of weaning away them from Abdalis. This had no effect. On the othrside Abdalis placed his troops surrounding Maraths and cut off supplies for two months. This resulted in serious suffering. At last Maraths decided to fight. Abdalis used his fresh troops as reserve and the tired Maraths were vanquished not before scores of Afghan soldiers were killed. Sadasiva Rao died fighting heroically and Viswas Rao was seriously wounded and died. Nearly one laks Marathas died in this war. Mahadaji sindhia and Nana Phadnavis narrowly escaped death and retreated to Maharashtra. Having learnt about the losses Peshwa retreated to Pune and died in great anguish at the loss of men, prestige and kin.


1. Panipat war III has shattered Maratha ambition of Padpadshahi in India. They realized that Sikhs, Jats and Rajputs were not in favor of Marathas.

2. They withdrew from Punjab and concentrated on Rajasthan and Bundelkhand

3. Defeat of Marathas in this war boosted the East India Company.

4. Although Durrani came out victorious he did not occupy the throne of Delhi. He knew that he could not control Afghanistan and India at one time. He withdrew to Afghanistan as his soldiers were at the verge of mutiny and wanted to return to homeland. He appointed Najibuddaula in Delhi and left.

5. Durrani did not want Maratha power in Punjab; He had parleys with the next Peshwa Madhav Rao and came to terms in 1963.

6. Marathas did not take up any campaigns for the next 10 years

7. Although Marathas lost Panipat war they were not vanquished. There was great set back to the prestige of Maratha power. But in a span of 10 years they were again very strong.

8. Durrani reinstated Mughal emperor.


1. Marathas went in for open war instead of guerilla war recommended by Holkar.

2...Marathas like Mughal armies took a big entourage like families, women and children to the battle front. This made the supplies difficult and the strength became unwieldy. The army’s pace was greatly weakened.

3. Peshwa left the administration entirely to his nobles in the north. Thus political strategies suffered and depended on whims and fancies of the commanders and nobles

4. Marathas did not go for war immediately after reaching Panipat. This gave Abdalis ample time to plan and strengthen and amend strategies and plans.

5. Maratha commanders had no unity, Sadasiva Rao Bhau was arrogant, and this has delineated others.

6. Marathas could not get the help of Rajputs and Jats and this made difference

7. The army lacked professional training.

8. Aims such as Padpadshahi were forgotten and Marathas indulged in sacking Hindu kingdoms too. This alienated many Hindu kingdoms and Sikhs too.

Thus it is seen that although Marathas were very close to Padpadshahi, Panipat war and the defeat weakened the Maratha power greatly although they revived within 10 years. But by this time, Europeans became very strong. Although Marathas became very strong again, the wars with East India Company and infighting for the post of Peshwa weakened the Marathas and they deviated from the main aim of Padpadshahi that was coined by Baji Rao I followed up by Balaji Rao almost to its end..



Dr. Manish Kumar said...

jithesh chandran said...

sir i think the only reason for maratha failure is the death of viswas rao at the crucial point .

Mihir said...

The Rohillas, Nawab of Oudh formed a grand Islamic alliance with foreign power of Durrani. While Indian powers like Jats, Sikhs and Rajputs did not ally with Marathas out of their own ambitions for power. Had they allied with the Marathas, Panipat War would have been averted or won if fought. British East India Company could have remained in tight leash..but alas this is the Great Indian saga.

Mihir said...

The Rohillas, Nawab of Oudh formed a grand Islamic alliance with foreign power of Durrani. While Indian powers like Jats, Sikhs and Rajputs did not ally with Marathas out of their own ambitions for power. Had they allied with the Marathas, Panipat War would have been averted or won if fought. British East India Company could have remained in tight leash..but alas this is the Great Indian saga.