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Rule of the Peshwas

Rule of the Peshwas (1713-1818)

  • The Peshwa or the prime minister was the foremost minister in the Ashta Pradhan, the council of ministers of Shivaji.
  • The Peshwas gained more powers and became dominant in the eighteenth Century.
  • Balaji Viswanath was the first powerful Peshwa.

Peshwa is a Persian word which means “Foremost” or the “First Minister”.

Balaji Viswanath (1713–1720)

  • Balaji Viswanath assisted the Maratha emperor Shahu to consolidate his control over the kingdom that had been plagued by a civil war.
  • Kanhoji Angre was the most powerful naval chief on the western coast.
  • During the civil war Kanhoji had supported Tarabai.
  • The Peshwa convinced him of the common danger from the Europeans and secured his loyalty to Shahu.
  • The practice of granting jagirs was revived.
  • And the office of Peshwa was made hereditary.

Baji Rao I (1720–1740)

  • After Balaji Viswanath, his son Baji Rao I was appointed Peshwa in 1720 by Shahu.
  • Baji Rao enhanced the power and prestige of the Maratha Empire by defeating the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Rajput Governor of Malwa and the Governor of Gujarat.
  • He freed Bundelkhand from the control of Mughals and for this the Marathas got one third of the territories from its ruler.
  • The commander-in-chief, Trimbak Rao, who troubled the Peshwa, was defeated and killed in the battle of Dabhai near Baroda in 1731.
  • And the Peshwa assumed the office of the commander-in-chief also.
  • By the treaty of Warna signed in 1731, Sambhaji of Kolhapur was forced to accept the sovereignty of Shahu.
  • Thana, Salsette and Bassein were captured from the Portuguese in 1738 and they were driven out of the Konkan coast.
  • At the same time, the English made friendly overtures to the Marathas and got the right to free trade in the Deccan region.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740–1761)

  • Balaji Baji Rao succeeded as the Peshwa after the death of his father Baji Rao I.
  • Known as Nana Sahib, he proved to be a good administrator and an expert in handling financial matters.

Carnatic Expedition

  • Chanda Sahib, son-in-law of the Nawab of Arcot, after capturing Tiruchirappalli threatened to lay siege to Thanjavur.
  • Its Maratha ruler appealed to Shahu for help in 1739.
  • Responding to this appeal, the Peshwa sent Raghoji Bhonsle (Sahu’s brother-inlaw) to Thanjavur.
  • Raghoji Bhonsle defeated and killed the Nawab of Arcot, Dost Ali, in 1740.
  • Tiruchirappalli was captured and Chanda Sahib imprisoned.
  • As the Peshwa was subsequently engaged in military expeditions in Bundelkhand and Bengal, Mohammed Ali, who succeeded Dost Ali, could easily retake Arcot and recapture Tiruchirappalli in 1743.
  • The Peshwa then sent his cousin Sadasiva Rao to the Carnatic.
  • Although the authority of the Marathas was re-established, Tiruchirappalli could not be regained.

Battle of Udgir, 1760

  • A war of succession broke out after the death of Nizam Asaf Jah in 1748.
  • Peshwa supported the eldest son of the Nizam.
  • The army sent by Peshwa under Sadasiva Rao won the battle of Udgir in 1760.
  • This success marked the climax of Maratha military might.
  • The Peshwa took over Bijapur, Aurangabad, Dulatabad, Ahmednagar and Burhanpur.
  • The Marathas had brought Rajaputana under their domination after six expeditions between 1741 and 1748.
  • In 1751 the Nawab of Bengal had to cede Orissa and pay an annual tribute to the Marathas.
  • As the Marathas were always after the Mughal throne they entered Delhi in 1752 to drive out the Afghans and Rohillas from Delhi.
  • Imad-ul-Mulk who was made the Wazir with the help of Marathas became a puppet in their hands.
  • After bringing the Punjab under their control, they expelled the representative of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the founder of the Durani Empire in Afghanistan.
  • A major conflict with Ahmad Shah Abdali became therefore inevitable.
  • The Marathas tried to find allies among the powers in the north-west.
  • But their earlier deeds had antagonized all of them.
  • The Sikhs, Jat chiefs and Muslims did not trust them.
  • The Marathas did not help Siraj-ud-Daulah in the battle of Plassey in 1757.
  • So no help was forthcoming from Bengal either.
  • A move on the part of the Peshwa against the British, both in Karnataka and Bengal, would have probably checked their advance.
  • But the Peshwa’s undue interests in Delhi earned the enmity of various regional powers.
  • Ahmad Shah Abdali brought about the disaster at Panipat in 1761.

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