Baji Rao I : A brief account of the Career and Achievements

Sansar LochanModernLeave a Comment

After the death of his father, Vishwanath, Baji Rao I was appointed the Peshwa by Chahhatrapati Shahu when he was hardly twenty years of age. He was not well educated. He was not interested either in administration or finance. But he had understood the politics and diplomacy of his age under the guidance of his father. More than that he proved himself a most brilliant military commander of his age which brought him success in every field of life.

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Baji Rao I

Baji Rao I had several internal and external enemies. Senapati Trimbak Rao was jealous of him while Pratinidhi Sripat Rao differed with him on matters of state policy. Among external enemies, the Sidis and the Angrias opposed the Marathas on the Konkan coast and Shambhuji II, cousin of Chhatrapati Shahu, disputed his claim of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six Subas of the Deccan. Above all was Nizam-ul-mulk Asaf Jah, the founder fuler of the state Hyderabad. The Nizam was an astute diplomat and the most experienced military commander among the Mughals. The Marathas alone were capable of threatening the security of his infant state and therefore, he was determined to oppose their efforts of extending their power in the Deccan. Baji Rao had to face the challenge of such a shrewd and determined enemy.

Baji Rao, however, had one grand opportunity. The Mughal empire had weakened and was gradually disintegrating. He decided to take advantage of it. He decided to extend the Maratha power at the cost of the Mughals. He expressed : “Let us strike at the trunk of the withering tree, the branches will fall themselves” He largely succeeded in fulfilling his aim.

Nizam-ul-mulk Asaf Jah

However, the first enemy of the Marathas at that time was the Nizam of Hyderabad. Nizam had no intention to pay Chauth and Sardeshmukhi to the Marathas. Baji Rao who was bent upon collecting it, proved to be his greatest enemy in the Maratha camp. Nizam Asaf Jah, therefore, instigated Senapati Trimbak Rao against him, encouraged Shambhuji II of Kolhapur to claim Chauth and Sardeshmukhi for himself with a view to dividing the Marathas and tried to take advantage of the differences between Baji Rao and Pratinidhi Sripat Rao. But Peshawa Baji foiled all his attempts. The Nizam finally took offensive measures against the Marathas in 1726. Baji Rao was in Karnataka at that time. When he returned from there in 1727, he started fighting against him. The fighting continued for nearly a year. Finally, in 1728, he besieged the Nizam at Palkhed. The position of the Nizam became so difficult that he signed the treaty of Mungi-Shegaon without an open battle. He accepted Shahu as the sole Chhatrapati of the Marathas and agreed to pay Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. But the Nizam did not forget his humiliation. In 1737, he was deputed by the Mughal emperor to suppress the Marthas. The Nizam had a large army and good artillery. He entrenched himself securely near Bhopal. This time again, Baji Rao encircled the Nizam and stopped his supplies. The Nizam was forced to sign the treaty of Durai-Sarai in 1738 without fighting. This time, the Nizam submitted finally and afterwards, did not dare to do anything against the Marathas. It was a grand success of Baji Rao against his worst enemy.

Pratinidhi Sripat Rao

Baji Rao had differenced with Pratinidhi Sripat Rao from the very beginning. Sripat Rao desired that the Marathas should not penetrate in northern India, avoid conflict with the Nizam of Hyderabad and concentrate on internal consolidation. It was all against the desires and ambitions of Baji Rao. Finally, a meeting of the Maratha chiefs was held at Satara. The majority of them favoured the policies of him, yet, Sripat Rao was not satisfied. It was only when the Nizam was defeated by him at Palkhed in 1728 that Sripat Rao felt convinced of the policies of him and also of his capability of pursuing them successfully.

Shambhuji II

Shambhuji II, the cousin of Chhatrapati Shahu, ruled at Kolhapur. He disputed the claim of Shahu to be the sole king of the Marathas and also his right of collecting Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six provinces of the Deccan. He was finally defeated in 1730 and forced to sign the treaty of Varna in 1731 by which he accepted both the claims of Shahu.

Senapati Trimbak Rao

Senapati Trimbak Rao inherited opposition to Baji Rao from his father. While Peshawa Baji desired that both he and Senapati should enjoy the ownership of the jagir of Gujarat and Malwa jointly, Trimbak Rao desired clear-cut division of the two provinces. Finally, the enmity between the two resulted in an open battle at Dabhai in April 1731. Trimbak Rao was defeated and killed in the battle. It was a remarkable success of Peshawa Baji.

Conquest of the North

The Marathas penetrated in northern India under the command of Baji Rao . They started raiding Gujarat from 1723 and virtually became its masters by 1727. They began their attacks on Malwa from 1722. Finally Malwa was handed over to the Marathas in 1738 by the treaty of Durai-Sarai. In 1729, Baji Rao went to help Chhatrasal against the Mughals. In return, Chhatrasal handed over nearly half of the territory of Bundelkhand to the Marathas. The Marathas then started attacking Doab, Rajasthan and the neighbouring territory of Delhi. Mostly the Mughals purchased peace with the Marathas by offering annual grant to them. In 1737, Baji Rao attacked even the vicinity of Delhi itself though refrained from plundering the city of Delhi. Thus, he captured large territories in the North, collected annual ransom from the Mughal emperor and established the military supremacy of the Marathas all over India.

Konkan

Baji Rao established the supremacy of the Marathas at the sea-coast of Konkan. The Siddis accepted the sovereignty of the Marathas over Konkan, the Angrias accepted the suzerainty of the Maratha king and the Portuguese and the English signed treaties with the Marathas.

Death of Baji Rao

In 1740, Baji Rao attached Hyderabad and recovered his jagir from the hands of Nasir Jang, son of Nizam-ul-mulk. He did not return from there. He fell ill and died there in 1740. It has been opined by several historians that he loved a Muslim girl Mastani. She was presented to him by king Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand. Baji Rao married her and had a daughter from her. The Maratha society, however, did not like this romance of the Peshwa. When he was in Hyderabad, Mastani was imprisoned in her house. This broke the heart of the Peshwa who decided not to return to Poona. He then fell ill and died. Dr. H.N. Sinha comments: “Bravest of the brave, fairest of the fair, Baji Rao died like a fascinating figure in a romance of love.”

Baji Rao was, certainly, the builder of the Maratha power in India. It was he who made the Marathas the foremost power in India and, therefore, is ranked among the greatest Peshwas.

Points to Remember

  1. Baji Rao I was a brilliant military commander. He succeeded against his internal and external enemies and also extended the territory of the kingdom of Shahu by his successful military campaigns.
  2. The Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah, who was the worst enemy of the Marathas, had refused to pay Chauth and Sardeshmukhi to Shahu and had instigated all the enemies of Baji Rao against him. He was defeated repeatedly and forced to sign the treaties of Mungi-Shegaon and Durai-Sarai in 1728 and 1738 respectively.
  3. Pratinidhi Sripat Rao who believed in concentrating the energies of the Marathas only in the Deccan wins, finally, convinced of the policy of Baji Rao of penetrating in the North after the defeat of Nizam by him in 1728.
  4. Shambhuji II, a cousin of Shahu and the ruler of Kolhapur, was forced to abandon his claim over the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi of the Deccan and accept the suzerainty of Shahu.
  5. Senapati Trimbak Rao, who desired clear-cut division of the jagirs of Gujarat and Malwa between himself and Baji Rao, was killed in the battle of Dabhai in 1731.
  6. The Marathas conquered Gujarat by 1727 and Malwa by 1738.
  7. Nearly the half of the territory of Bundelkhand was handed over to Baji Rao by Raja Chhatrasal in return of his help to him against the Mughals.
  8. Baji Rao terrorised the Mughal emperor by attacking even the vicinity of Delhi in 1737.
  9. Baji Rao established the supremacy of the Marathas as the seacoast of Konkan by forcing the Siddis and the Angrias to accept the suzerainty of Shahu.
  10. Baji Rao died of fever in 1740.

Mains Question

Give a brief account of the career and achievements of Peshwa Baji Rao I.

Tags : Baji Rao I biography. His achievements, career and conquest of the North. His life story and love story with Mastani. Peshwa death. Ncert Notes in Brief.

Source used : NCERT, Tamil Nadu Board, IGNOU Modern History, NIOS textbooks.

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