August 18, 1700 (
Chimnaji Appa (brother)
April 28, 1740, Khargone district
Mastani (m. 1728), Kashibai
Balaji Baji Rao, Raghunathrao, Shamsher Bahadur I
Balaji Vishwanath, Radhabai Barve
Mastani, Kashibai, Ranveer Singh, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Balaji Baji Rao
Thorle Bajirao Peshwa Samadhi Raver
Bajirao I (18 August 1700 – 28 April 1740) was a noted Indian general who served as Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Maratha Chhatrapati (Emperor) Shahu from 1720 until Bajirao's death. His other names include Bajirao Ballal and Thorale (Marathi for Elder) Bajirao. He was also popular with the nickname 'Rau' (in Marathi 'राऊ').
- Thorle Bajirao Peshwa Samadhi Raver
- Bajirao Mastani Story
- Early life
- Early career as a Peshwa
- Campaign against the Nizam
- Pune as capital
- Malwa campaign
- Bundelkhand campaign
- Gujarat campaign
- Campaign against Siddis
- March to Delhi
- Against the Portuguese
- Personal life
- Battle tactics
- In popular culture
Bajirao took up the charge of leading his troops. He is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire, especially in the north, which contributed to its reaching a zenith during his son's reign twenty years after his death. Bajirao is acknowledged as the most influential of the nine Peshwas from the Bhat family.
Bajirao Mastani Story
Bajirao was born into the Bhat family of Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin lineage. His father Balaji Vishwanath was the first Peshwa of Chhatrapati Shahu; his mother was Radhabai. Bajirao had a younger brother Chimaji Appa.
Bajirao would often accompany his father on military campaigns. He was with his father when the latter was imprisoned by Damaji Thorat before being released for a ransom. When Vishwanath died in 1720, Shahu appointed the 20-year old Bajirao as the Peshwa. He is said to have preached the ideal of Hindu Pad Padshahi (Hindu Empire), but there are doubts over his or his successors' sincerity on this matter.
Early career as a Peshwa
By the time Bajirao became the Peshwa, the Chhatrapati Shahu was almost a titular ruler, largely confined to his residence in Satara. The Maratha confederacy was run in his name, but the real power lay in the hands of the Peshwa. By the time of Bajirao's appointment, the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah had recognized Marathas' rights over the territories possessed by Shivaji at his death. In 1719, the Mughals had also recognized the Maratha rights to collect taxes (chauth and sardeshmukhi) in the six provinces of Deccan. Bajirao believed that the Mughal Empire was in decline, and wanted to take advantage of this situation with aggressive expansion in north India. Sensing the declining fortune of the Mughals, he is reported to have said, "Strike, strike at the trunk and the branches will fall off themselves." However, as a new Peshwa, he faced several challenges:,
Campaign against the Nizam
On 4 January 1721, Bajirao met Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah I at Chikhalthan to settle their disputes through agreement. However, the Nizam refused to recognize the Maratha rights to collect taxes from the Deccan provinces. The Nizam was made Wazir of the Mughal Empire in 1722, but alarmed at his growing power, emperor Muhammad Shah transferred him from Deccan to Awadh in 1723. The Nizam rebelled against the order, resigned as the Wazir and marched towards Deccan. The emperor sent an army against him, which was defeated in the Battle of Sakhar-kheda. In response, the Mughal emperor was forced to recognize him as the viceroy of Deccan. The Marathas, led by Bajirao, helped Nizam win this battle. In fact, for his bravery in the battle, Bajirao was honored with a robe, a mansabdari of 7,000, an elephant and a jewel. After the battle, the Nizam tried to appease both the Maratha Chhatrapati Shahu as well as the Mughal emperor. However, in reality, he wanted to carve out a sovereign kingdom, and considered the Marathas his rivals in the Deccan.
In 1725, the Nizam sent an army to clear out the Maratha revenue collectors from the Carnatic region. The Marathas dispatched a force under Fateh Singh Bhosle to counter him; Bajirao accompanied Bhosle, but did not command the army. The Marathas were forced to retreat. They launched a second campaign after the monsoon season, but once again, they were unable to prevent the Nizam from ousting the Maratha collectors.
Meanwhile, in Deccan, Sambhaji II of Kolhapur had become a rival claimant to the title of the Maratha Chhatrapati. The Nizam took advantage of this dispute among the Marathas. He refused to pay the chauth or sardeshmukhi on the grounds that it was unclear who was the real Chhatrapati: Shahu or Sambhaji II (and therefore, to whom the payment needed to be made). The Nizam offered to act as an arbitrator in this dispute. At the court of Shahu, Nizam's spokesman was Parshuram Pant Pratinidhi, a Deshastha Brahmin and a rival of Bajirao (who was a Chitpavan Brahmin). At the court of Sambhaji II and Tarabai, his supporter was Chandrasen Yadav, who had fought Bajirao's father a decade earlier. Bajirao convinced Shahu not to accept the Nizam's arbitration offer, and instead launch an assault against him.
On 27 August 1727, Bajirao started a march against the Nizam. He raided and plundered several of Nizam's territories, such as Jalna, Burhanpur and Khandesh. While Bajirao was away, the Nizam invaded Pune, where he installed Sambhaji II as the Chhatrapati. He then marched out of the city, leaving behind a contingent headed by Fazal Beg. On 28 February 1728, the armies of Bajirao and Nizam faced each other at the Battle of Palkhed. The Nizam was defeated, and forced to make peace. On 6 March, he signed the Treaty of Mungi Shevgaon, recognizing Shahu as the Chhatrapati as well as the Maratha right to collect taxes in Deccan.
Pune as capital
In 1728, Bajirao moved the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Shahu's Satara to the city of Pune. His general, Bapuji Shripat, persuaded some of the richer families of Satara to settle in the Pune city, which was divided into 18 peths (boroughs).
In 1723, Bajirao had organized an expedition to the southern parts of Malwa. The Maratha chiefs such as Ranoji Scindia (Shinde), Malhar Rao Holkar and Udaji Pawar had successfully collected chauth from several areas in Malwa. (Later, these chiefs carved out their own kingdoms of Gwalior, Indore and Dhar respectively). To counter the Maratha influence, the Mughal emperor had appointed Girdhar Bahadur as the Governor of Malwa.
After defeating the Nizam, Bajirao turned his attention towards Malwa. In October 1728, he dispatched a huge army commanded by his younger brother Chimnaji Appa, and aided by the generals like Scindia, Holkar and Pawar. On 29 November 1728, Chimnaji's army defeated the Mughals at the Battle of Amjhera. Girdhar Bahadur and his commander Daya Bahadur were killed in the battle. Chimnaji also marched towards Ujjain, but had to retreat due to lack of supplies. By February 1729, the Maratha forces had reached the present-day Rajasthan.
In Bundelkhand, Chhatrasal had rebelled against the Mughal empire and established an independent kingdom. In December 1728, a Mughal force led by Muhammad Khan Bangash defeated him, and imprisoned his family. Chhatrasal had repeatedly sought Bajirao's assistance, but the latter was busy in Malwa at that time. In March 1729, the Peshwa finally responded to Chhatrasal's request, and marched towards Bundelkhand. Chhatrasal also escaped his captivity and joined the Maratha force. After they marched to Jaitpur, Bangash was forced to leave Bundelkhand. Chhatrasal's position as the ruler of Bundelkhand was restored. Chhtrasal assigned a large jagir to Bajirao, and also married his daughter Mastani to him. Before his death in December 1731, he ceded some of his territories to the Marathas.
After consolidating Maratha influence in central India, Peshwa Bajirao decided to assert Maratha rights to collect taxes from the rich province of Gujarat. In 1730, he sent a Maratha force under Chimnaji Appa to Gujarat. Sarbuland Khan, the Mughal Governor of the province, ceded to Marathas, the right to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi from Gujarat. He was soon replaced by Abhay Singh, who also recognized the Maratha rights to collect taxes. However, this success irked Chhatrapati Shahu's senapati (commander-in-chief) Trimbak Rao Dabhade. His ancestors from the Dabhade clan had raided Gujarat several times, asserting their rights to collect taxes from that province. Annoyed at Bajirao's control over what he considered his family's sphere of influence, he rebelled against the Peshwa. Two other Maratha nobles of Gujarat — Gaekwad and Kadam Bande — also sided with Dabhade.
Meanwhile, after the defeat of Girdhar Bahadur in 1728, the Mughal emperor had appointed Jai Singh II to subdue the Marathas. However, Jai Singh recommended a peaceful agreement with the Marathas. The emperor disagreed, and replaced him with Muhammad Khan Bangash. Bangash formed an alliance with the Nizam, Trimabk Rao and Sambhaji II. On 1 April 1731, Bajirao defeated the allied forces of Dabhade, Gaekwad and Kadam Bande: Trimbak Rao was killed in the Battle of Dabhoi. On 13 April, Bajirao resolved the dispute with Sambhaji II by signing the Treaty of Warna, which demarcated the territories of Chhatrapati Shahu and Sambhaji II. Subsequently, the Nizam met Bajirao at Rohe-Rameshwar on 27 December 1732, and promised not to interfere with the Maratha expeditions.
Even after subduing Trimbak Rao, Shahu and Bajirao avoided a rivalry with the powerful Dabhade clan: Trimbak's son Yashwant Rao was made the new senapati of Shahu. The Dabhade family was allowed to continue collecting chauth from Gujarat on the condition that they would deposit half the collections in the Chhatrapati Shahu's treasury.
Campaign against Siddis
The Siddis of Janjira controlled a small but strategically important territory on the western coast of India. They originally held only the Janjira fort, but after Shivaji's death, they had expanded their rule to a large part of the central and northern Konkan region. After the death of the Siddi chief Rasul Yakut Khan in 1733, a war of succession broke out among his sons. One of his sons, Abdul Rehman, requested Bajirao for help. Bajirao sent a Maratha force led by Sekhoji Angre (son of Kanhoji Angre). The Marathas regained control of several places in Konkan and besieged Janjira. However, their strength was diverted after Peshwa's rival Pratinidhi occuped the Raigad Fort near Janjira in June 1733. In August, Sekhoji Angre died, further weakening the Maratha position. As a result, Bajirao decided to sign a peace treaty with the Siddis. He allowed the Siddis to retain control of Janjira on the condition that they would accept Abdul Rehman as the ruler. The Siddis were also allowed to retain control of Anjanvel, Gowalkot and Underi. The Marathas retained the territories of Raigad, Rewas, Thal and Chaul, which they had gained during the offensive.
Soon after the Peshwa marched back to Satara, the Siddis launched an offensive to regain their lost territories. In June 1734, Bajirao dispatched a force to prevent them from taking over the Raigad fort. Subsequently, on 19 April 1736, Chimnaji launched a surprise attack on a Siddi camp near Rewas, killing around 1,500 of them, including their leader Siddi Sat. On 25 September, the Siddis signed a peace treaty, which confined them to Janjira, Gowalkot and Anjanvel.
March to Delhi
After death of Trimbak Rao, Bangash's alliance against the Marathas had fallen apart. Consequently, the Mughal emperor recalled him from Malwa, and re-appointed Jai Singh II as the governor of Malwa. However, the Maratha chief Holkar defeated Jai Singh in the Battle of Mandsaur in 1733. After two more battles, the Mughals decided to offer the Marathas the right to collect ₹ 22 lakh as chauth from Malwa. On 4 March 1736, Bajirao and Jai Singh came to an agreement at Kishangad. Jai Singh convinced the emperor to agree to the plan, and Bajirao was appointed as Deputy Governor of the province. Jai Singh is also believed to have secretly informed Bajirao that it was a good time to subdue the weakening Mughal emperor.
On 12 November 1736, the Peshwa started a march to the Mughal capital Delhi from Pune. On hearing about the advancing Maratha army, the Mughal emperor asked Saadat Khan to march from Agra and check the Maratha advance. The Maratha chiefs Malhar Rao Holkar and Pilaji Jadhav crossed Yamuna and plundered the Mughal territories in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. Saadat Khan led a force of 150,000 against them, and defeated them. He then retired to Mathura, thinking that the Marathas had retreated. However, Bajirao advanced to Delhi and encamped at Talkatora. The Mughal emperor dispatched a force led by Mir Hasan Khan Koka to check his advance. The Marathas defeated this force in the Battle of Delhi on 28 March 1737. Bajirao then retreated from Delhi, apprehensive about the approach of a larger Mughal force from Mathura.
The Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah then sought help from the Nizam. The Nizam set out from Deccan, and met Bajirao's returning force at Sironj. The Nizam told Bajirao that was going to Delhi to repair his relationship with the Mughal emperor. On reaching Delhi, he was joined by other Mughal chiefs, and a massive Mughal army set out against the Peshwa. The Peshwa also assembled a force of 80,000 soldiers and marched towards Delhi, leaving behind a force of 10,000 under Chimnaji to guard Deccan. The two armies met mid-way at Bhopal, where the Marathas defeated the Mughals in the Battle of Bhopal on 24 December 1737. Once again, the Nizam was forced to sign a peace agreement, this time at Doraha on 7 January 1738. The province of Malwa was formally ceded to the Marathas and the Mughals agreed to pay ₹ 5,000,000 as indemnity. This time, the Nizam took an oath on Koran to abide by the treaty.
Against the Portuguese
The Portuguese had captured several territories on the west coast of India. They had violated an agreement to give the Marathas a site on Salsette Island for building a factory, and had been practising religious intolerance against the Hindus in their territory. In March 1737, the Peshwa dispatched a Maratha force led by Chimnaji against them. The Marathas captured the Thana fort and almost all of Bassein, after the Battle of Vasai. They also managed to gain control of Salsette on 16 May 1739, after a prolonged siege. However, the Marathas had to turn their attention away from the Portuguese due to Nader Shah's invasion of the Mughal Empire in the north.
Peshwa Bajirao's first wife was Kashibai; they had three sons: Balaji Baji Rao (aka Nana Saheb), Raghunath Rao and Janardan Rao (who died young). Nana Saheb succeeded him as the Peshwa in 1740, under the name Balaji Baji Rao.
His second wife was Chhatrasal's daughter Mastani. He was deeply in love with Mastani, and built a palace for her in Pune, which was called the Mastani Mahal. A reconstruction of it can be seen at the Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune, including remains from the original palace. The contemporary orthodox Hindu Brahmin society refused to accept the marriage, because Mastani had a Muslim mother. This led to a crisis in the Bhat family. The historian D. G. Godse claims that Bajirao's brother Chimnaji Appa and mother, Radhabai, never accepted Mastani as one of their own. Many attempts were made to take her life, presumably by Chimnaji Appa; she survived with the help of Chhatrapati Shahu.
In 1734, Bajirao and Mastani had a son, who was named Krishna Rao at birth. Bajirao wanted him to be accepted as a Brahmin, but because of his mother's Muslim ancestry, the priests refused to conduct the Hindu upanayana ceremony for him.
The boy was brought up as a Muslim, and came to be known as Shamsher Bahadur. He fought for the Marathas in the Battle of Panipat 1761, where he was killed at the age of nearly 27. Shamsher Bahadur's own son, Ali Bahadur, later ruled over Bajirao's lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda.
Bajirao died on 28 April 1740, at the age of 39. He died of a sudden fever, possibly heat stroke, while inspecting his jagirs. At that time, he was en route to Delhi with 100,000 troops under his command at his camp in the district of Khargon, near the city of Indore. He was cremated on 28 April 1740, at Raverkhedi on the river Narmada. The Scindias built a chhatri as a memorial at this place. The memorial is enclosed by a dharmashala. The compound has two temples, dedicated to Nilkantheshwara Mahadeva (Shiva) and Rameshvara (Rama).
Bajirao is famous for rapid tactical movements in battle, using his cavalry inherited from maratha generals including Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav, Ananadrao Makaji. Field-Marshal Bernard Montgomery, in his "History of Warfare" likened Bajirao's approach to that subsequently made famous by U.S. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman during his 1864 "March to the Sea": the use of rapid movements where his troops lived off the land, with minimal concern for their own supply and communication lines, and employing "total warfare" on the enemy civilian population. 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. British General Montgomery called Bajirao's victory as Palkhed as a "masterpiece of strategic mobility".
Bajirao concentrated on using local terrain to cut the enemy supply-lines with the help of rapid troop movement. He followed Maratha traditional tactics of encircling the enemy quickly, appearing from the rear of enemy, attacking from the unexpected direction, distracting the enemy's attention, keeping the enemy off balance, and deciding the battlefield on his own terms.