This brief account of the Marathas, written by a native of Hindustan in the latter part of the eighteenth century, is of value because of the clear presentation it gives of certain important historical events in the author’s own time, and it serves as a useful supplement to the foregoing sixth and seventh chapters in this volume.
The author, Ibrahim Khan Bahadur, was an illustrious Nawab, or nabob, although he modestly calls himself “the humblest of slaves,” and says that he wrote his chronicle “as a volume of warning for men of sagacity.” He compiled the work at the time when Lord Cornwallis, of American Revolutionary distinction, was serving as Governor-General of India under George the Third, and he eulogizes Cornwallis in flattering terms.
The book was translated for Sir H. M. Elliot by Major Fuller, and the extracts here presented are from his rendering, with some unimportant omissions and modifications.
Be it not hidden that in the language of the people of the Deccan these territories and their dependencies are called “Dihast,” and the inhabitants of the region are styled “Marathas.” The Maratha dialect is adopted exclusively by these classes, and the chieftainship of the Marathas is centred in the Bhonsla tribe. The lineage of the Bhonslas is derived from the Udaipur Rajas, who bear the title of Rana; and the first
From Lord Egerton’s Indian Armour.
of these, according to popular tradition, was one of the descendants of Naushirwan. At the time when the holy
warriors of the army of Islam subverted the realms of Iran, Naushirwan’s descendants were scattered in every direction; and one of them, having repaired to Hindustan, was promoted to the dignity of a Raja. In a word, one of the Rana’s progeny afterwards quitted the territory of Udaipur, in consequence of the menacing and disordered aspect of his affairs, and having proceeded to the country of the Deccan, fixed his abode in the Carnatic. The chiefs of the Deccan, regarding the majesty of his family with respect and reverence, entered into the most amicable relations with him. His descendants separated into two families; one the Aholias, the other the Bhonslas.
Sahuji, or Shahji of the Bhonslas, was first enrolled among the number of Nizam Shah’s retainers, but afterwards entered into the service of Ibrahim Adil Shah, who was the ruler of the Konkan. In return for the faithful discharge of his duties, he received as an annuity the lands and rents of the sub-districts of Poona and other localities, where he made a permanent settlement after the manner of the zamindars, or land-holders. Towards the close of his life, having attained the high honour of serving the Emperor Jahangir, he was constantly in attendance on him, while his son Sivaji stayed on his estates. As Ibrahim Adil Shah for the space of two years was threatened with impending death, great disorder and confusion prevailed in his territories from the long duration of his illness; and the troops and retainers, whom he had stationed here and there for the purpose of garrisoning the forts and protecting the
frontier of the Konkan, abandoned themselves to neglect in consequence of their master’s indisposition.
Ultimately, the Emperor Aurangzib, the bulwark of religion, resolved upon proceeding to the Deccan, and in the year 1093 A.H. (1682 A.D.) bestowed fresh lustre on the city of Aurangabad by the favour of his august presence.
For a period of twenty-five years he strove to subvert the Maratha rule; but as several valiant chieftains displayed the utmost zeal and activity in upholding their dynasty, their extermination could not be satisfactorily accomplished. Towards the close of his Majesty’s lifetime, a truce was concluded with the Marathas on condition that three per cent. out of the
revenues drawn from the imperial dominions in the Deccan should be allotted to them for the maintenance of the sar-desh-muk, or head of the district-chiefs; and accordingly Ahsan Khan, commonly called Mir Malik, set out from the threshold of royalty with the documents confirming this grant to the Marathas, in order that, after the treaty had been duly ratified, he might bring the chiefs of that tribe to the court of the monarch of the world. However, before he had had time to deliver these documents into their custody, a royal mandate was issued, directing him to return and bring back the papers in question with him. About this time, his Majesty Aurangzib Alamgir hastened to the eternal gardens of Paradise, at which period his successor Shah Alam (Bahadur Shah) was gracing the Deccan with his presence. The latter settled ten per cent. out of the produce belonging to the peasantry on the Marathas for the sar-desh-muk, and furnished them with the necessary documents confirming the grant.
When Shah Alam returned from the Deccan to the metropolis, Daud Khan remained behind to officiate for “Amir of amirs” Zu-l Fikar Khan in the government of the provinces. He cultivated a good understanding with the Marathas, and concluded an amicable treaty on the following footing, that in addition to the above-mentioned grant of a tithe for the sar-desh-muk, a fourth of whatever amount was collected in the country should be their property, while the other three-fourths should be paid into the royal exchequer. This system of division was accordingly put in practice; but no regular deed
granting the fourth share, which in the dialect of the Deccan is called chauth, was delivered to the Marathas. When Muhammad Farrukhsiyar sat as emperor on the throne of Delhi, he entertained the worst suspicions against Said Husain Ali Khan, the chief of the Barha Sayyids. He dismissed him to a distance from his presence by appointing him to the control of the province of the Deccan. On reaching his destination, the latter applied himself rigorously to the task of organizing the affairs of that kingdom, but royal letters were incessantly despatched to the address of the chief of the Marathas, and more especially to Raja Sahu, urging him to persist in hostilities with Husain Ali.
In the year 1129 A.H. (1717 A.D.), by the intervention of Muhammad Anwar Khan Burhanpuri and Sankaraji Malhar, he concluded a peace with the Marathas, on condition that they would refrain from committing depredations and robberies, and would always maintain eighteen thousand horsemen out of their tribe wholly at the service of the Nizam of the Deccan. At the time that this treaty was ratified, he sealed and delivered the documents confirming the grant of the fourth of the revenues and the sar-desh-mukhi of the province of the Deccan, as well as the proceeds of the Konkan and other territories, which were designated as their ancient dominions. At the same period Raja Sahu appointed Balaji, son of Basu Nath, who belonged to the class of Konkani Brahmans, to be his representative at the Court of the emperor; and in all the districts of the six provinces of the Deccan he appointed two revenue
commissioners of his own, one to collect the sar-desh-mukhi, and the other to receive the fourth share, or chauth.
Amiru-l umara Husain Ali, having increased the mansabs held by Balaji, the son of Basu Nath, and Sankaraji Malhar, deputed them to superintend the affairs of the Deccan, and sent them to join Alim Ali Khan. After the death of Balaji, the son of Basu Nath, his son, named Baji Rao, became his successor, and Holkar, who was a servant of Balaji Rao, having urged the steed of daring, at his master’s instigation, at full speed from the Deccan towards Malwa, put Giridhar Bahadur, the governor of Malwa, to death on the field of battle. After this occurrence, the government of that province was conferred on Muhammad Khan Bangash; but owing to the turbulence of the Marathas he was unable to restore it to proper order. On his removal from office, the administration of that region was entrusted to Raja Jai Singh Sawai. Unity of faith and religion strengthened the bonds of amity between Baji Rao and Raja Jai Singh; and this circumstance was a source of additional power and influence to the former, insomuch that during the year 1146 (1733 A.D.) he had the audacity to advance and make an inroad into the confines of Hindustan. The grand vizir Itmad-ad-daulah Kamr-ad-din Khan was first selected by the Emperor Muhammad Shah to oppose him, and on the second occasion Muzaffar Khan, the brother of Samsam-ad-daulah Khan-dauran. These two, having entered_ the province of Malwa, pushed on as far as
Sironj, but Baji Rao returned to the Deccan without hazarding an engagement.
In the second year after this, Baji Rao attempted another invasion of Hindustan, when the vizir Itmad-ad-daulah Kamr-ad-din Khan Bahadur and the Nawab Khan-dauran Khan went forth from Delhi to give him battle. On this occasion several engagements took place, but victory fell to the lot of the vizir; and peace having been ultimately concluded, they both returned to Delhi.
In the third year from the aforesaid date, through the mediation of Khan-dauran Khan Bahadur, the government of Malwa was bestowed on Baji Rao, whereby his power and influence was increased twofold. The Rao in question, having entered Malwa with a numerous force, soon reduced the province to a satisfactory state of order. About the same time he attacked the Raja of Bhadawar, and after putting him to flight, devastated his territory. From thence he sent Pilaji with the view of subduing the kingdom of Antarbed (Doab), which is situated between the Ganges and Jumna. At that very time Nawab Burhan-al-mulk had moved out of his own province, and advanced through Antarbed to the vicinity of Agra. Pilaji therefore crossed the Jumna, and engaged in active hostilities against the Nawab; but having been vanquished in battle, he was forced to take to flight and rejoin Baji Rao. An immense number of his army were drowned while crossing the Jumna; but as for those who were captured or taken prisoners, the Nawab presented each one with two rupees and a
cloth, and gave him permission to depart. Baji Rao, becoming downcast and dispirited after meeting with this ignominious defeat, turned his face from that quarter and proceeded towards Delhi.
Samsam-ad-daulah Amir-ul-umara Bahadur, after considerable deliberation, sallied forth from Shahjahanabad with intent to check the enemy; but Baji Rao, not deeming it expedient at the time to kindle the flame of war, retired towards Agra, and the “Amir of amirs,” considering himself fortunate enough in having effected so much, re-entered the metropolis. This was the first occasion on which the Marathas extended their aggressions so far as to threaten the environs of the metropolis. Though most of the men in the Maratha army are unendowed with the excellence of noble and illustrious birth, and husbandmen, carpenters, and shopkeepers abound among their soldiery, yet, as they undergo all sorts of toil and fatigue in prosecuting a guerrilla warfare, they prove superior to the lazy and effeminate troops of Hind, who for the most part are of more honourable birth and calling. If this class were to apply their energies with equal zeal to the profession and free themselves from the trammels of indolence, their prowess would excel that of their rivals, for the aristocracy ever possess more spirit than the vulgar herd. The freebooters who form the vanguard of the Maratha forces, and, marching in advance of their main body, ravage the enemy’s country, are called puikarahs; the troops who are stationed here and there by way of pickets at a distance from the army for the purpose
of keeping a vigilant watch are styled mati; and chhappah is synonymous in their dialect with a night-attack. Their food consists chiefly of simple cakes, with a little butter and red pepper; and hence it is that, owing to the irascibility of their tempers, gentleness is never met with in their dispositions.
The ordinary dress worn by these people comprises a turban, tunic, selah (loose mantle), and the janghiah (short drawers). Among their horses are many mares, and among the offensive weapons used by this tribe there are but few firearms, most of the men being armed with swords, spears, or arrows instead. The system of military service established among them is this: each man, according to his grade, receives a fixed salary in cash and clothes every year. They call their stables pagah, and the horsemen who belong to a superior officer are styled bargirs.
When Baji Rao, in the year 1153 A.H. (1740 A.D.), on the banks of the river Narbada, bore the burden of his existence to the shores of nonentity, his son, Balaji Rao, became his successor, and, after the manner of his father, engaged vigorously in the prosecution of hostilities, the organization and equipment of a large army,
and the preparation of all the munitions of war. His son continued to pass his days, sometimes at war, and at other times at peace, with the Nawab Asaf Jah. At length, in the year 1163 (1750 A.D.), Sahu Rao, the successor of Sambhaji, passed away, and the supreme authority departed out of the direct line of the Bhonslas. Balaji Rao selected another individual of that family, in place of Sahu’s son, to occupy the post of Raja, and seated him on the throne, while he reserved for himself the entire administration of all the affairs of the kingdom. Having then degraded the ancient chieftains from the lofty position they had held, he denuded them of their dignity and influence, and began aggrandizing the Konkani Brahmans, who were of the same caste as himself. He also constituted his cousin, Sadasheo Rao, commonly called Bhao Rao, his chief agent and prime minister. The individual in question was of acute understanding and thoroughly conversant with the proper method of government. Through the influence of his energetic counsels, many undertakings were constantly brought to a successful issue, the recital of which would lead to too great prolixity. In short, besides holding the fortress of Bijapur, he took possession anew of Daulatabad, the seat of government of the illustrious sovereigns, together with districts yielding six million rupees, after forcibly wresting it out of the hands of Nizam Ali Khan Bahadur. He likewise took into his service Ibrahim Khan Gardi, who had a well-organized train of European artillery with him.
In the-year 1171 A.H. (1757–58 A.D.), Ahmad Shah
Abdali came from the country of Kandahar to Hindustan, and on the 7th of Jumad-al-awwal of that year had an interview with the Emperor Alamgir II at the palace of Shahjahanabad; he exercised all kinds of severity and oppression on the inhabitants of that city, and united the daughter of Aazz-ad-din, own brother to his Majesty, in the bonds of wedlock with his own son Timur Shah. After an interval of a month, he set out to coerce Raja Suraj Mal Jat, who, from a distant period, had extended his sway over the province of Agra as far as the environs of the city of Delhi. In three days he captured Balamgarh, situated at a distance of fifteen leagues from Delhi, which was furnished with all the requisites for standing a siege and was well manned by Suraj Mal’s followers. After causing a general massacre of the garrison, he hastened towards Mathura, and having razed that ancient sanctuary of the Hindus to the ground, made all the idolaters fall a prey to his relentless sword. He then returned to Agra, and deputed his commander-in-chief, Jahan Khan, to reduce all the forts belonging to the Jat chieftain. At this time a dreadful pestilence broke out with great virulence in the Shah’s army, so that he was forced to abandon his intention of chastising Suraj Mal, and unwillingly made up his mind to repair to his own kingdom.
On his return, as soon as he reached Delhi, the Emperor Alamgir went forth with Najib-ad-daulah Bahadur, and had an interview with him on the margin of the Maksudabad Lake, where he preferred sore complaints
against Imad-al-mulk Ghazi-ad-din Khan Bahadur, who was at that time at Farrukhabad, engaged in exciting seditious tumults. The Shah, after forming a matrimonial affiance with the daughter of his late Majesty Muhammad Shah, and investing Najib-ad-daulah with the title of “Amir of amirs” and the dignified post of paymaster-general, set out for Lahore. As soon as he had planted his sublime standard on that spot, he conferred the government of both Lahore and Multan on his son Timur Shah, and leaving Jahan Khan behind with him, himself proceeded to Kandahar.
Jahan Khan despatched a warrant to Adina Beg Khan, who at that time had taken up his residence at Lakhi Jangal, investing him with the supreme control of the territory of the Doab, along with a robe of investiture of immense value, and adopted the most conciliatory measures towards him, whereupon the latter, esteeming this amicable attention as a mark of good fortune, applied himself zealously to the proper administration of the Doab. When Jahan Khan, however, summoned him to his presence, he did not consider it to his advantage to wait upon him; so, quitting the territory of the Doab, he retired into the hill-country. After this occurrence, Jahan Khan appointed a person named Murad Khan to the charge of the Doab, and sent Sarbuland Khan and Sarfaraz Khan, of the Abdali tribe, along with him to assist him. Adina Beg Khan, having united the Sikh nation to his own forces, advanced to give battle to Murad Khan, when Sarbuland Khan quaffed the cup of martyrdom on the field of
action, and Murad Khan and Sarfaraz Khan, seeing no resource left them but flight, returned to Jahan Khan, and the Sikhs ravaged all the districts of the Doab.
As soon as active hostilities were commenced between Najib-ad-daulah and Imad-al-mulk, the latter set out from Farrukhabad towards Delhi to oppose the former, and forwarded letters to Balaji Rao and his cousin Bhao, soliciting aid and inviting the Maratha army to espouse his cause. Bhao, who was always cherishing plans in his head for national aggrandizement, counselled Balaji Rao to despatch an army for the conquest of the territories of Hindustan, which he affirmed to be then, as it were, an assembly unworthy of reverence, and a rose devoid of thorns.
In 1171 A.H. (1757–8 A.D.), Raghunath Rao, a brother of Balaji Rao, accompanied by Malhar Rao Holkar, Shamsher Bahadur, and Jayaji Sindhia, started from the Deccan towards Delhi at the head of a gallant and irresistible army to subdue the dominions of Hindustan. As soon as they reached Agra, they turned off to Shahjahanabad in company with Imad-al-mulk the vizir, who was the instigator of the irruption made by this torrent of destruction. After a sanguinary engagement, they ejected Najib-ad-daulah from the city of Delhi and consigned the management of the affairs of government to the care of Imad-al-mulk, the vizir.
Raghunath Rao and the rest of the Maratha chiefs set out from Delhi towards Lahore at the solicitation of Adina Beg Khan, of whom mention has been briefly
made above. After leaving the suburbs of Delhi, they arrived first at Sirhind, where they fought an action with Abd-as-samad Khan, who had been installed in the government of that place by the Abdali Shah Ahmad, and took him prisoner. Turning away from thence, they pushed on to Lahore and got ready for a conflict with Jahan Khan, who was stationed there. The latter, however, being alarmed at the paucity of his troops in comparison with the multitude of the enemy, resolved at once to seek safety in flight. Accordingly, in the month of Sha'ban, 1171 A.H. (April, 1758 A.D.), he pursued the road to Kabul with the utmost speed, accompanied by Timur Shah, and made a present to the enemy of the heavy baggage and property that he had accumulated during his administration of that region. The Maratha chieftains followed in pursuit of Timur Shah as far as the river Attok, and then retraced their steps to Lahore. This time the Marathas extended their sway up to Multan. As the rainy season had commenced, they delivered over the province of Lahore to Adina Beg Khan on his promising to pay a tributary offering of 7,500,000 rupees, and made up their minds to return to the Deccan, being anxious again to behold their beloved families at home.
On reaching Delhi in the course of their return, they made straight for their destination, after leaving one of their warlike chieftains, named Janku, at the head of a formidable army in the vicinity of the metropolis. It chanced that in the year 1172 A.H.
(1758–9 A.D.) Adina Beg Khan passed away, whereupon Jankuji entrusted the government of the province of Lahore to a Maratha called Sama, whom he sent thither. He also appointed Sadik Beg Khan, one of Adina Beg Khan’s followers, to the administration of Sirhind, and gave the management of the Doab to Adina Beg Khan’s widow.
Sama, after reaching Lahore, applied himself to the task of government, and pushed on his troops as far as the river Attok. In the meanwhile, Imad-al-mulk, the vizir, caused Shah Alamgir II to suffer martyrdom in retaliation for an ancient grudge, and placed the son of Muhi-as-sunnat,
son of Kam-Bakhsh, son of Aurangzib Alamgir, on the throne of Delhi.
Datta Sindhia, Jankuji’s uncle, about that time formed the design of invading the kingdom of the Rohillas; whereupon Najib-ad-daulah and other Rohilla chiefs, becoming cognizant of this, fact and perceiving the image of ultimate misfortune reflected in the mirror of the very beginning, wrote numerous letters to the Abdali Shah, and used every persuasion to induce him to come to Hindustan. The Shah, who was vexed at heart because Timur Shah and Jahan Khan had been compelled to take to flight, and was brooding over plans of revenge, accounted this friendly overture a signal advantage and set himself at once in motion.
Datta, in company with his nephew Janku, after crossing the Jumna, advanced against Najib-ad-daulah, and Imad-al-mulk, the vizir, hastened to Datta’s support, agreeably to his request. As the number of the Maratha troops amounted to nearly 80,000 horse, Najib-ad-daulah, finding his strength inadequate to risk an open battle, threw up intrenchments at Sakartal, one of the places belonging to Antarbed (the Doab), situated on the bank of the river Ganges, and there held himself in readiness to oppose the enemy. As the rainy season presented an insurmountable obstacle to Datta’s movements, he was forced to suspend military operations, and in the interim Najib-ad-daulah despatched several letters to Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah, begging his assistance.
The Nawab, urged by the promptings of valour and
gallantry, started from Lucknow in the height of the rains, which fell with greater violence than in ordinary years, and having with the utmost spirit and resolution traversed the intervening roads, which were all in a wretched muddy condition, made Shahabad the site of his camp. Till the conclusion of the rainy season, however, he was unable to unite with Najib-ad-daulah, owing to the overflowing of the river Ganges.
No sooner had the rains come to an end, than one of the Maratha chieftains, who bore the appellation of Govind Pandit, forded the stream at Datta’s command with a party of 20,000 cavalry, and allowed no portion of Chandpur and many other populous places to escape conflagration and plunder. He then betook himself to the spot where Sad-allah Khan, Dundi Khan, and Hafiz Rahmat Khan had assembled, after having risen up in arms and quitted their abodes to afford succour to Najib-ad-daulah. These three, finding themselves unable to cope with him, took refuge in the forests on the Kamaun hills.
Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah, being apprised of this circumstance, mounted the fleet steed of resolution, and in Rabi-al-awwal, 1173 A.H. (Oct.–Nov. 1759 A.D.), taking his troops resembling the stars in his train, he repaired on the wings of speed to Chandpur, close to the locality where Najib-ad-daulah was stationed. As Govind Pandit had reduced the latter’s force as well as his companions to great straits by cutting off their supply of provisions, Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur despatched 10,000 cavalry, consisting of Moghuls and
others, under the command of Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur, Mir Bakar Himmati, and other leaders, to attack the Pandit’s camp. He afterwards also sent off Anupgar Gosain and Raj Indar Gosain in rear of these. The leaders in question having fought with becoming gallantry and performed the most valiant deeds, succeeded in routing the enemy.
Out of the whole of Govind Pandit’s force, 200 were left weltering in blood and as many more were captured alive, while a vast number were overwhelmed in the waters of the Ganges. Immense booty also fell into the hands of the victors, comprising every description of valuable goods, together
with horses and cattle. Govind Pandit, who, after suffering this total defeat, had escaped from the field of battle across the river Ganges, gave himself up to despair and took to a precipitate flight. As soon as this intelligence reached the ears of Hafiz Rahmat Khan and the rest of the Rohilla chieftains, they sallied forth from the forests of Kaman, and repaired to Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah’s camp. Meanwhile Najib-ad-daulah was released from the perils and misfortunes of his position.
Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur assembled the Rohilla chiefs and offered them advice in the following strain: “The enemy has an innumerable army, his military prowess is formidable, and he has gained possession of most of the districts in your territory; it is therefore better for you to make overtures for peace.” Everyone, both high and low, applauded the Nawab’s judicious counsel and voted that pacific negotiations should be immediately begun with Datta; but the truce had not yet been established on a secure basis, when the news of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s approach and of his arrival on this side of Lahore astonished the ears of all. Datta, with the arrogance that ever filled his head, would not allow the preliminaries of peace to be brought to a conclusion; but haughtily discarding the amicable relations that he was in process of contracting, moved with a resolute step along the road to Delhi with a view to encounter the Abdali Shah. He was accompanied at that time by 80,000 horsemen, well armed and equipped.
When the Shah set out from Lahore in the direction of Delhi, he thought to himself that on the direct road between these two places, owing to the passage to and fro of the Maratha troops, it would be difficult to find any thriving villages, and grain and forage would be almost unprocurable. Consequently, in the month of Rabi-al-awwal, 1173 A.H., he crossed the river Jumna and entered Antarbed, whereupon Najib-ad-daulah and the other Rohilla chiefs, whose territories were situated in that kingdom, came to join the Shah.
They likewise brought sums of money, as well as grain and provisions, to whatever extent they could procure them, and delivered them over for the Shah’s use. Through this cordial support of the Rohilla chiefs, the Shah acquired redoubled strength, and having directed his corps of Durranis, who were employed in the campaign on skirmishing duties, to pursue the ordinary route, and be in readiness for an engagement with Datta, he himself proceeded on his march to the eastward, by way of Antarbed.
On this side too, Datta, travelling with the speed of wind and lightning, conducted his army to Sirhind, where he happened to fall in with the Shah’s skirmishing
parties. As the Durranis are decidedly superior to the Maratha troops in the rapidity of their evolutions and in their system of predatory warfare, the moment they confronted each other, Datta’s army was unable to hold its ground. Being compelled to give way, he retired to Delhi, keeping up a running fight all the way, and took up a position in the plain of Bawali, which lies in the vicinity of Shahjahanabad. At that juncture, Jankuji proposed to his nephew, with haughty pride, that they should try and extricate themselves from their critical situation, and Jankuji at once did exactly what his uncle suggested. In fact, Datta and his troops dismounted from their horses after the manner of the inhabitants of Hind about to sacrifice their lives, and boldly maintained their footing on the field of battle. The Durranis assailed the enemy with arrows, matchlocks, and swords, and so overpowered them as not to allow a single individual to escape in safety from the scene of action. This event took place in Jumad-al-awwal, 1173 A.H. (January, 1760 A.D.).
As soon as this intelligence reached the quick ear of Malhar Rao Holkar, who at that time was staying at Makandara, he consigned the surrounding districts to the flames, and making up his mind, proceeded in extreme haste to Suraj Mal Jat, and importuned that raja to join him in the war against the Durrani Shah. The latter, however, strongly objected to complying with his request, stating that he was unable to advance out of his own territory, to engage in hostilities with
them, as he had not sufficient strength to risk a pitched battle; and that if the enemy were to make an attack upon him, he would. seek refuge within his forts. In the interview, it came to Holkar’s knowledge that the Afghans of Antarbed had moved out of their villages with treasure and provisions, with intent to convey them to the Shah’s camp, and had arrived as far as Sikandra, which is one of the dependencies of Antarbed, situated at a distance of twenty leagues from Delhi, towards the east. He consequently pursued them with the utmost celerity, and having fallen upon them, delivered them up to indiscriminate plunder and rapine.
The Abdali Shah, having been apprised of this circumstance, deputed Shah Kalandar Khan and Shah Pasand Khan Durrani, at the head of 15,000 horse, to chastise Holkar. The individuals in question, having reached Delhi from Narnaul, a distance of seventy leagues, in twenty-four hours, and having halted during the day to recover from their fatigues, effected a rapid passage across the Jumna, as soon as half the night was over, and by using the utmost expedition succeeded in reaching Sikandra by sunrise. They then encompassed Holkar’s army, and made a vast number of his men fall a prey to their relentless swords. Holkar found himself reduced to great straits; he had not even sufficient leisure to fasten a saddle on his horse, but was compelled to mount with merely a saddlecloth under him, and flee for his life. Three hundred more horsemen also followed after him in the same destitute
plight, but the remainder of his troops, being completely hemmed in, were either slain or captured, and an immense quantity of property and household goods, as well as numbers of horses, fell into the hands of the Durranis. About this time, too, the Shah arrived at Delhi from Narnaul, and took up his quarters in the city.
In the year 1172 A.H. (1758–59 A.D.), Raghunath Rao, the brother of Balaji Rao, after confiding the provinces of Lahore and Multan to Adina Beg Khan, and leaving Jankuji with a formidable army in the vicinity of the metropolis of Delhi, arrived at the city of Poona along with Shamsher Bahadur, Malhar Rao Holkar, and Jayaji Sindhiya. Sadasheo Rao Bhaoji, who was Balaji Rao’s cousin, and his chief agent and prime minister, began instituting inquiries as to the receipts and disbursements made during the invasion of
Hind. As soon as it became apparent that after spending the revenue that had been levied from the country and the proceeds arising from the plundered booty, the pay of the soldiery, amounting to about six million rupees, was due, the vain illusion was dissipated from Bhaoji’s brain. The latter’s dislike to Raghunath Rao, moreover, had now broken into open contumely and discord, and Balaji Rao, vexed and disgusted at finding his own brother despised and disparaged, sent a letter to Bhaoji, declaring that it was essentially requisite for him now to unfurl the banner of invasion in person against Hindustan, and endure the fatigues of the campaign, since he was so admirably fitted for the undertaking. Bhao, without positively refusing to consent to his wishes, managed to evade compliance for a whole year, by having recourse to prevarication and subterfuge.
In the next year (1759–60 A.D.), Biswas Rao, Balaji Rao’s eldest son, who was seventeen years old, solicited the command of the army from his father; and though the latter was in reality displeased with his request, yet he sent him off in company with Bhaoji, Malhar Rao, Pilaji Jadaun, Jan Rao Dhamadsari, Shamsher Bahadur, Sabuli Dadaji Rao, Jaswant Rao Bewar, Balwant Rao, Ganesh Rao, and other famous and warlike leaders, together with a force of 35,000 cavalry. Ibrahim Khan Gardi, who was the superintendent of the European artillery, likewise accompanied him. Owing to the extreme sultriness of the hot season, they were obliged to rest every other day, and thus by alternate
marches and halts, they at length reached Gwalior.
As soon as the particulars of Datta’s death and Holkar’s defeat, as well as the rout and spoliation of both their forces, were poured into the ears of Biswas Rao and Bhaoji by the reporters of news and the detailers of intelligence, vast excitement arose, so that a sojourn of two months took place at Gwalior. Malhar Rao Holkar, who had escaped with his life from the battle with the Durranis, and in the mean time had joined Biswas Rao’s camp, then started from Gwalior for Shahjahanabad by Bhao’s order, at the head of a formidable army, and having reached Agra, took Jankuji Sindhia along with him from thence, and drew near to his destination.
Ahmad Shah Abdali, on ascertaining this news, sallied out from the city of Delhi to encounter him; but the latter, finding himself unable to resist, merely made some dashing excursions to the right and left for a few days, after the guerrilla fashion. As the Shah, however, would never once refrain from pursuing him, he was ultimately forced to make an ignominious retreat back along the road he had come, and having returned to Gwalior, went and rejoined Bhaoji. The rainy season was coming on, so Ahmad Shah crossed the river Jumna, and having encamped at Sikandra, gave instructions to the officers of his army to prepare houses of wood and grass for themselves, in place of tents and pavilions.
Bhao and Biswas Rao marched from Gwalior, after
From Lord Egerton’s Indian Armour,
travelling many stages, and traversed long distances, but as soon as they reached Akbarabad, Holkar and Jankuji, at Bhao’s instigation, betook themselves to Raja Suraj Mal Jat, and brought him along with them to have an interview with Bhao. The latter went out a league from camp to meet him, and Imad-al-mulk, the vizir, also held a conference with Bhao through Suraj Mal’s mediation. Suraj Mal proposed that the campaign should be conducted on the following plan: that they should deposit their extra baggage and heavy guns, together with their female relatives, in the fort of Jhansi, by the side of the river Chambal; and then proceed to wage a predatory and desultory style of warfare against the enemy, as is the usual practice of the Maratha troops; for under these circumstances their own territory would be behind their backs, and a constant supply of provisions would not fail to reach their camp in safety. Bhao and the other leaders, after hearing Suraj Mal’s observations, approved of his decision; but Biswas Rao, who was an inexperienced youth, intoxicated with the wine of arrogance, would not follow his advice. Bhao accordingly carried on operations in conformity with Biswas Rao’s directions, and set out from Akbarabad towards Delhi with the force that he had at his disposal. On Tuesday, the 9th of Zi-al-hijja, 1173 A.H. (Sept. 23, 1760 A.D.), about the time of rising of the world-illumining sun, he enjoyed the felicity of beholding the fort of Delhi. The command of the garrison there was at that time entrusted to Yakub Ali Khan Bahmanzai,
brother to Shah Wali Khan, the prime minister of the Durrani Shah; who, in spite of the multitude of his enemies, would not succumb, and spared no exertions to protect the fort with the few martial spirits that he had with him.
Bhao, conjecturing that the fort of Delhi would be devoid of protection of any garrison, and would therefore, immediately on being besieged, fall under his subjection, went and took up a position near Sadallah Khan’s mansion, with a multitude of troops. Ibrahim Khan Gardi, who was a confederate of Bhao and had the superintendence of the European artillery, planted his thundering cannon, with their skilful gunners, opposite the fort on the side of the sandy plain, and having made the battlements of the Octagon Tower and the Asad Burj a mark for his lightning-darting guns, overturned many of the royal edifices. Every day the tumultuous noise of attack on all sides of the fort filled the minds of the garrison with alarm and apprehension. The overflowing of the Jumna presented an insurmountable obstacle to the crossing of the Durrani Shah’s army, and hindered it from affording any succour to the besieged. The provisions in the fort were very nearly expended, and Yakub Ali Khan was forced to enter into negotiations for peace. He first removed, with his female relatives and property, from the fort to the domicile of Ali Mardan Khan, and then, having crossed the river Jumna from thence on board a boat, betook himself to the Shah’s camp. On the 19th of the aforesaid month and year,
Bhao entered the fort along with Biswas Rao, and took possession of all the property and goods that he could find in the old repositories of the royal family. He also broke in pieces the silver ceiling of the Diwan-i-Khas, from which he extracted so much of the precious metal as to be able to coin 1,700,000 rupees out of it. Narad Shankar Brahmin was then appointed by Bhao to the post of governor of the fort.
The Durrani Shah, after his engagement with Datta, which terminated in the destruction of the latter, had despatched Najib-ad-daulah to the province of Oudh with a conciliatory epistle, which was, as it were, a treaty of friendship, for the purpose of fetching Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur. Najib-ad-daulah accordingly betook himself by way of Etawa to Kanauj; and about the same time Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah marched from Lucknow, and made the ferry of Mahdipur, which is one of the places in Etawa situated on this side the river Ganges, the site of his camp. An interview took place in that locality, and as soon as the friendly document had been perused, and the Nawab’s heart had been comforted by its sincere promises, he came to the fixed determination of waiting on the Shah, and sent back Raja Beni Bahadur, who at that time possessed greater power and influence than his other followers, to rule as viceroy over the kingdom during his absence. When Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah approached the Shah’s army, the prime minister, Shah Wali Khan, hastened out to meet him, and, having brought him along with him in the most courteous and respectful manner, afforded
him the gratification, on the 4th of Zi-al-hijja, 1173 A.H. (July 18, 1760 A.D.), of paying his respects to the Shah, and of folding the son of the latter, Timur Shah, in his embrace.
Bhao remained some time in the fort of Shahjahanabad, in consequence of the rainy season, which prevented the horses from stirring a foot, and deprived the cavalry of the power of fighting; he sent a person named Bhawani Shankar Pandit to Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah with the following message: “If it is inconvenient for you to contract an alliance with your friends, you should at least keep aloof from the enemy, and remain perfectly neutral to both parties.” The Pandit, having crossed the river Jumna, went to Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur, and delivered this message. The latter, after ascertaining its drift, despatched his eunuch Yakut Khan, who was one of the oldest and most confidential servants of his government, in company with Bhawani Shankar Pandit, and returned an answer of this description: “As the Rajas of this empire and the Rohilla chiefs were reduced to the last extremity by the violent aggressions of Raghunath Rao, Datta, Holkar, and their subordinates, they solicited the Abdali Shah to come to Hindustan, with the view of saving themselves from ruin. ‘The seed that they sowed has now begun to bear fruit.’ Nevertheless, if peace be agreeable to you, from true regard for our ancient friendship, my best endeavours shall be used towards concluding one.” Eventually Bhao proposed that as far as Sirhind should be under the Shah’s dominion,
and all on this side of it should belong to him; but the whole rainy season was spent in negotiation, and no peace was established.
In the interim, Raja Suraj Mal Jat, who discerned the speedy downfall of the Maratha power, having moved with his troops in company with Imad-al-mulk, the vizir, from his position at Sarai Badarpur, which is situated at a distance of six leagues from Delhi on the eastern side, and traversed fifty leagues in one night, without informing Bhao, betook himself to Balamgarh, which is one of his forts.
As the Maratha troops made repeated complaints to Bhao regarding the scarcity of grain and forage, the latter, on the 29th of the month of Safar, 1174 A.H. (Oct. 9, 1760 A.D.), removed Shah Jahan, son of Muhi’u-s Sunnat, son of Kam Bakhsh, son of Aurangzib ‘Alamgir, and having seated the illustrious prince, Mirza Jawan Bakht, the grandson of ‘Alamgir II, on the throne of Delhi, publicly conferred the dignity of vizir on Shuja-ad-daulah. His object was this, that the Durrani Shah might become averse to and suspicious of the Nawab in question. Leaving Narad Shankar Brahmin, of whom mention has been made above, behind in the fort of Shahjahanabad, he himself set out, with all his partisans and retainers, in the direction of Kunjpura. This place is fifty-four leagues to the west of Delhi, and seven to the north of the sub-district of Karnal, and it is a district the original cultivators of which were the Rohillas.
Bhao, on the 10th of Rabi-al-awway, 1174 A.H. (Oct. 19, 1760),
encompassed the fort of Kunjpura with his troops, and subdued it in the twinkling of an eye by the fire of his thundering cannon. Several chiefs were in the fort, one of whom was Abd-as-samad Khan Abdali, governor of Sirhind, who had been taken prisoner by Raghunath Rao in 1170 A.H. (1756–7 A.D.), but had ultimately obtained his release, as was related in the narrative of Adina Beg Khan’s proceedings. There were, besides, Kutb Khan Rohilla, Dalil Khan, and Nijabat Khan, all landholders of places in Antarbed, who had been guilty of conveying supplies to the Abdali Shah’s camp After reducing the fort, Bhao made Abd-as-samad Khan and Kutb Khan undergo capital punishment, and kept the rest in confinement; while he allowed Kunjpura itself to be sacked by his predatory hordes.
As soon as this intelligence reached the Shah’s ear, the sea of his wrath was deeply agitated; and notwithstanding that the stream of the Jumna had not yet subsided sufficiently to admit of its being forded, a royal edict was promulgated, directing his troops to pay no regard to the current, but cross at once from one bank to the other. As there was no help but to comply with this mandate, on the 16th of the month of Rabi-al-awwal, 1174 A.H. (Oct. 25, 1760 A.D.), near Shahjahanabad, on the road to Pakpat, which is situated fifteen leagues to the north of Delhi, they resigned themselves to fate, and succeeded in crossing. A number were swallowed up by the waves, and a small portion of the baggage and quadrupeds belonging to
the army was lost in the passage. As soon as the intelligence reached Bhao’s ear, that a party of Durranis had crossed, he sounded the drum of retreat from Kunjpura, and with his force of forty thousand well-mounted and veteran cavalry, and a powerful train of European artillery, under the superintendence of Ibrahim Khan Gardi, he repaired expeditiously to Panipat, which lies forty leagues from Delhi towards the west.
The Abdali Shah, after crossing the river Jumna at the landing-steps of Pakpat, proceeded in a westerly direction, and commanded that Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur and Najib-ad-daulah should pitch their tents on the left of the royal army, and Dundi Khan, Hafiz-al-Mulk, Hafiz Rahmat Khan, and Ahmad Khan Bangash on the right. As Bhao perceived that it was difficult to contend against the Durranis in the open field, by the advice of his counsellors he made a permanent encampment of his troops in the outskirts of the city of Panipat, and having intrenched it all round with his artillery,
took up his quarters in this very formidable position.
When the basis of the enemy’s power had been overthrown at Panipat, and the surface of the plain had been relieved of the insolent foe, the triumphant champions of the victorious army proceeded eagerly to pillage the Maratha camp, and succeeded in gaining possession of an unlimited quantity of silver and jewels, five hundred enormous elephants, fifty thousand horses, one thousand camels, and two hundred thousand bullocks, with a vast amount of goods and chattels, and a countless assortment of camp equipage. Nearly thirty thousand labourers, too, who drew their origin from the Deccan, fell into captivity. Towards evening the Abdali Shah went out to look at the bodies of the slain, and found great heaps of corpses, and running streams produced by the flood of gore. Thirty-two mounds of slain were counted, and the ditch, protected by artillery, of such immense length that it could contain several hundred thousand of human beings, besides cattle and baggage, was completely filled with dead bodies.
Rao Kashi Nath, on seeing Jankuji, who was a youth of twenty, with a handsome countenance, and at that time had his wounded hand hanging in a sling from his neck, became deeply grieved, and the tears started from his eyes. Jankuji raised his head and exclaimed: “It is better to die with one’s friends than to live among one’s enemies.”
The Nawab, in unison with Shah Wali Khan, solicited
the Shah to spare Jankuji’s life; whereupon the Shah summoned Barkhurdar Khan, and consulted him on the propriety of the step, to which the Khan in question returned a decided negative. At the same time, one of the Durranis, at Barkhurdar Khan’s suggestion, went and cut Jankuji’s throat, and buried him underground inside the very tent in which he was imprisoned.
Shuja-ad-kuli Khan, a powerful and influential servant of the Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur, having captured Ibrahim Khan Gardi on the field of battle, kept him with the said Nawab’s cognizance in his own tent. No sooner did this intelligence become public than the Durranis began in a body to raise a violent tumult, and clamorously congregating round the door of the Shah’s tent, declared that Ibrahim Gardi’s neck was answerable for the loss of so many thousands of their fellow countrymen, and that whoever sought to protect him would incur the penalty of their resentment. Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah, feeling that one seeking refuge cannot be slain, prepared for a contest with the Durrani forces, whereupon there ensued a frightful disturbance. At length, Shah Wali Khan took Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah aside privately, and addressing him in a friendly and affectionate tone, proposed that he should deliver up Ibrahim Khan Gardi to him, for the sake of appeasing the wrath of the Durranis; and after a week, when their evil passions had been allayed, he would restore to him the individual entrusted to his care. In short, Shah Wali Khan, having obtained him from the Nawab,
applied a poisonous plaster to his wounds; so that, by the expiration of a week, his career was brought to a close.
The termination of Bhaoji’s career has been differently related. Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah, having mounted after the victory, took Shisha Dhar Pandit, Ganesh Pandit, and other associates of Bhaoji along with him and began wandering over the field of battle, searching for the corpses of the Maratha chiefs, and more especially for Bhaoji’s dead body. They accordingly recognized the persons of Jaswant Rao Balwar, Pilaji, and Sabaji Nath, who had received forty sword-cuts, lying on the scene of action; and, in like manner, those of other famous characters also came in view. Bhao’s corpse had not been found, when from beneath a dead body three valuable gems unexpectedly shone forth. The Nawab presented those pearls to the Pandits mentioned above, and directed them to try to recognize that lifeless form. They succeeded in doing so through the scar of a gunshot wound in the foot, and another on the side behind the back, which Bhao had received in former clays. With their eyes bathed in tears they exclaimed: “This is Bhao, the ruler of the Deccan.” Some entertain an opinion that Bhao, after Biswas Rao’s death, performed prodigies of valour, and then disappeared from sight, and no one ever saw him afterwards. Two individuals consequently, both natives of the Deccan, publicly assumed the name of Bhao, and dragged a number of people into their deceitful snare. As a falsehood cannot bear the light, one was
eventually put to death somewhere in the Deccan by order of the chiefs in that quarter, and the other, having excited an insurrection at Benares, was confined for some time in the fort of Chunar. After his release, despairing of the success of his project, he died in the suburbs of Gorakhpur in the year 1193 A.H. (1779 A.D.).
Nawab Shuja-ad-daulah Bahadur, having obtained permission of the Shah to burn the bodies of the Bhao and other chiefs, deputed Raja Himmat Bahadur and Rao Kashi Nath, his principal attendants, to perform the task of cremation. Out of all those hapless and unfortunate beings who survived the battle, a number maintained a precarious existence against the violent assaults of death for some days, but notwithstanding that they used the most strenuous exertions to effect their escape in divers directions from Panipat, not a single one was saved from being slain and plundered by the landlords of that quarter. Out of the whole of the celebrated chiefs too, with the exception of Malhar Rao Holkar, Appaji Gaikowar and Bithal Sudeo, not another was ever able to reach the Deccan.
Bhao’s wife, in company with Shamsher Bahadur, half-brother to Balaji Rao, and a party of confidential attendants, traversed a long distance with the utmost celerity, and betook herself to the fortress of Dig. There that broken-hearted lady remained for two or three days mourning the loss of her husband, and having then made up her mind to prepare for an expedition to the Deccan, Raja Suraj Mal Jat gave her one morning
a suitable escort to attend her, and bade her adieu. She accordingly reached the Deccan; but Shamsher Bahadur, who was severely wounded, died after arriving at Dig.
Shortly before the occurrence of these disasters, Balaji Rao had marched from Poona. He had proceeded only as far as Bhilsa, when, having been informed of the event, he grew wearied of existence, and shed tears of blood lamenting the loss of a son and a brother. He then moved from where he was to Sironj, and about that very time a messenger reached him from the Abdali Shah, with a robe of mourning. The Rao, feigning obedience to his commands, humbly dressed his person in the Shah’s robe, and turning away from Sironj, re-entered Poona. From excess of grief and woe, however, he remained for two months afflicted with a harrowing disease; and as he perceived the image of death reflected from the mirror of his condition, he sent for his brother, Raghunath Rao, to whom he gave in charge his best-beloved son, the younger brother of the slain Biswas Rao, who bore the name of Madhu Rao, and had just entered, his twelfth year, exclaiming: “Fulfil all the duties of good-will towards this fatherless child, treating him as if he were your own son, and do not permit any harm to come upon him.” Having said this, he departed from the world on the 9th of Zi-al-kada, 1174 A.H. (June 14, 1761 A.D.), and the period of his reign was twenty-one years.
After the demise of his father, Madhu Rao was installed in the throne of sovereignty at Poona, and
Raghunath Rao conducted the administration of affairs as prime minister, after the manner of the late Bhao.
One of the remarkable incidents that occurred in Madhu Rao’s ‘reign was the appearance of a counterfeit Bhao, who, in the year 1175 A.H. (1762–3 A.D.), having induced a number of refractory characters to flock to his standard, and having collected together a small amount of baggage and effects, with camp equipage and cattle, excited an insurrection near the fort of Karaza, which is situated at a distance of twelve leagues from Jhansi towards the west. He gave intimation to the governor of the fort, who held his appointment of the Poona chiefs, as to his name and pretensions, and summoned him by threats and promises into his presence. The latter, who, up to that time, had been in doubt whether Bhao was dead or alive, being apprehensive lest this individual should in reality prove to be Bhao, proceeded to wait upon him, and presented some cash and valuables by way of offering. After that, the Bhao in question sent letters into other sub-districts, and having summoned the revenue officers from all quarters, commenced seizing and appropriating all the cash, property, and goods. Whatever horses, elephants, or camels he found with any one, he immediately sent for and kept in his own possession.
This pretender to the name of Bhao always kept his face half-covered under a veil, both in public and private, on the plea that the wound on his visage was still unhealed, and people were completely deceived
by the stratagem; no one could have the impudence to scrutinize his features. In short, for six months he persevered in his imposture, until the news reached Poona, when some spies went over to him to examine strictly into the case, and discovered that he was not Bhao.
About the same period, Malhar Rao Holkar was moving from the Deccan towards Hindustan, and his road happened to lie through the spot where the pretender in question had pitched his tents. The spies already mentioned disclosed the particulars of the case to Malhar Rao, who thought to himself that until Parvati Bai, the late Bhao’s wife, had seen this individual with her own eyes, and all her doubts had been removed, it would not do to inflict capital punishment on the impostor, for fear the lady should think in her
heart that he had killed her husband out of spite and malice. For this reason, Malhar Rao merely took the impostor prisoner, and having appointed thirty or forty horsemen to take care of him, forwarded him from thence to Poona. The few weak-minded beings who had gathered round him were allowed to depart to their several homes, and Holkar proceeded to his destination. When the pretender was brought to Poona, Madhu Rao likewise, out of regard for the feelings of the late Bhao’s wife, deemed it proper to defer his execution, and kept him confined in one of the forts within his own dominions. Strange to say, the silly people in that fort did not discover the falseness of the impostor’s claims, and leagued themselves with him, so that a fresh riot was very nearly set on foot. Madhu Rao, however, having been apprised of the circumstances, sent him from that fort to another stronghold; and in the same way he was constantly transferred from various forts in succession, till he was finally confined in a stronghold that lies contiguous to the sea on the island of Kolaba, which is a dependency of the Konkan territory.
The following is another of the events of Madhu Rao’s reign: Bithal, Minister of Finance to Nawab Nizam Ali Khan Bahadur, advised his master that as the Marathas were then devoid of influence, and the supreme authority was vested in an inexperienced child, it would be advisable to ravage Poona. Januji Bhonsla, Raja of Nagpur, Gopal Rao, a servant of the Peshwa, and some more chiefs of the Maratha nation, approved
of this suggestion, and led their forces in a compact mass towards Poona. When they drew near its frontier, Raghunath Rao, who was Madhu Rao’s chief agent and prime minister, got terrified at the enemy’s numbers and, finding himself unable to cope with them, retired with his master from Poona. Nawab Nizam Ali Khan Bahadur then entered the city, and spared no efforts to complete its destruction.
After some time, Raghunath Rao recovered himself, and having entered into friendly communication with Januji Bhonsla and the other chiefs of his own tribe by opening an epistolary correspondence with them, he alienated the minds of these men from the Nawab. In short, the chiefs separated from the Nawab on pretence of the rainy season, and returned to their own territories. In the interim, Raghunath Rao and Madhu Rao set out to engage Nawab Nizam Ali Khan Bahadur, who, deeming it expedient to proceed to his original quarters, beat a retreat from the position he was occupying. When the bank of the river Godavari became the site of his encampment, an order was issued for the troops to cross over. Half the army was still on this side, and half on that, when Raghunath, considering it a favourable opportunity, commenced a furious onslaught. The six remaining chiefs of the Nawab’s army were slain, and about seven thousand Afghans and others acquired eternal renown by gallantly sacrificing their lives. After this sanguinary conflict, the Nawab hastily crossed the river and extricated himself from his perilous position. As soon
as the flame of strife had been extinguished, a peace was established through the intervention of Malhar Rao Holkar, who had escaped with his life in safety from the battle with Abdali Shah. Both parties, concurring in the advantages of an amicable understanding, returned to their respective quarters.
When Raghunath Rao began to usurp greater authority over the administration of affairs, Gopika Bai, Madhu Rao’s mother, growing envious of his influence, inspired her son with evil suspicions against him, and planned several stratagems, so that their mutual friendship resulted in hatred and animosity, till at length Raghunath Rao became convinced that he would some day be imprisoned. Consequently, he mounted his horse one night, and fled precipitately from Poona with only a few adherents. Stopping at Nasik, which lies at a distance of eight stages from Poona, he fixed upon that town as his place of refuge and abode, and employed himself in collecting troops, insomuch that Naradji Sankar, the revenue collector of Jhansi, Jaswant Rao Lud, Sakha Ram Bapu, and Nilkanth Mahadeo volunteered to join him, and eagerly engaged in active hostilities against Madhu Rao. As soon as Raghunath Rao arrived in this condition close to Poona, Madhu Rao was also obliged to sally forth from it in company with Trimbak Rao, Bapuji Manik, Gopal Rao, and Bhimji Lamdi. When the line of battle began to be formed, Raghunath Rao assumed the initiative in attacking his adversaries, and succeeded in routing Madhu Rao’s force by a series of overwhelming assaults;
and even captured the Rao himself, together with Nat Singh Rao. After gaining this agreeable victory, as he perceived Madhu Rao to be in safety and his malicious antagonists overthrown, he could not contain himself for joy. As soon as he returned from the battle-field to his encampment, he seated Madhu Rao on a throne, and remained himself standing in front of him, after the manner of slaves.
By fawning and coaxing, he then removed every trace of annoyance from Madhu Rao’s mind, and requested him to return to Poona. After dismissing him to that city, he himself went with his retinue and soldiery to Nasik. After the lapse of some years of Madhu Rao’s reign, a vast disturbance arose in the Deccan. Haidar Naik, having assembled some bold and ferocious troops with intent to subdue the territory of the Marathas, set out in the direction of Poona. Madhu Rao came out from Poona, and summoned Raghunath Rao to his assistance from Nasik, whereupon the latter joined him with a
Throughout India’s history the elephant has been the chief means of heavy transport from the earliest times, whether in war or in peace. For use in functions of state, in grand processions, and on occasions of official display, these huge animals, richly caparisoned in embroidered trappings, adorned with bells, and decorated with painted stripes, play a conspicuous part in the ceremonies as they trumpet their salutes or give the salam with their trunks.
body of twenty thousand of his cavalry. In short, they marched with their combined forces against the enemy; and on several occasions encounters took place, in which the lives of vast multitudes were destroyed. Although Haidar Naik’s army proved itself superior in the field, yet peace was ultimately concluded on the cession and surrender of some few tracts in the royal dominions; after which Haidar Naik refrained from hostilities and returned to his own territory, while Madhu Rao retired to Poona, and Raghunath Rao betook himself to Nasik.
When a short time had elapsed after this, the idea of organizing the affairs of Hindustan entered into Raghunath Rao’s mind. For the sake of preserving outward propriety, therefore, he first gave intimation to Madhu Rao of his intention, and asked his sanction. The Rao in question, who did not feel himself secure from Raghunath Rao, and considered any increase to his power a source of greater weakness to himself, addressed him a reply couched in these terms: “It were better for you to remain where you are, in the enjoyment of repose.” Raghunath Rao would not listen to these words, but marched out of Nasik in company with Mahaji Sindhia, taking three powerful armies with him.
As soon as he reached Gwalior, he commenced hostilities against Rana Chattar Singh, who possessed all the country round Gohad, and laid siege to the town itself. Gohad is the name of a city, founded by the Rana aforesaid. It is fortified with earthen towers and
battlements, and is situated ‘eighteen leagues from Gwalior. Madhu Rao, during the continuance of the siege, kept constantly sending messages to Rana Chat-tar Singh, telling him to persist in his opposition to Raghunath with a stout heart, as the army of the Deccan should not be despatched to his kingdom to reinforce the latter. In a word, for the period of a year they used the most arduous endeavours to capture Gohad, but failed in attaining their object. During this campaign, the sum of 3,200,000 rupees, taken from the pay of the troops and the purses of the wealthy bankers, was incurred by Raghunath Rao as a debt to be duly repaid. He then returned to the Deccan distressed and overwhelmed with shame, and entered the city of Nasik, whither Madhu Rao also repaired about the same time, to see and inquire after his fortunes. In the course of the interview, he expressed the deepest regret for the toils and disappointment that the Rao had endured, and ultimately returned in haste to Poona, after thus sprinkling salt on the galling wound. Shortly after this, Kankuma Tantia and his other friends persuaded Raghunath Rao to adopt a Brahman’s son. Accordingly the Rao attended to the advice of his foolish counsellors, and selected an individual for adoption. He constituted Amrat Rao his heir.
Madhu Rao no sooner became cognizant of this fact than he felt certain that Raghunath Rao was meditating mischief and rebellion, and seeking to usurp a share in the sovereignty of the realm. He consequently set out for Nasik with a force of twenty-five thousand
horsemen, while, on the other hand, Raghunath Rao also organized his troops, and got ready for warfare. Just about that period, however, Kankuma Tantia and Takuji Holkar, who were two of the most powerful and influential men in Raghunath’s army, declared to him that it was necessary for them to respect their former obligations to Madhu Rao, and therefore improper to draw the sword upon him. After a long altercation, they left the Rao where he was, and departed from Nasik. Raghunath, from the paucity of his troops, not deeming it advantageous to fight, preferred enduring disgrace, and fled with two thousand adherents to the fortress of Dhudhat in the Chandor range.
Madhu Rao then entered Nasik, and commenced sequestrating his property and imprisoning his partisans; after which he pitched his camp at the foot of the fort already mentioned, and placed Raghunath in a most precarious position. For two or three days the incessant discharge of artillery and musketry caused the flames of war to blaze high, but pacific negotiations were subsequently opened, and a firm treaty of friendship entered into, whereupon the Rao came down from the fort, and had an interview with Madhu Rao. The latter then placed his head upon the other’s feet, and asked pardon for his offences. Next day, having mounted Raghunath Rao on his own private elephant, he himself occupied the seat usually assigned to the attendants, and continued for several days travelling in this fashion the distance to Poona. As soon as they entered Poona, Madhu Rao, imitating the behaviour of
an inferior to a: superior, exceeded all bounds in his kind and consoling attentions towards Raghunath Rao. After that he selected a small quantity of goods and a moderate equipment of horses and elephants, out of his own establishment, and having deposited them all together in one of the most lofty and spacious apartments, solicited Raghunath Rao in a respectful manner to take up his abode there. The latter then became aware of his being a prisoner with the semblance of freedom, and reluctantly complied with Madhu Rao’s requisition.
As soon as Madhu Rao had delivered his mind from all apprehension regarding Raghunath Rao, he led his army in the direction of Nagpur, in order to avenge himself on Januji Bhonsla, the raja of that place, who had been an ally and auxiliary of Raghunath Rao in one of his engagements. The raja in question, not finding himself capable of resisting him, fled from his original residence, so that for a period of three months Madhu Rao was actively engaged in pursuing his adversary, and that unfortunate outcast from his native land was constantly fleeing before him. Ultimately, having presented an offering of a million and a half of rupees, he drew back his foot from the path of flight, and set out in safety and security for his own home.
After chastising the Raja of Nagpur, Madhu Rao entered Poona with immense pomp and splendour, and amused himself with gay and festive entertainments. But he was attacked with a fatal disease, and his life was in danger. On one occasion he laid his head on
Raghunath Rao’s feet, and asked forgiveness for the faults of bygone days. Raghunath Rao grieved deeply on account of his youth. He applied himself zealously to the cure of the invalid, and whenever he found a trace, in any quarter or direction, of austere Brahmans and skilful Pandits, he sent for them to administer medicines for his recovery. At length, when the sick man began to despair of living, he imitated the example of his deceased father, and placed his younger brother, whose name was Narain Rao, under the charge of Raghunath Rao, and having performed the duty of recommending him to his care, yielded up his soul in the year 1186 A.H. (1772 A.D.). The duration of his reign was twelve years.
Narain Rao, after being seated on the throne of sovereignty, owing to his tender age committed various acts that produced an ill-feeling among his adherents, both great and small, at Poona; more especially in Raghunath Rao, on whom he inflicted unbecoming indignities. Although Madhu Rao had not behaved towards his uncle with the respect due to such a relative, yet, except that he would not grant him permission to leave Poona, he had treated him with no other incivility; but used always, till the day of his death, to show him the attention due from an inferior to a superior; and supplied him with wealth and property far exceeding the limits of his wants. In short, Raghunath Rao, having begun to form plans for taking Narain Rao prisoner, first disclosed his secret to Sakha Ram Bapu, who was Madhu Rao’s prime minister, and having
seduced that artless courtier from his allegiance, made him an accomplice in his treacherous designs. Secondly, having induced Kharak Singh and Shamsher Singh, the chiefs of the body of Gardis, or troops with European training, to join his conspiracy, he raised the standard of insurrection. Accordingly, these two faithless wretches one day, under the pretence of demanding pay for the troops, made an assault on the door of Narain Rao’s apartment, and reduced him to great distress.
That helpless being, who had not the slightest cognizance of the deceitful stratagems of the conspirators, sent a few simple-minded adherents to oppose the insurgents, and then stealthily repaired to Raghunath Rao’s house. Kharak Singh and Shamsher Singh, being apprised of the circumstances, hurried after him, and, unsheathing their swords, rushed into Raghunath Rao’s domicile. Raghunath Rao first fell wounded in the affray, and subsequently Narain Rao was slain. This event took place in the year 1187 A.H. (1773 A.D.), so that the period of Narain Rao’s reign was one year.
Kharak Singh and Shamsher Singh, through whose brains the fumes of arrogance had spread in consequence of their control over the whole train of European artillery, with wilful and headstrong insolence seated Raghunath Rao on the throne of sovereignty, without the concurrence of the other chiefs; and the
Rao continued to live for two months at Poona after the manner of rightful rulers. When Narain Rao had been put to death, however, a certain degree of shame and remorse came over the Poona chiefs, and the dread of their own overthrow entered their minds. Sakha Ram Bapu consequently, in unison with Trimbak Rao, commonly called Matamadhari Balhah, and others, deemed it advisable to persuade Raghunath Rao that he should go forth from Poona, and employ himself in settling the kingdom. The Rao accordingly acted upon their suggestion, and marched out of Poona, attended by the Maratha chiefs. As soon as he had got to the distance of two or three stages from the city, the wily chiefs, by alleging some excuse, obtained leave from Raghunath Rao to return, and repaired from the camp to the city. They then summoned to them in private all the commanders of the army, both great and small, and came to the unanimous decision that it was incompatible with justice to acquiesce in Raghunath Rao’s being invested with the supreme authority, and that it would be better, as Narain Rao’s wife was six months advanced in pregnancy, providing she gave birth to a male child, to invest that infant with the sovereignty, and conduct the affairs of government agreeably to the details of prudence. As soon as they had unanimously settled the question after this fashion, a few of the chiefs took up a position in the outskirts of the city of Poona, by way of protection, and formed a sturdy barrier against the Magog of turbulence. Raghunath Rao, having become aware of the designs of the conspirators,
remained with a slender party in his encampment. Having brooded over his troubles, he saw no remedy left but that of forsaking the country, and was consequently forced to retire towards the Carnatic. His object was to collect a sufficient force round him, with which he might return to Poona and resume hostilities. However, owing to the vulgar report that attributed Narain Rao’s murder to him, every blade of grass that sprung from the ground was ready to plunge a dagger into his blood. For this reason, he found it impossible either to stay or reside in the Carnatic, so he hastened away to Surat.
The direst confusion had found its way into the kingdom, in consequence of the report of Narain Rao’s death. At that critical juncture the pretender Bhao, who was confined in a stronghold in the Konkan territory, lying adjacent to the salt ocean, seized the opportunity of escaping by fraud and stratagem out of his prison, and having induced a party of men to place themselves under his orders, took possession of some of the forts and districts of that country. He was just on the point of waging open war, when Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur set out from Poona to the Konkan territory for the purpose of coercing him. On reaching his destination, he engaged in hostilities with Bhao, whereupon the latter’s associates took to flight, and departed each by his own road. As Bhao was thus left alone, he went on board a ship in utter consternation with a view to save his life from that vortex of perdition; but death granted him no respite, and he fell alive into the hands
of the heroes who accompanied Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur. The latter brought him along with him to Poona, and removed the dust of uncertainty from the mirror of every mind. Ultimately he caused the ill-fated wretch to be bound to a camel’s foot, and paraded round the whole town; after which he put him to death.
The Peshwa Sahib, the rightful heir of Narain Rao, at the time of his father’s murder was dwelling in his mother’s womb. When she had completed the time of her pregnancy, a child, in the year 1188 A.H. (1774 A.D.), shed a grace over the bosom of its nurse, and bestowed comfort on the illustrious chiefs. He was invested with the appellation of Sawai Madhu Rao.
Raghunath Rao, having reached Surat, turned towards the leaders of the English army, who dwelt on the borders of the sea, and offered to take upon himself the responsibility of showing the way over the various routes into the Deccan, and to subjugate that kingdom so teeming with difficulties. As the commanders of the English army were possessed of adequate means for making an invasion, and had their heads inflamed with the intoxication of boldness and intrepidity, they took Raghunath Rao along with them, and moving away from Surat with their valiant troops experienced in war, and their lion-hearted forces active as tigers, they set out to conquer and annex the Deccan territories.
Having traversed the intervening stages at a resolute pace, they arrived at Nurghat, which is situated at a distance of twenty leagues from Poona. The Maratha
chieftains also sallied forth from Poona with a vast body of retainers, and opposed their advance with the utmost perseverance at Nurghat; whereupon a tremendous contest and a frightful slaughter ensued, until the combatants on both sides had neither the power nor the inclination left to assail each other any more. At length, by the intervention of the obscurity of night, the tumult of war subsided, and the world-consuming fire of guns and matchlocks, whose flames arose to the highest heavens, hid its face in the ashes of night, so that the soldiery was obliged to retire, each to its respective quarters. During that night, the prudent belligerents made up their minds to a peace; and in the morning, the chiefs of the rival forces obtained an interview and enjoyed a conference. The English leaders, after negotiating a truce and consolidating the basis of friendship, delivered up Raghunath Rao, who had been the instigator of this conflict and the originator of this hostile movement, to the Maratha chiefs, on condition of their granting him certain lands and rents as an annuity, and treating him with kindness and consideration. They then turned away from that quarter with all their troops and followers, and repaired to their usual place of abode.
The Maratha chiefs had formed the fixed determination in their minds of taking vengeance on the ill-fated Raghunath Rao; but Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur, prompted by his manly and generous feelings, diverted them from their headlong and cruel purposes, so that the matter was managed mercifully and kindly, and the
Rao in question, having been presented with an annuity, received permission to remain at large. The unfortunate wretch, however, departed from the pleasant vale of existence to the desert of nonentity, without reaching his destination, for the career of the wicked never ends well.
When the fourth year from the birth of Sawai Madhu Rao, surnamed the Peshwa Sahib, had elapsed, and security and repose had settled on the minds of high and low throughout the territory of the Deccan, Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur, who was distinguished among all the Poona chiefs for his gallantry and daring, sagacity and intelligence, having satisfied his mind as to the settlement of that kingdom, set out to conquer Gohad. After a siege attended with hard fighting, he succeeded in taking prisoner Rana Chattar Singh, who was in the citadel, and took possession of the surrounding districts, along with the fortress of Gwalior, which is a mountain stronghold.
About the same time, a mutual feeling of envy and hatred had become Manly implanted in the minds of Mirza Muhammad Shafi Khan and Muhammad Beg Khan Hamadani, who had been the chief officers of State to the late “Amir of amirs” Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur, and after his death had been partners in the government of the province of Agra, since each craved after an increase of power and dignity, which is ever a hindrance to the existence of friendship and good feeling among equals and contemporaries. At last, Muhammad Beg Khan Hamadani seized the opportunity,
during an interview, of putting Muhammad Shafi Khan to death; and on this account, Afrasiyab Khan, who was one of Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur’s protégés, becoming alarmed, demanded succour of Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur. The latter had firmly resolved in his mind to repair to the sublime threshold, but had not yet fulfilled the duty of paying his respects, when, under the influence of Sindhia Bahadur’s destiny, Afrasiyab Khan was killed by the hand of an assassin.
Sindhia Bahadur’s army having overshadowed the metropolis by its arrival, he brought Muhammad Beg Khan Hamadani, after a siege, completely under his subjection, and in the year 1199 A.H. (1784 A.D.) traversed the streets of the metropolis. When he obtained the good fortune of saluting the threshold of his Majesty, the shadow of God, the Emperor Shah Alam, he was loaded with princely favours and distinguished by royal marks of regard, so that he became the chief of the supporters of government and his Majesty’s most staunch and influential adherent.
As at the present auspicious period Madhu Rao, the Peshwa Sahib, pursues, in contradistinction to his uncle, the path of obedience to the monarch of Islam, and Mahaji Sindhia Bahadur is one of those who are constantly attached to the ever-triumphant train, it happens that the plant of this nation’s prosperity has struck root firmly into the earth of good fortune, and their affairs flourish agreeably to their wishes.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage