28th March – Does this date ring a bell in your mind? Maybe, maybe not.
How many Battles of Panipat were fought? Everyone know this one- 3.
How many times was Delhi invaded by Islamic marauders? A whopping 12 times.
And how many times did the Indians, especially the Hindus, win Delhi back? Most people are unaware.
Selective screening of material and careful hiding of information by Marxist intellectuals and academicians, who have mostly written the history books we have read in our childhood, have kept us in the dark about our true history. We’re one of those rare civilizations which is relatively aware of how we were invaded and subjected to incessant torture, pillage and massacres, but not of how we ferociously resisted them, fought back, and even won many a time.
We know how the Turks, the Uzbeks, and even the Mughals invaded India and tried to subjugate her to Islamic influence, but we hardly know about how our ancestors fought back and maintained the diversity that our nation is proud of. We know of the architectural wonders our invaders created, but we hardly know of the immense knowledge and brilliance our indigenous ancestors exhibited. One such legend was Peshwa Bajirao Ballal I, a warrior not even the likes of Aurangzeb and Akbar could match in terms of intellect and battlefield supremacy.
Bajirao Ballal? Isn’t he the Bajirao who fell in love with the Muslim daughter of the king of Bundelkhand, Raja Chhatrasal, as depicted in Bajirao Mastani? Yes, but it’s not the real Bajirao that history remembers. In that movie, we’ve been shown a mockery of the legend that Peshwa Bajirao was.
The real Peshwa Bajirao, only notorious for his alleged relationship with Mastani, was a far more superior warrior and statesman than depicted. He was not only intelligent in terms of political wisdom, but also equally skilled in terms of warfare. The lack of strong artillery that Peshwa Bajirao inherited at the time of assuming the Peshwa’s post was compensated during his rule by a very strong and efficient cavalry.
With his faithful brother and accomplice, Chimaji Appa Rao (certainly not the jealous, insensitive courtier as shown in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie), Bajirao had managed to conquer almost half of the Indian peninsula within a decade of his rule. Nobody, be it the Nizam of Hyderabador the Siddis of Janjira, the Nawabs of Awadhor even the Rohillas, could check his advance. Like the unstoppable horse synonymous with the Ashwamedha Yagna, Peshwa Bajirao’s expansion of the Maratha Empire proceeded smoothly, without any resistance.
However, what made Bajirao Ballal a household name before the advent of Marxist intellectuals and their nefarious designs that pushed him to the backwaters of Indian history books, was a battle that the Indian intellectuals don’t want you to know about. As once said by legendary martial arts expert Bruce Lee, “The successful warrior is an average man, with a laser like focus.”
This was the year 1737. It had been 17 years since Bajirao had assumed the post of the Peshwa (Prime Minister) in the Maratha Empire. He had been a successful warrior who had not lost any war till date. His administration was beyond any criticism. The following were some factors responsible for Bajirao’s highly successful reign.
Like his ideal Chattrapati Shivaji, he always inspired his subjects to fight for the higher ideal of ‘Hindavi Swarajya’, a state where the essential ideals of Bharatvarsha would be kept intact, under an able and efficient leadership.
He had an efficient, speedy and effective bureaucracy as well as an intelligence system, with no scope for an error, however minor. Of all things, one of the very few things that Sanjay Leela Bhansali depicted correctly in his movie on Bajirao was reflected in the dialogue, “Bajirao ki raftaar hi Bajirao ki pehchaan hai.” (The speed of Bajirao is his identity.)
In his administration, Bajirao chose young people who were barely out of their teens, who were unaffected by the malice senior and often rebellious nobles could pose to the sovereignty of the empire.
Not letting nepotism seep into his rule, he appointed such nobles purely on merit, which led to the rise of legendary warriors like Ranoji Shinde, Malhar Rao Holkar, Tukoji Holkar, Pawar brothers etc., who kept the spirit as well as the existence of Maratha Empire intact. They did not belong to those clans that held the hereditary Deshmukhi rights under the Deccan Sultanates.
These were a few qualities that Peshwa Bajirao kept up his sleeve as he decided to achieve the prime goal of his life: the unfurling of the saffron flag on the Red Fort. How he achieved this dream is also a prime example of how true warriors maintain the concept of ‘bro code’, long before this term officially became cool.
It all started with the death of Trimbak Rao Dabhade, the ex general of the Maratha forces who had betrayed the Peshwa by joining the rival forces. He had joined Muhammad Khan Bangash, the Nawab of Farrukhabad, who was decisively routed by the Maratha forces when he laid siege to the region of Bundelkhand. His death in 1731 at the Battle of Dabhoi broke the alliance against the Peshwas.
The Mughal emperor recalled Bangash from Malwa and appointed Jai Singh II as the successor. However, he couldn’t keep the Marathas in check and was decisively defeated by Malhar Rao Holkar at the Battle of Mandsaur in 1733. It took another 3 years for Jai Singh to come to his senses and make an alliance with Peshwa Bajirao, when he joined hands with the Peshwa in 1736 at Kishengarh. It was here that he suggested Bajirao attack Delhi and weaken the remnants of the once strong Mughal Empire.
Bajirao had once himself said, sensing the decline of the Mughal Empire, “Strike, strike at the roots and even the biggest tree will also fall down.” He wasn’t wrong, considering the Mughal Empire was nowhere close to the regal charm it once sported under the likes of Babar, Akbar, Shah Jahan, even to a certain extent under Aurangzeb. Though Muhammad Shah had absolute control over his throne, his influence was only restricted to Delhi and the surrounding provinces. Besides, he was more focused on satisfying his individual pleasures than looking after the empire, which is why he was nicknamed ‘Rangeele Badshah’ (The wayward emperor).
It was on 12th November 1736 when the Peshwa marched towards Delhi from Pune, in two divisions : one led by himself, and the other led by his best friend and able warrior Malhar Rao Holkar, along with another commanding officer Pillaji Jadhav. The Holkar-Jadhav faction proceeded faster than the Peshwa division, almost reaching Doab, where the Ganga and the Yamuna converge.
Sensing danger to his reign, Muhammad Shah sent for the Nawab of Awadh, Saadat Ali Khan, to check the Maratha advance. However, before Saadat Ali Khan could intercept the Maratha forces, they had already crossed the Ganga and raided Mughal cantonments and towns at will, and compelled the Mughals to run for their lives. With a force of more than 150,000 soldiers, Saadat Khan finally intercepted the forces and gave them a shocking setback, defeating Malhar Rao and forcing him to retreat. However, the damage was already done.
Word had already reached the Peshwa, who was fuming about the humiliation his best friend and the rest of the force had to receive at the hands of the Nawab. He quickly advanced to Delhi in less than a month, and encamped near Talkatora. The Peshwa wasn’t only seeking revenge, he also aimed to give a blow to the Mughal Empire that they could never ever recover from. Like the Rajputs from the Rajputana province, none of the Marathas feared death. But the Peshwa knew that if they wished to win, they needed to attack, they needed to be assertive, and they needed to kill. As George S. Patton later said, “A good plan executed violently now is much better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
With these thoughts in mind, the Maratha forces met for a final showdown on 28th March, 1737. They were outnumbered three to one, but not in spirit. Mir Hassan Khan Koka was leading the Mughal forces, and though they attacked first, confident of their win owing to their numerical superiority and technical brilliance, even when they were at their weakest position, they failed to take one thing into account: raw courage.
This is where they lost the battle, and it didn’t take Maratha forces very long to crush the entire Mughal army, after which Peshwa Bajirao marched towards the Red Fort. He had won his battle, and now, he achieved the objective every Maratha warrior dreamt of: unfurling the saffron flag on the Red Fort. Above all, he maintained the ‘bro code’ long before it was even considered cool.
The only place where Peshwa Bajirao faltered was not declaring Delhi as his new capital as he returned to Pune only three months after his victorious attack, but not before extracting a huge chunk of the Mughal exchequer. As the Maratha camps were returning, he was intercepted by a joint force of the Mughals- the Nizam’s forces and those of the Nawab of Awadh. Undeterred, Bajirao sent Chimaji Rao Appa back with 10,000 soldiers to guard the Deccan, while he himself marched towards Delhi with 80,000 soldiers. The two camps clashed at Bhopal on Christmas Eve 1737, where the Maratha forces comprehensively routed the joint forces under the Mughal Empire.
The Nizam was forced to sign a peace agreement, this time at Doraha, which saw the transfer of Malwa’s ownership to the Marathas and a payment of 50 lakh rupees as compensation. The Nizam was forced to abide by the Koran on this treaty. This was a victory which not only weakened the Mughal Empire before the ultimate invasion of Nadir Shah, but also established the supremacy of Peshwa Bajirao over the Indian peninsula.
Today, it is sad to see that Bharatvarsha has not paid due tributes to such a legendary warrior, who not only won back our honor, but also fought throughout his life for the maintenance of our sovereignty. If only we had more warriors like Bajirao Ballal, maybe British would never have dared to even set their eyes on India.
In the memory of this glorious warrior,
Jai Bhavani! Har Har Mahadev!
V.G. Dighe, Peshwa Bajirao and the Maratha Expansion
Gordon Stewart, ‘The Marathas’ – 1600 – 1818
Fall of the Mughal Empire, Shri [Sir] Jadunath Sarkar, CIE
Military History of India
Hindu Pad Padshahi, Shri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
The Era of Bajirao, Uday S. Kulkarni