The Scindias (Sindhia or Shindes, as they
were originally known), were the ruling dynasty of the princely
state of Gwalior (now in the central Indian state of Madhya
Their rule started in the mid-eighteenth
century and continued through to the mid-twentieth century,
until all the princely states were merged into the republic of
The Shindes (Anglicised as Scindias) were a
Maratha family hailing from Maharashtra. They were said to be
a Kshatriya family with the name Sendrak, which later became
Their patriarch, Ranojirao Shinde, accompanied
the Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I in his northern campaigns. He was
later stationed in central India as the representative of the
Satara throne. Later the Scindias were presented with fiefs in
the regions they controlled.
Subsequently, when the power of the chhatrapatis
of Satara and the peshwas of Pune waned, the Scindias continued
as kings in their own right, ruling from their capital Gwalior
in the present day state of Madhya Pradesh.
Following the destruction of the Maratha empire,
the Scindias aligned themselves with the British and ruled their
state of Gwalior autonomously.
Genealogy of the Scindia family
Mahadji Shinde, patil (village headman) of
Pattuji Shinde, son and successor
Changoji Shinde, son and successor
Hangoji Shinde, son and successor
Dattaji Shinde, son and successor
Jankoji Shinde, son and successor
Ranojirao Shinde (1731-1745) was the son of
Jankojirao Shinde, the patil of Kanherkhed, a village in the present
day Satara district.
He joined the services of the first peshwa, Balaji
Vishwanath, due to the good offices of one Ramchandrapant Sukhtankar.
Ranoji soon rose through the ranks thanks to his integrity and
He accompanied Peshwa Bajirao I in his expeditions
to the north and was in charge of his Malwa and Rajputana campaigns.
Ranoji was later appointed subedar of Malwa and
he promptly instated his mentor, Ramchandrapant Sukhtankar, as
Ranoji was based in Ujjain as one of the
representatives of the Maratha throne in central India, along
with the Holkars.
Ranoji had two wives, one of whom was Nimabai
while the other was a Rajput wife called Chimabai. Ranoji had
three sons from Nimabai; Jayaji, Jyotiba (martyred at the Battle
of Kumbheri near Deeg in 1760), Dattaji (martyred while fighting
Najibkhan Rohilla in 1760, a year prior to the Battle of Panipat),
and two from Chimabai; Tukoji (martyred at the Battle of Panipat
in 1761), and Mahadji. All of Ranoji's sons were brave and left an
indelible mark during their short lives.
Jayappa Shinde (1745-1755), who was also
known as Jayaji, was the son and successor of Ranojirao Shinde.
He helped his father consolidate Scindia power in Rajputana and
was a very brave commander. He was murdered at Angora in consequence
of the politics of Rajputana while collecting revenue for the Maratha
Jankoji Shinde I (1755-1761) son and successor.
His uncle Dattaji served as his regent. Jankoji participated in
several battles with his uncles and was a very valorous commander.
He died a year after the Battle of Panipat, after being taken
prisoner by the Afghans and later executed.
Mahadji Scindia (born 1730-died 1794),
also known as Madhavrao I, was the uncle and successor of Jankoji.
Power didn't come Mahadji's way very easily. There
was opposition to his succession from his own family in the form of
Sakhubai Shinde, the widow of Jayappa. Besides Sakhubai there was
also resistance from Raghunathrao, the uncle of Peshwa Madhavrao
and acting regent. After the death of Balaji Bajirao, his brother
Raghunathrao, being the senior-most member of the family, was
overseeing the administration, since Madhavrao, the successor of
Balaji Bajirao, was just a minor. Raghunathrao had earlier tried
making Kedarji Shinde, son of Tukoji, the successor to Ranoji, but
Kedarji refused to be a part of any conspiracy against his uncle
Mahadji, whom he considered to be better qualified to succeed.
Raghunathrao even put forth the name of Manaji
Shinde, the grandson of Sabaji Shinde, a war veteran of the Attock
campaign. Something that should be noted is that Manaji later shifted
loyalties from the Marathas (in 1777) and defected to Hyder Ali's
camp at Mysore.
Meanwhile, the Marathas were in the process of
conducting a siege at Gohad in 1767. The Gwalior fort was then under
the control of the Jat king of Gohad. The siege itself was proving to
be quite tiresome for the Marathas. That was the point at which
Mahadji himself intervened and brought about an amicable settlement
between the Marathas and the Jats. This impressed Peshwa Madhavrao,
who by that time had come of age and was a master of his own destiny.
In 1768, after conferring with his ministers,
including Malharrao Holkar, Nana Phadanvis and Haripant Phadke,
Madhavrao Peshwa declared Mahadji Shinde to be the true successor
of the Scindia clan.
Dattaji Rao Shinde was killed in 1760
Earlier, since the age of ten, Mahadji Shinde had
participated in several battles, in Karnataka, Berar, Rajputana,
Malwa, Bundelkhand, Rohilkhand, Delhi and in the Jat regions under
his illustrious brothers. He had impressed many with his valour.
All by himself Mahadji had captured the town of Mathura in 1755.
He was just twenty-five years old at the time.
Being a devotee of Lord Krishna, he rebuilt several
dilapidated temples in Mathura and even set up a school for the
teaching of Sanskrit.
Mahadji had also participated in the Panipat war
of 1761 and was lucky to come out of it alive, thanks only to the
services of one water carrier named Ranekhan (who was to later
become one of Mahadji's closest aides) when he pulled the badly
wounded Mahadji to safety. The battle of Panipat had left Mahadji
with a leg infection that gave him a lifelong limp.
He was also conversant in Sanskrit and Persian,
besides being trained in the art of warfare from a very early age.
Thanks to all of this, following the death of his brothers it was
fully expected that Mahadji would be the rightful successor.
From then onwards, Mahadji Shinde accompanied
Sardar Visaji Krishna Biniwale in consolidating Maratha power
in the north. Mahadji reined in several Rajput, Jat and Rohilla
kings and established Maratha supremacy in the north.
In 1772, Mahadji Shinde weaned Shah Alam away
from British influence and installed him on the throne at Delhi. The
grateful emperor appointed Mahadji Shinde as his vakil ul mutalak, or
honorary regent. Mahadji had this title transferred away from the
Mughal emperor to the peshwa and Mahadji professed his loyalty to
the peshwa alone.
Madhavrao Peshwa died in 1772 and his brother Narayan
Rao was made the next peshwa. This move was resented by his uncle,
Raghunathrao, who already harboured ambitions of becoming peshwa
since the time of Madhavrao. It is said that he and his wife,
Anandibai, conspired in the murder of Narayanrao, and Raghunathrao
became the next peshwa. But this angered many in Pune and eventually
a council of twelve ministers called the Barbhai deposed Raghunathrao
and made the infant son of Narayanrao, Sawai Madhavrao, the next
peshwa. Mahadji Shinde was one of the members of this Barbhai council.
Shinde Chhatri, Mahadji Shinde's cenotaph in Pune, which also
has a modern gallery attached to it for the benefit of visitors
Mahadji Shinda, uncle and successor of Jankoji in 1761
In 1777, Mahadji Shinde assisted the peshwa to fight off
assaults by the chatrapati of Kolhapur.
Meanwhile, Raghunathrao, the deposed peshwa,
sought the help of the Bombay British government to have him
instated as peshwa. The British responded and what followed was
the first Anglo-Maratha War. In 1779, Mahadji's forces encircled
the British at the Battle of Wadgaon and forced them to accept a
treaty by which they would abandon Raghunathrao and instead take
charge of several regions around Bombay. But the British
governor-general, Warren Hastings, refused to honour the Treaty
of Wadgaon, citing that the Bombay government had no authority to
sign any treaty in the first place.
Warren Hastings despatched forces under Captain
Goddard, in the west, Captain Popham, in the north, and another
under Major Carmac and captured many of Mahadji's provinces in
the north. Mahadji's managed to counter British assaults on some
occasions while being defeated on others. This was proving to be
a stalemate of sorts.
This stalemate led to the Treaty of Salbhai in
1782, by which it was agreed that the British would henceforth
refuse assistance to Raghunathrao and pension him off. Also,
Mahadji's captured territories would be returned to him. The
British also agreed to accept Sawai Madhavrao as the legitimate
The British also recognised Mahadji Shinde as an
independent king with Gwalior as his capital and no longer to be
viewed as a vassal of the peshwa. It was decided that northern India
(west of the River Yamuna) was to be declared Mahadji's area of
influence and the Deccan would be the peshwa's area of influence.
This move by Mahadji to dissociate himself as a
vassal of the peshwas (even though he continued to serve as a general
in the Maratha army) may have been the start of the mistrust which
arose between Mahadji Shinde and Nana Phadanvis, regent for Peshwa
Sawai Madhavrao. The fact that Nana Phadanvis and Mahadji Shinde
had become competitors at the peshwa's court at Pune also did not
In 1783, Mahadji Shinde wrested back the strong
fort of Gwalior from Chhatar Singh, a Jat king, and established
himself there. Gwalior had earlier changed hands between the Mughals,
the Marathas, the British and the Jats. But it was Mahadji who
regained this jewel for the Maratha crown.
Meanwhile, Mahadji Shinde had employed the services
of an ex-French East India Company commander by the name of Benoit
de Boigne. Benoit helped convert Mahadji's army into a disciplined
and more lethal unit, trained on European lines. Mahadji's other
trusted men were competent people, individuals such as Ambuji Ingle,
Rana Khan, Rayali Patil, Jivbadada Bakshi, Ladoj Deshmukh, and so on.
With these forces, Mahadji Shinde became a power to be reckoned with
in northern India.
In 1788, Mahadji reacted to the plea by the Mughal
Emperor Shah Alam II, who was blinded and deposed by the Rohillas
led by Ghulam Qadir. Mahadji rushed with his forces to help the
emperor, and they defeated the Rohillas at Delhi. Shah Alam was
reinstated as the Mughal emperor.
Mahadji wanted to extend his influence in the
north, so he sent several letters to Pune for financial help.
But his pleas were sidelined for one reason or another by Nana
Nana Phadanvis, the peshwa's regent, was becoming
very suspicious of Mahadji's growing stature in the north. He
feared that Mahadji would soon outgrow his influence over the
peshwa. Therefore instead of providing timely financial help, he
tried to undermine Mahadji's authority by sending two more generals
to the north; Tukoji Holkar and Ali Bahadur, the grandson of Peshwa
Bajirao I (through his Muslim wife Mastani). Both proved to be a
hindrance rather than a help to Mahadji. They appeared to be trying
to overrule his authority by flirting with his enemies.
Count Benoit de Boigne
The Holkars were already alarmed by Mahadji's growing
successes and bitterly resented his rise to power. Their rivalry had
lasted since the days of Mahadji's campaigns in Rajputana. Often the
Holkars and Shindes were seen to support opposing factions. Nana
Phadanvis took advantage of this very fact.
Mahadji was later to defeat Tukoji Holkar's forces
at Lakheri in 1793, while Ali Bahadur was to form his own state of
Banda in Bundelkhand.
As Mahadji Shinde really was now the all powerful
force in northern India, he was able to shrug off any attempts by
Holkar or Ali Bahadur to overthrow him, and instead he established
his control over many parts of northern India. He had by now reduced
many powerful forces to nothing, whether they were the Jats or the
Rajputs in the north or the Nizam or Tipu Sultan in the south.
Eventually a truce of sorts was concluded between
Nana Phadanvis and Mahadji Shinde through intermediation from the
peshwa himself and via Nana's friend, Haripant Phadke. In the peshwa's
court, Mahadji was even said to have held the peshwa's shoes in order
to impress the peshwa with his loyalty. Many of his contemporaries
dismissed Mahadji's genuine loyalty and gratitude as sycophancy,
but the fact was that Mahadji Shinde remained loyal to the peshwas
until his very end.
Mahadji Shinde died at Wanaorie in Pune on 12
Daulatrao Shinde (1779-1827) was the
grand-nephew, adopted son and successor of Mahadji Shinde (being
the son of Anandrao, or Madaji Shinde, who was in turn the son of
Tukoji Shinde, the elder brother of Mahadji).
Daulatrao was just fifteen when he succeeded his
grand-uncle, Mahadji. He had to fight a bitter struggle against
Mahadji's widows over property disputes, and he was also responsible
for making Bajirao II the next peshwa after Sawai Madhavrao's
untimely death. Unfortunately, he also entangled himself
in the family disputes of the Holkars following the death of
Tukojirao Holkar and eventually came to blows with swords with
Yeshwantrao (Jaswantrao) Holkar, his illegitimate son. The
Shinde-Holkar confrontation continued for a long time.
Daulatrao also confronted the Powars of Dewas
and Dhar. After making Bajirao II the peshwa, Daulatrao became
his virtual regent. Daulatrao's interference in Pune's affairs
eventually pushed Bajirao II into British hands. This led to the
renewal of the Anglo-Maratha wars, which resulted in the defeat of
the Marathas. In 1817-1818, via the Treaty of Gwalior, Daulatrao
resigned himself to being a vassal of the British. A major portion
of his territories were ceded to the British.
Daulatrao Shinde was the grand-nephew of Mahadji Shinde
Daulatrao Shinde died in 1827. His wife,
Baizabai Sahib, the daughter of Sardar Sarzarao Ghatage of Kagal,
ruled as regent between 1827-1833. Since Daulatrao's only son had
died in 1812, Baizabaisaheb adopted a son named Jankojirao Shinde
II, the son of a relative named Patlojirao Shinde, and declared him
to be Daulatrao Shinde's successor. Baizabai continued to rule the
state as the regent of Jankoji II.
In his lifetime, Daulatrao Shinde built several
palaces and temples in his kingdom and was a patron of the arts,
literature and music.
Jankojirao Scindia II (1827-1843) was
the adopted son and successor of Daulatrao Shinde. Jankoji II
was married to Bejabaisaheb from the house of the Dabhades of
Talegaon, and after her death he was married again, to Sarabaisaheb
the daughter of Sardar Yeshwantrao Ghorpade, while his final
marriage was to Tarabaisaheb. During Jankoji's period of rule
in Gwalior the British gained ground in the state.
Jankoji II constructed several temples,
taals, and gardens in his lifetime, and he died in 1843.
Jayajirao Scindia (1843-1886),
also known as Bhagirathrao Shinde, adopted son and successor of
Jankoji II. Since the only son of Jankoji II had died in 1837,
Tarabaisaheb adopted a son named Bhagirath. He was renamed Jayajirao
Shinde and Tarabaisaheb ruled as regent alongside him, in
association with Mamasaheb, the maternal uncle of Jankoji II.
One Dada Khasgiwale, the comptroller, overthrew
Mamasaheb and became regent himself, but the British intervened and
Khasgiwale was captured and imprisoned in Benares.
The British took advantage of the dissension in
the Gwalior court and acquired Chanderi district and some other
lands in return for their help both in arresting Khasgiwale and
for maintaining their regular contingents in case of any future
danger which may present itself to the kingdom.
During the 1857 mutiny, the Scindias sided with the
British. Rani Laxmibai, the brave dowager queen of Jhansi, temporarily
captured the fort of Gwalior, forcing Jayajirao to flee to Agra.
But the British counter-attacked and the valorous queen was
killed at Gwalior.
Jayajirao later made the British exchange Jhansi
for the Gwalior fort.
In return for his services to the British empire,
Jayajirao Scindia was awarded the title of Knights Grand Commander
of the Star of India in 1861. In 1877 he became a counsellor of the
queen-empress and later GCB & CIE.
Gwalior Fort, a good deal of which was developed by Jayajirao
Jayajirao is credited with a good deal of
development work in Gwalior. He built several mansions, temples,
and gardens and loaned funds for the Agra Gwalior and Rajputana
Madhavrao Scindia II (1876-1925), or
Madhorao, was the son and successor of Jayajirao from his fourth
wife, Sakhyabaisaheb. He maintained his father's loyalty to the
George Jivajirao Scindia (1925-1961) gave
up his title to the Republic of India in 1947. He served as the
rajpramukh for the state (an appointed governor in certain states
and provinces during the period after 1947) until it merged with the
state of Madhya Pradesh in 1956.
He was married to Lekha Divyeshwari Devi (also
known as Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia) who hailed from the royal Rana
family of Nepal. After the death of Jivajirao she became active in
Indian politics and was elected a Member of Parliament for Jana
Sangh (later the Bhartiya Janata Party, or BJP) until her death in
George Jivajirao Scindia had six children; Padma
Raje (who married into the royal family of Tripura and died in
1965), Usha Raje (who married into the royal Rana family of Nepal),
Madhavrao Scindia (who served as a popular Union minister in the
Congress government until his death in an air crash in 2001, just a
few months after the death of his estranged mother, Rajmata
Vijayaraje Scindia), Vasundhara Raje (ex-chief minister of
Rajasthan), and Yashodhara Raje (BJP MP).
The late Madhavrao Scindia's son, Jyotiraditya
Scindia, is a promising politician and Union Minister of State for
commerce and Industry, in the incumbent Congress government of
George Jayajirao Scindia served as a governor for his state until
Black and white photographs on this page are taken from displays in
the Shinde Chhatri Gallery, Pune
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