History Files


Modern India

The Peshwas: Strife Within

by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 4 April 2010

Peshwa Madhavrao I, also known as Madhavrao Ballal and Thorale Madhavrao (born 15 February 1745, began to rule in 1761, died 18 November 1772) was the second son and successor of Balaji Bajirao from his wife, Gopikabai.

Succession differences

The post of peshwa had by now become hereditary.

After the death of Balaji Bajirao's eldest son, Vishwasrao, at Panipat. There were differences as to who should succeed the peshwa. A camp led by Gopikabai (widow of Balaji Bajirao) and her brother Sardar Raste wanted the second son, Madhavrao, to succeed, whereas another camp led by Anandibai (wife of Raghunathrao) and Sakharambapu Bhagwant Bokil (a friend of Raghunathrao and the kulkarni of Hivare) wanted the peshwa's younger brother, Raghunathrao, to become the next peshwa.

Both Gopikabai and Anandibai were cousins. Both, in spite of their little education in statecraft, were ambitious enough to want to control the affairs of their states through their nominees. Both were to play a dishonourable role (more so in Anandibai's case) in the years to come.

Eventually it was decided that Madhavrao would be the next peshwa, as Madhavrao I. His uncle, Raghunathrao, would act as regent and Sakharambapu would be the diwan.

Initially, matters went smoothly, until Madhavrao attained maturity. Initially at the bidding of Gopikabai, Madhavrao personally began casting his eye over matters of state. This triggered friction between the nephew and his uncle. [1]

Starting to reign, and campaigning

Due to the defeat at Panipat, the Maratha treasury was virtually bankrupt and heavy in debt. To top it all the women in the household (especially Gopikabai) were indulging in daily religious rituals which were draining the already strained exchequer. Madhavrao first started to exercise discipline in his own home by curtailing the household expenditure on these daily religious practices.

Later when Madhavrao started demanding more say in the matters of government, both Raghunathrao and Sakharambapu resigned from office hoping that the young peshwa would feel powerless without them. But they had underestimated him. He filled the post of regent with his own man, Trimbakrao Pethe, and made Nana Phadanvis and Hari Ballal Phadke his secretaries. Ramshastri Prabhune was made chief justice.

This was when Raghunathrao, assisted by Janoji Bhosale, sought the help of Nizam Ali (who had deposed his brother, Salabat Jang, to become the Nizam ul Mulk).

Their army marched on Pune, although the peshwa's army put up a brave fight against them. Eventually Madhavrao decided to put an end to the quarrel, and marched to his uncle's camp, there to put himself at his uncle's mercy. Blood being thicker than water, Raghunathrao treated his nephew with due courtesy, but he removed all the peshwa's men from their offices and confiscated their properties.

But it was not long before Nizam Ali revealed his true intentions.

[1] Both nephew and uncle developed their own coteries. Madhavrao's camp consisted of Gopalrao Govind Patwardhan (Sangli), Triambakrao (Mama) Vishwanath Pethe (Maternal uncle of Sadashivraobhau), Baburao Phadnis, Balaji Janardhan Bhanu (Nana Phadanvis),Hari Ballal Phadke and Ramshastri Prabhune whereas by Raghunathrao's side were Sakharambapu, Gulabrao and Gangoba Tatya.
In Depth

Through his agent, Vithal Sundar, he led both Janoji Bhosale and the king of Kolhapur to believe that he was giving them the regency of the Maratha kingdom by displacing the Bhat Peshwas. When Raghunathrao heard this, he was once again reconciled with his nephew, Madhavrao. Their collective armies then besieged Nizam Ali's forces. When Nizam Ali realised that Maratha fortunes had been revived, he quickly begged forgiveness of Raghunathrao (blaming his agent, Vithal Sundar, for delivering bad advice), something which a rather nave Raghunathrao accepted.

Meanwhile Madhavrao was reinstalled as the peshwa. For his part, Madhavrao agreed to give due credence to Raghunathrao's authority.

In 1764, there was provocation from Hyder Ali of Mysore, in response to which the young peshwa led an assault against Mysore's forces. Again he had an altercation with Raghunathrao, who himself wanted to lead the army, but Madhavrao eventually had it his way. He and his forces completely routed Hyder Ali's army, and returned back victorious. Hyder Ali sought a means of escape by coming to an understanding with Raghunathrao, who prevailed upon his nephew to forgive Mysore's ruler. Reluctantly, in order to placate his uncle, the young peshwa agreed.

Meanwhile Janoji Bhosale (who had earlier assisted Raghunathrao and Nizam Ali), whom the peshwa had publicly rebuked, tried to stir up a revolt against the peshwa.

Then the peshwa's vigilant secret service got whiff of the plan, and the peshwa conspired with Janoji's old ally, Nizam Ali, and raided the Berar provinces of Janoji Bhosale. [2]

In 1766, Madhavrao again led successful campaigns against Hyder Ali who had gone back on his earlier promises. Meanwhile, Madhavrao's successes couldn't be matched by Raghunathrao who had engaged in his own campaigns in the north.

Envious of his nephew's success, Raghunathrao once again fell back on the evil advice of his wife Anandibai, who asked him to demand half the kingdom of Madhavrao. The demand was immediately refused. As a result Raghunathrao's forces (with assistance from Janoji Bhosale) and Madhavrao's forces again clashed at Fort Dhodap near Nasik. Raghunathrao's army was badly mauled and he himself was taken a prisoner and sent to Shanivarwada in Pune under house arrest. Janoji Bhosale was also forced to sue for peace and pay a war indemnity of 500,000 rupees and accept allegiance to the peshwa.

In 1769, Hyder Ali again provoked the Marathas by breaking his treaty. Madhavrao marched with his army in Karnatak region. His army reached Bangalore without opposition. He then took Kolar, Nandidurg,Mulwagar by forced assault.

[2] The perfidious Nizam Ali even offered help for the Marathas against Hyder Ali, at the same time conspiring with the English to defeat both Hyder Ali and the Marathas. To top it all, Nizam Ali offered help to Hyder Ali to gain Arcot from Muhammed Ali.

In June 1770, Madhavrao was struck down by illness and had to return to Puna, and sent Trimbakrao Pethe and Appa Balwant Mehendale against Hyder Ali. In January 1771, Hyder Ali's army was subdued at Balapur. Pethe then proceeded through Mysore, taking one district after another. In March 1771, Pethe inflicted another defeat against Hyder Ali at Cherkoli Hills. In June 1772, the Maratha army reached Srirangapattam (Seringapatam), which was Hyder Ali's capital. At this point, Hyder Ali finally sued for peace. He ceded Kolar, Bangalore, Ouskota, Balapur, Mudgiri, and Gurukonda to the Marathas and 3,600,000 rupees as a war indemnity, along with an annual tribute of 1,400,000 rupees per annum. [3] [4]

Scene at Delhi after Panipat

Meanwhile, Abdali had left for Afghanistan, on 22 March 1761. [5] He died on 14 April 1772.

The Mughal emperor had sought refuge with Shujaud Daullah, the nawab of Awadh, while Najib ud daullah Khan (Abdali's agent) ruled Delhi in his absence. After the fall of Awadh to the English (at Buxar in October 1764), the emperor sought the protection of the East India Company. Suraj Mal, the Jat king, tried to take over Delhi, but was killed in the fight with Najib. But the war between the Jats and the Rohillas continued through their respective sons.

Malharrao Holkar had already died in 1766. His predeceased his son's (Khanderao's) widow, Ahilyabai, had adopted one Tukoji Holkar, no relation, but one of Malharrao's trusted officers, to succeed the Holkars.

Ranoji Scindia too was dead and his successor was an illegitimate son, Mahadji Scindia, who had already distinguished himself at Panipat.

[3] When the deposed king of Mysore, Nandaraj, tried to appeal to the Marathas to reinstate him to his throne, Hyder Ali had him murdered in his bathtub and replaced him with his brother Chamraj instead.

[4] On one occasion there was an attempt on the life of Madhavrao by one of his men, Ramsingh. Madhavrao escaped with a bruise on his shoulder, and believed the attempt to have been at the behest of his uncle. As there was no proof, Raghunathrao went unpunished, but Ramsingh was executed.

[5] Between 1762-1767, the Sikhs thwarted Abdali's attempts to gain control of the Punjab.

Peshwa Madhavrao wanted to extract revenge for Panipat. He therefore sent a huge Maratha army under the command of Visaji Krishna Biniwala, assisted by Tukoji Holkar and Mahadji Scindia. The Maratha armies swept across the north. First they levied 1,000,000 rupees as tribute from Rajputana. Then they extorted 6,500,000 rupees from the Jats. Then they turned their wrath against the Rohillas. They ravaged the Rohilla land between Ganga and Jamuna and captured the Etawah fortress of Doab. Soon, all of Rohilkhand was under their control. This prompted the Mughal emperor, Shah Alam, to switch sides from the English to the Marathas. Shah Alam was once again restored to the throne of Delhi by the Marathas . The Rohilla chief, Najib ud Daullah Khan had died by then and he was succeeded by his son, Zabita Khan. The Marathas held Rohilakhand (along with its harem) for a huge ransom and returned its possession to Zabita Khan (who had fled to the hills) only after the ransom was paid.

  • 1769 - the Marathas proceed northwards.
  • 5 April 1770 - Battle of Govardhan, Marathas are victorious and take possession of Agra and Mathura. Marathas enter Doab against Bangash Nawab and encamp at Ramghat.
  • September 1770 - Peace treaty with the Jats.
  • 10 February 1771 - Mahadaji takes possession of Delhi.
  • 4 March 1771 - Mahadaji captures Shukratal.
  • 14 April 1772 - Abdali dies. The Marathas capture Najibabad, spoils of Panipat recovered by them. Mahadaji and Visaji Krishna arrange Delhi's affairs.

Death of the peshwa

The peshwa had returned to Puna, cutting short his Karnataka expedition, where he met a premature end brought about by tuberculosis on 18 November 1772. The great peshwa died in the precincts of Chintamani Temple at Theur near Puna. Madhavrao was just twenty eight at the time of his death.

A promising life was snatched by the clutches of death.

Madhavrao's wife, Ramabai, maintained tradition and attained Sati on her husband's funeral pyre.

Madhavrao Peshwa's contributions

[6] The sequence of events in the north is courtesy Ambareesh Phadanvis.

In his very short tenure, and in spite of opposition, Madhavrao contributed tremendously to the Maratha kingdom. Madhavrao was a symbol of equanimity. He was an astute judge of character, an efficient administrator, and a brave general. After the debacle of Panipat, he rekindled the Maratha spirit by his unwavering leadership. He resurrected a flagging economy and replenished the kingdom's treasury through various expeditions.

Madhavrao was known to be a benevolent peshwa who cared for his subjects. He ensured every man in his kingdom was heard and proper justice was meted out to all. In spite of differences with his uncle, he was always respectful at a personal level. Though he had kept his interfering mother, Gopikabai, at a distance (at Nasik), he was always respectful towards her and was always enquiring about her well being. He was never vindictive towards his enemies, as in the case of Janoji Bhosale, whom he had severely reprimanded, but never humiliated beyond a certain respectable point, nor were his personal possessions every taken away by the peshwa in spite of repeated provocation. That was an indication of the magnanimity of Madhavrao's character. [7]

Madhavrao redeveloped Mohitabad and renamed it Budwar Peth (Pune).


Narayanrao Peshwa (born 10 August 1755, began to rule on 13 December 1772, died 30 August 1773) was the brother of Madhavrao, succeeding him because he had no son.

Narayanrao retained Sakharambapu as the diwan, along with other advisers such as Nana Phadanvis, Moroba Phadanvis, Hari Ballal Phadke and Babaji Barve.

A very brief reign

Unlike his brother, Narayanrao lacked fortitude of character. He soon found himself completely under the sway of his mother, Gopikabai, who since the death of her other son had resumed her stay at Puna (from Nasik, where she had been kept by Madhavrao to prevent her interference in the daily affairs of the state). Raghunathrao, who had escaped from Shanivarwada, had been rearrested and confined to prison by Madhavrao, but he was soon released after he received a solemn oath from his uncle that he would accept Narayanrao as a heir.

Initially, Raghunathrao kept his promise, but differences soon started arising between Narayanrao's mother and her cousin, Anandibai, wife of Raghunathrao (who in turn was completely enamoured by his wife). On Gopikabai's instructions (and much against the wishes of Nana Phadanvis and Sakharambapu), Narayanrao placed Raghunathrao under house arrest at Shanivarwada.

[7] Sardar Jivajipant Khazgiwale, a noble in the court of Madhavrao, had developed Ganesh Peth (Pune) in 1775, named after Lord Ganesha.

Hyder Ali and his son Tipu were well aware of the strife in the Maratha kingdom and wanted to take advantage of it. So they started raiding the Mysore regions. Narayanrao therefore decided to launch an offensive in Karnatak. He recalled Visaji Krishna Biniwala, his agent in the north, back to Pune with his army. As a result the Maratha stranglehold on the north collapsed. Other enemies of the Marathas, such as Nizam Ali, Najaf Khan, and Shuja ud Daullah, also started taking a more direct interest.

Narayanrao's murder

The women of the peshwa household - especially Gopikabai - used to perform a great number of daily religious rituals and spent huge amounts of money in giving away alms to the Brahmins. This hampered the treasury, leading to a non-payment of wages to soldiers and other employees. There was discontent amongst many including the 'Gardis', a community who were the traditional bodyguards of the peshwas. Raghunathrao sent them overtures promising them higher scales of pay provided that he was assured of their help.

Raghunathrao sent the chief of the Gardis a letter stating that he would intervene and settle the pay dispute. But to achieve that, Narayanrao must be seized ('dharaa' in Marathi) and brought before him. But, according to tradition, the letter was forged by Anandibai, who changed the word 'dharaa' to 'maaraa', meaning 'to kill'.

On the fateful night of 30 August 1773, the Gardis swarmed in Shanivarwada, hacking down anyone who came in their way. Two of Narayanrao's servants by the names of Chaphaji Tilekar and Naroba Phatak who tried to shield the peshwa were slaughtered. The panicky peshwa then fled to his uncle's quarters and implored him to save him. But it was all in vain, for the Gardis (Sumer Singh, Kharak Singh, Mohommed Yusuf, and Tuloji Pawar a servant of Raghunathrao) wasted no time in striking down the young peshwa.

Narayanrao left behind him a wife, Gangabai, who was pregnant with his son, Madhavrao II.

Narayanrao's contribution

Narayanrao constructed a residential locality in Pune by the name of Narayan Peth, which exists to the present day.


Raghunathrao Peshwa, also known as Raghobadada, or Ragho Ballal, or even Raghobharaari (born 18 August 1734, began to rule on 5 December 1773-1774, died 11 December 1783) was the younger son of Bajirao I and the brother of Balaji Bajirao.

Seizing the moment of the death of his nephew, Peshwa Narayanrao, Raghunathrao made himself the next peshwa.

He confirmed Sakharambapu Bokil as his diwan, and made Chinto Vithal Rairikar and Sakharam Hari Gupte his chief confidantes.

But Raghunathrao met opposition in the form of Nana Phadanvis, and Chief Justice Ram Shastri Prabhune (who even passed the death penalty against the ruling peshwa for his role in the murder of his nephew, and relinquished his post and left Pune when his decree was not obeyed), Trimbakrao Pethe, Hari Ballal Phadke, and so on, who soon deposed Raghunathrao as the peshwa.

The conspirators later instated Madhavrao II, the infant son of Narayanrao, on the peshwa throne and themselves formed a council which would serve as a regency for the child peshwa. This council came to be known as the Barbhai (twelve brothers) Council. Besides Nana, the council included Hari Ballal Phadke, Moroba Phadnis, Sakarambapu Bokil (who joined in after resenting the ascension of Sakharam Gupte in Raghunathrao's inner circle), Trimbakrao mama Pethe, Mahadji Shinde, Tukojirao Holkar, Phaltankar, Bhagwanrao Pratinidhi, Maloji Ghorpade,Sardar Raste and Babuji Naik.

First Anglo-Maratha War

In April 1774, Raghunathrao entered into an alliance with the English (in the form of the Bombay government). Skirmishes between the English forces and the Marathas started. But just as they did, on 19 October 1774, a supreme council led by Warren Hastings, Colonel Clavering, Colonel Monson, Philip Francis, and Richard Barvel, and authorised by the British parliament to take charge of all British dominions in India, arrived on the shores of Calcutta.

They declared the treaty between the Bombay government and Raghunathrao to be invalid and instead sent their own envoy, Colonel Upton, to negotiate with the Barbhai council. They signed the Treaty of Purandar in December 1775, whereby Raghunathrao was to be surrendered to the Marathas and in return Bassein, Salsette, and the revenue from Bharuch were to be handed over to the British along with 1,200,000 rupees to be paid to the Bombay government for war expenses.

Raghunathrao was never handed over to the Marathas and continued to enjoy the asylum provided by the Bombay government at Surat.

Meanwhile, due to internal rivalry, some members of the Barbhai council (Moroba Phadanvis, Sakharam Bapu, and Tukoji Holkar) had broken away. They conspired with Raghunathrao's avowed well-wishers such as Bajaba Purandare, Sakharam Gupte, and Chinto Rairikar in order to bring back Raghunathrao to the seat of peshwa.

But Nana Phadanvis artfully managed to wreck the conspiracy. Most of the conspirators were thrown in chains and put behind bars. Some died in prison and some were killed.

On 23 December 1778, the Bombay government decided to disregard the treaty between the supreme council and the Marathas, and launched an offensive against the them. By 13 January 1779, the Bombay government's forces faced defeat at Wadgaon. The English sued for peace and returned everything they had gained from the Treaty of Purandar. English offensives were renewed at the behest of Warren Hastings (governor-general at Calcutta), who wanted to wipe out the disgrace of Wadgaon. English forces led by General Goddard defeated the forces of Mahadji Shinde and other Maratha commanders at various places, including Gwalior and Ahmedabad, and pushed Mahadji Shinde as far back as the town of Sipri. There were heavy losses on both sides.

Due to the loss of his central territories, Mahadji Shinde eventually prevailed upon the Marathas to agree to the Treaty of Salbai on 17 May 1782, by which means the English would abandon their support of Raghunathrao and recognise Sawai Madhavrao (Madhavrao II) as the true peshwa. In return the Marathas promised the English all help in their fight against Hyder Ali. This treaty was ratified by Hastings in June 1782 and by Nana Phadanvis in February 1783.

The treaty returned to Shinde all his territories west of the Yamuna. It also guaranteed peace between the two sides for twenty years and therefore ended the First Anglo-Maratha War.


As a side note, Mahadji Shinde (Shinde is Anglicised as Scindia), otherwise known as Madhavrao I Sindhia (born 1730-died 1794) was the illegitimate son (born from a Rajput concubine, Chimabai) of Ranoji Shinde (son of Jankoji Shinde, the Patil of Kanherkhed). Ranoji Shinde was entrusted by Bajirao I, the charge of Malwa, where he made Ujjain his headquarters. Ranoji was succeeded by his son, Jayappa, who died at Panipat. Hence the mantle of the family was passed on to Mahadji Shinde. Mahadji had already distinguished himself at Panipat where he received a leg wound that would remain with him for life. Mahadji Shinde succeeded in bringing all of the Rajput states (Medtya, Ratangarh, Lalgarh, Bikaner, Laswari, Lachhmangarh, Kumher and Deeg and the states with territory of Jaipur and Jodhpur) and Jat (except Bharatpur and Vijaynagar) under Maratha suzerainty. He also conquered Mathura in 1755. After the treaty of Salbai in 1782, Mahadji took full advantage of his neutrality with the English and exercised full control over northern India. He shifted his capital to Gwalior after he won it from the Jats of Gohad. Mahadji Shinde was responsible for reinstating Shah Alam II on the Mughal throne at Delhi (after the emperor was blinded and deposed by the Rohillas) and ruled as his regent. Mahadji had increased his army to three brigades under the captainship of Benoit de Boigne, a French mercenary, and developed it into a disciplined force with added artillery and cavalry power. Mahadji Shinde was also responsible for decimating the influence of the nizam of Hyderabad. The great Mahadji Shinde died without an heir and was succeeded by his brothers, Tukaram Shinde's grandson, Daulatrao Scindia.

Death and character

Seeing all his hopes of becoming peshwa wither away once again, Raghunathrao retired with his family to Kopargaon on the banks of the River Godavari, where he breathed his last (11 December 1783).

Raghunathrao left behind his wife Anandibai, a son, Bajirao II, an adopted son, Amritrao, and a posthumous son born to Anandibai and named Chimnaji Appa.

Raghunathrao was a brave warrior and military commander who carried the Maratha flag as far as Attock (presently in Pakistan and under his leadership, the Marathas had held sway over Punjab, Kashmir and the Northwest Frontier for over a year between March 1758 to November 1759). But he lacked the prerequisites of a good ruler. Moreover, he was completely under the sway of his wife, Anandibai. He shared a love-hate relationship with his nephew, Madhavrao. Though both loved and respected each other, personal ambitions ruined a fruitful relationship between the two.


Peshwa Madhavrao II, otherwise known as Sawai Madhavrao, or Madhurao Narayan (born 18 April 1774, began to rule 13 December 1774, died 27 October 1795) was the posthumous son of Peshwa Narayanrao and his wife, Gangabai. He was born amidst the political intrigues following Narayanrao's murder.

An infant Sawai Madhavrao was declared peshwa after deposing Raghunathrao, who managed the peshwa ship for a few months before being displaced by the Barbhai regency council led by Nana Phadanvis.

He more or less ruled under the guidance of Nana Phadanvis, the Maratha Machiavelli, and the Barbhai regency council. Sawai Madhavrao was a witness to Raghunathrao's treachery, when the latter brought the English to the forefront of Maratha politics. Raghunathrao tried to remove Sawai Madhavrao from the post of peshwa with English help, but Sawai Madhavrao was gallantly defended by the Barbhais.

With the Treaty of Salbai (1782), the English recognised Sawai Madhavrao as the true peshwa, abandoning Raghunathrao's aspirations. [8]

Sawai Madhavrao died under mysterious circumstances. There were rumours that he committed suicide by jumping from the high walls of Shanivarwada, while some speculated murder. But the popular story is that he was seriously ill and in a delirium he lost balance and fell from his window.

As per historians like Duff and Kincaid, in his dying declaration Sawai Madhavrao named his cousin, Bajirao II, as his successor, much to the chagrin of Nana Phadanvis. Nana had earlier asked Yashodabai, the widow of Sawai Madhavrao, to adopt Chimaji, the youngest son of Raghunathrao, so that someone from within the family would become peshwa.

Additionally, due to Chimaji's young age, Nana could continue as regent for the new peshwa. But now, thanks to Sawai Madhavrao's will and also due to opposition from the other courtiers to this arrangement, Nana had to back out. Apparently the fact that Chimaji, a brother-in-law of Yashodabai, would be adopted as a son did not go down well with the courtiers, and many also resented the fact that this would give Nana another stint as regent). [9]

[8] When he came of age, Sawai Madhavrao did try to assert his authority against his adviser, Nana Phadanvis, whom he felt was becoming overbearing. Firstly, this was in the case of the despotic police inspector of Pune, the infamous Ghashiram Kotwal (a trusted aide of Nana's - Nana was said to have an eye for the fairer sex. It was rumoured that he made Ghashiram the kotwal as he had fallen in love with his beautiful daughter), and secondly when the peshwa asked Nana Phadanvis to release his cousins (Bajirao II, Chimnajiappa, and Amritrao, the sons of Raghunathrao) from prison. But Nana Phadanvis overruled him, feeling he was being misled by his rivals. Mainly, Nana Phadanvis never trusted the sons of Raghunathrao, whom he believed would not hesitate to depose the peshwa at the slightest opportunity. It is said that the peshwa felt humiliated and became depressed. He soon contracted a disease considered to be tuberculosis, which left him with severe bouts of fever.

Nihal Peth, a residential colony in Pune during the reign of Sawai Madhavrao, was renamed Nana Peth in honour of Nana Phadanvis.

Nana Phadanvis also converted Bhawani Peth (previously known as Borevan), a residential colony built by Sambhajiraje, into a commercial location and invited a number of traders to set up their storage facilities in that area.

Sardar Anandrao Laxmanrao Raste built Rasta Peth in Pune during the reign of Sawai Madhavrao.

Nana Phadanvis (or Balaji Janardhan Bhanu) was an old friend and confidante of the Bhat Peshwas. He hailed from Velas, a village near Shrivardhan, the ancestral village of the Bhat Peshwas. He was a Kayastha Prabhu by caste. His grandfather, Balaji Mahadji Bhanu, was promoted to the title of phadanvis (finance secretary) at the behest of Balaji Vishwanath Peshwe. Nana inherited the title from his grandfather during the time of Madhavrao Peshwe and was a diehard loyalist of that royal line. Nana Phadanvis acted as regent for Sawai Madhavrao and was virtually the ruler of the Maratha kingdom during that time. It was then that the Maratha forces inflicted a crushing defeat on the nizam of Hyderabad at Kharda, when the latter had refused to honour his financial commitments to the Marathas.

Nana Phadanvs was an astute diplomat, responsible for keeping the Maratha kingdom afloat by providing leadership at a difficult juncture.

Due to his role in upstaging Raghunathrao, he was always hated by Raghunathrao's son Bajirao II. Nana had once virtually imprisoned the sons of Raghunathrao at Shivner, after the death of their mother, Anandibai, at Nasik, in April 1794, lest they become instruments in the hands of his rivals. Moreover he distrusted the eldest son, Bajirao II, due to the latter's inert deviousness. This also added to Bajirao's dislike for Nana Phadanvis. Nana Phadanvis was imprisoned by Sardar Sakharam Ghatge and Peshwa Bajirao II in 1797, at Fort Ahmednagar amidst political intrigues following the death of Madahvarao II. Nana was later freed by Bajirao II in order to secure his support against Daulatrao Scindia with whom Bajirao had developed differences (Daulatrao and Bajirao were later reconciled). But the weary Nana Phadanvis was never his old self. He never regained his old position thereafter.

[9] The Shanivarwada complex had a beautiful sixteen-petal-lotus shaped fountain: the Hazaari Kaaranje (fountain of a thousand jets). This unique fountain was constructed for the pleasure of the infant Sawai Madhavrao. With the form of a sixteen petal lotus, each petal had sixteen jets, each with an eighty foot arch.

He died on 13 March 1800 at Pune. [10]

Nana Phadanvis was called the 'Indian Machiavelli', by Grant Duff in his treatise on the Marathas, because of Nanas political manoeuvrings to maintain the sanctity of the seat of the peshwas. Nana Phadanvis left behind two wives (Nana Phadanvis married nine times. Only Bagubai and the fourteen year old Jiubai remained. Bagubai died within a month of her husband), but no son (none of his children had survived infancy). After Nana's death, Peshwa Bajirao II obtained his estates and confined his fourteen year old wife at Shanivar Wada (Jiubai was later freed by Yashwantrao Holkar and eventually came under the protection of the English who ensured her a pension. In 1827, she even adopted a son, Madhavrao Bhanu).

[10] Bajirao also imprisoned Yashodhabai, his dead cousin's widow, first at Purandar and later in Raigad. She later died in prison in 1811.


Main Sources

Duff, James Grant - History of the Mahrathas, Exchange Press, Bombay

Jaswant Lal Mehta - Advanced Study in the History of Modern India 1701-1813, New Dawn Press, New Delhi

Gordon, Stewart - New Cambridge History of India: The Marathas, 1600-1818, Cambridge University Press

Kincaid, C A, and Rao Bahadur D B Parasnis - A History of the Maratha People, Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press



Text copyright Abhijit Rajadhyaksha. An original feature for the History Files.