Peshwa Bajirao II (born 1775, ruled 4 December 1796
to 3 June 1818, died 28 January 1851) was the eldest son of Raghunathrao Peshwa
and his wife, Anandibai.
Political intrigues before accession
Though on his deathbed Madhavrao II had (allegedly) named
his cousin, Bajirao II, as his heir, his old regent Nana Phadnavis was never
comfortable with the idea. He knew that Bajirao resented him and
would try his utmost to undermine his authority. He therefore
desired that Madhavrao's widow adopt a son whom he would be able to appoint
as peshwa so that he himself could rule as regent on the boy's behalf.
But Bajirao II (who was in prison) had other plans.
He enticed Sardar Baloba Tatya Pagnis, the influential minister of
Daulatrao Shinde (Anglicised as 'Scindia'), by promising him Nana's
position, lest he persuade Scindia to make him peshwa (as Bajirao
II). But Nana's spies informed him of Bajirao's plans.
Anticipating Scindia's forces marching into Pune,
Nana released Bajirao from prison and made a pact with him whereby
Bajirao would be the next peshwa and Nana would continue as chief minister.
Bajirao, seeing that he was now completely free,
withdrew his original commitment to Sardar Pagnis.
Nana was well aware that Baloba Pagnis would try
his utmost to extract his pound of flesh from Bajirao, and therefore,
before Scindia's forces (led by a disgruntled Baloba Pagnis) could
march into Pune, Nana fled to Purander. Sardar Pagnis was angry with
Bajirao for breaking his promise, and urged Daulatrao Scindia to appoint
Bajirao II's younger brother, Chimnaji Appa, as the next peshwa. The
wily Nana Phadanvis tacitly gave his approval for this and bought
temporary peace with Pagnis and Daulatrao Scindia (with whom he
negotiated to retain his position).
Initially Nana had wanted to declare Shahu II of
Satara as king and rule as his prime minister. But due to Shahu's
uncertainties, Nana extended wholehearted support to Chimnaji Appa
as the next peshwa. Bajirao II was once again confined to
Meanwhile, Sardar Pagnis, who would settle for
nothing short of replacing Nana Phadanvis, was making plans to
seize him. Nana was forced to flee again. Once again
he made a pact with Bajirao to get him released from prison and make
To achieve this they had to wean Daulatrao
Scindia away from Pagnis' side over to their own. They used
the beautiful daughter of a sardar by the name of Sakharam Ghatges (of Kagal) as bait
for Daulatrao Scindia. Daulatrao, who was enamoured by the girl's beauty,
soon married her and was won over to the side of Bajirao and Nana.
This isolated Sardar Pagnis. The operation to declared Bajirao II the new
peshwa and Nana Phadanvis his prime minister.
However, Bajirao II was never in favour of Nana
Phadanvis, whom he held responsible for ousting his father, Raghunathraos,
from power. Their old rivalry resurfaced and Bajirao II induced Sardar
Sakharam Ghatge to put Nana Phadanvis behind bars.
Later, finding Daulatrao Scindia and Sakhatam Ghatge
difficult to control, Bajirao II freed his rival, Nana Phadanvis, to
use the latter's guile against Scindia. But at the same time he kept
Nana's influence in the court very limited. By now, Nana Phadanvis
was a tired man and within a couple of years he had died (in 1800),
leaving Bajirao II to his dependency on Daulatrao Scindia.
Treaty of Bassein
Meanwhile, Tukoji Holkar had died at Indore leaving
behind two sons, Kashirao and Malharrao II, and two illegitimate sons, Jaswantrao (Yeshwantrao)
and Vithoji. Kashirao was the elder so he was made Tukoji's successor,
but this appointment was challenged by Malharrao. Even the illegitimate brothers
Jaswantrao and Vithoji supported Malharrao's cause. But
Kashirao asked Daulatrao Scindia for his help. Daulatrao tried to
seize Malharrao in person and in the fight that ensued Malharrao II
was killed. His son, Khanderao, was then taken as a prisoner to Pune.
Jaswantrao fled to Nagpur while Vithoji fled to Kolhapur. Vithoji
was later captured near Bhamburda and taken to Pune.
Nana Phadnavis, former regent
Jaswantrao built himself a large army and
planned an attack against Scindia who
had enthroned himself at Pune (much to the peshwa's dismay as the latter
was under his control). Scindia sensed an attack by Jaswantrao was
so he extracted 4,700,000 rupees from the peshwa and marched out of Pune.
The armies of Scindia and Jaswantrao clashed, and after a fierce
battle Jaswantrao was forced to retreat.
Peshwa Bajirao II now felt himself to be free of
Daulatrao Scindia and now desired to establish his complete control
over Pune. He first decided to eliminate those families whom he considered
his rivals (like the Raste family) or those that were in opposition to his
father, Raghunathrao. The vindictive Bajirao II was merciless with his
enemies. Even Vithoji Holkar (brother of Jaswantrao Holkar) and a
friend of Nana Phadanvis (and someone whom Bajirao believed fancied
Amritrao as a peshwa rather than Bajirao II), was tied to an
elephant's leg and dragged through the streets of Pune until he died.
When Jaswantrao Holkar heard about his brother's death
he was furious
and swore revenge on the peshwa. Once again he gathered together his forces
and marched on Pune. He dodged Scindia's forces on the way and made
his way to Pune. Peshwa Bajirao II immediately fled Pune and sought
refuge on its outskirts at Fort Sinhagad (Bajirao did not want
to seek help from Scindia, as that would be inviting his control
over Pune, once again, so he decided to seek help from the British).
From Sinhagad, he fled to the Konkan, where he boarded a British
ship at Rewandada and sailed to the port town of Bassein (present
day Vasai). There he signed the Treaty of Bassein on 6 December 1802
with the British, seeking their protection against his enemies. 
Meanwhile Jaswantrao Holkar had sacked Pune and, after installing the
peshwa's brother, Amritrao, in the place of Bajirao II, he had left for
Indore. The British army accompanying Bajirao II entered Pune. This
force was led by General Arthur Wellesely (brother of Lord
Mornington, the governor general) and on the way it had been joined by
aides such as Patwardhan, Bapu Ganesh Gokhale, Appa Nipanikar, Patankar
and Vinchurkar (the grandson of Vithal Shivdev Vinchurkar). Amritrao was
pensioned off by the British to Benaras with his family. Bajirao II
was once again reinstated as peshwa at Pune.
Defeat of the Scindias and the Holkars
Scindia did not appreciate the peshwa's proximity to the
British and nor
did Raghuji Bhosale of Nagpur. Instead, both resented the fact
that Bajirao had preferred the help of a foreigner over their own. They
also felt that the British were unnecessarily interfering in what
they considered to be purely Maratha affairs. Therefore, they decided to
punish the British and collected together a large army with which to
inflict that punishment.
Scindia was confident of victory over the British,
mostly thanks to his strong artillery and cavalry which were commanded
by a Frenchman called De Boigne. Jaswantrao Holkar, who disdained both
Scindia and Holkar, remained aloof.
Daulatrao Scindia soon realised that he had underestimated the
Scindia's army was the first to face defeat, at the
hands of General Arthur Wellesley in the Battle of Assaye
on 21 September 1803. Raghuji Bhosale followed next at Argaon in Berar
on 29 November 1803, forcing Raghuji to sign the Treaty of Devgaon. Scindia's army
was also defeated by Colonel Woodington at
Bharuch, Champaner, and by Colonel Lake at Aligad, Delhi and Laswari.
Bundelkhand was also reduced by Colonel Powell.
Peshwa Amritrao Raghunathrao
 Earlier in 1791, the peshwa
had flirted with the British, when he supported them in their
battle against Tipu Sultan of Mysore. For his services Bajirao
II had been suitably rewarded with vast lands out of Tipu's
Jaswantrao Holkar, prominent Maratha military commander
Finally, Daulatrao Scindia accepted defeat and on 30 December 1803
he signed the Treaty of Surji Anjangaon. Scindia ceded all his lands
between the rivers Jamuna and Ganga and control of his lands in
Rajputana. Ahmednagar and Bharuch forts were given away to the
British. The Treaty of Surji Anandgaon was supplemented by the
Treaty of Burhanpur on 27 February 1804, whereby Scindia became an ally
of the British.
Meanwhile, British successes alarmed Jaswantrao Holkar, who
feared for his possessions. He started planning an attack on them. General
Wellesley and his troops clashed with Holkar's forces and before long Holkar
had also been subdued.
On 14 December 1805, Jaswantrao Holkar had also become
an ally of the British under the terms of the Treaty of Beas. But the treaty
weighed heavily on his mind. He tried uniting the Marathas against the British until his
premature death due to a stroke on 20 October 1811 at Mandsaur in
Madhya Pradesh. He was just thirty five. 
Bajirao II's reign and friction with the British
Bajirao's reign was marked by vindictiveness and perfidy. His entire
exercise seemed to be acquiring the estates of his nobles, sometimes
on the flimsiest of pretexts. Earlier it had been the estates of Sardar Raste,
and Nana Phadanvis. This was followed by the estates of
the Pant Pratinidhi and Pant Sachiv. Bajirao also unsuccessfully
tried to acquire the estates of the Sawantwadi nobles, while they were fighting
against the raja of Kolhapur.
Bajirao II imprisoned Baburao Phadke, the son of gallant warrior Hari
Ballal Phadke, who had so courageously served the Maratha kingdom. He
confined Baburao at Fort Bassein where he died. Once this had
happened, the peshwa
confiscated his property.
The peshwa even attached some lands belonging
to the Gaekwads of Baroda over a revenue
dispute. The British then intervened and had the Gaekwads send a
representative to negotiate matters with the peshwa. But the peshwa's
aide, Trimbakji Dengale (as stated by British chroniclers), had Gangadhar Shastri,
the representative of the Gaekwads, murdered.
The British were incensed by this act and arrested Trimbakji.
But the man broke free from Thana prison and gathered
a small army together. Bajirao was also beginning to dislike
the regular interference of the British in his affairs and actively
encouraged Trimbakji Dengale.
General Arthur Wellesley, later the duke of Wellington
 According to British
historians such as Kincaid and Duff, Jaswantrao Holkar went insane
and had his brother Kashirao and his nephew Khanderao killed.
Jaswantrao was succeeded by Malharrao Holkar III under the
regency of Jaswantrao's widow. But the British allegedly plotted
her death. Malharrao III and his later wife, Bhimabai, continued
their struggle against the British in spite of a defeat at
Mahidpur. Indore was later incorporated by the British as a
princely state in the Central India Agency.
Then the British resident, Monstuart Elphinstone, openly
asked for the arrest of Trimbakji Dengale and the surrender of forts such
as Sinhagad, Purander and Raigad. When Bajirao refused, Pune
was encircled by British troops forcing the peshwa to sign the
Treaty of Puna on 8 May 1817. Along with these forts the British
also forced the peshwa to give up all the estates of his nobles
which he had acquired over the years. Bajirao was even asked to
dismantle his forces. 
By now Bajirao's dislike for the British had turned
into intense hatred. He soon started building an army for himself
under the guidance of his confidante, Bapu Gokhale. He also tried to
seduce the Indian guards in the British army with emoluments. On 5
November 1817, the peshwa's troops clashed with British troops at what
we now know as the Battle of Khadki. The peshwa himself retreated to the
temple of Parvati, located on a hill top, and watched the entire proceedings
of the battle from there. Seeing his army being routed, he fled
from the scene (earning himself the nickname 'Palputaa' or the 'Fleeing
One'). The remainder of this period of the peshwa's life was spent running
from fort to fort (Satara, Nagpur, Kopargaon, and Chanda),
furiously pursued by the British forces.
Finally, on 3 June 1818, Peshwa Bajirao II surrendered to Colonel John
Malcolm at Mhaw near Indore. The British exiled him to the town of Bhramhavarta,
or Bithur, near Kanpur on the banks of the Ganges, which
was to be his jagir (estate) for his retirement. He was granted a princely
pension to meet his royal expenses.
Bajirao II had eleven wives, but none could produce a male heir
(his only son through his eldest wife, Warnashibai, had died in
infancy). Therefore on 6 June 1827, Bajirao II adopted a boy named Dhondopant Narayan
Bhat, a son of a priest from Venegaon near Bhor
Ghat. Subsequently he adopted Dhondopant's brothers, Sadashivarao and
Gangadharrao. Dhondopant succeeded Bajirao II as peshwa and
came to be known as Nanasaheb.
Death and character
Bajirao died in 1851 at the ripe old age of eighty.
He remains one of the most controversial peshwas in
Maratha history. Most denounce him as vindictive, cruel, myopic and
cowardly, especially after he fled the British, while some
describe him as a victim of circumstance.
Most of Bajirao's formative years were spent in prison.
Thanks to this his
education was neglected and due to the constant hostilities
surrounding him, he grew up to be a very suspicious and vengeful
person. He never had the chance to hone the finer qualities of a good
ruler, let alone be a capable general like his forefathers. His
personal life was also no different to those of the princes of his time.
However, to his credit, when he could have very well spent his life in
luxury, in the good offices of the British, he chose to respect his
sovereignty and crossed swords with the
British on more than one occasion.
 To the credit of Bajirao II,
he never surrendered Trimbakrao Dengale to the British, although
the man was indeed captured soon after, near Khandesh.
Rani Laxmibai was the fighting queen of Jhansi
Nanasahib Peshwa (born 1824), otherwise
known as Dhondopant, is
remembered in the pages of history as the last peshwa.
He was the adopted son of Peshwa Bajirao II, and
the biological son of a priest named Narayan Bhat and a woman called Gangabai.
He was declared the next peshwa after the death of Bajirao
Sepoy Mutiny of 1857
Though Nanasahib professed loyalty to the British, he always
resented their sway over the Maratha dominions. Moreover he was
incensed when in 1853 he was refused the title of peshwa and his
entitlement to the pension by British Governor General Lord
Dalhousie. The opportunity to get back at the British came his way, when
in 1857 the Indian Sepoy Mutiny broke out in India.
Nanasahib collected together a contingent fifteen hundred strong, maintaining
that it was for the protection of the British lest the rebellion
spread to Kanpur. But on 5 June 1857, he surrounded the 53rd Native
Infantry Division of the British East India Company and declared
himself to be on the side of the mutineers. Nanasahib then proceeded to
loot the treasury. Subsequently he came across a contingent of mutineers who
were on their way to Delhi. They were soon induced into his cause.
The next morning he
attacked the British entrenchment led by General Wheeler. The British held onto the entrenchment
until 26 June.
Thereafter they surrendered to Nanasahib's army on the assurance that
they would be guaranteed safe passage to Allahbad.
Satichaura Ghat and the Bibighar Massacre
On 27 June, the British column, consisting of soldiers and their
families, reached the Satichaura Ghat, from where they were to
proceed by boat. For reasons unknown some of the Indian boatmen jumped in
the waters and started swimming to the shore. In the process some
lanterns were knocked off their placements, setting some of the boats ablaze. This led to a
lot of confusion. Someone fired the first shot, and soon there was
exchange of fire between the mutineers and the British soldiers. Tatya Tope, an aide of Nanasahib, was leading the mutineers
upon the British. Many Britons were massacred during this dreadful
Nanasahib Peshwa, the last of his line
women and the children were pulled away and taken prisoner to the Savada House, and later to Bibighar House (under
the guidance of a prostitute by the
name of Begum Hussaini Khanum), where they were united with the
other imprisoned British womenfolk from Fatehgad.
Meanwhile, a strong British contingent (consisting of Sikh soldiers)
and led by General Havelock had set out from Allahbad to take on the
mutineers at Kanpur and Lucknow. They defeated Nanasahib's army at
Fatehgad. Then they defeated the army led by Nanasahib's brother, Balarao, at Aong on 15 July.
Claims that they perpetrated
atrocities against the Indian villagers on the way were voiced.
When these claims reached Nanasahib's camp, the mutineers were furious.
They took out their anger on the helpless women and children at Bibighar, mercilessly gunning
This sordid incident goes down in history as the Bibighar
The British forces soon reached Kanpur and captured the town.
Nanasahib and his men escaped to Bithur. By now the British troops
were aware of the Bibighar massacre and went on the rampage,
indulging in arson, looting and killing (often viewed as a
traditional practise anyway, when a fortified place was captured by
force of arms instead of being surrendered).
The British troops later entered Bithur,
but found that Nanasahib
had escaped from there as well. Nanasahib's general, Tatya Tope, continued
to offer stiff resistance to
Daulatrao Scindia, one of the key Maratha military commander in this period
It is said that Nanasahib's confidantes, such as Tatya Tope, Rani
Laxmibai and Raosaheb (Nanasahib's kin and close associate) met at
Gwalior in June 1858 and declared Nanasahib to be their peshwa,
vowing to continue their fight against the British. Rani Laxmibai met her valorous end at Jhansi. Tatya Tope also
led a brave guerrilla campaign against the British until his alleged
capture and execution at Shivpuri. 
Rani Laxmibai (19
November 1828 - 17 June 1858), also known as Manikarnika, and as
Manu, was the queen of Jhansi. She was the
daughter of Moropant Tambe, a courtier of Peshwa Bajirao II, and
gained her position by marrying Gangadharrao Newalkar, king of Jhansi. Her son died in
infancy and was soon followed by her husband. Having no son
she wanted her adopted son, Damodar Rao, to succeed her but the British
would not allow it. When they laid siege to Fort Jhansi, Rani escaped and joined the cause of the mutineers in 1858.
The mutineers captured the fort of Gwalior and carried on its defence
other rebels. This brave woman preferred to fight the British rather
than surrender and met her glorious death on the battlefield at Kotah ki
Serai, Phoolbagh, near Gwalior. General Sir Hugh Rose commented upon
her death, saying that the rani "remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and
perseverance" had been "the most dangerous of all the rebel
Both Rani Laxmibai and Tatya Tope are revered as icons of the
First Indian Freedom Movement against the British.
Disappearance of Nanasahib
Nanasahib's whereabouts after all the
events of the Mutiny were never known. Some claimed that he
escaped with his family to Nepal, while others stated that they had
spotted him in
Constantinople. Someone resembling Nanasahib was also caught at Gwalior by Maharajah Scindia, but
it was never confirmed that this was Nanasahib.
The last Maratha peshwa seemed to have disappeared into
 Tatya Tope (born 1814, died
1859) was the son of Pandurangrao Tope, a courtier of Bajirao
II. Tatya was born at Yeola in Maharashtra. He and Rani Laxmibai
of Jhansi were the childhood friends of Nanasahib Peshwa. He
became commander-in-chief of Nanasahib's forces and led an
extensive guerrilla campaign against the British forces. His
skills in guerrilla stratagems were praised even by his enemies.
He was captured after being betrayed by a friend and was
Tatya Tope, son of Pandurangrao Tope, one of the peshwa's courtiers
Duff, James Grant - History of the
Mahrathas, Exchange Press, Bombay
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