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MARATHAS AND SIKHS
rise to power was a dramatic turning point that accelerated the
demise of Muslim dominance in India. Maratha chieftains were
originally in the service of Bijapur sultans in the western
Deccan, which was under siege by the Mughals.
Shivaji Bhonsle (1630-80 A.D)
is recognized as the "father of the Maratha nation." Shivaji
Bhosle, founder of the Maratha Empire, was born in 1630 AD, in
the fort of Shivneri, 40 miles north of Pune. By 1647, Shivaji
had captured two forts and had the complete charge of Pune. He
slowly started capturing forts in the region, Purandar, Rajgad,
Torna. In 1659 Shivaji succeeded in killing of famous Adilshahi
general Afzal Khan and demoralizing his army. He took advantage
of this conflict and laid the foundation of Maratha Kingdom near
Pune, which later became the Maratha capital. Shivaji used
guerilla tactics and brilliant military strategies to lead a
series of successful assaults in the 1660s against
Mughal strongholds, including the major port of Surat. He
Aurangzeb's General Jai Singh and was arrested in 1666. He
made a daring escape and regained his lost territory and glory.
By 1673, he had control over most of western Maharashtra and had
made 'Raigad' capital. In 1674 he assumed the title of "Chhatrapati"
at his elaborate coronation. At the time of his death in 1680,
nearly whole of the Deccan belonged to his kingdom. He had
developed an efficient administration and a powerful army.
His son Sambhaji
succeeded Shivaji. He was taken prisoner and executed by Aurangzeb, in 1689.
Rajaram, Shivaji's second son then took the throne. After the death of
Rajaram in 1700 Tarabai, the widow of Rajaram, put her young son
Sambhaji II on the throne, at the tender age of ten, and continued the struggle
Aurangzeb. Tarabai continued to fight against the
and captured Rajgad, the former capital of the Maratha's. The fight against
Mughals ended with the death of
Aurangzeb in 1707. Balance of power shifted towards Marathas, which was
soon to be controlled by Peshwas.
Shivaji's grandson and Sambhaji's son Sahuji was released from
Mughals captivity in 1707. He challenged Tarabai and Sambhaji II for the
Maratha leadership and with the help of his Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, Sahuji
became the Maratha Empror.
Though as a Maratha Emperor Shahuji had a huge territory in his possession
but he was mostly a titular head of the Maratha emipre. He kept away from
regular politics and settled down at Satara. Maratha Empire was virtually
governed by the Peshwas of Pune. After Shahuji's death in 1749 his adopted
son, Rajaram II succeeded him.
dynasty 1713 to 1818
- (1713 to 1721) - In 1713, Peshwa, Balaji
Vishwanath was appointed a Peshwa (Prime Minister) by Sahuji.
Balaji Vishwanath assisted a young Shahu to consolidate his
grip on an empire. In 1717 a Mughal emissary signed a treaty
with the Marathas confirming their claims to rule in the Deccan.
1718 marked the beginning
of the Maratha influence in Delhi. Balaji Vishwanath's died in 1721.
Bajirao Peshwa I
(1721 to 1740) - After death of
Balaji Vishwanath, his elder son Bajirao, became the Peshwa . Pune had regained its status as capital of Maratha
Kingdom from Rajgad. In 1734, Bajirao captured the Malwa territory in the
north, and in 1739, he drove out the Portuguese from nearly all their
possessions in the Western Ghats. Bajirao died in 1740. Baji Rao's son,
Balaji Bajirao (Nanasaheb) succeeded as the Peshwa. He defeated Ahmad Shah
Abdalli in 1756 near Delhi. But in Third Battle of Panipat (1761),
between Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdalli, Marathas lost the war. This war
destroyed both Abdalli and Peshwas. Balaji Bajirao died soon after the war
shattered by the death of his older son and brother.
His second son Madhav
Rao assumed the title of Peshwa in 1761. He achieved many remarkable
victories and restored the glory of Maratha kingdom to a large extent. His
outstanding achievements included defeat of Nizam of Hyderabad,
Ali of Mysore and Bhosle of Nagpur. In 1769, Marathas lead by Mahadaji
Shinde, headed the North India campaign. They defeated the Jats and took
hold of Agra and Mathura. Madhav Rao died in 1772 at an early age of 27
(1772 to 1773) just ruled for one year and was murdered in a palace
conspiracy. Raghunathrao was proclaimed the next Peshwa, although he
was not heir to the title. He was displaced from power by a clever plot by
twelve Maratha chiefs and infant son of Madhav Rao called Sawai Madhavrao
was then declared the next Peshwa. The chief administrator was Nana
Phadnis. He handled the Peshwai well and with great unity among Maratha
chiefs. They defeated the rising British power in 1784, near Pune and halted
their advancements, temporarily till the premature death of Sawai Madhavrao
in 1795. In 1796 Baji Rao II, son of Raghunath Rao became the Peshwa. Nana
Phadanis looked after the Maratha kingdom well until his death in 1800 A.D.
After that Baji Rao II signed a
with the British in 1802, which weakened the Peshwa power. His son,
Nanasaheb Peshwa opposed the British with whatever support he could muster.
By 1818 the Peshwa power came to an end. Nanasaheb Peshwa's fight still
continued. But the failure of
war put an end to any lingering hopes. (Anglo
Rooted in the bhakti
movements that swept across North India during the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, the Sikh religion appealed to the hard-working peasants.
Nanak Dev born in 1469 was the first Sikh guru. The Sikh khalsa
(army of the pure) under tenth Guru -
Gobind Singh rose up against the economic and political repressions in
Punjab toward the end of Aurangzeb's rule. By the 1770s, Sikh hegemony
extended from the Indus in the west to the Yamuna in the east, from Multan
in the south to Jammu in the north. But the Sikhs were a loose, disunited,
and quarrelsome conglomerate of twelve kin-groups.
Singh (1780-1839) became King of Punjab in In his kingdom Sikhs, Hindus,
and Muslims lived together in comparative equality and increasing
prosperity. Ranjit Singh employed European officers and introduced strict
military discipline into his army before expanding into Afghanistan,
Kashmir, and Ladakh. British signed a peace treaty with him. His rule was
called as the 'golden period of Punjab'. After his death there was a power
vacuum and infighting amongst the successors of Ranjit Singh. In 1846, the
Anglo-Sikh war commenced at Mudki where Sikh forces were defeated
because of treachery of their generals. There after the British power became
dominant in politics of Punjab and in 1849 after another Anglo-Sikh war
Punjab was formally annexed to British Empire.