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History (Optional) Notes, Mindmaps & Related Current Affairs

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  2. FREE Samples
    4 Submodules
    1. Sources
    9 Submodules
  4. 2. Pre-history and Proto-history
    3 Submodules
  5. 3. Indus Valley Civilization
    8 Submodules
  6. 4. Megalithic Cultures
    3 Submodules
  7. 5. Aryans and Vedic Period
    8 Submodules
  8. 6. Period of Mahajanapadas
    10 Submodules
  9. 7. Mauryan Empire
    7 Submodules
  10. 8. Post – Mauryan Period
    7 Submodules
  11. 9. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India
    9 Submodules
  12. 10. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas
    14 Submodules
  13. 11. The Regional States during the Gupta Era
    18 Submodules
  14. 12. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
    9 Submodules
    13. Early Medieval India (750-1200)
    9 Submodules
  16. 14. Cultural Traditions in India (750-1200)
    11 Submodules
  17. 15. The Thirteenth Century
    2 Submodules
  18. 16. The Fourteenth Century
    6 Submodules
  19. 17. Administration, Society, Culture, Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
    13 Submodules
  20. 18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Political Developments and Economy
    14 Submodules
  21. 19. The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture
    3 Submodules
  22. 20. Akbar
    8 Submodules
  23. 21. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century
    7 Submodules
  24. 22. Economy and Society in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    11 Submodules
  25. 23. Culture in the Mughal Empire
    8 Submodules
  26. 24. The Eighteenth Century
    7 Submodules
    1. European Penetration into India
    6 Submodules
  28. 2. British Expansion in India
    4 Submodules
  29. 3. Early Structure of the British Raj
    9 Submodules
  30. 4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
    12 Submodules
  31. 5. Social and Cultural Developments
    7 Submodules
  32. 6. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas
    8 Submodules
  33. 7. Indian Response to British Rule
    8 Submodules
  34. 8. Indian Nationalism - Part I
    11 Submodules
  35. 9. Indian Nationalism - Part II
    17 Submodules
  36. 10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  37. 11. Other strands in the National Movement (Revolutionaries & the Left)
  38. 12. Politics of Separatism
  39. 13. Consolidation as a Nation
  40. 14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  41. 15. Economic development and political change
    16. Enlightenment and Modern ideas
  43. 17. Origins of Modern Politics
  44. 18. Industrialization
  45. 19. Nation-State System
  46. 20. Imperialism and Colonialism
  47. 21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  48. 22. World Wars
  49. 23. The World after World War II
  50. 24. Liberation from Colonial Rule
  51. 25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  52. 26. Unification of Europe
  53. 27. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World
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I. Introduction

Background of the Maratha Empire

  • The Maratha Empire can be traced back to the 17th century in the western Deccan Plateau of India, primarily in the present-day state of Maharashtra.
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is credited as the founder of the Maratha Empire. Born in 1630, Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire.
  • The Empire expanded significantly under Shivaji’s leadership, with his vision for a “Hindavi Swarajya” (self-rule of Hindu people). His strategy involved innovative military tactics and a robust administrative system.
  • Over time, the Maratha Empire spread beyond present-day Maharashtra, reaching as far north as Peshawar in present-day Pakistan and as far south as Tamil Nadu.

Rise of the Peshwas

  • The term Peshwa referred to the prime minister of the Maratha Empire, but over time, the Peshwas became the de facto leaders, overshadowing the Maratha monarchs.
  • The initial role of the Peshwa was to advise the monarch and manage the day-to-day administration. However, the growing influence of the Peshwas made them the primary power centers.
  • Balaji Vishwanath (1713-1720) was the first significant Peshwa, marking the rise of the Peshwa dominion in Maratha politics. Under him, the position became hereditary, with the Bhat family holding onto it.
  • His son, Baji Rao I (1720-1740), further augmented the Maratha influence in India. His expeditions across India are legendary, and his cavalry raids in the northern territories expanded the Maratha territory vastly.
  • Over time, multiple Maratha families became influential, including the Holkar, Scindia (Shinde), Bhosale, and Gaekwad. These families had their own territories and armies but recognized the Peshwa’s leadership.
  • The Peshwas held prominence till the third battle of Panipat in 1761. The battle was a significant setback for the Marathas against the Afghan king Ahmad Shah Durrani.

Importance of the 18th century in Maratha history

  • The 18th century was a pivotal time for the Maratha Empire. It was marked by rapid territorial expansion, internal power struggles, and confrontations with other major powers in the Indian subcontinent.
  • The early 18th century saw the Maratha power reach its zenith, especially under Baji Rao I. The Marathas conducted successful expeditions in the northern territories and extracted tributes from the Mughal Empire.
  • The Marathas established a system called Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. Chauth was a tax collected from the territories not directly controlled by the Marathas, amounting to roughly 25% of the produce. Sardeshmukhi was an additional 10% tax on top of Chauth.
  • However, internal rifts among the Maratha chieftains and external threats began to challenge the Empire’s stability. Their decentralized structure, while a source of strength initially, became a vulnerability.
  • The Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 was a defining moment of the century. The extensive casualties and the death of Sadashivrao Bhau, a key leader, halted the Maratha expansion into northern India.
  • Post the battle, the Peshwas couldn’t regain their earlier authority, and regional chieftains like the Holkars and Scindias became more autonomous.
  • By the end of the 18th century, the British East India Company emerged as a significant colonial force. The Marathas faced them in the Anglo-Maratha Wars which eventually led to the decline of the Maratha Empire and the rise of British dominance in India.

II. The Genesis of Peshwa Power

Origins of the Peshwa title

  • The term Peshwa has its roots in the Persian language, translating to “foremost” or “prime”.
  • Originally, the title was equivalent to a chief minister or prime minister position within the Maratha Empire.
  • The Peshwa’s role was to advise the Chhatrapati, the Maratha monarch, and handle the day-to-day administration of the empire.
  • While the title initially began as a non-hereditary position, it eventually transformed into a hereditary one, especially during the tenure of Balaji Vishwanath.

Balaji Vishwanath’s contributions

  • Balaji Vishwanath is recognized as the first significant Peshwa who stamped authority on the title and elevated its prestige.
  • Born in 1662 in Shrivardhan, he was initially a small-time revenue official but gradually rose in ranks due to his intelligence and diplomatic skills.
  • Appointed as the Peshwa in 1713 by Chhatrapati Shahu, he played a pivotal role in strengthening the Maratha Empire.
  • One of his major contributions was the resolution of the Mughal-Maratha conflict. He negotiated with the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar, securing rights for the Marathas to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the Deccan provinces.
  • Balaji Vishwanath established the precedent of the Peshwa title becoming hereditary, ensuring that his son, Baji Rao I, succeeded him after his death in 1720.
  • Through his leadership, the Peshwa’s residence in Pune became a significant political center, overshadowing many other power centers within the Maratha Empire.

Transition from a priestly role to administrative and military leadership

  • The Peshwas, in their early years, were primarily Brahmins, known for their priestly and scholarly duties.
  • The Brahmins, being the learned class, were naturally sought for advisory roles within the Maratha administrative structure.
  • Balaji Vishwanath’s ascendancy marked a shift, turning the Peshwa title from a purely advisory role to one with immense administrative responsibilities.
  • Under Balaji Vishwanath and his successors, especially Baji Rao I, the Peshwa title evolved further. They not only became pivotal in administration but also began leading military campaigns.
  • This shift from priestly duties to military leadership was unprecedented. The Peshwas demonstrated that one’s background did not restrict one from diversifying roles and reaching the zenith of power.
  • The Peshwas’ military successes, strategic alliances, and administrative reforms ensured that their legacy was not just limited to religious or scholarly endeavors. They became synonymous with the power and prestige of the Maratha Empire itself.

III. Baji Rao I and His Expansions

Military campaigns

  • Baji Rao I: Born on 18 August 1700, the eldest son of Balaji Vishwanath.
  • Assumed the role of Peshwa in 1720 at a young age of 20.
  • Believed in the mantra, “Let us transcend the barren Deccan and conquer the fertile plains of the north”.
  • His tenure witnessed numerous campaigns, transforming Maratha power dynamics in India.
    • Battle of Palkhed (1728):
      • Fought against the Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad.
      • Demonstrated exceptional strategic brilliance by employing non-traditional warfare methods.
      • Resulted in a strategic victory for the Marathas and the Treaty of Mungi Shevgaon.
    • Campaign against Malwa (1729-1737):
      • Objective to weaken Mughal influence.
      • Conquered territories and established Maratha authority.
      • Malwa became a Maratha province by 1737.
    • Campaign in Gujarat (1730-1736):
      • Aimed to counter growing European influences.
      • Established Maratha dominance by appointing a Maratha governor in Surat.
    • Attack on Delhi (1737):
      • Intent to showcase Maratha power to the Mughals.
      • Although not a full conquest, caused significant alarm and political ripples in the Mughal capital.

Diplomatic strategies

  • Fostering alliances:
    • Formed an alliance with the Rajputs, traditional opponents of the Mughals.
    • Collaborated with local leaders, rewarding them for their allegiance to strengthen Maratha’s regional influence.
  • Use of matrimonial ties:
    • Marriage alliances with significant princely states bolstered political relations.
    • Baji Rao’s own marriage to Kashibai and later Mastani, played roles in consolidating alliances.
  • Negotiations and treaties:
    • Whenever possible, preferred peace treaties over warfare, such as the Treaty of Mungi Shevgaon.
    • Emphasized on ensuring that the terms always favored Maratha interests.

Relations with the Mughal Empire

  • Ambiguous relationship: Despite frequent conflicts, the Marathas didn’t aim for complete annihilation of the Mughal Empire.
  • Baji Rao recognized the symbolic significance of the Mughal Empire in maintaining order in the subcontinent.
  • Strategic autonomy: Maintained autonomy, refrained from becoming Mughal vassals.
  • Revenue collections: Extracted rights like Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from Mughal territories without direct governance.
  • Interactions with Mughal emperors: Frequent interactions with emperors like Muhammad Shah, sometimes as allies, sometimes as adversaries.

Expansion towards the north

  • Driven by the vision to expand Maratha influence across the subcontinent.
  • Invasions into Central India: Marked the beginning of northern expeditions.
  • Push towards the Gangetic plains: Extended Maratha reach to regions like Bundelkhand and parts of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Conquests in Punjab: Late in his tenure, moved towards Punjab with an aim to counter Afghan influences.
  • Impact on northern polity: Baji Rao’s northern expeditions decentralized power dynamics, weakening centralized empires like the Mughals.
  • Cultural exchange: Northern campaigns led to a blend of Marathi and North Indian cultures, leading to enriched architectural and cultural legacies.

IV. Balaji Baji Rao and the Peak of Peshwa Dominance

Pune as the Maratha capital

  • Pune’s Emergence: Previously considered a modest town, Pune underwent a transformation to become the nerve-center of Maratha power during Balaji Baji Rao’s tenure.
  • Strategic Importance: Located in the heart of Maharashtra, Pune’s strategic position provided easy access to various Maratha territories.
  • Infrastructure Development: Numerous architectural marvels like the Shaniwar Wada (built in 1732) were constructed, symbolizing the city’s elevated status and the grandeur of Maratha might.
  • Cultural Hub: Pune emerged not only as a political but also as a cultural hub. Traditional Marathi art, theater, and music flourished under the patronage of the Peshwas.

Economic policies

  • Revenue System: Balaji Baji Rao, often referred to as Nana Saheb, introduced several reforms in revenue collection to streamline the process.
    • Chauth and Sardeshmukhi: Continued the system of collecting Chauth (one-fourth of the revenue) and Sardeshmukhi (an additional 10%).
    • Land Revenue: Implemented efficient systems to ensure timely collection, minimizing evasion.
  • Trade and Commerce: Encouraged internal trade and established various trade routes, bolstering Maratha economy.
    • Ports: Recognized the significance of coastal towns, thus fostering commerce through ports like Alibaug.
  • Agricultural Boost: Promoted agriculture by granting incentives to farmers and introducing better irrigation techniques.

Relations with other Maratha chieftains

  • Coalition Dynamics: The Maratha Empire was not a centralized entity; rather, it was a coalition of various chieftains and clans, each wielding significant power in their territories.
    • Holkar and Scindia: Maintained delicate relations with powerful clans like the Holkars of Indore and Scindias of Gwalior.
    • Bhosale Clan: Relations were often strained due to power dynamics and territorial ambitions.
  • Diplomatic Maneuvers: Balaji Baji Rao often resorted to diplomacy to maintain harmony among the chieftains.
    • Matrimonial Alliances: Leveraged marriage ties to solidify alliances and ensure cooperative politics.
  • Military Collaborations: Joint military campaigns were undertaken, uniting Maratha forces against common adversaries.

The Battle of Panipat

  • Backdrop: The Marathas, under the ambition to extend their influence in North India, ventured deep into the Mughal heartland, causing unrest among the northern powers.
  • Ahmad Shah Abdali: The Afghan leader perceived Maratha expansion as a direct threat to his interests in the region.
  • Engagement: On 14 January 1761, the two forces met in Panipat in one of the largest and bloodiest battled fought in 18th-century India.
  • Outcome: A decisive victory for Abdali. The Marathas suffered huge casualties, with the death of Sadashivrao Bhau, a prominent Maratha general.
  • Consequences: The loss halted Maratha ambitions in the North. It marked a significant turning point in the decline of the Maratha empire’s overarching dominance.
  • Impact on Peshwa Power: The defeat was a personal blow to Balaji Baji Rao. The tragic news, coupled with the loss of his son Vishwasrao during the battle, deeply affected him. He passed away later in 1761.

V. Internal Dynamics and Administration

Revenue systems

  • The Maratha Empire developed unique revenue systems tailored to Indian conditions.
  • Land revenue system:
    • Principal source of income for the Maratha administration.
    • Land was classified based on its fertility.
    • Revenue rates differed according to the type of crop cultivated.
    • System ensured fairness and encouraged cultivation.
  • Customs and duties:
    • Charged on goods transported within the empire’s territory.
    • Sea trade was especially lucrative, given the Maratha’s coastal control.
    • Customs posts were established at strategic points.

Military organization

  • Integral to the Marathas’ rise and sustenance of power.
  • Standing army:
    • Consisted of infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy.
    • Professional soldiers received regular salaries.
  • Guerrilla warfare:
    • Pioneered by Shivaji Maharaj, refined by successive Peshwas.
    • Focused on swift attacks, minimizing open field battles.
    • Took advantage of the rugged Western Ghats topography.
  • Forts and strongholds:
    • Central to the defense strategy.
    • Marathas built and maintained numerous forts across the Deccan plateau.
    • Examples: Sinhagad, Raigad, and Pratapgad forts.

Role of chauth and sardeshmukhi

  • Chauth:
    • It was a tax levied at one-fourth of the land revenue or produce.
    • Collected from territories not directly under Maratha control.
    • Acted as a protection fee, ensuring the Marathas would not attack.
  • Sardeshmukhi:
    • Additional tax, amounting to 10% over and above chauth.
    • Collected as a historical right, signifying Marathas as the sovereigns.
    • Imposed mostly in Maharashtra, recognized as the Marathas’ homeland.

Peshwa’s relationship with the Maratha chieftains

  • Balanced power dynamics:
    • While Peshwas held significant sway, they constantly balanced power with influential chieftains.
  • Holkar and Scindia clans:
    • Powerful families within the Maratha confederacy.
    • Peshwas ensured their interests aligned, avoiding internal conflicts.
  • Bhosale clan:
    • Another influential Maratha clan.
    • At times, power tussles emerged with the Peshwa, particularly during succession crises.
  • Alliances and treaties:
    • Peshwas frequently entered matrimonial alliances with chieftain families.
    • Solidified bonds and reduced chances of internal strife.

VI. Cultural and Social Aspects under the Peshwas

Patronage to arts and literature

  • Peshwa era: A golden age for arts and literature in Maharashtra.
  • Fostered numerous poets, writers, and scholars, enriching the Marathi language.
  • Ramshastri Prabhune: A renowned poet and jurist during this era, who is also known for his principles of justice.
  • Classical music and dance forms flourished, receiving royal patronage and admiration from the court.
  • Temples and wadas (traditional Marathi mansions) were built showcasing intricate architectural designs, enhancing the visual arts.
  • Literary gatherings, known as “Sabhas,” became common, where poets and writers showcased their works.

Social reforms

  • Peshwa leadership brought a wave of societal changes.
  • Education: Emphasis on imparting knowledge to all sections of society.
    • Vedic studies were promoted for Brahmins.
    • Trade and vocational training were encouraged for other classes.
  • The practice of “Sati” (a widow immolating herself on her husband’s pyre) was discouraged, although not entirely eradicated.
  • Efforts to improve the status of women in society.
    • Initiatives to promote widow remarriage and discourage child marriages.
  • Justice system: Overhauled to ensure fair and faster judgements.

Religious practices

  • Religion played a pivotal role during the Peshwa regime.
  • The Peshwas were staunch followers of the Bhakti movement, especially the Varakari sect.
  • Sant Eknath and Sant Ramdas were revered saints, their teachings widely followed.
  • Festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali were celebrated with grandeur.
  • Bhagwat Mela: A significant religious event, where tales from the Puranas were narrated.
  • Various temples, like the famous Dagdusheth Halwai Ganapati temple in Pune, were constructed during this period.

Marathi theater and its political implications

  • The evolution of Marathi theater traces its roots back to the Peshwa era.
  • Initially, theatrical performances were religious, portraying stories from epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  • Over time, they began to touch upon social issues, indirectly reflecting the political environment.
  • Peshwa politics: Often a subtle theme in many plays, highlighting the power struggles and court politics.
  • Vishnudas Bhave: Considered the father of Marathi theater, his works combined traditional stories with contemporary issues.
  • Theater became an instrument for social change, fostering critical thinking among the masses.

VII. Relations with European Powers

Interactions with the British

  • Initial engagements: When the British East India Company started establishing its foothold in India, the Marathas were a dominant power in the subcontinent.
  • Trade and commerce: Both entities interacted primarily on the economic front initially.
    • The British wanted secure trade routes and markets.
    • The Marathas, aware of British global influence, were keen on maintaining a harmonious relationship.
  • Shared enemies: At times, the British and Marathas found common adversaries, such as Tipu Sultan of Mysore.
    • Collaborative efforts were made against these mutual threats.
  • Differences and skirmishes: As the British ambition of control grew, conflicts with the Marathas became inevitable.
    • Battles such as the First, Second, and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars were fought between the two entities.

Interactions with the French

  • Aligned objectives: Marathas, at times, saw the French as allies against the increasing influence of the British in India.
  • French influence: The French East India Company tried establishing trading posts and sought alliances with Indian rulers.
    • The Marathas were one such major power.
  • Military collaboration: French military personnel often assisted the Marathas.
    • Notable among them was Michel Joachim Marie Raymond, a French general in Nizam’s military who had close interactions with the Marathas.
  • End of alliance: The weakening global position of France, especially after the Napoleonic Wars, reduced their involvement and alliances with Indian powers, including the Marathas.

Interactions with the Portuguese

  • Coastal conflicts: Given that the Portuguese controlled territories along the western coast of India, skirmishes between Marathas and Portuguese were frequent.
  • Trade and treaties: There were periods of peaceful trade between the Marathas and Portuguese, especially in goods from the Konkan region.
  • Bassein Treaty (1739): An important treaty between the Marathas and Portuguese, which acknowledged Maratha influence in certain territories previously controlled by the Portuguese.

Treaties and Conflicts

  • Treaty of Salbai (1782): Concluded the First Anglo-Maratha War and maintained the status quo, with neither side ceding territories to the other.
  • Treaty of Bassein: This agreement between the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire and the British East India Company was one of the primary triggers for the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
  • Conflicts: The ambition of European powers, coupled with the strategic importance of the Maratha Empire, led to various battles.
    • First, Second, and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars were significant conflicts that shaped the relations between the Marathas and the British.

Influence of European Military Tactics on the Maratha Army

  • Modernization: European powers introduced new warfare techniques and modern weapons.
    • Marathas, realizing the significance, started modernizing their army.
  • Training methods: Exposure to European battle strategies led to revised training modules for the Maratha soldiers.
    • Focused on discipline, agility, and formation techniques.
  • Use of artillery: The influence of European powers brought significant enhancements in the artillery division of the Maratha army.
    • Incorporation of cannons and muskets.
  • Cavalry techniques: European cavalry maneuvers, especially those of the French, found their way into Maratha military practices.
  • Fortifications: European-style fortifications and siege techniques started being adopted.
    • Stronger bastions, trenches, and ramparts were built following European designs.

VIII. Decline of Peshwa Power

Reasons for Decline

  • Shift in Power Dynamics: The European powers, primarily the British, began to establish themselves firmly on Indian soil, challenging the Marathas.
  • Fragmented Leadership: Different Maratha leaders held varying ideologies, leading to a lack of centralized control.
  • Financial Strains: The Marathas were under severe financial burdens due to continuous wars, which led to weakened military power.
  • Failure to Modernize: While European powers introduced advanced warfare tactics, the Marathas failed to modernize their military, leading to strategic disadvantages.
  • Foreign Intrusions: Other foreign powers also had vested interests in India, and their interference further weakened the Marathas’ hold.

Internal Conflicts

  • Infighting among Maratha Chiefs: The various chieftains like Holkars, Scindias, and Bhonsles had their individual ambitions, leading to rifts.
  • Peshwa Power Struggle: The Peshwa seat itself was not devoid of power struggles, with multiple claimants often vying for the position.
  • Ambitions of Territories: Maratha territories like Nagpur, Indore, and Gwalior had individual aspirations, leading to internal feuds.
  • Issues with Revenue Collection: Chauth and sardeshmukhi, two significant revenue sources, were often contested, leading to internal conflicts.

British Strategies against the Marathas

  • Divide and Rule: The British effectively utilized the rifts among the Maratha chiefs to their advantage.
  • Establishing Strongholds: British established their strongholds in strategic locations, challenging Maratha dominance.
  • Alliances with Other Indian States: British formed alliances with rulers like the Nizam of Hyderabad and Tipu Sultan, creating a pressure ring around Marathas.
  • Modern Warfare Techniques: British forces, equipped with modern warfare techniques, always had an edge over Maratha forces in major confrontations.

The Anglo-Maratha Wars

  • First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782): Initiated due to the British support for Raghunathrao as Peshwa against Madhav Rao. Ended with the Treaty of Salbai, ensuring a mutual restoration of territories and recognizing Madhav Rao as the Peshwa.
  • Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805): It was a result of the Treaty of Bassein where the British East India Company had a significant influence over the Maratha territories. The Marathas faced defeats in significant battles like Assaye.
  • Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818): This war marked the end of Maratha dominance in India. Post the battle of Koregaon, the Peshwa surrendered to the British, leading to the complete annexation of Peshwa territories into the British Empire.

IX. Raghunath Rao and the Controversies

His Ambitions

  • Raghunath Rao, commonly known as Raghoba, was a notable figure in the Maratha Empire during the mid-18th century.
  • He harbored aspirations to ascend to the role of Peshwa, a position of considerable power and prominence in the Maratha administration.
  • Being the younger brother of Narayan Rao, the reigning Peshwa, Raghunath Rao felt sidelined and often contested his elder brother’s authority.
  • These ambitions led him to forge alliances and seek support both within and outside the Maratha Empire, notably with the British.
  • Raghunath Rao envisioned a unified Maratha state with him at its helm, thereby streamlining the decentralized power structure.

Conflicts with Other Peshwa Family Members

  • Raghunath Rao’s ambitions were not viewed favorably by many within the Peshwa family, leading to numerous conflicts.
  • Narayan Rao, the Peshwa at the time, had several disagreements with Raghunath Rao, stemming from the latter’s actions and ambitions.
  • The differences between the brothers intensified when Raghunath Rao was implicated in a plot that resulted in the assassination of Narayan Rao in 1773.
  • Following Narayan Rao’s death, there was a controversial claim that the late Peshwa’s will named Raghunath Rao as his successor, though many disputed the authenticity of this will.
  • Raghunath Rao’s relationship with the other Maratha chieftains, like Madhav Rao I, further deteriorated because they perceived him as a threat to Maratha unity and stability.
  • These internal family feuds played a significant role in weakening the Peshwa’s power and paved the way for external interventions.

Role in the First Anglo-Maratha War

  • With the Maratha Empire embroiled in internal discord, Raghunath Rao saw an opportunity to capitalize on external assistance to realize his ambitions.
  • He turned to the British East India Company for support, hoping that they would help him secure the Peshwa’s throne.
  • In return for their support, Raghunath Rao promised the British territorial concessions and military assistance against their rivals in India.
  • This collaboration led to the Treaty of Surat in 1775, where Raghunath Rao pledged himself under the protection of the British.
  • The treaty, however, was not recognized by the Bombay government, leading to the Treaty of Purandar in 1776. This treaty aimed to curtail Raghunath Rao’s ambitions and ensure that the Peshwa title returned to Narayan Rao’s posthumous son, Madhav Rao II.
  • These treaties and alliances culminated in the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782), pitting the British against the united front of various Maratha chieftains.
  • Although Raghunath Rao had British backing, the Maratha resistance was formidable, leading to a prolonged conflict.
  • The war concluded with the Treaty of Salbai in 1782, which recognized Madhav Rao II as the Peshwa and returned territories captured during the conflict.
  • Despite his alliances and strategies, Raghunath Rao failed to achieve his ambitions and spent his final days in exile, supported by a pension from the British.

X. The Last Peshwa: Baji Rao II

His Reign and Challenges

  • Baji Rao II, the last in the line of Peshwa leadership, came to power in a turbulent period for the Maratha Empire.
  • He ascended to the position in 1796.
  • Unlike his predecessors, his rule was fraught with internal divisions and external threats.
  • The rise of regional chieftains within the Maratha confederation reduced the central authority’s power.
  • Growing European colonial powers, especially the British East India Company, loomed as external threats.
  • Baji Rao II faced difficulties consolidating power due to the previous tussles, particularly after Raghunath Rao‘s ambitions.

Treaty of Bassein

  • The Treaty of Bassein was signed in 1802 between Baji Rao II and the British.
  • In a bid to regain his authority and secure his position against his internal rivals, Baji Rao II sought British help.
  • The treaty was advantageous to the British as it secured a prominent position for the British East India Company in India’s internal affairs.
  • The treaty conditions included:
    • Marathas accepting a British-resident in Pune.
    • Reorganization of Maratha forces under British direction.
    • Surrendering large tracts of territory to the British in return for military support.
  • This treaty was a significant departure from previous Maratha policies and strategies, essentially putting the Maratha state under British protection.

Final Conflict with the British

  • The Treaty of Bassein led to dissent among various Maratha chieftains.
  • They opposed Baji Rao II’s decision and saw the treaty as compromising Maratha sovereignty.
  • This dissent led to the Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805).
  • Notable battles during this period:
    • Battle of Assaye in 1803: Despite a formidable Maratha resistance, British forces, under Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington), emerged victorious.
    • Battle of Laswari: Another significant conflict showcasing Maratha resilience.
  • The war concluded with the Marathas suffering territorial losses and further consolidating British dominance.

Exile and Legacy

  • After the Second Anglo-Maratha War, Baji Rao II’s position became untenable.
  • In 1802, after the Treaty of Bassein, he was dethroned and sent into exile by the British.
  • He spent his last years in Bithoor, near Kanpur, and passed away in 1851.
  • His adopted son, Nana Sahib, played a crucial role in the 1857 Indian Rebellion against British rule.
  • Baji Rao II’s tenure as Peshwa marked the end of a significant era in Indian history, where Maratha power was on the decline, and British colonial dominance was rising.
  • While his reign was fraught with challenges, it is also a testament to the complex interplay of regional, national, and international politics of the time.

XI. Maratha Confederacy and Its Dynamics

Role of Various Maratha Chieftains

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj: The founder of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji’s vision and guerrilla warfare tactics set the foundation of the confederacy.
    • Introduced the idea of “Hindavi Swarajya” or self-rule.
    • Built a robust navy and a chain of forts along the western coast.
  • Sambhaji: Shivaji’s son who resisted Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s invasions and was eventually captured and executed.
  • Shahu I: After release from Mughal captivity, played a pivotal role in re-establishing Maratha power.
    • Appointed Balaji Vishwanath as his Peshwa or Prime Minister.
  • Peshwas: Initially prime ministers, they eventually became the de facto leaders of the Maratha Confederacy.
    • Baji Rao I: Expanded the confederacy beyond the Deccan plateau.
    • Madhav Rao I: Credited with rejuvenating the confederacy’s strength post the Third Battle of Panipat.
  • Raghunath Rao (Raghoba): His ambition and intrigue caused internal rifts and eventually led to the First Anglo-Maratha War.

Power Struggles Within the Confederacy

  • Succession Disputes: A constant issue, often leading to civil wars and external interventions.
    • Shivaji’s death resulted in disputes between his sons, Sambhaji and Rajaram.
    • Raghunath Rao’s ambition for Peshwaship led to strife and British involvement.
  • Influence of the Peshwas: The rise in their influence saw a shift of power from the Chhatrapati to the Peshwa.
    • Peshwas, initially administrators, started asserting more authority, sidelining the titular Maratha kings.
  • Emergence of Maratha Sardars: Various chieftains or Sardars began to establish their independent regions.
    • Holkar dynasty of Indore: Focused on central India.
    • Scindia dynasty of Gwalior: Played a dominant role in northern India.
    • Gaekwads of Baroda: Extended their influence in Gujarat.
    • Bhosales of Nagpur: Influential in the Deccan and central regions.

Importance of Forts and Their Strategic Value

  • Defense Mechanism: Forts provided protection against invaders.
    • Natural and man-made barriers made them nearly impregnable.
  • Administrative Centers: Major decisions, strategies, and planning were conducted within these forts.
  • Economic Importance: Control over forts ensured control over trade routes and the surrounding region’s economy.
  • Symbol of Power: Holding a fort signified dominance and influence in the region.
  • Examples:
    • Raigad Fort: The coronation place of Shivaji, it was a key fort in the Maratha empire.
    • Sinhagad Fort, Pune: Significant for its strategic location, overlooking the city of Pune.
    • Panhalgad and Vishalgad Forts: Known for the legendary escape of Shivaji from the siege of Siddi Johar.
    • Pratapgad Fort: Site of the famous Battle of Pratapgad between Shivaji and Afzal Khan.

XII. Economic Aspects of the Peshwa Era

Trade routes

  • Significance: The foundation for commercial expansion and played a crucial role in the development of urban centers.
  • Inland Routes:
    • Connected key cities like Pune, Satara, and Raigad.
    • Facilitated movement of goods like grains, cotton, and salt.
  • Coastal Routes:
    • Leveraged for maritime trade.
    • Mainly between the western coast of India and the Arabian Peninsula.
    • Commodities: Spices, textiles, and gemstones.
  • International Exchanges:
    • Diplomatic and trade relationships with European powers.
    • Major players: Portuguese, British, and the French.
    • Key ports: Goa, Calicut, and Surat.

Economic policies

  • Introduction: Policies under the Peshwas promoted trade, agriculture, and indigenous industries.
  • Currency:
    • Introduction of copper and silver coins.
    • Standardization of weights and measures for trade.
  • Trade Regulations:
    • Policies for regulating and promoting internal and external trade.
    • Efforts to decrease piracy along the western coast.
  • Promotion of Native Industries:
    • Encouraged traditional industries like handloom, pottery, and metallurgy.
    • Patronage given to artisans and craftsmen.

Role of agriculture and handicrafts

  • Agriculture:
    • Mainstay of the economy, supporting a majority of the population.
    • Crops: Jowar, Bajra, Rice, and Pulses.
    • Technological advancements in irrigation, leading to multiple cropping.
    • Introduction of new crops and farming techniques.
  • Handicrafts:
    • Integral to the socio-economic fabric.
    • Textiles: Fine cotton and silk fabrics, exported to Europe and West Asia.
    • Metalwork: Renowned for intricate designs, especially in regions like Bidar.
    • Pottery and Woodwork: Essential for daily usage and ornamental purposes.

Taxation systems

  • Land Revenue:
    • Assessment based on the fertility and produce of the land.
    • Varied from region to region.
    • Major source of income for the state.
  • Customs and Duties:
    • Levied on goods entering and leaving the kingdom.
    • Special attention to luxury goods from foreign lands.
  • Professional Taxes:
    • Imposed on various professions and trades.
    • Varied based on the nature and scale of the profession.
  • Jizya and Pilgrimage Taxes:
    • While Jizya was largely abolished, pilgrimage taxes were imposed on religious journeys.

XIII. Legacy of the Peshwas

Influence on modern Maharashtra

  • Origin and Expansion: The Peshwas, initially prime ministers to the Maratha kings, soon became the de facto leaders of the Maratha Empire. Their era, spanning from the early 18th to the early 19th century, left an indelible mark on Maharashtra.
  • Cultural Influence:
    • Festivals: Festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, which is celebrated with great fervor in modern-day Maharashtra, gained prominence during the Peshwa rule.
    • Theater and Music: The era saw the emergence of a distinct Marathi theater and music genre, which are still prevalent in today’s Maharashtrian culture.
    • Literature: Marathi literature blossomed during this period, with classics penned that are still revered.
  • Educational Systems: Peshwas were patrons of learning. They established several schools and libraries across the region, laying the groundwork for Maharashtra’s modern education system.
  • Architectural Influence:
    • Temples and Ghats: Numerous temples and ghats built during this era still stand as a testament to the Peshwa’s architectural prowess.
    • Wadas: Traditional Marathi mansions or ‘Wadas’ saw widespread construction under the patronage of the Peshwas.
    • Forts: The forts built and renovated during the Peshwa reign continue to be iconic landmarks in Maharashtra.

Contributions to Indian history

  • Diplomacy and Statecraft: The Peshwas displayed immense acumen in diplomacy, forming alliances and establishing Maratha supremacy in vast parts of India.
  • Military Tactics:
    • Guerrilla Warfare: Perfected by earlier Maratha rulers, this tactic was extensively used by the Peshwas to thwart larger and better-equipped armies.
    • Navy: Recognizing the strategic importance of the coastline, the Peshwas bolstered the Maratha navy, impacting maritime activities along the western coast of India.
  • Administrative Innovations:
    • Taxation: Efficient revenue systems and land tenure policies were introduced, which were subsequently adopted and modified by the British colonial regime.
    • Justice System: They established a well-structured judicial system, with a focus on swift and fair justice.

Revival movements and their inspiration from the Peshwa era

  • Social Reform Movements: The 19th century saw several movements in Maharashtra aiming to eradicate social evils. Many of these movements drew inspiration from the progressive aspects of the Peshwa era.
  • Literary Revival: The Peshwa era’s literary excellence became a touchstone for later Marathi writers, inspiring a resurgence in Marathi literature in the subsequent centuries.
  • Nationalistic Inspiration: The valour and administrative brilliance of the Peshwas became a source of inspiration for Indian nationalists during the struggle for independence.
    • For instance, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a prominent freedom fighter from Maharashtra, often alluded to the Peshwa’s rule as a golden era, inspiring people to strive for self-rule.
  • Religious Movements: The Bhakti movement, which had origins earlier than the Peshwas, continued to flourish during their reign. The teachings from this era inspired several religious and spiritual movements in later years, focusing on devotion and a personal connection with the divine.

XIV. Comparative Analysis with Other Indian Powers

Military strategies
Guerilla warfare
Use of artillery
Mounted cavalry
Naval power
Diplomatic relations
Formed alliances
Tribute systems
Matrimonial alliances
Treaty signing
Cultural contributions
Language promotionMarathiPersian, UrduPunjabiRajasthani
Architectural stylesWadas, FortsMughal Architecture (Taj Mahal, Red Fort)Gurudwaras (Golden Temple)Forts (Mehrangarh, Chittorgarh)
LiteratureMarathi Bhakti literaturePersian literature, AkbarnamaGuru Granth SahibRajput ballads, folklore
Art and musicDindi, LavaniMughal Miniature paintings, QawwaliShabad KirtanRajasthani Folk songs

XV. Conclusion

Overall impact of the Peshwa era on Indian history

  • Emergence as a Dominant Power: The Peshwa era marked the zenith of Maratha dominance in the Indian subcontinent.
    • Established Maratha Confederacy which extended influence from Tamil Nadu in the south to Peshawar in the north.
    • Challenged established powers like the Mughal Empire and took on European colonial forces.
  • Administrative Innovations: Introduced several administrative reforms.
    • System of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi: Revenue systems that streamlined the Maratha economy.
    • Efficient land management and record-keeping that would serve as a model for future administrations.
  • Cultural Renaissance: Marathi language and culture flourished during this time.
    • Revival of literature, arts, and music such as Natya Sangeet and Tamasha.
    • Promoted education, leading to an increase in Marathi literature and regional chronicles.
  • Religious Influence:
    • Although predominantly following the Hindu faith, the Peshwas promoted religious tolerance.
    • Places like Pandharpur saw significant growth and became prominent centers of pilgrimage.

Lessons for modern India

  • Unity in Diversity: The Peshwas, despite their regional identity, integrated various ethnicities and communities under their rule.
    • An example for modern India about embracing the vast cultural tapestry and forging national unity.
  • Administrative Efficiency: The methods adopted by the Peshwas in revenue collection, governance, and infrastructure development.
    • Offer valuable lessons for contemporary public administration in terms of transparency and effectiveness.
  • Diplomacy over Conflict: The Peshwas, though formidable in war, also relied heavily on diplomacy.
    • Modern India can derive lessons in foreign policy and internal conflict resolution from this aspect.

Future research directions on the Marathas

  • Untapped Regional Chronicles: Many regional chronicles and Marathi manuscripts from the Peshwa era remain untranslated and unanalyzed.
    • Could provide deeper insights into regional politics, cultural norms, and societal structures of the time.
  • Maratha Naval Power: The Maratha navy and its activities against European colonial powers remain a relatively less explored domain.
    • Research can focus on shipbuilding techniques, naval warfare strategies, and trade routes controlled by the Marathas.
  • Women in the Peshwa Era: Historiography has generally been silent on the role of women during this period.
    • Future research could delve into their roles in society, their education, rights, and their contributions in various fields.
  • Comparative Studies with other Asian Powers: Comparative analysis of the Marathas with contemporary powers in Asia.
    • Can provide insights into geopolitical strategies, cultural exchanges, and economic policies.
  1. Elucidate the impact of the Peshwa era on the cultural and administrative landscape of Maharashtra. How did this influence extend beyond the region? (250 words)
  2. Discuss the military and diplomatic strategies adopted by the Marathas in contrast to those of the Mughals, Sikhs, and Rajputs. What were the key differences and similarities? (250 words)
  3. How have the Peshwas and the Maratha Confederacy inspired modern revival movements and cultural practices? Detail specific examples showcasing this influence. (250 words)


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