Balaji Vishwanath

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Shrimant
Peshwa

Balaji Vishwanath of Pune
Bhatt
Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath.jpg
Preceded by Parshuram Trimbak Kulkarni
Succeeded by Baji Rao I
Personal details
Born (1662-01-01)1 January 1662
Shrivardhan, Konkan
Died 12 April 1720(1720-04-12) (aged 58)
Saswad, Maharashtra
Spouse(s) Radhabai
Mother Unknown
Father Vishwanathpant (Visaji) Bhat

Balaji Vishwanath (Bhat) (1662–1720), better known as Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, was the sixth Peshwa and the first of a series of hereditary Peshwas (Marathi for Prime Minister) hailing from the Chitpavan Kokanastha Brahmin Hindu family who gained effective control of the Maratha Empire during the 18th century. Balaji Vishwanath assisted a young Maratha Emperor Shahu to consolidate his grip on a kingdom that had been racked by civil war and persistent attack by the Mughals under Aurangzeb. He was called "the second founder of the Maratha State."[2] Later, his son Bajirao became the peshwa.

Early life and Career

Balaji Vishwanath (Bhat) was born into a Konkanastha Brahmin (aka Chitpavan) family.[3][4][5] The family hailed from the coastal Konkan region of present-day Maharashtra and were the hereditary Deshmukh for Shrivardhan under the Siddi of Janjira.[6] He went out in search of employment to the upper regions of western ghats and worked as a mercenary trooper under various Maratha generals. According to Kincaid & Parasnis, Balaji Vishwanath entered the Maratha administration during the reign of Chhatrapati Sambhaji or the regency of his brother, Rajaram.Later he served as an accountant for the Maratha general, Dhanaji Jadhav, at Janjira.[7] Between 1699 and 1702, he served as the Sar-subhedar or head-administrator at Pune and from 1704 to 1707 as Sarsubedar of Daulatabad. By the time Dhanaji died, Balaji had proven himself as an honest and able officer.Balaji fell out with Dhanaji's son and successor, Chandrarao Jadhav and went over to the newly released Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shahu who took note of his abilities and appointed Balaji as his assistant (c.1708).[8][9]

Role during Maratha Civil War

  • Since the death of Chhatrapati Shivaji, his two sons Sambhaji and Rajaram continued the Maratha war against the Mughal Empire. Emperor Aurangzeb entered the Deccan in 1686, hoping to put an end to the fledgling Maratha state. Aurangzeb spent the next 21 years in the Deccan in ceaseless warfare against the Marathas. Despite the cruel executions of Sambhaji and early death of Rajaram, Rajaram's widow Tarabai continued the resistance while Sambhaji's son Shahu was captured at a very young age and held captive of the Mughals. Aurangzeb died at Ahmednagar in 1707 at the age of eighty eight, with the Mughal armies exhausted and the treasury empty. The ensuing war of succession in the Mughal Empire resulted in accession of the aged Prince Mu'azzam, who ascended the Mughal throne under the title of Bahadur Shah[10]
  • In the intrigues following the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal governor of the Deccan released Shahu from captivity, hoping to keep the Marathas locked in an internecine struggle between the partisans of Shahu, and Tarabai, the widow of Rajaram who governed in the name of her son Shivaji and denounced Shahu as an impostor substituted by the Mughals for the son of Sambhaji.
  • Tarabai sent the Maratha senapati Dhanaji Jadhav to attack Shahu. Balaji Vishwanath was despatched by Dhanaji Jadhav to meet secretly with Shahu and verify his bona fides. Balaji is believed to have persuaded his master to support the cause of Shahu. Dhanaji's forces met Shahu's at Khed, in Pune District. Instead of attacking Shahu, Dhanaji Jadhav declared him to be the rightful successor to the Maratha throne. Dhanaji's confidence in Balaji Vishwanath however aroused the jealousy of his son and successor, Chandrasen Jadhav.[11]
  • After death of Dhanaji Jadhav in June 1708, Shahu appointed Dhanaji's son Chandrasen Jadhav as Senapati, but the rivalry between Chandrasen and Balaji led the former to intrigue with Tarabai, while seeking an opportunity to eliminate Balaji. A dispute over the conduct of a junior officer in Balaji's employ led Chandrasen to attack Balaji, who fled to the fortress of Purandar. Chandrasen besieged Purandar whereupon Balaji fled again to Pandavgad whence he sent an emissary to plead for help from his sovereign. Shahu had Balaji Vishwanath brought under escort to his capital Satara and asked Chandrasen to make the case against Balaji Vishwanath before him. Instead of obeying Shahu Chandrasen defected to the cause of Tarabai in April 1711. Haibatrao Nimbalkar, who Shahu had dispatched against Chandrasen, also defected to Tarabai, and Shahu's fortunes were an at their lowest. Bereft of his experienced generals, Shahu turned to Balaji Vishwanath, who undertook to raise a new army in the cause of Shahu. For his efforts, Shahu He bestowed Balaji with the title of Senakarte or Organiser of Maratha armies (20 August 1711).[12]
  • Balaji "next turned against Tarabai her own armoury of intrigue".[13] The fall of Tarabai at Kolhapur in 1712 was the outcome of a conspiracy hatched by Balaji Vishwanath in connivance with the disgruntled elements of Tarabai's court.Balaji Vishwanath induced Rajaram's other widow, Rajasbai to conduct a coup against Shivaji II, the son of Tarabai and install her own son, Sambhaji II, on the throne of Kolhapur.This brought the ruling house of Kolhapur under protection and subordination of Shahu at that time.

Appointment as Peshwa

A painting of Balaji Vishwanath Peshwa in the Peshwa Memorial at the Parvati Hill temple complex, Pune
An information plaque describing Balaji Vishwanath Peshwa, a part of the Peshwa Memorial at Shrivardhan, Konkan

Next Shahu turned to subdue the Angres. Tukoji Angre had commanded Chattrapati Shivaji's navy and was succeeded in 1690 by his son Kanhoji Angre. Kanhoji received from Tarabai the title of "Sarkhel" or Koli[14] Admiral of the Maratha fleet. Kanhoji seized the opportunity of war between Tarabai and Shahu to effectively free himself of the suzerainty of either. Instead he captured the major trading center of Kalyan and the neighboring forts of Rajmachi and Lohgad. Shahu sent a large force under his "Peshwa" or Chief Minister, Bahiroji Pingale. Kanhoji defeated Pingle and imprisoned him at Loha gad, and started to advance towards Shahu's capital Satara.Shahu commanded Balaji again to raise another army to subdue Kanhoji. Balaji preferred the path of negotiation and was appointed as Shahu's plenipotentiary to negotiate with the admiral. Balaji and Kanhoji met at Lonavala.The newly appointed Peshwa appealed to the old sailor's patriotism for the Maratha cause. Angre agreed to become the Sarkhel (admiral) of Shahu's navy with control of the Konkan. Balaji and Angre then jointly attacked the Muslim Siddis of Janjira. Their combined forces captured most of the Konkan coast, including Balaji's birthplace of Shrivardhan, which became part of the Angre fiefdom. Delighted with Balaji's success, Shahu dismissed Bahiroji Pingale and appointed Balaji Vishwanath as Peshwa on 16 November 1713.,.[15][16]

Northward expansion of the Maratha power

There existed a power vacuum in the Mughal empire, caused by the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and that of his successor Bahadur Shah, leading to continual internecine conflict within the imperial family and the leading Mughal grandees. Farrukhsiyar came to the throne in 1713 with the help of the two powerful nobles, Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan and Sayyid Abdullah Khan. Claiming descent from the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, the Sayyid Brothers had turned king-makers in the Mughal court. Soon after, differences arose between them and the Emperor Farruksiyar. And while the Mughals were intriguing in the civil war between the factions of Shahu and Tarabai, the Marathas themselves became a major factor in the quarrels between the Emperor and the Sayyids.

To rid himself of the tutelage of the Sayyids, in 1718 Farrukhsiyar dispatched Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan as Viceroy of the Deccan with orders to restore Mughal authority over the south. Behind the Sayyid's back, Farrukhsiyar urged various Maratha chieftain's to attack his own viceroy. Hussain Ali Khan found himself harried by the Marathas who resorted to their traditional guerilla tactics. Unable to defeat the Marathas in a pitched battle and weary of chasing after constantly marauding Maratha horsemen, Hussain Ali Khan sought to make peace with the Marathas.

In July 1718 Balaji negotiated a Maratha-Mughal treaty with Hussain Ali Khan, demanding the Maratha right of "chauth" (literally: 1/4th of revenues) and "sardeshmukhi" (an additional 10% of revenues) of the old Mughal provinces of the Deccan. To this Balaji Vishwanath added the demand of chauth and sardeshmukhi over the rich provinces of Gujarat and Khandesh, and the restoration of Chattrapati Shivaji's conquests in Karnatak, in return for which Balaji promised that Shahu would acknowledge the nominal overlordship of the Mughal Emperor, and the Marathas would provide a force of 15,000 armed horsemen to the Mughal Empire. To these egregious demands Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan readily agreed, with a view to use the Maratha soldiers to their advantage in their struggle with the Emperor.

Farrukhsiyar refused to ratify this treaty and sought to depose and murder the Sayyids. The plot was betrayed to Sayyid Abdulla Khan who was in Delhi, who succeeded in neutralizing other powerful Mughal nobles like Asaf Jah I (also known as Chin Qilich Khan and Nizam-ul-Mulk) and Sarbuland Khan (governor of Patna) with promises of rich governorships of Malwa and Kabul respectively. In September 1718, accompanied by Balaji Vishwanath and supported by (now) sixteen thousand Maratha horsemen commanded by the gallant Parsoji Bhosale Hussain Ali Khan arrived in Delhi. Most of Farrukhsiyar's supporters fled but the Emperor's partisans resisted but were overcome at the cost of two thousand Maratha soldiers.

Farrukhsiyar was dethroned, blinded and imprisoned by the Sayyid's, who substituted in his place a more pliable puppet, Rafi-ul-darjat in February 1719. (This hapless prince was dying of tuberculosis and was in turn replaced after a reign of only three months by his older brother Rafi Ud-Daulah.) Rafi-ul-Darjat duly ratified the Maratha treaty. Shahu and his successors were recognized by the Mughal Emperors as the rightfully heirs to Chattrapati Shivaji[17]..

Death

Balaji returned in triumph from Delhi to Satara, having also secured the release after decades of Mughal captivity, the mother (Yesubai), wife (Savitribai) and half-brother (Madan Singh) of Shahu. Weary from his labors and the tiresome journey back from the imperial capital, Balaji Vishwanath's health began to fail. In October 1719 he obtained leave from Shahu to retire to the village of Saswad near Pune that had been granted by Shahu to the Peshwa.Balaji Vishwanath died on 12 April 1720. He was succeeded by his elder son, the celebrated Baji Rao I, who was appointed Peshwa by Chattrapati Shahu[18]..

Administrative Achievements

Balaji Vishwanath also laid the foundation for the complex administrative system of the Marathas that held sway for a century after his death. The Maratha tax collection system from a wide swathe of nominally Mughal provinces was based on a widespread network of agents and collectors. "To it as much as to their victories in the field the Marathas owed the spread of their empire" ([19]),.[20] The mechanism of revenue collected was supported by credit facilities from established banking families.

Personal life

Balaji married Radhabai Barve and had two sons, Baji Rao I , Chimaji Appa[21].. He also had two daughters. The older, Bhiubai married Abaji Joshi of Baramati, brother of the banker Balaji Naik famed as Bajirao I's "most tormenting creditor". The younger, Anubai married Venkatrao Ghorpade of Ichalkaranji. Their heirs ruled the state of Ichalkaranji till 1947.

Memorials

A statue of Balaji Vishwanath stands at his ancestral village of Shrivardhan near Raigad in coastal Maharashtra.

In popular culture

Preceded by
Bahiroji Pingale
Peshwa
1713–1720
Succeeded by
Baji Rao I

See also

Notes

  1. ^ G.S.Chhabra (2005). Advance Study in the History of Modern India (Volume-1: 1707-1803). Lotus Press. pp. 19–28. ISBN 978-81-89093-06-8.
  2. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 202–204. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  3. ^ Burman, J. J. Roy (2002-01-01). Hindu-Muslim Syncretic Shrines and Communities. Mittal Publications. ISBN 9788170998396.
  4. ^ Singer, Milton B.; Cohn, Bernard S. (1970-01-01). Structure and Change in Indian Society. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9780202369334.
  5. ^ Rao, Anupama (2009-01-01). The Caste Question: Dalits and the Politics of Modern India. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520255593.
  6. ^ Bharathi, K.S. (2009). Encyclopaedia Eminent Thinkers (Vol. 22 : The Political Thought of Mahadev Govind Ranade. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company. p. 11. ISBN 81-8069-582-4.
  7. ^ Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Volume XIX, SATARA, 1885, p. 254
  8. ^ Jasvant Lal Mehta, Advanced study in the history of modern India 1707–1803, ISBN 1-932705-54-6
  9. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. pp. 392–396. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  10. ^ Puri, B.N., A Comprehensive History of India: Comprehensive history of medieval India, Sterling Publishers, p. 199, ISBN 978-81-207-2508-9
  11. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. pp. 392–396. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  12. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. p. 393. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  13. ^ See Kincaid & Parasnis p151
  14. ^ LT GEN K. J., SINGH. "As NDA cadet, I was witness to Vice Admiral Awati's kindness". ThePrint.In. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  15. ^ Kincaid & Parasnis, p.156
  16. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. p. 394. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  17. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. p. 395. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  18. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. p. 396. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  19. ^ Kincaid & Parasnis, p181
  20. ^ Nayeem, M.A., 1977. The Working of the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi System in the Mughal Provinces of the Deccan (1707-1803 AD). The Indian Economic & Social History Review, 14(2), pp.153-191.
  21. ^ Haig L, t-Colonel Sir Wolseley (1967). The Cambridge History of India. Volume 3 (III). Turks and Afghans. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University press. p. 396. ISBN 9781343884571. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  22. ^ "Peshwa Bajirao Review: Anuja Sathe shines as Radhabai in the period drama", India Today, 25 January 2017

References

  • Palsokar R. D & Reddy T. Rabi. Bajirao I:an outstanding cavalry general, Reliance Pub. House, 1995
  • Kincaid, Charles Augustus & Parasnis D.B. "A History of the Maratha People, Volume II (1918)
  • Imperial Gazetteer of India, v.2, Pg 441
  • Cox, Linda. The Chitpavans, Illustrated Weekly of India, 22 February 1970
  • Mehta, J.L. "Advanced Study in the history of Modern India 1707–1813", New Dawn Press Group 2005.
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