“The place of Baji Rao I in India’s history comes home to us with unmistakable force and vividness when we compare the political situation of this country in 1740 with that in 1720. These twenty years of his active career witnessed a complete revolution in the character of the Maratha national state and an entire redistribution of political power throughout India. No historian can deny the fact that both these changes were the work, conscious or unconscious, of Baji Rao.” – Renowned historian Sri Jadunath Sarkar
The handsome Baji Rao I inherited the charge of a small kingdom of two districts and the post of Peshwa after the death of his father Shrimant Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj put him on probation for the first few years. His reign was dotted with rebellions, political intrigues, defections and invasions but the support he received from Baji Rao helped him tide over all the challenges and obstacles that came his way.
Baji Rao’s shrewdness, understanding and analysis of every challenge helped him seal his position as the Peshwa. Baji Rao of indomitable spirit fought remarkably well for his kingdom, his king and his people. As the years went by, he exhibited such extraordinary mastery over the Maratha state that Chhatrapati Shahu never interfered in any decisions that he took.
The Marathas rise in the eighteenth century that is coupled with the complete collapse of the Mughal dominion saw them spread their control from Sirhind to the borders of Mysore, from Gujarat to Odisha. The last empire of Hindustan (Hindu is Persian for Sindhu, the name for the Indus River in ancient Sanskrit and thereby known as the land beyond the Indus River) ruled with an iron fist from Pune.
The contribution of Baji Rao as Peshwa is to be read about and understood, for he established an incredible empire from a small kingdom that stood the test of time. Many historians call the first part of the eighteen century as the era of Baji Rao and rightly so.
Baji Rao known for his astuteness created a formidable group of generals from a relatively unknown group of people who had joined the Maratha ranks who would help him in his ambitious cause to take the Deccan kingdom to the plains of Delhi and beyond. Their power, influence and stature grew on their own merit with Baji Rao as their unquestioned leader, a man who had a definitive vision.
The rulers of the Deccan crossed the holy river of Rewa or Narmada during the era of Baji Rao. Their flag was unfurled in distant lands, an unexpected occurrence for Deccan rulers. Lands as far as the Indus to the north-west and the Ganga in Bengal up to the scenic Kumaon and Garhwal mountain ranges and the western state of Gujarat were annexed by Baji Rao and his competent and gallant generals.
Baji Rao knew the river Rewa like none other. From Mandla in the east to Broach in the west, he crossed it in all the parts, like no other man ever did. Baji Rao ventured into the jungle paths of Mandla, the flat plain of Khargone, forests of Jhabua and the ancient city of Broach exploring this land and the hidden secrets of this sacrosanct river. He travelled thousand kilometres from Mandla to Jabalpur, Damoh to Sehore, to Khandwa, Khargone, Dewas, Indore and Dhat, to Nimar, Jhabua, Vadodara and its confluence with the sea at Broach. He crossed and re-crossed this river innumerable times finding strength, courage and answers for all his questions.
Baji Rao spent more time by the Rewa River than in his home and it is only fitting that at the end, She would grant him a place in Her bosom to rest after a long and arduous journey which firmly established the greatest empire of India. Baji Rao loved, worshipped and revered the river Rewa and She, in turn, blessed him in every journey and mission of his and it is here that with Her blessings he achieved eternal peace and glory.
The Samadhi of Shrimant Peshwa Baji Rao I is located on the banks of the Rewa River (Narmada River) in a quaint village called Raverkhedi. He was cremated on 28 April 1740 and the present structure is believed to have been built by the Scindias of Gwalior. His final resting place is built in the form of a fort made from locally available stones.
The samadhi is placed in the middle of a large open courtyard with beautifully decorated arched openings on all sides. One can see the Narmada River in all her glory from these openings. The tranquillity of this place is enhanced by the stunning natural beauty, blue waters of the Narmada River, birds chirping and massive old trees that are located all round.
Book recommendation: The Era of Baji rao by Uday S. Kulkarni
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)