On the history trail: Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath heads to Delhi

Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj’s primary concern after signing a peace treaty with Sayyid Husain Ali was to ensure that his mother Maharani Yesubai, wife Savitribai and brother Madansinh who were held hostage in Delhi would be released immediately. He had already deputed Parasnis Yadavrao Prabhu to Delhi to arrange for the release in 1715.


After the terms were agreed upon, he wrote another letter dated 24 February 1718 that ran thus, “From what Shankaraji Malhar and you have written, the three important concessions of Swarajya, chauthai and sardeshmukhi have been satisfactorily secured. The only matter that yet remains to be executed is the release and return of our revered mother Yesubai, Madansingh and their staff. When this is effected, then only will all the strenuous exertions and mediations which Shankarajipant and yourself have been so selflessly rendering, have been profitably employed. Please do not neglect this point, urge it incessantly upon the Sayyid’s attention and have it quickly carried out. I have written fully on the subject to Shankarajipant from whom you can gather what my special anxiety is.”


Even though Sayyid Husain Ali was bound to keep his word out of fear for his life, the treaty had to be ratified by the sitting ruler in Delhi who was involved in a titanic battle with his minister. The current ruler was by no means friendly towards the Marathas and the Marathas knew that they would gain only if the tide turned in favour of the Sayyid brothers.


Sayyid Husain Ali and Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath met and discussed the next course of action and how the expenses were to be met in this joint venture. As Shahu Raje was getting increasingly anxious about his mother, Peshwa did not want to leave anything to chance.


Senapati Khanderao Dabhade arrived in Aurangabad in June 1718 with his 15,000 troops. Sayyid Husain Ali had informed the sitting ruler of his intentions to make peace with the Marathas. The ruler wrote to state his disapproval and appointed his own men in important offices in the Deccan.


This did not go down well with Sayyid Husain Ali who put down these men and arranged his affairs in a commanding manner. The ruler realized his mistake in antagonizing his powerful ministers and called Nizam-ul-Mulk from Moradabad, Ajit Sinh from Gujarat and Khan from Patna.


These three returned with a large contingent of troops. On hearing this, Sayyid Husain Ali strengthened his force and asked his brother Sayyid Abdulla to make a hasty return to the capital. Sayyid Husain Ali assessed the situation quickly and knew he had not a moment to lose.


He consulted with Peshwa and asked him to accompany him in his expedition to Delhi. Shahu Raje and the court wholeheartedly supported him and asked him to try his best to return safely with his family. Khando Ballal Chitnis and Yadavrao Munshi Parasnis accompanied the party as Shahu Raje’s personal agents to closely monitor the affairs. Khanderao Dabhade Senapati and Udaji, Keroji and Tukoji Pawar and Ranoji and Santaji Bhosle were the principal leaders of the force.


Young spirited leaders like Shekh Mira, Baji Kadam, Naro Shankar, Chimnaji Damodar, Mahadeo Bhat Hingne, Ambaji Trimbak Purandare, Balaji Mahadev Bhanu and others were led by Peshwa and his promising son Bajirao. Husain Ali had posted his own nephew Alam Ali Khan at Aurangabad and his brother Saif-ud-din Ali to support him.


Peshwa insisted that Shankarji Malhar should come with them to Delhi and return to assist the nephews of Sayyid Husain Ali. Sayyid Husain Ali’s hopes now rested completely on the Marathas. He left Aurangabad in November 1718 and reached Delhi on 16 February 1719.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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