On the history trail: The sad demise of Maharani Yesubai and Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath

A grand Darbar was held at Satara to rejoice the victorious return of Maharani Yesubai and others from captivity. As Santaji Bhosle had lost his life in Delhi, his brother Ranoji was conferred the title of Sawai Santaji and rewards for his sacrifice.


The Peshwa‘s return from Delhi with tremendous success gave a new impetus to Maratha aspirations. Every youthful soldier was now interested in exploits, conquests and seizing new territories surrounding the Maratha heartland. Chhatrapati Shahu Raje was equally obliging and allowed them to spread out on both sides of the Narmada River and further south.


He stationed Fatehsinh Bhosle at Akalkot, his bosom friend who was Pratinidhi was alloted several districts around the capital and Kanoji Angre, the Sarkhel of Colaba was given the naval command of the West Coast. Each of these leaders were to keep a certain number of fighters ready for battle whenever called upon, to defray his expenses out of the chauth he collected and pay the balance to the Maratha Government.


Though this system was severely flawed, it was the only convenient arrangement that both Shahu Raje and the Peshwa could come up with under the pressing circumstances. The evils of this system later developed into Jagirs and Saranjams. However, for the rapid expansion of the Marathas, this was the best solution.


While Peshwa was away in Delhi, Sambhaji of Kolhapur decided to take control of the Maratha power. Shahu Raje led his troops against Sambhaji and delivered a decisive blow on the Warna River at Wadgoan in early 1719. Immediately after his return from Delhi, Peshwa secured Poona and the surrounding districts and those of Kalyan and Bhiwandi.


In the latter part of 1719, both Shahu Raje and the Peshwa besieged the capital city of Kolhapur. In March 1720, Peshwa returned to Saswad where he breathed his last on 2 April 1720.


Unfortunately, Peshwa did not live long enough to put into practice the finer details of the treaty that had been worked out in Delhi. But one thing that is clear is that by offering the Maratha help to a rudderless ruler at Delhi, the Peshwa ensured that the real power lay in the hands of the Marathas. He also succeeded in cutting a new path out of a vicious circle of civil war, rot, poverty, famine and stagnation.


It was always the goal and ambition of Peshwa to secure the prosperity of the common man and he devoted all his time and effort to realise this. He restored the peace to the Maratha lands that had long been devastated by war and ravaged by disease. He put down unruly and turbulent elements and his generosity and kindness earned him countless followers.


After her return to Satara, Maharani Yesubai lived on for another 12 years or more and passed away leaving behind a spotless memory of sacrifice and selflessness.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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