On the history trail: Peshwa Bajirao faces a new danger

Muhammad Amin Khan, the cousin of Nizam-ul-Mulk who was appointed as the Wazir died in February 1721 creating a vacancy that the ruler of Delhi felt only the experienced Nizam-ul-Mulk could fill. However, the Nizam was not keen on getting stuck in the political intrigues of the court as that would greatly curtail his ambition to be independent of the Mughal power and govern the Deccan.


It was evident that the Delhi court was in shambles and so the ruler pleaded with the Nizam to accept this tricky position and uphold the prestige of their lineage. Mubariz Khan pressed him not to leave the Deccan but the pleas of the ruler grew louder and finally the Nizam accepted the position.


He entrusted the government of the Deccan to Mubariz Khan and left Aurangabad on 21 October 1721. This however threw a spanner in the works of the Marathas and disturbances were bound to happen.


The Nizam was formally invested with the Wazir‘s robes on 13 February 1722. It took less than ten months for the Nizam to understand that the ruler had no time and interest in administrative matters and instead spent all his time in personal pleasures. The Nizam parted after yet another disagreement and put into action his plans to become free of the Mughals in the Deccan.


The Nizam had his eye on the rich provinces of Malwa and Gujarat and wished to secure an independent position within the next two years. He found severe opposition to plans from both the Marathas and the rulers of Jaipur and Marwar.


Peshwa Bajirao received detailed reports on the movements of the Nizam and placed armies at strategic locations to prevent his movement into the Deccan. It was clear that the Nizam had plotted with the ruler to deny the Marathas their rightful positions and terms of the agreement. Nizam-ul-Mulk gathered a large force and arrived in Malwa towards the end of 1722 with the intention of driving out the Marathas.


This was a direct challenge to the Peshwa who accepted it readily and proceeded into Malwa with adequate preparations. As both wished to avoid direct conflict, a second meeting was arranged through mediators. A week’s conference at Bolasa from 13 February 1723 commenced. A pretence of goodwill by both parties was displayed to hide their real aims from each other.


Peshwa rightly concluded that an attempt on his life was highly possible as veiled warnings were issued. Between February and May 1723, Nizam-ul-Mulk effected some control upon Malwa and Gujarat and reported the same to the ruler. However, yet another disagreement between the Nizam and the ruler made the latter think about the growing power of the Nizam.


The Nizam now controlled the provinces of Malwa, Gujarat and the Deccan and therefore, the ruler transferred him to the province of Oudh. The Nizam was most displeased by this order and resigned from the position of Wazir on 27 December 1723 and headed straight to the Deccan.


He informed the ruler that he had to drive away the Marathas from Malwa and Gujarat and rushed to Ujjain. To counter this rebellion by the Nizam, the ruler nominated Mubariz Khan to the government of the Deccan and asked him to join hands with Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj to put down the Nizam.


This was exactly the opportunity that the Marathas were waiting for. Peshwa Bajirao left Satara in January 1724, passing through north Khandesh crossed the Narmada on 8 May 1724 and arrived in close proximity to the Nizam’s camp at Sehore.


Mubariz Khan had been put in a delicate position by the ruler and did not wish to be dragged into a battle of wits between the Nizam and the ruler. He also did not want to join hands with his sworn enemy to defeat his master. Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj prayed sincerely for peace.


In February 1724, Shahu Raje called all his generals to come with their troops as hostilities were imminent against the Mughal chief of Bhaganagar, Mubariz Khan. A message of peace had been sent through Anandrao Sumant to Mubariz Khan.


Shahu Raje was determined to make the best use of the situation provoked by the Nizam. The Nizam knew that he did not have the strength to tackle both the Marathas and Mubariz Khan. The Nizam organized a third meeting with Peshwa at Nalchha on 18 May 1724 wherein they both professed friendship towards each other without committing themselves.


In the meantime, even Mubariz Khan wished to seek the help of the Marathas but certain terms had been set by Shahu Raje through Anandrao Sumant. The terms were:

  • The grants of swarajya, chauthai and sardeshmukhi already sanctioned under the imperial seal should be ratified and given effect to.
  • In addition, the right to collect chauthai and sardeshmukhi from the provinces of Malwa and Gujarat should be conceded.
  • The kingdom of Tanjore which had been annexed to the Mughal empire should be restored.
  • The forts of Shivner, Chakan, Mahuli, Karnala, Pali and Miraj together with the lands attached to them should be handed over to the Marathas.
  • The deshmukhi of Sinnar should be granted personally to Shahu.
  • The appointment of the Mughal Subahdar of the Deccan should be made upon the recommendation of Shahu.
  • The three Mughal officials of the Deccan, Diler Khan, Abdul Nabi Khan and Alaf Khan should be asked to join the Marathas in putting down Nizam-ul-mulk.
  • No protection should be extended to Shahu’s cousin of Panhala.
  • Maratha deserters should not be entertained in Mughal service.
  • Maratha deserters already in Mughal employ should be handed back.
  • Those Mughal and Maratha chiefs who hold landgrants should be continued in their possessions if they zealously exerted themselves in putting down Nizam-ul-Mulk.
  • Fatehsinh Bhosle should be appointed to the vice- royalty of Haidarabad.
  • The forts and territories captured by the Siddi of Janjira should be restored to the Marathas.
  • Maratha troops on duty with Mubariz Khan should be paid their wages at the same rate as was paid by the Saiyyads to Balaji Vishwanath.
  • The present of Rs. 50,000 promised by the emperor to Shahu should be delivered.


These terms were similar to those offered to the Saiyyads earlier. The Marathas wished to be the undisputed masters of the Deccan and safeguard their position from possible contests waged against them in the later years.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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