On the history trail: Trimbakrao Dabhade refuses to make peace with the Peshwa

Peshwa Bajirao and Chimaji Appa left Poona on the auspicious occasion of Dussehra, 10 October 1730 on the instructions of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. They had been given a clear assignment to dissuade Trimbakrao Dabhade from aligning with Nizam-ul-Mulk and instead to return to Satara to resolve the situation.


As they made their preparations and headed to Gujarat, they became aware of the sinister plot that had been hatched by Trimbakrao Dabhade in full consultation with the Nizam. This spelt immediate danger to Shahu Raje as well as the fortunes of the Maratha State.


Meanwhile, the ruler at Delhi decided to send reinforcements and appointed Muhammad Khan Bangash to the government of Malwa and Abhay Singh to that of Gujarat to oppose the Maratha march. Muhammad Khan Bangash arrived in Ujjain and immediately offered his services to the Nizam. They decided that a concerted effort would be in order to arrest the Maratha aggression and agreed to meet before moving their forces to support Trimbakrao Dabhade.


Trimbakrao Dabhade had been told to wait patiently till a proper strategy was in place to tackle both the brothers. Peshwa Bajirao and Chimaji Appa kept themselves apprised of the events and acted quickly to effect a decisive result in their favour. This required tremendous intelligence, anticipation and patience.


Nizam-ul-Mulk left Aurangabad towards the end of 1730 to open the armed conflict and join Trimbakrao Dabhade. He reached Burhanpur where he was informed of Muhammad Khan Bangash’s arrival at Ujjain. They chose to meet at the border and both proceeded to the Akbarpur Ferry on the Narmada where they held long discussions from 17 to 28 March 1731.


After working out all the details for the attack, Muhammad Khan Bangash returned to Ujjain while the Nizam headed to Gujarat where the Peshwa was already tracking down Trimbakrao Dabhade. Malharrao Holkar with his trusted lieutenants and spies watched the activities on the Narmada with eagle eyes and reported the plans and movements of Muhammad Khan Bangash and the Nizam promptly to the Peshwa.


Malharrao Holkar constantly harassed Muhammad Khan Bangash when he was in deliberations with the Nizam. The ruler at Delhi was most displeased on hearing about the secret meetings between the Nizam and Muhammad Khan Bangash. The Nizam had already been marked as a serial rebel and intriguer and Muhammad Khan Bangash had been commanded to bring him to book and ruin his power and wealth.


This only complicated an already complex situation involving the Marathas and Trimbakrao Dabhade and worked in the favour of the astute Peshwa. Trimbakrao Dabhade was relying heavily on the help promised to him by the Nizam and refused to accompany Peshwa Bajirao to Satara.


Shahu Raje fearing a clash cancelled the share of Gujarat given to the Peshwa on 15 December 1730 hoping that Trimbakrao Dabhade would then return home. The Peshwa continued to monitor the situation and waited for Trimbakrao Dabhade to make the first move.


Peshwa Bajirao and Chimaji Appa with their loyal men Avji Kavde, Ambaji Trimbak, Ayaba Muzumdar and others headed to Khandesh where Chimaji Appa stayed behind to watch the movements of the Nizam. The Peshwa then proceeded to Baroda through Nasik, Peth, Surat and Broach in December.


Chimaji Appa joined the Peshwa soon in Gujarat after confirming that the Nizam had moved towards the Narmada and would bring large forces including that of Muhammad Khan Bangash to help Trimbakrao Dabhade.


The two brothers assessed the situation in February and sent messages to Abhay Singh. Abhay Singh invited the Peshwa for a meeting and the Peshwa immediately proceeded to Ahmedabad where they both held discussions at Shahibag.


The Peshwa managed to win the support of Abhay Singh who agreed to pay 13 lacs annually as chauth of which 6 lacs was paid immediately and the balance to be paid when the Peshwa expelled Pilaji Gaikwad and Banday from Gujarat.


The Peshwa left behind a contingent and took the artillery supplied by Abhay Singh to Baroda.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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