Short Notes on Balaji Baji Rao - Son, Wife, Death

Balaji Baji Rao
Balaji Baji Rao, the eldest son of Peshwa Baji Rao, assumed the charge of Maratha Peshwa in 1740 AD after the death of his father. The story of the Maratha success continued under his leadership and the Maratha state reached the pinnacle of success in terms of political prestige and territorial expansion from 'Kattack to Attock'.

During Peshwa Baji Rao I period, the political power had largely slipped into the hand of Peshwa from Shahu. During the age of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao, Peshwa emerged as the real and effective head of the Maratha confederacy. After the death of Shahu in 1749, the Peshwa became the official head of the Maratha state under the Sangola Pact of 1750 AD.

After consolidating his position and authority in the Maratha state, he paid attention to expand territorial boundaries of the Marathas in all directions. In 1741, Maratha took control of administration in Malwa under a royal firman of Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah. Marathas wanted to bring Oudh, the Doab region and even Bihar, Bengal under their controL For this purpose, Bundel Khand was important. Maratha forces overran the Bundel Khand region and captured Jhansi in 1742. Since then Jhansi became a big centre of the Maratha power. After gaining control over Bundelkhand and capturing Ihansi, Peshwa Balaji demanded submission from Bengal ruler. Bengal Nawab Alivardi Khan killed Maratha envoy Bhaskar Pant, resulting in a conflict. Maratha forces subdued the Nawab forces. Nawab had to surrender Orissa to the Marathas and agreed to an annual payment of Rs. 12lakh as 'Chauth' of Bengal and Bihar in 1751.

Peshwa Balaji also forced the state of Mysore and other minor states in South India to accept Maratha authority. Maratha forces also prevailed over Nizam in South India. In 1752 Treaty of Bhalki was signed between the Marathas and the Nizam. Nizam surrendered Western half of Berar including Baglana and Khandesh under this treaty. In 1760 Nizam of Hyderabad was again defeated by the Marathas at Udgir. The Marathas got territories generating annual revenue of more than 60 lakh after this success against Nizam of Hyderabad. In brief Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao increased Maratha power in all directions.

The growing weakness of the Mughal empire and political upheaval in North India enticed Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao to increase Maratha power in Delhi. Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali's frequent invasions in North India forced many leaders like Safdar Jung to solicit Maratha help. Maratha power increased its political sway in Delhi and Punjab and it brought the Marathas in direct conflict with Abdali. Ahmad Shah Abdali once again attacked North India in January 1757 and wreaked havoc in Delhi and Mathura. A Maratha army under the command of Raghunath Rao and Malhar Rao Holkar was despatched from Poona to Delhi. It established Maratha power again in Delhi. The Marathas gained control of Punjab and occupied Lahore in April 1758. Abdali's agents were expelled from Punjab. Now a conflict between the Marathas and Abdali was imminent and unavoidable.
Abdali's army and Maratha forces met at the historic field of Panipat on January 14, 1761. Abdali inflicted a crushing defeat on the Marathas in Panipat. Maratha commanders Vishwas Rao, Sadashiv Rao Bhau and other leaders died on the battlefield. It was a big political and emotional blow to Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao who passed away on June 1761.

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