Baji Rao I

Baji Rao I

Shrimant Baji Rao Balaji Bhat (August 181699- April 25 1740), also known as Baji Rao I, was a noted general who served as "Peshwa" (Prime Minister) to the fourth Maratha "Chhatrapati" (Emperor) Shahu from 1719 until Baji Rao's death. He is also known as "Thorala" (Marathi for Elder) Baji Rao.Despite being a Brahmin, he took up leading his troops. He is credited with expanding the Maratha Empire created by its founder, Shivaji, to help reach its zenith during his son's reign twenty years after his death. Baji Rao is thus acknowledged as the most famous of the nine "Peshwas".


Baji Rao was the son of the first Bhat family Peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath. At the tender age of 17, he was appointed by Shahu as "Peshwa" upon the death of his father, keeping aside all other claimants, thus making the position of "Peshwa" hereditary in the Bhat family. It is quite clear from this appointement that Shahu recognised the talent of this boy and reared him as peshwa. Bajirao was well trained by the Maratha cavalry generals who were distinguished in the war of 27 years. Perhaps his early association with these Maratha cavalry made him a part and parcel of them. Like Shivaji, Santaji Ghorpade, Nemaji Shinde, Krishnaji Sawant, Nagoji Bhosale or Dhanaji Jadhav, Bajirao was popular with his soldiers and even today his name is an honorable one.

Standing tall, poised and confident before Shahu and his court the young new Peshwa Baji Rao is said to have thundered, “Let us transcend the barren Deccan and conquer central India. The Mughals have become weak indolent womanizers and opium-addicts. The accumulated wealth of centuries in the vaults of the north, can be ours. It is time to drive from the holy land of Bharatvarsha the outcaste and the barbarian. Let us throw them back over the Himalayas, back to where they came from. The Maratha flag must fly from the Krishna to the Indus. Hindustan is ours”.

He fixed his piercing gaze on Shahu and said, “Strike, strike at the trunk and the branches will fall off themselves. Listen but to my counsel, and I shall plant the Maratha banner on the walls of Attock”. Shahu was deeply impressed and exclaimed, “By heaven, you shall plant it on the Himalayas”.

This story itself indicates the vision of Bajirao and Shahu's faith in the young man. Shahu appointed him as a Peshwa at such tender age, recognising his talents and entrusting to him imperial troops which had recently emerged victorious in the Mughal-Maratha conflict which ended in 1707. Baji Rao's greatness lies in that true to judgment of his master and seasoned troops at his disposal, he struck terror of Maratha armies in the Indian sub-continent.


* Baji Rao, who fought over 36 battles, is reputed to have never lost one.

* He was one of the first to understand and exploit the fragmenting Mughal Empire, following the footsteps of his father. The declining influence of the Saiyid brothers at the Imperial court was another factor influencing his decision to attack.

* The later Kingdoms of Scindias (Ranoji Shinde) of Gwalior, Holkars (Malharrao) of Indore, Gaekwads (Pilaji) of Baroda, and Pawars (Udaiji) of Dhar were Baji Rao's creation of a Maratha confederacy as he wreaked havoc on the disintegrating Mughal Empire and set up his "jahagirdars" (governors).

* He moved the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Satara to the new city of Pune in 1728 with permission of his master. His general, Bapuji Shripat persuaded some of the richer families of Satara to settle in the new city, which was divided into 18 "peths" (boroughs).

* In 1732, after the death of Maharaja Chhatrasal, a long-time ally of the Maratha Empire, Baji Rao was granted 1/3 of Chhatrasa's kingdom in Bundelkhand.

* Although a very capable cavalry leader, Baji Rao is thought by historians to not be a very able administrator. He did not organize the expanding empire or put a governance structure in place. This may have resulted in the eventual creation of smaller fiefdoms when the central authority of the "Peshwas" began declining. This was a great weakness of the Subhedar(Governor) system of the Mughals

Major battles

* Malwa - December, 1723
* Dhar - 1724
* Aurangabad - 1724
* Battle of Palkhed - February, 1728
* Ahmedabad - 1731
* Udaipur - 1736
* Firozabad - 1737
* Delhi - 1737
* Bhopal - 1738
* Battle of Vasai - May 17, 1739

Battle tactics

Baji Rao is famous for rapid tactical movements in battle using his cavalry, hence he is often called a cavalry general. Two examples are the Battle of Palkhed in 1728 when he outmaneuvered the Mughal Governor of the Deccan province, and again in the battle against the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah at Delhi during 1739.


Baji Rao was married to Kashibai, and had three sons of whom, Nanasaheb, was appointed "Peshwa" by Shahu in 1740.

Mastani. was the second wife of Bajirao. She bore him a son, named Krishanrao, but the brahmins did not accept him as a pure brahmin since his mother was a Rajput lady,(A daughter of maharaja chatrasal of Panna) Mastani was also the single biggest complication in Bajirao's personal life. Their love affair caused much rift in the orthodox Pune society of the time and led to a major crisis within the Peshwa family.

Bajirao ardently desired that his son by Mastani be invested with the sacred thread and be declared a brahmin. But even the powerful Bajirao could not get the orthodox Pune brahmin priests to agree. With a heavy heart he had to bring up the lad as a Muslim. Named Shamsher Bahadur, Bajirao and Mastani's son died , aged barely 27, fighting valiantly for the Marathas in the Battle of Panipat. Shamsher Bahadur's son, Ali Bahadur ruled over Baji Rao's lands in Bundelkhand, and founded the state of Banda, UP.

Historian D. G. Godse claims that his brother Chimnaji Appa and mother Radhabai never accepted Mastani as their own and that only because of Shahu, Mastani could survive "palace intrigue" of Shaniwar Wada


Bajirao died on April 28, 1740 still in his prime. He died of a sudden fever, possibly heat stroke, while inspecting his jagirs and en route to delhi with one lakh troops under his command at his camp in the district of Khargon, near the city of Indore. His mortal remains were consigned to flames on April 28, 1740, at Raverkhedi on the river, Narmada.
To visit the Peshwa Bajirao Samadhi Smarak, you have to get down at Sanavat Railway Station. Travel by Bus or Private Vehicle to Khedi (via Bedia village). From Khedi (Raverkhedi) Village, go to Raver village. On the banks of Narmada River, this archeological place is worth Inspiring with beautiful landscape !
(It is around 110 km from Indore. Route - Indore - Sanavat - Bedia - Raverkhedi - Raver) Every Year on 28th April, People from Maharashtra (mainly Pune), Gujarat (mainly Baroda), Madhya Pradesh (Indore & Gwalior) come to this place to remember this Hero
[ View Peshwa Bajirao I Samadhi Smarak Details]

See the detailed plan of how to reach the threatened samadhi along with 21 photographs taken 19 April 2008 at"'


* Baji Rao built the palace, Shaniwar Wada in the city of Pune. A statue of Baji Rao stands in front of the palace.


* A Bollywood Hindi movie, "Bajirao Mastani" the romance between Baji Rao and his wife, Mastani is currently being planned. The movie is to be directed by director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and is slated to star Rani Mukherjee as Kashibai , Kareena Kapoor as Mastani and Salman Khan or Abhishek Bachchan as Baji Rao Peshwa. The movie has drawn the ire of Hindus as they feel instead of highlighting his revival of Hindu society and values , the movie depicts a questionable affair.
* A Marathi serial "Rau" was made on the story of Bajirao and Mastani in the 90s. It was based on the book of the same name by N. S. Inamdar


* "He died as he lived, in camp under canvas among his men, and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa and the incarnation of Hindu energy." - English historian Sir Richard Carnac Temple, "Sivaji and the rise of the Mahrattas"
* "The Palkhed Campaign of 1727-28 in which Baji Rao I out-generalled Nizam-ul-Mulk , is a masterpiece of strategic mobility" - British Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery, "The Concise History of Warfare", 132
* "Remember that night has nothing to do with sleep. It was created by God, to raid territory held by your enemy. The night is your shield, your screen against the cannons and swords of vastly superior enemy forces." - Bajirao was said to have told his brother Chimaji Appa.
* "Bajirao was a heaven born cavalry leader. In the long and distinguished galaxy of Peshwas, Bajirao was unequalled for the daring and originality of his genius and the volume and value of his achievements" - Author Sir Jadunath Sarkar, foreword in V.G. Dighe's,"Peshwa Bajirao I and Maratha Expansion"

External links

* [ Shaniwar Wada - the Peshwa palace at Pune]

Additional reading

* Palsolkar, Col. R. D. "Bajirao I: An outstanding Indian Cavalry General," India: Reliance Publishers, 248pp, 1995, ISBN 81-85972-93-1.
* Paul, E. Jaiwant. "Baji Rao - The Warrior Peshwa," India: Roli Books Pvt Ltd, 184pp, ISBN 81-7436-129-4.
* Dighe, V.G. "Peshwa Bajirao I and the Maratha Expansion", 1944
* The Marathi historical novel "Rau" (1972) by historical novelist N. S. Inamdar also deals with the story of Bajirao and Mastani and the later part of Bajirao's life. It also tells of the Peshwa's relations with his mother Radhabai, his wife Kashibai, his son Nana Saheb (later Balaji Baji Rao) and his sickly but brilliant brother Chimaji Appa.
* "Mastani" by D. G. Godse
* A History of Marathas - By Grantt Duff (Online book which mentions history from Shahaji Bhonsle till end of Peshwa regime.) Link -,M1.

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