Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Marathas in Delhi

Not many people know that Delhi was under the control of the Marathas in the late 1700s.

But the Diwan-e-Khas of the Red Fort in Delhi is a standing reminder of the Maratha presence in the city. A major portion of the silver enamelling from the roof and walls of the Diwan-e-Khas was knocked down and melted by the Marathas, to finance their foray into North-West India.

Diwan-E-Khas, Hall of Private Audience, Red Fort, Delhi
After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, the Marathas emerged victorious in the 27 year long Mughal-Maratha conflict. Under the two Maratha Peshwas, Baji Rao I and Balaji Baji Rao, the Marathas began an ambitious expansion program, dreaming of a large pan-Indian empire. They began conquering territories in all directions, including northwards, paving the way for them to become the most dominant empire in India.

Other than the green portions, everything else on this map below shows areas under the Maratha Confederacy (either direct rule, or right to taxes, or areas raided) 

Under Peshwa administration and with the support of several key
generals and diplomats, the Maratha Empire reached its zenith,
ruling most of the Indian subcontinent landmass

Ahmad Shah Abdali, also called
Ahmad Shah Durrani is the
founder of what we know today
as Afghanistan
.
In Delhi, the weakness of the Mughals had allowed Ahmad Shah Durrani (an Afghan who wanted to expand his territory) to take over the city in 1757. He returned to Afghanistan, leaving behind his son Timur at Delhi. At the invitation of the Mughals, the Marathas captured Delhi by 1758, defeating the Durranis. Timur fled to Afghanistan.

The capture of Delhi was only a political gain for the Marathas, because the city was bankrupt - the treasures of the Mughal Empire had been squandered by Aurangzeb in his futile quarter century war against the Marathas. What remained had been looted by Nadir Shah in 1739 and by Ahmad Shah Durrani. 

Hard-pressed for money, the Marathas stripped the Red Fort’s Diwan-i-khas of its silver (amounting to Rs 9 lakhs, two months upkeep for the Maratha army). 

After capturing Delhi, the Marathas moved further north-west, conquering territories as far as Lahore, Attock and Peshawar, chasing the Afghans beyond the Khyber pass. 

However, as soon as the Marathas diverted their northern troops south, the Durranis returned to soundly defeat the Marathas and re-capture Delhi. There was a decisive battle at Panipat in 1761, where the Maratha forces were routed. Over 100,000 Marathas (both combatants and non-combatants) perished; while some managed to return to their homes. The Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao lost his son in the battle and died a broken man the same year.

Mahadajee Scindia of Gwalior
The Panipat battle dealt a severe blow to Maratha supremacy. However, ten years later, in 1767, under Peshwa Madhavrao, the Marathas rose again to came northwards. 

The Maratha general Mahadajee Scindia captured Delhi again, appointed the Mughal Shah Alam II as a puppet king, and reinforced Maratha foothold in Central and North India. 

However, the grand confident ambitions which fueled earlier Maratha thrusts northwards, and their dreams of creating the next big pan-Indian empire, did not resurface. The death of Peshwa Madhavrao in 1772, the breaking up of the Maratha confederacy into strong individual fiefdoms (the Holkars, Scindias, Bhonsles etc), and the loss of group identity and confidence after Panipat led to the gradual weakening of the Martha empire until they finally lost to the British.

Thus ended a major chapter in Indian history; starting with the founding of the Maratha empire in 1684 by Shivaji, and ending with the third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818. If you would like to see an interesting series of photos of Maratha weaponry, head over to our facebook page album.

- By Aishwarya Pramod, with inputs from Deepa Krishnan
Photo source: All photos from Wikipedia

5 comments:

shooting star said...

I am so glad that I found this blog while searching on mirza ghalib!!


my love for delhi resonates here so much and I am so happy to have found another bloggers who write so much on delhi with such love as I do :)

http://www.myunfinishedlife.com/

Manish Kulkarni said...

Good post...nice to know this part of the history

Unknown said...

The Great Maratha..!!!

Unknown said...

The Great Maratha..!!!

Avantika said...

I always wanted to know in detail about Maratha history . This piece is a very interesting aspect indeed!