Impact of BAJIRAO PESHWA on India of the 18th Century

  • Know about Bajirao Peshwa’s life and achievements, all within 40 years of living. 

Noted historian Dr Uday S Kulkarni wrote, “The eighteenth century is the period when the Maratha Empire spread to the four corners of India. It was the twenty-year stewardship of the Empire under Baji rao Peshwa that ensured that a kingdom of a few districts spread to a nationwide Empire. More than anybody else, it was Baji rao who shaped the 18th century as a century of the Marathas.”


Yet he is not known that much across India.

He was born on 18th August 1700 to the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. Since childhood Bajirao showed signs of interest and potential in Strategic and Military warfare.  He had to take charge from his father due to the latter’s early death in 1720. 

Right from the start Bajirao began campaigning. The Maratha kingdom was relatively weak at that time. It is incredible how he managed to spread this tiny kingdom to the length and breadth of India in a short span of twenty years!


Bajirao possessed, from the very start, the capability to take sudden decisions, the enemy had not expected, which proved highly catastrophic for the enemy. He was the one who instilled pride and confidence in the Marathas and also broke the centuries old misconception of Hindus being a defenseless race who could not attack back when instigated. This change in thinking by itself had a huge impact in the political situation in India.

Bajirao was instrumental in bringing the Mughal Empire to its knees, as he was the first Maratha to reach Delhi and plunder it. In the post Aurangzeb (he died in 1707) era, it was Peshwa Bajirao who reduced the Mughals to mere puppets. This was a psychological message to the sub-continent that eventually made Marathas dominate India during the 18th century.

During his entire tenure as a Peshwa, the biggest enemy was the shrewd and aged Nizam-Ul-Mulk, who was at the same level of cleverness as Bajirao, and hence they were sworn rivals.

Bajirao showed his mettle for the first time when he made the Nizam taste his first defeat of the entire career at Palkhed. This was a masterpiece in mobility- (which means moving to a strategic location at blazing speed to defeat the enemy.)  During the Palkhed war Bajirao took strategic routes and fooled the Nizam to eventually defeat him wholesomely inspite of having relatively lesser military strength.

Noted historian Uday S Kulkarni wrote, “It was impossible to break out of this rigid siege and without shedding a drop of blood, the Mughal Viceroy had to surrender at the village of Palkhed. He abandoned Sambhaji and accepted the Maratha right to collect taxes in the Deccan. The news of this victory over the foremost Mughal commander of the day reverberated through India.”

After that Bajirao jumped into campaigns with the objective of spreading Maratha influence to the length and breadth of India. One important thing to notice here is that when Bajirao came to power, the Chhatrapati was the supreme in the Maratha kingdom, but Bajirao was a transition, and power slowly shifted. By the time Bajirao’s son Nana Saheb became the Peshwa, the entire power was in the hands of the Peshwa and he was the de-facto ruler of the empire. The Chhatrapatis are mostly unknown to the public after Chhatrapati Shahu, and the reign of the Peshwas started with Bajirao. 

Bajirao is most well known for having never lost a battle in the 43 that he fought.

Bajirao’s most ambitious campaign was against the Siddi of Janjira, ‘Siddi Sat’, a campaign that took three years to complete. Siddi had plundered the Parashuram temple made by Brahmendar Swami, a great saint. Since Bajirao was busy fighting the Nizam that time so he asked the Swami to move to Malwa.


In 1733 Bajirao began the war against Siddi Sat. Bajirao quickly won four forts from the Siddi, but soon a problem arose. One of the sardars whom Chhatrapati Shahu had sent, Shripat Rao (“Pratinidhi”) refused to meet Bajirao and started meetings with the Siddi and after some diplomatic exchanges, managed to win the fort of Raigarh but refused to use it to help the Peshwa in his campaign. He was also responsible for many other disruptions in the campaign but eventually he gave up his erratic ways. 

Also, Bajiraoasked Sekhoji Angre of the Maratha Navy to assist him in the war, but unfortunately Sekhoji died due to a sudden illness. The Nizam, seeing the Marathas in a tattered state, also launched a fresh attack on the Marathas. Bajirao had to withdraw from the battleto fight the Nizam and was replaced by his younger brother Chimaji Appa.

Siddi Sat came to fight the next day unaware of Chimaji’s presence, and in a fierce battle Chimaji killed Siddi Sat. Later, in a letter Chimaji sent to Bajirao, he wrote that Siddi Sat came with an army unaware of his presence and when the battle ensued, both sides took heavy loses and damages but in the end a Maratha Sardar named Nanaji Surve remained undeterred even with 26 wounds on his body and kill Siddi Sat.


After this three year campaign Bajirao did not stop or get busy with victory celebrations. Instead he immediately started planning new campaigns, a rare quality in Indian kings.

The other ruler with this quality of quickly planning campaigns and executing them was Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. But as everyone knows both these great warriors and strategists died very early, that was mainly due to lack of rest.

Similarly, he destroyed the Siddis of Janjira which was another of Shivaji’s goals. The conquest of the Vasai Fort by Chimaji Appa was another great feat, as the fort of Vasai was a strong fort with 40 feet high and 5 feet thick walls, Vasai was almost impenetrable. In fact, Chimaji had tried to win Vasai many times before but was unsuccessful. But finally, under the mentorship of Bajirao, he emerged victorious.

Uday S Kulkarni wrote,End of March 1737, bypassing three large Mughal armies to the south of Delhi, Baji rao was at the gates of the Mughal capital. The shock to the Emperor was complete. In his own words, as he wrote later to his brother, he decided against burning the suburbs of the city as he believed the Emperor and his advisor Khan Dauran were actually in favour of a treaty and violence against the city or its inhabitants would ‘break the cord of diplomacy.”


In 1739 Bajirao set of on his last campaign and this was against the Nizam, he had defeated the Nizam many times before like in Bhopal, but this time he had to do extra-ordinary exertion to win the campaign.

Samadhi Bajirao Peshwa.

After that he fell ill and died in his tent on the battlefield due to brain-fever near bank of Narmada at Ravalkhedi in Madhya Pradesh.

Hence, Bajirao Peshwa was an historical legend, who changed the political topography of India entirely in his short career of 20 years and transformed the history of India. Even though he lived for only 40 years, those 40 years were action packed and thrilling. He will be an inspiration for generations to come.

Col Anil Athale (retd) and historian wrote in, “One of the big 'ifs' of Indian history is Bajirao's untimely death on the way to Delhi to take on Nadir Shah. Maybe the Kohinoor and Peacock Throne would have still been in India.”

Author Shashwat Pandey, aged 12 has a keen interest in Indian history and culture. He has been reading extensively in particular about the Maratha history, and is highly inspired by the lives of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Peshwas. Shashwat is a Class-VIII student in Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan's Vidyashram School, Jaipur.


1. Baji Rao: The Warrior Peshwa by E. Jaiwant Paul

2. The Era of Baji Rao by Uday.S.Kulkarni

Also read

1. Baji Rao – The Empire Builder by Uday S Kulkarni

2. Why Bajrao is India’s Greatest Cavalry General by Col Anil Athale


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