Table of contents
Bhosles of Nagpur
Origin and rise
The Bhosle family is counted among the royal or Ksatriya clans of the Marathas. The Bhosle house to which Chatrapati Sivaji, the founder of Maratha Kingdom belonged, hailed from Verul near Daulatabad. The Bhosles of Nagpur are known as Hinganikar as one of their ancestors who was probably a contemporary of Maloji, the grandfather of Chatrapati Sivaji rehabilitated the village Beradi near Hingani in the present district of Poona. The two brothers Mudhoji and Rupaji of Hingani-Beradi were contemporaries of Sahaji Bhosle the father of Sivaji. Like Chatrapati Bhosle house, the Nagpur Bhosle family, too, considers that it descended from the Sisodia Rajputs of Udaipur. It is quite possible that some Ksatriya clans of the Rajputs came down to the Maratha country from the north during the long ascendancy of the Muslims. Nevertheless, it is a historical fact that there were Ksatriya families in the Maratha country like the Rastrakutas, the Calukyas and the Yadavas, who had no relationship with the Rajputs of the north.
The family tree in the bakhar of the Bhosles of Nagpur denotes ancestors who were common to this house and also to the Bhosle house of the Chatrapatis. The Bhosles of Nagpur and the Chatrapati’s house belonged to the same Ksatriya clan. However, there is no independent historical evidence to establish common ancestry between the two families in the few generations preceding Chatrapati Sivaji. The account in the bakhar of the Bhosles of Nagpur, therefore, has to be taken with a grain of salt.
In the biography of Chatrapati Sambhaji by Malhar Ramrav Citanis it is stated that after the death of Sivaji his obsequies were performed by Sabaji Bhosle, as Sambhaji, the eldest son was in confinement on the fort of Panhala. But James Grant Duff in his’ A History of the Marathas’, Vol. I, p. 243, says that Sivaji’s funeral rites were performed by one ‘Shahjee Bhonslay’ (Sahaji Bhosle). There is no unanimity among contemporary writers about the person performing Sivaji’s funeral rites.
If, however, Sabaji Bhosle performed the obsequies there is every possibility that this Bhosle the ancestor of the famous Raghuji Bhosle of Nagpur was a known blood relation of the Chatrapatis. At the time of Sahu Chatrapati’s home-coming when Tarabai and her partisans purposely cast doubt about Sahu being the grandson of Sivaji, it was Parasoji of the Nagpur Bhosle house who dined with Sahu and dispelled the doubt. Then again during the last years of Sahu’s reign it was strongly rumoured that he would select an heir to the gadi of Satara from the Bhosles of Nagpur as he had no son. Later, the English offered to seat one of the Bhosle’s of Nagpur on the gadi of Satara. All these events indicate the possibility of a common ancestor of the Bhosles of Satara and Nagpur though direct historical evidence is not yet forthcoming to establish the fact.
The two Bhosle brothers Mudhoji and Rupaji were contemporaries of Sahaji Bhosle and were noted roving soldiers. (NPI., p. 44.). Rupaji, it seems was residing at Bham in the district of Yavatmal where he had a jagir.(Ibid, p. 46.). He was childless. Of the sons of Mudhoji, Parasoji and Sabaji stayed with their uncle at Bham and served in the army of Chatrapati Sivaji.
Parasoji was succeeded by his son Kanhoji. Chatrapati Sahu granted Kanhoji his hereditary title and also some land at Khed for the maintenance of his father’s memorial. Darva was taken by Kanhoji and he made Bham his headquarters. Click to keep reading about Kanhoji Bhosle
By suppressing the recalcitrant Kanhoji, Raghuji gained the favor of Chatrapati Sahu. As already observed Sahu conferred on him the title of Senasaheb Subha and the right to collect cauthai from Berar, Gondavana Chattisgad, Allahabad, Makasudabad (Bengal), and Patna. Click to continue reading about Raghuji Bhosle
Janoji Bhosle, 1755-1772
Janoji and Madhavrav Pesva
In the Maratha-Nizam struggle which ended in the battle of Raksasabhuvan, Janoji because of his changing policy had displeased both the Nizam and the Pesva. He had given up the wise policy of his father of supporting the Pesva as the strong man. His policy was devoid of any sound principle. It was guided by the idea of extending one’s own territory at the cost of others, including that of the other Maratha potentates. This was rather the common malady from which the entire Maratha power was suffering. Madhavrav was determined to correct this defect. With great difficulty he had brought Janoji into his camp in the life and death struggle with the Nizam. The sack of Poona in which Janoji carried fire and sword was an act which the Pesva was not prepared to forget. In the family dispute between Madhavrav and Raghunathrav Janoji: always espoused the cause of the latter. Raghunathrav in his own way gave easy terms to Janoji looking upon him as his supporter in his dispute with Madhavrav.
Madhavrav was waiting for an opportunity to punish Janoji. Berar was subject to the dual administration of the; Bhosles and the Nizam. This naturally created friction between the two on several occasions. In 1765 Mora Dhondaji an officer of the Nizam in Berar was attacked by Janoji’s men. The Nizam’s fiasco in the Battle of Raksasabhuvan was the result of Janoji’s treachery. He was keen on taking revenge upon Janoji for his breach of trust. He therefore appealed to the Pesva for help when his officer was attacked. The Pesva at once decided to help the Nizam(NPI., p. 159) On 17th October, 1765, Madhavrav proceeded from Poona and was joined by the Nazism’s divan Rukna-ud-Daula with a force of seven to eight thousand. The combined forces camped at Edalabad in December, 1765. Raghunathrav also came with his force to join his nephew. The Nizam started from Hyderabad and camped at Karanja. His army was well-equipped with artillery. From Edalabad the Pesva’s forces went to Balapur and started looting the territory of the Bhosle after dividing themselves into suitable batches. Sums of Rs. 1,75,000 and Rs. 1,70,000 were exacted from Balapur and Akola respectively as tributes. Janoji and Mudhoji took shelter in the fort of Amner along with their families. Later, they shifted to the stronger fort of Canda. Janoji finding the combined forces too strong for him to overcome sued for peace through the Pesva’s I envoy Vyankat Moresvar. The Pesva too had no stomach for the fight. He was satisfied with the punishment he had meted out to the disobedient Janoji. The terms of the treaty were finalised at Kholapur, near Daryapur in 1766. It was decided that the Bhosle should retain territory worth Rs. 8 lacs only, out of the total territory of Rs. 32 lacs he had received from the Pesva, in the Battle of Raksasabhuvan. Out of the remaining 24 lacs, the Pesva was to give the Nizam territory worth 15 lacs and was to retain for himself the rest(NPI., p. 165.). Many differences between the Nizam and Janoji were settled on this occasion. Following rapprochement Janoji sent his men to help Raghunathrav in his north Indian campaign.
When the negotiations between Madhavrav and Janoji were in progress, the former’s agent conveyed him Janoji’s contention. Its gist is indicative of the general state of affairs in the Maratha Confederacy. Janoji was not slow to understand that the dispute between him and the Pesva would only benefit the Nizam. But desire for power rendered any satisfactory solution difficult. The letter written to the Pesva by his agent conveying Janoji’s mind runs as follows: “The Srimant being angry with us (Janoji) has invaded Berar. I am not guilty of burning Poona.When the Nizam indulged in this act I did not support him. I, however, admit that I did not help in the campaign against Haidar Nayak. It is after all human to err. But the punishment meted out to me by depriving me of territory worth Rs. 30 lacs is too heavy. That has now been offered to the Nizam. Should the serpent be fed with milk? If I am ordered to attack the Nizam, I would destroy him in no time. ……… I shall proceed by rapid marches to meet your honour. I should not be let down”.(NPI., p. 163) Janoji gave expression to his feelings in these words. But it seems that he did not really repent for what had happened. For, within a couple of years after the treaty of Daryapur he once again sided with Raghunathrav in his dispute with Madhavrav and drew the latter’s wrath upon himself.
Madhavrav attacks Janoji and humbles him.-In the quarrel between Madhavrav and Raghunathrav in 1768, Janoji decided to support the latter. However, Raghunathrav was defeated and arrested before Janoji’s army could join him. Madhavrav was determined to teach Janoji a lesson for violating the treaty of Daryapur in which he had agreed to support his cause. Janoji was apprehensive of a fresh attack by the Pesva. He, therefore, sent his envoy Cimanaji Rakhamangad Citanis to the Pesva for a talk. The Pesva refused to listen to the envoy and asked Janoji to send Devajipant to Poona, as he considered Devajipant to be the mischief-maker in the Pesva-Bhosle altercation. Madhavrav arrested Devajipant and marched on Berar. The Pesva was accompanied by his generals Gopalrav Patvardhan and Ramacandra Ganes Kanade. The Nizam sent a force of eight thousand strong under Rukna-ud-daula and Ramcandra Jadhav. The Pesva with the forces of his ally occupied Bhosle’s territory to the west of the Wardha river. The relatives of Janoji had taken shelter into the fort of Gavilgad. Jewellery too was removed to this place. Janoji with his forces encamped at Tivasa to the west of Wardha river, 7-12-1768.
The Pesva did not chase Janoji. He took the fort of Amner (20-1-1769) and straightway proceeded to Nagpur. Nagpur was looted and burnt. The burning of Poona by Janoji was fully avenged. The fort of Bhandara was besieged and reduced by Ramacandra Ganes.( NPI., p. 175)
The fort of Candrapur or Canda the strong-hold of the Bhosles was the next target or attack. The fort was besieged by the Pesva’s army. Janoji who was outside moved from place to place carrying on a running warfare with the Pesva’s army. In order to relieve the pressure on the fort of Canda Janoji spread rumours that he was marching towards Poona to release Raghunathrav from the custody. At the same time Devajipant who was in the custody of Madhavrav managed to receive secret letters from Janoji stating that when the Pesva was engaged with the siege of Canda, Janoji should attack Poona and set Raghunathrav free. The letters were intended, to be seized by Pesva’s intelligence department. This ruse had its effect. The Pesvas apprehension of Janoji’s attack on Poona was strengthened. When these rumours gained currency, Poona was in the grip of consternation as the memory of Janoji’s first invasion was yet fresh(NPI., p. 179). The Pesva at once decided to raise the siege of Canda and sent his men against Janoji. He sent a letter through Rukna-ud-daula to Janoji on 3rd March, 1769, expressing his desire for peace. Janoji who was eager to end the war sent his terms and the treaty was finalised on 23-3-1769 near Kanakpur. Devajipant was the principle figure on behalf of the Bhosle in bringing about this treaty.
In the treaty of Kanakpur it was decided that-
1) Janoji was granted a jagir of 32 lacs in 1763, out of which he was allowed to have only 8 lacs in 1766, Janoji should now relinquish all claim over the jagir.
(2) The lands of the Bhosles, of Akkalkot confiscated by Janoji should be released.
(3) The Bhosles used to collect ghasdna from the Aurangabad Subha belonging to the Pesva. They should. discontinue this practice. The Bhosles likewise should stop collecting ghasdana from the Nizam’s territory. The Bhosles would get their ghasdana collections from the Pesva and the Nizam from their officers. The Bhosles should themselves collect ghasdana only if the Nazism’s Officers fail to do the same for them.
(4) The Bhosles should serve the Pesvas with their army when called.
(5) The Bhosles should make no changes in the strength of their army without the permission of the Pesva.
(6) The Bhosles should not shelter rebels and disloyal persons’ coming from the Pesva’s territory.
(7) The Bhosles should not enter into political negotiations with the Emperor of Delhi, the Navab of Oudh, the Rohillas, the English and the Nizam without the consent of the Pesvas.
(8) The Bhosles should pay an annual tribute of Rs. 5 lacs to the Pesva in five instalments.
(9) The army of the Pesva while passing through the Bhosle’s territory would use the old routes.
(10) The Pesva should not interfere with the domestic affairs of Janoji so long as he was looking after his relations properly.
(11) Reva Mukundpura, Mahoba, Carthane, Jintur, Sakarkheda, Mehekar should be given to the Pesva by Janoji.
(12) The Bhosle should send his army to Orissa only if it is not required by the Pesva.
(13) The Pesva should help the Bhosle with his army in the event of an invasion of the latter’s territory(NPI., pp. 181-183).
Madhavrav and Janoji met at Mehekar ceremonially. Parties and presents were exchanged. The Nizam’s divan Rukna-ud-duala was also present at Mehekar.(NPI., p. 184)
A careful analysis of these terms shows that Madhavrav’s aim was to bring central control in the Maratha confederacy, which was so necessary for its growth and survival. From the days of Bajirav I, the Pesvas were struggling hard to assert their authority over the Bhosles of Nagpur in their capacity as prime ministers. There was no clear constitutional ruling on this point except the prevailing practice. The Bhosles in their own way considered themselves as the equals of the Pesvas.All accepted the overlord. ship of the Chatrapati. But after the death of Sahu his successors proved to be nonentities. Under the circumstance the Pesvas tried to assert their authority over others with a good degree of success up to Madhavrav.
During Janoji’s Sena-Saheb-Subhaship Purusottam Divakar alias Devajipant Corghade of Narkhed rose into prominence. He secured for Janoji huge sums of money required for war. In his dealings with Madhavrav Pesvas Divakarpant was his chief adviser. Madhavrav considered Devajipant as the Machiavelli at the Nagpur Court. He was a full wise man out of the three and a half wise men of the day. (The three and a half wise men were popularly known as Deva, Sakhya, Vitthal and Nana. Deva stood. for Devajipant, Sakhya for Sakharam Bapu Bokil, Vitthal for Vitthal Sundar at the Court of the Nizam and Nana was the famous Nana Phadnis). For some time towards the end of Janoji’s career Divakarpant lost his master’s confidence and fell on evil days. But he was always looked upon as the inevitable man on critical occasions because of his keen grasp of events. Very few original papers are available about this diplomat of Nagpur. He died in 1781. Among other persons of note of Janoji’s times may be mentioned Bhavanipant Munsi, Bhavani Kala and Ganes Sambhaji. Bhavanipant Munsi became Janoji’s counsellor when Devajipant fell from his favour. Bhavani Kalo rose to the position of the general. For sometime he was the subhedar of Katak. He constructed the temple of Balaji at Vasim and installed the image. The last, Ganes Sambhaji too acted as the Subhedar of Katak(NPI., pp. 187-93).
Janoji Bhosle had no son. He had decided to adopt Raghuji, the eldest son of his brother, Mudhoji. After the treaty of Kanakpur he was on good terms with Madhavrav Pesvas. Janoji travelled to Thevur near Poona where Madhavrav was on his death-bed and secured his consent to Raghuji’s adoption. From Thevur he went to the holy places, Pandharpur and Tulajapur. He died at Yeral (Naldurg) on his homeward journey on 16th May 1772, owing to severe stomach-ache. Mudhoji created a monument in honour of Janoji and secured some land from the Pesvas for its maintenance(Ibid., 187).
After the death of Janoji the house of Bhosles. was plunged into family feud worse than the one that was witnessed at the death of Raghuji. Prior to his death Janoji had secured the consent of the Pesva for regularising the adoption of Raghuji II, as he was himself without a son. Hut the actual adoption ceremony had not been gone through. Neither was the title of Sena-Saheb-Subha conferred on Raghuji II, officially. Exploiting these lapses Sabaji the younger brother of Mudhoji, approached Madhavrav Pesva for the grant of Sena-Saheb-Subhaship. As Mudhoji was a partisan of Raghunathrav, Madhavrav sent the robes of Sena-Saheb-Subhaship for Sabaji with his agent Ramaji Ballal Gune. At the same time Daryabai, the widow of Janoji, joined Sabaji and declared that she was pregnant and would give birth to a posthumous child. This created an embarrassing situation for Mudhoji(INPI.,p.195). The success of the parties at Nagpur thus depended upon the powerful personality in the family dissensions of the Pesvas at Poona. Family disputes for power and position broke out in every Maratha confederate state. Neither the Bhosles nor the Pesvas were an exception to this state of affairs.
As a safety measure Mudhoji sent his family members into the fort of Canda and collected a force of 25,000 strong to face Sabaji. The armies of the two brothers met at Kumbhari near Akola in 1773. After a few engagements the two brothers decided to close the fight. It was agreed that Sena-Saheb-Subhaship should go to Raghuji II and actual administration should be looked after jointly by Mudhoji and Sabaji(NPI.,p.197). The Prabhu brothers, Vyankal Kasi and Kaksman Kasi were deputed to Poona for securing the robes of Sena-Saheb-Subhaship for Raghuji. At this time Narayanrav was the ruling Pesva. This arrangement proved unsuccessful as Sabaji was dissatisfied with it. In the rivalry between Narayanrav and Raghunathrav, Sabaji took the side of the former while Mudhoji supported the latter. Sabaji sought the aid of the Pesva and the Nizam, and the combined forces laid siege to Ellicpur as its Navab was a partisan of Mudhoji. But in 1773, when Narayanrav Pesva was murdered Sabaji’s party was considerably weakened and he openly supported the Barabhais. Mudhoji’s cause was greatly strengthened when Raghunathrav assumed power after murdering his nephew. A compromise was brought about between Mudhoji and Sabaji, which in its own way was destined to be short-lived. The Nizam, who had taken the side of Sabaji, drew upon himself the wrath of Raghunathrav. The Nizam was attacked and forced to enter into a treaty with Raghunathrav. With the Bhosles, the Nizam formed the treaty of Sixty-Forty.(Ibid., p. 202)
The family dispute between Mudhoji and Sabaji was finally set at rest when the latter was killed in the battle of Pancganv near Nagpur on 26th January 1775. In this battle Mudhoji was joined by the Gardi Muhammad Yusuf, one of the murderers of Narayanrav(NPI., p. 205). The Pancganv battle gave Mudhoji a free hand in the political affairs of Nagpur. Daryabai and the other partisans of Sabaji quietly surrendered to Mudhoji. (NPI., p. 205)
For sometime in 1775, the Barabhais instigated Sivaji Bhosle of Amravati to rise against Mudhoji. They promised Sena-Saheb-Subhaship to Sivaji. This move was deemed necessary by them as their rival Raghunathrav had the support of Mudhoji Bhosle. On 6th March 1775, Raghunathrav entered into an alliance with the British at Surat in order to oppose the Barabhais. The rising of Sivaji Bhosle of Amravati could not assume any serious proportion due to the timely mediation of Divakarpant.(Ibid., p. 209).
The fratricidal wars among the Marathas were fully exploited by the English for the expansion of their power. In 1773, when the Poona court was faced with extraordinary situation following the assassination of Narayanrav, the British forces moved from Bombay and took the fort of Thana’. In fact the British had been casting their covetous eyes on the island of Sasti (Salsette), since long, for the safety of Bombay. The fort of Thana surrendered on 28th December 1773(NHM., Vol. III., p. 43). This was the actual beginning of the First Anglo-Maratha war which terminated in the Treaty of Salbye in 1782. Raghunathrav, in his quarrel with the Barabhais finally embraced the British giving them the long sought opportunity of interfering with the internal affairs of the Marathas. Raghunathrav became a British protege by the Treaty of Surat, 6th March 1775. With a view to curbing the growing ambition of the British and their aggression Nana Phadnis proposed an anti-British Confederacy consisting of the Pesva’s Government, the Nizam, Haidar Ali and the Bhosles of Nagpur. At this time the prestige of the British had suffered a set-back in the eyes of the Indian powers due to the unscrupulous methods of Warren Hastings. This was rather the opportune time for the Marathas to move against the British as they were engaged in a long war with the French. But the well-conceived quadruple alliance could not be worked out because of the machinations of Warren Hastings. Realising the danger of the alliance proposed by Nana Phadnis Hastings restored Guntur to the Nizam and detached him from the Confederacy. His next move was the seduction of the Bhosles of Nagpur.
According to the plan of Nana Phadnis, the Bhosles were to attack the English in Bengal, Haidar Ali to proceed against Madras and the Poona forces to harass the British in Gujarat and Bombay. To execute a part of this joint plan, a large force under Khandoji Bhosle popularly known as Cimanaji marched towards Orissa. Cimanaji was a man of courage and action. He was instructed to invade Bengal for the collection of cauthai which was in arrears. But at the eleventh hour he was, prevented from stepping into Bengal by Raghuji II on the advice of his crafty minister Divakarpant Corghade. Hastings was able to purchase the loyalty of both Khandoji and Divakarpant by bribing them heavily. By the end of 1778 Goddard had secured Mudhoji’s permission for the passage of his army through the latter’s territory into Gujarat. Nana was enraged at this and immediately sent for Raghuji and Divakarpant and secured their support to his four-party alliance(NHM., Vol. III., pp. 97, 98). But the two never kept their word
Mudhoji Bhosle who was a sworn member of the Confederacy was the first to inform Hastings of Nana’s plan. It was he who prevented Khandoji Bhosle from invading Bengal. Mudhoji, in all these activities had violated the Treaty of Kanakpur between Janoji and Madhavrav. It was presumed that he would observe the treaty to which his elder brother Janoji was a party. But at the critical juncture he cast the previous bindings to the winds and went ahead recklessly allying himself with the British and their protege Raghunathrav for selfish gains. The role played by Mudhoji, Raghunathrav and their supporters is indicative of the state of affairs prevailing among the ruling Maratha noblemen.
In 1785 Mudhoji had been to Poona with his army to help Nana Phadnis in the war against Tipu Sultan. The battle was fought at Badiimi-1786 in which the Nizam, the Bhosles and the Pesvas jointly defeated Tipu. Cimanabapu distinguished himself in this war. On his homeward journey Mudhoji paid a visit to the holy places in Maharastra and returned to Nagpur. Mudhoji died at Nagpur on 19th May 1788(NPI.,pp. 213, 214), after a very active political career of over two decades.
Towards the end of Janoji’s career Divakarpant had fallen from his grace and was imprisoned. His property too was confiscated. Mudhoji who needed his help most released him. Divakarpant was soon restored to his former position and served Mudhoji as his principal counsellor. Mudhoji was never loyal either to the Barabhais or to Nana Phadnis. Throughout his career he supported Raghunathrav. At one time he was prepared to serve as the vassal of Warren Hastings severing his relations with the Pesva. Divakarpant had to tow the line of his master. But in doing so he could have impressed upon his master as to what was ultimately good for the Maratha nation as a whole. This naturally required a man of high moral character. It could not be expected of Divakarpant who was enjoying the confidence of Warren Hastings, to rise above self-interest. Divakarpant was bribed by Hastings in order to dissuade the Bhosles from the quadruple alliance of Nana Phadnis. Thus, ‘the full-wise man’ out of the noted three and a half wise men of the Maratha country, proved to be otherwise in the large national interests.
Raghuji Bhosle II, 1775-1816
The title of Sena-Saheb-Subha was finally conferred on Raghuji in 1775, during the Pesvaship of Savai Madhavrav(NPI., pp. 300-302). Actually he was designated for this title much earlier but sanction for the same could not be had from Poona, because of the strained relations between the Pesvas and the Bhosles. Raghuji assumed power after the death of his father Mudhoji. Click here to read more about Raghuji Bhosle II