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.

Raghuji’s relations with Nana Phadnis were amicable. In the Battle of Kharda, 1795, Raghuji: sent his army under Vitthal Ballal Subhedar to help the Pesva. Vighal Ballal distinguished himself in this war and was highly honoured by Nana. Raghuji’s gains in this war were substantial. He received territory worth three and a half lacs from the Nizam for the ghasdana of the Gangthadi region. The Nizam agreed to pay his arrears to Raghuji amounlting to Rs. 29 lacs. It was decided that both should share the revenues of Berar as in the past. New sanads of the territory to the south of the Narmada were granted by the Pesva to Raghuji. Sanads of this territory were granted to the Bhosles by Nanasaheb Pesva but the officers of the latter had not given the actual possession so far. Raghuji got the possession of Husangabad, Cauragad and Bacai. Raghuji stuck to the party of Nana Phandnis even after the tragic end of Savai Madhavrav. In appreciation Nana gave Raghuji Rs. 5 lacs in cash and the possession of Gadha-Mandla.

The Raja of Sagar gave Raghuji a part of his territory for the help he had rendered in the event of an attack by one Amirkhan. Similarly, the fort of Dhamoni was secured from a petty Rajput chieftain and Husangabad from the Navab of Bhopal by Raghuji. Thus, by 1800 Raghuji’s kingdom was at its zenith. It was the largest of the Maratha states towards the close of the eighteenth century.

The following account might give some idea of the territory and its revenue under Raghuji II:(NPI.,p.310)

Rs. (in lacs)
1.Devgad, including Nagpur30
3.Husangabad, Sivani-Malva, Cauragad, etc.7
4.Multai or Multapi2
5.Half the revenue of Berar and of Gavilgad, Narnala, etc.30
6.Orissa and the other feudatory states in the area.17
7.Candrapur of Canda5
8.Chattisgad and the other feudatory states like Bastar, Sambalpur, Sirguja, Kankar, Kalahandi, Jasapur and Gangpur.6

These figures of revenue from the different parts of the territory under Raghuji appear to be true. Raghuji, however, was destined to see the decline of the Bhosle house when called upon to face the powerful East India Company.

In 1798, Lord Wellesley came to India as the Governor-General. His objective was to bring the Indian States under ‘Subordinate Isolation’ by his most potent weapon of ‘subsidiary system’. Mysore was the first of the Indian States to be forced to accept the subsidiary alliance. The Nizam was the next to enter it for self-protection. Bajirav II in his wars with the Maratha potentates and in particular with Yasvantrav Holkar, embraced the subsidiary treaty in 1802. Thereafter the Maratha states one after another sold their freedom for a mess of pottage. Under the circumstances, it was not easy for Raghuji to keep himself out of the iron trap laid by Wellesley. As early as 1799 Mr. Colebrooke was sent to Nagpur to persuade Raghuji to enter the subsidiary alliance. He stayed in Nagpur for two years but was not successful in bringing Raghuji under the alliance.(NHM, Vol. III, p. 402)

The Treaty of Bassein of 1802, by which Bajirav II bartered away his freedom was highly resented by Yasvantrav Holkar. Daulatrav Sinde and Raghuji Bhosle, too, were upset by Bajirav’s decision. After the Treaty of Bassein Lord Wellesley had been pressing upon Daulatrav and Raghuji to enter into a similar alliance with the British without delay. It was clear that Wellesley was trying to hold aloof Daulatrav and Raghuji. Col. Collins was deputed for negotiations with the two chiefs. They evaded a definite reply in order to gain time, whereupon, Col. Collins left the Sinde’s camp. On 7th August 1803, General Wellesley proclaimed a war against the Bhosles and the Sindes, and called upon the general populace to keep itself aloof from the struggle.

The fort of Ahmadnagar which was equipped with munitions and supplies was attacked by Wellesley. Sinde’s European Officers who were bribed and seduced went over to the English. Sinde’s Brahmin keeper of the fort finding the position untenable surrendered the fort on 12th August 1803. The Bhosle’s army joined the Sindes near Jalanapur and a stiff action took place culminating in the battle of Assai on 24th September. The Marathas fought well but were finally defeated. The loss on the English side was heavy, 663 Europeans and 1,778 Indians were killed in action. Stevenson next captured Burhanpur and Asirgad, the two strongholds of the Sindes. These successes of the English depressed both the Sindes and the Bhosles. On the 6th November Sinde’s agent Yasvantrav Ghorpade came to Wellesley’s camp to arrange the terms of peace.(Ibid, Vol. III, pp. 410,411)

The Bhosles were now singled out by Wellesley and Stevenson advanced against the fort of Gavilgad. The Sindes sent their force to help the Bhosle, violating the truce they had made with the English. The two armies met on the vast plane between Adganv and Sirasoli. The Maratha guns played havoc among the English army forcing them to flee. But the English Generals collected their forces again and attacked the Marathas. In the last action the Marathas were defeated. The battle of Adganv thus decided the fate of the Marathas on the 29th November 1803. The fort of Gavilgad fell on 25th December when its keeper Benisingh Rajput died fighting.(NHM, Vol. III, p. 412)

On 17th December Raghuji Bhosle signed a treaty at Devaganv near Ellicpur with the English.

The terms of the treaty of Adganv were as follows:

(1) The Bhosle should surrender the territory to the west of the river Wardha as also the provinces of Katak and Balasore. The Bhosles were to retain for themselves the forts of Gavilgad and Narnala and the territory under these forts worth Rs.4 lacs; i.e., the paraganas of Akot, Adganv, Bagnera, Bhatkuli and Khatkali.

(2) Any dispute between the Nizam, the Pesva and the Bhosle should be settled through the mediation of the English.

(3) The Bhosles should have no relations with any European except the English. The English too should have no relations with either the enemies or relatives of the Bhosles.

(4) The Bhosles should have no relation with any member of the Maratha Confederacy.

(5) Both the parties should have the envoy of the other at their Courts.

(6) The Bhosles should respect the treaties which the English have formed with the former’s feudatories lying between Orissa and Chattisgad.(NPI., p: 344)

Berar was given to the Nizam for the help he rendered to the English. By this, treaty the Bhosles practically lost their independent status. The territory under them was now confined to Nagpur and the neighbouring area.

The English were successful in keeping Yasvantrav Holkar out of the picture in their struggle with the Sindes and the Bhosles. They fully utilised the hostility between Daulatrav and Yasvantrav. The long cherished dream of the English to secure the coastal strip stretching from Calcutta to Madras was fulfilled.

Daulatrav Sinde too, signed a treaty with the English at Suraji-Ananganv on 30th December 1803.

According to the 5th term of the treaty of Devaganv Mount Stuart Elphinstone was sent to Nagpur as the British resident. He forced Raghuji to give up his sovereignty over the States to the east of Nagpur. Smarting under the recent defeat he had suffered at Devaganv, Raghuji was trying to reorganise his army and secure news about Yasvantrav Holkar’s movement so that he might take revenge upon the English if a suitable opportunity permitted such action. But the Resident kept a close watch over. Raghuji’s movements and desisted him from keeping any contact with Holkar and his men.(NPL, pp. 361.62)

With the fall of the Sindes and the Holkars the marauding bands of the Penharis became the scourge of the restless times. They fell upon the peasants and the citizens and looted their property. Where resistance was offered they indulged in killing and raping. With the fall of their supporters the Sindes and the Holkars, the cruelties of the Pendharis became all the more wanton. They have been rightly described as the scavengers of the Maratha army.

One of the leaders of the Pendharis Amirkhan attacked Jubbulpore in about 1809. The local Subhedar of the Bhosles Jijaba Ghatge tried his best to defend the city but was defeated and forced to take shelter in the fort of Mandla. In order to defend the Narmada region from the Pendharis inroads Raghuji appointed Vitthal Ballal Subhedar, Benisingh, Raghunathravbaji Ghatge and Muhammad Amirkhan of Sivani.

At one time the Pendharis looted Ramtek and Bhandara and appeared in the suburbs of Nagpur. The Bhosle’s officers Ali Khan and Malji Ahirrav were finally able to force them to retreat(Ibid, pp. 373-75). It was Lord Hastings who exterminated the Pendharis by conducting an all-out campaign against them.

During the Bhosle-English wars the Navab of Bhopal had taken Husangabad and Sivani from the Bhosles. In 1807 Raghuji sent his army and captured Cainpurvadi and Cankigad of the Bhopal territory. Later he entered into an agreement with the Sindes for a concerted attack on Bhopal. The two armies besieged Bhopal fort in 1814. But Raghuji withdrew his forces when the Nawab of Bhopal asked for British help.(NPL, pp. 377-78)

Sambalpur and Patna were granted back to Raghuji in 1806.

After the battle of Adganv Raghuji was being persuaded to accept the subsidiary alliance. Jenkins, who succeeded Mount Stuart Elphinstone as the resident of Nagpur, once again appealed to Raghuji that he should allow the stationing of the British army at Nagpur. But Raghuji skillfully avoided all such appeals. In 1811 when the Pendharis burnt some wards of Nagpur city Raghuji asked for British help, but it was refused as Raghuji was not willing to enter subsidiary alliance.

In 1801-02, on the occasion of the Sinhastha Parvani Raghuji with the members of his family had been to Dharmapuri on the bank of the Godavari for a bath.(Ibid, p. 308)

Raghuji’s relations with his brother Vyankoji alias Manyabapu were not happy. Manyabapu enjoyed the title of Senadhurandhar. He was brave and adventurous. He died at Kasi in 1811.(NPI., p. ;386)

Mr. Colebrooke the great Sanskrt scholar, who was deputed to Nagpur as an envoy in 1799, has left a lively description of Raghuji. Raghuji lived in a spacious palace surrounded by gardens. The palace had six quadrangles or cauks each of which had a three-storeyed structure. The drawing hall in the palace was well decorated with chandeliers and pictures. The hall which was meant for the Raja had beautiful carving. The garden around the palace had good roads enclosed by fencing.

Raghuji was not fond of pomposity either in dress or manners. He was sweet-tongued and behaved in a friendly manner even with his subordinates. He was, however, careful in maintaining the decorum and discipline of the darbar. During leisure hours all were entertained by singing and dancing. Raghuji was fond of hunting, so much so that when a tiger was reported in the neighbourhood he often hastened to the place with his party leaving the office work. He, however, never neglected administrative duty. Sridhar Laksman. Munsi and Krsnarav Citnais were the most trusted courtiers of Raghuji.

The Dasara festival during Raghuji’s reign was a brilliant spectacle displaying his grandeur and glory.(NPI., pp. 312-14)

Raghuji loved his kith and kin and was extremely fond of children. Bakabai was his favourite queen. He was pious and devoted to his mother. But Raghuji lacked quick decision and courage. In the war with the English he often left his fighting forces. He was willing to wound yet afraid to strike. In diplomacy he was no match for the contemporary Englishmen with whom he was required to deal.

After the treaty of Devaganv, Raghuji, it seems, was in financial difficulties. His anxiety for wealth grew with age bringing him into disrepute. He was nicknamed the big baniya for the methods he used in collecting money. Raghuji who had the good fortune of witnessing the glory of the Bhosle house at its zenith was also destined to see its decline. He died on 22nd March 1816.

This article is part of MARATHA PERIOD (Complete History of Nagpur)

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