The Peshwas

The period from 1713-1761 was when the peshwas controlled the Marathas Empire. In 1713, Shahu appointed Balaji Vishwanath as the peshwa or chief minister. He was an able minister and helped Shahu in establishing control over the smaller Maratha sardars. In course of time, he concentrated all power in his hands. The king became just a figurehead and the Peshwa became the real decision maker.

Balaji Vishwanath (1713-1720)

Balaji Vishwanath took advantage of the weakness of the later Mughals to extend the boundaries of the Maratha kingdom. He forced the Mughal ruler to return all the territories which had earlier formed a part of Shivaji’s empire. Besides, Shahu was also given the right to chauth and sardeshmukhi of six provinces in the Deccan.

Baji Rao I (1720-1740)

Baji Rao I succeeded Balaji Vishwanath. He led many campaigns against the Mughals. The Marathas conquered Malwa, Southern Gujarat and parts of Bundelkhand. Towards the South, the nizam of Hyderabad was defeated and forced to grant the right to collect taxes from some provinces of the Deccan. Baji Rao I also captured Salsette and Bassein from the Portuguese.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761)

Balaji Baji Rao was the next pehswa. After the death of Shahu in the year 1749, he became the leader of the Marathas. He shifted the capital from Satara to Poona (Pune). During his reign, the Maratha armies reached as far as Bihar and Orissa in the east and Delhi and Punjab in the north. The kingdoms of Mysore and Hyderabad were forced to cede territories and pay tribute. Under him, the Maratha power was at its peak.

Key Terminology

  • Misls- Political groups among the Sikhs, each having its own leader
  • Observatory- Special building from which stars, etc., can be closely observed and studied
  • Arsenal- Place where weapons and explosives are made and stored
  • Guerrilla tactics- Strategy of making sudden attacks on the enemy and withdrawing quickly
  • Ashtapradhan- Council of eight ministers under Shivaji. It was headed by the peshwa.
  • Chauth/Sardeshmukhi- Taxes collected by the Marathas
  • Peshwa- Prime minister of a Maratha ruler

Third Battle of Panipat (1761)

The Marathas became weak after their defeat in the third Battle of Panipat in the year 1761. This battle ended the possibility of the Marathas establishing an all-India Empire. The various Maratha chief’s broke away and started ruling over small areas. The battle of Panipat also gave an opportunity to the English East India Company to consolidate its power in India.

Decline of the Mughals and Rise of Successor States

  • The Mughal Empire decline during the reign of the later Mughals. Some of the later Mughal were Bahadur Shah I, Jahandar Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Muhammad Shah and the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The British officially took over power in the year 1858 .
  • Regional kingdoms became powerful in the eighteenth century. Some of these kingdoms were Punjab, Rajputana, Awadh, Bengal, Hyderabad and Mysore. – The Marathas emerged as a powerful force in the second half of the seventeenth century. Shivaji was a powerful leader. He captured numerous territories and challenged the authority of Aurangzeb. He was also a capable administrator. He reformed the revenue and military administration.
  • The Marathas became very powerful under the Peshwas. The three Peshwas – Balaji Vishwanath, Baji Rao I and Balaji Baji Rao expanded and consolidated the Maratha Empire. The Marathas became weak after their defeat at Panipat in the year 1761.


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