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India1760 1905

Political scenario of India after fall of Attock Bastion and retreat of Marathas from Punjab

Panipat- The seeds of India's partition

Partition was proposed when Najib invited Abdali in 1757 and the process actually began on 14th January 1761 on the plains of Panipat. One really needs to understand the Mughal-Maratha Power dynamics for complete grasp of the phenomenon of partition. The key figures here are Mughals (and last of them, Aurangzeb); Pathan lobby from upper gangetic plains, Punjab, AFG and Iran); Mullahs like Shah Wali and Sirhindi; Marathas; other Hindus in the region (Jats, Sikhs, Rajputs etc). The antagonism between Pashtoons and Central Asians is legendary. Even today, the local saying goes like,"where anger and revenge of pathan ends, love of a tajik begins". This says a lot about their interactions. Central asians are the true "Bete Noir" of Indian civlization throughout the history's current. There are three blocks of populations which we must understand here. a. Outer tier - Central asian block - Turks, Tajiks, Mongols, Kazaks etc. I like to talk in terms of river basins, hence the region beyond the Bakshu river (Oxus/Amu darya).

b. Third tier - Pathans (southern afghanistan and NWFP - the lands between Sindhu and Kubha (Kabul) rivers (Or some times Amudarya).

c. Punjab - Attock to Delhi and Jammu to Multan.

d. Gangetic plains

When we speak of foreign invasions on India, it refers to people from the Outer tiers (Iran and trans Oxus regions) invading India. That means, the attack of Central Asians on Pathans is considered as foreign invasion. Hence Greeks, Bactrians, Scythians, Kushans, Huns, Arabs, Mongols, Mughals, Persians, British were undoubtedly "foreign in origin" and so was their incursion of subsequent tiers of India. It turns out to be not more than 800 years in the course of documented 5000 years of Indian history since times of IVC (not considering MBH as history just for sake of argument), that India was under foreign domination. Out of those 800 years, 500 are in past millennium. That is, only 18% of time, Indic core was under foreign domination. The problem arose with Islamization of Afghanistan. Afghanistan resisted islamization for 250 years after fall of Iran. It was within 20 years of fall of Gazni (which was being ruled by Raja Shiladitya), Mehmood invaded the core and consolidated frontier of India along with outer regions.However, it is the trait of power-centre of frontiers to periodically seek expansion into Sindhu basin and vice-versa. Following that trait, Mehmood of Gazni, Muhammad Ghori, subsequent sultans of Delhi until Babar followed that tradition. The rule of the "core" was in hands of people who were ethnically Indians but culturally alienated. This is popularly known as "The Pathan Lobby".

The game-changer was First Battle of Panipat when an outsider displaced this entrenched Pathan lobby and consolidated the power of the core. The lobby of Pathans and Rajputs struck back and overthrew this foreign domination. There was internal dynamics to this struggle as well. Pathans (of Babur and Humayun's era) were alienated Hindus. Rajputs were defenders of Indic culture. Just as Rajput-Pathan lobby threw out ethnic outsider (Mughal/Mongol), Rajputs later overthrew the cultural outsiders too (Hemu Vikramaditya taming Lodis). Here we see the power-dynamics between Indians and foreigners and amongst Indians themselves (Indics and alienated Indics). The Mongols/Mughals struck back in Second Battle of Panipat, this time successfully acquiring the throne and consolidating vast stretches of lands for long time period keeping the traditional aspirants of the power, away from the power. The Pathan lobby and Rajput lobby is beautifully handled by Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb and played against each other, keeping them preoccupied. In 1681, when Aurangzeb descended on Deccan with full might of Mughal empire, the entrenched lobby of Pathans saw their chance to win what was rightfully theirs. Rajputs were deracinated by then and were out of power-struggle. It is here when the dynamics of "Islam" comes into picture.The traditional habit of Ulema to stay close to power-centre of region paid off when the regions of Awadh, Rohilkhand and Braj started making tremendous profits out of Deccan war of 27 years, when rest of India was suffering and revenues plummeting. The revenue and produce of Bengal and Odisha dropped by sharp 70% from 1690 to 1700, that is within 10 years. In same 10 years, the war-profits of western UP and Awadh (mostly dominated by Pathan lobby) increased by 67%.

Thus, after death of Aurangzeb in 1707, within few years of confusion, the chance begins to appear before Pathan lobby to usurp the long lost power. Ulema was quiet and indifferent as they do not care who the ruler is, as long as he is Islamic and is patronizing them and their quest of conversion.The first move was made by Sayyid Brothers to dethrone the Mughal successor of Aurangzeb to much more pliable successor. These brothers were the working towards restoration of Mughal (and their own) domination on north India. They managed to quell the discontent in Rajputana and rest of India, they had to give entry to an unlikely player in the game - The Marathas.

The events of similar to those prior to Second Battle of Panipat - just like Rajput-Pathan lobby tried to overthrow Mongol influence out of India, Maratha-Pathan lobby did actually manage that. After Mughals were overthrown, the internal Maratha-Pathan dynamics unravelled just like Rajput-Pathan dynamics of Hemu era. If Hemu were victorious at Panipat, he would have had to fight off Pathans just like Marathas did.

Almost all the regions which was previously under Mughal empire smoothly passed on to Marathas as protectorate. This however does not include the Braj, Awadh and eastern Bengal and Punjab, Sindh and NWFP. This is when Shah Wali started making noises about the danger that Islam will be in.

While Marathas were waiting to establish their legitimacy as natural successors to Mughals, the Pathan lobby was busy organizing their own revival. The opportunity came in 1740 when Nadir Shah invaded India. Bajirao-1 was in south, hence no army which was big enough to stop Nadir shah, was stationed in Punjab. Ahmadshah Abdali was one of the commanders of Nadir Shah in this campaign. After Nadir's assassination, and Abdali's ascension, pathans of gangetic plains contacted abdali to invade and occupy the land so as to create a continuous pathan ruled state. By Shah Waliullah, this was given a religious overtone as "jihad" against kafir Marathas.

One has to understand the global perspective of the decade of 1750's to see the roots of partition of India. The kingdom of Pathans from Caspian sea to Bengal was in making. The kingdom from Punjab to Tamil-nadu of Marathas was in making. EIC was a small force then. This chance of establishment of Pathan kingdom was antagonistic to India and Marathas and vice versa.

Panipat (as a strategic campaign) ended in stalemate. All the dreams of Pathan lobby and Ulema were vanished. Marathas continued to expand but not with earlier zeal and power. Sikhs rose but could not give a sustainable dynasty to consolidate Punjab and NWFP. Eventually British took over the administration of India in 1818 and after 150 years, India was partitioned.

To fill the gaps in between, one has to understand this lost dream of Islamic clergy (Ulema/Qazi/Mullah class), primarily based in westen Uttar Pradesh in the doab of Ganga and Yamuna, which was using Pathan lobby's political ambition to establish earlier Islamic dominance of Mughal era. This dejected Ulema mobilized the funds, influence, private armies and support of zamindars and local power-satraps of Indo-Gangetic plains under Muslim league, when chips were down. The dream was truly shattered on plains of Panipat and ironically, that heart-break came in form of victory. Hence the need to reclaim this victory and establish islamic state so fondly cherished by many people from this region. This need of alienated Indics and foreign ideology using them to find a incubator to relaunch their efforts which were stalled at Panipat, marks the beginning of partition.

Figures say that since Islamization of Afghanistan, Pathans and later Pakjabis (which are ethnically Indians) were more detrimental to India and Indic civilization than foreign rulers (Mughals except Aurangzeb and British). The inner Vibhishana has been more detrimental to India than outer Vaanaras.

Successor of Hemu's India and Maratha's India is modern Republic of India. The aim which Hemu (Rajputs) and Marathas tried to achieve was five-fold.

1. to overthrow the influence of a visible foreign power (with or without the help of alienated Indians (Pathans, Pakjabis) - Done

2. to defeat alienated Indians and overthrow their influence on policies of India and her core.

3. To reconquer the territory currently occupied by alienated Indians

4. To establish Indic system of socio-political and economics in reconquered/consolidated territory.

5. To bring alienated Indians back to Indian fold.

The fourth and fifth point has to happen simultaneously along with first three, which happen in the given order.

Hemu succeeded in overthrowing foreign power temporarily.

Marathas succeeded in overthrowing the foreign power permanently and overthrow the influence of alienated Indians on the territories and policies of India. Marathas tried to win back territory (Attock campaign) but not for long (only 19 months). They tried to implement Indic system of governance and remove foreign influence but not uniformly.

INC (with help of other nationalists) overthrew a visible foreign power. Republic of India (ROI) overthrew the influence of alienated Indians from core territory and policy-making of ROI. ROI has established a system of governance which is largely Indic and partially Western (Similar to Marathas). ROI has partially quarantined the alienated Indian lobby in its western and north-western regions like Marathas had it quarantined in Western UP. So, ROI stands at position where Marathas were in 1760. Thankfully, owing to democracy, the early deaths of good leaders won't harm ROI in a way it harmed Maratha-India.

Just like the global politics of 1750's, the internal lobby of alienated Indians (in current Pakistani Punjab) trying to establish a continuous state. That lobby is being used by a foreign ideology which aims for uniform society without state and class. ROI is the only player which stands in its way.

Prelude to the campaign

Whether to secure gangetic plains and Bengal first OR whether to secure Punjab first - this was the main topic of discussion in Pune Darbar since 1755. It is tendency of Dillipati (be it anyone) to leave Punjab to dogs and fight the enemy near Delhi when delhi is weak. When delhi is strong, they do not allow central asians to cross Indus and enter Punjab in first place. Delhi was weak after 1707. So she was sacked by Nadir Shah in 1740 and by Abdali in 1750's. To stop this, Mughals decided to give away Punjab to marathas for protection. marathas were contemplating on renewing their eastern campaign and punish alivardi khan, this meant securing Rohilkhand, Oudh and Bihar first. Najib was close to Malharrao Holkar who lobbied in pune court to take up Punjab option and postponing Ganga's liberation to further date. Pune accepted this argument.

Marathas sent army under Raghunathrao. Raghoba himself wasn't much keen to fight with afghans, and was interested in punishing Najib of Rohilkhand first (Rohilkhand is western UP). Holkar did not allow this young prince to do that. Later Marathas conquered Punjab and chased Afghans up to Khyber. Sabaji Shinde (Scindhia) was present in Peshawar and was looting adjoining Pathan areas for 19 months while attock was made the frontier of empire.

The main army of raghunathrao returned to Pune (in spite of repeated requests of Sikhs and Jats to station a large army permanently in North). After 19 months of fighting, Abdali took Attock and Punjab back from Marathas in 1759 December.

To rectify this mistake, it was decided to station a large army permanently in North to accompany the already stationed army of Dattaji Shinde. 100,000 to 150,000 troops was assigned under Bhau and Vishwasrao. IMO, this was an example of large-scale migration and not a campaign. Hence these people were accompanied with their families, traders and other house-holders. They were supposed to stay there and colonize Delhi and rest of North. Few papers suggest that it was planned that Vishwasrao be made emperor of Delhi after bandobast of abdali is complete. Bhau organized a huge ceremony in Delhi court under chairmanship of Vishwasrao and not Mughal emperor.

The Genesis of the problem

What marathas seriously misunderstood was rallying power of Islam as an idea and its efficacy in gangetic plains. The call of "Islam in danger" had no effect whatsoever on Telugu Ibrahimkhan Gardi who fought and died alongside Sadashivrao Bhau on the fields of Panipat. It had effect only on Muslims in Gangetic plains. This thing repeated during rise of Muslim leage in decade of 1940s. The idea of Pakistan did not have much support amongst Muslims in Punjab, Bengal and rest of India. It was primarily in Muslim majority districts of UP and Bihar.

Marathas considered Gangetic valley as temporarily fixed with bengal in disarray and friendly Shuja. 1755 OR 1756 to be more precise is the period of Adina Beg's idea of granting Punjab's rights to Marathas in exchange of their promise to protect Delhi from Pathans. This is when the lobbying and deliberations began. When capable people are at helm, they see things coming much earlier. In spite of whatever people say, Nanasaheb and Sadashivrao bhau were extremely capable administrators and statesmen.

The problems for Marathas started in 1737, when Bajirao-1 conquered Delhi. It was his decision not to oust Mughal emperor. He should have made himself as king of delhi OR made shahu chhatrapati as Dillipati. This was the moment of choice. When Bajirao-1 decided to preserve Mughals for namesake, the die was cast. The alienation of Hindu kings (mentally) started from that moment itself. The emotional pull of idea of Shivaji's Hindavi swarajya ended with this choice of Peshwa.

Why did Marathas preserve Mughals?

The decision of preserving Mughal emperor for namesake is most intriguing of all the decisions of Marathas. If one starts blaming Marathas for that decision, one is intrigued that when staunchly anti-Mughal Sikhs conquered Delhi temporarily in 1770, even they did not choose to oust Mughal emperor and declared him titular head. Until 1803, Mughal emperor was titular head while living off the pension from Marathas. After 1803, the guardianship of Mughal emperor moved to East-India Company when even they continued this policy of Bajirao-1 Peshwa of keeping Mughal emperor as nominal head.

Mughal Empire was non existent and in rapid decline since 1703 when Marathas crossed Narmada and conquered central India. Yet, Mughal dynasty continued to linger on till 1857 due to their preservation by Marathas and East India company respectively. Even while 1857's Indian war of independence, Nanasaheb -2 Peshwa and Tatya Tope tried to replicate similar model by naming old Bahadur Shah Zafar as titular head of independent India.

The Mughals had a large supporting networks in terms of marriage, shared unbroken blood lines and of course basic religious philosophical motivations with "all" the Islamic pieces of the Mughal empire which had survived despite the Mughal power falling.

Once a power base is created, it is not merely the dynastic people at head, which as we see in case of last Mughals were personally vacuous and inept. It is the inertia of the mutually benefiting groups which continue to need the "name" to keep the network going.

The Maratha's chose to use the network to their advantage rather than pick a fight with everyone at once by breaking it -- of course in hindsight we know it is wrong decision -- and they should have made their own ideological allies -- but in reality could they? As a large centrist power whose cadre was drawn from ALL quarters?

Having made the choice to preserve Delhi and Mughals in 1737, the requirement of Marathas in terms of "allies" changed. This is what culminated in their decisions in 20 years later. Those who could have been long term allies were alienated because of this decision.

In changed scenario of requirements, the players who presented themselves as potential allies had their advantages and drawbacks.. Whilst Marathas appreciated the advantage of preserving mughals and hence support of shuja while ignoring Jats, they did not appreciate the drawback of the same. The context of this policy realignment in 1750s is in the decision of 1737..

Once they decided to preserve delhi (an inherently islamic power centre) the responsibility of preserving and protecting other allied islamic power-centres fell upon them too. This is the reason they could not eliminate Nizam of hyderabad, in spite of defeating him conclusively time and again. Najib was Persona non grata because he openly aspired to overthrow Mughals and sit on throne himself.

Marathas left deccan to overthrow Mughals. By the time they reached Delhi, they became protectors of Mughals. This was a "deal-breaker" for many other people (like Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats, Ahoms) who were fighting against Mughals previously.

Entanglement in Rajputana

Rajput-Maratha relations are very interesting. By 16tth-17th century, Rajputs had been intricately networked with Mughals. The Islamic rebellion of 1580s was quelled by Akbar using rajputs. They were linked to Mughals and their other networks by means of marital alliances as well. Thus, for all practical purposes, 18th century Rajputs were extensions of Mughals (so some extent, there are notable exceptions, but that will be out of scope here). For Marathas who were new to this politics of north, there were too many undercurrents which they took time to understand.

Bajirao-1 had kept amicable relations with Rajputana states by far and large. After his death, the empire became so heavily entangled in politics of North and South (Kaveri basin and south of Krishna-Tungabhadra river) that it was very hectic for nanasaheb to maintain his personal presence everywhere. Furthermore, unlike his father, he was not a soldier by character. He was an armchair politician of excellent calibre.

The questions asked frequently by those interested in socio-politico-economic history of 18t century India are that

1. What were the reasons for Marathas to get entangled in politics of Rajasthan?

2. Could we attribute it to the lack of a national identity? Or was it payback time for all the harm that rajputs did in Maharashtra under the employ of the mughals?

As far as I understand, cash was major reason for this entanglement. The trade routes of Indian ocean were controlled by Europeans, by the time Mughals were defeated and marathas in Pune started framing India's policies. Shivaji began to raise navy after gap of about 650 years. Meanwhile, the ship-building tradition had almost vanished amongst "hindus". Along with it vanished the tradition of naval warfare.

Mughals and Islamic kings were from central Asia and gave no importance to navy and neglected the traditional hold of India (and Indian powers) on Indian ocean for 5 centuries (From early 1100s to 1650s). In those 650 years, the necessity of Europe to reach out to India grew dire and in that process they developed better tools to reach India some way or the another. Most important of those tools were better ships loaded with better guns.

Marathas had to reinvent the wheel of Ship-building and naval warfare completely. While they were the ones who started meddling with european powers, Maratha navy was essentially a brown-water navy (which is still the case in modern republic of India, who is successor of maratha India). With this navy they did conquer bases like Andaman and other islands, they could not encourage Indic mercantile ventures to go out and trade with rest of the world under the aegis and protection of Maratha navy (something which even modern Indian state isn't doing much).

There are various reasons for this, one of them being by that time Hinduism had acquired many negative self-flagellant attributes, one of them being "Sindhu-Bandi" (First of the seven legendary "prohibitions" on Hindus). Sindhu-Bandi prohibited Hindus from crossing Indus river and Indian ocean. The Vaishya-class of India was more of less following this norm.

The process which "generates surplus wealth" is trade. One who controls trade-routes, has access to surplus resources which he can use at his disposal. While agriculture and taxation also contribute towards "sustenance", they cannot create impetus for growth.

The predecessors of Maratha-India that is Mughal-India and Sultanate-India had lost this control. Hence policy makers of Maratha India were perpetually cash-strapped, even when the taxation of the territories ruled by them was quite efficient. They were not much indulgent rulers, nor did they spend money on private or public construction projects, except religious revival (all temples destroyed by muslims were rebuilt in Maratha-India).

Shivaji had abolished the mansabdari system and started paying fixed salary to all his soldiers and employees with a calibrated pay-scale. However, when Aurangzeb invaded deccan, he started luring the deccan satraps by offering them Mansabs and jaagirs (fiefdoms). To prevent this attrition of men, the third Maratha king (Rajaram) abolished the reform brought in by his father (Shivaji) and implemented by his elder brother (Sambhaji) in spite of adverse conditions and started offering Jaagirs to Maratha chiefs.

He decentralized Maratha resistance (which is why they could outfight Mughals for 27 years and emerge victorious thereafter). This decentralization implied Maratha chiefs could win territories from Mughal occupied India and could extract the chauth (25% revenue) to sustain themselves. They would not receive any assistance from Maratha state, except authorization.

This school of thought sustained after Mughals died out and marathas retook India. War and expansion require revenues. With no access to trade and revenue generated therein, the options left in hand was agriculture, taxation or loot. The output of war-ravaged country in form of taxation and agriculture is very less (it takes time for farmers to come back and confidently till their lands).

Rajputs had allied themselves with Mughals since days of Akbar. many of the Rajput kings were intimately linked with Mughals (mother of Aurangzeb was a Rajput princess, if I remember correctly). Hence the wealth was intact in Rajputana. While Rajputs showed no tendency to regroup and expand outside Rajputana (akin to Marathas), they were sitting on pool of wealth, part of which had escaped Mughal retribution for at least 100 years prior to expansion of Marathas. Furthermore, Marwadi people had knack of trading and accumulating wealth (in fact, Peshwas encouraged Marwadis to migrate to Maharashtra and start their ventures there). This Marwad region too is in Rajputana.

Marathas which emerged out victorious, belonged to the school of Rajaram and not Shivaji and Sambhaji. Hindu society was not yet ready to venture out to trade. To do so, they had to depend on Europeans and Indians had lost the technology to build ships which could compete and outmatch europeans due to negligence of 600 years. These cash-strapped expanding Hindus needed money to fuel their expansion. Territory controlled by Rajputs had that money stored in their coffers. Marathas had no qualms in looting or asking for 25% chauth, in fact it was righteous thing to do as that would fund their expansion and temple-rebuilding ventures.

Furthermore, Rajputs were divided, hence comparatively easier to cherry-pick. They belonged to "Hindu" side (and hence kafir side) of Mughal network, so attacking them won't provoke Indian "Ummah" to give a clarion call for Abdali-like Jihad again (which resulted in Panipat), hence attacking Rajput was more "politically convenient". There are many other factors (like Shinde-Holkar-Peshwa triangle which emerged after 1745, entanglement of Marathas in politics of Ganga-valley and few more). All these factors resulted in Maratha-Rajput relations. Similar other region was Bengal, something similar happened there from 1740 to 1751.

The Indian national identity was very much present, hence we cannot attribute the infighting of Indians and Hindus to lack of national identity. There are numerous letters from period of Shivaji to later Peshwas (until 1802) where "India for Indians" sentiment is spoken of and acted upon time and again. Panipat campaign is pinnacle of this sentiment. So we cannot attribute it to "lack of national identity" in Marathas. Marathas, after 1715, were "India", just like from Samudragupta onwards, Guptas were "India".

Nor can it be attributed to vengeance. Most Maratha-clans claim their Rajput ancestory (Shivaji came from Sisodiya clan). Marathas did not even avenge the Jaipur Massacre of 1748 by Madho Singh, when they were at their peak, forget the Mughal invasion of Raja Jaisingh century earlier in 1660s.

Marathas had not yet consolidated Ganga-plains to profit from agricultural revenue. They could not profit from trade revenues for reasons mentioned above. Taxation can do only so much. They were in process of consolidating and eventually controlling two agriculturally most productive regions of India (Ganga Valley and Punjab). For doing so, they needed to keep armies. For that they needed cash. and hence whenever they needed cash, they turned towards Rajputana.

Did Marathas have choice of allying with Jats, Rajputs, Sikhs against Muslims? Was it really a "Hindu Vs Muslim" conflict? No, IMHO. It was more of "Dharma Vs. Islam" conflict. This again does not imply that all actions of marathas were Dharmiks. But what they were aiming for, were fighting and dying for since the oath of 14-year old Shivaji in 1645, was idea of Dharmik India ruled by Indians (Hindavi Swarajya and Surajya).

Surajmal Jat or Shuja of Lucknow - Problem is choice

Jats were organized force with a leader whom Marathas could do business with. The fourth option was shuja who was wealthy, powerful and friend of Marathas. Marathas counted on Shuja to help them in Panipat. shuja's mother was extremely amicable on personal terms with Peshwa. Peshwa asked him either to support Marathas OR if not possible, at least stay neutral in this feud.

When Marathas started "thinking" about Punjab in 1755, these question were considered. These are basic factors which any emperor will think about, afterall army walks on stomach. Whether allies are powerful or not is not enough. The other criteria is whether they are useful OR not. Jat was powerful but not useful for Maratha policies. Shuja was powerful and useful.

For conquest of Punjab and northwest, Gangetic valley has to supply the material. Who was controlling GV in 1755? Najib, Shuja and Aliwardykhan.. Alivardi was already paying chauth to marathas, but he is too far off in east (not to mention peshwa-bhonsla complication). Najib was the real problem, this was identified by Peshwa and Shinde. Furthermore, Najib was Sunni-pathan, Mughals were enemies of Pathan but were Sunni. Shuja of Awadh was Shia. Najib was inimical to Shuja (shia-sunni angle) and hence Peshwa was friendly to Shuja.

Shuja did not fight because his forces were stationed in front of Holkar along with Najib on Extreme left flank of Abdali. He had Holkar in front of him. And for many reasons (some not so pleasant), Holkar wasn't very keen on fighting with Najib and viceversa. Shinde had to attack najib diagonally while Holkar did not move.

From Peshwa's point of view, Shuja and Surajmal were two options to make "alliance". Of two, Shuja was better placed financially, whereas Jats militarily. The troops were never problem for Marathas, they controlled virtually entire India and could raise an army from recruitment anywhere. The problem for them was feeding the army. Even Surajmal was not rich enough to feed army of 400.000 men and million animals for half-year. Shuja had that power..

Furthermore, Shuja, like Peshwa was in favour of preserving Mughal emperor nominally. Jats were in favour of abolishing mughal dynasty. This was not in conformance with Maratha policy of national consolidation. Hence the logical option left in front of them was "Shuja". Hence Nanasaheb Peshwa was amicably realted to seat of Lucknow. Seat of Lucknow got suspicious of Marathas because Marathas did not punish Sunni Najib. Marathas did not punish Najib because Holkar did not want that to happen. Holkar was known to pull the horse of Raghoba by reins when Raghoba was keen on destroying Najib.

Holkar did not want Najib to be destroyed was because he had lost his son (husband of ahiliyabai) in war and was heir-less and Holkar was not completely sure of intentions of Peshwa faction and more importantly Shinde faction. He needed sometime to be sure of Shindes. He had no heir while Shindes had Dattaji, Jankoji, Mahadaji Shinde (sons of Ranoji Shinde, his co-disciple of guru Bajirao-1 peshwa) who were alive. So he needed an enemy of Shinde faction to linger long enough to be sure of Shindes and Peshwa.. This was purpose of Najib in Malharrao's mind..

The tangled web of interests caused a huge jigsaw puzzle which unraveled on that fateful day of 14th January 1761.

The Sikh Angle

Sikhs were not organised by 1750. It was after 1762 that Sikhs started becoming a force to reckon with. Even if there were a support base for, Marathas in punjab, there are many operational problems..

Village is fundamental structural and functional unit of India. On an average every village had 200 households (my estimate). Villagers leave their homes and either take refuge of forests OR fortified cities when Pathans cross Sindhu and descend on plains of Punjab . If they go to fortified cities, they fight for its defence and live if city prevails and die if city falls. If they go to forests, they live if they have enough rations, OR die of hunger, animals, enemy OR nature. Given the sparse nature of towns and cities in medieval times, most of the people took refuge of forests, abandoning the land.

Ruler needs encourage people to return to their lands and till it. Even if Punjab was taken by Marathas for purpose of tax (Punjab has and had very high tax potential similar to bengal), it would have taken at least 4-5 years of stable occupation for people to start paying chauth. The net income of Marathas in Punjab campaign (in spite of the loot) was negative because there was nothing left to loot.

Furthermore, while Sikhs were harrassing Abdali using guerilla warfare tactics, it is easy for Sikhs than Marathas, to do so for two reasons.

A. It was their home-base. B. Their armies were not so huge and sophisticated, hence the supplies were very simple ones. Not many horses, cheap weapons, no elephants, no artillery (and associated maintenance crew for all units), no royal women with all their luxuries (relatively). For such an army, the list of items to be supplied is really long.

Punjab and Sikhs (even if they were friends of Marathas) were not in position to fulfill this demand of such a huge army. It is easy to feed a fighting band of 200-300 men. It is takes huge toll to feed a gathering of 400,000 men and about million animals. No village, town, citadel or power centre of sikhs were in position to make the supplies.

All these factors culminated on 14th January 1761.

I remember our ancestors who fought and died to protection of Rashtra and Dharma and gave such a blow to the enemy that there hasn't been a single invasion from northwest again in last 250 years.

250 years ago, those brave men must have gathered in tent of Bhau. They must have started their discussions on how to break the siege and move towards Yamuna. They knew Peshwa had left Pune with 50,000 army. It was only matter of time when Abdali would find himself between rock and a hard place. The only luxury they did not have, was time. There was no food. Almost everyone was hungry in the army for atleast 2-3 days, including horses. They had to reach Yamuna at all costs.

The north India was shivering with cold wave. Marathas come from region which is not so cold, they did not have enough clothes to protect them from cold and their armour was light. their strength was speed, but with empty stomachs, how far will they run and how fast?

Malharrao must have insisted on using traditional fast manoeuvring tactics of Marathas. Bhau, however, had sensed that there cannot be victory unless troops get food to eat and water to drink. He wanted to reach Yamuna and cross the river at all costs, under cover of artillery. Bhau must have taken Holkar aside, alone and insisted to save himself and all women, should anything unfortunate happens.

Next day morning at dawn, everybody ate the last piece of bread, applied turmeric to their faces determined to kill or die. The opening salvo of Maratha artillery went over the heads of Abdali's troops. Gardi recalibrated the range and his batteries started raining fire, hell and death on right flank of Abdali. The charges of abdali on left flank of Marathas was foiled again and again. Under that cover, the entire base of Marathas, their women, children, traders, old pilgrims started moving towards Yamuna. So fierce was this artillery attack that entire battlefield was in hands of Marathas for entire morning. About 12000 Pathans were killed by left flank of Marathas in matter of an hour. One can imagine the horror in the eyes of Abdali.

The enemy started attacking centre. Bhau advanced the centre under his personal command. The charge of maratha centre under bhau is one of the most romantic moments to imagine. It is depicted in the picture above with Bhau on elephant and Vishwasrao, Vitthal Shivdeo and elite heavy cavalry of 15000 Huzurat devastating the centre of Abdali. The road to Yamuna was now open. The lines of Abdali were pushed 3 to 5 kilometers behind in matter of minutes, sheerly due to inertia of the charging cavalry far away from range of Abdali's infantry. The victory was in sight, the road to safety, food and delhi was opened. Now all that was required was hold ground and position. Bhau's men were tired, but they cut entire army of Abdali in two halves and the right half of Afghan army was totally destroyed by Ibrahimkhan's artillery. It was only matter of time now.

Shinde started his attacks on Najib preventing him from coming for the aid of Abdali.

This is when accidently, Vishwasrao fell to a stray bullets while facing the charge of Afghan reserve and camel mounted artillery known as "Shaturnal". The Afghan heavy cavalry began their charge and with Bhau in firing range, Ibrahimkhan could not fire on advancing Afghan heavy cavalry. Bhau assigned 1500 troops for protection of artillery and led the charge himself. He knew that it was all over and now all he could do is inflict as much damage upon Afghans as possible before he died.

Almost entire generation was killed in one single day. There was no home left in Maharashtra and MP which had not lost someone on Panipat. Generation lost, but Rashtra saved... lakhs killed, but Dharma saved... all that in one day - 14th January 1761...

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