Short notes on the policy of expansion of Marathas

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The rise of Maratha in the 17th century is an important event in Indian History. There were many causes of their rise.

The geographical situation, Bhakti movement, literature and language, the dominant influence of the Hindu power as well as the Deccan policy of the Mughal emperors – all contributed significantly to the rise of the Maratha power. Shivaji united together the fragmented Marathas scattered in different parts of Maharashtra. He organised them and created an independent state. This led to the direct Maratha – Mughal confrontation.

A number of Rajput rulers were sent to the Deccan a Mughal commanders and this resulted in the first phase of Rajput-Maratha contacts. By the end of 17th century the decline of Mughal power had set in. In the last 25 years of his life Aurangzeb tried hard to subdue the Marathas, but he was not successful. Besides this, the Marathas started to raid the rich provinces of Malwa and Gujarat. In the year 1699 they attacked Malwa for the first time. It was twice attacked by them during the last days of Aurangzeb’s reign.

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In the year 1706 they also defeated Mughal army in the south Gujarat. But at that time the aim of the Marathas was to harass the empire and divert the Emperor’s attention from his offensive activities in the Deccan. But after his death mutual rivalries in the Mughal court created confusion and chaos in the distant provinces and provided greater opportunity for the Maratha advance into Malwa and Gujarat.

In 1710, Maratha sardar Ganga crossed – Narbada and after exacting twenty five thousand rupees from the people on the way he reached as far as Ujiain. This and successive advances of the Marathas into imperial territory were alarming not only for the Mughal emperor, but also for the states of Rajasthan. There were two basic causes for this anxiety on the part of the rulers of Rajasthan.

One reason was that they were looking with courteous eyes at Malwa and Gujarat hence, considered Maratha power as a stumbling block in their hope of exploiting the declining Mughal power. Marwar wanted to occupy Gujarat, and Amber had an eye over Malwa. Another reason was that the powerful Marathas would then turn to grab the states of Rajasthan particularly Mewar, Bundi, Kota and Marwar.

This was a danger signal to the Rajputs too. Thus, Malwa and Gujarat became vital and sensitive points in the defence strategy of the Mughals. The survival of the empire and independence of neighboring Rajput states were very largely dependent on effective and timely protection of these border provinces. Hence, he felt the necessity of appointing there a governor like Sawai Jai Singh of Amber who was considered a suitable vassal price for dealing with the Marathas – both as a diplomat and also as a general.

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So, he was appointed the governor of Malwa. Jai Singh testified his appointment by his brave and vigorous resistance against and victories over the huge Maratha army in May 1715. But the effect of these victories proved short lived. Soon after Sept. 1715 Mai Singh was summoned to the court and was entrusted with the task of suppressing Jats. For the next two years he remained completely engrossed in the Jat campaign. His prolonged absence from Malwa encouraged the Marathas to resume their raids into that province. His campaign against the Marathas proved abortive.

A new strategy of Maratha expansion began with Bajirao taking over as Peshwa in 1720 A.D. Now the systematic expansion towards North became the definite and declared policy of the Marathas. In accordance with this policy in 1723 he made an incursion into Malwa, collected chauth, which deeply hurt the Mughal Empire.

The ambition and security of the princes of Rajasthan received its first set back in 1724 when the Marathas attacked the boundaries of Mewar, Mahafana Sangram Singh II of Mewar sought the help of other rulers of Rajasthan to ward off Maratha attacks. This we learn from a “Kharita” written on 25th Nov. 1724 by him to Jai Singh, The Maharana wrote that the “Deccanis always created disturbance in his territory and they would not give up their habits unless they were properly chastised.”

This appeal of Maharana did not bear any fruit. The Marathas began their attacks on Rampura, Kota and Bundi too. These raids gave a foretaste of the calamities to the Rajasthan princes. Hence, Maharana sought the help of Emperor against the Marathas.

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However, it seems that the Mughal Emperor did not take these attacks with the seriousness it deserved. Sangram Singh and Jai Singh also apprised the Nizam with the situation regarding the Maratha raids into various parts of Rajasthan. Not having succeeded in securing any assistance from either the Nizam or the emperor, jai Singh tried to involve Kota and Jodhpur in a military organisation. These moves of the Rajputs princess naturally alarmed the Marathas, so Shahu sent his two officers, Gopalpant and Appaji Pant, in Mewar to discuss the whole matter with the Maharana.

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