British : Anglo-Maratha Wars

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One of the most interesting event in the 18th century India was the phenomenal rise and subsequent decay of an empire. This empire was the Maratha empire. The foundation stone of this empire was basically laid by Shivaji in the late-seventeenth century. After his death the power passed on to his immediate successors who were his son and subsequently his grandson Shahuji. Later on Shahuji confided power to a Brahmin Bhat family, and thus started the order of Peshwa (a royal title).

The Peshwas ruled from Poona, Balaji Vishwanath became the first Peshwa. The subsequent growth was phenomenal within few years the Maratha kingdom was transformed into a Maratha empire. There strength was feared by some and revered by others. There strength can be gauged by the fact that they were the only Indian power at that time who had a strong naval presence, comparable to the Europeans of that time.

The man behind their superior naval power was Kanoji Angre, who had mastered the art of Naval warfare and was one of the finest naval generals India has ever seen. In 1720 Baji Rao Peshwa ascended the throne in Poona. He was a man of virtue, some historians even compare him with Shivaji. If Shivaji laid the foundation he built the building. He expanded the Maratha kingdom from western coast to the shores of Bay of Bengal and gave it a shape of an empire. At one time the strength of the Marathas grew to such an extent that they were in a position to cross Attock and invade Afghanistan. But fate had it, the battle of Panipat in 1761 against Ahmad Shah Abdali proved disastrous for the Marathas. They lost two brightest of stars (Peshwas son & cousin) in their ranks and many talented generals. For a decade they were not able to recover yet there empire was much bigger than that of the Mughals.

By mid-1700 one more force had emerged in the vacuum of the Indian political arena, the British East India Company. The company had already showed its might by defeating the combined forces of Mughal Shah Alam and Bengal's Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah at the Battle of Plassey. Soon hostilities broke out between the Company and the Marathas. The first Anglo-Maratha war took place between 1775-82 and resulted in a humiliating defeat of the Company's forces which in turn resulted in the treaty of Salbai. Soon the Maratha empire was in a position to regain its lost glory and it had found a genius in Madhaji Schindia. But his death in 1794 dashed all hopes of Maratha revivalism. Soon they followed the Mughals into dissolution.

The second Anglo-Maratha war took place between the Maratha chiefs and British forces lead by Arthur Wellesley and Lord Lake in Assaye between 1803-05. The Marathas were comprehensively defeated but soon Holkars staged a spectacular recovery. The company was in no position to fight back the spirited recovery, with no assistance from London, which was pretty busy with Napolean's rising strength. Soon Wellesley was recalled.

But the disunity within the Maratha confederacy resulted in mute submission of the Schindia's and the crushing defeat of the rest of them. By 1818 all was over for the Marathas, they were defeated by Lord Hasting. Peshwas territories were confiscated till Bombay and Peshwa was pensioned off to Kanpur.

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