Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baji Rao's letter to Chimanji Appa during his campaigns in North India

I came across this interesting letter in a very old book I acquired recently. The letter is by the great Peshwa Baji Rao to his younger brother Chimanji Appa during the formers campaigns in the north . Its been translated from Marathi to English in that book.

This letter is one of the updates to his younger brother Chimanji who he had left in the Deccan to manage affair in his absence.   

Peshwa Baji Rao
Let me set the back ground for the letter. Peshwa Baji Rao had invaded Malwa starting 1731 under the invitation of Raja Chatrasal of the Bundelas who was tired of Mughal tyranny and seeing the opportunity to break free invited Peshwa Baji Rao to remove the Mughals from Malwa. Having defeated the Mughals in Malwa he chased them all the way to Delhi where he laid waste vast swathes of land from Delhi in the west to the Oudh and doab region in the east. In a minor encounter in Oudh, Sadat Khan the governor of Oudh defeated a small raiding party under Malharrao Holkar about which he gloated to the Mughal emperor as having defeated the entire Maratha army which only managed to enrage Baji Rao who resolved to show 'Maratha Horse' to the emperor at the gates of Delhi and prove Sadat Khan as a liar (Sadat Khan later plays a treacherous role in the invasion of Nadir Shah). Apart from this minor set back Baji Rao completely defeated all imperial forces humbled the Mughal emperor made him give up Malwa permanently and pay war indemnity. This letter also show the confidence of the Peshwa Baji Rao in his abilities, in the valour of the stout Maratha heart and utter contempt he held the Mughals when he thinks of simply burning down the capital. On the other hand he also is concerned about the activities of Nizam-ul-Mulk the treacherous Nizam of Hyderabad in the south who may start a misadventures forcing Baji rao to cut short his campaign and return south. So without further ado lets proceed to the letter of Peshwa Baji Rao.
Translation of a letter sent by Bajirao to his brother Chimanji
Appa, sent from Jaypur bearing the date of 5th April 1 737.

To Appa. You must have already learnt from our letters sent with Kasis (special couriers) in which I have given in detail the news of our having left in Bundelkhand all our followers in charge of Prince Jagatraj and of the action with Sadat Khan. Sadat Khan crossed the Jamna and arrived at Agra. If we were to meet him there we were not sure of defeating him owing to his advantageous position there. If we were to wait at the confluence of the Jamna and the Gambhir, that place was also unsafe owing to landslips and erosions. Besides Khan Dauran and Mahomed Khan Bangash were on their way to Agra from Delhi, and in case they and Sadat Khan happened to join, it would have been a serious affair. So it was not thought proper to encamp at the confluence. Further, Sadat Khan wrote to the Emperor and his courtiers that he had routed the Maratha Army that had crossed the Jamna, killing two thousand cavalry and drowning two thousand in the river; that Malharji Holkar and Vithoba Pule had fallen in the action. Such had been the result of Bajirao's invasion! He further vauntingly wrote that he would cross the Jamna and defeat the Marathas and drive them away beyond the Chambal. The emperor expressed great satisfaction at this and sent to Sadat Khan a dress of honour, a pearl necklace, an elephant and an aigrette. Clothes of honour were also presented to Sadat Khan's agent at the Delhi court. Thus Sadat Khan strengthened his and his party's influence with the emperor. He also wrote to several nobles in contemptuous terms about Marathas. Dhondo Govind (Peshwa's agent at Delhi) kept us informed of all these particulars from time to time. In short, Sadat Khan tried to impress the Moghul court that the Maratha army had neither spirit nor energy and that he had completely defeated it. You are already aware how things pass in Moghul politics. No action and high talk is their motto. The emperor fully believes all this but he must now be disillusioned. This could be done in two ways—either to inflict a crushing defeat on Sadat Khan or to march on Delhi and to set fire to the capital, and thus disprove Sadat Khan's boastful statements. We accordingly decided to march against Delhi as Sadat Khan would not leave Agra, and setting fire to the capital bring to the notice of the emperor the existence of the Marathas. With this determination we started for Delhi on the 26th Jilkad (18th March 1737), Leaving aside the imperial route we followed the hilly tract along the Newati frontier through the territory of Daman Sing, Chudaman Jat. Dhondopant our Vakil was with Khan Dauran. Sadat Khan sent a word to Khan Dauran:—"I have defeated Bajirao's army. His followers have fled away and Bajirao himself has crossed the Chambal. Now why do you flatter him and with what object? Why should you entertain his Vakil at your court? He must be now dismissed." Dhondopant was accordingly sent away. He then came to us. Kamruddin Khan, Azmulla Khan and others encountered us, but we did not meet them- Leaving them 14 miles off to our right, we arrived at Delhi on the 7th Jilhej (28th March) after forced marches of 40 miles each. We pitched our camp near Kushbandi (a suburb of Delhi) leaving Barapula and Kalika temple to our right. We wanted to burn the capital to ashes but on second thought we saw no good in destroying the mighty city and ruining the imperial throne at Delhi. Moreover the emperor and Khan Dauran desired to make peace with us, but the Moghuls would not agree to it. An act of outrage however breaks the thread of politics. We, therefore, gave up the idea of burning the capital and sent lettere to the emperor and Raja Bakhatmal. Two elephants, some horses and camels coming out from the city were however captured) by our advanced guard. 

Some of our soldiers had a scuffle with the people from Delhi who had gone out to attend the Bhawani fair. Next day, Wednesday, 30th March, Raja Bakhatmal sent a reply under commands of the emperor, asking us to send Dhondopant to the imperial court. We did not, however, despatch him as there was a great commotion in Delhi owing to our presence near the capital; but we sent a word in reply. "We are sending Dhondopant, please send a strong guard under a reliable officer to escort him. We are marching on to the Zil Tank as our presence near the city is likely to disturb its peace." And we moved on. As we were passing the capital a force consisting of 7 to 8 thousand men was sent by the emperor under Nawab Mir Hasan Khan Koka, commander of the Khas Chowki, Nawab Amir Khan, Khoja Roz Afzul Khan, Raja Shivsingh Jamadar, Commander of the Cavalry, Muzfur Khan, Deputy-General, Nawab Muzufur Khan, brother of Khan Dauran, who met us near Rikabgunj outside the city. Satwaji Jadhav who commanded the advance guard met the Moghul forces and a fight took place between them. On hearing this we sent forces to help him under Malharji Holkar, Ranoji Shinde, Tukoji Pawar, Jiwaji Pawar, Yeshwantrao Pawar, Manaji Payagude and Govind Hari. They gallantly fought with the Moghuls and completely defeated them. Raja Shivsingh and ten other noblemen were killed; Nawab Mir Hasan Koka was wounded and about three hundred soldiers from the emperor's army were killed and four hundred wounded. Roz Afzul Khan, Amir Khan, Muzfur Khan fled to the capital. We captured two thousand horses though five or six thousand fled away. Indroji Kadam from Ranoji Shinde's cavalry received a bullet wound by which two of his fingers were cut off. No other person of note on our side was killed but some men and horses were wounded. We then encamped at the Zil Tank. About two hours before sunset news came that Kamruddin Khan had arrived from Padashahpur. We at once started to meet him. A fight took place. Yeshwantrao Pawar captured an elephant that was within a gun-shot from the Moghul artillery. A number of horses and camels came to our camp when it was sunset. 

Maratha Cavalryman
We wanted to besiege the Moghul army from all sides and give them a crushing defeat next day. But we could not do so as there were several difficulties in our way, the Zil Tank was about 32 miles off from us; Kamruddin Khan was to our right and in our front was the capital. Besides this, the news of our march on Delhi reached Nawab Khan Dauran, Sadat Khan, and Mahomed Khan Bangash on Tuesday the 7th of Jilhej (28th March) at Radhakund. They left behind their heavy baggage and immediately proceeded to Badel about 64 mUes distant with an army of about twenty-five to thirty thousand strong. Next day they halted on the rivulet of Alawardi about 50 miles off. On Thursday morning Khan Dauran, Sadat Khan and Bangash were to join Kami'uddin Khan. The situation then would have been perilous, as the capital was near. We, therefore, left the Moghuls and halted at a distance of 8 miles. On our side Firangoji Patankar was killed by a bullet. A few men and some horses were also wounded. The Moghul casualties amounted to from 5  to 10- On Thursday Sadat Khan, Khan Dauran, and Bangash joined Kamruddin Khan. Their camps were spread from Alawardi to the Zil Tank. We designed to draw the Moghuls on us and then to fall back and defeat them. With this object we broke the camp and moved on via Revad, Kotputali, and Manoharpur. The news has come that the Moghuls have not as yet left their camps between Alawardi and Zil Tank and that Mir Hasan Khan Koka who was wounded in the first action has died. Khan Dauran wrote letters after letters to Sawai Jaising to send reinforcement. He has accordingly started with a force of fifteen to sixteen thousand men and artillery and has arrived at Basava. He intends visiting Khan Dauran. Sawaiji has also sent us friendly letters, requesting us to leave his territory undisturbed. Our agent, Venkaji Ram, is in his camp. He writes these letters to us. We do not disturb his territory, as we expect to get supplies of grain and fodder from Sawaiji on our way. Abhayasing is at Jodhpur. Now we are going to collect our dues from the Gwalior and Bhadavar Provinces. If the Moghuls still pursue us, we shall harass them and reduce them by driving them by force from place to place and utterly crush them by the grace of our king (Raja Shahu) and the blessings of our ancestors. Be not anxious on our account. The chief thing to be noted is that the emperor and Khan Dauran wish to make peace with us while the Moghuls are striving to defeat us, and Sadat Khan is at their head. If by the favour of God his vanity is subdued, everything will be to our satisfaction. If the terms of peace are favourable we shall accept them. Otherwise we shall not conclude any peace. We have annexed the territory about Delhi. The territory about Sonpat and Panpat beyond the Jamna still remains with the Moghuls. We shall plunder and capture it soon and see that the Moghuls will be starved. We shall write to you later on what happens here. If perchance the Moghuls remain in possession of Delhi we shall go to Agra and enter into Antarved (districts between the Ganges and Jamna) and ravage the whole territory. If Nizam-ul-Mulk rises and crosses the Narbada, fall upon his rear and harass him as previously advised. On this side none is to be afraid of. Let there be none whom we need fear. It will be better if the Nizam is held in check.

I close this with my blessings to you. Continue to love me as ever.

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