“The night has nothing to do with sleep. It was created by God to attack territory held by your enemy. The night is your shield, your screen against the cannons and swords of vastly superior enemy forces.”

This story is not simply a story of Baji Rao’s military conquests. This is a story of that momentous time in our history that saw it regain its freedom from the clutches of Islamic Invaders. This is a story of a brilliant, passionate, brave, young man who never lost a battle, who made friends who carried on his “muhim” of free Hindustan. He made enemies who were brutal, cunning & formidable enough to be feared by a nation. Together they changed the story of Hindustan.

Baji Rao Peshwa is a story that history forgot, Independent India did not care for him but he lived on in the collective memories of Bharat. This incredible man was more than a ruler, leader or general. Baji Rao was the true inheritor of Shivaji Maharaj’s dream of Hindawi Swaraj. He changed the map of India and turned it Bhagwa. He was one of the architects of the Badshahi agreement that saw the Bhagwa flur atop ‘Lal Qila’. His military campaigns were the stuff legends are made of. He redefined cavalry warfare, founded an empire that lived on long after his death. Like a flame that burnt too bright, he too lived an eventful, passionate life and left the world at the prime of his life.

Brave as a tiger and handsome as a God, he defies explanation in simple terms. Brave, ambitious, ingenious, strategist, administrator, leader, visionary, fearless, romantic, generous, chivalrous are terms that are inadequate the man that was Baji Rao. He fought against the best that the mughal empire had to offer – Nizam ul Mulk. He mentored and guided distinguished names like Malhar Rao Holkar, Ranoji Scindia, Sawai Jai Singh. But heroes or villains, they all pale into insignificance in front of the brilliance of the man that was Baji Rao.

He lived in an era that had, as his contemporaries, extraordinary kings and warriors and generals who left their mark on history. Their lives intertwined in a way that wrote a history rich with tales of strength, military brilliance, chivalry, betrayal and friendship.


In 1707 after Aurangzeb’s death, the Mughal empire lasted for 41 years only. During this period, the Marathas waged constant wars against the Mughals and managed to wrest some territories from their control. But theirs’ was a campaign of survival not of expansion. During these tumultuous times, Baji Rao Ballal was born on 18th August 1700. His childhood was spent under the reign of 6 Mughal emperors – Bahadur Shah, Jahandar Shah, Farrukhshiyar & Rafi ud Daulla, Roshan Akhtar aka Mohammad Shah (& one minor emperor who lasted a few months only). While the famed Peacock throne or the Takht ai Taus, saw a series of weak emperors, the nation also saw the rise of 5 major powers – The Sayyid Brothers (Shia noblemen – Abdulla Khan & Hussain Ali), Chin Qilich Kahn (Nizam ul Mulk), Sawai Jai Singh, Maharaja Ajit Singh of Jodhpur & Marathas under Shahu ji.

These 5 warlords & kings would at one time or another stand with or against Baji Rao. He fought them, befriended them and they in turn, together, influenced the history of our Bharat. It was a momentous time that saw the establishment of Hindawi Swaraj and the Bhagwa Flag flutter atop the Red Fort – seat of Mughal Power.


“You must be fearless as lions and strong as tigers. You must be soldiers and leaders of men. Nothing but nothing should deter you”

With these words Balaji Vishwanath, raised his two sons Baji Rao & Chimnaji. Under strict discipline & continuous training, Baji Rao grew up exactly as his father hoped – Fearless and Strong, Soldier & Leader. Baji Rao got his first taste of battle at the age of 11 years. He was part of his father, Bala ji’s expedition against Dhamaji Thorat. He was also part of the Hussain Ali Sayyid’s revolt to overthrow Mughal Emperor Farrukhshiyar. After Farruhshiyar’s defeat, the Marathas, under Shahu ji became the defacto ruler of the area of Maharashtra. It was this time in Delhi, Baji Rao became friends with the ruler of Jaipur, Sawai Jai Singh. Jai Singh taught Baji Rao the intricacies of political negotiations. Both his father Bala ji and Sawai Jai Singh taught Balaji the leadership of men in battle and in darbar.

“Baji Rao united the enterprise, vigour, and hardihood of a Maratha chief with the polished manners, the sagacity and address which frequently distinguished the brahmins of KonkanHe had both the head to plan & the hand to execute” Grant Duff, History of Marathas

After ascension to the position of Peshwa, Baji Rao presented to the King Shahu ji, his plans for the territorial expansion of the fledging Maratha Empire. Baji wanted to invade the vast territories of the Mughals and plant the Bhagwa Parcham atop Red Fort. Such an endeavor would have prompted reprisals from Nizam-ul-Mulk, (governor of Deccan with a powerful army at his command). Baji Rao did not argue with logic, he relied on grand speech full of machismo & promise of glory & gold. He stirred the patriotic fervor of Marathas by invoking the rich imagery of Bhagwa over India and Mughals thrown out of India. His performance was such that –

“The commanding stature ….. the rich clear voice, the bold virile features, the dark imperious eyes that forced attention and above all, the rare facilities of diction that for centuries has been the peculiar gift of the Chitpavan Brahmins, produced and irresistible effect A history of the Maratha People, Kincaid & Parsanis

Baji Rao relied on cavalry – He was a horseman first and last. He used horses as weapons of war, fast mobility and elements of surprise. He equipped his cavalry with the best chain mail armor, shields, swords and lances. Riders in his cavalry had at least 3 horses in between them and they would ride through the day and night by changing horses between them – never stopping. when on march Baji Rao made sure that they travelled light – weapons & armor. Food was frugal and water scarce but the Maratha cavalry were hard men trained and driven harder by Baji Rao.


He remained undefeated throughout his career. It was his cavalry that won him those battles. But it was one battle – the BATTLE OF PALKHED that – Defeated the Nizam decisively, planted the Bhagwa firmly in Deccan, spelt the end of Mughal power in India, Established Shahu ji as the unrivaled Chatrapati of Marathas.

Palkhed was the crowing battle in Baji Rao’s career as a warrior. After ill advised campaigns to gain territory & tributes, into the deep south, the Maratha forces were exhausted and depleted in weapons and manpower. The Nizam in the meantime had a well rested, war hardened army with a powerful artillery and he had an alliance with Sambha ji (Shahu ji’s cousin). This last move was aimed at making Marathas fight each other and then finishing off the survivor. (Yes Hindu even then were as idiotic and divided as they are now)

In 1727, the Nizam and his Maratha ally were poised to attack Shahu ji’s kingdom. The action was scheduled to start after the rains in mid-November. Baji Rao’s decided to forestall the Nizam and he attacked the enemy during the monsoon season. He led a light cavalry of 6000 horsemen. Baji Rao moved fast, travelling 100-110 kms everyday. He did not stop at night but rested in short intervals. He attacked the Nizam’s supply lines, led night raids through the Nizam’s camps. He attacked hard and he’d disappear into the night before Nizam’s soldiers could counterattack.. Before anyone realized, Baji Rao’s seemingly random attacks placed him outside Nizam’s old capital, Aurangabad. 17th Oct, 1727, he attacked and razed the city and its surrounding areas. While Nizam sent his commander Awaz Khan to counter Baji Rao, he had moved on and attacked Mahur, another major city. While Awaz Khan was running behind Baji Rao, he was resting by the river near Jafarabad. In two months, Baji Rao had laid waste nearly all of major cities of Nizam’s kingdom. His was a brutal punitive campaign, marked by burning houses, destroyed citadels. By the third month, December 1727, he zigzagged through North Berar, turning north into Hadgaon, then circled back to sack Khandesh.

By now Nizam was confused. All he knew was that Baji Rao was laying to waste his kingdom and his dream of ruling India. But Baji Rao was not done with the Nizam. He announced that he was going to attack Burhanpur, the wealthiest city in Nizam’s kingdom. Nizam abandoned any thoughts of attacking Shahu ji and he ran towards Burhanpur. But Baji Rao was not there. He had disappeared like a puff of smoke. The frustrated Nizam fumed angrily –

“Where is that son of shaitan?Is he in behisht (heaven) or in dozakh (hell) where he belongs? Where will he strike next”

Baji Rao had made an extraordinary move. He had left the Nizam’s domain completely and attacked Sarbulund Khan governor of Gujarat. Sarbulund was Nizam’s enemy. He duped Sarbulnd into believing that Baji was attacking only under orders of the Nizam.Bji Rao had hoped into drawing Nizam into Gujarat and pitting the two against each other. But Nizam was a wily old fox. He did not fall for Baji Rao’s ruse. Instead Nizam turned his entire army towards Pune.


Left without troops, Pune was abandoned by Shahu ji. Nizam overran the city and installed Sambha ji as King. When Baji Rao heard of this, he again did the unexpected. He did not return to Pune. Instead he turned towards Aurangabad. He attacked and razed the city. Alarmed and afraid, the Nizam left Pune and rushed towards Aurangabad. By this time Baji Rao had left Aurangabad and moved to Palkhed. As Nizam’s massive army moved towards Palkhed, Baji Rao, on his horses attacked and destroyed Nizam’s supply lines. These attacks were most intense whenever the army was crossing some river. By now Baji Rao had been continuously on horseback and had covered nearly 2000 kms.

Nizam had reached Godavari and was about to cross it at Puntambe. His massive army had been driven there by Baji Rao. Seeming random attacks by Baji Rao, had pushed the army onto a waterless tract and its supply lines had been cut. Nizam’s army was hungry, thirsty and tired. As they were crossing the river, Baji Rao attacked Nizam’s massive army. It was at Mungi Shivgaon that the Nizam sued for peace. Against wishees of Baji Rao, Shahu ji agreed and the famous Treaty of Shivgaon was signed. Shambha ji was arrested and handed over to Shahu ji, the Nizam retired, gold tribute and chauth was paid to Shahu ji.

The conquests were many, Malwa, Bhopal, Delhi, Gujarat, Bundelkhand. These only reinforced his reputation as warrior and conqueror. It was as no surprise when famous historian late Sir Jadunath Sarkar called Baji Rao – the heaven born cavalry leader

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