If I ask you to name one person – a person who is relatively unknown and whose actions can be considered as one of the primary reason why the modern world looks the way it looks, whom will you name? Gangadhar Yaswant Chandrachud, popularly known as Gangoba Tatya or Gangoba Chandrachud is on such name.
Gangoba is of relatively obscure origin. He was a small time Patil near Khed in Pune and along with his brother, bought half of a neighbouring estate from the widow of a local chieftain who died successionless. On the bought lands, he would build what got to be famous as Kanesar Chandrachud Wada, his base and the point of origin of all Chandrachud lineages with the current Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Chandrachud and his father YV Chandrachud being the most prominent names of the line.
With his newly minted prominence, Gangoba slowly climbed the echelons of power and eventually ended up as the Diwan of Malharrao Holkar, one of the pillars of Maratha power in the North.
Maratha Affairs in the North is a kingdom in itself – the main second line people of the area – Gangoba Tatya, the Diwan of the Holkar, Ramaji Anant Dabholkar, Diwan of Sindhia Sarkar, Govind Pant Bundele, the main tax collector of the north, Antaji Mankeshwar, Maratha Envoy to Delhi and others are considered to be a closely knit group resisting Deccan interference amidst allegations of embezzlement. In fact, a serious investigation was launched against Govind Pant Bundele around the period of Raghunatha Rao’s Punjab Campaign.
The campaign was the first time Deccan armies lorded in the Northern Maratha territories after a considerable time and only led to the Northern lobby trying to reduce not just the direct Deccan influence but the presence of Deccan armies as well. This Northern only policy meant that Dattaji Shinde had to try to tackle the Afghans single-handedly and failing in the attempt. Najib Khan Rohilla’s closeness to Northern Maratha chieftains and his treachery, unsurprisingly, played its part as well.
What was Gangoba doing when Dattaji Shinde was in dire straits at Shukartal? A prominent field commander he is, he was leading the Maratha campaigns in Jaipur when he was much needed at Shukartal. Was he acting independently or was he acting on orders of the Holkar is not known. However, it is certain that the absence of Holkar troop near Delhi was the key reason why Dattaji Shinde was killed.
It is always assumed that Holkar managed the Jaipur campaign and shocked at hearing of Dattaji’s death, he called off the campaign and rushed towards Delhi. But then, why this question of implicating Gangoba in this and not Holkar? His actions during Panipat.
Some versions state that he promised Delhi to Surajmal and took money for that. But when Sadashiv Rao Bhau refused, Surajmal left in a huff. On the other hand, it is known that Bhau sent Gangoba and others to speak with Surajmal when he left the camp and convince Surajmal to return to the camp.
But the main blame on Gangoba is yet to come. A major question on Panipat campaign is that, even though Marathas lost on the battlefield, they still had troops enough to garrison Delhi and hold it till the relief force which has already reached Gwalior to come. Abdali himself is sufficiently damaged and wouldn’t have been in a position to take down the Marathas in Delhi. But, the Marathas vacated Delhi and fled without firing a shot. Why?
Bhausahebchi Bakhar tries to answer this – in fact, it lays the whole blame of the disaster of Panipat was to be laid at Gangoba Tatya’s door. His role during the battle was not known but as like Ramaji Anant Dabholkar and his master Malharrao Holkar and even Antaji Mankeshwar (who was killed in Farrukhnagar), he left the battlefield in an orderly fashion and unmolested – clearly hinting that he didn’t stay till the last but retreated when it is understood the battle is lost. It is learnt that Gangoba was sent by the Holkar to Delhi to pass the news of the defeat. Rather than readying Delhi for a defence, he disheartened Naro Shankar who was holding Delhi for the Marathas to a level that even Naro Shankar joined the Maratha flight across the Chambal. That single act of his destroyed the Maratha position – they still had provisions and troops enough to withstand a siege in Delhi!!
In anger of the Maratha losses, the Peshwa seized all the estates of the Northern Sardars but very soon, Holkar was given a free pass in the North – Holkar didn’t need the permission from Pune to conclude any agreements with the erstwhile vassals and conduct his campaigns – clearly, Holkar being cleared is either a game of realpolitik or the Peshwa was appraised of the role of Holkar’s minister.
What happened to Gangoba? He settled in his old post. After the death of the Holkar in 1766, he tried to act the kingmaker in Indore. After the death of Male Rao Holkar the next year, he tried to seize power and place his nominee but was thwarted by Male Rao’s mother Ahalyabai and Peshwa Madhava Rao. Gangoba then fled to Raghunatha Rao who was opposing his nephew Madhava Rao – Raghunatha Rao tried to attack Ahalyabai but her reply to him stopped him in his tracks – If I, a woman, is defeated, no one will take it seriously. But, you a reputed commander, if you are defeated by me, whole Maratha Empire will make fun of you. Do you want that to happen?
However, with Gangoba’s scheming becoming more noxious by the day, Madhava Rao imposed a fine of thirty lakhs and seized his estates. He was not able to pay and was arrested along with his sons. Peshwa Madhava Rao himself publicly flogged Gangoba and the father and sons were held in custody. The treatment of such powerful and important a person sent shockwaves all over the empire and stopped the rebellion in it’s tracks. In fact, it is said that Gangoba is the one who opened the bridges between Raghunatha Rao and the British. Was he rehabilitated later, I don’t know. He would have as Chandrachuds served as prominent higher society people in Pune circle for generations. He died in 1773.
There seem not much information in English over him but it’s worth an attempt to try and piece his history, his motivations and his family. However, its time someone looks into Chandrachud Daftar to get a complete picture of what he did and how his actions shaped not just India but the modern world.
Note: The cover image shows Abhay Harpale as Gangoba Tatya in the TV serial Punyashlok Ahilyabai.
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