Power Corrupts, is what they say. It so happened that when Churaman Jat raised his rebellion against the Mughals taking advantage of the Maratha Wars, the whole Jat community of Central India erupted in rebellion. By 1703, when Bhim Singh ascended the throne as the Rana of Gohad, it was an all out war between the Jats and the Marathas. By 1707, Gohad was literally the only Jat estate holding out. After Churaman surrendered and all focus shifted towards Gohad. Gopal Singh Bhaduria of Ater was unleashed against Gohad and he seized the Fort in 1707. Bhim Singh is now a king without a kingdom and spent the next thirty years spending his time aimlessly in a low intensity war. But then, he got his chance when Marathas crossed the Chambal to harass the Mughal interests. By 1737 when Peshwa Baji Rao marched on Delhi, there was none left to challenge the Marathas.
Bhim Singh enters the picture then – Mughals fortified the whole of Malwa from the crossings at Narmada in the routes the Mughals anticipated Marathas would take while Sadat Khan, the Nawab of Awadh was sent towards Agra. Bhim Singh and his uncle Baliju, the Thakur of Neerapura approached Marathas with a petition over Gohad. Baji Rao’s stand was simple – guide me through unguarded routes and I will give you what you want. With Bhim Singh’s help, rather than crossing the Narmada near Maheshwar, the Marathas crashed towards Delhi through Hoshangabad and Bhopal. Anirudh Singh, now the Raja of Ater was caught unawares and without any major support, had to engage the main Maratha armies. He simply had to decamp from the field when a contingent was sent to invest Ater. By the time Mughals realized what happened, Marathas were already near Agra. And rest is history.
Now, let’s go back to Bhim Singh. What happened to him? He got his estate back and lived happily for the next few years. Gohad would have survived as a stable estate in the centuries to come. But, he had different plans. During the 1754 Kumbher campaign, a Maratha unit under Vithal Shivdeo Vinchurkar was investing Gwalior held by the Mughal commander Kishwar Khan. The fall of the fort was a matter of time and the garrison decided to commit suicide. At this time, some soldiers of Vithal Shivdeo entered Gohad unwittingly for forage and were arrested. When Vithal Shivdeo learnt of this, he asked them to be released but Bhim Singh insulted the envoy and sent him back. Learning of this, Kishwar Khan was advised to entice Bhim Singh to his side – Gwalior was offered to him in return for help against Marathas. Who wouldn’t accept it when such powerful a fort is handed over to you on a platter? And Bhim Singh marched on Gwalior. Vithal Shivdeo was not happy – he tried to hold his position but was had to retreat. He pillaged Gohad severely before turning back for this treachery. Now, let’s not make Bhim Singh a complete villain here – it is just possible that he took this stand in support of the Jats of Bharatpur who were facing a major assault on Kumbher and he decided to help them without having an estimate of his true strength.
With the Marathas out of picture, Bhim Singh occupied Gwalior. The foresight his uncle Baliju had, he never had it – it was by fluke Gohad took Gwalior. They neither had the strength nor the resources to hold a fort like Gwalior against the Marathas. And when the Marathas marched the next year under Raghunatha Rao, whether Baliju went on his own volition or on the orders of Bhim Singh, it’s not known but a truce was made – in return for Gwalior, Marathas would surrender everything which they seized from Gohad while the ammunition at Gwalior would be equally distributed. See, Marathas wanted an ally, not an enemy. But, Bhim Singh dallied. He didn’t accept it. After the second reminder, the Marathas, fed up, put the fort on siege. And the siege was hard on Gohad.
A few days later, Bhim Singh came out of Gwalior to monitor the situation near Salu, either he was identified by the Marathas or his position was betrayed. The Marathas attacked him and he was taken back to Gwalior critically injured. Three days later, he died. After that, the Jats voluntarily evacuated Gohad. Now, they lost Gwalior and they didn’t get the forts which were under Maratha control – which the Marathas were ready to hand over on a platter.
The Jats believed Marathas killed their leader and the Marathas believed they punished a traitor. And then with a considerable part of their ancestral estates under Maratha control, this bad blood with Gohad will continue till the last when they were made to shift to Dholpur to accommodate Daulat Rao Shinde. Do we know whether Rao Baliju was involved in the murder as his brother Girdhar Pratap Singh and then his son Chattar Singh became the chieftains of Gohad on Bhim Singh’s death?
It is interesting to note, Chattar Singh was as belligerent as Bhim Singh during his last days and would end his career tragically – he helped the British take Gwalior and received it from them only to see the British ditch him completely after Salbai. When Gwalior fell, his wife Sobha Kunwari, the formal comamnder of the fort committed suicide while he was arrested by the Raja of Karauli and sent back to the Marathas. He died in prison two years after – some say, by poisoning.
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