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Hindavi Swaraj: A misnomer

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Speak for Nationalist Rationale ! Without fear or favour. Masters in History & Economics, graduate of Law..! Politics, international politics, strategic and security issues are subjects of interest..

History books are replete with the term Hindavi Swaraj ever since it came to be coined by Shivaji in his early youth. His connotation of the term was both Dharmic and moral but same cannot be said of the so called Maratha Confederacy which came into being in 1740s as a superior power in India. For the Confederacy, it was a ruse at most to galvanise the Maratha people in their predatory campaigns across the length and breadth of the country from Bengal to Rajputana, from Sringeri to Punjab. The conduct of this Confederacy has been generally wiped under the carpet in the post modern narrative being woven even as we debate the character of this Confederacy, it’s leading generals, leaders, their aims, pursuits, their isolation in 1761 so on and so forth. This is an attempt to set the record straight with genuine references on the conduct of Maratha Confederacy during the period 1770-1790, when the Scindia and Holkar ruled the roost in North.

Marathas to their credit had resurrected their power from the disaster of 1761 at Panipat, they lost their flower of chivalry on that one single day like never before in their history of warfare. It was a crippling blow but to great resourcefulness of Mahad Ji Scindia and Holkar they rebuilt the Marathas into the same once formidable power it was prior to 1761. However, it must be noted that the post 1761 was a predatory power lusting for the spoils rather than any empire building or even a semblance of righteousness which the word when coined by Shivaji was meant to be. It was out an out depredation which led to their isolation in 1761 & continued later with the British rising. Most native rulers moved to the British sanctuary to avoid their lust for spoils, their incredible rapaciousness in fleecing the underdog. Their favourite play was internecine wars between the rival claimants of the throne, but in many cases it was simply the greed for wealth.

The man who brought back Marathas to prominence was Mahad Ji Scindia, son of Rano Ji from his one of his concubines, she was either a low born or she was an attendant (ref : NG Rathod, Mahadji Scindia) Rano Ji had lost all his sons in the ill fated Panipat and fate placed Mahad Ji as the sole heir to the appendage of Scindia in North. Marathas had recouped with Madhav Rao and Mahad Ji along with Tuko Ji Holkar. They did a fine job as power brokers, regents, Vakils, Naibs but nothing remotely resembling as Empire Builders of a Hindavi Swaraj !

Marathas versus Jats

Mahad Ji came up North after the tempestuous Jawahir Singh Of Bharatpur died in 1768. Nawal Singh was not a match for Mahad Ji even as Scindia took up the cause of Shah Alam II, Marathas had acted as escorts of the Mughal Emperor from Allahabad to Delhi to be rewarded as Vakil I Mutaliq & Amir ul Umra by the Emperor for his services rendered to the Mughal Crown. After the defeat of the Jats, Marathas wanted to take on Najib-ud-daullah Ruhela, the Doab Ruhelas, who had taken possession of former Maratha territories as also Delhi but mutual feud between Scindia and Holkar along with Ramchandra Ganesh put paid to their grand scheme. In fact, Ganesh wanted to support the Ruhelas to crush the Jats and take back Maratha posessions. War indemnity was fixed at ₹65 lakhs by Marathas on the Jats for fighting for their fiefdom to be paid in 3 years and additional ₹ 11 lakhs every year as tribute at start of fourth year. Meanwhile, Marathas could not extract a pice from the Ruhela who refused to pay if Marathas could not extract War Indemnity from the Jat Raja. Soon after Najib died without paying anything and sending Marathas on a wild goose chase against the Jats. All the while Holkar was making deals with the Bangash to make him Mir Bakshi of the Mughal Empire without paying anything to the Peshwa, Hindavi Swaraj? (Ref ; JN Sarkar, Fall of Mughal Empire, vol III)

Scindia as Escort to Shah Alam II

Both Holkar and Scindia interests lay in amassing personal fortune not building the so called Hindavi Swaraj. Scindia sent a secret letter to Shah Alam II to escort him to Delhi at a price from Allahabad, Shah Alam sent Saifuddin as his emissary to Mahad Ji, the price was fixed at ₹25 lakhs as escort fee, 50% of nazar of the newly appointed functionaries and the honour of being the Vakil i Mutaliq and the Mir Bakshi of the Mughal Empire. The antagonism between the disparate forces of the Maratha Confederacy kept boiling into plots and counterplots by Scindia, Holkar, Ramchandra Ganesh & Visa Ji Krishna who finally reigned supreme after Peshwa appointed him as the commander of Maratha Confederacy in North, Visa Ji later amassed immense wealth in North and returned to play power politics after death of Madhav Rao and murder of his successor along with Raghunath Dada in Poona. The entire edifice was built upon Maratha Nation not Hindavi Swaraj where amassing personal fortune was most important endeavour. (Ref: JN Sarkar, Fall Of Mughal Empire, vol III)

Marathas in Rajputana

Marathas as usual were interested in amassing personal fortune and 18 century Rajputana provided ample opportunities when almost all principalities were involved in feuds and internecine rivalry. Haras were first to fall in the trap with Holkar espousing cause of one against the other, Bundi paid the price of this. They had supported Madho Singh in Jaipur against Ishwari Singh, took the spoils as the monkey doing the balancing act between two cats. Scindia had taken up the claim of Ram Singh son of Maharaja Abhay Singh against Vijay Singh, son of Maharaja Bakht Singh who was ruling Marwar. Jayappa Scindia was killed by Rathores for claiming Chauth by the dint of his sword. Mahad Ji came as Tax Collector of Shah Alam II to collect from Jaipur, was repulsed at Lalsot, Tonga. He barely escaped Lalsot, thanks to inactivity of Sawai Pratap Singh of Jaipur, who was happy with Scindia leaving his territories. Scindia did succeed in defeating both Jaipur and Jodhpur by breaking the unity of these two powerful states of Rajputana.

But didn’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits, in fact the rapacity of Maratha Confederacy led the Rajputs into the safety of British Company. Their conduct in Malwa disenchanted the local Rajputs who had supported Marathas in their early raids against the Mughals. The Khichis of Raghogarh put the Marathas in a quandary, they defeated the Maratha general Khande Rao and forced him to leave their territory. Mahad Ji enraged sent a much larger force which though won the battle but Khichis made the route to Deccan their depredation ground.(Ref; Raghuvir Singh, Anarchy in Malwa, 1740-1840, JN Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, vol III)

Never did Marathas ever behave in the defence of Dharma nor did they ever espouse the cause of Hindavi Swaraj. They were merely Carpetbaggers who led their mercenaries to the highest bidder, Mughals, Ruhelas, Rajput rivals, Jats. They definitely were the paramount power for some time but their actions and conduct does not qualify as Empire Building or a Hindavi Swaraj!

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Speak for Nationalist Rationale ! Without fear or favour. Masters in History & Economics, graduate of Law..! Politics, international politics, strategic and security issues are subjects of interest..
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