Marathas & Bundelkhand II – Chhatrasal Bundela & Peshwa Bajirao!

Maratha rule over Bundelkhand gave us important personalities such as Govindpant Bundela, Naro Shankar Motiwale and in 1857 – the Nawab of Banda, Ali Bahadur and Jhansi ki Rani – Manikarnika Tambe.

।। प्रस्थापित स्वराज्ये शिवाजीना

बाजिरावेण साम्राज्ये परिवर्तितम ।।

The swarajya established by Chhatrapati Shivaji was converted into an empire by Peshwa Bajirao

In the first part of this series, we had seen how the Marathas had first come into contact with Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela. That was in 1660s. Many years would pass before the Marathas found themselves once again in the thick of politics in the arid Tarai and Bundelkhand region.

This happened with Peshwa Bajirao’s entry into those parts in the closing years of 1720s.This episode is today very famous, I would say almost exclusively famous for a certain Mastani and her affair with the Peshwa, but there is a lot more to the Bundelkhand campaign!

While a few popular books and now one popular movie has been produced on Peshwa’s love affair, the actual conquest of Bundelkhand by Peshwa Bajirao and its importance has somehow been lost. Here is my small attempt to rectify the same.

The strategic importance of Bundelkhand

The region of Bundelkhand is located on the border of today’s Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. As the below map will show, it borders the Malwa and Terai on the west and south , the very important Ganga – Jamuna doab on the east and of course the capital Delhi to the north. Control over Bundelkhand meant exercising influence over these regions. Naturally, it was a coveted area.


Chhatrasal Bundela’s swarajya

Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela was present as a sixteen year old in the Mughal camp during Mirza Raje Jai Singh’s famous invasion of the Deccan. His father had been killed fighting the Mughals. During this campaign (1665), he realised that the person he was fighting – Chhatrapati Shivaji, was opposing the Mughals for a very noble cause! He met Shivaji, who inspired him to rise against the Mughals and free Bundelkhand from the Mughal yoke.

Likewise, he raised a small army around 1671. Taking full advantage of Aurangzeb’s absence from Delhi (1681 to 1707), he freed Bundelkhand. Jhansi, Orchha, Sagar, Panna, and Banda were some of the places which came under his rule. (More details were provided in Part 1)

Mohammed Khan Bangash – Bundelkhand campaign


Probable region covered by Mohammed Khan Bangash.

In 1721, the Mughal emperor had named Mohammed Khan Bangash as the Subhedar of Allahabad. From his capital, he carried out raids at Agra and various places. He was also an important part of politics at Delhi.

Around 1727, wary of Maharaja Chhatrasal’s growing influence, the Mughal ordered Mohammed Khan Bangash to cut him to size. The latter sent his son, Pir Khan – who was killed in a battle with the Bundelas. Then, he sent an able general – Dalel Khan, who was also killed battling the Bundelas. Highly incensed, at the head of a large army, Mohammed Khan Bangash set out in person to defeat Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela. Starting from Allahabad, he proceeded to various places such as Mahoba, Bhind, Maudaha, Simoni etc., before reaching Jaitpur. Several forts in Bundelkhand region– such as Barigad, Lauri, Jhunar, Kulpahar etc. were captured by him. Finally, he laid siege to the fort at Jaitapur, where Chhatrasal had retreated. Heavy fighting ensued, with Bangash receiving plenty of help from Delhi, courtesy the emperor and Khan Dauran. Also, his son Kaim Khan was at the Red Fort.

By December 1728, Jaitapur passed into the hands of Bangash. Maharaja Chhatrasal surrendered to Mohammed Khan Bangash. The Mughal Subhedar occupied the fort and it seemed a matter of time before his rule was consolidated in the all-important region.

Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela decided to appeal to the Peshwa for help.

Chhatrasal Bundela’s appeal to the Peshwa

He decided to take help of the Peshwa, who at the time was involved in the Malwa region, winding up operations against Giridhar Bahadur. In fact Chimaji Appa had laid siege to Ujjain at that point of time.

Chhatrasal Bundela invoked the tale of Gajendra and Shri Vishnu when asking Bajirao for help. Just like Shri Vishnu had saved Gajendra from the grasp of a crocodile, so must Bajirao save him from the grasp of Bangash.

The letter goes thus —

” जो गती ग्राह गजेंद्र कि, सो गति भई हैं आज
बाजी जात बुंदेलकि, राखो बाजी लाज”

The interesting part of this stanza is the word ‘Baji’ which has two meanings. In the first instance, it means a pawn in a game of chess; while in the second it directly alludes to Bajirao!! The letter was sent in the hands of one Durgadas.

Now comes the most interesting and inspiring part of this whole incident.



Bajirao began proceeding to Bundelkhand without bothering about the “advantages” of doing so. There was no talk of sharing tributes, granting jagirs etc. There was no mention in that letter of even sharing the cost of transporting a large army from Satara to Bundelkhand. What prompted Peshwa Bajirao to immediately say yes? A knowledge of history? Affinity for a fellow Hindu? Perhaps both. But this selfless act of Bajirao is perhaps the high water mark of this campaign.

The Peshwa, having met the Chhatrapati, started out by way of Bir, Pathri and Deogarh. He then proceeded to Mahoba and Mahur. With him were Pilaji Jadhav, Naro Shankar, Tukoji Pawar and others. His army was around 25,000 strong.

On the 4th of March 1729, was the festival of Holi. Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela managed to convince Mohammed Khan Bangash to allow the Bundela chieftains to gather for the festival some distance away from Jaitpur. One of his sons also joined them.

The Peshwa’s army swiftly neared Jaitpur. He took the Bundela forts and met Chhatrasal Bundela’s son on the 10th of March.

Defeat of Mohammed Khan Bangash

The Bundelas, seeing the arrival of Bajirao, quickly rallied around his flag and the Maratha army swelled to over 70,000!

Mohammed Khan Bangash was first attacked at Mahoba. The Peshwa’s cavalry ran roughshod over the hapless Mughal Subhedar’s troops.

From the north, Kaim Khan approached with an aim to relieve his father. The Peshwa let him reach Supe, around twelve miles from Jaitpur, where his army was completely surrounded and annihilated. The Mughal emperor, wary of the Peshwa, took the wise decision of staying away.

Mohammed Khan Bangash now retreated to the fort of Jaitpur. Bajirao promptly laid siege to the fort. Typical siege tactics were followed here — that of cutting off all supply routes and starving the garrison inside. Pilaji Jadhav carried out the siege with great vigour.

A letter by him, sent around a month or so into the siege, states that in a week’s time Bangash was either bound to be completely defeated or come to terms.

Finally, in May 1729 Mohammed Khan Bangash retreated from Jaitpur. He agreed never to enter Bundelkhand again.

With monsoons nearing, Peshwa Bajirao also hastened to the south, bringing to an end a short, but glorious campaign.

So what did he gain? Quite a lot more than just Mastani!

Effects of the campaign

  1. The twin victories over Giridhar Bahadur and Bangash stamped Bajirao’s authority over north India.
  2. Chhatrasal Bundela gave one third of his kingdom to Bajirao. Thus, Maratha rule started in Jhansi, Sagar, Banda, etc.
  3. Marathas got a launch pad to push further north and consolidate the Malwa region.
  4. Marathas became major players in the all-important Ganga Yamuna doab region.
  5. Chhatrasal Bundela gave Bajirao his daughter – Mastani.

The butterfly effect 

” The flutter of a butterfly can create a storm half way around the world.”

Maratha rule over Bundelkhand gave us important personalities such as Govindpant Bundela, Naro Shankar Motiwale and in 1857 – the Nawab of Banda, Ali Bahadur and Jhansi ki Rani – Manikarnika Tambe!


  1. Marathi Riyasat – G.S Sardesai
  2. Bajirao and Expansion of Maratha empire – Dr Dighe
  3. Jaswant Lal Mehta

The article has been consolidated by the author from his previous writings at his blog.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Aneesh Gokhale is the published author of two books. His second book “Brahmaputra” is about Lachit Barphukan , the Assamese contemporary of Chhatrapati Shivaji. His articles on Maratha and Assamese history have appeared in various online and print media. He has also given public talks on a dozen occassions.
  • Shubhangi Raykar

    The chauth was not extracted on the locals It was the revenue collection as was routine for support. Marathas had their posts up to Atak- Atok on the border of Afghanistan.Their planning and arrangements were wrong at the time of Panipat II. It is the Rajputs who failed Marathas I think. The jats supported and Surajmal Jat is remembered even today. The did not carry concubines but their family mainly as it was ordered by Bajirao’s mother.The Muslim rulers extracted Jiziya and several other taxes. Marathas had captured the Delhi fort but had got the charters from the Mughal ruler and remained loyal to him. They were in a way foolish because they could have easily overthrown the then weak Mughal Empire.But to them their agreement was important.

    • R. Singh

      What gave the peshwas the right to collect 1/4 of the revenue as tax from the locals.

      Ir was not routine, but far in excess.

      The Peshwa maharratas were not liberators but predators., not any better than the muslim mughals they sought to replace,

      The local population hated them

      They were certainly not heirs to Shivaji or his philosophy, nor did they value it.

      Time to start calling a spade a spade.

  • R. Singh

    The Maharatta peshwas lost it, due to their greed and arrogance.

    In their campaigns north, they could not make any alliances with the local people. but sought to fill their treasuries with their tax called ” Chauth”-( 1/4 of the revenue), that they tried to extract on the locals.

    They were predators not liberators.

    Though they reached as far as the Punjab, the failed dues to this arrogance and greed..

    Abdali’s 3rd battle of Panipat is a good example., where Sadashiv Bhau, lost the trust of Raja Surajmull of Bharatpur. Though the citizen soldiers of the Sarv Khap of Haryana, based out of Shoram, Now in Distt Muzzarfarnagar, came to his aid., his refusal to follow their advice and not using sound military tactics led to his down fall, setting the stage for the victory of Abdalli, and continuation of the Muslim Empire.

    The silver ceiling in the Fort at Delhi was looted by Sadashiv Bhau, who refused the wise and sage advice of the jats, to fight a guerrilla warfare and not a conventional one.

    He look his train of dancing girls and mistresses to the battlefield, rather than a lean army.

    Surajmall escaped with his life from the Maharatta camp and did not join the battle at Panipat.

    Though later the Mahratta raids and exploits were shown as a resurgence of the Hindus, the reality was quite quite different.

    Today history is repeating itself, with Hindus openly supporting Jihadis Gatbandhan of JIhadis , Marxists.

    History repeats itself.

    We should learn from it.

    Let us not wear blinkers on our eyes..

    There is no shame in making mistakes.

    There should be shame in repeating them.

    There is also the tradition in modern Haryana, that the Bhau did not die, but after his overwhelming and humiliating defeat, he went underground, became a mendicant .He lived out his life incognito and passed away in harayan.

    Today there is an annual fair where a Samadhi was raised for him in his memory by the locals at the village of Sanghi

    Google 3rd Battle of Panipat, Sarv Khap, Bhau. Kanha Ram, Historian

    • I would attribute the Maratha army loss in the 3rd battle of Panipat to mainly these 3 reasons:

      1. This is the most important reason.
      A. The Peshwa generals belonging to era after Peshwa Bajirao I and his brother Chimaji Appa viz. Balaji Baji Rao aka Nana Saheb Peshwa and Raghunathrao, the 2 sons of Bajirao Peshwa I became high on hubris of their status and caste.

      Nana Saheb went even further where he appointed Sadashiv Bhau only because he was Nanasaheb’s cousin brother for the post of next Maratha commander-in-chief however inexperienced he was on northern grounds instead of appointing other experienced “lower caste” Maratha warriors.

      B. The orders were to bring the entire Rajputana under Maratha control and the Marathas were pretty successful in that if only they had kept themselves out of Rajput succession politics. Due to few Marathas becoming lone wolves aided Kanwar Madhi Singh and thereby interfered in the politics of Rajputs which eventually went on to alienate the entirety of Marathas from the Rajputs. This act was directly against the tenets of Marathas set by Chhatrapati Shivaji. Even Bajirao Peshwa I maintained good relation with other Hindu Kings.

      However, Maratha generals Holkar and Scindia wanted to correct the mistakes and sought the assistance of Raja Suraj Mal before they took on Abdali and hence advised Sadashiv Bhau to strike diplomatic ties and seek cooperation but instead Sadashiv Bhau chose to not pay heed as he considered the advise of the Maratha generals inferior. Sadashiv Bhau was too proud of his brahmin status and failed to understand he was just a cog just like other Marathas, neither superior or inferior but equal.

      After the defeat, it was again the Maratha named Mahadaji Shinde who reclaimed the Maratha honor by slaughtering the rohillas and afghans.

      Abdali actually came to plunder and loot Punjab and also to rape and enslave Punjabi women so even a fool would expect the Sikhs and other Punjabi Hindu men to stand up and defend their land and women. Atleast the Punjabis could have taken revenge for the numerous atrocities inflicted upon them by Abdali. But the Punjabis didn’t even want to even defend their women. Another example where it is clear the honor of Punjabi women was below the lives of Punjabi men.

      Sikhs today claim many things but they only rose to power because
      a. The Marathas rescued North India
      b. The afghans dreaming to again establish Islamic rule over Delhi had to contend with Pyrrhic victory as significant percentage of their army was decimated in Panipat.

      3. I can accept that the Rajputs refused to support the Marathas due to narrow-mindedness of Bhau.

      Just before Panipat the Rajput princes of Jodhpur and Amber joined with the Durrani who wanted to break Rajput alliance with Sadashiv Bhau.

      So what stopped Rajputs from thinking of overall good of all Hindus and creating a Hindu country under Marathas living with their heads held high but instead chose to live their lives dhimmis under muslims and latched onto their kingdoms by sending their daughters to muslim harem? The result is many Rajputs eventually converted to islam.

      • Shubhangi Raykar

        Can you write your sources? I will read I have read in both Marathi and English long ago. Bajirao was not a casteist and Mahadaji Shinde was not low caste . He was Maratha by caste and the founder of the Gwalior Gadi.the dynasty from which Jyotiraditya Scindia comes.

        • Bajirao Peshwa I was not casteist but his brother was to an certain extent. Bajirao I identified with his fellow Maratha warriors than with his caste. Peshwa Bajirao I even ate meat which other brahmins held in contempt.

          Sadashiv Bhau looking down on other Hindu kings, not paying heed to advices given by other Maratha generals and not choosing to ally with other Hindu kings would only point to casteism and hubris associated with it. Such an attitude before war should have been tackled by the elder Peshwas and he should have been relieved of his duties as commander in chief.

          Why Marathas were considered as lower castes by Brahmins?

          Main reason is because most Brahmins believe Parshuram literally killed all the Kshatriyas.(Ignoring the fact that a single human could never stand a chance against an entire army of equally powerful warriors lead by Kshatriya king Kartavirya Arjuna who was more powerful than even Ravana and also how can anyone kill Kshatriyas 21 times after killing all Kshatriyas the first time. Pashruram victory over Kshatriyas is either metaphorical or there is more to it than meets the eye)

          Hindu unity beyond caste should be of foremost consideration.

          • R. Singh

            Let it be.

            The caste card is somewhat overplayed as a factor., and was not that important as is made out to be.

            More in people’s imagination than not.

            Tragically it was wannabe historians, including hindus who declined to give our indigenus soucrs ad versions their rightful place.

            That must now chnage.

            The caste/jaathi factor will diminish, as education increases, economy improves, incomes improve, and social mobility increases.

            Young people today are not terribly concerned about jath and caste.

            We need to discuss, debate , the distoetions in history and correct it.

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            I wanted rf from historical accounts. Not the links on the internet.Shine was not a sheep herd. Holkar was. Mahadaji Shinde was a great warrior. After the arrival of the British his surname – in Marathi -shindya- was distorted and anglisized it as Scindia and his son, grandson paraded it with pride and it still

          • R. Singh

            Plenty of people were and are great warriors.

            AFAIK,they do not have to be chitpavan brahmins or parshuram’s descendants to be so.

            We do need to get off this casteist kick.

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            Marathas always considered themselves as kshatriyas particularly after Shivaji’s coronationHE CALLED HIMSELF KSHATRIY KULAVATANS. aLL bRAHMINS DID NOT THINK OF THEMSELVES AS DESCENDANTS OF PARASHURAM.

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            Lets forget all that and come together as Hindus.beyond caste, creed and states.

          • R. Singh

            FYI,my comments a little tongue in cheek.

            Intended to bring in some lightness to a serious topic.

            We do need to get rid of silly stories like Parshuram, and the shallow thinking that causes even our icons like Shivaji to be of a so called ” low caste”

            Caste /Jathi , in my humble view , is best eliminated from our History books as something cast in stone.

            Historians,mostly Brahmin by Jath, unfortunately got carried away with a false sense of undeserved importance and set the stage for many of our problems today.

            BTW Shivaji was of the Bhonsle clan out of Rajastan, His clan, proud republicans did not then and now need any stamp of approval by some hallucinating priests.

            Time to move on and beyond.

          • Max

            Rajput are also Low caste , Truth except Brahmin everyone was low caste in ancient India unless you grab power and become “king” . Rajput are Not in Open category in most of Indian sates Opposite of Marathas who are considered Open.

          • R. Singh

            If per your assertions Shivaji was low caste( probably true), and required a huge bribe to some High caste Brahmin priest to coronate him, then he cannot be ksahtriya

            Simply considering yourself to be a kashatriya or Brahmin does not make you one

            Look at Bhainswali-poor chap, a mixed caste born to a rajput father and a shepherd woman.

            Life must be hell for him – day and nght

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            I have not said that. You said it.

          • R. Singh

            Are Brahmins not proud descendants and heirs to Parshuram.?

            Do you know any that are not?

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            Only Konkanasth chitpavan Brahmins consider themselves as descendants of Parashuram. Not other Brahmins.

          • is this your second account?

            if not then make yours unique.

          • R. Singh

            No, I have just one account.

            Cannot stop some one copying it

        • R. Singh

          Sheep herders!

          anathema to Chitpavan Brahmins

    • I am just pointing out the mistakes(some of which might be attributed either to oversimplification or too much North Indian bias) in your reply which I will elaborate on afterwards.

      1. They were predators not liberators.

      2. sought to fill their treasuries with their tax called ” Chauth”-( 1/4 of the revenue),

      3. Though they reached as far as the Punjab, the failed dues to this arrogance and greed.

      4. …continuation of the Muslim Empire.

      5. He look his train of dancing girls and mistresses to the battlefield, rather than a lean army.

      6. Though later the Mahratta raids and exploits were shown as a resurgence of the Hindus, the reality was quite quite different.

      • R. Singh

        Good start.