The Maratha Wars

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The Maratha Wars

The three conflicts or wars fought between the British East India Company and the Maratha confederacy or the Maratha Empire in India are referred to as the great Maratha Wars or the Anglo-Maratha Wars.

The wars started in 1777 and ended in 1818, with the victory of the British and the destruction of the Maratha Empire in India.


First Maratha War

The main cause of the first Maratha war was the increased interference of the British in the affairs, both internal and external, of the Marathas and also the struggle for power between Madhav Rao and Raghunath Rao.

After the death of Peshwa Madhav Rao, his younger brother, Narain Rao succeeded him but it was his uncle, Raghunath Rao who wanted to become the Peshwa. And so he sought the help of the English to get him murdered and make him the Peshwa and in return, he promised to hand over Salsette and Bessien to the British, along with revenues from Surat and Bharuch districts.

The British promised to help Raghunath Rao and provided him with 2,500 soldiers. The combined armies of the English and Raghunath Rao attacked the Peshwa and they won.

The Treaty of Surat was signed on 6 March 1775 but was not approved by the British Calcutta Council and the treaty was annulled at Pune by Colonel Upton. In 1777, Nana Phadnis granted the French a port on the west coast, much against the treaty with the Calcutta Council. As a result, the British and the Maratha armies met at Wadgaon on the outskirts of Pune. Here, the British army was defeated by the Marathas and the British surrendered by mid-January 1779. The Treaty of Wadgaon was signed in which the Bombay government took hold of all territories conquered by the British since 1775.

But, this defeat did not stop the British. They continued to fight against the Marathas, and in May 1782, the Treaty of Salbai was signed. As per the Treaty of Salbai, all Maratha territories were returned. The British took control of Salsette but all the territories occupied by the British were given back to the Marathas.


Second Maratha War

The Second Anglo-Maratha War was the second war fought between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire between 1803 and 1805 in Central India.

The main cause of the second Maratha war the defeat of the Peshwa Baji Rao II by the Holkars, one of the prominent Maratha clans, as a result of which he accepted British protection by signing the Treaty of Bassein in December 1802.

The other Maratha rulers such as Gwalior’s Scindia rulers and the Bhonsle rulers of Nagpur and Berar did not accept this and they wanted to fight against the British.

As a result, the second Anglo-Maratha war broke out in Central India in 1803. In the second Maratha war, the British won and in the period between 1803 and 1805, three major treaties were signed between the Maratha Empire and the Bristish Empire, in which the British got back many of the Indian territories. These treaties were Treaty of Deogaon (1803), Treaty of Surji-Anjangaon (1803) and Treaty of Rajghat (1805).

The armies of Sindia and Bhonsle were defeated by the British at Assaye in September 1803 and at Argaon in November 1803 and on 17 December 1803, the Treaty of Deogaon was signed in which the provinces of Cuttack, Balasore and land west of the river Warda were given to the British and the subsidiary alliance with British was accepted.

Later, the British defeated the Sindia army at Aligarh and at Laswar and the Treaty of Surji-Arjunagaon was signed on 30 December 1803. As per this treaty, Sindia agreed to hand over the territories between the Ganga and Yamuna, Ahmadnagar, Broach and parts of Bundelkhand to the British.

On 27 February 1804, the Treaty of Burhanpur was signed in which Sindia agreed to enter into subsidiary alliance with British. When the Holkar continued the war with British, the company entered into peace treaty on 24 December 1805 known as the Rajpurghat Treaty. As per this treaty, Yashvanth Rao Holkar agreed to renounce all the areas north of the Bundi hill to the British. This treaty marked the end of the second Anglo-Maratha War.

The Third Maratha War

The two main causes that led to the third and the final conflict between the British and the Marathas were the growing desire of the Marathas to get back their lost territories, and excessive control over Maratha nobles and chiefs by the British.

The third War took place in Maharashtra and its neighboring areas in 1817 and 1818.

After the Peshwa attacked the British Residency in November 1817, the Maratha chiefs were defeated at various places such as Ashti, Nagpur, and Mehidpur.

On 5 November 1817, the Treaty of Gwalior was signed in which Sindia became a mere spectator in the war. On 6 January 1818, the Treaty of Mandasor was signed between Malhar Rao Holkar and the British, in which the Peshwa was dethroned, and this was followed by the pensioning of the Peshwa. More of his territories were annexed with the British and the British established their supremacy in India.

The first, second, and third Anglo-Maratha wars were very significant in the history of India. The Mughal Empire was already under the British control during that time. But, the British still could not get hold of territories in the South as they were dominated by the Maratha chieftains.

While the Marathas won in the first battle, they lost against the British in the second and the third wars. Many treaties were signed between the Marathas and the British East India Company, which led to the control of India by the British.

The treaties with the Princely states made the British the owner of the vast properties and territories of India and India was indeed a jewel in the crown of the British Empire.

The Maratha Empire completely ended after these wars. The British completely controlled India. In fact after the wars, India became a complete property of the British, in which the British mapped and defined India, entirely on their own terms and conditions, as per the Orientalist style.

The Pindari War 

Lord Hastings, with the approval of the Court of Directors of the East India Company, decided to eliminate the Pindaris. The approval was received in September 1816 and Hastings put into place a plan by the end of 1817. To begin with, he entered into an understanding with several other powers active in India, and then commenced precise military planning and preparations to encircle and eliminate all the Pindaris. This organized campaign, known as the Pindari War, became the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

This was an elaborate military plan: to attack the Pindari forces from the north and east from Bengal, from the west from Gujarat, and from the south from the Deccan. Hastings committed 120,000 men and 300 artillery pieces to the command created and entrusted with the task to eliminate the Pindaris.

The Pindaris were surrounded on all sides by the great army, which converged upon them from Bengal, the Deccan and Gujarat under the supreme command of Lord Hastings in person. Sindhia was overawed and forced to sign the treaty of Gwalior, consenting to aid in the extirpation of the Pindaris, whom he had hitherto protected.

Since the Pindaris gave a portion of their loot to the Maratha leaders, the Peshwa at Pune, the Bhonsle Raja at Nagpur and the army of the infant Holkar of Indore each took up arms, but were separately defeated.

The Pindaris themselves offered little opposition. Amir Khan, by far their most powerful leader, accepted the conditions offered to him; he and his descendants became the Nawabs of the state of Tonk in Rajputana. The rest surrendered or were hunted down, the fate of Chitu, one of the most notorious, being to perish in a tiger’s den.

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