After the decline of the Mughal Empire, many kingdoms declared independence and newer states emerged in India.
Hyderabad was founded by Nizam ul Mulk Asaf Jah in 1724. He was a noble of the Muhammad shah the Mughal emperor. His repeated attempts of reforming the administration were rejected by the emperor and so he moved back to the south to form his state. He formed an efficient administration. He followed a tolerant policy against all religions. He forced the powerful zamindar lobby to respect him. He successfully resisted Maratha from his land. However, he failed to rid the revenue system of corruption due to his untimely death. After him, the Hyderabad state too was in a state of turmoil.
Murshid Quli Khan too declared independence from the central authority after it grew weak. He however sent tributes to the Mughals. He suppressed the powerful zamindars and organized an efficient administration. He was tolerant and secular. He introduced agrarian reform but collected revenue cruelly. He promoted trade and industry. The Nawabs however was short-sighted with regard to the English East India Company. They forced it to obey the laws of the land but didn’t take these trading companies as threats to the kingdom. They failed also in two more aspects building a strong army and checking corruption amongst local officials. Both these factors led to the defeat of Nawab Siraj Ud Dawlah at the hands of the English East India Company in 1857.
Saadat khan burhan ul Mulk was the founder of Awadh. He was a far-sighted and able ruler. He too was disillusioned by the central government and chose to fortify his feudal area. He had to wage continuous wars against the big zamindars who had fortified their areas. He successfully suppressed them and brought relief to the farmers. He was secular towards all religions.
The end of the Vijaynagar Empire gave a new lease of life to the Mysore kingdom. Minister Nanaraj and Devraj captured power and king Krishna Raj became a mere puppet. Haider Ali was an ordinary soldier in the Mysore army. He took advantage of the opportunities that came his way and rose in rank. He learned western military tactics from French experts and applied them in battles. Soon he defeated Nanaraj and became king. Though he was illiterate he was an efficient administrator. He extended his power in Mysore and soon made it into a powerful kingdom. He fought the Nizam of Hyderabad, Marathas, and the British repeatedly and defeated them.
Haider Ali and British
First Anglo Mysore War
The English East India Company allied with Nizam of Hyderabad in 1766 to attack Haider Ali. But he fought back and threatened to attack madras. So a treaty was signed where conquered territories were handed back and mutual cooperation against each other’s enemies was assured. But when the Marathas attacked Haider Ali the British didn’t help hence he mistrusted them. British had secured the support of Marathas after the first Anglo Maratha in 1782. Haider Ali inflicted defeats on them and forced them to surrender in large numbers.
Second Anglo Mysore War
The British under Hastings bribed the Nizam and he withdrew from the alliance with Haider Ali. Hastings also diverted the army from the Maratha war against Haider Ali and finally defeated him. This was the second Anglo Mysore war. His son Tipu sultan succeeded him after his death in the Second Anglo Mysore war. Finally, as the war was a stalemate peace treaty was signed in 1784.
Tipu Sultan vs British
Tipu sultan was a complex character. He was deeply interested in literature and had a library. He took interest in the French revolution. He had planted a tree of liberty in his kingdom and was a member of Jacobin club. His army was trained in western tactics and armed with muskets and bayonets with French help. He also was building a navy and had constructed ports.
The British regarded him as their deadliest enemy.
Third Anglo Mysore War
The treaty of 1784 had only postponed hostilities to the future. Tipu had attempted to establish contact with turkey and France by sending envoys there. The third Anglo Mysore war resulted in Tipu’s defeat in 1792. He had to pay a huge indemnity and surrender his sons to the British as hostages. It destroyed Tipu’s dominant position in the south and established British supremacy there.
In 1798 the new governor-general Wellesley took charge and brought his scheme of the subsidiary alliance. By this, the British would station an army in the allying kingdom and protect it from internal and external threats. In return, the king should disband his army, accept a British resident and govern on his advice, relinquish all deals with other foreign powers, and pay a tribute to the British for the army or cede territory to them. This ensured that the protectorate kingdom became a puppet in their hands.
Fourth Anglo Mysore War
Wellesley knew Tipu would never accept this treaty and fourth the fourth Anglo Mysore war in 1799 and defeated Tipu. When Tipu was finally defeated in 1799 even the British were amazed at his revenue administration. He was accused of being orthodox but he had given large donations to the building of temples too.
The Rajputs took advantage of the weakness of the Mughals and freed themselves from central control. However, they were divided and always in civil war or quarrels with each other. Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber was an outstanding ruler. He was an able administrator. He founded Jaipur and made it a seat of science and arts. He was a reformer and a lawmaker. He was also an astronomer and constructed observatories at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura, and Varanasi.
Guru Nanak in the 15th century founded Sikhism which spread amongst the lower classes of Punjab and Jat peasants. Under Guru Gobind Singh they became a political and military force. He fought constant wars against Aurangzeb but became a noble under Bahadur shah.
After his death, his follower Banda bahadur rallied the Sikhs and carried on warfare against the Mughal army till he was killed in 1715. The Sikhs then rose again after the foreigners invaded India and created a political vacuum. The Sikhs organized themselves as misls and ruled different parts of Punjab and Kashmir. Initially, they cooperated with each other but soon this unity faded.
At this time Ranjit Singh rose to prominence. He was a skilled administrator and a soldier. He soon formed a kingdom in Punjab and captured Kashmir, Lahore, Amritsar, Multan, and Peshawar. He built an army of skilled soldiers of different religions and started manufacturing cannons. His army was second only to the east India Company. He was tolerant and secular. When the English forbade him to expand east of Sutlej he kept quiet. He was a realist and saved his Empire. But he didn’t fight the foreign threat and left it to his successors who weren’t as skilled and who were conquered by the British.
Shahu grandson of Shivaji Maharaj was a prisoner of Aurangzeb. After Aurangzeb’s death, Shahu was released and a civil war broke out between him and his aunt Tarabai who had continued the fight against the Mughals under her son Shivaji II. Shahu won this war with the help of Balaji Vishwanath who became the Peshwa. Balaji Vishwanath was an able administrator and won many Maratha chiefs to Shahu’s cause. Shahu’s Empire now extended to all of Maharashtra except Kolhapur where Tarabai ruled.
Balaji Vishwanath and his son made Peshwa the functional head of Marathas. Balaji Vishwanath helped the Mughal heads ascend to throne-like Zulfiqar khan, Farrukh Siyar, and Sayyid. In return, he got chauth and sardeshmukhi for the Marathas. He also increased the ambition of Maratha chiefs to increase rule to the north by showing them the weakness of the Mughals. However, he gave too much freedom to the Maratha sardars. They could collect the chauth and sardeshmukhi and keep a large part of it to themselves. They could also expand the Maratha Empire. Hence the Empire became huge but the autonomous sardars were in control. They didn’t hesitate to join the Mughals, Nizam, or British if the central authority was too strict.
Baji Rao I
Baji Rao, I was the next Peshwa and a skilled guerilla warrior comparable to Shivaji maharaja. He expanded the Maratha Empire to even Malwa, Gujarat, and Bundelkhand too. He forced Mughal officials to grant them Chauth and sardeshmukhi over new areas and conceded them to Maratha Empire. He also defeated the Nizam of Hyderabad, Siddis of janjira and the Portuguese. His main fault was that he failed in establishing an administration over new areas.
Balaji Baji Rao
His death made his son Balaji Baji Rao the heir. King Shahu had before dying made the Peshwa the official head of the Marathas. The new Peshwa took Maratha power over the entire India. He forced Bengal Nawab, the state of Mysore, Mughals, Rajputs, Jats, and Sikhs too pay tribute to them. The Mughal Wazir was now their puppet. They disposed of the chief appointed by Ahmed Shah Abdali and this brought in direct conflict with the Afghan warrior. In the battle of Panipat, the Marathas were routed. This tragic news reached the Peshwa and he died due to the shock.
Reasons for the defeat of Maratha at Panipat:
- They failed to find any allies in the north as all-mighty powers were incensed at their behavior.
- They meddled in the internal affairs of Rajputs and imposed fines on Jats and Sikhs who mistrusted them and refused to support them.
- Senior commanders of Marathas quarreled with each other.
Maratha Power 1761 – 1818
The defeat of the Marathas gave a chance to the East India Company to increase its power over Bengal and south India. The next Peshwa Madhav Rao restored the Maratha prestige to some extent. The Mughals and Rajputs, Jats and Mysore were once again brought under control and forced to pay tribute. By now powerful Maratha families had emerged those were totally autonomous and not under the Peshwa’s control like Gaikwad at Baroda, Holkar, Scindia, and Bhosle.
After Madhav Rao, his brother Raghunath Rao the brother of Balaji Baji Rao, and Narayan Rao brother of Madhav Rao fought for Peshwa post. The son of Madhav Rao, Sawai Madhav Rao was appointed head and Raghunath Rao went to the British. The supporters of Sawai Madhav Rao led by Nana Phadnis and supporters of Raghunath Rao clashed constantly. The strong Maratha families now refused to participate in the Maratha affairs and remained autonomous.
The fight between Raghunath Rao, the British, and Marathas was the first Anglo Maratha war. The British sided with Raghunath Rao in hopes of making territorial gains in event of victory but they were defeated. The British then fought Mahadji Scindia but he too was an able soldier and their war [first Anglo Maratha war] was a stalemate. The British got 20 years of peace with the Marathas.
When Sawai Madhav Rao died Baji Rao II son of Raghunath Rao succeeded him. He was a worthless ruler. He signed a subsidiary alliance with the British and became their puppet. The British power had now increased and they decided to end the Marathas by dividing and ending each of the Maratha sardars separately. The Holkar and Scindia remained unconquered. The expansionist policy of Wellesley had created a huge debt and he was recalled. The peace treaty was signed with Holkar.
The Marathas again made an effort to regain lost pride in 1817 but they failed to unite forces and draft a comprehensive strategy. This led to their defeats. The other Maratha houses remained as subsidiary power but Peshwa power was extinguished. Peshwa was pensioned off and a province of Bombay was created by Marquis of Hastings. After these wars, the British controlled all of India except Sind and Punjab. They now could expand beyond the frontiers of India.