The Rajput were first exposed to Maratha’s during the time when Aurangzeb sent Jaswant Singh of Jodhpur & Jai Singh of Amer were sent to Deccan to subdue Shivaji. They failed in the process but admired Shivaji’s spirit for independence, his concern for preserving Hindu culture and his fight against all odds with Aurangzeb. However, much of these interactions were limited to Deccan territories till Marathas under great Peshwa Baji Rao I, started on an aggressive expansion campaign.
The Cordial Relations Phase
When the Marathas were trying to gain foothold in Malwa, Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur, extended clandestine support. Sawai Jai Singh’s pro-Maratha policy was motivated by his desire to drive away the Mughals from Malwa with the help of the Marathas and then extend his own territories upto Malwa.
Maratha get close to Rajasthan
By the end of 17th century the decline of Mughal power carved out sufficient space for new empire. A new strategy of systematic expansion towards north began with Bajirao taking over as Peshwa in 1720 A.D. Pehwa Baji Rao decided to overrun and bring under control the rich and flourishing provinces of Malwa and Gujarat. The province of Malwa was a part of the Mughal Empire and Sawai jai Singh of Jaipur was regularly appointed as Subedar of Malwa. Sawai Jai Singh inflicted some initial defeats to Marathas but it failed to control the Maratha expansion and Malwa began to slip under Maratha domination.
Maratha raid in Rajasthan
Maratha penetration in Rajasthan started with sporadic raids in states of Kota, Bundi, Mewar & Marwar. In 1726 Baji Bhim raided Mewar arid realized Chauth from a Mewar district, in 1728, Bajirao forced the rulers of Dungarpur and Banswara to Pay to him. They followed the route from the Mukandara Pass and across the Chambal from Malwa via Harauti, and from Gujarat via Idar and Jalore.
Battle of Mandsaur
In 1732, Jai Singh was appointed the governor of Malwa for third time. At the beginning of 1733, Malhar Rao Holkar and Ranoji Shinde managed to encircle Jai Singh at Mandsor in Malwa. Maratha forces forces cut off ‘grain and water supply’ to Jai Singh’s camp, forcing him to negotiate peace and agree to Maratha demands.He was compelled to pay 6 lacs in cash and promised to cede 38 paraganas in lieu of Chauth. Once Malwa came under Maratha domination, Jai Singh failed to control Peshwa’s territorial ambitions further North.
Maratha Penetration in Rajasthan
Role of Maratha in Bundi
Marathas established Malwa as their base. It served as a convenient starting point for raids into Rajputana. However, Maratha’s penetration into Rajputana is attributed to the internal affairs & policy of Rajputs. Sawai Jai Singh was keen to enhance his position in Rajasthan and expelled Budh Singh to put his own son in law, Dulel Singh on the throne.
Budh Singh turned to seek the support of an external power stronger than Jai Singh. According to Vamsh Bhaskar, Pratap Singh Hada, the elder brother of Dalal Singh, was sent to Poona to meet the Peshwa and the other prominent Maratha sardars to enlist military support for Budh Singh. Holkar restored the authority of Budh Singh. However, soon after the Maratha forces departed, Jai Singh again expelled Budh Singh and reinstalled Dulel Singh on throne.
Rao Ummed (Omeda, as per Col.Tod) Singh, was 13 years old at time of his father Budh Singh’s death. Ishwari Singh succeeded Jai Singh at jaipur. Ummed Singh revolted against Dulel Singh and was aided by Rao Durjan Sal of Kota. Ummed Singh captured tarragarh and seated on throne of his father. Dulel Singh fled to his suzerain at Jaipur and Isharwari Singh disposed forces to re-expel the Hada Ruler. Ummed Singh was soon compelled to abandon the throne.
The widow of Budh Singh and mother of Ummed singh, paid a visit to Malhar Rao Holker. Consequently, Holker send forces and delivered Bundi to Ummed Singh. He continued marching towards Jaipur to reach castle of Bagroo. After a siege of 10 days, Ishwari Singh was forced to sign a deed for surrender of Bundi and Ummed sign was seated on throne for second time. Malhar Rao demanded and obtained the district of Patan for his services.
The rajput leaders soon realized that Mughal power was incapable of resisting the Maratha expansion and decided to hold a conference at Hurda to discuss terms of a united Rajputana front against the Marathas. Hurda conference saw in attendence Sawai Jai Singh of Jaipur, Maharana Jagat Singh of Mewar, Abhay Singh of Jodhpur, Dulel Singh of Bundi, Durjansal of Kota, Zorawar Singh of Bikaner, Gopal Singh of Karauli, Raj Singh of Kishangarh and Bakhat Singh of Nagaur. After prolonged deliberations, an agreement was signed on 17th July 1734.
Maratha role in Jaipur
Sawai jai Singh died on 21st September 1743 A.D. His death resulted in struggle for succession between his sons Madho Singh and Ishwari Singh. Madho Singh was the younger son of Sawai Jai Singh from the princess of Mewar who was given in marriage to him in 1708 on the condition that the son born to her would succeed Jai Singh even if he was younger in age. Ishwari Singh was eldest son, and according to the Rajput custom he was the heir apparent. After the death of Jai Singh, Ishwari Singh who was at Jaipur succeeded him. He was given due recognition not only by the Mughal emperor but also by his neighboring Rajput rulers. Additionally, Peshwa also sent succession presents to Ishwari Singh.
Maharana Jagat Singh of Mewar felt insulted and started preparations to dethrone Ishwari Singh. Durjansal of Kota also joined in the cause of Maharana. Ishwari Singh marched with a large force to encounter the combined forces of Kota and Udaipur, encamped at Jamoli. The fight continued for 40 days, after which, Ishwari Singh reached an agreement with the Maharana, giving the pargana of Tonk to Madho Singh.
Madho Singh was not satisfied with this agreement and desired the throne of Jaipur. In 1744, when Ishwari Singh was at Delhi, the Maharana accompanied by Madho Singh, marched against Jaipur. Ishwari Singh returned to Jaipur and sought help of Marathas. The Maharana was takenback to see such situation and he had to even promise some money to the Marathas to save his troops from annihilation. Ishwari Singh repudiated even Jamoti agreement.
Not disappointed with the above failure, Maharana now sought Maratha support and concluded agreement with Malhar Rao Holker of payment of two lakh rupees. Maharana dispatched his forces of Kota and Shahpura. Holkar also sent his son Khande Rao with twelve thousand horses to join the new allies.A bloody battle was fought at Rajmahal and won by Ishwari Singh on March, 1747.
But Malhar Rao Holkar did not withdraw and pressed for Madho Singh’s claim and advised the Peshwa to take up his cause. Another battle was fought on 14th August 1748 between the allies and Ishwari Singh, in which Ishwari Singh was rooted out. He had to promise heavy bribe to Maratha Sardar Gangn Dhar to save the destruction. However, continuous war had adversely affected the economic condition of Jaipur state and money promised to the Marathas was not paid. The Peshwa sent Holkar to realize it. Being helpless, Ishwari Singh committed suicide. Having captured the city of Jaipur without any resistance, Holkar installed Madho Singh on the throne.
However, the adverse condition of Jaipur state did not change even after this struggle for succession ended as Maratha demand kept on increasing.
Maratha Intervention in Marwar
Even before the culmination of Jaipur struggle, Marathas were engaged into Jodhpur dispute. It commenced with the accession of Ram Singh on 13 July 1749 on the throne of Marwar. His right was disputed by his uncle, Bakhat Singh. With the help of Rajput sardars he rovolted against Ram Singh and defeated him in a battle at Luniawas, 27 November 1750. Ram Singh was expelled from Jodhpur and sought refuge in Jaipur.
Bhakt Singh ruled until his death on 21 September 1752, after which his son Vijay Singh succeeded. The death Bhakt Singh, afforded Ram Singh, the chance of redeeming his birthright. Sawai Madho Singh of Jaipur also backed the exiled Ram Singh for the throne of Jodhpur. The Marathas were keenly observing the situation and took full advantage of their rivalry, concluding a treaty with Ram Singh. Together they attacked on Bijay Singh in May, 1761. They also received the co-operation of the Champawats, Kumpawats and Shekhawats. In 1753, he deposed Vijay Singh and reascended the throne for the second time.
The triumphiant Maratha spread across the territory Marwar. This created hatred against the Marathas and culminated in the murder of Jayappa Sindhia on 24 July, 1755. The death of Jayappa changed the terms between Ram Singh & Marathas and in addition to territory of Ajmer, they now demanded revenue from entire territory of Marwar. The Marathas switched sides and abandoned Ram Singh.
A battle ensued, Vijay Singh took help of Malhar Rao Holker and ended the contest once and for all for all in his favour. Ram Singh passed his remaining life at Jaipur, where he died in 1772.
Maratha intervention in Jat Affairs
The rivalry between Jawahar Singh and Nahar Singh also paved the way for Maratha intervention in the Jat affairs. Maharaja Suraj Mal died in 1763. At the time of Raja Suraj Mal’s death, Jawahar Singh was in Farrukhnagar. Maharaja Suraj Mal’s nobles placed Nahar Singh on the throne. On hearing this news Jawahar Singh set to return to Bharatpur, take revenge with Nahar Singh and lay his claim to throne. Bal Ram, brother-in-law of Maharaja Suraj Mal and the commander of Bharatpur forces c prepared for war against Jawahar Singh. However, ultimately, he accepted Jawahar Singh’s claim to the throne and Jawahar Singh ascended the throne of Bharatpur.
Soon, Jawahar Singh wrested Narnol district of Jaipur and this alarmed Sawai Madho Singh. He approached both Holkar and Sindhia for help, who responded favourably to Sawai Madho Singh’s appeal and sent their forces to Jaipur. The Maratha intervention in favour of Jaipur spoiled Jawahar Singh’s and he was forced to make peace with Madho Singh.
Nahar Singh held Dholpur as his appanage. Jawahar Singh helped the Raja of Dholpur to be independent of the Marathas. He inflicted a severe defeat to Marathas. After having lost his own estate, Nahar Singh took refuge in Jaipur and died on 6th December, 1766. Consequently, Vijay Singh of Marwar and Jawahar Singh joined hands to fight against the Marathas.
The Marathas gained prominence under the leadership of Shivaji. He organized them into a force that successfully challenged the mighty Mughal Empire. With Aurangzeb’s death, the Mughal Empire witnessed a quick succession of weak Emperors. Mughal weakness gave most opportune time when the Peshwa’s policy of Northward expansion. Under the able supervision of the Peshwas, the Marathas established their control over Malwa and Gujarat. Rajasthan, shared borders with both Malwa & Gujarat, hence, geographical proximity enabled Marathas to foray easily into Rajputana dominions.
Initially, the Marathas made sporadic raids but in wake of declining Mughal Authority they were formally invited by the Rajput Rajas to intervene in their succession disputes. The Rajput State of Bundi was the first to invite Maratha assistance in domestic feud. This was later followed by the States of Jaipur, Jodhpur and even Mewar.
In return for this support, Marathas were promised huge sums of money. At times when Rajput Rajas could not pay the due installments, certain territories were transferred to Marathas. Thus, the Marathas entered Rajasthan to settle the domestic feuds, for which they were hired, later they became the masters who levied tribute and ravaged the land whenever they desired.
The Maratha intervention in Rajasthan ended with rise of new authority in form of East India Company. The rajput realized that they could be delivered from their problems only by the rising British power and beginning from 1803 till 1823, all the Rajput States including Alwar, Karauli, Kota, Jodhpur, Mewar, Bundi, Bikaner, Kishangarh, Jaipur, Banswara, Pratapgarh, Dungarpur, Jaisalmer and Sirohi concluded subsidiary treaties with the British Government.