Indian Wars : Battle of Palkhed

The battle took place in February 28, 1728 at the village of Palkhed.This campaign is notable for 2 reason-First, this campaign has been chosen as brilliant in strategy by Field Marshal Montgomery in his book, A History of Warfare. Whether this was a completely thought-out strategy or circumstances helped formulate this strategy is definitely worth investigating. Secondly, a few historians would claim that the success of this campaign established the Maratha supremacy in the Deccan and gave way for further adventures; another factor that is worth investigating.

Battle took place between Maratha Peshwa Bajirao I and Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad.Nizam was defeated in this battle.

Background of this war:

The seeds of this battle go to the year 1713, when Maratha King Shahu, appointed Balaji Vishwanath as his Peshwa or Prime Minister. Within a decade, Balaji had managed to extract a significant amount of territory and wealth from the fragmenting Mughal Empire. In October 1724, the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah appointed Nizam-ul-Mulk as the Governor of Deccan.The Nizam was again appointed the Vazir of the Mughal Empire, he suspended chauth and sardeshmukhi payments to Marathas. This was the primary factor for the Battle of Palkhed.

The Nizam set about strengthening the province by attempting to control the growing influence of the Marathas. He utilized a growing polarization in the Maratha Empire due to the claim of the title of King by both Shahu and Sambhaji II of Kolhapur. The Nizam began supporting the Sambhaji faction, which enraged Shahu who had been proclaimed as King. The Nizam further decided to halt chauth given by many landowners of the Deccan province to the Marathas, as had been agreed by the Syed Brothers in 1719.

Baji Rao and the Maratha armies were called back from the south, from the Karnataka campaign. In May 1727, Baji Rao then asked Shahu to break of negotiations with the Nizam-ul-Mulk (Nizam-ul-Mulk had called for an arbitration over the payment of the chauth and sardeshmukhi) and started mobilizing an army. With the monsoons over and the land ready for this exciting campaign, Baji Rao moved towards Aurangabad.

After a skirmish near Jalna (the Marathas by now had become famous for their strategy of not engaging with the enemy) with Iwaz Khan (the General of Nizam-ul-Mulk), as could have been predicted, Baji Rao moved away from the battlefield, towards Burhanpur (north of Maharashtra).

Nizam-ul-Mulk army pursued Baji Rao. Baji Rao then moved westwards to Gujarat from North Khandesh. However the Nizam-ul-Mulk gave up the pursuit and moved southward towards Pune. This is an interesting reason and comparison between how the two armies functioned. The Nizam is known to have carried huge armies with him, including supplies to last for the duration of the campaign. In fact, the Nizam used to carry his jenana or womenfolk with him during his campaigns. The Maratha armies however were very light and found supplies on the way way by plundering and looting out-posts on the way.

As Nizam-ul-Mulk left the pursuit of Baji Rao and moved towards the head quarters of the Shahu stronghold, posts like Udapur, Avasari, Pabal, Khed, and Narayangarh surrendered to Nizam-ul-Mulk, who then occupied Pune and advanced towards Supa, Patas, and Baramati.

In Baramati, Nizam-ul-Mulk got news of Baji Rao moving towards Aurangabad. Nizam-ul-Mulk began moving northwards to intercept the Maratha Army. By this time he was confident of crushing Baji Rao and his army. It was not to happen so. The Raja of Kolhapur, Shambhaji refused to join him in this campaign against Baji Rao. Nizam-ul-Mulk was cornered in a waterless tract near Palkhed of 25 February 1728. Nizam-ul-Mulk army refused to fight. Through Iwaz Khan, the Nizam-ul-Mulk sent out word of his plight, and his army was allowed to move to the vicinity of the river.

Outcome:

A peace treaty was signed on 6 March 1728 at Mungi-Paithan.

Author: Aditya Bhuyan

I am an IT Professional with close to two decades of experience. I mostly work in open source application development and cloud technologies. I have expertise in Java, Spring and Cloud Foundry.

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