The Marathas Part 20 The Prominent Feudatories of the Empire Section V: The Gaekwads of Baroda

Canberra, 11th September 2022

The Gaekwads were hereditary Patels of Davdi, a village near Talegaon in Pune district. From the time of the Maratha conquest of Gujarat, they were in the direct service of the Senapati, Khande Rao Dabhade. The Senapati was also a hereditary position and equal in status to the Peshwa, being the second pillar on which the Maratha administration rested. It is reported that Damaji Gaekwad, (also written as Gaekwar and Gaikwad) son of Nandaji and grandson of Keroji, distinguished himself in the Battle of Balapur in 1720 and was brought to the notice of the Raja by the Senapati. Damaji died soon after and Senapati Khande Rao also faded away from the records thereafter.

Trimbak Rao Dabhade succeeded to the position of Senapati and Pilaji Gaekwad, adopted son of Damaji, became one of his trusted lieutenants. The third decade of the 18th century, 1720–1730, was a chaotic period in the history of the Maratha Empire. Early in the 1700s, the Maratha army had overrun most of Gujarat and levied tribute at will. In 1718, Raja Shahu demanded Chauth of Gujarat and Malwa from the governor Sayyid Husain Ali. However, the court in Delhi refused this privilege and the Mughal emperor permitted the collection of Chauth only from the Deccan. In response, Raja Shahu allocated the region of Baglan and the province of Gujarat to Senapati Dabhade and asked him to employ arms to collect Chauth from both the regions.

The Maratha incursion into Gujarat, led by the Senapati, coincided with the crumbling of the Mughal Empire with the governors of distant provinces carving out their own kingdoms—examples are the Nizam-ul-Mulk in Hyderabad and Ali Vardi Khan in Bengal. Petty Muslim nobles, who had so far been innocuous chiefs of smaller holdings and towns under the governors, also started to declare independence, calling themselves ‘nawabs’ of places like Surat, Cambay and Broach. This implosion of the Mughal hierarchy and the invasion of the Marathas from the south posed the greatest challenge to the faltering Mughal authority in the west and central parts of the sub-continent. Peshwa Baji Rao, along with Scindia and Pilaji Gaekwad invaded Khandesh, Balaghat, Gujarat and Malwa. Initially the Maratha objective was only to force the Mughal viceroy to pay Chauth, there was no territorial conquest intended.

Pilaji Gaekwad

Pilaji Gaekwad had earlier been given command of a 50-horse contingent and was stationed at Navapura. Subsequently he joined the Senapati’s main force at Talegaon. Displaying initiative and energy, he was promoted to the command of a slightly larger contingent of the regular army and took his post at Songarh, a small hill fort in the wilderness, situated at the border of Surat district, in the middle of Bhil and Koli hill tribes. Songarh became the Gaekwad home.

Pilaji formed an alliance with the Raja of Rajpipla and recruited the hill tribes into his force, gradually gathering them around his holding and making them his staunch allies. He then tested the waters by encroaching into Gujrat territory. In 1720, he made a bold expedition to the north of Gujarat and levied Chauth from the parts that he had overrun. The success of this expedition emboldened Pilaji and in 1723, he marched on Surat, defeated the Mughal governor Momin Khan and established his right to levy Chauth annually throughout the Surat region. This expedition was assisted by the Patels of Padra, Chhani and Bhayai, all lying within the Baroda pargana. Their knowledge of the local terrain was of great assistance to Pilaji throughout the campaign.

Complications in Gujarat

While Pilaji was operating in southern Gujarat, the Peshwa asked Udaji Pawar to assist him in the on-going campaign in Malwa and to move into the bordering districts in northern Gujarat. On 3rd December 1722, the Peshwa issued a letter to Pawar allocating to him a quarter of all revenues from Gujarat, for services rendered. At the same time, another Maratha chief, Kanthaji Kadam Bande, who had established himself in north Khandesh was regularly raiding Malwa and Gujarat. Thus, the Marathas were undertaking three different invasions simultaneously in Gujarat, which were uncoordinated and at times geographically overlapping, bound to create tensions between the three chiefs. The situation was further complicated by the frequent change of the Mughal viceroy/governor of the province at the whim and fancy of the Mughal emperor and court politics in Delhi.

Between 1722–24, Gujarat saw three Mughal governors being appointed, who in turn appointed their own deputies who squabbled with each other incessantly. The internal Mughal politics boiled over in Gujarat and a disgruntled Nizam-ul-Mulk approached Kadam Bande for assistance to reinstate his uncle Hamid Khan, who had been thrown out of Ahmedabad in August 1724. In return, Bande would be given the right to collect Chauth across the entire Gujarat. When the monsoon rains eased, Kadam Bande joined Hamid Khan with 20,000 cavalry and the combined army marched on Ahmedabad. Shujaat Khan who had ‘deposed’ Hamid Khan was taken unawares and killed in battle. On 17th December 1724, Hamid Khan who had been exiled from Ahmedabad just five months ago, re-entered the city. Chauth and sardeshmukhi rights were conferred on Kadam Bande. Hamid Khan then went on to expel the Mughal representatives in Ahmedabad and took possession of the province independently. Gujarat was lost to the Mughal emperor forever.

Division of the Chauth

When news of Hamid Khan’s rebellion reached Delhi, Rustom Ali Khan, the governor of Surat was ordered to raise an army and oust Hamid Khan. Rustom sough the alliance of Pilaji Gaekwad and together they marched from Surat to Ahmedabad. On 7th February 1725 the opposing armies faced each other near Aras. On the night of 7–8 February, Hamid Khan sent out his agents to negotiate with Pilaji and was able to ‘win over’ the Maratha chief to his side. The next day when battle was to be joined, Rustom found himself isolated—he was soundly defeated by the forces of Hamid Khan and Kadam Bande. Hamid Khan bestowed half the Chauth to Pilaji Gaekwad, fulfilling his promise made earlier to induce Pilaji to desert Rustom Khan.

But naturally, Kadam Bande and Pilaji Gaekwad disagreed over the division of the right to collect Chauth and fought each other near Cambay. Hamid Khan, aware that he needed assistance from both his allies, intervened and pacified the two Maratha chiefs—he granted the Chauth of north Gujarat to Bande and that of the south to Gaekwad. Hamid Khan was only a deputy governor, in-charge of Ahmedabad and surroundings, with no control over the entire Gujrat province to grant such rights to anyone he favoured. The actual governor of Gujarat, Sarbulund Khan, drove Hamid Khan out of Ahmedabad but was powerless to evict the Maratha chiefs that Hamid had installed.

Sarbulund then approached the Peshwa and came to an understanding with him by granting the Chauth of Gujarat to the Peshwa. This arrangement riled Senapati Dabhade, who had earlier been officially allotted Gujarat as his sphere of influence by the Raja himself. This rivalry between the Peshwa and the Senapati finally led to war and the defeat and death of Trimbak Rao Dabhade in April 1731 at the Battle of Dabhoi (described in an earlier chapter). The Pune court asked the Peshwa to restore control of Gujarat to the Senapati’s successor, which was gracefully done. Baji Rao was content to withdraw from Gujarat having established the primacy of the Peshwa among the Maratha chiefs. Trimbak Rao’s younger brother Yashwant Rao was made the Senapati, his mother Uma Bai became the guardian and Pilaji Gaekwad became the deputy leader.

The Gaekwad Ascendency

Pilaji now had the resources of the Senapati at his disposal; was master of Songarh, Baroda and Dabhoi; and had the Bhils and Kolis as his staunch allies. The Mughal subahdar now was Abhay Singh, who feared that Pilaji would overwhelm him soon. He resorted to subterfuge and treachery to even the ground. He invited Pilaji to discuss the arrangements for the collection of the Chauth at Dakore and had him murdered. However, this murder did not do Abhay Singh any good.

Pilaji’s son, Damaji Gaekwad took to the field against the subahdar, along with his allies from the hill tribes, and marched on Ahmedabad, while sending a contingent of cavalry to Marwar. In the meantime, Abhay Singh had retired to Jodhpur, his kingdom, to defend it from some other external threat, leaving his deputy Ratan Singh Bhandari to face Damaji. Ratan Singh was defeated and in 1734, Damaji overran Baroda. In 1735, Damaji defeated Kadam Bande in the Battle of Anand Mogri, about 25 miles south-east of Kaira, and expelled him from Gujarat. With this victory north Gujarat also came under the sway of the Gaekwads and they started to collect from the entire Gujarat privince.

In 1737, Momin Khan who had so far been the governor of Cambay, was appointed the viceroy of Gujarat. He realised that he could not drive out the Marwari tribes from Gujarat and invited Damaji Gaekwad to assist him; in return he promised Gaekwad half the revenue of entire Gujarat, except that of his personal lands in Ahmedabad and Cambay. The alliance was a great success and continued till Momin Khan’s death in 1743. In 1738, Damaji occupied half of Ahmedabad after evicting Ratan Singh, who had continued to hold on to some parts of the city; suppressed a revolt by some disgruntled Koli tribesmen in Viramgaon; and captured Bansda. Damaji was a dynamic leader and made up for the lack of spirit and enterprise of the nominal Senapati, Yashwant Rao Dabhade. The new viceroy, Fakhr-ud-Daulah, continued the cordial relations and alliance with the Gaekwads and conferred Borsad and Nadiad districts on Damaji for the assistance he provided.

A Turning Point

The first years of the 1750s, were critical in Maratha history and directly affected the fortunes of the house of Gaekwad. Raja Shahu died in 1749 and was succeeded by Ram Raja, Tara Bai’s grandson. Tara Bai, daughter-in-law of Chhatrapati Shivaji, was extremely ambitious and wanted to administer the kingdom on behalf of her grandson. She clashed with the Peshwa who had by now become the hereditary Prime Minister of the Maratha king and the real ruler of the Empire. Tara Bai tried to create an alliance of Maratha chiefs against the ‘Brahmin’ Peshwa and send out messages to all possible allies. The only answer to this call for rebellion was from Damaji Gaekwad—mainly because he continued to consider himself the deputy to the Senapati and believed that he had a special relationship with the crown, as opposed to being loyal to the Peshwa.

Damaji deployed a contingent of 15,000 cavalry in support of Tara Bai, the dowager queen, and started to raid Peshwa lands. On 18th February 1751, Gaekwad forces bested the Peshwa’s troops at Bahadurpura in Khandesh and marched to Satara, the seat of the Raja, passing through Sangamner, Daudi and Pabal. Then the tide changed against Damaji. On 15th March 1751, the Peshwa’s forces challenged Damaji on the River Venya near Satara, inflicted a devastating defeat on the Gaekwad forces, and trapped them inside Satara.

By end-April, the Peshwa personally arrived on the scene and demanded Damaji pay 25 lakh rupees as military reparations and cede half his territories in Gujarat. When Gaekwad refused to abide by these conditions, on 30th April, the Peshwa raided the Gaekwad camp, plundered it, and imprisoned Damaji and his nominal master, Senapati Dabhade. Subsequent negotiations continued for nearly a year and finally Gaekwad was forced to accept the following terms as condition for his release. He was to pay 15 lakh rupees as arrears; maintain 10,000 cavalry for the Peshwa’s use and aid him whenever called upon to do so; pay an annual tribute of 5 lakh and 25,000 rupees, and an unspecified sum to maintain Senapati Dabhade; and cede half his domains. In return, the Peshwa promised to help Damaji capture Ahmedabad and in a broader sense assist in expelling the Mughals from Gujarat. From this time forward, the house of Gaekwad became subordinate to the Peshwa, owing and sometimes paying him annual tribute—although it was a position only nominally accepted by the Gaekwads.

Support to the Peshwa

Gujarat was partitioned in 1752. Damaji was released in 1753 and became the second commander of a combined Maratha force under Raghunath Rao that besieged Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad had been the capital of the Muslim nawabs and viceroys ever since they had overrun Gujarat more than three centuries ago and was stoutly defended by Jawan Mard Khan Babi. He surrendered after a lengthy siege, on 20th March 1753.

In 1756, the Nawab of Cambay seized Ahmedabad for a brief period, but it was recovered by Damaji after some intense fighting. In 1760, Damaji joined the army of Hindustan under the great Bhau and in the Battle of Panipat that followed, conducted himself well, assisting Ibrahim Gardi in demolishing the right wing of the Afghan army. After the Maratha defeat at Panipat, Damaji managed to escape unhurt and return to Gujarat. The Afghan victory at Panipat had given impetus to revolts by minor Muslim ‘nawabs’ in the Gujarat region—Radhanpur, Palanpur, and Cambay being the prominent ones in the rebellion. Damaji was ruthless and efficient in putting down these revolts. In 1763, the Gaekwad cavalry contributed significantly to the Maratha victory against the Nizam in the Battle of Rakshasbhuvan.

A Second Rebellion

Although Damaji had promised loyalty to the Peshwa at his release in 1753, he had continued to cultivate good relations with Raghunath Rao—the perennial rebel, leader of the anti-Peshwa camp and the ultimate Maratha trouble-maker—and supported him against his nephew, the legitimate Peshwa. In 1768, a Gaekwad army under Govind Rao, Damaji’s son, fought against the Peshwa at the Battle of Dhodap. The Gaekwad force was soundly defeated, and Govind Rao taken prisoner. For his part in the uprising, Damaji was fined 23 lakh rupees in addition to being levied an arrears calculated at 19 lakh rupees, with the annual tribute being increased to eight lakh rupees. However, the Gaekwad contribution to the Peshwa’s army was reduced to 4,000 cavalry, an indication of the loss of trust in the loyalty of the Gaekwad soldiers.

From this defeat onwards the sanad of appointment of successive heads of the Gaekwad clan was issued by the Peshwa, which in turn exacted a ‘nazrana’ each time such an appointment was made. Even though he had been brought to his knees, Gaekwad only paid the Peshwa a part of the calculated dues. Damaji Gaekwad died on 18 August 1768, a few months after the defeat at Dhodap. By far the ablest of all Gaekwad leaders, Damaji brought Gujarat and the whole of Kathiawar under Gaekwad rule, successfully expelling the Muslim ‘nawabs’, who had sprung up all over Gujarat after the break-up of the Mughal Empire.

By accepting the Peshwa’s overlordship in 1753, the Gaekwads became part of the broader Maratha confederacy, strengthening the Empire as another foundational pillar for the edifice being constructed, despite numerous internal dissentions. However, Damaji’s open friendship with Raghunath Rao and his loyalty to the rebel made Peshwa Madhav Rao’s suspect his loyalty to the larger cause of the Marathas—in the Peshwa’s eyes the Gaekwads remained untrustworthy. This made Madhav Rao burden the house of Gaekwad with demands for tributes and resources that they could hardly hope to bear.

With Damaji’s death the expansion of Gaekwad territorial holdings through opportune conquest came to an end. The history of the house of Gaekwad now becomes a sad and sickening tale of fratricidal strife amongst the members of the extended family, which provided ample opportunity for external interference that was always detrimental to Gaekwad interests.

Succession Struggle

On Damaji’s death, the Peshwa decided the succession in favour of his son Govind Rao, who agreed to pay a total of 50 lakh rupees in cash—20 lakh as nazrana, 23 lakh as a fine and seven lakh in arrears—and to maintain the 4,000 cavalry as per earlier agreement with Damaji. Govind Rao had been in house arrest in Pune after being captured in the Battle of Dhodap and as such was unable to raise such a huge sum of money. At the same time his younger brother, Fateh Singh, a very ambitious and an equally unscrupulous prince, started to negotiate another settlement with the Peshwa and the Pune court.

Fateh Singh advocated for the eldest son of Damaji, named Sayaji, although born of Damaji’s second wife. Sayaji had been passed over for succession since he was unsound of mind, considered an imbecile. Fateh Singh secured the decision in Sayaji’s favour, sealing the settlement with a payment of 20 lakh rupees as nazrana, and became the deputy as well as the de facto head of the house of Gaekwad. According to this new arrangement, Govind Rao was to retire to the ancestral house of the Gaekwads at Davdi with a three-lakh rupee jagir for his maintenance. It does not require any imagination to understand that the brothers became bitter enemies and fought on opposing sides in the First Anglo-Maratha War. The animosity continued unabated with sundry relatives taking sides in the clashes as it suited their personal interests at the time.

The Ebb and Flow of the Tide

Peshwa Madhav Rao died in November 1772 and his brother Narayan Rao who succeeded him was murdered in August 1773. Raghunath Rao, permanently waiting in the wings, claimed the position of Peshwa and a civil war broke out in Pune. Raghunath recognised Govind Rao as the heir to Damaji and head of the Gaekwad clan and sent him to Baroda to claim his patrimony. However, a council of senior nobles had formed in Pune aimed at ensuring that Raghunath Rao did not become the Peshwa. Unable to withstand the power of the Council, Raghunath Rao fled from Pune with a small band of followers and joined Govind Rao at Baroda on 3rd January 1775. The pursuing army of the Council defeated the combined forces of Raghunath Rao and Govind Rao on 17th February 1775 at Anand Mogri near Aras.

Raghunath Rao fled to Surat, where he negotiated with the English and signed a treaty with them, while Govind Rao withdrew to Kapadvanj with the remnants of the beaten army. In this confusion and complication introduced by the English interference, Fateh Singh who was effectively still ruling the Gaekwad domain, changed sides in support of the English. In 1778, war broke out once again between the English and the Marathas. Fateh Singh Gaekwad signed a treaty of offensive and defensive alliance with the English on 26th January 1780 at Kandal near Dabhoi. According to this treaty, Fateh Singh would assist the English war efforts with 3000 cavalry and would also cede his share of the revenue from the districts around Surat, Broach and Sinnore to the English. In return, he would be given the territories of the Peshwa north of the River Mahi, after the war had been won. The English–Fateh Singh combined army marched on Ahmedabad and captured it on 15th February 1780. The town was handed over to Fateh Singh who now defended Gujarat against Maratha incursions. The Anglo–Maratha War shifted to the Konkan in 1781.

With the English stretched to breaking point, they brokered the Treaty of Salbai, signed on 17th May 1782, bring the long-drawn war to an end. According to the terms of the treaty, Fateh Singh was left in possession of all the territories he held before the commencement of hostilities nearly five years back; the Peshwa was not to claim any arrears from Gaekwad; and Fateh Singh was recognised as a Maratha jagirdar and was to render service to the Peshwa. Fateh Singh died in December 1789. In the interim seven years between the signing of the Treaty of Salbai and his death, Fateh Singh administered the Gaekwad domains with great prudence and wisdom, managing the State with surprisingly good ability. However, he made an error of judgement that would have far-reaching consequences for the Gaekwads—for the defence of the State, rather than raise and train a standing national army, Fateh Singh adopted the concept of hiring large contingents of foreign troops, mainly Muslim Arabs, who were pure mercenaries of questionable loyalty to the Gaekwad State.  

Further Confusion

At the death of Fateh Singh, Govind Rao should have been automatically elevated to the position of the head of the house of Gaekwad. However, he lacked the resources to pay the necessary nazrana and other tributes to claim the title. Another of Damaji’s sons, Manaji, promised to pay the Peshwa/Pune court a sum of 69 lakh rupees as combined nazrana and arrears and became the de facto controlling authority of the Gaekwad State as Regent on behalf of Sayaji, the mentally unsound eldest son of Damaji. Sayaji, on whose behalf even Fateh Singh had ruled, died in 1792 and Manaji died the following year on 1st August 1793.

With no other contender remaining to claim the title of head of the house of Gaekwad, the path was now clear for Govind Rao to be invested with the Gaekwad leadership. Even then the Pune court would not permit him to assume the position and title or even recognise his legitimate claim until such times as he paid one crore and twenty lakh rupees as nazrana, arrears and compensation for the debts that Manaji had incurred. Nana Phadnavis, controlling the Pune court as the Regent for the Peshwa was intent on ruining the house of Gaekwad and dismembering the State as an act of revenge for the Gaekwad’s loyalty to the Senapati, the Raja, and then to Raghunath Rao. He ordered that to meet the demands of the Pune court, Govind Rao surrender all the treasure in the Baroda palace, including personal jewellery and even clothes of everyone in the family, and to cede Gaekwad territory south of the River Tapti. Certain ruin of the Gaekwad State was avoided by the timely intervention of the English Resident in Pune, who put an end to Nana Phadnavis’ depredatory acts.   

Govind Rao’s Ruinous Rule

Govind Rao had waited for 25 long years to take over the Gaekwad legacy and domains. Since he had been outside for that many years, when he came to Baroda, he brought with him his own retinue of minor officials to administer the domains. They in turn brought their own petty jealousies, quarrels, mutual rivalries and personal ambitions along with them. Under these conditions, his administration was never going to be efficient or effective. The Pune government, essentially Nana Phadnavis, continued to make outrageous demands and unwarranted claims on Govind Rao. In combination with the internal family feuds within the Gaekwad clan, the kingdom was rapidly brought to financial ruin—in any case the promise of more than a crore of rupees to Pune itself was not sustainable.

In 1793, Govind Rao’s entry into Baroda had been opposed by his own son Kanhoji. However, the rebel was betrayed by the mercenaries he commanded and then had been placed in confinement. Kanhoji managed to escape and made his way into the hills where he was supported by the Bhils. With his rag-tad army he managed to ravage Sankheda and Bhadrapur. Kanhoji was later joined by Malhar Rao, the son of Khande Rao of Kadi—also a Gaekwad, an off-shoot of the main branch of the family—who was also opposed to Govind Rao. In 1794, Gaekwad forces attempted to overrun Cambay and were defeated by the English and in 1795, they participated in the Battle of Kharda.

The Peshwa excused Govind Rao from paying an amount of 60 lakh rupees, presumably under English pressure, and by 1797, an amount of 70 lakh rupees had been paid to Pune in instalments. However, the Gaekwads still had to service a debt of 40 lakh rupees.

In 1800, Nana Phadnavis died and Peshwa Baji Rao II, now free of all fetters, asked Govind Rao to evict Aba Shelukar, a Nana appointee, from Ahmedabad and take over control of all Peshwa lands in Gujarat. Govind Rao gladly obliged. His commander, Babaji, defeated Shelukar in battle and took him prisoner. Govind Rao now had complete administrative control of the Peshwa lands in north Gujarat and assumed independent control with great delight. However, this freedom was short-lived, since the Peshwa wanted to resume personal control over his Gujarat lands. The English in Bombay were opposed to the idea and wanted to maintain the status quo, presumably to give Govind Rao a breather. Before the issue could be amicably resolved, Govind Rao died in October 1800. The Gaekwad State was in an extremely impoverished situation, especially after having paid back in excess of 78 lakh rupees in tribute and fines imposed by the Pune government of Nana Phadnavis.

The condition of the Gaekwad Domain is well described by Elliot in the following narrative:

‘The treasury was empty; almost all the districts were mortgaged to creditors and the few remaining ones were farmed to unscrupulous men who made haste to extort money; the tributary states withheld their tributes with impunity. The maintenance of the army alone exceeded the receipts of the State; no attention was given to the administration of justice, the protection of the subjects and such other matters; there was, properly speaking, no government, for all power lay in the hands of rapacious and overbearing Arab soldiery and the government was distrusted most of all. Meanwhile Sindia and the Peshwa were watching the dissolution of the State with interested views.’

—F. A. H. Elliot, The Rulers of Baroda, 1934, pp. 63–64. 

Increasing Chaos

The greatest challenge to stability was the mercenary force first introduced by Fateh Singh, who were mostly Arabs. By the time of Govind Rao’s rule their numbers had been greatly increased and by 1800 they numbered more than 14,000 infantry and nearly 4,000 cavalry. Arab garrisons held the major forts at Baroda, Borsad and Sankhade and some other minor fortresses. They were only loyal to their pay-masters, two sahukars, Mangal Parekh and Samal Bechar, who themselves were devoid of loyalty and served any administration that paid them. The situation was custom made to create chaos and instability—a group of ruthless mercenaries with no loyalty beyond the lure of treasure, controlled by two equally unscrupulous and avarice-ridden individuals also controlled by considerations of money alone.

Govind Rao was succeeded by Anand Rao, who was also feeble-minded and addicted to opium and wine. Rani Gahina Bai, along with the minister Raoji Appaji and some other nobles roped in the two pay-masters of the mercenaries and formed a regency to rule. However, Kanhoji Rao, the eldest but illegitimate son of Govind Rao, who had rebelled earlier, now returned to Baroda and threw out the make-shift regency. He assumed the position of Regent for Anand Rao. The issue of lack of finances almost immediately swamped Kanhoji—there was no money to pay the Arab mercenaries who were by then actually calling the shots in the capital. Kanhoji extorted money from the citizenry, nobles and even the Gaekwad family, while confining Anand Rao in virtual captivity. The Arabs quickly realised that Kanhoji did not have the resources to pay them fully and/or regularly and therefore deposed him. The brought back Raoji Appaji and installed him as Diwan and Regent.

English ‘Aid’ – The End of Independence

Although he assumed office, Raoji found it impossible to control or rein back the deteriorating financial situation and the accompanying high-handed behaviour of the Arab mercenaries. Further, Malhar Rao Gaekwad, now controlling Kadi was in open revolt, demanding payments that were due to him. Other members of the extended Gaekwad family were also clamouring to be paid their dues in terms of maintenance grants and other payments. The embattled Raoji Appaji was in no position to provide succour to anyone since he did not have any resources at his command.

With the rest of the Maratha confederacy also in different stages of bankruptcy and instability, the entire enterprise was in dire straits and therefore, there was no one who could lend a helping hand. In desperation, Raoji turned to the English East India Company to bail him out, offering to surrender the districts surrounding Surat in return. The English in Bombay deputed a Major Walker to initially arbitrate between Raoji and Malhar Rao. Walker reached Baroda on 29th January 1802 and held several discussions with Anand Rao, the nominal head of the house of Gaekwad. Obviously, these discussions did not produce any tangible results since Anand Rao was not of sound mind and not the actual ruler.

By this time the house of Gaekwad was completely subsumed in debt with the mercenary Arab soldiers in open mutiny and local administration non-existent. Law and order had become an imaginary concept of the past. Walker then supported Raoji Appaji and an agreement was signed in Cambay in March 1802, according to which 2000 Company troops were to be sent to quell the mutiny and establish law and order at Gaekwad expense, for which further territories were ceded to the English. On 3rd May 1802, Malhar Rao Gaekwad was defeated by the English forces and his stronghold at Kadi captured. On 6th June, Anand Rao entered into a subsidiary alliance with the English East India Company to formalise the deployment of the 2000 Company troops along with a battery of English artillery. The Gaekwad State ceded to the English the districts of Dholka, Nadiad, Vijapur and Kadi that provided a combined revenue of 7.8 lakh rupees per annum.

The Arab mutineers were the most challenging issue to be sorted out and it took nearly six months for the English to do it. On 18th December 1802, after some intense fighting and concerted bargaining, the Arabs agreed to evacuate the fort at Baroda on payment of their arrears of pay of 17.5 lakh rupees, which the English paid. Anand Rao was placed in Baroda with guaranteed English protection. Major Walker managed to turn the finances of the Gaekwad domains around by making the Peshwa compromise on the amounts being demanded based on Company assurances and by ensuring the strict collection of revenue from the Kathiawar region, which had so far been lax.

The Gaekwad domains were now controlled by an English regency led by Major Walker who had been appointed the Resident. Article 14 of the Treaty of Bassein, signed subsequently, recognised the existence of the treaty between the Company and the Gaekwad State, and stated that the English would examine and adjust the transactions and debts between the Peshwa and the house of Gaekwad. In 1813, Baji Rao II made an attempt to reclaim his lands in Gujarat and to make Gaekwad pay an exorbitant amount as arrears of tribute and revenue. Nothing came out of it as the English Resident rejected the claims. Soon after, the house of Gaekwad became a subordinate ally of the English and remained so thereafter.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2022]
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About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Political and Defence Analyst specialising in military strategy, national security, and international politics. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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