Balaji Vishwanath – Father of Peshwa Bajirao I – Second founder of Maratha State – 1 January 1662 – 12 April 1720

Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath was the first peshwa from Konkanastha family, which is considered as an inferior caste among Brahmins. Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath’s family forcefully moved from konkan region.

Balaji Vishwanath first worked as a clerk at salt works and later he moved to the upper region of Western Ghats to search for an employment and worked as mercenary troops under various Maratha generals.

Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath – Father of Peshwa Bajirao

Balaji Vishwanath – Role during Maratha civil war

Aurangzeb entered the Deccan in 1686, and captured Sambhaji’s (Chhatrapathi Shivaji’s eldest son) son Chhatrapati Shahu Ji at young age. After the death of Aurangzeb, Shahu was released from imprisonment. In meantime Tarabai (widow of Rajaram, Rajaram the youngest son of Chhatrapathi Shivaji) who was at the helm of affairs in the name of his son Shivaji II ruled the territory. Tarabai, who was not willing to give place to Chhatrapati Shahu prepared for a war, Maratha senapati Dhanaji Jadhav was sent by Tarabai to attack Shahu. Dhanaji Jadhav despatched Balaji Vishwanath personally to verify Shahu was not a pretender. After Balaji Vishwanath verified Chhatrapati Shahu and persuade with senapathi to support Chhatrapati Shahu. Dhanaji’s faith on Balaji Vishwanath aroused the jealousy of Dhanaji son, Chandrasen Jadhav. Shahu was victorious and Tarabai relocated from south of Krishna to north for Chhatrapati Shahu to become the ruler

Balaji Vishwanath – Role as an Organiser of army

In 1708 Dhanaji Jadhav died and Balaji Vishwanath has become a prominent administrator. In 1712, Balaji Vishwanath was appointed as organiser of armies, which is headed by son of Dhanaji, Chandrasen Jadhav. There were few Maratha chief working under Tarabai. Damaji Thorat, working under Tarabai betrayed and seized Balaji Vishwanath. Shahu had to pay ransom to get him released from the hands of Tarabai. Shahu ordered Chandrasen Jadhav and Balaji Vishwanath to march towards Tarabai. But rivalry between Balaji Vishwanath and Chandrasen Jadhav favoured the situation by Chandrasen supporting Tarabai in April 1711. Younger brother of Chandrasen, Santaji Jadhav was appointed as senapathi. Balaji Vishwanath borrowed huge money from lenders like Mahadaji Krishna Naik at his own responsibility and expanded the army. Tarabai Bhonsle and his son were taken in prison and Rajasbai (other widow of Rajaram) son, Sambhaji was placed on the throne of Kolhapur and increased the popularity of Chhatrapati Shahu.

Map of Maratha Empire under Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath around 1718 CE

Balaji Vishwanath – Role as a Peshwa

In 1713 Balaji Vishwanath became Peshwa, made some ministerial changes. In 1713 Balaji Vishwanath got anxious to get release of Shahu’s wives and mother who were still hostages. Hussain Ali, prime minister of Delhi seeks help from Balaji Vishwanath as he could not march to Delhi as Marathas were hostile to him. He promised to sign an agreement in which all hostages are released and expand the territory in the north. In return 15000 armed horsemen marched under the command of Khanderao Dabhade; Balaji Vishwanath also marched with Hussam Ali to Delhi.

Balaji Vishwanath – Last Victory

Releasing hostages and back from Delhi Balaji Vishwanath had a tiresome journey and health began to decline. In October 1719, Balaji Vishwanath retired to his own village Saswad and celebrated his eldest son, Bajirao I marriage with Kashibai. In April 12, 1720 Balaji Vishwanath died after a long ailment.

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