Cause of the downfall of the Marathas

Cause of the downfall of the Marathas Empire

Marathas Empire

It goes without saying that after the disintegration and fall of the Mughal Empire, power fall into the hands of the Marathas. Their empire was vast. Their armies were big. The Marathas themselves were great warriors and in fearlessness and bravery they were second to none in the world. However, in spite of these qualities, the Marathas failed to hold their own against the British. This was due to many causes.

1. It is true that the Maratha Empire was a vast one, but it was not well-knit. It was not a unitary state and all power was not in the hands of the Peshwa. The Maratha Empire was a confederacy. Powers was shared by many Maratha chief and most important of them were Holdar, Scindhia, Bhonsla and Gaikwad. It is true that nominally the Peshwa was the head of the Maratha confederacy but, as a matter of fact, he had no substantial control over the various Maratha chiefs. Every one of them was independent in their own territory and did whatever he paeased. They did not hesitate to intrigue against one another. It was not a happy phenomenon to see Holdar, Scindhia or Bhonsla helping another power against one another. Evidently, there was no discipline and solidarity among the Marathas. They were not brought together even by a national emergency. They failed to help one another against their common enemies and the result was that all of them were defeated one by one by the English East India Company.

2  The Marathas did not bother about finance. Such a vital department was absolutely ignored. The result was that the Marathas were always in need of money. This need they tried to satisfy by plundering the country. Plundering raids by the Maratha chiefs in search of money were common. But such a system can hardly bring any credit to the Government. No country can grow under such circumstancs. Even the people cannot have any devotion or loyalty to such a state. The Maratha Empire was bound to fall. The Marathas could plunder others when their own territory was small, but when their own empire bean to grow, they could not adopt the old device of laundering. This resulted in shortage of finance. The Marathas did not set up an efficient system of administration. Nothing was done to safeguard the interests of the people. Their rule was positively oppressive.

3. The another cause of Maratha failure was that they gave up their old method of fighting. The Marathas were extorts in Guerilla warfare. They were not accustomed to pitched battles. However, guerilla tactics were possible only so long as the Marathas had not set up an Empire of their own. When they established their own Empire, it became absolutely necessary for them to protect the people from foreign invasion. Consequently, by the force of circumstances, the Marathas were forced to give up their old method of fighting and that brought about their ruin.

4.  The Marathas were poor students of Geography. They did not bother to usdetstand the geography of the country which was indispensable for successful military operations. The result was that their lack of knowledge of the geography of the country landed them into difficulties. If the Maratha armies were moving toa destination, they might not be knowing that they would have to cross a big river or mountain on the way. Such a handicap was suicidal for successful military operations. If such was the condition of the Marathas, the Englishmen knew all about the Maratha territory. This knowledge helped the Englishmen in their military operations.

5.  The English company had enormous resources at its disposal and the Marathas were no match for them. The English were also the masters of diplomacy and the Marathas were merely children before them in that difficult art.

6.  Another cause of Maratha failure was the neglect of the study of science and of military training and organization.those who conducted the affairs of the Maratha State did not take note of what their European neighbors were doing in India. When Bajirao and his brother Chimnaji conquered the Island of Bassein form the Portuguese after a heroic fight they failed to take the logical step of founding a naval arsenal and shipbuilding base as a measure of self-defense. The Portuguese had docks and foundries for making guns and experts to work them on scientific lines. These could have been continued under Maratha management at Bassein. If that had been done, the Peshwas would not have been helpless in naval matters. They would not have been forced to apply to Europeans for the supply of shot, cannon, power, ships etc. the Peshwas and their advisers were intelligent and it is a pity that they utterly neglected the study and development of sciences which were absolutely necessary for the preservation of their organization, artillery and trained infantry and no wonder the Marathas ran away before the European guns. It is pointed out that no Maratha leader had the courage to face the British gunmen even if they were very few in number. Sardesai points out if the Maratha government had possessed the necessary fresight ad perseverance to organize their fighting on the European lines they would have been able to resist the British advance successfully.

7.   Another cause of Maratha failure was the lack of organization or sstem in whatever they did. There was no unity of command, no distribution of work and power, no clear-cut assignment of duties, no methods, no system and no rule. Each Maratha chief pulled in his own direction. There was want of attention to details and pre-arrangement. It is true that the Marathas saw the necessity of uniting for a common purpose but no one came forward to do the needful in the matter. They never joined together against a common enemy. The result was that they were individually defeated.

8.  It is  pointed out that the downfall of the Marathas synchronized with the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. At that time, the position of the Marathas was the weakest and that of the Englishmen was the strongest. Between 1794 and 1800, most of the experienced and able persons in the Maratha kingdom were removed by the cruel hand of death. The old Ram Shastri had already died in November 1789. Mahadji Scindhia died in February 1794. Hari Pant Phadka died in june 1794. Ahalya Bai Holkar died in August 1795. Peshwa Mahadeo Rao lost his life in October 1795 by an accidental fall from the balcony of his palace. Tukoji Holkar died in august 1797. Parshuram Bhat Patwardhan died o n 18th September 1799. Nana Phadnavis died on 13th March 1800. Before the Marathas were able to put their house in order, they were called upon  to oppose the formidable British power, strong in science, constitution, unity and naval supremacy. The supreme power at this time fell into the hands of Bajirao II and Baulatrao Scindhia. The misdeeds brought the Poona court and society to sucha moral degradation that no one’s life, liberty or honour was safe. People even in the distant parts of the country had to suffer terrible misery through misrule, oppression, plunder and devastation. The Sardars and Jagirdars, particularly of the southern Maratha country, were so completely alienated that they rushed for escape into the arms of the English. Bajirao was unscrupulous and incapable. It is true that Yashwantrao Holkar tried his best to remove Bajirao and put in his place his brother Amritrao. If he had succeeded in his objective, there would have been no chance for the Brithsh to establish their supremacy. However, the British did not allow that to be done and the result was that Bajirao II ruined everything. Bajirao II did not trust those who had been brought up under the old regime and selected his advisers from menials, selfish priests or intriguing up-starts like Arajerao Ghate. Persons like Bajirao II surrounded by men of small minds and poor character could not hold their own against eminent personalities on the English side. LordWelleslley and his two brothers Arthur Wellesley and Henry Wellesley were men of extraordinary capacity and talent. The same could be said about men like Elphinstone, Sir John Malcolm, Sir Barry Close, Col. Collins, Jonatham, Duncan and Sir Thomas Munro. Sardesai says that a nation possessing such able personalities for its agents is bound to win success at any time.

9.  Another cause of success of the British was their inquisitive nature and their superior diplomacy. During the First Maratha War, the British had full and detailed information in their possession regarding the Maratha Raj, its armies, the comparative worth of the various Jagirdars, their mutual relations and their family disputes. The British knew who could be own and who were loyal to the Peshwa. When they started the war they were prepared for any eventuality. Apart from Hornby, Warren Hastings, Mostyn, Anderson, Upton, Malet and Goddard  who were obtaining all kinds of information about the Maratha forts and their positions, paths leading to them, the condition of the people, local disputes and political happenings. For seven years, Mysore supplied useful information about Poona to Bombay and Calcutta. Indeed it can be said that he was the prime agent who provoked the war. On the other hand, the Marathas had practically no information about the English.  They knew practically nothing about England, her resources, her strength in India etc. even Nana Phadnavis did not at all possess such details. We do not know any Hindu who had learned the English language during the Maratha regime and who could talk and correspond freely in that language. On the other hand, there were a large number of Englishmen who had learned Indian language and could freely speak the same. It is pointed out that even Nana Phadnavis was ignorant not only of the geography of the outside world but even of India. The maps used by him were fantastic, incorrect and useless. No wonder the Marathas failed.

10.   According to the Rajwade, the want of scientific study by the Marathas was the main cause of their failure.”  According to Ranade, “If the innovation (of Scindhia’s trained brigade) had been accompanied by the acquisition of the requisite knowledge of military strategy and the scientific process  in the use and manufacture of superior arms, the helplessness which  paralyzed the native armies when their Euporean officers left them might have been avoided, but no care seems to have been bestowed in this direction and they were more helpless than  ever on the battlefield.”

11.  According to Sardesai, the untimely and unexpected death of many of its great men at different times were responsible for the failure of the Marathas. The untimely death of Shivaji brought the Mughal Emperor down upon Maharashtra. The untimely death of Bajirao I in 1740 freed the Nizam from extinction and made his dynasty permanent in the Deccan. The death of Peshwa Madhavrao let loose the latent dissolving forces upon Maharashtra and hastened its ruin. The death of Madhavrao II in 1795 brought to the Maratha leadership the evil genius of Bajirao II.

12.  Another cause of Maratha failure was the narrow conservation and racial arrogance inherent in the traditional system of caste. The Brahman rulers set in motion reactionary forces and revived old customs instead of supporting bold reforms for the regeneration of  like Bajirao II cared more for earning religious merit by distributing jobs among the Brahmans them for the security of the State. According to Arajwade, “An Englishman is a born political animal possessing the glittering polish of a gentlemen, but diabolic at heart. Where politics is concerned, he will not respect even his own father, much less any one else. It was no wonder, therefore, that with our high talk of spiritual greatness, and we went down in a short moment before the Englishmen.”

Khare has given certain reasons for the failure of the Marathas. According to him, the Marathas did not possess any national sentiment. The internal jealousy and selfish treachery among them triumphed over the public interest. While individually the Marathas were clever and brave, they lacked the corporate spirit so essential for national independence. The scientific spirit of inquiry and improvement was was entirely absent among them. The pernicious system of allowing lands in lieu of pay for military services provided ruinous. After the death of Madhavrao I no capable leader appeared in Maharashtra. The Marathas as a race lacked the virtue of discipline and methodical pre-arrangement. The British were past masters in the art of diplomacy and the Marathas could not stand against them.


Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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