This is the story of the three Anglo-Maratha War.

The Maratha Empire is etched in the history of India with golden ink. An empire that fought invaders constantly for more than 400 years and yet thrived. The Maratha empire was possibly the biggest obstacle to Britain’s dream of ruling over entire India. Unlike other provinces, the Marathas not only defended their lands but also believed in unifying the entire Indian subcontinent. ‘Akhand Bharat’ (undivided India) was the dream of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha empire.

The Anglo-Maratha war is stretched over three wars over three different years. The first war happened in the year 1776. The East India Company did not have a stronghold over India and the Maratha empire was the largest empire of the Indian subcontinent.

It all started when the ruler of the Maratha empire, Narayanrao was poisoned by his uncle Raghunathrao. Raghunathrao took over as the new king.

Twelve Maratha chiefs, who were known as BaarBhai (twelve brothers) allied to dethrone Raghunathrao and place the rightful king on the throne, an infant son of Narayanrao.

Raghunathrao, afraid of losing his position, sought the help of the East India Company. The company gave him 1200 men with advanced artillery. In return they made him sign the treaty of Surat. This treaty permitted East India Company to take parts of Surat’s net revenue. Surat was one of the biggest ports in those times.
The rest of Maratha’s kingdom did not like the idea of outside influence in internal matters. A new leader of the Maratha empire was chosen in Nana Fadnavis.

Multiple battles happened between the East India Company and Marathas all over the country. The Maratha empire not only had more men but also knew the terrain much better than the Britishers. The Maratha empire won on multiple fronts with minimum casualties. The East India Company understood that they currently have no chance against the Marathas. They signed the peace treaty of Salbai in 1782 and peace was established between the sides.

East India had been lurking under the cover of a peace treaty waiting for the right time. In 1802, they re-introduced the son of Raghunathrao, Baji Rao as the rightful heir to the throne. Baji Rao with the support of British East India attacked the Maratha empire from the eastern borders. After winning some land in the east, Baji Rao signed the treaty of Bassein with the Company. Under this treaty, the occupied lands of Baji Rao were given to the East India Company for maintenance purposes. The Company had now found a way into the Maratha Empire.

At the same time, Yashwant Rao Holkar had defeated an alliance of Marathas Chieftains. While the Marathas were focused on Holkar, the Company slowly took over several Eastern ports. This gave them higher mobility of their soldiers.
The Company then attacked the worn-out army of Marathas from the west coast as well. They took over western port cities as well. The Maratha empire was now trapped from all sides. It was on the forceful insistence of Holkar that the British stopped their plans of expansion.

The third and final war was the last desperate attempt to re-establish Maratha Empire’s glory. Back-stabbed by the Britisher, Peshwa Baji Rao joined hands with Holkar. The Britishers had their informants placed throughout the empire. They got this news before the armies of Peshwa and Holkar could join. Many quick and short battles were fought during this war.

Better mobility of arms and ammunition proved the difference on both sides. The lack of trust in Peshwa slowed down the Maratha forces. The East India Company won the war easily. This loss was the final nail in the coffin of the Maratha Empire. The British now controlled the majority of India. Most of the chieftains and rulers retained their position only symbolically.

Though the land of Marathas kept producing inspiring figures throughout the struggle for independence, the Maratha empire became a thing of the past.
What was left of the empire was its dreams and principles. The dream of a ‘Unified India’ became the source of inspiration for the leaders to come.

FAQs about the Anglo-Maratha Wars

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