Chhatrapati Shivaji & Balaji Baji Rao

The founder of the Maratha Empire, ‘Chhatrapati Shivaji (1627/1630 – 3 April 1680) Raje Bhosale was a Shudra Kshatriya king (before creating an empire was a Shudra) who created the ‘Peshwa’ designation in order to more effectively delegate administrative duties during the growth of the Maratha Empire. A Peshwa is the titular equivalent of a modern Prime Minister. They were leader in military expeditions and great strategist and expanded Maratha Empire. The first Peshwa was Moropant Pingale who was appointed as the Prime Minister of the Council Of Eight (English-Ashtapradhan Mandal, Marathi-अष्टप्रधान मंडळ) by Shivaji Maharaj. The Peshwas were all ministers who initially started as the chief executives to the king. The Peshwas held the highest administrative office and also controlled the Maratha confederacy. Under the Chitpavan Brahmin Bhat family they became the de facto hereditary administrators of the Maratha Empire from 1718 till its end in 1818.

Very little is known of the Chitpavans before 1707 A.D. Sometime around this time, an individual of the Chitpavan community, Balaji Vishwanth Bhat arrived from Ratnagari to the Pune-Satara area. He was brought there on the basis of his reputation of being an efficient administrator. He quickly gained the attention of Chhatrapati Shahu and his work so pleased the Chhatrapati that he was appointed the Peshwa or Chief Minister in 1713. Balaji was blessed by his spiritual preceptor Narayan Dikshit Patankar. He ran a well-organized administration, and, by the time of his death in 1720, he had laid the groundwork for the expansion of the Maratha Empire. Since this time until the fall of the Maratha Empire, the seat of the Peshwa would be held by the members of Balaji Bhat’s family.

With the accession of Balaji Baji Rao and his family to the supreme authority of the Maratha Confederacy, Chitpavan immigrants began arriving en masse from the Konkan to Pune where the Peshwa offered all important offices his fellow-castemen. The Chitpavan kin were rewarded with tax relief and grants of land. Historians cite nepotism and corruption as causes of the fall of the Maratha Empire in 1818.

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