The Palkhed Campaign, 1728

About the Campaign

The Palkhed campaign of 1728, is notable for two reasons. First, this campaign has been chosen as brilliant in strategy (“A masterpiece of strategic mobility…“) by Field Marshal Montgomery in his book, A History of Warfare. Whether this was a completely thought-out strategy or circumstances helped formulate this strategy is definitely worth investigating. Secondly, a few historians would claim that the success of this campaign established the Maratha supremacy in the Deccan – and gave way for further adventures; another factor that is worth investigating.

What it did definitely achieve was the handover of the claim of the chauth and sardeshmukhi from Nizam-ul-Mulk to the Shahu

Background

The roots of this campaign were laid early during the reign of Farruksiyar (1713-1719), when the Sayyed brothers agreed to the collection of chauth and sardeshmukhi by the Marathas throughout the six provinces of the Deccan:

  1. Khandesh
  2. Berar
  3. Aurangabad
  4. Bidar
  5. Bijapur, and
  6. Hyderabad

The Nizam was not in favour of this, and after 1720, when the Nizam was again appointed the Vazir of the Mughal Empire, he suspended chauth and sardeshmukhi payments.  This was the primary factor for the Battle of Palkhed. Nizam-ul-Mulk used the grounds that it was unclear, between Shahu and Shambhaji, who the rightful claimant of the chauth and sardeshmukhi was. Also the timing was important because the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Maratha Armies were in Karnataka (the state, south of Maharashtra).

Other factors that fuelled the need for the campaign were:

  • Existence of hostility between the courts of Satara (Shahu) and Kolhapur (Shambhaji). This hostility was turned to advantage by Nizam-ul-Mulk, who formed an alliance with Shambhaji, against the Shahu (and Baji Rao)
  • Differences between the Peshwa (Baji Rao) and the Pratinidhi (Shripat Rao). The latter preferred to have good relations with Nizam-ul-Mulk, whereas Baji Rao pursued and advocated an expansionist policy.

Event

Baji Rao and the Maratha armies were called back from the south, from the Karnataka campaign. In May 1727, Baji Rao then asked Shahu to break of negotiations with the Nizam-ul-Mulk (Nizam-ul-Mulk had called for an arbitration over the payment of the chauth and sardeshmukhi) and started mobilizing an army. Baji Rao moved towards Aurangabad.

After a skirmish near Jalna (the Marathas by now had become famous for their strategy of not engaging with the enemy) with Iwaz Khan (the General of Nizam-ul-Mulk), as could have been predicted, Baji Rao moved away from the battlefield, towards Burhanpur (north of Maharashtra, see map below).

Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army pursued Baji Rao. Baji Rao then moved westwards to Gujarat from North Khandesh. However the Nizam-ul-Mulk gave up the pursuit and moved southward towards Pune.

It is worthwhile to note how the two armies functioned. The Nizam is known to have carried huge armies with him, including supplies to last for the duration of the campaign. His army included heavy artillery which slowed down the pace of the army, especially in the rough and uneven terrain of the region. In fact, the Nizam used to carry his jenana or women-folk with him during his campaigns. The Maratha armies however were very light and found supplies on the way by plundering and looting out-posts on the way.

As Nizam-ul-Mulk left the pursuit of Baji Rao and moved towards the headquarters of the Shahu stronghold, posts like Udapur, Avasari, Pabal, Khed, and Narayangarh surrendered to Nizam-ul-Mulk, who then occupied Pune and advanced towards Supa, Patas, and Baramati.

In Baramati, Nizam-ul-Mulk got news of Baji Rao moving towards Aurangabad. Nizam-ul-Mulk began moving northwards to intercept the Maratha Army. By this time he was confident of crushing Baji Rao and his army. It was not to happen so. The Raja of Kolhapur, Shambhaji (not to be confused with Sambhaji, son of Shivaji) refused to join him in this campaign against Baji Rao. Nizam-ul-Mulk was cornered in a waterless tract near Palkhed of 25 February 1728. Nizam-ul-Mulk’s army refused to fight. While he used his artillery to good effect to keep the Marathas away from his army, there was no way for him to escape. Through Iwaz Khan, the Nizam-ul-Mulk sent out word of his plight, and his army was allowed to move to the vicinity of the river.

Result

A peace treaty was signed on 6 March 1728 at Mungi-Paithan. The agreements were:

  • The Nizam recognise Shahu as the rightful leader of the Marathas and that the Nizam would not support Sambhaji (of Kolhapur) and give custody of Sambhaji to the Marathas.
  • Release all chauth and sardeshmukhi payments to the Marathas and honour the Sanad of 1719 (Granting the Shahu the revenues of the six provinces of the Deccan)
  • All Maratha sardars who were removed would be reappointed.

The Nizam agreed to all the clauses except the handover of  Sambhaji of Kolhapur.

Map

Animated Map

(Watch the video in HD for a clearer view of the map)

(c) Atul Sabnis. All rights Reserved.

References

Kate, P. V. (1987). History of Marathwada under the Nizams. Marathwada under the Nizams, 1724-1948 (pp. 11-14). Delhi, India: Mittal Publications.

Pitre, K. G. (2004). Peshwaicha Kaal. Marathyanche Yuddhtihas (Marathi) (pp. 53-55). Pune: Continental Prakashan. (Original work published 2000)

Gordon, S. (1998). The Marathas 1600-1818. New Delhi: Foundation Books.

 

 

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27 thoughts on “The Palkhed Campaign, 1728

  1. Uday says:

    The map shows Palkhed at the wrong place. Palkhed is near Paithan in the Aurangabad region. The Palkhed near Nasik is of the same name but not the place the Nizam was cornered!!

  2. Ambareesh Phadnavis says:

    The Nizam was cornered in Arid tract of Marathwada region. Palkhed in Aurangabad division was the place where battle took place. The treaty was signed in Mungi village near Paithan, situated downstream of the modern “Jaayakwaadi” dam.

    Kindly update the map. An excellent article.

  3. Uday says:

    Palkhed is east of Vaijapur. The nearest metre gauge rail station is Parsoda. To the best of my knowledge the map co-ordinates are 19°54’25″N 74°54’7″E .

    • Atul Sabnis says:

      Hello Mr. Kulkarni – I checked for Parsoda – but it seems to show very far from the co-ordinates you have given. I have used the co-ordinates you have given, in the updated map.

      • Uday says:

        I have al old top map of the region that shows Palkhed. Alternatively you can go to wikimapia and search Palkahd (it is mis-spelt there.>

      • Uday says:

        What you can do is take the road from Vaijapur to Lasur station. The road passes south of a small water body. Here a road goes right (south) that takes you to Palkhed. The water body is a recent addition, the Nizam did not have the benefit of it.

        The co-ordinates have been rechecked by me on Google earth. They are correct.

    • nandan vishnupant jadhav says:

      My native place is Palkhed, Tq- vaijapur,DI- Aurangabad. Nizam and 1 st Bajirao’s battle histrorical place.is my native place. This histrorical battle information avaelable in 7th standard HISTORY book,marathi medium…vande mataram…!

  4. Amol says:

    Hey thanks for this great article. I have spent my entire childhood in Palkhed and was aware of the Palkhed battle since school days. Your blog explains the battle in real lucid manner. BTW the location of Palkhed shown in above map is wrong. Palkhed is in Aurangabad District, Vaijapur Taluka.

  5. Atul Sabnis says:

    Thank you all – for the correction regarding the location of the correct Palkhed, I am in the process of correcting the map – will upload this as soon as possible! 🙂

  6. Uday says:

    About the map on movements. The book ‘Marathyanchya Swaaryanche mukkam’ gives accurate info about most of Baji rao’s movements excetp for a few weeks before the treaty of Mungi Shevgaon. The reason I recommend this is because Baji rao met Shahu and then began his campaign. Shahu was sent to Purandhar for his protection with Chimaji appa.

    Baji rao went to Jalna (as shown) and Sindkhed but only made a feign towards
    burhanpur as he swept through Berar towards E. Gujarat (but did not reach Surat across the ghats). The Nizam came after him leaving his artillery on the Godavari and met his fate at Palkhed.

    • Atul Sabnis says:

      Wow! Thank you so much. I have more to add to this post – I will definitely add this in my next update. Thank you so much – this is inspiring – to say the least! (You may not recall, but I was there at your book launch!) 🙂

  7. Uday says:

    That I did not know! I hope you have a copy of the book. A new edition is underway! If you do not get the book (written by Khobrekar), I will send u a copy of the relevant pages. Its a great blog you have here and I feel disseminating info on our own history is important.

  8. kashyap says:

    Atul, indeed an interesting yet confined article. Good work! 🙂

    Just a bit curious to know…
    As you have mentioned “The Raja of Kolhapur, Shambhaji (not to be confused with Sambhaji, son of Shivaji) refused to join him in this campaign against Baji Rao. Nizam-ul-Mulk was cornered in a waterless tract near Palkhed of 25 February 1728.”
    Q1. Why did Sambhaji refused to join Nizam, when Nizam was actually taking his side?
    Q2. The whole stoy started during May 1727 (close to the monsoon) and ended on 25 February 1728 (just the beginning of summer). Then why did Nizam was caught in waterless tract?

  9. Shrinivasan says:

    Just saw the blog and must say – very beautiful cartographic representation..
    The campaign as shown showcases that-
    1. We never learn from History
    2. Good Generals study TACTICS and the GREAT ones- LOGISTICS!!!
    From ancient India (Sudas as mentioned in the Rig Veda wherein he defeated 10 Rig Vedic Enemies) to Saladin(Christian-Muslim Crusades) to Baji Rao I to North Africa (Rommel & WW2) this has been the case, that LOGISTICS is the single most important part of the battle.

  10. P. B. Pagar says:

    Thanks..!
    Today i known intersteing pople on palkhed history. I am very happy. recently my resurch start on Palkhed war.
    Thanks…
    -Padmakar Pagar, Aurangabad.

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