Famous Personalities of India : Baji Rao I
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BAJI RAO I (1698-1740). Baji Rao succeeded his father Balaji Vishwanath as Peshwa in 1720 and formulated a bold plan of Maratha expansion. In the twilight of the Mughal Empire he suggested, - "let us strike at the trunk of the withering tree. The branches will fall of themselves. Thus would the Maratha flag fly from the Krishna to the Indus." (R. V. Nadkarni, The Rise and Fall of the Maratha Empire, 176.) Baji Rao concentrated on winning influence in the north and obtained permission from the Mughal Emperor to extend Maratha sovereignty over substantial parts of Malwa and Gujarat in 1731.

He secured the friendship of important Rajput Princes, reached a compromise agreement with the Nizam of Hyderabad-a hereditary enemy and also captured territory on the west coast from the Portuguese Goa. As a result, he expanded the area over which the Marathas established supremacy by collecting levies of Chauth (one quarter of estimated product) and sardeshmukhi (acknowledgement of revenue ownership). He also projected the goal of a Hindu empire.

One of the effects of enhanced power and prestige was loss of cohesion in the Maratha empire and armies. Rival principalities were created by able chiefs who extended Maratha dominion, no doubt, but not necessarily on behalf of the Peshwa. Baji Rao was succeeded by his son, Balaji Baji Rao, who employed non-Maratha mercenaries in the army, gave up the ideal of a united Hindu empire, and resorted to predatory warfare which alienated Hindu and Muslim alike. Baji Rao could not organize united resistance to the invasion of Nadir Shah from Persia in 1736, his successors were defeated by the Afghan, Ahmad Shah Abdali, at Panipat in 1761. Thus, the Marathas failed to step into Mughal shoes. Baji Rao's achievements, though impressive, proved short-lived.

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