Migrations to Ceded Districts
In 1796 AD, the then Nizam of Hyderabad Asaf Jah II, harassed by the Marathas and Tipu Sultan, opted to get British military protection under Lord Wellesley's doctrine of Subsidiary Alliance. As a part of this agreement, the Nizam ceded a large portion of his territory to the British, to be added to the Madras Presidency. This area was known as the Ceded Districts and included the districts of Anantapur, Kadapa (Cuddapah), much of Kurnool, Bellary, and parts of Tumkur (Pavagada taluk) and Davanagere (Harapanahalli taluk). But much before these were handed over to the British by the Nizam, the Marathas were militarily active in it either by themselves or in alliance with other powers, including the Muslim Sultanates. As a result of these, small pockets of Marathi speaking populations settled in the Ceded Districts. The following pages give a brief description of the military adventures of the Marathas in the Ceded Districts.
The contents of the following section are from the
1937 Silver Jubilee Souvenir of Mahratta Education Fund, Chennai
The Part of the Marattas in the Political History of the Ceded Districts
Dewan Bahadur T. Bhujanga Rao, M.A., B.L., Retired Dt. Judge
[In this short article, we get a bird’s eye view of the connection between the Mahratta power and the Ceded Districts throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Writing with clear insight, the author gives us a masterly presentation of his facts. Ed.]
The first contact between the Mahrattas and the Ceded Districts was in the last quarter of the 17th century. It is true that in 1636 A.D. Sivaji’s father Shahji, as a commander of the Bijapur Sultan’s army, took the fort of Gandikota in the Cuddapah District and marched into Mysore and eventually secured as jaghir a large section of the northern part of Mysore. But in 1636 A.D. the Mahratta nation had not come into existence. That nation made its appearance after Sivaji arose and crowned himself as Chatrapathi in 1674 A.D. The earliest contact between the Ceded Districts and the Mahrattas as a nation was therefore only in the year 1677 A.D., when the great founder of the Mahratta Empire, after entering into an alliance with the Sultan of Golkonda, marched through the districts of Kurnool and Cuddapah to recover his father’s jaghit in Mysore and to claim a share in the principality of Tanjore from his half-brother Venkoji.
SIVAJI (from 1677 – 1680 A.D.)
Sivaji’s grand coronation in 1674 A.D. reduced his treasury and he was badly in need of money. Further, it was important that, if the Moghul Emperor seized the forts of the Mahrattas in the Maharashtra country, the latter should have retreats further south from which the rising nation might harass the emperor before reconquering Maharashtra. So Sivaji entered into an alliance with Qutb Shah, the Sultan of Golkonda, who was fortunately under the influence of his Brahmin ministers Madanna and the latter’s brother Akkanna. The agreement was that Sivaji should invade the Karnatic, the Sultan of Golkonda bearing the cost of the expedition; that Sivaji was to take his father’s jaghir, and that the rest of the Karnatic was to be annexed to Golkonda. After getting lavish presents from Qutb Shah, Sivaji left Hyderabad in March 1677 A.D.; reached Kurnool; from there went to Nivritti Sangam, where he bathed at the junction of the rivers Bhavanasi and Krishna; and thence made a rapid journey to Srisaila. Sivaji was always of a highly emotional nature and had once swooned in the Court of Aurangazebe on finding that Aurangazebe did not render to him the honours due to his position. When, at Srisaila, Sivaji prayed before the Goddess Parvati, he was seized with a religious frenzy and was restrained with difficulty from cutting off his own head before the Goddess. After building the Sri Ganesha Ghat and a Dharmasala on the Srisaila hill, Sivaji descended into the plains and marched through Nandyal and Cuddapah to Tirupati. From there, through Kalahasti, Peddapolam and Conjeevaram, he reached Jinji in the South Arcot District. As Qutb Shah’s payments were not regular, Sivaji took possession of the fort of Jinji and with true political and military insight realized that a fort at that distance from Maharashatra might in times of danger be necessary for the safety of the nascent Mahratta power. After appointing a Mavle Governor at Jinji, Sivaji went southwards up to the Coleroon, to have an interview with his half-brother Venkoji. As Venkoji fled to Tanjore after the meeting, Sivaji turned back and reached Mysore and regained his father’s jaghir (consisting of the districts of Kolar, Hoskote, Bangalore, Balapur and Sira). Then he passed through the districts of Bellary and Anantapur. Here he entered into an alliance with the Sultan of Bijapur by which Bellary and Adoni, (i.e., practically the present Bellary and Anantapur districts) were formally made over to him. Over this area Sivaji appointed a governor named Janardhan Narayan Hanumante. After seizing Kopbal, which was, so to say, the gate of the south, and taking Gadag, Sivaji reached Panhala in his native country in April 1678 A.D. At the end of the campaign a chain of forts connected Maharashtra with their new strong-hold at Jinji to the east of the Eastern Ghats.
FROM SAMBHAJI TO SAHU (1680-1708 A.D.)
In the year 1680, however the great king died; and the three decades that followed saw the breaking up of the empire that he had tried to build. Aurangazebe invaded the Deccan and sent flying columns to invade the new Mahratta districts to the south of the Tungabhadra and seized all of them. Thus at the time of the death of Aurangazebe in 1707 A.D. the Mahrattas had no hold over any portion of the Ceded Districts. Sivaji’s son Sambhaji fell into the hands of Aurangazebe in 1689 A.D. and was put to a cruel death. His son Sahu was taken prisoner. Though Sambhaji’s brother Rajaram acted as agent for Sahu, he had to retire to the fort of Jinji which the foresight of Sivaji had selected as a place of retreat. At Jinji, however, Rajaram held out till 1698 A.D. and though the fortress fell in that year, he was able to go to Satara and harass the Moghul army at closer quarters. But Rajaram died in 1700 A.D. His widow Tarabai set up the claims of her imbecile son as against Sahu. This might have led to serious disaster but for the timely death of Aurangazebe in 1707. The next year (1708) Sahu was released and was soon acclaimed as the heir to the throne of Sivaji. As may be excepted, during this period of confusion from 1680 to 1708, the Mahrattas as a nation could hardly think of the Ceded Districts. But even in this period a Mahratta general thought of finding a retreat for himself in the Ceded Districts. He was Santaji Ghorpade who attempted to carve out a principality for himself in Gooty. It was this latter place that later on became the headquarters of Santaji’s grand nephew, Murari Rao Ghorpade. (At about the same time Siddoji Rao Ghorpade settled in Sandur near Bellary. The State of Sandur still exists, but Sandur is not technically in the Ceded Districts).
BALAJI VISVANATH (1708-1720 A.D.)
After Sahu became the King of the Mahrattas, came the rule of the Peshwas. The first two Peshwas were so entirely immersed in resurrecting the Mahratta Empire that they had no time for any campaign in the Ceded Districts. But the idea of having a base to the east of the Eastern Ghats in the Karnatic plains, with a line of communication from Maharashtra along the line of the Ceded Districts, was never abandoned. Balaji Visvanath took advantage of the weakness of the Central Moghul power at Delhi and entered into a treaty with the Moghul Emperor. In that treaty he wanted among others, a term to the effect that the Mahrattas were to be allowed to take back the Karnatic districts that had been seized by Sivaji. The Moghul General Hassein Ali agreed to this term at first. But the Moghul Emperor Mohamed Shah did not agree. Eventually Balaji Visvanath had to be content with getting the right of collecting Chauth and Sardeshmukhi over the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golkonda. The former kingdom comprised the present districts of Bellary, Anantapur and Kurnool; and the latter comprised the present district of Cuddapah.
BAJI RAO I (1720-1739 A.D.)
When Balaji Visvanath’s son, Baji Rao, became the Peshwa, the Mahratta nation was not entirely unmindful of the Ceded Districts. There was in fact a section amongst the Mahrattas, headed by Sripathi Rao, the Pratinidhi, that wanted that the Mahrattas should consolidate their position in Maharashtra first and then strengthen themselves in the Ceded Districts and the Karnatic. But the new Peshwa’s ambition soared high. To use his own language, he wanted to strike at the trunk of the Moghul Empire in Delhi, being sure that the branches, whether in the south or the north, would fall of themselves. This counsel was accepted by King Sahu, with the result that soon the Mahrattas became a power at the very heart of the Moghul Empire. But one is at times inclined to think that, if Baji Rao had been less ambitious and if the advice of the Pratinidhi had been accepted, the Mahratta Empire might have lasted longer. Baji Rao created a far-flung Empire which was sure to break in pieces if any crisis (such as that of Ahmed Shah’s invasion) occurred before the empire had time to consolidate itself.
BALAJI BAJI RAO (1739-1761 A.D.)
With the accession of the third Peshwa, Balaji Baji Rao, in 1739, the interest of the Mahrattas in the Ceded Districts and the Karnatic plains revived. The then Nawab of the Karnatic was Dost Ali. His son-in-law Chanda Sahib began to harass Pratap Sing, the Raja of Tanjore; and the latter applied to King Sahu for help. Further, two Pathan nobles has carved out kingdoms for themselves in Cuddapah and Kurnool; and they began to make common cause with the Nawab of Karnatic. It became therefore necessary for the Mahrattas to reduce these Muslim princes; and King Sahu sent Raghuji Bhonsle against them in 1740 A.D. Raghuji first marched against the Nawab of Kurnool and defeated him. He then defeated the Nawab of Cuddapah in two pitched bettles of which the second took place at the Guvvalcheruvu Ghat. He then proceeded south, crossed the Damalchernon pass in the Eastern Ghats, and defeated and killed Dost Ali, the Nabob of the Karnatic. He next laid siege to the fort of Trichinopoly, where Chanda Sahib had entrenched himself. In 1741 A.D. the fort fell, and Chanda Sahib was taken prisoner and sent to Satara. The Mahrattas, under the command of Murari Rao Ghorpade, were in possession of Trichinopoly till 1743 A.D. when the Nizam induced them to give it up by giving in exchange the fort of Penukonda in the Anantapur district.
With the formation of the principality of Murari Rao Ghorpade as an outpost of the Mahrattas towards the south, Balaji Baji Rao could think of more ambitious schemes, such as that of reducing the power of the Nizam and annexing, if possible, the Viceroyalty of the Deccan. So till 1755 A.D. the Peshwa did not trouble himself with the Ceded Districts. But in that year an unexpected event occurred. For giving shelter to Muzaffar Khan, and old commandant of the Mahratta artillery who had deserted the Mahrattas, the Peshwa proceeded against the Nobob of Savanur. But, unwilling to acknowledge the supremacy of the Peshwa, Murari Rao Ghorpade joined the Nawab of Savanur as against the Peshwa. But in the battle fought near Savanur the Peshwa defeated both. Murari Rao found his position hopeless and deserted to the Peshwa. But his faithlessness was not forgotten. About 5 years later, Haidar Ali invaded Gooty and the surrounding area; but the Peshwa sent no help to Murari Rao. After defeating the Nabob of Savanur in 1755 A.D., Balaji Baji Rao went to Mysore and claimed tribute. After receiving a large sum of money, the Peshwa went beck to Poona, leaving Belwant Rao Mehendale to recover the old jaghir of Sivaji in Mysore. This brought Balwant Rao into conflict with the Pathan Nabobs of Kurnool and Cuddapah. But in September 1757 A.D., in a pitched battle fought near Cuddapah, Balwant Rao routed the Nabobs and gained the country round Gurramkonda.
Thus by 1760 A.D. it looked as if the Ceded Districts and the Karnatic were ripe for falling into hands of the Mahrattas. But God willed otherwise. The third battle of Panipet suddenly crushed their power and dismembered their empire and made Balaji Baji Rao die broken-hearted.
MADHAVA RAO (1761-1772 A.D.)
The next Peshwa was Madhava Rao Ballal, the greatest perhaps amongst the Peshwas. During the first two years of his administration, Nizam Ali gave him trouble. But the young hero inflicted a crushing defeat on Nizam Ali in the battle of Rakshasa Bhavan. Madhava Rao then turned his attention to the growing power of Haidar Ali who had extended his territory up the Krishna river after defeating Murari Rao and taking Sandur and had proclaimed himself to be the Nabob of Sira and had even ventured to drive a Mahratta garrison from Dharwar. Early in 1764 the gallant young Peshwa led his army from the west into Mysore. A great soldier as Haidar was, he soon found in Madhava Rao greater soldier. In two successive battles Haidar was defeated. In the first Haidar and fifty men of his cavalry were the only persons that saved themselves by escaping from the field. In the second battle, Haider lost 3,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry. He had to sue for peace. Fortunately for him, the peace terms were settled by Raghunatha Rao, the treachous uncle of Madhava Rao. Haidar was granted a most favourable peace, one of the terms being the restoration to Murari Rao Ghorpade of his territory in the Ceded Districts. Madhava Rao did not like to repudiate the terms settled by his uncle and in 1765 A.D. went back to Poona. But men like Haidar Ali could never keep quiet. He began to give trouble to the Mahrattas. Madhava Rao came down a second time against Mysore in 1766 A.D. Haider, who knew the generalship of Madhava Rao, secured a peace by paying a heavy tribute; and the latter returned to Poona in 1767 A.D. But in 1769 A.D. Haidar wished to try his strength once more against Madhava Rao and entered into an alliance with the English. Madhava Rao thereupon came down a third time against Mysore in 1769 A.D. The Mahratta hero marched forward, taking fort after fort; and Haidar had to flee before him, avaiding action. But fortune favoured Haidar at the last. In the full tide of success Madhava Rao caught a fatal illness. In 1770 A.D. he returned to Poona. His generals pursued the campaign and in 1771 A.D. extorted from Haider a peace, under which Haidar had to cede all the former conquests of Sivaji and also Gurramkonda in the Cuddapah District. But in 1772 A.D., Madhava Rao died of tubercullasis in his 28th year. It was not till his death that Haidar could have a sigh of relief.
THE PERIOD OF CONFUSION UP TO SALBAL (1772-1782 A.D.)
After the death Madhava Rao, his brother Narayana Rao was Peshwa for about a year when he was murdered. After that there was again confusion in Maharashtra till the genius of Nana Phadnavis restored order in 1782 A.D. and the claim of Raghunatha Rao to be Peshwa as against the minor son of Narayana Rao was definitely negatived by the treaty of Salbai. This period of confusion was naturally taken advantage of by Haidar. On hearing of Narayana Rao’s murder, he sent his son Tippu in 1773 to recover the country taken from him by Madhava Rao. In a short campaign, Tippu recovered all the lost territory. Hearing of this, Raghunatha Rao in 1773 advanced with an army against Mysore. But while he was still near Bellary, Haidar bought him off by promising to pay a tribute and to support him as against the minor rival claimant for the Office of Peshwa. After Raghunatha Rao turned back, Haidar in 1774 advanced against Murari Rao. After taking the forts of Adoni and Bellary, Haidar besieged Murari Rao at Gooty. Murari Rao’s letters to Poona for help were intercepted. Murari Rao had to surrender and was made a prisoner and ended has days in the fort of Kabbaldrug. In 1771 A.D. the Mahrattas, with the English as Allies, wanted to proceed against Haidar. But with Gooty as his base Haidar defeated the Mahrattas in the battle of Raravi. In 1776 he annexed Sandur. In 1779 Haidar proceeded against the Nabob of Cuddapah and defeated him and annexed cuddapah. The Nabob of Kurnool had already agreed to pay him tribute. Thus by the time Nana Phadnavis could enter into the treaty of Salbai, the Ceded Districts were lost to the Mahrattas. But soon afterwards, i.e., on December 1782 A.D. Haidar died.
THE REGENCY OF NANA PHADNAVIS (1782-1795 A.D.)
From 1782 A.D. Nana Phadnavis was free to act as the regent of the minor Peshwa, Madhava Rao Narayan. His attention naturally turned towards Haidar’s son, Tippu whose territory extended dangerously up to Dharwar. During the years 1784 to 1790 there were skirmishes between the Mahrattas and the forces of Tippu. But in 1790 A.D. Nana Phadnavis thought it dangerous to wait any longer and entered into an alliance with the English and the Nizam for invasion of Mysore. Thus arose the Third Mysore War, which led to the treaty of Seringapatam in 1792 A.D. As the result of it, the country round Dharwar and also the district of Bellary were allotted to the Mahrattas, subject to their supporting a subsidiary force – a request which Nana Phadnavis could not comply with. To the Nizam were allotted Gooty and Cuddapah. But soon afterwards, in the year 1795 A.D. the young Peshwa fell from a terrace and died.
BAJI RAO II (1795-1800 A.D.)
The next and last of the Peshwas was Baji Rao II, the son of Raghunatha Rao by his notorious wife Anandibai. In his time occurred the Fourth Mysore War which resulted in the death of Tippu and the fall of Seringapatam, 1799 A.D. On the ground that the help of the Mahrattas in the war was inconsiderable, only Harpanahalli, Sunda and Anegundi below the Wastern Ghats and parts of Chitaldrug, Sira, Nandidrug and Kolar above the Ghats were allotted to the Peshwa. To the Nizam were given Gooty; Anantapur; and also Kurnool, (where the former Nabob was allowed to remain as a noble with a jaghir – a jaghir which he lost in 1838 for his treason). As the Peishwa refused to take his share, claiming more, his share was divided between the English and Nizam. In 1800, for the support of the subsidiary force at Secunderabad, the Nizam ceded to the British the entire area that fell to him in the Third Fourth Mysore Wars. So were formed the Ceded Districts; and from 1800 A.D. the connection between Maharashtra and the Ceded Districts may be said to have ceased altogether. The contact with these districts, started in Sivaji’s time, thus came to an end in the time of Baji Rao II who soon afterwards lost the whole of Maharashtra. (After the Fourth Mysore War, Sandur was claimed by Baji Rao II; but after his downfall it was restored to a predecessor of the present ruler by the British).
Writing in the Oxford History of India – a book written mainly for the edification of young British civilians and the check of the growth of nationalism amongst Indians – Vincent Smith, (I.C.S. Retired) says: “The complete and final overthrow of the Mahratta domination in 1818 should not excite the slightest feeling of regret or sympathy in the breast of any person, Indian or European.’’ With this view the Mahrattas can never agree. One can only hope that, writing in the 21st century about Clive and Warren Hastings, Dyer & o’Dwyer, Imperialism and the exploitation of weak nations, Indian hisorians will be more restrained and less vitriolic. It is said that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. So was it better to have formed an empire and discovered the fissiparous tendencies of India than never to have formed an empire at all. It must be ever remembered that it was an Indian Empire that, despite all their shortcomings, the Mahrattas blindly groped after, for Muslim commanders fought under the Mahratta banner as frequently as Mahratta Commanders fought under the banners of the Nizam and the Moghul. That there exists in India a genius for military skill and political statesmanship was proved by the all-too-brief empire of the Mahrattas; and I think that not the least indication of this genius was the creation of bases in the Karnatic plains with lines of communication along the Ceded Districts.