Baji Rao I

Baji Rao I was a general of the Maratha Empire in India.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Baji Rao I was a general of the Maratha Empire in India. He served as Peshwa or Prime Minister to the fifth Maratha Chhatrapati (Emperor) Shahu from 1720 until his death. Bajirao was Peshwa in the Ashta Pradhan (8-minister council) of Shahu. He is also known by the name Bajirao Ballal.


Baji Rao had a major role in expanding the Maratha Empire in Northern India with the help of Malharrao Holkar, Ranoji Shinde, Anandrao Pawar and Ranoji Bhoite. Also known as Bajirao Ballal and Thorale (Elder) Bajirao, fought several major battles and is reputed never to have lost one. Famed for his military skills, Bajirao was also known for his love for his half-Muslim wife Mastani. He was born on August 18th, 1700 and died on April 28, 1740.


Childhood Baji Rao I:

Bajirao was born on 18 August 1700 into a Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family as the son of Balaji Vishwanath and Radhabai. He had a younger brother called Chimnaji Appa. His father was the first Peshwa of Chhattrapati Shahu. As a young boy he often used to accompany his father on military campaigns and was well trained by the Maratha cavalry generals. He grew up to be a disciplined and highly skilled warrior under the guidance of his father. His father was treacherously arrested by Maharaja Shahu's army-in-chief Dabhaji Thorat in 1716. Bajirao chose to accompany his father to jail and remained with him for two years till he was released. He traveled with his father to Delhi in 1718.


Family of Baji Rao I:

The first marriage of Bajirao was to Kashibai with whom he had two sons, Nanasaheb and Raghunathrao. His second marriage was to Mastani, the daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasal of Panna by a Muslim wife. Mastani was a beautiful and brave woman, skilled in horse-riding, spear-throwing and swordsmanship. However, Mastani was never accepted by Bajirao's mother and brother as she was a half-Muslim. This marriage also caused a rift in the orthodox Hindu Pune society of the time.


Mastani gave birth to a son who was called Krishnarao at birth. However the orthodox Hindus did not allow the couple to raise their son as a Hindu. So the boy was renamed Shamsher Bahadur and raised a Muslim.


Some facts about Baji Rao I:

  • After his father's death in 1720, Chhattrapati Shahu immediately announced the appointment of Bajirao as the new Peshwa even though the young man was barely 20 years old.
  • Baji Rao embarked on his first major campaign in 1723 and conquered Malwa followed by Gujarat. Then he went on to annex most of central India and even dared to attack the imperial Delhi.
  • Bajirao led several military campaigns over a career spanning two decades. He is credited to have created the later Kingdoms of Scindias (Ranoji Shinde) of Gwalior, Holkars (Malharrao) of Indore, Gaekwads (Pilaji) of Baroda, and Pawars (Udaiji) of Dhar as part of the Maratha Empire.
  • The Battle of Palkhed which he fought against the Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad is considered a great example of his brilliant execution of military strategy.
  • He fought over 41 major battles and many other smaller ones, and is reputed never to have lost a battle.
  • Baji Rao died on 28th April 1740, at the age of 39 of a sudden fever, possibly heat stroke, while inspecting his occupied parts of territory that were also called jagirs at that time.
  • There is an equestrian statue of Peshwa Bajirao I outside the Shaniwar Wada (Shaniwar Palace) in Pune.
  • Bajirao's legend has inspired several books, television series, and films, one of the most popular ones being the movie 'Bajirao Mastani' (2015) directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.



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