Balaji Bajiroa Peshwa, also known as Nanasaheb Peshwa, was the son of Bajirao Peshwa I. He was born on 8th of December, 1720. His mother was Kashibai.
After the death of Bajirao Peshwa I, Chhatrapati Shahu appointed the deceased’s eldest son Balaji Bajirao as Peshwa on 4th of July, 1740. Balaji Bajirao was merely 19 years old at that time.
Balaji Bajirao Peshwa had received good training in war and diplomacy under his father, but he was not endowed with his father’s dash and military genius. He was a man of sweet and conciliatory temper.
Malwa: On his appointment, he planned an expedition to Northern India in order to secure the formal cession of Malwa which had been promised to his father by Nizam-ul-Mulk.
Accompanied by his uncle Chimaji Appa he left for Malwa, but Chimaji had to return from the way on account of ill-health and died at Poona on 27th December, 1740. Chimnaji was a notable soldier and an administrator of repute. Not a man of great personal ambition, he loyally served his brother and gave him the credit for his achievements. His son Sadashiva Rao, popularly known as Bhau Sahib, was destined to rise to fame and to a tragic end.
The Peshwa after due mourning for his deceased uncle resumed his journey and reached Dholpur, where he held a conference with Jai Singh of Jaipur in the last week of May 1741. It resulted in an agreement to the effect:
- That the Peshwa and Jai Singh should act in complete friendship and help each other;
- That the Marathas should be strictly loyal to the emperor; and
- That the governorship of Malwa should be secured for the Peshwa within six months.
After this diplomatic success, Balaji Bajirao returned to Poona on 17th July. Jai Singh now persuaded the emperor to issue a ‘farman’ appointing the crown prince Ahmad as Subedar of Malwa and Peshwa Balaji Rao, as his deputy. Thus, Balaji Rao became the master of Malwa in name as well as in fact. The province had been in Maratha possession since November 1738.
The formal grant of 14th July, 1741 legalized the Maratha conquest of Malwa. The terms of the grant of Malwa were:
- The Marathas should not encroach on any other imperial territory;
- The Peshwa should station at Delhi 500 Maratha horse for imperial service;
- That at the time of necessity 4,000 more Maratha troops should be provided at the expense of the emperor;
- That the Peshwa should respect the jagirs in Malwa granted by the emperor to individuals and religious institutions before 1741 and that he should not enhance the taxes on the riots.
Acquisition of Orissa: In order to silence his opposition to him, the Peshwa Balajirao allowed Raghuji Bhonsle a free hand in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa which were practically independent under Ali Vardi Khan. Raghuji Bhonsle dispatched a powerful army took control of the province of Orissa with twelve lakhs of rupees annually as the chauth for Bengal and Bihar (1751). The Marathas did not establish any civil administration in Orissa, but left it in the hands of the local chiefs.
A faction at the court, opposed to Peshwa Balaji Bajirao, thwarted his measures and made bitter complaints against him to the king. Matters went so far that the Peshwa had to submit his resignation in 1747, but he had proved himself indispensable and was, therefore, reappointed.
Balaji Bajirao Peshwa is also famous for transforming the regions of Pune into a big city. He built temples, bridges and water reservoirs around the city.
Until the third battle of Panipat (January, 1761), the Maratha empire reached its zenith under him. But the decisive defeat of Marathas in the battle shattered dream of Marathas to rule the entire country.
Balaji Bajirao Peshwa had lost his son, Vishwas Rao, in the third battle of Panipat in 1761 and died soon after that on 23rd of June, 1761.