What If…? PART-2: The Maratha Empire

Hello and a warm welcome to PART-2 of the history series, “What If…” in which I will be writing about whether we could change the course of history in some of the most important moments of a particular empire. Previously I had written on the Mughals, if you have not seen it, please check it out. This part will be on the Maratha Empire.

  1. What if Chhatrapati Shivaji and his son Sambhaji couldn’t escape from Agra?
    Shivaji Bhonsle was the son of a Maratha general who served for the sultans of the Deccan, Shahaji. He smartly and tactfully formed a confederacy by capturing various small towns and forts. However, a heavy defeat at the battle of Purandar meant that Shivaji had to surrender 23 of his 36 forts and also served the Mughals indirectly by sending his son, Sambhaji and 5000 men as a mansabdari unit, i.e., a military unit serving the Mughal Empire. In 1666, Shivaji and his son were called to Agra by Emperor Aurangzeb but Shivaji was not received well because he was made to stand beside low-ranked nobles who he had already won on the battlefield. Due to this, he sprung out in anger and he and his son were arrested. But he somehow smartly escaped from the jaws of Aurangzeb with his son and left Agra. There are many sources on how he escaped, the most reliable being he had put himself in a large basket and his son in another and managed to escape Agra. If Shivaji masterfully couldn’t escape from arrest, then the struggle of the Marathas would be short-lived as both Shivaji and his eldest son would be in prison and Rajaram, his second son wasn’t even born by then (he was born in 1670). Also, the motivation and spirit of all Maratha generals was to fight for Shivaji, who wanted to get Swaraj from the Mughals and create an independent empire. They were so loyal to Shivaji that they were ready to give their lives to him. Shivaji’s loss would have been a body blow for the Marathas, which would mean that the Marathas would easily collapse within a few years.
  2. What If Shivaji never created a navy?
    After the Cholas, the next major navy was the Maratha ships. The Marathas, mainly under Shivaji and Sambhaji fought many naval battles against the Mughal navy and the ships of the European colonial forces, especially the Portuguese. Shivaji created sea bases/forts in Sindhudarg and Vijaydurg to strengthen his territory along the coast of Maharashtra from the Mughals and Portuguese. The navy mainly helped the Marathas fend off attacks, when the Mughals, unsuccessful in capturing Maratha forts through the sea, requested the Portuguese for help through the sea. Still, the combined navy couldn’t defy the Marathas because of brave commanders like Maynak Bhandari and Kanhoji Angre. If Shivaji never created a navy, the Marathas would have been vulnerable to Mughal attacks through the Arabian Sea. But because of Shivaji’s excellence in military tactics, many old sea forts were restructured and this even helped the Marathas during Sambhaji’s reign to fend off the Mughals under Aurangzeb.
  3. What If various Maratha Generals and Subedars weren’t motivated by Shivaji?
    This sub-topic is not about an event or a story of the Maratha Empire. It is about how Maratha armies, just about 8000 men in total could defeat the Mughals, Adil Shahis, European colonial powers etc. This is because of the mental strength of the Maratha Empire, which Shivaji Raje created. All the various Maratha chieftains were not happy to be under the Adil Shahis and wanted to obtain swaraj from them and the Mughals. Shivaji was the one who gave them this ray of hope. So as I said in the first sub-topic, they were extremely loyal to Shivaji. “They hadn’t surrendered their lives to the Adil Shahis or the Mughals, but they had surrendered their lives to Shivaji Raje”. This spirit of motivation was one of the key reasons why the Maratha army was able to fend off the mighty Muslim armies. Many generals like Tanhaji Malusare (martyred at Kondana fort) and Baji Prabhu Deshpande (martyred at the battle of Pavan Khind) were examples of two generals who did fight and die for Shivaji, to carry on his ideology of swaraj for the Marathas. If Shivaji didn’t motivate small Maratha chieftains, then they would would remain Subedars for the Deccan Sultanates and sooner or later, Aurangzeb would invade them and would gain total control of the Deccan, without any resistance. After Shivaji’s death, the morale of the Maratha generals didn’t go down because Sambhaji, the second Chhatrapati was able to carry on his father’s legacy without any faltering and continuously his small armies harassed and troubled the Mughal armies, which made Aurangzeb himself come to the Deccan and made Aurangabad his headquarters. The second reason was Shivaji Raje established an Empire, with a systemized army and administration and fulfilled all the duties he could before he died, due to which the Maratha generals without losing morale, continued serving Sambhaji and then Rajaram.
  4. What If Peshwa Baji Rao I lived for a longer time?
    The Peshwas, or the prime ministers of the Maratha Empire became more and more powerful, especially during the rule of Chhatrapati Shahu. The main person who made the power of Peshwas more powerful in the Maratha Empire was Baji Rao I. He was the son of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. Baji Rao I is known for his excellent military tactics and for expanding the Maratha Empire, which after his death included a large part of Maharashtra and Central India. In his reign, for the first time, the Marathas reached and raided Delhi in 1737. He has also not lost a single battle during his reign. But his body was exhausted due to the excessive wars he fought in his 20-year reign and died at the young age of 40 years. If he lived longer, say 5-10 years more, then easily the Maratha army could capture Delhi and consolidate into Afghan territory as well comfortably.
  5. What If the Marathas won the Third Battle of Panipat?
    After the death of Baji Rao I, his son Balaji Baji Rao succeeded him and during his reign, the Maratha Empire reached its zenith, till Attock (in Afghanistan) in the north and till the fertile northern plains. Also due to its size, the Maratha Empire became a Confederacy, where 5 factions, were Gaikwads, Holkars, Scindias and the Bhonsles, and the Peshwa, who had nominal leadership of the entire confederacy. In 1757, they had also captured the Mughal capital of Delhi and it looked like no one could challenge. But then came the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani (or Ahmad Shah Abdali), who were called by the Rohillas. The Maratha army, under Sadashiv Rao Bhau and the Afghan army, met at the field of Panipat, which would decide the fate of Delhi. However due to superior Afghan troops and the experience of Abdali won the day and most of the prominent Maratha generals, including Sadashiv and the Peshwa’s son, Vishwanath Rao were killed in action. This proved to be a body blow for the Marathas and they also lost Delhi. If Sadashiv and his forces somehow won the battle, then the Marathas would easily conquer some Afghan territory and would be the supreme power in the subcontinent. They were so near, but still so far. After listening to the loss of the battle and the loss of his son, Balaji Baji Rao’s health deteriorated and died soon after.
  6. What If Madhav Rao I didn’t efficiently restore the Maratha order?
    After most of the Maratha generals were killed in action at the famous battle of Panipat and the death of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao meant that the Maratha state was in turmoil and needed a strong and efficient ruler who could restore the Maratha order. So came Madhav Rao I, the son of Balaji and two generals, Mahadji Shinde and Nana Phadnavis, who both fought and were among the few generals who were alive after the dreaded battle at Panipat. Madhav Rao began the Resurrection of the Maratha Empire and efficiently, tactfully and strategically, by 11 years reconquered all the territories which were lost after the battle of Panipat and the capture of Delhi in 1771 was the icing on the cake. If Madhav Rao didn’t have prior experience or training in administration and was a weakling, then the nobles could keep even the Peshwa as a puppet and rule on his behalf, which would severely weaken the empire and a potential succession crisis could ensue. However at the young age of 27, due to tuberculosis, he passed away, leaving the powerful Maratha State that he created again into a state of turmoil. Some historians say that more than the loss at Panipat, Madhav Rao’s death was more painful for the Marathas.
  7. What If the Maratha Empire didn’t turn into a Confederacy?
    The Maratha Empire became a Confederacy, where five factions, were Gaikwads, Holkars, Scindias and the Bhonsles, and the Peshwa, who had nominal leadership of the entire confederacy, largely during the rule of Balaji Baji Rao. The Confederacy helped the Marathas expand to north and northeast India as each faction was able to send off large armies for the state. As long as they were united, the Maratha Empire was really strong. But as time passed, they often quarrelled against each other and each wanted to expand their territories. Seeing this weakness of the Marathas, the British smartly made alliances with a faction to defeat the other and by 1818, the British annexed the Maratha Empire. If the Maratha Empire hadn’t turned into a Confederacy, then their expansion of territory would have been less, but all the Maratha chieftains would have been united and with efficient administration, the Empire could be rock-solid and could fend off any forms of attacks from their rival kingdoms.
  8. What If the Marathas decisively won the First Anglo-Maratha War?
    The East India Company, due to smart alliances, tactics and strategies, annexed Bengal in 1757 and they also beat the French armies in Madras. The Mughals were also severely weakened so the major power that the British had to subdue to become the masters of India was the Maratha Empire. During the 1770s, Raghunath Rao, the brother of Balaji Baji Rao wanted to be the Peshwa after Madhav Rao I but Madhav Rao’s I son, Madhav Rao II became the Peshwa from the time he was born. Due to this, he allied with the British, a perfect opportunity for them to take a major threat from the subcontinent. So began the First Anglo-Maratha War, which was an intense conflict that in the end, was considered a stalemate, or a minor Maratha victory because they were able to defy the British. If Raghunath Rao and his forces were there with the Marathas and decisively beat the British, then they could even capture Bengal drive the British out of India and keep the Nawab of Bengal a puppet ruler under their power. However due to massive losses for both sides, the two sides signed a peace treaty and there was peace between the Marathas and the British for about 20 years and also formed an alliance, which the British used to capture the kingdom of Mysore.
  9. What If the Marathas somehow won the Third Anglo-Maratha War?
    After the death of Madhav Rao II, Baji Rao II became Peshwa but was a puppet ruler. So to fend off the nobles, he allied with the British but the other Maratha factions were against him. So started the Second Anglo-Maratha War which the British won and installed Baji Rao II as the Peshwa, as they did with the Nawabs of Bengal in 1805. 12 years later, he had convinced other Maratha factions to unite together and give a last stand against the British, who slowly and slowly started ceasing Maratha territories. But the British by this time were very strong and prepared for any attacks and they had had enough of the Marathas so their entire territory was ceded into British territory. If the Marathas managed to win the War, then still the British were stronger but strengthening policies and the army, and most importantly all the factions remained united, could again bring back the ruined Empire to its glorious past, but not to be…
  10. What If Nana Saheb re-established the Maratha Empire?
    After the Maratha Empire was annexed, the British kept the Peshwa, Baji Rao II in exile, where he enjoyed a normal life with an annual pension of about ₹80000. He had adopted a son, named Nana Saheb II, born in 1824. During the revolt of 1857, he joined the rebels and successfully captured Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh and proclaimed that he was the new Peshwa of the re-established Maratha Empire and other freedom fighters like Tantya Tope and Rani Lakshmi Bai accepted this. But this was just a title given to him because the British, within a year re-captured Kanpur by the reinforced British army and the dream of re-establishing the Maratha Empire, was forever destroyed. If the rebels defied the British and say they conquered the subcontinent entirely, then Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last ruler of the Mughals would have almost whole control of the subcontinent and Nana Saheb would become the Peshwa of the newly re-established Maratha Empire/Confederacy. But the EIC got reinforcement from Britain and after the rebellion was defied, due to the reason of careless administration of India, the EIC were removed and formally India was ceded into the British Empire and began the period of British Raj in India.

    So here we come to the end of this blog. Hope you guys enjoyed this long journey of the Maratha Empire. So the next blog will be a continuation of this series on another major empire. Thank You and see you soon!

What If…? PART-1: The Mughal Empire

Hello and a warm welcome to my second history blog which is a part of the series, an interesting concept -“What If?”, in which I will be writing about if we could change the course of history in some of the most important moments of a particular empire. So this blog will be on the Mughal Empire…

  1. What If Ibrahim Lodhi won the first battle of Panipat
    If Ibrahim Lodhi had known beforehand about the artillery units of Babur’s army and smartly strategized his army formations and won the battle, the Lodhi Empire could have capitalized on their empire but at the same time, since Ibrahim Lodhi was generally a bad administrator, the brave Rajputs from the Malwa Plateau and Gujarat could have had a great chance for capturing Delhi and regain Hindu supremacy over the Northern Plains and they and the Vijaynagar Empire could also eliminate the Muslim Empires of the South to reestablish Hindu rule over the whole of India. But Babur, heavily outnumbered, smartly defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodhi and managed to consolidate over the Northern Plains by defeating even the Rajputs mainly due to his artillery.
  2. What If Humayun won the Battle of Kannauj
    The battle of Kannauj was an important battle between the Mughals under Humayun and the ruthless Sur Empire under Sher Shah Suri. This battle would decide the fate of the Mughals in India as they already lost the battle of Chausa against the same foe and were on the back foot. If Humayun mobilized his army’s confidence after their defeat at Chausa and somehow defeated the Sur army, he would have regained all the dominions of his father, Babur and he also could conquer the Malwa plateau because the Rajputs were already defeated a few times by Humayun. But Sher Shah Suri won the battle and won Delhi as well. Humayun, his family, and his loyal generals and nobles took a difficult route to the Safavid Empire, where they were greeted with open arms and Humayun was in refuge for 14 years in Persia while Sher Shah Suri consolidated his new domains.
  3. What If Hemu beat Akbar and Bairam Khan in the Second battle of Panipat
    After Humayun came back and regained his throne, he died soon after, falling from his library in a freak accident. Due to this his young son, Akbar, who was just 13 years old and was incapable of ruling, was proclaimed the emperor, and Bairam Khan, Humayun’s most trusted general was his regent. Seeing this, the Sur Empire, after losing Delhi and Agra, counter-attacked by Hemu, a general in the Sur Empire who swiftly won back Agra and Delhi. But to the surprise of everyone, he proclaimed himself king of Agra and Delhi with the full support of a massive army. Still, the Mughals mobilized themselves with the army they had and they faced Hemu again on the plains of Panipat exactly after 30 years. If Hemu won this battle, he could have easily conquered his former empire, the Sur Empire, and also conquer entire central India to cement his place in history as one of the great emperors of the world. But while he was closing in on the Mughal army, he was shot in the eye and fell unconscious. Seeing this, his army lost its cohesion, and the Mughals destroyed the remaining army of Hemu regained Delhi and Agra, and again became the masters of northern India.
  4. What If Jahangir didn’t allow Sir Thomas Roe to set up an English factory in Surat in 1618?
    Jahangir was the fourth Mughal emperor and succeeded his father, Akbar in 1605. He was a weak administrator and the empire was basically in the hands of his favorite wife, Nur Jahan, who perhaps is considered the greatest queen of all of Indian history because she was a shrewd administrator and witty. The East India Company, established in 1600, wanted to Establish a factory in Surat, which was under Mughal rule. So the British sent Sir Thomas Rue, the first English ambassador to the Mughal court in India, requested Jahangir to grant them rights to build a factory in Surat. If Jahangir denied the request, then there would be no EIC factory in India, and if the Portuguese armed themselves, they would lose eventually because of the powerful Mughal army and there would be no foreign influence in India. This would ensure India would still stay prosperous and be a powerful member of trade regulation across the globe. But Jahangir accepting this offer blindly would prove to be a heavy mistake as the EIC smartly consolidated their factories and slowly, smartly, and steadily, conquered the entire subcontinent by the 19th century.
  5. What If Dara Shikoh became the Mughal emperor after Shah Jahan
    Dara Shikoh was Shah Jahan’s favorite son and the proclaimed successor of the Mughal Empire after Shah Jahan. Dara Shikoh was mostly related to poetry, music, and other cultural activities but was incapable of war-related issues. On the other hand, Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s most cruel son was a military genius. In the war of succession, if Dara Shikoh, with his superior army, somehow defeated his other 3 brothers and became king, the Mughal Empire would be secular but would be a little bit weak in the military but still would be a formidable force in the long run. But Aurangzeb defeated his brothers, killed Dara, and also imprisoned his ill father until he died in 1666. He was proclaimed the Mughal emperor in 1658 and ruled till 1707. Under his rule, the Mughal Empire territorially was at its zenith.
  6. What If Guru Teg Bahadur wasn’t executed by Aurangzeb in 1775?
    Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs was killed by Aurangzeb because he didn’t convert to Islam and dissolve the Sikh religion. If Aurangzeb let Teg Bahadur continue his religion, Sikhism, then he and his followers would continue preaching their religion all over India peacefully. But since Aurangzeb was a staunch Muslim and didn’t like the promotion of Sikhism, he forced Teg Bahadur to give up Sikhism and convert to Islam but since he refused, he was executed in 1675 which angered the Sikhs, especially his son, Guru Gobind Singh, the last Guru of the Sikhs to form the Khalsa, an armed band of Sikhs who revolted against the Mughals.
  7. What If Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj wasn’t betrayed by Ganoji Shirke?Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, son of one of the greatest military strategists in India, the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, succeeded his father in 1680. He like his father was very successful in fending of the huge Mughal army under Aurangzeb. Sambhaji was a shrewd administrator and ensured his empire would hold on to all the Mughal advancements. But still many conspired against him. One of them, his brother-in-law, Ganoji Shirke, told the Mughals about the secret place where Sambhaji was residing. Sambhaji was eventually captured and was executed brutally by the Mughals in 1689. If Sambhaji Maharaj hadn’t betrayed, he could have potentially driven out the Mughals completely from the Deccan and perhaps been a greater emperor than his father.
  8. What If Jahandar Shah didn’t take the help of Zulfiqar Khan
    The Mughal Empire became a weak empire after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. His son Bahadur Shah was not completely weak but things got worse after he died in 1712. In the war of succession, Jahandar Shah, one of Bahadur Shah’s sons was a weakling and won the war but with the support of a powerful noble, Zulfiqar Khan. If Jahandar Shah won by himself, then the empire would still be weak but it would have had much more stability and the king would have direct rule over his empire. But since Jahandar Shah was completely dependent on Zulfiqar, he was a puppet and all the powers were under Zulfiqar. This then followed a series of puppet rulers where the emperor had little to no power over his empire but the nobles effectively had all power till the end of the Mughals in 1857.
  9. What If Mir Jafar didn’t betray Siraj Ud Daulah?
    Siraj Ud Daulah was the last Nawab of Bengal, a state that gained independence from the Mughals along with states like Awadh and Hyderabad. During the 1750s the British influence in Bengal had gained drastically but still, the British army was vastly outnumbered by the army of the Nawab. But the British were smart and allied with the greedy Mir Jafar, Siraj’s commander who was promised the throne if the British beat the allied army of Siraj and a small contingent of the French army. If Mir Jafar had been loyal to his nawab, then the Nawab could have easily won the battle of Plassey in 1757 thereby capturing Calcutta. By this, they could easily eliminate the British from Bengal. But Mir Jafar ordered his army to not participate in the battle of Plassey and his army consisted of about 95% of the entire Nawab army. Eventually, the British won and Siraj was executed. Mir Jafar was made a puppet ruler and the real rulers of Bengal were the British. Mir Jafar tried to regain his power and realized his mistake but it was too late. The British capitalized on their new domains and shrewdly conquered the entire subcontinent. So this section is the most important turning point in Indian history and we would have wished that Mir Jafar was loyal to Siraj.
  10. What If Bahadur Shah Zafar successfully organized the revolt in 1857 and succeeded in eliminating the British?

During the 1850s, the EIC had almost complete control over the subcontinent due to major mistakes by Indian princely states. Speaking about the Mughals, they only had control over Delhi and were on the brink of collapsing. But after Awadh had been captured by the British in 1856, the Mughal emperor at that time, Bahadur Shah Zafar saw an opportunity and wrote letters to other strong Indian governors and rulers to unite together and fight the British. This was known as the revolt of 1857 or the first war of Indian independence. If the Indians successfully drew away the British, then a new empire would be formed under Bahadur Shah Zafar and this empire would accommodate all citizens, religions, etc. of the subcontinent. But the EIC brought reinforcements from the royal army of the British Empire and successfully brought down the revolt but it took them 2 years to completely suppress the revolt. After this, the British Empire thought that the EIC was irresponsible in administration so the British crown had direct rule over India and the company was disbanded formally by 1874. So there was the British Raj in India for about 90 years in India, till its independence in 1947.

So here we come to the end of this blog. Hope you guys enjoyed this long journey of the Mughal Empire. So the next blog will be a continuation of this series on another major empire and after this series, I will be continuing the series on the Ottoman Wars with the sieges of Szigetvar and Eger. Thank You and see you soon!

The Fall of Constantinople-1453

Hello and a warm welcome to everyone for another blog. But this is a very special blog as today is the first blog on this website that I will be posting about history and today I will be writing about the famous siege and fall of the Byzantine (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire) capital, Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to the Ottoman forces under sultan Mehmed the II “The Conquerer”. This is also the first blog under the new series of the “Ottoman Wars”, where I will talk about the most important battles of the Ottoman Empire.

The map of the Siege of Constantinople

Sultan Mehmed II had turned his eyes to the Byzantine capital, Constantinople after his army defeated a major crusader army at Varna in 1444. So the sultan marched from his capital, Edirne with his royal army of about 1 lakh troops, 130 cannons, and a navy of about 100-150 ships. Meanwhile, the Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI who had about 8000 trained and 33000 civilians brought about service for the defence of the city and pleaded support to the rest of his Christian alleys but only the Venetians responded to their cause with Guistiniani leading this small force of the Venetian navy, who played a pivotal role in the battle. The Ottomans arrived at the fortress with their sultan in April 1453. They asked for the unconditional surrender of the city which was refused by the Byzantines because they had defended this city against almost 30 sieges for millennia and also the huge Theodosian Walls could resist any breach. There was also a chain drawn between the city and Galata

The Ottomans began their siege with a massive bombardment of cannon fire on the resilient Theodosian Walls. For the first few weeks, the Ottomans had partly success but the Theodosian Walls of the great city held on. The Byzantines had the upper hand because some of the Ottoman vessels were sunk by Greek fire and the navy failed to get to the Western Frontiers of the city through the chain

But Mehmed famously ordered his ships to go through the land around Galata and the navy finally had reached the Western, weaker frontiers of the city and dispatched some of the troops in them. This was a pivotal move because Constantine now had to place some of his troops on his Western frontiers which weakened the frontal lines. The Ottomans got two minor breaches, one near the gates of St. Romanus where Giustiniani swiftly repelled the enemy and one near the Blackernae Palace which was repelled by the emperor and his royal guard. Since the Ottomans didn’t have major incursions through the city walls, the inner ring of ministers of the sultan urged him to retreat because even supplies were getting over but Mehmed trusted his sword and convinced his commanders for one final massive assault.

The date was the 29th of May when the sultan commanded the massive bombardment of cannon fire and there was another breach created near the gates of St. Romanus. Seeing this opportunity
the sultan, immediately sent his Jannisseries (best troops of the sultan) to the breach which was again defended by Giustiniani. Still, one of the the Janisseires planted the Ottoman flag upon one of the towers near the breach and even Giustiniani, the commander in chief of the Byzantines, was wounded and carried away. After this another 3000-4000 Janissaries entered the city, completely turning the tide of the siege and the Byzantine forces finally fell. Thousands of citizens tried to board the ships. Seeing this from his palace, Constantine XI tried a last stand of resistance with his royal guards but he and his men were killed by the huge Ottoman troops who had entered the city through the gates of St. Romanus.

This was followed by a huge sack of the city and the burning of the once prosperous city to the ground. This battle officially ended the medieval era in Europe and the fall of the Byzantine Empire which lasted for about 1100 years.
The city was renovated and by 1459, it was completed and officially made the capital of the Ottoman Empire until the fall of the Ottomans in 1922…

Sultan Mehmed victoriously marching into the great city of Constantinople

Sultan Mehmed II victoriously marching into the great city of Constantinople

Hope you all enjoyed the detailed blog of one of the biggest turning points in European history, the Fall of Constantinople. In the coming weeks, I will cover 2 more Ottoman sieges, The sieges of Szigetvar and Eger…