UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Mar 13

13 March 1800

Death of Nana Phadnavis


What happened?

Nana Phadnavis, brilliant Maratha statesman and eminent administrator passed away aged 58.

Biography

  • Nana Phadnavis (sometimes spelled Furnuwees) was born Balaji Janardan Bhanu on February 12, 1742 at Satara, Maratha Empire. His family had good relations with the family of the first Maratha Peshwa Balaji Vishwanatha Bhat. Phadnavis’s grandfather had saved the Peshwa from an assassination plot by the Mughals. In return, the Peshwa recommended the Maratha king Chattrapati Shahu to bestow the title of ‘Phadnavis’ on him. This became a hereditary title for the minister handling finance and administration during the regime of the Peshwa.
  • After the Third Battle of Panipat (1761), Nana Phadnavis rose to prominence as a minister and helped the Marathas regain their prestige and power which had suffered considerable wilt in their decisive rout in the battle at Panipat.
  • There was great instability during that time in the Maratha camp and Phadnavis, with his acute political insight and intelligence was able to bring the house in order.
  • The fourth Peshwa, Madhavrao died and his younger brother Narayanrao succeeded him.
  • However, Narayanrao’s uncle Raghunathrao had ambitions of his own and got Narayanrao killed in a conspiracy. Raghunathrao then became the Peshwa for a brief while.
  • This was not accepted by Phadnavis as Raghunathrao was considered vicious. Narayanrao’s wife was pregnant when he was killed. After she delivered a boy, who was named Sawai Madhavrao, Phadnavis formed a 12-member regency council. They proclaimed the infant Madhavrao as Peshwa and started ruling the state on his behalf with Phadnavis at the helm of affairs.
  • Raghunathrao had signed a treaty with the English at Bombay (Treaty of Surat) which offered him protection. But this was undermined by another treaty Phadnavis signed with the Calcutta Council of the East India Company. This was called the Treaty of Purandhar, 1776.
  • Phadnavis was a real visionary who realised that if the Marathas succumbed to the English, the whole subcontinent would be a subject of the British Empire.
  • The British tried to remove Phadnavis and replace him with someone more amenable to their own interests.
  • In 1777, Phadnavis granted the French a port on the west coast. This led the British to advance towards Pune and a battle was played out at Wadgaon. The Marathas defeated the British and were forced to sign the Treaty of Wadgaon as per which the English had to relinquish all territory acquired since 1773 to the Marathas.
  • Phadnavis forged treaties with the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Nawab of Arcot as well as the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam against the British.
  • With his astute political acumen, the Marathas rose to give protection even to the Mughal Emperor.
  • With his passing away on 13 March 1800, the slow decline of the Maratha Confederacy also started. The confederacy could no longer stay united and the British took great advantage of the disunity. They were able to secure dominion over the Maratha Confederacy by the end of the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
  • The Governor-General of India, the Marquess Wellesley wrote to Peshwa Baji Rao II (the last Peshwa) after Phadnavis’s death, “The able minister of your state, whose upright principles and honourable views and whose zeal for the welfare and prosperity both of the dominions of his own immediate superiors and of other powers were so justly celebrated.”
  • He was often called ‘the Maratha Machiavelli‘.
Also on this day


1940: Udham Singh shot dead Michael O'Dwyer, a former Lieutenant Governor of Punjab in Britain, to exact revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. O'Dwyer was the LG of Punjab during the massacre.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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