Balaji Vishwanath also known as Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, was the sixth Peshwa of his hierarchy of Peshwas. In Marathi, Peshwa means ‘prime minister’. He was born in 1660 A.D. in a Bhatt family at Shrivardhan gram in Konkan, Maharashtra.
He was known for his works which he had done to pacify various political and war conditions of his times between Chhatrapati Shahu and Mughal Empire. His son too, after his death carried the legacy of Peshwa name, Peshwa Baji Rao. His second son Chimanji Appa was also known for his victory over the vasai port.
Unsung diaries of a warrior
He was the first prime minister as the Peshwa in the Maratha Empire. He was also called ‘the second founder of the Maratha state’ after Chhatrapati Shahu.
He was very faithful and loyal towards Chhatrapati Shahu from the beginning to the end of his life. He was appointed as Peshwa in 1713 by Shahu, without his help it would be impossible for Chhatrapati Shahu to gain control over the vast Empire.
His help to Shahu
Chhatrapati Shahu was the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji. He was captured by Aurangzeb at a very young age when he annexed Shahu’s territories. After the death of Aurangzeb, he was released from captivation. But in the mean time he was disposed off his position as Tarabai- the widow of the youngest son of Chhatrapati Shivaji did not recognize his actual power as ruler.
She was ruling the state on behalf of her son. She broke a war against Shahu. The problems for Shahu was increased and created more troubles for him. His commander Chander Sen and other general Haibat Rao left his army and joined hands with his opponent Tara Bai. But at this critical situation Balaji Vishwanath helped him. He stood like a pillar in favor of him.
He strengthened the condition of Shahu by his wisdom. He organized an army by lending money from money-lenders and defeated Tara Bai. Tara Bai and her sardars and generals including the traitor Chandra Sen were captured. He dethroned Tara Bai son- Shivaji II.
He put Sambhji ii- the son of second wife of Raja Ram Rajal Bai on the throne. He also made friendship with Ram Chandra Pant and Kanhaji Aangriya. kanhaji was the general of the Maratha Navy, Balaji Vishwanath persuaded them to be loyal to Chhatrapati Shahu. In this way he helped Shahu in controlling over his reign and decreasing the strength of his opponent’s- Tara Bai.
Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath role in the Mughal Empire
In 1719 under his diplomacy his friend Shahu signed a treaty with the Mughal Governor of south- Husain Ali Sayyid Brothers. The Sayyid brothers wanted to march to Delhi with their army but the Marathas powerful army was the biggest hurdle in their way. So he signed a treaty with Emperor Shahu. According to this treaty, Marathas emperor Shahu got control over many provinces of Deccan.
Husain Ali had also promised to release all hostages including shahu’s wife and relatives. He also promised to help Shahu in expanding his kingdom towards northern India. In return of 15,000 armed horsemen army with the support of their commander in general Khanderao Dabhade and Balaji Vishwanath. But Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar did not approve this treaty. Sayyid brothers wanted to dethrone him.
Husain Ali with the help of Maratha’s army dethroned Furrukhsiyar. The Maratha’s lived some days in Delhi and understood all the shortcomings of Mughal’s Empire. They understood the fact that Mughal Empire had lost its power. And were breathing their last days due to the power vested in the hands of mean and selfish officials.
In this way Balaji Vishwanath had increased the influence of Marathas in Mughal court. According to this treaty several relatives and wives of Shahu who were prisoners in Mughal court were freed. Shahu had got the right to collect Chauth or revenue in his territory again.
He strengthens Shahu’s empire and he was the strongest pillar of Shahu. He was so powerful in the kingdom that Shahu was the Chhatrapati by name only. All the major decisions were made by him. He started the system of jagirdari to collect revenue in the empire.
To avid clashes among them, he had given equal rights to every Sardar. Although all the decisions were stamped in the name of Chhatrapati Shahu but they were taken and applied by Balaji Vishwanath.
He made several reforms also. He strengthens the empire by fighting many battles and treaties. He established peace in the kingdom. He worked very hard to control the home-war conditions. His influence was so strong in the kingdom that later on Peshwa became more powerful than the Chhatrapaties.
He not only helped Shahu in bringing back his empire but also helped in getting freedom of his wife and relatives who were prisoners in Mughal court. He funded Maratha Maha Sangh. Under Marahta Maha Sangh faithful samants or sardars were given permanent hold of their jagirs.
They were given more Jagirs, facilities and rights. The Sardars were independent and had the right to collect revenue. They took their portion of it and submitted the rest of the revenue to the Maratha Empire.
Balaji Vishwanath’s health started deteriorating when he was returning back after his triumph victory in Mughal empire. He took retirement from Shahu and spends rest of the days of his life in his village at Saswad. After his son Bajirao’s married Kashibai, he took his last breath.
He died after a long ailment on April12, 1720 at the age of 58 only. He was succeeded by his elder son Baji Rao who was appointed as Peshwa by Chhatrapati shahu.
Balaji Vishwanath was a brave warrior. He was loyal to his king, Chhatrapati Shahu. If seen on a broader scale, we may say that the entire legacy of the Bhatt family were loyalists to the kings. Balaji was the most reliable shoulder for the king. Actually, it was Balaji Vishwanath who maintained the kingdom.
The ruler was just a signing authority. Balaji’s diplomacy, bravery, honor and respect created a name for himself for future generations to look up to.