Malhar Rao Holkar

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Malhar Rao Holkar (16 March 1693 – 20 May 1766) was a noble subedar of the Maratha Empire in India. He was one of the early officers along with Ranoji Sindhia to help spread the Maratha rule to northern states and was given the estate of Indore to rule by the Peshwas, during the reign of the Maratha Emperor Shahu I.

Variants of name


He was born on in the named Hol hence the surname Holkar.

Early life

Malhar Rao Holkar was from the Dhangar community.[1][2] He was born on 16 March 1693 in the village of Hol, near Jejuri, Pune District to Khanduji Holkar of Vir. His father died in 1696, when he was only three years of age. Malhar Rao grew up in Taloda (Nandurbar District. Khandesh) in the castle of his maternal uncle, Sardar Bhojrajrao Bargal. His maternal uncle held a cavalry under Maratha noble Sardar Kadam Bande. Bargal asked Malhar Rao to join his cavalry and soon after that he was placed in-charge of cavalry detachment.[3]

He married Gautama Bai Bargal (d. 29 September 1761), his uncle's daughter, in 1717. He also married Bana Bai Sahib Holkar, Dwarka Bai Sahib Holkar, Harku Bai Sahib Holkar, a Khanda Rani. This Khanda Rani status stems from the fact that she was a princess, he had sent his sword (khaaNdaa in Marathi) to represent him at the wedding, to maintain appearances.

Holkar lived at a time when it was possible for ambitious people to improve their standing substantially. and in 1715 he was serving in forces under the control of Kadam Bande in Khandesh. Adopting the mercenary approach to service that was common at the time, Holkar was a part of the expedition to Delhi organised by Balaji Vishwanath in 1719, fought against the Nizam in the Battle of Balapur of 1720 and served with the Raja of Barwani.[5]

In Dervice of Peshwas

In 1721, having become disillusioned with Bande, Holkar became a soldier in the service of the Peshwa, Bajirao, became close to him and was soon able to move up the ranks. Participation in the Peshwa's campaign of 1723-24 was followed by a diplomatic role, settling a dispute with the state of Bhopal. Holkar was commanding a force of 500 men in 1725 and in 1727 he received a grant so that he could maintain troops in various areas of Malwa. Successful work during the Battle of Palkhed of 1728, during which he disrupted the supplies and communications of the Mughal armies, further increased his status. The Peshwa improved that as a counter to a perceived threat from less loyal supporters and by 1732, when the Peshwa gave him a large portion of western Malwa, Holkar had command of a cavalry force comprising several thousand men.[4]

Jat History

The Marathas besieged Kumher Fort from 20 January to 18 May 1754. The war continued for about four months. During the war Khanderao Holkar, son of Malhar Rao Holkar, was one day inspecting his army in an open palanquin, when he was fired upon from the fort. The cannonball hit and killed him on 24 March 1754. Malhar Rao was infuriated by the death of his only son and wanted to take revenge.

The Marathas increased pressure and Suraj Mal defended pacifly, but Suraj Mal was isolated as no other ruler was ready to help him. At this moment, Maharaja Suraj Mal was counseled by Maharani Kishori, who assured him not to worry and started diplomatic efforts. She contacted Diwan Roop Ram Katara. She knew that there were differences between Malharrao Holkar and Jayappa Sindhia and that Jayappa Sindhia was very firm in his determinations. She advised Maharaja Suraj Mal to take advantage of mutual differences within Marathas. Diwan Roop Ram Katara was a friend of Jayappa Sindhia. She requested Diwan Roop Ram Katara to take a letter from Maharaja Suraj Mal proposing a treaty. Jayappa Sindhia assured Suraj Mal of assistance and contacted Raghunathrao. Raghunathrao in turn advised Holkar to sign a treaty with Suraj Mal. Malhar Rao Holkar assessed the situation and consented for the treaty due to possibility of isolation. This led to a treaty between both rulers on 18 May 1754. This treaty proved very beneficial for Maharaja Suraj Mal.[5]

Maratha clans and Jats

Ranmal Singh pointed out Maratha Jat connections. Some of the Maratha clans evolved from Jat clans as under:

This is based on oral History and needs Genealogical research to establish any Jat-Maratha Connection.

The War of Revenge

K.R.Qanungo[6] writes....Towards the end of October1, 1764, a formidable Hindu

1. Pers. Record i. 352. This news was brought from Delhi to Calcutta in 16 days, on Nov. 11, 1764.

[p.100]: army, second only to that which Maharashtra had sent forth in 1760 to assert her dominion in Hindustan - appeared before the gates of Delhi, to demand satisfaction for Suraj Mal's blood, and to undo the effects of the Muslim victory at Panipat. Jawahar Singh brought against Najib-ud-daula 60 thousand troops and 100 pieces of cannon of his own, 25 thousand Marathas under Malhar Rao Holkar, and some 15 thousand Sikhs-both as hired allies,XXVI to ensure a rapid success. Doubtful of the issue but determined to fight it out to the last, the brave Ruhela Chief had prudently removed beforehand his family and treasure to the strong fort of Sakkartal2 in Saharanpur, XXVII and throwing entrenchments

XXVI. The writers have given varied figures regarding the strength of Marathas, Sikhs and the Naga Gosains, hired allies of Jawahar Singh that participated in the siege of Delhi against Najib. For details see, Rajpal Singh, Rise of the Jat Power, p.163-164, f.n. 27-34. -Ed.

2. Also called Sukkartal, situated in the confluence of the Solani river and the Ganges at its highest navigable point.

XXVII. Sakkartal (Sukkartal) is now in Muzaffar Nagar District. In the reign of Akbar, the entire district of Muzaffar Nagar belonged to Sarkar of Saharanpur with the exception of pargana kandhla in Delhi Sarkar. At that time present Muzaffar Nagar area was known as Sarvat. In the reign of Shahjahan, Sarvat and Khatauli were bestowed upon Saiyed Muzaffar Khan, in whose honour the town Muzaffar Nagar was founded. In 1824 the district was formed by creating a sub-collectorship at Muzaffar Nagar. In 1826 sub-collectorship was converted into regular district. According to 1838-1840 and 1860-1868 settlements, some villages from Meerut were transferred to Muzaffar Nagar. The Encyclopaedic District Gazetteers of India, central zone (Uttar Pradesh), Vol 6, (Ed. S.C. Bhatt) p. 875; for location of Sarvat see, Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire, Map (political), 8A.

Najib-ud-daulla was appointed Faujdar of Saharanpur on 21st November 1753. After that he ejected the local zamindars around. At the time of Jawahar Singh's expedition against him in 1765 Sukkartal was in Najib's Jagir. Najib built three forts at Pathargarh (1755) in Najibabad, Sukkartal 17 miles east of Muzaffarnagar and Gausgarh (1765) 22 miles north west of Muzaffarnagar. A small tributary Solani River falls in Ganga at Sukkartal. Thus Sukkartal has Ganga on three sides with torturous ravines; on the fourth side the ground was so uneven that the approach to Najib's defence line was extremely difficult, particularly in rainy season. Due to strategic situation of Sukkartal fort Najib sent his family members there. Marathas also could not defeat him in 1759 because the natural surroundings of Sukkartal enhanced the strength of the fort. Iqbal Husain, The Rise & decline of Ruhela Chieftaincies in 18th Century India, p.96, f.n. 32, p. 216; also Tarikh-i-Shakir Khani, 84 cited by Iqbal. -Ed.

[p.101]: around the city of Delhi stood ready for a long siege. He summoned other Ruhela chiefs to his aid and sent urgent entreaties to the Abdali, informing him of the perilous situation. Delhi was closely invested; the Marathas were posted to the north of the City, and the Sikhs to the north- west, while Jawahar planted part of his army on the eastern bank of the river and the rest before the Delhi and Ajmer gates. The fiery Jat, impatient of delay, sent a challenge to Najib Khan, to come out like a man and fight in the open instead of hiding himself in a comer. He chivalrously withdrew his army five or six kos off the city in the direction of Faridabad (about 16 miles, south of Delhi), to allow the Afghans to come out unmolested. Lashed to fury Najib-ud-daula sallied out and gave battle to the Jats (15th Nov., 1764), who, however roved stronger and drove the Afghans back into the city, each side lost abut a thousand in killed and wounded. Jawahar Singh, accompanied by Holkar and other chiefs, crossed the Jamuna and plundered Shahdara, and planted batteries on the side (17th November). The day after the loot of Shahdara, the troops of Najib Khan owing to the heavy cannonading of the enemy left the sandy plain [reti] below the fort and went inside; shells began to fall into the cit3(19th November). Three months passed away in distress and hardship. All attempts of the Afghans to cut their way through proved futile. On the 12th of Shaban, 1178 A.H. (4th Feb., 1765), Najib fought another battle with the Sikhs and the Jats on the ridge near Nakhas [cattlemarket] and Sabzi-mandi [the well-known fruit and vegetable market of Delhi]. The action began with a heavy musketry fire; a largenumber of men were killed and wounded, and again the Afghans had to retire discomfit ted (Waqa, 204). No choice was now left but starvation or surrender; shops were closed and the utmost exhortation of the Government failed to pacify the people. The very next day, the inhabitants of the Old and the New city rushed into the Jat camp, begging for a supply of corn to save them from starvation. This was a virtual surrender of the city - the defenders retired within the citadel.4 There was no prospect of relief coming from

3. The battle, loot and bombardment took place within the first 26 days of Jamada I, 1178, on Thursday, Saturday and Monday (Waqa, 198-199).

4. Pers. correspondence i. 372; the date 9th [an., 1765 is evidently wrong there.

[p.102]: any quarter whatsoever; the Sikhs were ravaging Saharanpur and other possessions of Najib-ud-daula and there was little Chance of the Abdali coming.5

Treachery of Malhar Rao

K.R.Qanungo[7] writes.... When complete success seemed almost within his grasp,Raja Jawahar Singh was baffled by his faithress ally, Malhar Rao, "Who spoiled the affair" as father Wendel says, "by showing greater slackness and open partiality for Najib Khan. He proposed peace at a time when the Ruhelas could not have delayed any longer in offering unconditional surrender, and at last obliged Jawahar Singh to consent to it" [French MS., 59]. Najib Khan opened negotiations for peace; "Sujan Misra, Raja Chait Ram and the nephew of Rupram,6 (the family priest of the Bharatpur Ran went to Malhar Rao to talk of peace and returned (14th Shaban; 6 Feb., 1765). About two gharis before sunset, Nawab Zabita Khan started, and going up the Jamuna, brought with him Gangadhar Tatiya and Rupram to Najib-ud-daula [Waqa, 201]. The two parties evidently came to an agreement but it is not known on what terms. On the 17th Shaban (Feb. 9), Najib-ud-daula went to pay a visit to Malhar Rao in his camp; and thence [after the interview with Holkar] they proceeded to the camp of the Jats, and towards sunset returned to the City bringing with them large quantities of grain loaded upon back horses. [Waqa,201]. On the 20th of Shaban, (12th Feb.), Raja Jawahar Singh marched away to Okhla, 5 miles south of Delhi. [Waqa, 202]. Malhar Rao had the reward of his treachery to his ally.

5. The Abdali crossed the Indus in Oct., 1765 about 7 months after the conclusion of peace between Najib Khan and Jawahar Singh. So the report of his coming could in no way terrify the Jats and influence the negotiations between two parties.

6. Rup Ram figured prominently also in the reign of Suraj Mal. The Marathi chronicles mention him several times with his title Katari. He "having acquired great reputation as a Pandit in the earlier part of the last [the eighteenth] century, became Purohit to Bharatpur, Sindhia, and Holkar, and was enriched by those princes with the most lavish donations the whole of which he appears to have expended on the embellishment of Barsana and other sacred places within the limits of Braj his native country" [Growse's Mathura, 178].

[p.103]: On the 21st of Shaban (13th Feb) he paid a visit to Najib-ud-daula who presented him with an elephant, two horses, and nine plates of jewels and bestowed one hundred and twenty-nine robes of honour to his companions [ibid.202]. On the 22nd of Shaban (14th Feb.), Jawahar Singh received a visit from Zabita Khan who had brought with him an elephant and a robe of honour on behalf of the Heir-apparent, Jawan Bakht" (ibid). Here the affair ended. That he was not pleased with the compromise which was in a sense forced upon him by the untrustworthy Maratha Chief is evident from the fact that he departed earlier from the capital without returning he visit of Najib-ud-daula as courtesy required. He went away to Deeg, bearing a grudge against Malhar Rao who, the Jat knew, had him spend without much benefit 160 Lakhs of Rupees. "He had no other gain from this expedition" as Father Wendel says "than to have under his command the chiefs and the army and to make himself more respected by his people."7 (French MS., 59).

External links


  1. Ramusack, Barbara N. (2004). The Indian Princes and their States. The New Cambridge History of India. Cambridge University Press. p. 35. ISBN 9781139449083.
  2. Jones, Rodney W. (1974). Urban Politics in India: Area, Power, and Policy in a Penetrated System. University of California Press. p. 25.
  3. Solomon, R. V.; Bond, J. W. (2006). Indian States: A Biographical, Historical, and Administrative Survey. Asian Educational Services. p. 70. ISBN 9788120619654.
  4. Gordon, Stewart (1993). The Marathas 1600-1818. 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 117–118. ISBN 9780521268837.
  5. Dr. Prakash Chandra Chandawat: Maharaja Suraj Mal aur unka yug, Jaypal Agencies Agra, 1982, Pages 110-118
  6. History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Maharaja Sawai Jawahar Singh Bharatendra (1764-1768) ,pp.100-102
  7. History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/Maharaja Sawai Jawahar Singh Bharatendra (1764-1768) ,pp.102-103