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Maratha and Sikh

Why did Marathas & Sikhs not join hands against Afghans & British

Marathas and Sikhs joined hands

Mughal empire was demolished by 1717. By 1750 Marathas ruled India & Sikh misls controlled Punjab. Why didn’t they join hands?

Mughals were Maratha vassals but still retained revenue rights over Delhi. There was a Mughal governor called Adina Beg who was struggling against invading Afghans under Ahmedshah Abdali. We think of Sikhs Marathas as mortal enemies of Mughals but truth has layers and nuances.

Yes on a broader spectrum Mughals were enemies for both Sikhs and Marathas. However at local levels there were complicated equations and power struggles. Adina Beg was once supported by Sikh generals Jassa Singh and Vadbhag Singh against the Afghans and got a temporary respite.

However to ensure a more permanent solution to the Afghan problem he needed help from the most powerful and accomplished Maratha general of the time that is Raghunath Rao (Raghoba). Raghoba being a master strategist had a diplomatic suggestion.

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Since Punjab was Sikh territory, on 8 March 1758, Raghoba decided that the Sikh battalions would lead 2 marches ahead of Maratha army in Sirhind. Afghans were decimated in Lahore, Attock, Peshawar and Multan bordering the outposts.

Sikhs captured the Afghan soldiers and took them to Amritsar to clean the Harmandar saheb sarovar that had been earlier desecrated by Afghans by throwing cow carcasses. Raghunath Rao too paid respect at the Harmandir Sahib.

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Sikhs felt betrayed

Raghunath Rago made a blunder. Raghunath Rao sidelined the Sikh chiefs and appointed Adina Beg as the Nawab of Lahore with a annual chauth tax of 75 Lakh rupees. He thought Adina is more likely to pay up. Sikhs felt betrayed.

After taking Maratha help and getting the Nawab post Adina Beg turned around and outlawed Sikhs. Adina Beg also attacked several forts. Raghoba didn’t even intervene as long as he got his tax. Adina died in 1758 but this was the end of Maratha Sikh alliance.

Third battle of Panipat

Abdali came back in 1760. Raghoba was ready to march again but Peshwa denied him the amount he asked for. So Sadashiv Rao took up the task and Panipat 3 happened. Sikhs watched from a distance & didn’t come to Maratha help embittered by their experience with Adina Beg.

Marathas did recover everything they lost within 10 years under Peshwa Madhavrao. However an opportunity for alliance with two biggest Hindu forces - Marathas and Sikhs was lost forever. Similar story with Jats & Rajputs. British never had to fight them together.

Britishers

The wily British first finished off the Marathas in 1818. No one came to their help. And then they decimated the Sikhs in 1849. No one came for their help either. Thus infighting destroyed Indians.

First battle of independence

When Marathas put up a final resistance in the first battle of independence in 1857 Peshwa Nanasaheb made another blunder Though it was a token appointment the powerless Mughal Bahadur Shah Zafar was declared as leader so that Muslim soldiers would fight against British. This alienated Sikhs further. You’d be surprised to know that the 1857 rebellion had almost succeeded and India was all set to be under Maratha rule again. The tide turned when British used Sikh and Gorkha forces and demolished rebels. Thus Hindus destroyed fellow Hindus.

Source

  1. https://x.com/itihasika/status/1793143275605369080