The Maratha invasions of the Bengal subah under commander Vaskar Pandit

The Maratha invasions of the Bengal subah under commander Vaskar Pandit
After defeating Bakir Khan and instating Masum Khan as the ruler of Odisha, Alibordi Khan ordered most of his veteran as well as the newly collected soldiers to return to their homes, not seeing any possibility of further danger. Then he set out for the capital Murshidabad along with his main commanders and a cavalry of 5,000. He was resting after setting up his camp near Medinipur when he heard that the Maratha commander of Berar province Roghuji Vosle had sent Vaskar Pandit in Bengal with a cavalry of 40,000 to collect chauth (25% tax) and Vaskar Pandit was quickly advancing towards Odisha. Alibordi thought that he would be able to reach in Bengal before the Marathas and reorganize his scattered force. Then, news was brought that the enemies were 20 crouch (about 40 miles) away from Alibordi's camp. So he quickly moved to Bardhaman. He thought of keeping his things and fight against the Marathas in this big city. The Marathas arrived in Bardhaman after a few days of Alibordi and with swords as well as by setting fire they began to ravage Alibordi's camp from all sides. Few skirmish took place, but no real damage happened to any side. Plundering was the Marathas’ real purpose. So, they had to real intent to engage in a big war. That was why, Vaskar Pandit in a letter to Alibordi demanded 1 million rupees ‘tax’ to leave Bengal. But Alibordi did not agree with this proposal. He was determined to go back in Murshidabad and reorganize his army. He told most of his watchmen of  goods and companions to stay in Bardhaman, but no one agreed to stay there in fear of the Marathas. Such decision of the soldiers became the reason of their peril. On the very first day of their journey to Murshidabad, the Marathas attacked the force of Alibordi. Some of the soldiers, many companions and  watchmen were killed. The Marathas got hold of most of Alibordi's goods, cannons and tents. Perturbed Alibordi sent a messenger along with an employee to give Vaskar Pandit to 1 million as per his prior demand. But the Maratha commander refused to take that amount, rather he demanded 100 millions and the elephant of the nawab. Alibordi denied to fulfil this demand of the Maratha Commander Vaskar Pandit.

And the next day he set out for Murshidabad. Like the first day the Marathas attacked and snatched away whatever left to Alibordi, but his soldiers were mostly unharmed. Because of three days of fighting, soaking in the rain and starvation Alibordi’s soldiers fell ill. With his remaining soldiers Alibordi reached in katwa on the fourth day. But before him the Marathas reached in katwa and set fire in the main barracks and destroyed the forts. So helpless Alibordi set his camp on the bank of the Vagirathi river. That saved him from the Marathas. When the news of Alibordi’s endangered situation reached in Murshidabad, his son-in-law Nawazesh Muhammad took many soldiers and a lot of foods with him and joined Alibordi. The Marathas were yet to attack on the northern bank of the river.
The Maratha commander Pandit  did not feel safe to stay in an enemy state in the rainy season. So he decided to return to the Berar Province.  But Mir Habib advised him to stay in Bengal and took the responsibility to supply foodstuff for his soldiers. Habib also informed him that there was no fort in Murshidabad to protect the city and that Habib himseif along with some soldiers could easily loot Murshidabad. Agreeing with this proposal pandit dispatched a few thousand soldiers under Habib’s command.

Hearing about this plan nawab Alibordi set out for Murshidabad. He reached in Murshidabad one day after Mir Habib and found that Habib had looted 300,000 rupees by plundering in the suberbs of Murshidabad as well as the business house of Jogot Seth. Habib ran off after Alibordi’s arrival and advised  Pandit to set up his camp in Katwa for the rainy season. On the other hand, Alibordi decided against going to war with the Marathas until reorganizing his army and building fortress in Murshidabad. the Marathas plundered in the villages of Polashi and Daudpur on Habibs advice till the river was crossable on foot. But they had to stay on that side of the river as the water level of Vagirathi rose. But with Habibs help, Pandit brought every district of Hooghly, Hizly, Bardhhaman, Medinipur and Baleshwar as well as Birbhum, Rajmahal under Maratha control. On the other hand, Alibordi only had control over a small part of the west Bank of the Ganga, Murshidabad and its suberbs. The inhabitants of the capital began to cross the Ganga with their riches to take shelter in safe places. Alibordi also sent his family and relatives, riches and other valuables in Godagari, on the other side of the Ganga with Nawazesh’s help. Nawazesh returned to Murshidabad after escorting them to their destination. During that time situation became so terrible because of the Maratha attacks that people went to wherever they felt safe. Tens of thousands of people were killed by the Marathas. The inhabitants of the west bank of the Ganga asked for the Englishmen’s help and shelter after they reached in Kolkata. The Englishmen sent a messenger to Alibordi asking for permission to dig trench around Kolkata in order to save people from danger. Alibordi obliged. Though the plan was to dig 7 miles long trench, only 3 miles were dug in 6 months. Then the digging was stopped as the Marathas did not attack Kolkata. Taking advantage of the situation, the Englishmen secured permission to build fort around their  Kashimpur trading post.   
No sooner had the rainy season ended than Alibordi set out from Murshidabad with his extensive force. On the other hand, the Marathas stayed in katwa the entire rainy season. Alibordi arrived in katwa with his force. There was only the flowing river brimmed with rain water between the two forces. A bridge of boats was built over the river at night on Alibordi’s order. Mir Jafor khan, Mustofa khan and other commanders began to cross the river along with their soldiers at midnight. But hardly had half of the soldier crossed the river when the boat-bridge disintegrated in the middle. The soldiers who were  behind tried to rush to the front. As a result, 600 soldiers died. Alibordi’s audacity and the rest of the soldiers enthusiasm made the repairment of the broken bridge possible at that night. When at dawn the whole force became ready to attack the Maratha camp, Vaskar Pandit being afraid of this unexpected turn out decided to quickly run away from the fort. The Marathas began to ran away leaving behind their necessary things and other goods. Alibordi chased them. Many Maratha soldiers were killed within 4 miles of katwa. Pandit decided to fight against Alibordi’s force in katwa. But the Maratha soldiers began to flee in fear because of Alibordi’s quick advancement. Nobody obeyed pandit’s order. From there Pandit fled in the forest of Pachet. When Alibordi came close to him, Pandit changed his direction on Habibs advice and entered in the forest of Bishnupur. Then he went to Medinipur via chandrakona. After setting up his camp in Medinipur, Pandit sent a group of soldiers to attack Cuttack in Odisha. As there were not enough soldiers to protect the city, Masum khan came outside of the sity with his small  army. He was easily defeated in the battle and killed. When Alibordi heard about the enemies changing of direction, he set up his camp in Bardhaman and then entered in Medinipur with his battle-ready force. This time Pandit stood his ground and attacked Alibordi. A fierce battle broke out. Eventually Alibordi won. Pandit fled to Cuttack with his remaing soldiers. Alibordi did not chase him this time. As the enemies left his entire state, he though that following the enemies outside his territory would be unwise. Exultant Alibordi instated Abdul Rasul as Cuttack’s ruler and returned to the capital Murshidabad. 

The Maratha invasions of the Bengal Subah did not stop with Vaskar Pandit 's defeat. Furious at his commander’s defeat, Raghuji Vosle immediately prepared a new army and entered Bengal. At the same time Balaji, the Maharashtrian Maratha chief of Puna, along with many soldiers entered Bengal. Balaji was coming to get 1100,000 rupees and an elephant on behalf of the emperor in Delhi. Balaji sent a messenger to Alibordi to assure him that he would help him in his war against the Marathas. Balaji arrived on the bank of the Vagirathi river via Bihar and set up his camp.On the other hand, Raghuji Vosle entered Bengal via Birvoom and set up his camp in Bardhaman.

When Alibordi heard the news of Balaji's arrival, he went to Vagirathi immediately and finalized a treaty between the two sides. Alibordi proposed that the allied force would attack Raghuji's force. Balaji agreed with that proposal unconditionally, because he had prior discord with Vosle. Besides, there was Opportunity to get extra money from Alibordi. So, both armies jointly set out to suppress Raghuji. But, dissatisfied with Alibordi's force’s slow advancement, Balaji decided to attack Raghuji alone. Seeing his adversary to advance, Vosle ran away to his country from Bardhaman in fear. Vosle plundered many villages on his way back. Alibordi had to pay the villagers a lot for damages. Though militarily Alibordi was unharmed, economically he was devastated. 

The next year Raghuji again sent Vaskar Pandit to Bengal with 20,000 cavalry. But Pandit was ordered to come to an agreement with Alibordi if he agreed to pay him the same amount he paid Balaji. Upon hearing the news of the Marathas’ arrival, Alibordi set up his camp at Muskiba about 10 miles away from the capital. Alibordi's plan was to invite the Maratha commanders and attack the commanderless Maratha soldiers and expel them from Bengal. Alibordi sent Mustofa Khan and Raja Jankiram to the Maratha camp with a proposal of truce. Pandit demanded a lot of money and Alibordi's messengers agreed on one condition, that Pandit must meet Alibordi. Alibordi began to send friendly letters and valuable gifts to the Maratha camp daily. Finally blinded by the greed of money, the Maratha commander agreed to meet Alibordi and fixed a date. Alibordi ordered Mir Jafor and Fakir Allabeg to choose a group of loyal soldiers and hid them behind the curtains of the reception camp. The soldiers’ duty was to attack and kill Pandit and his companions when a certain signal was given. 

On the given day Pandit set out from Katwa with most of his soldiers. After arriving in Alibordi's place, Pandit advanced towards the reception camp along with his main commanders and companions. Mustofa Khan and Jankiram accompanied them. But soon enough they tactfully left the side of the Marathas’ and went outside. Alibordi received the Marathas cordially. Then he asked, "Who amongst you is Vaskar Pandit?". As soon as Pandit introduced himself, Alibordi ordered loudly," kill the infidel!". The appointed soldiers immediately attacked Pandit and his companions and killed 19 noble commanders. In the meantime, the Nawab mounted his elephant and commandeered his soldiers himself and fiercely attacked the Maratha soldiers. The Maratha soldiers without their commander began to run away. Alibordi arrived at Katwa chasing them. Raghu Gaekwad was in charge of the maratha camp. Hearing the news of Vaskar Pandit and other commanders’ assassination, he fled with the remaining soldiers without trying to avenge them.
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  • VimalaNowlis
    VimalaNowlis February 17, 2021 at 11:51 PM

    As I said, India was a bunch of different "kingdoms" fighting each other gor thousands of years. Until the British came and the different "peoples" found a unified identity. Pretty much the same story in Greece. Except the British incited a "national identity" for the Greeks. Both are the creation of the British.

  • History Source BD
    History Source BD February 18, 2021 at 6:40 AM

    Today European people call themself European and its not British creation. Same way people of related culture and religion form a common identity. Whenever a power unites and hold a huge area for a long time the people feel united if they have common cultural root. British occupation just invoked that common identity hidden among the pepple of subcontinent.

  • Banajyotsna
    Banajyotsna February 18, 2021 at 11:55 PM

    I agree

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