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Battle of Kirkee (modern-day Khadki)
Part of the Third Anglo-Maratha War
Date November 5, 1817
Location Khadki, India
Result Decisive Maratha victory
Belligerents
Flag of the Maratha Empire Maratha Empire British East India Company flag British East India Company
Commanders and leaders
Moropant Dixit Lt. Col. Burr, Captain Ford
Casualties and losses
50 86

The Battle of Khadki took place at Khadki, India on November 5, 1817 between the forces of the British East India Company and those of Bajirao II, the Peshwa of the Maratha Empire. Khadki, on the outskirts of Pune in Maharashtra, India, later became a military cantonment.

PreludeEdit

Maratha Empire in declineEdit

After the Third Battle of Panipat, Marathas lost the sheen of their Empire. Maratha Sardars took benefit of the reduced strength and command of Peshwas Over Maharashtra and Maratha Empire began to fall off. Peshwas who were in very high debts (taken for battles and governance) and not receiving any income (all Sardars were keeping the taxes collected to themselves instead of sending it to Peshwas) were not in good position to fight with British force. After death of Madhavrao Peshwa, the Maratha empire was in a constant decline.

British Empire on the riseEdit

ArmiesEdit

The Maratha Army consisted of Huzurat or Sarkari Fouz and had the following Generals when the battle began. Marathas: Bapu Gokhale, assisted by Anandrao Babar, Vithalrao Vinchurkar, assisted by Rajwade, Govindrao Ghorpade Mudholkar, Tryambakrao Rethrekar, Shaikh Miraj, Dafle, Bahirji Shitole, Mor Dixit, assisted by Sardar Kokre, Sardar Appa Desai Nipankar, assisted by Sardar Pandhare, Sardar Naropant Apte, Sardar Yashwantrao Ghorpade Sondurkar, Sardar Wamanrao Raaste, Sardar Chintamanrao Patwardhan, assisted by Bapu Narayan Bhave Ramdurgkar, Sardar Mutalik on behalf of Pant Pratinidhi, Sardar Naik Anjurkar, Sardar Purandare, and Sardar Nagarkar, assisted by Moreshwar Kanitkar. All these sardars (the equivalent of Earls or Dukes) had both cavalry and infantry. The army's Artillery was led by Laxmanrao Panshe and his nephew.

The East India Company's army was led by Lt. Colonel Burr and a Captain Ford, who was kept at Pune to protect Peshwa.

Bapu Gokhale commanded a total force of 26,000 men (18,000 horse and 8,000 infantry) with much ordnance. The British force numbered only 2,800, of whom 2,000 were natives and only 800 were Europeans. The ratio of Marathas to British forces in the battle of Khadki was thus 1:9, or 1:32.5 Europeans, discounting the natives commanded by the British. However, the military tactic of "first befriend, then fight" proved an advantage to the British forces, with an armistice and further gains in future battles defeating the Marathas completely.[1]

BattleEdit

A detachment commanded by Lt. Col. Burr advanced from Dapodi village near confluence of Pavana and Mula rivers. His detachment was placed in Poona for the protection of the Peshwa. Before the battle, the Peshwa's commander, Moropant Dixit, had tried to bring Captain Ford onto his side, but these overtures were refused.

First Vinchurkars gun infantry targeted British Resident Elphinstones house by firing from other side of river. Elphinstone ran almost halfnaked towards Kirkee (Khadki). After he left, Kokre's cavalry burnt all the bunglows of britishers in the vicinity. Ford's battalion's hundreds of soldiers left him and joined Bapu Gokhla. Mor Dixit threw its left wing and attacked the Ford's forces somewhere in the eastern part of the current University of Pune campus. It is conjectured that this event took place by a brook (probably the brook running behind the garden along the road by the Ladies Hostel) from accounts of one Mr. Jadhavrao of Malagaon who had visited the Governor's residence (now the Main Building) in the 1860s or 1870s. This gentleman had taken part in the battle and recounted its incidents while visiting the Governor (see the reference of Mary Frere below). From the map given here, it appears that the battalion on next day after battle was over made its way south from near the north-east corner of current day Vibhagiya Phal Sanshodhan Kendra (Divisional Fruit Research Centre) at Aundh, which borders the Mula river on the south. A small lane actually takes one south through the fields until the boundary wall adjoining Aundh Road. Ford perhaps went precisely this way (up to a few metres by the sides). If one crosses Aundh Road at this point, one would cross over into the campus of the University of Pune behind the NCRA-TIFR complex inside. Following a straight line south, one passes through a densely wooded area past the Khadki Gate of the University and further to Bodh-Vihar before the Ladies Hostel. . The brook thought to be the one mentioned in Jadhavrao's account lies nearby and corroborates well with this theory. Ford's battalion probably linked up with Burr's forces at a place near the point where the left bank of the Mutha river crosses from the Agricultural College into Khadki Cantonment.

The Maratha cavalry made its first charge beginning from a location which would be close to the present day road leading from the Police Ground square to Saakhar Sankul (opposite the PMT Depot of Na. Taa. Waadi). The lines were extended further up north across the railway line of today and the Mumbai-Pune Highway into the fields and further into Wakdewadi. The cavalry charge has been vividly described by James Grant Duff which is well known to historians. Duff observed the battle from a position on the hills of Bhamburda. This location is likely to have been some place on the hill face behind the present day Hanuman Nagar or Pandav Nagar. The Jaree-patka (Peshwa's flag) mentioned in the map also refers to the detachment which carried it. The Jaree-patka led by Mor Dixit charged the 7th Bombay Native Infantry, which formed a part of Burr's detachment, somewhere near the present Range Hills colony from the north west part of the Agricultural College Campus as did the Peshwa horse which is known to have floundered on account of an unknown morass. Burr, who had apparently suffered a stroke before he proceeded from Khadki, led his forces despite being ill. Both his aides were shot by his side and a gunshot went through his hat.

The Khadki Cantonment boundary turns North suddenly as one goes further westward. This is probably where the East India Cos Infantry was actually attacked. The University has an internal road running from the main gate to the Main Building. It looks very similar in shape to the formation of the Peshwa's troops present in that area. This is perhaps not a coincidence given that the troops had taken position there. The troops first suffered badly at the hands of Mor Dixit and Kokres army with several casualties and panic amongst Britishers. However enthusiastic Mor Dixit eager to see the scenes of smelt victory surged ahead with Peshwas flag Jaripatka in his hand and was killed with the bullet somewhere near this formation, ironically by firing from the battalion of his friend, Ford. He was seen encouraging his troops before the battle began and commandeered the troops. His deputy Kokre was also killed. Later Bapu Gokhla under protection of Panshes artillery charged on company forces and routed them until The Peshwa sent an emissary to him with the order of halting the battle. He halted battle which had it been continued would have completely routed the company forces. Peshwa agreed for ceasefire on request of British Resident Elphinstone who had gone panicky seeing disaster of his forces. Peshwas forces returned to Parvati where they learnt of General Smiths troops from Jalna and British Regiment at Pune are on way to Pune. In order to arrest their progress, The Peshwa's troops made its way up north towards Garpir probably via the current day University campus. It is known that a battery existed at the site of the current day Queen Mary Technical Institute and it is likely that the guns were those. However, by local knowledge, the battery at the Institute was supposed to have been the Peshwa's. This matter has not been resolved. A Portuguese battalion commanded by one De Pinto took part in the battle against the East India Company. The church in Wakdewadi associated with "Father Pinto" was constructed after this action at Khadki. However, Marathi records do not suggest existence of anyone by name of Pinto

AftermathEdit

The battle was as good as lost by Britishers had it been not halted by Peshwa who was promised ceasefire by Elphinston. A few battles were later fought against the Bhosale faction at Sitabardi in Nagpur and against the Pindaris. But the Peshwa, the chief executive of the Maratha Confederacy, was militarily defeated in the Battle near Ashirgad. Next skirmish occurred after November 5 at Yerawda where Sardar Yashwant Ghorpade's forces were lured by Britishers by bribing to pave way for battalions coming from Ghodnadi and Jalna and gunners of Panshes artillery lured to join Britishers, resulting in the Peshwa fleeing Pune. The East India Company took over the Shaniwarwada, the seat of the Peshwa, on November 17, 1817. By 1818, the Peshwa had surrendered to the East India Company.

The battlefield todayEdit

After the battle, the East India Company troops crossed the river at a place called Yelloura ford which is still unidentified. It is guessed that the place was probably where the bund of Bund Garden exists today. "Yelloura" is perhaps a corruption of Yerawda of today. This corroborates well with the mention of a nearby hill in Blacker's account (see references below). Also, the morass which played a crucial role in the battle is unidentified as of today. It is expected to have existed in the Range Hills Colony, the Military Station Depot of Khadki or near the Symbiosis Institute of Management or towards the College of Agriculture. An account of the battle by Grant Duff is well known to historians. Grant Duff observed the battle from a position on the hills of Bhamburda. This location is likely to have been some place on the hill faces behind the present day Hanuman Nagar or Pandav Nagar. One can have a good view of most of the battle area while travelling by train between Shivajinagar and Dapodi stations. Important features like Chatushshrungi temple, Range Hills Colony and Agricultural College can be easily seen in one go. One can also view the battlefield from thesouth-west by climbing atop the hill face above Chatushshrungi temple (footwear is allowed on the steps which take you around and above the shrine onto the narrow paths which lead you further up). This view is the best by far. The Ganeshkhind hillock, University Main Building, Range Hills and Agricultural College are clearly seen in a single view besides other features.

MythsEdit

There seem to be no clear references to any detailed incident of the battle in local folklore. However, one particular belief held by a few old residents of the area near Pune University Main Gate has been noted in the field investigation. Several modern day incidents near the Main Gate have been attributed to the spirit of an English soldier who was killed near the place. The legend is specific in that the spirit is that of an English soldier 'whose head was cut off' and that the ghost haunts the banyan tree behind the PMT bus stop in the University Campus near the Main Gate. With no known records of other violent incidents having taken place in the area, this belief is perhaps related to the battle.

ReferencesEdit

  • Memoirs of the operations of the British Army in India during the Mahratta war of 1817,1818 and 1819, London 1821- by Lt. Col. Valentine Blacker
  • J.M.Campbell, Gazeteer of the Bombay Presidency. Vol XVIII Part III Pune District, 1885.
  • Pune:Queen of the Deccan - J Diddee and S. Gupta (2000) publ. Elephant Design Pvt. Ltd., Kothrud, Pune, INDIA. ISBN 81-87693-00-2
  • Old Deccan Days (1868), Frere, M., 3rd ed. 1898. London: Murray.
    • The particular chapter of Frere's book referring to the narration by Jadowrow (sic) Notes (transcript)
  • There is an account of the battle from the "Peshwyaanchee Bakhar" (the official record of the reign of the Peshwas). It was written in the Modi script (translations are available) and it does not include maps. The fact that the 'Zaree Pat' staff broke prior to the battle has been recorded here, that being perceived as a bad omen. There is also a mention of the morass which obstructed the cavalry charge and that the Peshwa watched the battle unfolding from Parvati Hill with the help of a telescope.
  • The morass which caused the Maratha cavalry charge to break is likely to have survived till today. Results of field work being carried out presently will be reported shortly to Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Pune, India.
  • A History of the Marathas - James Grant Duff (1826) London
  • Territories conquered from the Peishwa- Mountstuart Elphinstone
  • Konkan:From the earliest to 1818 A.D. - V.G. Khoprekar
  • History of Poona and Deccan in a Perspective - Archur Crawford
  • Medieval Maratha Country - A.R. Kulkarni
  • Bombay and the Marathas Up to 1774 - W.J. Desai
  • [1] Marathas' struggle for empire: Anglo-Maratha wars, 1679-1818 by Anil A. Athale.
  • Some political background for this battle
  • map of the battle events
  • The temple indicated as 'pagoda' in the map above is not the Chatushshrungi temple as earlier thought. At the location there exists a Ganesh temple named "Paarvatinandan" which is known to have been regularly visited by the Peshwas before their campaigns. Diplomatic correspondence between the Peshwa and Mountstuart Elphinstone days before the battle refer to a 'pooja' (worship programme) intended to be performed by the Peshwa at a local temple justifying the troop build up around Ganeshkhind.
  • a recent satellite picture of the same area
  • Annotated picture of the area from Wikimapia

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