Maratha Governors of Odisha

Following Maratha Governors Ruled Odisha:

Mir Habib (1751-1752)

Mir Habib met Raghuji when Alivardi Khan killed Murshid Quli Khan II. Right from that time, he determined to avenge the death of his master Murshid Quli. Keeping that end in view, he sided with Raghuji till the treaty was concluded between him and Alivardi Khan in 1751. The treaty was concluded in such a manner that Mir Habib was indispensable for both the parties who recognised him as the Governor of Odisha. On the one hand, the Marathas choose him to get back their arrear revenue and on the other, Alivardi got a respite from the turbulent politics of Odisha. Mir Habib was stable man and as Subahdar, he took prudent decision whenever required. For example, after the death of Ramachandradeva II of Khurda, Padmanavadeva of Patia appealed Mir Habib who decided to place him on the throne of Khurda. However, when the courtiers convinced him regarding the legitimacy of Bhagirathi Kumar who termed himself as Birakishoradeva, later on, Mir Habib ungrudgingly accepted it. As an administrator, Mir Habib always enforced strict discipline in the field of administration. For successful implementation of his plan, he kept an Afghan force and a Maratha force ready under his command. He had promised to pay the Marathas an annual tribute of rupees four lakhs. He also received twelve lakhs of rupees from Bengal. Unfortunately, he fell into the wrath of Januji who could not get satisfactory explanation from him regarding the alleged misappropriation of a certain amount of rupees that led to the death of Mir Habib.

Mirza Saleh (1752-1759)

Mirza Saleh, the nephew of Mir Habib, was instrumental in the treaty that took place in 1751 between his uncle and Alivardi. When he succeeded Mir Habib as the Governor of Odisha in 1752, he found himself between two giant masters, Alivardi, on the one hand and Raghuji, on the other. However, he was not a man to be sandwitched between the two contending forces, rather, he wanted to outwit both the parties. When Raghuji demanded more money from him, he committed to pay four laks rupees more and demanded the same from Alivardi who denied to pay that amount.This led Saleh to coerce the people of Odisha occasionally for realisation of more money and to collect some money from the British merchants who had estabiished their factories at Hariharpur, Pipli and Balasore. The Britishers also offered suitable presentations to Mirza Saleh for the prosperity in their business.

With the death of Alivardi, his grandson Siraj-ud-daulah ascended the throne of Bengal in 1756. The new Nawab instructed Saleh not to render any help to the British people. Though Salehshowed his allegiance to Siraj, he secretly helped the British. When British factories in Bengal fell one after.another, their factories in Odisha grew more and more by the blessings of Saleh. Further, defying the order of Siraj, he helped the Britishers secretely in raising 1,000 gunmen that made their position secure in Odisha. He not only helped them but conspired with them to oust Siraj from the throne of Bengal. When that was detected, he took refuge with Raghuji at Nagpur who did not recommend his cowardice activities. During the absence of Saleh, his son Dadar Ali remained in charge of the administration of Odisha.

In the meanwhile, Siraj was killed in 1757 after his defeat in the battle of Plassey. Dadar Ali, failing to discharge his duty, was imprisoned by the Marathas. Mirza Saleh returned to Cuttack and resumed his charge. Now, Mirzafar, the new Nawab, stopped the payment of Chauth to the Marathas and this brqught discredit to Saleh. So he was forced to resign in 1759. He was the last Muslim Subahdar of Odisha to serve the cause of both the Marathas of Nagpur and Nawab of Bengal. After him, Odisha was under the direct control of the Maratha administration.

Sheo Bhatt Sathe (1760-1764)

Sheo Bhatt Sathe was the first Maratha Subahdar in Odisha. With the death of Raghuji Bhonsle, his son Januji ascended the throne of Nagpur. He appointed Shea Bhatt Sathe as the Subahdar of Odisha. Shea took over the charge of the province from Chimna Sau. After the assumption of power as the Governor of Odisha, the first task before Shea Bhatt Sathe was to collect Chauth from the Nawab of Bengal. By that time, Mirjafar had been replaced by Mir Qasim as the Nawab of Bengal. Shea Bhatt demanded Chauth from him and Mir Qasim, could not pay any heed to that. At this Shea attacked Bengal and plundered Burdwan. He further claimed that Midnapur and Burdwan were under the Marathas as parts of Odisha. In 1761, his attack to plunder Bengal was foiled by the British garrison. The Britishers took precautionary measure by stationing British troops in Midnapur and Bengal. For that reason, the Marathas could not succeed in their mission. This enraged Sheo Bhatt who kept Kushal Chand, the British agent at Cuttack, under custody. Now the Britishers persuaded Mir Qasim to drive out the Marathas from Odisha. Mir Qasim kept mum and started negotiation with Sheo Bhatt assuring him the payment of Chauth if Sheo extended his cooperation to the former. To this end, Qasim sent a sanad of Jaleswar and Midnapur to Sheo Bhat who sent his own younger brother Bhaskar Pandit and Butl Khan to march to Jaleswar for assisting Mir Qasim. This alarmed the British East India Company which sent its agent Aga Muhammad AIi, an inhabitant of Balasore and Ghulam Mustafa, thecompany’s gumastah at Balasore to meet the Maratha governor for not going against the Britishers. Vansittart, the British governor of Bengal confirmed that the arrears of Chauth would be given to the Marathas if they would side with the company against Mir Qasim. This led to Shea Bhatt to discontinue his allegiance to Mir Quasim. In the battle of Buxar, Mir Qasim was defeated in 1764. After victory in that battle, the Britishers befooled Shea Bhatt not paying any arrear of Chauth. As Sheo Bhatt failed to pay his arrear to Januji, he was dismissed in 1764. Januji appointed Chimna Sau as the Governor of Odisha. Shea Bhatt was imprisoned on 12 April, 1764 and sent to Nagpur. After being pardoned, Shea tried his best to regain the governorship of Odisha but he failed stupendously in his mission. He played the game of double dealing with Mir Qasim and so, he was paid back in his own coins.

Bhawani Pandit (1764-1768)

The authority of Chimna Sau was challenged by Shea Bhatt Sathe. So, the former sought the help from Nagpur to quell the uprising of the zamindars instigated by Shea Bhatt. Accordingly, Bhawani Pandit reached Odisha with a grand army of five thousand cavalry in July, 1764 and took over the charge as the Governor of Odisha. He took drastic action against the refractory zamindars of Dhenkanal, Nilgiri and Mayurbhanj. Being subdued, they submitted to Bhawani Pandit and paid handsomely for the maintenance of the Maratha troops in Odisha. The threat of Shea Bhatt invade Odisha prompted the Britishers to ask Bhawani Pandit to send some troops for suppressing Shea. Shea helped them in this matter. He entered into a treaty with Lord clive by which he promised to hand over the salt produced from the salt lands won by the zamindars of Balasore and neighbouring districts to the British merchants only. Through him, negotiation took place between the British and Januji for the payment of Chauth. Finally, when Mir Zainul Abadin reached the court of Jaunji at Nagpur on behalf of the British, he expressed his resertment against the government of Bhawani Pandit. At this, Januji became angry and dismissed Bhawani Pandit for his inefficiency in the realisation of Chauth.

Shambhaji Ganesh (1768-1770)

The motive behind the appointment of Shambhaji Ganesh as the Subahdar of Odisha was only to collect Chauth from Bengal. He strengthened his friendship with the British with a hope to realise Chauth. He offered 50,000 Maratha horses to the British, if the latter wanted to utilise them. Further, he allowed the British troops under the command of Major Achmuty to march
through Odisha. The negotiation for Chauth which had started in a very congenial atmospherebetween Shambhaji and the British ended in a failure because the latter did not help Januji in his conflict with the Peshwa. During his period, there was news of the arrival of alleged French ships of the coast of Ganjam for which the British authority misunderstood him. The purpose for which Shambhaji Ganesh was sent, could never be fulfilled. However, Shambhaji had taken keen interest in encouraging the pilgrims from all parts of India to visit the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. He also took steps to remove the oppression of the amla over the mutassadis. He died in September, 1770.

Babuji Naik (1771-1773)

After the death of Shambhaji Ganesh, Rajaram Pandit remained in the charge of Governor of Odisha for a short while. Babuji Naik was sent as the Subahdar of Odisha in 1770. He continued his friendly relation with the British. Allyn, a servant of the company and in charge of a factory at Cuttack had lent money to many persons. He appealed Babuji for the realisation of the same and was helped by the latter in that matter. Further, as there was shortage of grains at Calcutta, he instructed Abdullah Khan, the faujdar of Balasore to sell rice for the company when he was requested by the Englishmen. The Britishers also showed their cordial gesture by providing the assistance of an English battalion to Babuji Naik for suppressing the border zamindars who created distrubance. His tenure as the Subahdar of Odisha was peaceful.

Madhoji Hari (1773-1777)

The governorship of Madhoji Hari witnessed a new kind of development in the coastal strips of Balasore and Cuttack. During his period, there were many ship-wrecks, particularly in the middle part of the coastal Odisha like Kujang, Kanika and Ali (Aul). The people of these area were plundering the wrecked ships with the full support of the local kings who ill-treated and sometimes, imprisoned the ship-wrecked persons. Keeping this in view, the British authorities appealed to the Raja of Nagpur to provide safety and security to the merchants, travellers and wayfarers and award punishment to the king of Kujang who was very notorious. As a remedial measure, the British authority wanted a sanad fro the Maratha chief of Nagpur granting them “a perpetual possession of a strip of land which lies between the river Kanika and Mc1hanadi running in line with the sea coast.” Further, the power vested on the king of Kujang was to be taken away and delegated to the British. The Maratha chief of Nagpur did not agree to the first proposal of the Britishers. However, he ordered Madhoji Hari to enquire the matter relating to the king of Kujang. When summoned by the Subahdar, the king expressed his sorrow for the actsdone in the past and thus, was pardoned by Madhoji. This act of Madhoji was grossly disliked by the Raja of Nagpur and he was recalled from Odisha.

Rajaram Pandit (1778-1793)

The governorship of Rajaram Pandit in Odisha witnessed the Anglo-Maratha conflict during the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings. The Raja of Nagpur had joined with Poona, Hyderabad and Mysore, forming an anti-British confederacy. The conflict with these four powers demanded the movement of British army to Madras via Odisha to deal with Hyder Ali of Mysore. The Bhonsle chief of Nagpur thought it prudent not to have a clash with the British power. Accordingly he instructed Rajaram Pandit to extract Chauth from the British authorities, if the Governor-General asked for the passage of the British troops through Odisha. Warren Hastings dispatched a detachment under Colonel Pearse upto Balasore in 1781 and sent Anderson to obtain necessary permission from the Maratha Governor of Odisha for the same purpose through the payment of twelve lakhs of rupees. Rajaram Pandit went personally to Calcutta to settle the amount with the Governor-General and demanded twenty-five lakhs of rupees as loan with the immediate payment of twelve lakhs. After due negotiation, a sum of rupees thirteen lakhs along with a loan of rupees ten lakhs was handed over to him. With the help of some Maratha officers like Harihar Mahadeo and Magun Choudhury, Colonel Pearse marched with his army through Odisha and crossed the border of Ganjam, receiving an assistance of 2,000 horses from the Marathas. This act of Rajaram brought British closer to the Bhonsles of Nagpur. Rajaram Pandit was very firm in his action. After receiving information from Wilkinson, the British resident at Balasore regarding the oppression of the Maratha faujdar Bhawani Das Choudhury over a merchant of Barabati named Gangadhar, Rajaram dismissed him. In his place, Murar Pandit was sent as the faujdar of Balasore. Further, he took steps to crush the recalcitrant zamindars. Snodgrass, the British Chief of Ganjam, informed Rajaram Pandit that Balarama Maharatha a refractory land-holder of the British company at Ganjam absconded and entered into the territory of King Divyasimhadeva, who gave asylum to him Rajaram Pandit seized him and his followers in the neigh bourhood of Cuttack. Divyasimhadeva, then, was handed over to Snodgrass. Of course, Balarama Maharatha tried to escape from the hands of Snodgrass and was killed. However, Rajaram Pandit chastised the king ot Khurda who humbly submitted before him. Not only Rajaram Pandit was shrewd diplomat but he was equally a good administrator. He brought all the refractory forces under his control. He also showed a great deal of interest for theinflux of pilgrims to Puri from all parts of India.The prior practice of collecting revenues through hereditary talukdars was disbanded and he appointed his own men for the same purpose. He discharged his duty very well as the Subahdar of Odisha and breathed his last in 1793.

Sadashiv Rao (1793-1803)

The death of Rajaram Pandit led his son Sadashiv Rao to be the Naib Subahdar of Odisha. He was quite friendly to the British like his father. With abolition of the British Residency at Balasore, Barabati slipped away from the clutch of British East India Company. However, Sadashiv Rao showed his cordial gesture to the company and offered Barabati to them which was attached to the British factory. Sadashiv also suppressed the local Rajas who acted against the British. In 1795, a mutinous British battalion refused to lay down their arms and were attacked by another battalion which imprisoned some sepoys of the former battalion. Other sepoys of the mutinous battalion took shelter with the king of Mayurbhanj, who did not deliver them to the British when demanded. At this stage, the British authorities approached Sadashiv Rao. Sadashiv wrote a letter to the king of Mayurbhanj who obeyed the order and drove out the rebellious sepoys from his territory. Sadashiv Rao also facilitated the march of British troops from Bengal to Madras. His cordial gesture encouraged the British to improve thier postal system in Odisha. The British correspondence from Calcutta to Puri increased considerably. However, his friendly relation with the English people never marred his spirit to fight for a lust cause. When Divyasimhadeva II, the king or Khurda ‘died, there was contest for the throne of Khurda between Mukundadeva, the son of Divyasimhadeva and Shyamsundar, the second son of Birakishoradeva. Though the Britishers helped Shyamsundar, Sadashiv opposed it tooth and nail. At last, Mukundadeva asserted his legitimate claim over the throne of Khurda in 1795.