Friday, November 21, 2014

The Maratha alliance with the British

This painting shows the signing of an important treaty between the East India Company and the Marathas in 1790. By signing this treaty, the Marathas agreed to join hands with the British against another Indian ruler, Tipu Sultan of Mysore.
The representative of the East India company was Sir Charles Warre Malet. You can see him seated cross legged in this photo, although frankly, I don't know how he managed it in those tight pants :) Later he was awarded a Baronetcy for the strategic importance of this treaty. It was Malet who commissioned the painting, to commemorate his own role.

Originally, the Scottish artist James Wales was supposed to paint it. But he died in 1795, and eventually this painting was done was done by Thomas Daniell in 1805. Daniell painted it in England, but had previously travelled extensively in India, spending 10 years here.

The painting shows the interior of Shaniwarwada palace. The palace burned down under mysterious circumstances in 1828, but this painting shows us how beautiful the teakwood work was.

The head of the Marathas, the Peshwa at the time (seen seated on the gaddi) is Sawai Madhavrao II and near the Peshwa we can see the powerful advisor Nana Phadnavis, the "Machiavelli of the Deccan", who literally ran the Maratha empire.

According to a letter sent from India to the Board of Directors of the East India Company, the treaty could not be signed without "the spirited and unwearied exertions of your Resident Mr. Malet, the steadiness of the Minister Nana Furnavees, and the good offices of Behroo Punt, the agent of the Durbar for transacting the business of the English, and we must not exclude from the number of their friends the Mahratta Chief Mahdajee Sindia, who contributed by his own representations to forward the alliance"

Tipu sent a large amount of money to the Maratha generals to delay or avert this treaty, but it did not work. The three parties to the treaty, who aligned themselves against Tipu, were the Marathas, the East India Company, and the Nizam Asaf Jah of Hyderabad. Against this triple alliance, Tipu lost the third Anglo-Mysore war and was forced to cede half his territories to the allies, and deliver two of his sons as hostages pending payment of 3.3 crores.

Here is another painting, this one by James Wales. It is portrait of the Peshwa (on the left), with Nana Phadnavis (on the right). 

Nana Phadnavis (1742 - 1800) inherited his position from his grandfather, who was a minister for Chattrapati Shahu. He held the Maratha state together through a period of extreme political turmoil and intrigue, and helped it survive many threats from within and without. Apart from dealing with internal dissension, rivalries and sudden transfers of power, Nana Phadnavis was involved in several battles with the Nizam of Hyderabad, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore, and the English East India Company. The above portrait was commissioned by Madhavrao II in 1792.

No comments:

Post a Comment