A Shameful defeat for Nizam Ali Khan.

In 1794 Nizam Ali Khan decided to throw caution to the wind and attack the Marathas at Pune to eradicate the menace once and for all.

The crowd that fought in Mysore war was now a more polished machine thanks to the former French officer Michel Joachim Marie Raymond. A deserter from the second Mysore War, Raymond arrived in Hyderabad in 1792 with just 300 men and armed with hired guns from French merchant at the rate of a shilling a month. Promising the Nizam that under his command Hyderabad’s army could defeat any force, European or Indian. He steadily increased his troop numbers.

By 1795 he had under his command 11,000 infantry and artillery. Dressed in red jackets, black tricorn hats, white shirt and short shin-length boots, Raymond’s brigade was impressive to look at; but had yet to prove itself on the battlefield.

William Kirkpatrick
William Kirkpatrick

Enter William Kirkpatrick; he would become the new resident in Hyderabad. Nizam had sent Aristu Jah to ask the support of the East India Company’s armies. But his appeals were turned down on the grounds that the treaty of 1768 required them to be neutral.

Enter John Shore, who succeed Cornwallis as the Governor- General, was reluctant to question the letter of the treaties.

To him, the Nizam was a defaulter trying to evade obligations.

Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick as the resident of Hyderabad had unprecedented access to the Nizam and his court. He could see that the Nizam’s army was not strong enough to take on the Marathas.

The leader of the Marathas Nana Phandavis, had a far larger pool of mercenaries to train his soldiers in his latest military techniques.

Kirkpatrick’s warnings were ignored, and in December the Nizam’s 110,000-strong army began its slow march towards Pune. This is from where 130,000 Maratha soldiers had been dispatched.

The two sides met on 14 March 1795 near the half-ruined fort of Khardla.

The first day of battle was an extraordinary sight as Raymond’s corps, flying the tricolor, swept down on de Boigne’s forces. At the end of the day, Nizam’s forces had advanced several kilometers ahead despite continuous firing from the Marathas.

 But whatever advantage the Nizam gained in this battle was short lived.

As expected the Nizam had brought with him his new favorite wife, Bakshi Begum, and the rest of the oversized zanana. According to one eyewitness, Bakshi begum became so frightened by the ‘booming of the cannons and the sight of men falling down dead’ that she blackmailed the Nizam by threatening to ‘expose herself to public gaze’ unless he took her and the rest of the zanana inside the fort.

In the confusion, a Maratha night patrol looking for water stumbled upon the Nizam, who was accompanied by a unit of female bodyguards. During the ensuing gun battle, the Nizam tried to escape but found himself trapped in the fort.

The Marathas quickly surrounded the fort and after a siege lasting 22 days forced the Nizam to sign a treaty. The treaty concluded the territories of Daulatabad, Ahamadnagar, and Sholapur as well as an indemnity of 30 million rupees. In addition, he had to hand over Aristu Jah as a hostage to Nana Phandavis.

It was a humiliating defeat for Nizam Ali Khan.

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