Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/164

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160 THE MARATHAS. The Five Maratha Houses. — The fourth Peshwi, Madhu Rao, succeeded to the Maratha sovereignty in this moment of ruin (1761). The Hindu Confederacy seemed doomed to destruction, alike by internal dissensions and by the superior force of the Afghan arms. As early as 1742, the Poona and Nagpur branches had taken the field against each other, in their quarrels over the plunder of Bengal. Before 1761, two other branc'hes, under Holkar and Sindhia, held independent sway in the old Mughal Province of Malwa and the neighbouring tracts, now divided between the States of Indore and Gwalior. At Panipat, Holkar, the head of the Indore branch, deserted the line of battle the moment he saw the tide turn, and his treachery ren- dered the Marathl rout complete. The Peshwd was now little more than the nominal head of the five great Maratha houses. These five Marathi houses or dynasties had separate territories and armies. Their five capitals were at Poona, the seat of the Peshwas,- at Nagpur, the capital of the Bhonslas, in the Central Provinces ; at Gwalior, the residence of Sindhia ; at Indore, the capital of Holkar ; and at Baroda, the seat of the rising power of the Gaekwars. Madhu Rao, the fourth Peshwa, just managed to hold his own against the Muhammadan princes of Haidara- bad and Mysore, and against the Bhonsla branch of the Mara- thas in Berar. His younger brother, Narayan Rao, succeeded him as fifth Peshwa in 1772, but was quickly assassinated. The Peshwas were the great Maratha power in Southern India ; the other four or northern Maratha branches were Sindhia and Holkar, the Bhonslas of Nagpur, and the Gaekwars of Baroda. We shall briefly relate the fortunes of these four northern branches. Sindhia and Holkar. — The Peshwa's power at Poona began to grow weak, as that of his nominal masters, the royal descendants of Sivajf, had faded out of sight. The Peshwas came of a high Brahman lineage, while the actual fighting force of the Marathas consisted of low-caste Hindus. It thus hap- pened that each Maratha general who rose to independent territorial sway was inferior in caste to, although possessed of more real power, than the Peshwa, the titular head of the con- federacy. Of the two great northern houses, Holkar was