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Yashwant Rao Holkar :Maharaja Who Defeated British


Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar who formed a Hindu Empire was born in 1776. He was the son of Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar, and grandson of Malhar Rao Holkar, who had regained Attock (now part of Pakistan) in 1758 and had hoisted the saffron flag beyond the Sindhu River.

Hindu Rashtra Warrior -Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar

A Hindu Lion who Defeated British & retained his kingdom

Yashwant Rao Holkar being expert in military skills, administered and established major branches of the army under his personal supervision. As a defence strategist, he ranks among the foremost generals who ever fought on the Indian soil. His heroic achievements throw light on his military genius, political sagacity and indefatigable brilliance. He is undoubtedly the greatest and most inspiring figure in recent world history due to his series of victories against britishers, which was never seen in any colony of the english invasion.

Yashwant Rao Holkar had three brothers; Kashirao, Malharrao (II) and Vitthojirao. Kashirao Holkar was more into music, art and passtimes so lacked qualities of a ruler, but Malharrao Holkar was an able ruler and a military leader; naturally, the people and the soldiers preferred Malharrao.

Yashwant Rao Holkar’s Agony on Non-Supportive Kings

Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar wrote letters to different kings to unite and fight against the British. He stated, “First Country, and then Nishtha. We will have to rise above Jaati, Nishtha, and our states in the interest of our country. You too must wage a war against the british, like me.” His appeal fell on deaf ears, as all of them had already signed treaties with the british.

In a letter dated 15 February 1806 to Vyankoji Bhosale of Nagpur he states:

“The Maratha state had been grasped by foreigners. To resist their aggression, God knows, how during the last two and a half years I sacrificed everything, fighting night and day, without a moment’s rest. I paid a visit to Daulatrao Sindia and explained to him how necessary it was for all of us to join in averting foreign domination. But Daulatrao failed me. It was mutual cooperation and goodwill which enabled our ancestors to build up, the Hindu states. But now we have all become self-seekers. You wrote to me that you were coming for my support, but you did not make your promise good. If you had advanced into Bengal as was planned, we could have paralyzed the british…”

Christian British Pleaded Hindu Yashwantrao Holkar to Signup the Treaty.

A Hindu King Defeating Foreigners and Breaking Backbone of British Invasion

Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar defeated the mlecchas, british army, led by Colonel Fawcett, at Kunch, in Budhlekand. On 8 June 1804, the Governor General, in a letter to General Gerard Lake, wrote that the defeat caused a great insult. This would endanger the company rule in India, and hence Yashwantrao Holkar should be defeated as soon as possible. For the first time, a braveheart king was showing decisive resistance to british invasion, they were fearing to lose grip of India forever. No Hindu king or muslim invader before Yashwantrao Holkar showed confrontation that was weakening british’s control. He was Hindu lion hunting down the english hyenas.

On 8 July 1804, Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar defeated the army of Colonel Manson and Leukan at Mukundare and Kota. Bapuji Scindia surrendered before Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar. From June till September 1804, he defeated the british at different battles. British colonels were changing, Holkar was only common in these battles. His energy to fight british made them awestruck and frightened. They were attacking from different places. To strengthen his army, on 8 October 1804, Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar attacked Delhi to free muslim invader Shah Alam II, who was imprisoned by the british. He attacked the army of Colonel Actorloni and Berne. The battle lasted for a week, but Yashwantrao Holkar could not succeed as General Lake came to help Colonel Actorloni. Assessing the situation, he changed the plan, and postponed it. Admiring his bravery

, Mughol Emperor Shah Alam gave him the title of “Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Alija Bahadur”.

British Empire Shaken-up Singlehandedly By A Brave Hindu Warrior

Colonel Marey and Wallace captured Indore and Ujjain on 8 July 1804. On 22 August 1804, Wellesley marched against Holkar from Pune, along with Bajirao Peshwa’s army. In Mathura Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar learned that the British had captured some of his territory; he decided to stay in Mathura and work out a strategy to regain his territory. In a letter dated 11 September 1804 written to Lord Lake, Wellesley said that if Yashwantrao Holkar was not defeated at the earliest, the rest of the Kings of India may unitedly stand against the British. The supremacy of Yashwantrao shocked britishers, they were startled even after signing treaties and taking help of several Hindu kings and muslim invaders, they could do no harm to the fearless warrior and his army.

On 16 November 1804, Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar reached Deeg by defeating the army of Major Frazer. After the death of Major Frazer, Manson took the charge of the british army. The Jat King Ranjit Singh of Bharatpur welcomed him and decided to be with Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar against the british. In Farrukhabad, Lake was frightened and a mute spectator watching Yashwantrao Holkar proceeding towards Deeg; he didn’t dare attack Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar. The Governor General was disappointed by this conduct of Lord Lake, and he wrote to him about his disappointment. Fear of losing grip of british on India was giving sleepless nights to english. Hindu defiance of Holkar dinted the over-confidence of british to the core beyond repair.

Lord Lake attacked Deeg on 13 December 1804 whereupon the army of Holkar and Jat successfully resisted and reached Bharatpur. Lord Lake attacked on 3 January 1805, along with General Manson, Colonel Marey, Colonel Don, Colonel Berne, Major General Jones, General Smith, Colonel Jetland, Setan, and others. The subsequent siege of Bharatpur lasted for three months and was compared with the war described in the epic Mahabharat. Many poems on this war were written, praising Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar.

British knew they will never be able to defeat brave Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar. It is time to further decimate his strength by invoking DIVIDE-RULE policy. To divide the native kings, the british declared that they would distribute the territory of Holkars amongst it’s Indian friends.

Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar had become well known throughout India, due to his bravery, however, Amir Khan (Pindari) and Bhawani Shankar Khatri betrayed him. The British gave the Jahagir of Tonk to Amir Khan Pindari, and a Mahal and a Jahagir in Delhi were given to Bhawani Shankar Khatri.

Bhawani Shankar Khatri’s Haweli, situated in Delhi, is even today referred to as ‘Namak Haram ki Haweli (Traitors House)’. The place was abandoned during his regime by the local people, they abused Khatri with cuss words and cursed him. Daulatrao Scindia decided to help Holkar, but was prevented from doing so by the ill advice of Kamal Nayan Munshi who was british stooge.

Even Ranjit Singh later betrayed Yashwantrao, any other king would have surrendered after series of betrayals from fellow Hindu kings but Yashwantrao Holkar was truly a winner, he believed in himself, his army, his leadership skills and Hindu pride. The dedication and belief alone made him half victorious before the battle was fought.

Sir P.E. Roberts states that surprisingly, the Jat King Ranjit Singh signed a treaty with the British on 17 April 1805, when they had nearly won the war. Due to this, Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar had to leave Bharatpur.

The failure of General Lake to conquer the fort of Bharatpur shattered the myth of invincibility of british arms, and raised the fears about the revival of Maratha Confederacy against Wellesley’s wars of aggression in India. This came as an anti-climax to Wellesley’s ‘forward policy’. First time someone was kicked due to heroics of native Hindu king. The british Prime Minister was therefore constrained to retort that “the Marquis had acted most imprudently and illegally, and that he could not be suffered to remain in the government”. Thus Wellesley was recalled.

Yashwantrao Holkar killed british empire UK.

Yashwant Rao Holkar
Hindu King Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar

Demise of British Empire was Near Due to Valiance of Hindu King Yashwantrao Holkar. Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar, Daulatrao Scindia, Satara Chattrapati, and Chatarsinh met at Sabalgad. It was decided that, united, they would uproot the british from the Indian soil. In September 1805, Holkar and Scindia reached Ajmer. Maharaja Man Singh Rathore sent his army to support them. Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar sent letters to the rest of the kings of India, appealing to them to fight against the british. The King of Jaipur, Bhosale of Nagpur, Ranjit Singh of Punjab, accepted his appeal. When the british learned that Holkar and Scindia were united, they informed Lake again to pursue them.

On 25 April 1805, frightened Lord Lake replied to Governor General Wellesley and stated that he was unable to pursue them and that Holkar felt great pleasure killing the Europeans; Governor General Wellesley replied that all disputes with Holkar be resolved without any war. The British were worried because of the continuous failure against Holkars. They felt that Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar would drive the East India Company out from India. They were foreseeing Maharaja of India in Yashwantrao’s series of heroic victories.

Wellesley was terminated and Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the Governor General of India. As soon as he came to India, he wrote to Lord Lake on 19 September 1805 and stated that all the territory of Yashwantrao Holkar be returned and that he was ready to make peace with Holkar. Holkar refused to sign any treaty with the british. George Barlow was appointed as Governor General, due to the sudden death of Lord Cornwallis. Barlow immediately tried to divide Holkar and Scindia. The british signed a treaty with Daulatrao Scindia through Kamal Nayan Munshi on 23 November 1805, and in this way, Holkar was left alone to fight with the british.

Greed over pride got even Sikhs encapsulated. Along with muslim invaders and Hindu kings, Sikh rulers also betrayed Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar. He tried to create an alliance with Raja Bhag Singh of Jindh, Raja Fateh Singh of Kapurthala, and other Sikh rulers against british; but could not succeed. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore initially agreed to join Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar, but Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s (Lahore, Punjab) letter dated 1 August 1804 addressed to Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar was intercepted by the British at Mathura. As soon as the british learned this, they sent Bagh Singh, uncle of Ranjit Singh, to prevent Ranjit Singh from supporting Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar. The british requested Ranjit Singh to immediately break off all communications with the Maratha.

Behaving like a british stooge, Ranjit Singh and Fateh Singh shamelessly signed a friendship treaty with the british (The Treaty with Lahore). The agreed draft of this treaty was ready on 17 December 1805. Subsequently, Maharaja Ranjit Singh turned down Holkar’s request to fight against the British.

Yashwantrao was deeply pained as Hindu Marathas protected Sikhism and their people hundred times from muslim invaders and British attacks. Similarly, Hindu kings including Yashwantrao saved Bharatpur several times but Sikhs helped british to defeat him, this was their response to good deeds of Hindus. Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar cursed Ranjit Singh; this curse became a saying in Punjab.

British Approaching Hindu King to Sign Treaty on His Terms

The british Council told Lord Lake to make peace with Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar at any price, because if they were late and the other kings accept the appeal of Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar, it would be difficult for them to remain in India. Hindu king’s aggressive stance rattled britishers, they were out of ideas and strategy, series of treaties with other kings did not help, entire british regime could never match the courage of this tireless Hindu king.

The british commander halted after crossing the boundary-line of Alexander’s conquests and encamped his troops on the banks of the Hyphasis (the Beas) within the reach of the troops of Holkar, where, upwards of two thousand years before, the veterans of the Macedonian conqueror had pitched their tents after the Battle of the Hydaspes where Alexander and his army finally gave in and returned by securing the banks of the river as the borders of his empire and refused to go further into India. Later Chandragupta Maurya had recaptured the Macedonian territories in India. Even Chengis Khan’s Mongol invasions of India could not cross this boundary-line and were repulsed by Indians.

He was a man of self-respect. He was the only king in India whom the British approached with an unconditional peace treaty as per the London policy of withdrawal.

IT WAS NOT a Treaty of Subsidiary alliance that the british had entered with others. Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar saw that the rest of the kings were not ready to unite and were interested in personal benefits. He tried hundreds of times sending thousands of letters and messages to Hindu kings, Sikh rulers and muslim invaders but except few all were happy to be the lapdogs of british. Eventually, he was the last to sign a treaty with the british, on 24 December 1805 at a place called Rajpur Ghat on the bank of Beas River. The treaty was named ‘The Treaty of Peace and Amity between the British Government and Yashwant Rao Holkar.’ The british recognised him as a sovereign king and returned all his territories and possessions, and accepted his dominion over Jaipur, Udaypur, Kota, Bundi, and some Rajput kings. They also accepted that they would not interfere in the matters relating to Holkars.

The treaty was duly ratified by the Governor-General George Barlow in Council on 6 January 1806 and later duly amended on 2 Feb 1806 on the Banks of River Ganges Rajghat. (The Treaty of Rajghat)(London policy of withdrawal).

Thus he got his demands fulfilled and successfully resolved the disputes with Shinde, Peshwa and the British. The Victorious king reached Indore and started ruling his kingdom by declaring that he had saved his ancestral State. The King of Jodhpur always helped Holkars.

Lord Lake denounced the abandonment of Indian allies by the Company, resigned his post in protest, and returned to England. In a letter dated 14 March 1806 addressed to Mr. Sherer, Charles Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, who witnessed the treaty, states, “But why do I constantly harp upon the character of our Government? I believe it is because I am compelled to feel that we are disgraced; and that Holkar is the prevailing power in Hindustan.” Mr. Metcalfe many years later looking back admitted that the measures adopted by Sir George Barlow were necessitated and it was hardly possible to have followed any other course.

Hindu Unity for Hindu Rashtra!

Yashwant Rao Holkar’s Dream of Hindu Rashtra:

The perseverance of Maharaja Yashwantrao is unmatched. He tried very hard to unite all Hindu kings in realizing his dream of Hindu Rashtra, kicking britishers out. He even supported few of the muslim invaders unwillingly on temporal basis to garner massive support to fight out mighty britishers, when Hindu kings failed him. He was deeply pained with the betrayals of fellow country kings. Still he never gave hope even after signing the treaty. In a letter dated 15 February 1806 to Vyankoji Bhosale of Nagpur he further states, “… If you had advanced into Bengal as was planned, we could have paralyzed the british Government. It is no use of now talking of past things. When I found myself abandoned on all sides, I accepted the offer which the British agents brought to me and concluded the war.”

Maharaja Yashwant Rao Holkar again tried to unite the Maratha Confederacy and wrote to Daulatrao Scindia about this. However, Scindia gave the information about this letter to british resident Marsor, who appraised the Governor General about this on 12 May 1806. Holkars and Scindias agreed on 11 points on defensive and offensive strategies on 14 November 1807; however, the british once again succeeded to divide Scindias from Holkars. Deceitful british got their own medicine, signing of treaty was not honored by Hindu king for the first time, as he and natives of Bharat had first right over Indian soil and not english invaders.

Hindu Rashtra was a bigger dream than bogging down to cunning politics of britishers, finally, Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar decided to fight with the british singlehandedly and drive them out of India. He decided to stay in Bhanpura to gather a large army and manufacture cannons to defeat the british. He was successful in keeping the british out of his state, but he wanted them out of India. He knew that this was impossible without sufficient cannons, so he built a factory to manufacture cannons in Bhanpura. For this reason he is also referred to as the “Father of Modern Indian Army”.

He worked day and night and manufactured 200 short and long range cannons. He gathered an army of 1 lakh(hundred thousand) soldiers to attack Calcutta. The stress of the work and the deaths of his nephew Khanderao Holkar on 22 February 1807 at Shahapura and Kashirao Holkar in 1808 at Bijagad lead to a stroke, from which he suddenly died at Bhanpura (Mandsaur, M.P.) on 27 October 1811 (Kartiki Ekadashi) at the young age of 35 years. The most probable cause of his death is due to excessive Blood Pressure and Stress.

By early 30’s, Yashwantrao’s fearless valor and zeal to establish Hindu Rashtra made him King of kings in India. His battles were the most remarkable in the History of Indian Wars and the title given to him by the enemy mughal emperors gave him a prominent position amongst the rulers of India. There are numerous accounts shared by british and mughal historians praising the bravery of Hindu Lion Yashwant Rao Holkar.

Maharaja Yashwant-Rao Holkar started the first freedom struggle in 1803; he was a gifted military leader. If the Battle of Assaye was Wellesley’s first major success, and one that he always held in the highest estimation as his finest battle, surpassing even his victory at the Battle of Waterloo, then the victory at the Battle of Bharatpur undoubtedly makes Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar the Napoleon of India.

Image courtsey:Wikipedia

Read this article in Hindi: महाराज यशवंत राव होल्कर जिह्नोने सदैव अंग्रेज़ों पर विजय पायी!

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