Shamsher Bahadur was borne of a rather controversial coupling of Peshwa Bajirao I and his second wife Mastani, who happened to be a muslim woman. Of course, the origins of Mastani have been obscured by history, with various contrary points of view in place — some say that she was herself an offspring of a Hindu father and a Mohammedan mother; some say courtesan in the court of some Muslim chief.
However, she is commonly known to have been a great dancer who was also skilled at riding, while handling the sword and spear, and as such often accompanied Bajiao on his campaigns.
Their courtship and controversies has recently been reclaimed from the obscurities of history and brought to popular imagination through the Bollywood dramatization “Bajirao Mastani” which won much acclaim last year, starring Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh.
Few Facts About Shamsher Bahadur
Their offspring — Shamsher Bahadur — had quite an interesting life himself. Here are some interesting bits of facts about him that are quite obscure:
1. He was a respected Maratha ruler of the Banda domain. However, his life was riddled with controversies and he was treated unfairly as a result of his mixed heritage parentage. But even despite all the discrimination he was firm in his determination to prove his loyalty and worth to the Maratha’s.
2. He was the son of Bajirao I — who was the ninth Peshwa of the Maratha Empire — and his second wife Mastani, whom many didn’t consider as a legitimate wife because of being a Muslim. As a result Shamsher Bahadur was often seen as a Bastard borne out of wedlock.
3. Bajirao was greatly desirous for his son to be raised Hindu and even wanted to name him Krishnarao, the priests refused to conduct the Hindu Upanayana ceremony for him because of his Muslim ancestry.
Even Bajirao’s mother Radhabai never accepted Mastani or her son, and as a result didn’t want to invite their son into the household by granting him a Hindu name. As a result they had to name him Shamsher and thus render him a complete outcast in that household.
4. Several factors came together to undoubtedly make Shamsher’s childhood very shaky and troublesome. Both Kashibai and Mastani had to live in the same palace out of necessity.
However, due to growing animosity between her and the rest of the Peshwa family, she had to be moved to a separate palace made especially for her, where she was eventually house arrested in the absence of Peshwa.
Several assassination attempts were made at her life, and this left her son’s life in chaos.
5. After the death of Bajirao, Mastani either performed Sati by jumping into the Pyre along with him or consumed a vial of poison. Either way, she followed him in death and as a result Shamsher was orphaned and taken in by Kashibai and raised as her own.
6. Even though Maratha nobles did not recognize Mastani as a legitimate wife, Shamsher was allowed to conduct his military training with the other sons of the Peshwa Royal Family. He could train with his half brothers Balaji Baji Rao and Raghunatharao.
7. In 1761, he fought alongside Peshwa Balaji Bajirao in the 3rd battle of Panipat, fought between the Marathas and the Afghans. Both of them were killed however. Despite the fact that he was much discriminated against throughout his life, and the fact that the Maratha Empire never accepted him completely, he was always firm in his determination to prove himself loyal and worthy and he died in that attempt.
8. His successors also had illustrious lives. His son Ali Bahadur eventually became the Nawab of Banda. His grandson Shamsher Bahadur II participated in the Anglo-Maratha War of 1803. And it is the line that he started which would eventually, three generations later, aid Rani Lakshmibai in her fight against the British in the Revolt of 1857.
It is quite sad to realize the fact that even after being a brave warrior he was never given his due respect because of his illegitimate birth.