The Gwalior state ruled over by the Scindia Dynasty is one of the largest and most progressive States India. The state devices its name from the ancient town of Gwalior , now , like many cities in India and elsewhere shorn of all its old magnificence . the word ‘gwalior ‘ itself it may be mentioned is a corruption of ‘Gopadri or’ gopgiri’- the Shepard ‘s hill – which gradually be come Gawaliar , Gwalher and Gwalior, the history of these territories is imperishably connected with the famous rock fortress of Gwalior in account of which is given elsewhere .
Gwalior form times immemorial has been onder the rule of various rajput dynasties – the Kanauj Kings the Kachhwahas. The Parihars and later on the Moghuls . the authentic history of these territories as connected with the Scindias however , begins from the period when the Moghul Empire began to decline chiefly on account of the rise in the south of the Marathas under the inspired leadership of the great shivaji.
The Marathas who first rose to power in the reign of shah Jahan were welded into a nation by Shivaji and at one time it appeared as if they were on their way to found a new Empire . Shivaji’s death however practically removed the keystone from the arch of Maratha supremacy and the rule of his extensive but unconsolidated dominions passed in to the hands of his Brahmin ministers the Peshwas and later on to their vassals , this change in the balance of political power was Mahadji Scindia’s opportunity and he seized it gallantly , though it is necessary to go back further than Mahadji’s days to generation to trace the actual beginnings of the Gwalior line.
The Scindia are one of the ninety –six kulas or clans in which all pure Marathas are divided and claim Rajput ancestry.Ranoji , the founder of the Scindia family , began his career in the service of Balaji Baji Rao Pashwa who turning his eyes to the fruitful province of Malwa established his newly acquired territory between two of his most trusted officers , granting the southerm portion to Malhar rao Holkar , the northern to Ranoji Scindia who fixed his capital at the famous and ancient city of ujjain. He was certainly a powerful and notable personage from 1745 , and proved to be a leading soldier of great gallantry in campaigns against Delhi (17369),Nizam (1738)and the Portuguese at Bassein (1739). He died in 1745 at Shujalpur where a cenotaph to his mamory still stands .
On Ranoji ‘s death his eldest son jaya Appa(1745-59)succeded to the Scindia possessions in Malwa to 65 lacs of revenue. Like his father he played a conspicuous part in the political warfare of his day ,Jaya Appa was deputed by the Peshwa to help Ram Singh of Jodhpur against his brother Bijey Singh, Who was opposing his accession .Jaya Appa was besieging the latter at Nagore when finding his case ho peless Bijey Singh Contrived to get Jaya Appa assassinated (1759).
He was succeeded by his brother dattaji who however, was soon killed in a battle against Najeeb-ud –Daula who , however ,was succeeded by Jaya Appa’s son Jankuji led his contingent to panipat as a part of the great Maratha confederation formed to oppose the invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali , the invader from Afganistan in spite of the great gathering at Panipat the Afgans succeeded in rounting the Maratha forces . Jankuji was taken prisoner and executed.
His uncle Mahadji who was destined to be greatest statesman and general of his times , had accompanied him to Panipat from where he escaped with a wound that made him lame for life. His providential escape was made possible through the timely help rendered by a Mohammedan water –bearer , Rane Khan by name ,who placed the wounded chieftain on his pullock carrying the water-skins and conveyed him to a place of safety. To this day the water – bearers descendents holds a Jagir in Gwalior state.
Mahadji Scindia on assuming control of Government busied himself with consolidating his power and enlarging his sphere of influence. Uniting in himself the qualities of the general and of the statesman he formed his amies on the western models and engaged the best military talent he could find.
From 1775-1782 Mahadji Scindia was in active opposition to the English . During the period hostilities were proceeding he lost the Fort Gwalior , hitherto considered impregnable and Ujjain .with true statesman acceptance of facts Mahadji came to see the advantages to be reaped by alliance with the British and the treaty of Salbai settled the relation bet ween the two, this treaty ushered in the most brilliant period of his carreer and a the independent power of the Scindia through in name they continued to profess subjection to the peshwas of Poona.
The military successes of Mahadji were partly due to his most able military organizer Benoit la Brogne popularly known as de Boigne. Trained and disciplined by him Scindia’s Army was unique in India .
Shah Alam was Emperor at Delhi. The Moghul court was a hot bed of intrigues. Mahadji Scindia saw his opportunity and availed of it whenin 7184 the Emperor Shah Alam called him to Delhi. Mahadji soon mastered the situation and introduced order where chaos reigned supreme. The Emperor in his gratitude offered to make him Amir-ul-Umra but Mahadji with politic humility refused the honour, requesting instead the dignity of Vakil-ul-Mutlaq for the Peshwa and that of Deputy Vakil for himself , these were readily conferred ,Scindia at the same time being given the command of the imperial armies and management of the provincesof Delhi in Agra . he over-ran the whole of northern India and soon found himself the de facto ruler of Hindustan.
Mahadji Scindia died at wanawadi near Poona on 12th February 1794. the greates statesman and general the Maratha nation ever produced after Shivaji Mahadji has left his grand on the history of India .
Mahadji died without an issue , but he had in an informal manner named his successes and it was only due to the respect and awe with which the late Maharaja was looked on that his grand –nephew Daulat Rao , then 15years of age ,was accepted as Gwalior’s new ruler. He unfortunately become involved in a struggle with the British which ended in 1803 . with th treaty of Sarje Anjangaon . the Scindias had to cede territory through modified in detail has remained substantially constant up to the present moment .
Daulat Rao leftno heir. Aboy named Rao was adopted by Maharani Baija Bai , the widow of the late Maharaja . he Succeeded to the throne as Jankoji Rao while Vaija Bai remained regent. The relations between Jankoji Rao and Baija Bai continued to bo stained till the demise of the Maharaja in 1843.
Bhagirath Rao , a boy of eight was adopted by Maharaja Jankoji Rao ‘s widow Tara Bai herself only thirteen , who on his succession assumed the title ofAlijah Jayaji Rao. Various dissensions in the minority administration brought about a collision with the British Government which ended with the battles of Maharajpur and Panihar , fought on the same day.
A treaty was concluded and since that time the relation between the British Government and the State have been mast cordial. In the dark days of Mutiny in 1857 the young Maharaja sided with the British . During his time every branch of administration made rapid progress and peace and tranquility reigned supreme , held in great esteem by the British Government he died in 1886 bequeathing to his son the late Maharaja Madhav Rao a prosperous dominion and ample resources. In the last years of Maharaja Jayaji Rao’s life a desire which he had cherished for a long time was fulfilled – namely , the restoration of the Gwalior Fort and Morar cantonment held by the British troops since 1858 in exchange for Jhansi.