Shrimant Sardar Kashi Rao Holkar Subedar Bahadur (before April 1767 – 1808) belonging to the Holkar dynasty of the Marathas was the Maharaja of Indore(r. 1797–1799). He was the eldest son of Shrimant Sardar Tukoji Rao Holkar, from his first wife.
Four Sons of Tukoji Rao
The death of Tukoji Rao was destructive for the interests of the Holkars. His death was the beginning of a period of conflicts between his four sons- Kashi Rao Holkar, Malhar Rao II Holkar, Yashwant Rao Holkar, and Vithoji Rao Holkar.
The difference between Kashi Rao and Malhar Rao
During his lifetime, Tukoji Rao declared Kashi Rao as his successor but he was handicapped and immoral. Due to this reason, the public and the soldiers did not like Kashi Rao and preferred Malhar Rao as a ruler.
Since Malhar Rao had all the qualities of a good administrator and as a good military leader, Malhar Rao, Vitthoji Rao, and Yashwant Rao opposed Kashi Rao and demanded that Malhar Rao should be the leader of the Holkar dynasty succeeding Shreemant Tukoji Rao.
Kashi Rao was also a man of weak intellect. His brother Malhar Rao was cast in a different mold. He was a man of great activity and energy and was of a violent temper. In 1791-92, he had given great trouble by raiding and devastating lands belonging both to the Holkars and other neighboring chiefs. He was eventually brought under control by a force under Rao Rao Appaji and Dudrenec. His father was very furious and in one letter complained to Ahilya Bai of his bad bringing up.
Malcolm states that Ahilya Bai and Tukoji wanted Kashi Rao and Malhar Rao to occupy positions similar to those occupied by themselves – Kashi Rao to be the administrative head of Maheshwar, and Malhar Rao to become the commander-in-chief of the troops.
The letter in the State records, however, in no way bears out this thought arrangement. It shows concussively that after the death of Ahilya Bai, Tukoji was bent on securing the succession of Kashi Rao.
There are numerous letters written by Tukoji to Kashi Rao. When Tukoji’s health began to decline, he urged Kashi Rao to come to declare him his successor and asserting that he had obtained Scindia’s support for him.
Recognizing Kashi Rao Holkar as successor
In 1796, she appeared before her father and was declared heir.
Kashi Rao wrote to Ram Rao Appaji on Tuesday 8 November 1796. “My father has been very ill, and I came here by forced marches to visit him. He presented me with a dress of honor, recognizing me as his successor. This has enraged Malhar Rao so much that he has left our camp, and is halting close to the Peshwa. I do not know what his intentions are. Please take steps to watch his actions.”
After their father’s death, Kashi Rao and Malhar Rao began contesting for the gaddi. Malhar Rao threw himself on the protection of the Peshwa, while Kashi Rao secured the support of Scindia through the help of the latter’s Minister Sarje Rao Ghatke.
On the pretext of avoiding a civil war, there was an agreement between the two brothers which was sworn to by the most solemn oaths.
Conflicts with brothers
When Kashi Rao felt that his administration was in danger, he asked for the help of Daulat Rao Scindia of Gwalior. He was jealous of the Holkars, due to the growing influence and rising power of Holkars in North India.
On 14 September 1797, Daulat Rao Scindia suddenly attacked Malhar Rao and killed him. His infant son fell into Scindia’s hands, who at once put him into safe custody.
Yashwant Rao and his brother Vithoji escaped, the former to Nagpur and the latter to Kolhapur. Yashwantrao Holkar took shelter at Nagpur’s Raghoji II Bhonsle. When Scindia heard this, he asked Raghoji II Bhonsle to arrest Yashwantrao Holkar.
Yashwantrao was arrested on 20 February 1798. Bhawani Shankar Khatri, who was with Yashwantrao, helped him to escape, and both of them escaped from Nagpur on 6 April 1798.
The public support for Yashwant Rao Holkar was growing. Many brave soldiers joined the army of Yashwantrao Holkar. Anandrao Pawar the King of Dhar also helped Yashwant Rao since he was also proved helpful to Anandrao in controlling the rebellion of one of his ministers, Rangnath. Yashwant Rao Holkar defeated the army of Shevelier Duddres near Kasrawad and captured Maheshwar.
End of Kashi Rao Holkar’s Rule
In January 1799, Yashwant Rao was crowned King of the Holkar Dynasty as per Hindu Vedic rituals and succeeded Kashirao from February 1799 as the sixth ruler of the Holkar kingdom.