|Named after||Sanskrit word for to seize|
|Founding location||Indian subcontinent|
|Criminal activities||Extortion, Murder, Banditry, Kidnapping, Torture, Imprisonment, Wartime sexual violence, War crimes, Arson, Proxy war, Communal violence, Rape,|
|Rivals||Mughal Empire |
Bargis were a group of Maratha soldiers who indulged in large scale plundering of the countryside of western part of Bengal for about ten years (1741–1751) during the Maratha expeditions in Bengal. Maratha invasions took place almost as an annual event for 10 years.
According to historian Nitish Sengupta, Bargi is a corruption of a Marathi word bargi, which denoted horsemen who were supplied with horses and weapons by the state, in contrast to shiledars, who brought their own.
Alivardi Khan became Nawab of Bengal in April 1740 by defeating and killing Sarfaraz Khan. His seizure of power was challenged by Sarfaraz Khan's brother-in-law Rustam Jung, who enlisted the backing of Raghoji I Bhonsle, the Maratha ruler of Nagpur. Historian Nitish Sengupta writes that in the ensuing campaign, the Marathas "discovered how easy it was to plunder Bengal's rich countryside through lightening raids". Bhonsle sent Maratha cavalry under Bhaskar Pandit to pillage Bengal. In April 1742, they crossed the Damodar River at Panchet and began looting and burning.
For about ten years, the Bargis raided and plundered Bengal every year. Contemporary sources describe the ineffectiveness of the nawab's army in the face of the Bargis' hit-and-run tactics. The raiders' aim was not battle or conquest, but plunder. Alivardi's soldiers could not match the Maratha horsemen in speed and maneuverability. Only the Ganges-Bhagirathi river line restrained them. They crossed it to raid eastern Bengal only a few times.
The Bargi invasions ended in May 1751 when the nawab and the Marathas made peace.
The repeated raids played on the creative impulse of the people.
খোকা ঘুমালো পাড়া জুড়ালো বর্গী এল দেশে
বুলবুলিতে ধান খেয়েছে খাজনা দেব কিসে?
This is a popular corruption of a Maratha word bargi, which meant horsemen who were provided with horses and arms by the Maratha state in contrast to siladars who provided their own horses and arms.
Within a few months of his accession by the power of sword ... his rule was challenged by Rustam Jung ... Jung sought the help of Bhonsle, the Maratha ruler of Nagpur ... having once discovered how easy it was to plunder Bengal's rich countryside through lightning raids, the Marathas were tempted to invade Bengal again and again ... Maratha cavalry under Bhaskar Pandit was sent to Bengal by the Bhonsle ruler of Nagpur. It entered Burdwan through Panchet and started looting ... For about 10 years ... Maratha horsemen would appear every year, plundering the whole territory west of the Hooghly river.
Contemporary chroniclers also left vivid descriptions of the bargi terror, their hit-and-run tactics and the helplessness of the nawab's army in effectively checking them in the face of their unwillingness to be engaged in pitched battles ... [Alivardi's] soldiers were unable to move fast and keep pace with the speed and easy maneuverability of the Maratha horsemen ... their object was not occupation but plundering ... Only the Ganga-Bhagirath river-line proved an effective barrier to their movement. They crossed over to the eastern side only on a few occasions.
The nearly 10 year period of Maratha invasion came to an end only in May 1751 when the Marathas and the nawab entered into a peace treaty