The Battle of Kirkee, also known as or The Battle of Ganeshkhind, took place at modern day Khadki, India on 5 November 1817 between the forces of the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire under the leadership of Appasahub Bhonsle and Yeshwanrao Holkar. The Company forces achieved a decisive victory, and Khadki later became a military cantonment under the British rule.
The Third Battle of Panipat, proved disastrous for the Maratha Empire/Confederacy. Maratha Sardars took advantage of the reduced strength and command of Peshwas over Maharashtra and the Maratha Empire started to decline. The Peshwas were in very high debts (taken for battles and governance) and were not receiving any income from taxes (all Sardars were keeping the taxes to themselves instead of sending it to Peshwas). They were not in a good position to fight with British forces. After death of Madhavrao Peshwa, the Maratha empire fell into a state of constant decline.
The Maratha Army consisted of Huzurat or Sarkari Fauz and had the following Generals when the battle began: Bapu Gokhale, assisted by Anandrao Babar, Vithalrao Vinchurkar, assisted by Rajwade, Govindrao Ghorpade Mudholkar, Tryambakrao Rethrekar, Shaikh Miraj, Dafle, Bahirji Shitole-Deshmukh, Mor Dixit, assisted by Sardar Kokare, Sardar Appa Desai Nipankar, assisted by Sardar Pandhare, Sardar Naropant Apte, Sardar Yashwantrao Ghorpade Sondurkar, Sardar Wamanrao Raaste, Sardar Chintamanrao Patwardhan, assisted by Bapu Narayan Bhave Ramdurgkar, Sardar Mutalik on behalf of Pant Pratinidhi, Sardar Naik Anjurkar, Sardar Purandare, and Sardar Nagarkar, assisted by Moreshwar Kanitkar, Raghoji salve. All these sardars (the equivalent of Earls or Dukes) had both cavalry and infantry. The army's Artillery was led by Laxmanrao Panshe and his nephew.
The East India Company's army was led by Col. Burr, who marched to Khadki on 1 Nov., and Capt. Ford, who marched towards on 4 Nov.
Bapu Gokhale commanded a total force of 28,000 men (20,000 horse and 8,000 infantry) with 20 guns. The British force numbered only 3,000, of whom 2,000 were cavalry and 1,000 infantry, with 8 guns.
A detachment commanded by Lt. Col. Burr advanced from Dapodi village near confluence of Pavana and Mula rivers. His detachment was placed in Pune for the protection of the Peshwa. Before the battle, the Peshwa's commander, Moropant Dixit, had tried to bring Captain Ford onto his side, but these overtures were refused.
First, Vinchurkar`s gun infantry targeted British Resident Elphinstone's house by firing from other side of the river. After he left, Kokare's cavalry burnt all the bungalows of the British in the vicinity. The residency was left and was at once sacked and burned, and Mr. Elphinstone retired to join the troops at Khadki. A message to advance was sent to Colonel Burr who moved towards Dapodi to meet Captain Ford's corps; the corps united and together pushed on to the attack. Amazed by the advance of troops whom they believed had been bribed or panic-struck, the Maratha skirmishers fell back, and the Maratha army, already anxious from the ill-omened breaking of their standard, began to lose heart. Gokhale rode from rank to rank cheering and taunting, and opened the attack pushing forward his cavalry so as to nearly to surround the British. In their eagerness to attack a Portuguese battalion, which had come up under cover to enclosures, some of the English sepoys became separated from the rest of the line. Gokhale seized the opportunity for a charge with 6000 chosen horsemen. Colonel Burr who saw the movement recalled his men and ordered them to stand firm and keep their fire. The cavalry charge proved ineffectual. The charge was broken by a deep morass in front of the English. As the horsemen floundered in disorder the British troops fired on them with deadly effect. Only a few of the Maratha horses pressed on to the bayonets, the rest retreated or fled. The failure of their great cavalry charge disconcerted the Marathas. They began to drive off their guns, the infantry retired, and, on the advance of the British line, the field was cleared. Next morning the arrival of the light battalion and auxiliary horse from Sirur prevented Gokhale from renewing the attack. The European loss was sixty-eight and the Maratha loss 500 killed and wounded.
A few battles were later fought against the Bhosale faction at Sitabardi in Nagpur and against the Pindaris. The Peshwa, the chief executive of the Maratha Confederacy, was militarily defeated in the Battle near Ashirgad. The next skirmish occurred after 5 November at Yerawda where Sardar Yashwant Ghorpade's forces were lured away by the British by bribing. This paved the way for battalions coming from Ghodnadi and Jalna and gunners of Panshes artillery to join the British, resulting in the Peshwa fleeing Pune. The East India Company took over the Shaniwarwada, the seat of the Peshwa, on 17 November 1817. By 1818, the Peshwa had surrendered to the East India Company.
After the battle, the East India Company troops crossed the river at a place called Yelloura ford which is still unidentified. It is speculated that the place was probably where the bund of Bund Garden exists today. "Yelloura" is perhaps a corruption of Yerwada of today. This corroborates well with the mention of a nearby hill in Blacker's account (see references below). Also, the morass which played a crucial role in the battle is unidentified as of today. It is expected to have existed in the Range Hills Colony, the Military Station Depot of Khadki or near the Symbiosis Institute of Management or towards the College of Agriculture, Pune. Another meaning of word "morass" is "a complicated or confused situation", so perhaps it does not refer to a physical feature. It may just describe the result of the charge. An account of the battle by Grant Duff is well known to historians. Grant Duff observed the battle from a position on the hills of Bhamburda. This location is likely to have been on the hill that faces behind the present day Hanuman Nagar or Pandav Nagar.