Born in 1742 in a Chitpavan Brahman family in Satara, Nana Fadnavis became the finance minister or the 'Phadnavis' of the Peshwa ruler in his later years. The family history of Nana Fadnavis pictures that his ancestors were migrated from village "Velas" near "Shrivardhan" along with the first Peshwa Balaji Vishwanth Bhat. It has also been affirmed by the historical evidences that the Peshwas or Bhats' had family relation with the Bhanus' (Phadnavis) and this was because both the families were from Chitpavan Brahmins and inherited the respective positions as 'Mahajan' Head of the nearby Town's namely 'Velas' and 'Shrivardhan'.
When Balaji Vishwanath negotiated a treaty with the Sayyid brothers, the Mughal emperor refused to sanction the latter. One of the Sayyid brothers, Husain Ali, marched to Delhi and with the help of the Maratha troops, commanded by the valiant Parsoji Bhosale, dethroned Farrukhsiyar. On the place of Farrukhsiyar, Rafi-ul-darjat was substituted in February 1719. In return to this service Balaji was granted the autonomy of Maratha states and the permission to collect the chauth tax from six Deccan provinces. In this entire process of autonomy, Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath received immense help from Balaji Mahadji Bhanu. A perfidious plot was created by the Mughals to kill the Peshwa and Balaji Mahadji sacrificed his life to save the Peshwa. Later in recommendation of the Peshwa, Bhanu was bestowed with the Tile of Fadnavis (one of the Ashtapradhan). Afterwards, with the bestowing of the de facto ruling power of the Peshwa as the head of state, Fadnavis became the main minister who held key portfolios of Administration and Finance for the Maratha Empire during Peshwa regime.
Being the grandson of Balaji Mahadji Bhanu, Nana Fadnavis inherited the same name of grandfather traditionally. Accepted as one of the family members of the Peshwa, he received the same facilities of education and diplomatic training along with the sons of Peshwa namely Vishwasrao, Madhav Rao and young Narayan Rao. Nana escaped to Pune from the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 and ascended as an important person to direct the affairs of the Maratha Confederacy. At that time, the Peshwas were succeeding one after another with many disputed successions. During this period, Nana Fadnavis hold together the Confederacy at a critical moment of both internal dissension and the growing power of the British. With his excellent administrative, diplomatic and financial skills, Nana bestowed brought the prosperity in Maratha Empire. Moreover, he kept the thrust of the British East India Company at bay by the help of his brilliant management skill of external affairs. His excellence in warfare skills were widely displayed in the various battles won by Maratha forces against Nizam of Hyderabad, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan of Mysore and British Army.
Nana made a mastermind plan to safeguard the only successor child Madhav Rao II from Peshwa's internal family conflicts was managed by Peshwa Madhavrao II with the help of a 12 member regency council. This was the plan of Nana Fadnavis to control the entire internal family affair. This was an alliance of influential Sardars (Generals) and Nana was king pin of this council. The council consisted of members namely Haripant Phadke, Moroba Phadnis, Sakarambapu Bokil, Trimbakraomama Pethe, Mahadji Shinde, Tukojirao Holkar, Phaltankar, Bhagwanrao Pratinidhi, Maloji Ghorpade, Raste and Babuji Naik. This period was known to be the zenith of success of Maratha Empire and it was shifted from Attock (Presently in Pakistan) to Mysore in Karnataka in this interim. The Peshwas were reckoned as the power in the small states in this region which were under protection treaty.
The death of Nana Fadnavis on the 13th of March 1800 at Pune was preceded by the surrender of Peshwa Baji Rao II in the hands of the British. This was the provocation of the Second Anglo-Maratha War that began the break up of the Maratha confederacy.