(Last Updated on : 23/06/2009)
Narayan Rao was one of the celebrated Peshwas of Maratha Empire in Maharashtra after the murder of Madhav Rao. He took the title of the Peshwa in 1772 AD and stayed on the position till his death in 1773. It is probably the shortest period for any Peshwa to have been on the throne. He could rule for a short period because he became the victim of a conspiracy that emerged due to power struggle.
The murder of Narayan Rao Peshwa was a result of a conspiracy. As per the historical evidences, on 30th August 1773, the last day of Ganesh Festival i.e. Anant Chaturdashi, Narayan Rao was asked to step down by several Gardi guards, led by their captain, Sumer Singh Gardi. The Gardis got confirmation by the opposition of Narayan Rao, Raghunath Rao and his wife Anandibai that they would mediate in their dispute with Narayan Rao. Then the Gardis requested that Narayan Rao accompany them to meet Raghunath Rao and solve the dispute. But in an excited argument at the palace fort of Shaniwarwada, Narayan Rao was killed in a conflict.
In addition to that, there is a popular legend about the murder of Narayan Rao. According to this tale Raghunath Rao had sent a message to Sumer Singh Gardi to bring Narayan Rao using the Marathi word 'dharaa' that connotes 'hold'. His wife Anandibai intercepted this message and changed a single letter to make it read as 'maaraa' that stands for 'kill'. This miscommunication resulted in killing of Narayan Rao by the Gardis in the presence of Raghunath Rao. This appalling act of killing a Peshwa bestowed ill fame to the Peshwa administration and the people engaged in this condemning act were told to bring into light by proper investigation. Ram Shastri Prabhune, the Chief Justice of the administration, was asked to conduct an investigation into the incident, and Raghunath Rao, Anandibai and Sumer Singh Gardi were all prosecuted in absentia. The investigation hold Raghunath Rao as acquitted, Anandibai was declared an offender and Sumer Singh Gardi, the culprit.
Narayan Rao, though ruled for a short period, contributed a big deal in the prosperity of Maratha Empire. The Narayan Peth area in Pune is named after Peshwa Narayan Rao.