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A Peshwa was the equivalent of a modern Prime Minister in the Maratha Empire. Originally, the Peshwas served as a subordinate to the Chatrapati (the Maratha king), but later, they became the de facto leaders of the Marathas, and the Chatrapati was reduced to a nominal ruler. During the last years of the Maratha Empire, the Peshwas themselves were reduced to titular leaders, and remained under the authority of the Maratha nobles and the British East India Company.

All the Peshwas during the rule of Chatrapati Shivaji and Chatrapati Sambhaji belonged to Deshastha Brahmin family. The first Peshwa was Moropant Pingle, who was appointed as the head of the Ashta Pradhan (council of eight ministers) by Chatrapati Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha Empire. The initial Peshwas were all ministers who served as the chief executives to the king. The later Peshwas held the highest administrative office and also controlled the Maratha confederacy. Under the Chitpavan Brahmin Bhat family, the Peshwas became the de facto hereditary administrators of the Confederacy. The Peshwa's office was most powerful under Baji Rao I (r. 1720-1740). Under Peshwa administration and with the support of several key generals and diplomats, the Maratha Empire reached its zenith, ruling most of the Indian subcontinent. However, after the Peshwa Raghunathrao allied with the British, the Peshwa's power declined substantially. The subsequent Peshwas were titular leaders and were responsible for the downfall of Maratha empire due to inefficiency in handling the affairs of the state. Later on many provinces were controlled and administered either by the Maratha nobles such as Daulat Rao Scindia, or by the East India Company. During this period, the Maratha confederacy came to its end through its formal annexation into the British Empire in 1818.

Usage examples of "peshwa".

Sookdee, and hide it as you would your life, for a gift to the son of the Peshwa, who, methinks, is behind the Dewan in this, we will be men of honour.

Emperor Damodara, the consort and peshwa of Andhra will steal a march on you.

Dandhu Panth, the adopted son of the Peshwa, had come back from Oxford, and the English believed he had been changed into an Englishman, Nana Sahib.