Sadashirao Bhau , the commander-in –chief of the Maratha army during the Panipat campaign was the was son of Chimaji Appa (born on 5th July 1730) , the younger brother of Peshwa Bajirao .Sadshivrao’s mother was Rakmabai, the sister of Trimbakrao Pethe (famous by the nickname Trimbakrao Mama) .Rakhmabai’s family originally belonged to Guhagar in the Dapoli district of the Konkan where they held the position of Mokadam(headman , chief ) of the Kasba of Guhagar. Her father Visaji Krishna Pethe , was given an inam in Kiwale , in the Taluka of Haveli province of Poona, by Chatrapati Shahuji on 17th November ,1722. Visaji Krishna was the Kamavisdar of Khandesh and after his death in 1728 Trimbakrao succeeded to his post .
Sadshivrao’s father was the far more attractive personality than Bajirao. His mind was bent towards study. His manners were pleasing. His temper was sweet and reasonable. It often happened that the Deccan nobles, unwilling to approach Bajirao and to risk a sharp, discourteous refusal, reached their object by winning to their cause Chimaji Appa, against whose persuasive pleading even Bajirao was rarely proof. It was Chimaji Appa who saw that Bajirao's sons were educated, were invested with the sacred thread, were united to suitable wives and taught the high morality and noble truths of the Hindu faith. It was he who defeated and killed Sidi Sat, and but for his perseverance and energy Bassein would most likely never have fallen. Had he lived longer, he would doubtless have controlled the quarrels of Raghunathrao and Sadashivrao, both of whom revered him as their father, and thus saved his country from the disaster of Panipat.
Sadshivrao’s mother Rakmabai died on the 31st August 1730 . Chimaji then married his second wife Anapurnabai on 9th December 1731 .She bore him one daughter named daughter Bagabai, who married Gangadharnaik Onkar. Chimaji Appa himself died at Poona on 17th December 1740 (at a young age of 34) and Anapurnaba became sati on his pyre. Sadshivrao was brought up by his grandmother (mother of Bajirao and Chimaji Appa) Radhabai . Sadshivrao was married to Umabai on 7th February , 1740 .She gave birth to two sons who died soon. Umabai herself died on 22nd March ,1750 and Sadashivrao then married Parvatibai the daughter of Bhikaji Naik Kolhatkar of Pen on 26th April ,1750 .Parvatibai escorted Sadshivrao in the Panipat campaign and survived the disaster .
Sadshivrao undertook his first campaign in Karnataka in 1746 because Babuji Naik and Fateh Singh Bhonsle failed in the task assigned to them .Sadshivrao left Poona on 5th December, 1746 with Mahadoba Purandare and Sakharam Bapu as his political advisers. The campaign continued till May 1747 mostly in the western Karnatak region. In January 1747 he won his first battle at Ajra, south of Kolhapur .The Navab of Savnur was chastised , the fort of Bahadur Benda was reduced and chauth was levied from the region between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra . All together 36 parganas were captured in this campaign.
After the death of Chatrapati Sahahuji on 15th December 1749 , Peshwa urged that in the interest of the State, the executive power must remain in his own hands and that he would not tolerate any interference with the administration from the Pratinidhi, or the Sachiv or any one else. As a result Singhad fort was taken forcibly from the Sachiv (6th July ,1750). Like the Sachiv the Pratinidhi too rebelled against the Peshwa . Sangola near Pandharpur was a small fortified post belonging to the Pratinidhi . Sangola was held by Dadoba Pratinidhi’s Mutalik Yamaji Shivdev . Peshwa despatched Sadashivrao Bhau and Ramchandra Baba with an adequate armed force and Ramraja himself at their head to take possession of Sangola from Yamaji Shivdev. The latter resisted and waged a short struggle of two weeks; but being overpowered by the Peshwa's artillery, Yamaji delivered Sangola into Sadashivrao's hands on the Dassara day, 25th September.[ Ramchandra Bawa Suktankar was appointed as as the Peshwa's agents with Sindhia. Ranoji Sindia and Ramchandra Bawa pulled together well and kept on cordial terms with each other. After Ranoji's death Jayappa became the head of the family and his relations with Ramchandra Bawa soon came to be severely strained. Jayappa became disgusted with Ramchandra Baba's greed and compelled the Peshwa to recall him to the south, just about the time that Shahu died(15th December 1749)]
Sadashivrao and Ramchandra Baba executed some bold and quick measures at Sangola .But this the Peshwa felt as an encroachment on his own powers. He bitterly resented Sadashivrao's action at Sangola and the two cousins were nearly on the point of an open rupture. In this situation Mahadoba quietly withdrew from all office work and retired to his home at Saswad, thus easing the tension so far as lay in his power. Sadashivrao, however, took a different line of action, being encouraged and financially helped by Ramchandra Baba. He demanded from the Peshwa full power to conduct the administration, not approving the lenient method adopted by the latter. The Peshwa refused to surrender his power on any account. Sadashivrao thereupon threatened to resign and seek service under Sambhaji Raja of Kolhapur, who had written to him, offering him the post of his Peshwa with a jagir of five thousand along with the possession of three important forts Bhimgad, Pargad and Vallabhgad, all on the border of Kolhapur and Belgam. Happily the dispute was soon reconciled and nothing untoward happened in consequence. This was in the closing months of 1750, when Sadashivrao met the Peshwa after his expedition to Sangola.
In January, 1751 Sadshivrao escorted Peshwa into an expedition into Karnataka . Sadashivrao’s commander Trimbak Suryaji captured the fort Trimbak on 2nd December 1751 .Nasik was also occupied and here the Peshwa rapidly erected palaces and temples. Though fort Trimbak was temporarily given back to Muslim control, it was recaptured by the Marathas within two years, the Masjid was pulled down and the original temple restored. Peshwa and Bhausaheb paid their first ceremonial visit to this temple of Trimbakeshwar in November 1754. Several minor forts in the vicinity such as Kamala, Tringalwadi, Bitinga and others came at the same time into Maratha possession. Shivaji's birthplace fort Shivner was taken a little later in ,1756.
On 20th March Sadashivrao captured the fort of Holi Honnur standing at the junction of the rivers Tunga and Bhadra. Peshwa and Sadshivrao together captured Dharwar on 14th May. Thence on the way to Poona they halted at Kolhapur and were cordially received by Raja Sambhaji and his queen Jijabai, who gave Bhausaheb the forts of Bhimgad, Pargad, Vallabhgad and Kalanidhi along with the district of Khanapur, in fulfilment of an engagement which had been contracted earlier .Sadshivrao thereafter escorted Peshwa in a number of campaigns in south India. Sadshivrao himself led the Maratha army against the Nizams in the battles of Sindkhed(1757) and Udgir (1760) .It was Sadshivrao who looked after the administrative and financial matters of the Maratha empire.
Muzaffar Khan Gardi bore bitter hatred towards Sadashivrao, and when the latter entertained the services of Ibrahim Khan, a rival Gardi commander, Muzaffar Khan sought to wreak his revenge. On the evening of 28th October 1759 as Sadashivrao was transacting his routine business in his tent at the Garpir of Poona, the Khan's son-in-law Haidar Khan suddenly stabbed Sadashivrao in the back. Fortunately the wound though severe did not prove fatal. An immediate inquiry was made and eight culprits including Muzaffar Khan and his son-in-law were blown away from guns on October 30.
Sadshivrao Bhau was appointed by Peshwa Balajirao to lead the Panipat campaign . In this campaign Bhausaheb selected men belonging to his own party like Balwantaro Mehendele and Nana Purandare. Bhausaheb wrote to almost every principle chief of Hindustan for assistance in driving off this Afghan Invader. He sent his personal agents to Madho Singh of Jaipur and Vijay Singh of Marwar , Shuja-ud-daula of Awadh and many more .But Bhau received no positive response except from Surajmal Jat of Bharatpur .On the way to Delhi Bahusaheb performed pilgrimage at Muchukund Teerth (Dholpur) , Mathura and Vrindavan . While Sadshivrao was performing his religious ceremonies , Ibrahim Khan battered the red fort with his cannons and forced its Afghan keeper to deliver the fort into Maratha hands. Throughout the rainy season negotiations were held between the Marathas and Afghans. In all negotiations Bhausaheb had no free hand for all important decisions he used to refer to Peshwa.
After the rains Bhausaheb thought of attacking Kunjpura . On the way to Kunjpura Bhausaheb deposed the Mughal Emperor Shah Jhan Sani (III) , who was appointed by the wicked Imad-ul-Mulkh after the murder of Emperor Alamgir (II) and appointed the fugitive Mughal Emperor Shah Alam on the Mughal throne.
Kunjpura was easily taken and Abdus Samad Khan, the faujdar of Abdali at Sarhind was killed in the encounter . Mia Qutub shah , who had cut-off the head of Dattaji Sindhia was executed on the orders of Bhau. After Kunjpura Bhausaheb moved to perform pilgrimage at Kurukshetra .On the way to Kurukshetra Sadshivrao learnt that Abdali had crossed Jamuna at Bagpat and was heading towards them. Bhausaheb then rushed towards Delhi and finally settled at Panipat. Here Bhausaheb acting on the advice of Ibrahim Khan decided to entrench himself in the hostile city of Panipat. This entrenchment continued in the severe winter of November, December and January .The route southward from panipat was blocked by Abdali’s army and soon there started a starvation in the Maratha camp.
Tired of waiting and the starvation in the Maratha camp compelled Sadshivrao to launch a finale attack on 14th January , 1760 . The Maratha army was to move in a triangular formation under the cover of canons with Sadashivrao and Viswasrao at the centre and the non-combatants at their back. The contingents of Sindhia and Holkar , Jaswantarao , Anataji mankeshwar, sons of Pilaji jadhav were placed on the right hand side of the Maratha centre . Ibrahim Khan, Damaji Gaikwad and Vithal shivdev were on the left side of Sadshivrao .
Bhausaheb was seated on an elephant and Viswasrao led the charge of the Maratha centre .Earlier on most occasions it was Balwantarao who led the charge but after the death of this brave Brahman military general this responsibility was undertaken by the brave and young nephew of Bhausaheb. The Maratha horsemen of huzurat (personal cavalry of peshwa) fell heavily on the Afghan centre led by Abdali’s Wazir Shah Wali Khan .In the first half of the battle the Afghan centre was cut into pieces. Atai Khan , the slayer of Govindpant and the nephew of Shah Wali Khan was killed and most of the Afghans started fleeing from the battle field. Around 2 P.M. Abadali sent reinforcement in the Afghan centre which came like a bolt from the blue on the Marathas . Viswasrao was hit by a bullet shot around 3 P. M. And he fell from his horse. His dead body was brought to Bhausaheb. Bhausaheb then dismounted his elephant and mounted his horse to lead the charge. The site of the vacant Ambari created panic in the Maratha camp and most of the Marathas deserted the battle field. According to Bhausaheb’s Kaifiyat Bhausaheb continued the battle with his small number of loyal followers . Tukoji Sindhia who had rushed from Maratha right wing to support Bhausaheb said : “ Maharaj , you have crossed all limits of kshatriya dharma , it is best you leave the battle now” . To which Bhausaheb replied “ Tukoji Baba , now where will i go ? Look at the condition of Raosaheb(Viswasrao) . What face will i show to Nanasaheb. I have promised Ibrahim Khan that I will not leave the battle field” . Hearing this Tukoji dismounted his horse and began his fight on foot . Suddenly he noticed some blood on his hand and came to know that he has been shot .
What happened to Sadashivrao is not exactly known , there are various versions of the story of his end one narrated by Kashiraj is accepted by most .There are many stories spread all around in the Panipat region regarding the finale fate of Sadshivrao .