Balwantrao Mehendele was the right hand man of Sadashivrao Bhau . He was also a Chitpawan Brahaman and was the maternal uncle of Nana Phadnavis and his father's mother was the sister of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath. He was also the brother of the first wife of Sadshivrao , Umabai. Balwantrao was married to Laxmibai who accompanied her husband in the Panipat campaign . She bore him a son who survived the disaster at Panipat and became famous by the name Appa Balwant.
Balwantrao’s carrer was given a push by Peshwa Balajirao. He accompanied Peshwa and Sadashivrao in a number of expeditions in South India and stood by the side of Peshwa in all the wars against Tarabai and Damaji Gaikwad . In the Karnatak campaign of 1757 Peshwa returned in May after leaving Balawantrao as his deputy to finish the remaining work of the expedition .Nawab of Kadappa, which claimed the districts of Kolar, Hoskot and Balapur once forming the Jagir of Sahahji the father of Shivaji , was subjugated by the prowess of Balavantrao Mehendale. Abdul Majid Khan the Nawab of Kadappa was a man of valour and resources. In the fierce engagement fought between Sidhout and Kadappa on 24th September 1757, the Khan was killed along with four hundred of his men. The same night Kadappa was captured. Balwantrao then levied contributions from the Palegars round about Sira, Hoskote, Mulbagal and other places . He was ordered to capture Bednur and Chitradurg , but growing tension between the Marathas and Nizams which led to the battle of Sindakhed (December -1757) called him away northwards . After the Maratha victory at Sindakhed Balwantrao along with Gopalrao Patwardhan and Visaji Krishna Biniwale led a campaign in South India upto the seas on the eastern coast of India. In the battle of Udgir , Balwantrao played a very important role and acted as the deputy of Sadashivrao . It was he who used to lead the troops of Huzarat as the right hand man of Sadashivrao .When Sadashivrao was chosen to lead the Panipat campaign , Balwantrao accompanied him to North India. Like Sadshivrao this was also the first campaign of Balwantrao in North India.
Almost all Marathi chronicles of Panipat campaign like Bhausahebanchi Bakhar and Bhausahebanchi Kaifiyat accuse Balwantrao of being arrogant, hot headed and abusive. He is said to be making fun of old Malharrao Holkar and Jankoji Sindhia on various occasions and has been portrayed as a villain in the Panipat Campaign . Infact Balwantrao was a man of sharp tongue and these accusations cannot be termed totally wrong . It was he who insisted on crossing river Chambal and proceeding to North India rejecting the advice of Malhararo . Balwantrao was dispatched from Mathura along with Imad-ul-Mulk and Surajmal Jat to capture Delhi .Balwantrao captured the city but failed to capture the Red Fort. It was actually the cannons of Ibrahim Khan which forced the Afghan keeper to deliver the fort.
He accompanied Sadashivrao and Maratha army to Kunjpura and thence to Panipat .In the surprise attack of Jankoji Sindhia on 22nd November , Balwantrao failed to render timely support and was so criticised on this point . On 7th December 1760 the Rohillas led by Najib Khan’s brother Sultan Khan fell upon the Marathas. The assailants reached the very edge of the Maratha trenches . The Rohilla foot soldiers took advantage of intense darkness of that night and penetrated inside the trenches . The Gardi musketeers and Balwantrao with the Huzurat horses fell heavily on the Afghans and drove them back with great slaughter. Najib‘s uncle Khali-ul-Rehman was killed in the battle and over three thousand of the Rohilla infantry fell in the field and even among those that survived most were wounded very badly . Unhappily in the moment of victory a chance bullet struck Balwantrao Mehendale at around 7 PM at night, who was leading the charge . He fell down from his horse with a bullet in his chest while trying to stem the flight of his men by galloping up to the exposed front line during the first Afghan onrush. The Rohillas crowded upon the fallen General ; one slashed at his face ; another began to sever his head in order to carry it away in triumph. But half a dozen Maratha horsemen galloped up to the spot and rescued their chief's body from mutilation, though with the neck half cut through. The engagement ceased about three hours after nightfall. His body was saved from mutilation by Khanderao Nimbalkar. Sadashivrao felt deeply the loss of Balwantrao, who was his staunch supporter and advisor .After this incident the morale of the Maratha army deteriorated day by day and never again was any serious offensive attack carried out by the Marathas. The loss of this Brahman General was never compensated . Had Balwantrao lived till the battle of Panipat , he must have led the charge of the Huzarat instead of Viswasrao and the panic created after Viswasrao was shot must have had less effect . Balwantrao's widow Laxmibai committed sati and was burnt with her husband's body leaving behind a son of 14 years named Krishnarao under the care of Bhau The boy survived the disaster and was later famous by the name Appa Balwant .