The Marathas are from Maharashtra. They are a group of castes that comprises peasants, landowners and warriors. The top layer of Marathas has surnames like Deshmukh, Bhonsle, More, Shirke, and Jadhave, and these were from the Warriors class called Kshatriyas.
The Rise of Marathas
There were different factors that contributed to the rise of Marathas in the 16th and 17th centuries. These include the physical environments of the Maratha country that gave peculiar qualities to the Marathas.
- The Maratha Empire played a significant role in weakening and displacing the Mughal Empire by the 18th century.
- Maratha general Venkoji who is the half brother of Shivaji established Maratha rule in Thanjavur by using Bijapur forces.
- Their rule in Tamilnadu continued from 1674 to 1832 until the death of Serfoji-II.
Factors that made Marathas a great soldiers:
- Marathas built forts on mountains.
- The mountainous region and dense forest made them adopt guerilla tactics.
- The spread of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra created a spirit of religious unity among them.
- The spiritual leaders such as Tukkaram, Ramdas, Vaman Pandit and Eknath fostered social unity.
- Shivaji fostered political unity.
Due to the above factors, they held important positions in the military and administration of the Deccan Sultanates of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar.
- Also, there were a number of influential Maratha families such as Mores and Nimbalkers.
- But the credit establishment of the powerful Maratha empire goes to Shaji Bhonsle and his son Shivaji.
Shivaji was born at Shivner in 1627 to Shaji Bhonsle (Father) and Jija Bai (mother).
Conquest of Shivaji
- Shivaji inherited the jagir of Poona from his father Shaji Bhonsle in 1637.
- He assumed full charge of his Jagir after the death of his guardian, Dadaji Kondadev in 1647.
- Even before taking charge of his Jagir, he conquered Raigarh, Kondana and Torna from the ruler of Bijapur.
- He also captured Javli from a Maratha chief, Chanda Rao More, which made him the master of Mavala Region.
Then in, 1657, he attacked Bijapur Kingdon and captured a number of hill forts in the Konkan region.
- After that incident, the Sultan of Bijapur sent Afzal Khal against Shivaji. But Afzal Khan was murdered by Shivaji in 1659.
- Then Shivaji became popular and that invited attacks from Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Aurangzeb vs Shivaji
- Aurangzeb sent the Mughal governor of Deccan, Shaista Khan. Shivaji was defeated to the Mughal forces and lost Poona.
- But Shivaji attached Shaista Khan’s military camp at Poona in 1663 and killed his son. Also wounded Shaista Khan.
- Then Shaista Khan was recalled by Aurangzeb.
Treaty of Purander
In 1664 Shivaji attacked Surat, an important port of the Mughal and plundered it.
Then Aurangzeb sent Raja Jai Singh of Amber. Raja Jai Singh defeated Shivaji and succeeded in besieging the Purander fort, where Shivaji lodged his family and treasure.
Then Shivaji opened negotiations with Jai Singh and the Treaty of Purander was signed.
- According to the treaty, Shivaji had to surrender 23 forts to the Mughal out of 35 held by him.
- The remaining 12 forts were to be given to Shivaji on condition of service and loyalty to the Mughal Empire.
- Also, the Mughals recognized the right of Shivaji to have certain parts of the Bijapur Kingdom, as Shivaji asked to exempt him from personal service to the Mughals.
- Also, his son Shambaji was granted a mansab of 5000.
Imprisonment of Shivaji and its consequences
- Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 and he was imprisoned. He then escaped from prison and made military preparations for another four years.
- He plundered Surat for the second time in 1670 and captured all the lost territories.
- In 1674, he crowned himself at Raigarh and assumed the title Chatrapati. He then went into the Carnatic region and captured Ginjee and Vellore.
- After the expedition of the Carnatic region, he died in 1680.
Administration of Shivaji
Shivaji was a great administrator. He was assisted by a council of ministers called Ashtapradhan.
- Peshwa – Finance and general administration. Later he became the prime minister.
- Sar-i-Naubat or Senapati – Military commander, a honorary post.
- Amatya – Accountant General.
- Waqenavis – Intelligence, posts and household affairs.
- Sachiv – Correspondence.
- Sumanta – Master of ceremonies.
- Nyayadish – Justice.
- Panditarao – Charities and religious administration
The administrative reform of Shivaji was in the Deccan Sultanates. For example, Peshwas was the Persian title.
- The revenue system of Shivaji was based on Malik Amber of Ahmadnagar. Lands were measured using a measuring rod called Kathi.
- Lands were classified into three categories – Paddy field, garden lands and hilly tracks.
Shivaji reduced the powers of the Deshmuks and Kulkarni.
Chault and Sardeshmukhi
- Chaut and Sardeshmukhi were the taxes collected in the neighbouring territories such Mughal Empire or Deccan sultanates.
- Chauth was one-fourth of the land revenue paid to the Marathas to avoid the Maratha raid.
- Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of ten per cent on those lands for which Marathas claimed hereditary rights.
Military of Shivaji
- The regular army consisted of about 30,000 to 40000 cavalry supervised by Havaildars.
- Malvi – foot soldiers played an important role.
- Soldiers were given fixed salaries.
There were two divisions in the Maratha cavalry:
- Bargirs – equipped and paid by the state.
- Silahdars – Maintained by the nobles.
Forts played important role in military operations of the Marathas. Shivaji has about 240 forts.
Successors of Shivaji
There was war of succession after the death of Shivaji between his son Shambaji and Rajaram. Shambaji was successful and Rajaram was executed the Mughals.
- Rajaram succeeded the throne but the Mughals made him flee to the Ginjee fort. He died at Satara.
- Rajaram was succeeded by his minor son Shivaji -II with his mother Tara Bai as regent.
- The next ruler was Shahu in whose reign the Peshwas rose to power.
- Balaji Viswanath (1713-1720)
- Baji Rao-I (1720-1740)
- Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761)
- Balaji Viswanath started as a small revenue official and became Peshwa in 1713.
- He made his position the most important and powerful as well as hereditary.
- He made Shahu as Maratha ruler after the civil war.
- Balaji Vishwanath sought the support of all Maratha leaders for Shahu.
- In 1719, he got certain rights from the Mughal emperor, Farukh Siyar. Then Mughal emperor recognized Shahu as the Maratha King.
- Also allowed to collection of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six Mughal provinces of Deccan including the Carnatic and Mysore.
Baji Rao I (1720-1740)
- Baji Rao was the eldest son of Balaji Viswanath. The Maratha power reached its zenith under him.
- He initiated the system of confederacy among the Marath chiefs.
System of confederacy
- Under the system of the confederacy, each Maratha chief was assigned a territory, which could be administered autonomously.
- This resulted many Maratha families became prominent and established their authority in different parts.
- Prominent Maratha families of those include:
- Gaekwad at Baroda
- Bhonsle at Nagpur
- Holkars at Indore
- Scindias at Gwalior
- Peshwas at Poona
Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761)
- Balaji Baji Rao succeeded his father as Peshwa at the young age of nineteen. The Maratha king Shahu died in 1749 without issue. His nominated successor Ramraja was imprisoned by the Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao at Satara.
- The full control of the Maratha kingdom came under the Peshwa. Then Peshwa entered into an agreement with the Mughal Emperor in 1752.
- According to the agreement, the Peshwa gave assurance to the Mughal Emperor that he would protect the Mughal Empire from internal and external enemies for which the Chauth of the northwest provinces and the total revenue of the Agra and Ajmer provinces would be collected by the Marathas.
Decline of Marathas
- Thus when Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India, it became the responsibility of the Marathas to protect India.
- The Marathas fought very bravely against Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. But they got defeated. Many Maratha leaders and thousands of soldiers died in this battle.
- Balaji Baji Rao also died on hearing the sad end of this battle. Also, this battle gave a death blow to the Maratha power.
- Thereafter, the Maratha confederacy weakened due to internal conflicts among the Maratha chiefs. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Marathas emerged a great power in India.
- But they could not succeed in preventing the establishment of British power in India.
- The important causes for the downfall were that there was lack of unity among the Maratha chiefs like Holkar, Scindia and Bhonsle.
- Also, the superiority of the British army and fighting method.
Maratha Empire family tree
- Shaji Bhonsle (Father)
- Sambhaji(elder son) and Rajaram (younger son)
- Shivaji (Father)
- Tarabai (First wife) and Raja Bai (Second wife)
- Shahu (Shivaji-II)
- Raja Bai (Mother) and Rajaram (Father)
- Rama Raja
- Shahu (Father)
- Shahu-II (Adopted Son)
- Rama Raja (Father)
- Pratap Singh
- Shahu-II (Father)
- Shaji-II (Shaji Appa Saheb)
- Pratap Singh (Younger Brother)
Maratha empire kings
- Tara Bai (Rajaram wife)
- Shahu(Sambhaji son)
- Balaji Viswanath as Peshwa
- Raja Bai (Second wife of Rajaram) and her son Sambhaji-II
- Rama Raja
- Shahu-II (Adopted son of Rama Raja)
- Pratap Singh
- Shaji Appa Saheb, Shaji-II