History of Maharashtra

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The antiquity of this region can be traced to approximately the 4th century BC. From 4th Century B.C. until AD 875, Maharashtri Prakrit and its Apabhraṃśa was the dominant language of the region. Marathi, which evolved from Maharashtri Prakrit, has been the lingua franca of the people of this area from the 9th century onwards. The oldest stone inscriptions in Marathi language can be seen at Shravana Belgola in modern day Karnataka at the foot of the Bahubali Statue (Jain). And, in the course of time, the term 'Maharashtra' was used to describe a region which consisted of Aparanta, Vidarbha, Mulak, Ashmak (Assaka) and Kuntal. The tribal communities of Nags, Munds and Bhills inhabited this area, also known as Dandakaranya, in ancient times. They were joined by the Aryas, the Shakas and the Huns, who came from the North, as well as by foreigners, who arrived by sea.[1]

Maharashtra during 4th century BC-12th century[edit]

The region that is present day Maharashtra was part of a number of empires in the first milinium. These include the Satavahana dynasty, the Vakataka dynasty, the Chalukya dynasty and the Rashtrakuta dynasty. And Most of these empires extended over a large swathes of Indian territory. Some of the greatest monuments in Maharashtra such as the Ajantha and Ellora Caves were built during the time of these empires. Maharashtra was ruled by the Maurya Empire in the 4th and 3rd century BC. Around 230 BCE Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty which ruled the region for 400 years.[2] The greatest ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty was Gautamiputra Satakarni who defeated the Scythian invaders. The Vakataka dynasty ruled from c. 250–470 CE. The Satavahana dynasty used Maharashtri Prakrit and Telugu Languages while the Vakataka dynasty patronized Maharashtri Prakrit and Sanskrit. The Chalukya dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 6th century to the 8th century and the two prominent rulers were Pulakesi II, who defeated the north Indian Emperor Harsha and Vikramaditya II, who defeated the Arab invaders in the 8th century. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 8th to the 10th century.[3] The Arab traveler Sulaiman called the ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Amoghavarsha) as "one of the 4 great kings of the world".[4] The Chalukya dynasty and Rashtrakuta Dynasty had their capitals in modern day Karnataka and they used Kannada and Sanskrit as court languages. From the early 11th century to the 12th century the Deccan Plateau was dominated by the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola dynasty.[5] Several battles were fought between the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola dynasty in the Deccan Plateau during the reigns of Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola I, Jayasimha II, Somesvara I and Vikramaditya VI.[6]

Seuna dynasty 12th-14th century[edit]

The Yadavas of Devagiri Dynasty was an Indian dynasty, which at its peak ruled a kingdom stretching from the Tungabhadra to the Narmada rivers, including present-day Maharashtra, north Karnataka and parts of Madhya Pradesh, from its capital at Devagiri (present-day Daulatabad in modern Maharashtra). The Yadavas initially ruled as feudatories of the Western Chalukyas. [7] The founder of the Suena dynasty was Dridhaprahara, the son of Subahu. According to Vratakhanda, his capital was Shrinagara. However, an early inscription suggests that Chandradityapura (modern Chandor in the Nasik district) was the capital.[8] The name Seuna comes from Dridhaprahara's son, Seunachandra, who originally ruled a region called Seunadesha (present-day Khandesh). Bhillama II, a later ruler in the dynasty, assisted Tailapa III in his war with the Paramara king Munja. Seunachandra II helped Vikramaditya VI in gaining his throne. Around the middle of the 12th century, as the Chalukya power waned, they declared independence and established rule that reached its peak under Singhana II. The Yadavas of Devagiri patronised Marathi[9] which was their court language.[10][11] Kannada may also have been a court language during Seunachandra's rule, but Marathi was the only court-language of Ramchandra and Mahadeva Yadavas. The Yadava capital Devagiri became a magnet for learned scholars in Marathi to showcase and find patronage for their skills. The origin and growth of Marathi literature is directly linked with rise of Yadava dynasty.[12]

According to scholars such as Prof. George Moraes,[13] V. K. Rajwade, C. V. Vaidya, Dr. A.S. Altekar, Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar, and J. Duncan M. Derrett,[14] the Seuna rulers were of Maratha descent who patronized the Marathi language.[9] Digambar Balkrishna Mokashi noted that the Yadava dynasty was "what seems to be the first true Maratha empire".[15] In his book Medieval India, C.V.Vaidya states that Yadavas are "definitely pure Maratha Kshatriyas".

Islamic Rule[edit]

Islamic rule came to the region with the Khilji dynasty in the 14th century. The Tughlaq Dynasty that followed the Khiljis tried to move their capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Central Maharashtra with disastrous consequences. Later from 15th century, the Bahamani Sultanate and its offshoots, the Nizamshahi of Ahmadnagar, Adilshahi of Bijapur and the Qutubshahi of Govalkonda ruled different parts of the region until they were either swallowed by the Moghul empire or by the emerging Maratha forces in the second half of 17th Century.

The Marathas[edit]

Main article: Maratha Empire

The Marathas dominated the political scene in Maharashtra from the middle of the 17th century to the early 19th century. Although for historical purposes the term 'Maratha' is used in a comprehensive sense to include all Marathi-speaking people, actually the word signifies the distinct community which has dominated the political scene of Maharashtra since medieval times.

References to the Marathas and their country are found in accounts by the Arab geographer, Al Biruni (1030 AD), Friar Jordanus (c. 1326) and Ibn Batuta (1340), the African traveller. The Marathas came into political prominence in the 17th century under Shivaji.

Raja Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj[edit]

Main article: Shivaji

Shivaji maharaj was an able warrior and established a government that included such modern concepts as cabinet (Ashtapradhan mandal), foreign affairs (Dabir) and internal intelligence. Shivaji established an effective civil and military administration. He also built a powerful navy and erected new forts like Sindhudurg and strengthened old ones like Vijayadurg on the west coast. The Maratha navy held its own against the British, Portuguese and Dutch till Maratha internal conflict brought their downfall in 1756.

Shivaji is well known for his fatherly attitude towards his subjects. He believed that the state belonged to the people. He encouraged all socio-economic groups to participate in the ongoing political changes. To this day he is remembered as a just and welfare-minded king. He brought revolutionary changes in military, fort architecture, society and politics. Because of his struggle against an imperial power, Shivaji became an icon of freedom fighters (along with the Rani of Jhansi) in the Indian independence struggle that followed two centuries later. He is remembered as a just and wise king and his rule is called one of the six golden pages in Indian history.

School texts in Maharashtra glorify Shivaji's period and he is considered the founder of the modern Marathi nation; his policies were instrumental in forging a distinct Maharashtrian identity. Indeed, Marathi Hindus, Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, all consider him as a hero. A popular quotation,

"Maratha tituka milavava
Maharashtra Dharma vadhavava"

translates as, "Bring as many people into Maratha domain as possible and grow the Maharashtra Nation".

Expansion of Maratha Influence under Shahu 1 rule[edit]

Maratha Empire, 1758 (in orange) was the paramount power in the Indian sub-continent in 18th and early 19th century, until it was usurped by the British East India Company.

The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 after an exhausting 27 years of war against Marathas led to the swift decline of the Moghul empire. The Marathas, under the leadership the Bhat family of Peshwas, rapidly filled the power vacuum and occupied much of the subcontinent in the following decades.

The Peshwa era (1749 to 1761)[edit]

Shaniwarwada palace fort in Pune, it was the seat of the Peshwa rulers of the Maratha Empire until 1818.

During this era, Peshwas belonging to the (Bhat) Deshmukh Marathi Brahmin family controlled the Maratha army and later became the hereditary rulers of the Maratha Empire from 1749 to 1818. During their rein, the Maratha empire reached its zenith ruling most of the Indian Subcontinent. Prior to 1700, one Peshwa received the status of imperial regent for eight or nine years. They oversaw the greatest expansion of the Maratha Empire around 1760 with the help of Sardars like Holkar, Scindia (Shinde), Bhosale, and Gaekwad(Dhane). Other Generals such as Pantpratinidhi, Panse, Vinchurkar, Pethe, Raste, Phadke, Patwardhan, Pawar, Pandit, Purandare and Mehendale also played important part in the expansion. The areas controlled by the peshwa were annexed by the British East India Company in 1818.

Maharashtra under British rule and The Freedom Movement[edit]

The British East India Company slowly expanded areas under its rule during the 18th century. Their conquests of what is Maharashtra was completed in 1818 with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the first Law Minister of India, an erudite scholar with a number of doctorates, and a Barrister, championed the cause of Depressed Classes of India, the lower caste population who were oppressed for centuries. Dr. Ambedkar disagreed with mainstream leaders like Gandhi on issues including untouchability, government system and Partition of India. This did not prevent him from struggling for the rights of his brethren among the lower castes of the country. His leadership of Dalit or Depressed Classes, lead to the Dalit movement that still endures. Dr. Ambedkar most importantly played the pivotal role in writing the constitution of India and hence he is considered as the father of the Indian Constitution.

Lokmanya Tilak played a major role in the Indian independence movement. He was widely recognised as a leader of national importance & a man of method. Being a person with an extremist attitude, he was instrumental in encouraging the Indian masses in participating in the freedom struggle.

A popular quotation:

Swarajya ha majha janmasiddha hakka ahe,
ani toh mi milavnarach! ।।
Swaraj (self-rule) is my birthright & I will achieve it!

The ultimatum in 1942 to the British to "Quit India" was given in Mumbai, and culminated in the transfer of power and the independence of India in 1947. Raosaheb and Achutrao Patwardhan, Nanasaheb Gore, S.M. Joshi, Yeshwantrao Chavan, Swami Ramanand Bharti, Nana Patil, Dhulappa Navale, V.S. Page, Vasant Patil, Dhondiram Mali, Aruna Asif Ali, Ashfaqulla Khan and several others leaders from Maharashtra played a prominent role in this struggle. BG Kher was the first Chief Minister of the tri-lingual Bombay Presidency in 1937.


  1. ^ amazingmaharashtra.com
  2. ^ India Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic: p.440
  3. ^ Indian History - page B-57
  4. ^ A Comprehensive History Of Ancient India (3 Vol. Set): p.203
  5. ^ The Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 by Romila Thapar: p.365-366
  6. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen: p.383-384
  7. ^ Keay, John (2001-05-01). India: A History. Atlantic Monthly Pr. pp. 252–257. ISBN 0-8021-3797-0.  The quoted pages can be read at Google Book Search.
  8. ^ "Nasik District Gazetteer: History – Ancient period". Archived from the original on 2006-11-07. Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  9. ^ a b Kulkarni, Chidambara Martanda (1966). Ancient Indian History & Culture. Karnatak Pub. House. p. 233. 
  10. ^ India 2000 – States and Union Territories of India
  11. ^ "Yadav – Pahila Marathi Bana" S.P.Dixit (1962)
  12. ^ BhashaIndia
  13. ^ Professor George Moraes. "Pre-Portuguese Culture of Goa". International Goan Convention. Archived from the original on 2006-10-15. Retrieved 2006-10-01. 
  14. ^ Murthy, A. V. Narasimha (1971). The Sevunas of Devagiri. Rao and Raghavan. p. 32. 
  15. ^ Mokashi, Digambar Balkrishna (1987-07-01). Palkhi: An Indian Pilgrimage. SUNY Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-88706-461-2. 


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