|Languages||Marathi ( मराठी )|
|Populated States||Major: Maharashtra
Minor: Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
The Maratha (IPA: [ˈməraʈa]; archaically transliterated as Marhatta or Mahratta) is a group of castes in India found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Maratha group of castes is a largely rural class of peasant cultivators, landowners, and soldiers. Some Maratha and Kunbi have at times claimed Kshatriya (the warrior and ruling class) standing and supported their claims to this rank by reference to clan names and genealogies linking themselves with epic heroes, Rajput clans of the north, or historical dynasties of the early medieval period."
The term Marāthā has three related usages: within the Marathi-speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste; outside the Marathi-speaking region it denotes anyone who speaks Marathi; and historically, the term is used to denote the Maratha Kingdom founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century and continued by his successors.
The Marathas primarily reside in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu. Those in Goa and neighbouring Karwar are known specifically as Konkan Marathas as an affiliation to their regional and linguistic alignment.
Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature, wrote that the Marathas are subdivided into 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or 'Shahānnau Kule' Shahannau means 96 in Marathi.
The general body of lists are often at great variance with each other.
The history of the Marathas has been documented from the time of the Maratha empire. It has been subject to distortion, in part because of the extreme veneration of Shivaji that appeared in documents and hagiographies from the late 17th century until fairly recent times and in part because of misunderstandings that arose from inquiries relating to pre-colonial Maratha government by British Raj administrators from around the 1820s onwards. In addition, there was substantial rethinking of the past due to the British attempts to categorise the country in terms of caste and because of debates that emerged between Christian missionaries and Brahmin pundits in the middle of the 19th century.
A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, served the various Muslim Deccan sultanates. Rebellions against the Mughal empire by zamindari were neither unusual nor successful in the long term. At least 144 such attempts had occurred during the reign of Akbar but by the mid-1660s, Shivaji's revolt against Aurangzeb, who was then the Mughal ruler, had proved to be an unusually successful example of a commonplace occurrence. He was able to establish an independent Maratha kingdom within the Bijapur Sultanate and he successfully defended it against Aurangzeb's attempts to topple him. These successes involved an alliance of Hindus, including Brahmins, against the Muslim rulers; Shivaji's status as a Hindu king was legitimised by a dubious elevation of his position from that of shudra to kshatriya in the Vedic ritual ranking system of varna.
After the death Aurangzeb, Shivaji's grandson Shahu became ruler of the Marathas in 1707; during his rule he appointed Peshwas as the prime ministers of the Maratha Empire. The Maratha Empire expanded greatly by Bajirao Peshwa and other maratha sardars like Shinde, Holkar, Pawar and Bhosale, at its peak stretching from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar(modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and with expeditions to Bengal in the east. The Afghan king Ahmad Shah Abdali, amongst others, was unwilling to allow the Maratha's gains to go unchecked. In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Abdali's forces, which halted their imperial expansion.
Ten years after the battle of Panipat, Madhavrao Peshwa reinstated Maratha authority over North India. In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, semi-autonomy was given to strongest of the knights, creating a confederacy of Maratha states. They became known as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, and Bhonsales of Nagpur.[verification needed] In 1775, the British East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became known as the First Anglo-Maratha War.
The Maratha empire remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat by the British colonists in the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818). Through the British East Indian Company, Britain then controlled most of India.[page needed]
Maratha dynasties and states
The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of Maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India. Today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants live in the north, south and west of India. These descendant communities tend often to speak the local languages, although many also speak Marathi in addition. Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Holkar of Indore, Puar of Dewas & Dhar, Ghorpade of Mudhol, and Bhonsle of Thanjavur.
The varna of the Maratha is a contested issue, with arguments for their being of the kshatriya (warrior) varna, and others for their being of peasant origins. This issue was the subject of antagonism between the Brahmins and Marathas, dating back to the time of Shivaji, but by the late 19th century moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain. These Brahmins supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, but their success in this political alliance was sporadic, and fell apart entirely following independence in 1947.
Marathas have dominated the state politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 1960. Since then, Maharashtra has witnessed heavy presence of Maratha ministers or officials (which comprises 25% of the state) in the Maharashtra state government, local municipal commissions, and panchayats. 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of year 2012.
Beginning early in the 20th century, the British recognised Maratha as a martial race of India. Earlier listings of martial races had often excluded them, with Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army 1885–1893, stating the need to substitute "more warlike and hardy races for the Hindusthani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so-called Marathas of Bombay." Historian Sikata Banerjee notes a dissonance in British military opinions of the Maratha, wherein the British portrayed them as both "formidable opponents" and yet not "properly qualified" for fighting, criticising the Maratha guerrilla tactics as an improper way of war. Banerjee cites an 1859 statement as emblematic of this disparity: "[T]here is something noble in the carriage of an ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished Mahratta. The Rajput is the most worthy antagonist, the Mahratta the most formidable enemy." 
The Maratha Light Infantry regiment is one of the "oldest and most renowned" regiments of the Indian Army. Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan ("Warrior Platoon"), traces its origins to 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys. The battle cry of Maratha Light Infantry is Bol Shri Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! ("Cry Victory to Emperor Shivaji!") in tribute to the Maratha sovereign.
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