History of Maharashtra

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Maharashtra is a state in the western region of India and is India's second-most populous state and third-largest state by area. Although the present day state in India was only formed in 1960,the region that comprises the state has a long history dating back to the 4th century BCE.

From the 4th century BCE until 875, Maharashtri Prakrit and its Apabhraṃśas were the dominant languages of the region. Marathi language, which evolved from Maharashtri Prakrit, has been the lingua franca from the 9th century onwards. The oldest stone inscriptions in Marathi language, dating back to around 975 AD,[1] can be seen at Shravanabelgola in modern-day Karnataka at the foot of the Bahubali Statue. In the course of time, the term Maharashtra was used to describe a region which consisted of Aparanta, Vidarbha, Mulak, Assaka(Ashmaka) and Kuntal. Tribal communities of Bhil people inhabited this area, also known as Dandakaranya, in ancient times. There was an ancient race called as "Rattha" (रठ्ठ in Marathi). With their valour and achievements they started calling themselves as "Maharattha" (Maha is Great). Maharashtra first appeared in the 7th century in the account of a contemporary Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang. According to the recorded History, the first Hindu King ruled the state during the 6th century, based in Badami.[citation needed]


Chalcolithic sites belonging to the Jorwe culture (ca. 1300–700 BCE) have been discovered throughout the state.[2][3]

Maharashtra during 4th century BC – 12th century AD[edit]

Late Harappa figure from Daimabad hoard, Indus Valley Civilization

The region that is present day Maharashtra was part of a number of empires in the first millennium. These include the Maurya empire, Satavahana dynasty, the Vakataka dynasty, the Chalukya dynasty and the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Most of these empires extended over 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 BCE. Around 230 BCE Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty which ruled the region for 400 years.[4] 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 mainly used Prakrit instead of Sanskrit or Dravidian languages.[5] while the Vakataka dynasty patronized Prakrit and Sanskrit[citation needed].

The Chalukya and Rashtrakuta[edit]

The Kailashanatha Temple, one of the 34 cave temples and monasteries known collectively as the Ellora Caves, was built during the 8th century CE by the Rashtrakuta king Krishna I.

The Chalukya dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 6th century to the 8th century and the two prominent rulers were Pulakeshin 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.[6] The Arab traveler Sulaiman called the ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Amoghavarsha) as "one of the 4 great kings of the world".[7] 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.[8] 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, Someshvara I and Vikramaditya VI.[9]

Between 800-1200 CE, parts of Western Maharashtra including the Konkan region of Maharashtra were ruled by different Shilahara houses based in North Konkan South Konkan and Kolhapur respectively.[10] At different periods in their history, the Shilaharas served as the vassals of either the Rashtrakutas or the Chalukyas.[citation needed]

Yadav 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.[11] 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 Chandwad in the Nasik district) was the capital.[12] 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 II 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[13] which was their court language.[14][15] 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.[16]

According to scholars such as George Moraes,[17] V. K. Rajwade, C. V. Vaidya, A.S. Altekar, D. R. Bhandarkar, and J. Duncan M. Derrett,[18] the Seuna rulers were of Maratha descent who patronized the Marathi language.[13] Digambar Balkrishna Mokashi noted that the Yadava dynasty was "what seems to be the first true Maratha empire".[19]

Islamic Rule[edit]

In the early 14th century, the Yadava dynasty, which ruled most of present-day Maharashtra, was overthrown by the Delhi Sultanate ruler Ala-ud-din Khalji. Later, Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan, and temporarily shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra. After the collapse of the Tughluqs in 1347, the breakaway Bahmani Sultanate governed the region for the next 150 years from Gulbarga and later from Bidar .[20] After the break-up of the Bahamani sultanate in 1518, the Maharashtra region was split between five Deccan Sultanates: Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur, Qutubshah of Golkonda, Bidarshah of Bidar and Imadshah of Elichpur.[21] These kingdoms often fought with each other. United, they decisively defeated the Vijayanagara Empire of the south in 1565.[22] The present area of Mumbai was ruled by the Sultanate of Gujarat before its capture by Portugal in 1535 and the Faruqi dynasty ruled the Khandesh region between 1382 and 1601 before finally getting annexed by the Mughal Empire. Malik Ambar, the regent of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmednagar from 1607 to 1626[23] increased the strength and power of Murtaza Nizam Shah II and raised a large army. Malik Ambar was a proponent of guerilla warfare in the Deccan region. Malik Ambar assisted Mughal prince Khurram (who later became emperor Shah Jahan) in his struggle against his stepmother, Nur Jahan, who had ambitions of getting the Delhi throne for her son-in-law.[24] The Deccan kingdoms were eventually swallowed by the Mughal Empire or by the emerging Maratha forces in the second half of the 17th Century.

Bibi ka Maqbara, a replica of the Taj Mahal, was built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

The early period of Islamic rule saw atrocities such as imposition of Jiziya tax on non-Muslims, temple destruction and forcible conversions.[25][26] However, the mainly Hindu population and the Islamic rulers over time came to an accommodation. For most of this period Brahmins were in charge of accounts whereas revenue collection was in the hands of Marathas who had watans (Hereditary rights) of Patilki ( revenue collection at village level) and Deshmukhi ( revenue collection over a larger area). A number of families such as Bhosale, Shirke, Ghorpade, Jadhav, More, Mahadik, and Ghatge and Nimbalkar loyally served different sultans at different periods in time. All Watandars considered their watan a source of economic power and pride and were reluctant to part with it. The Watandars were the first to oppose Shivaji because that hurt their economic interests.[21] Since most of the population was Hindu and spoke Marathi, even the sultans such as Ibrahim Adil Shah I adopted Marathi as the court language, for administration and record keeping.[21][27][28]

The decline of Islamic rule in Deccan started when Shivaji founded the Maratha Empire by annexing a portion of the Bijapur Sultanate in 1674. Shivaji later led rebellions against the Mughal rule, thus becoming a symbol of Hindu resistance and self-rule.[29] Maratha Empire went on to end the Mughal rule and ruled over a vast empire stretching from Attock to Cuttack.[30]

Maratha Empire (1674–1818 CE)[edit]

The Maratha Empire (1795 map) was the paramount power in the Indian subcontinent in the 18th and early 19th century until it was usurped by the East India Company.

The Marathas dominated the political scene in India from the middle of the 17th century to the early 19th century as the Maratha Empire. The term Maratha here is used in a comprehensive sense to include all Marathi-speaking people rather than the distinct community with the same name to which Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the maratha empire belonged.


Chhatrapati Shivaji was the founder of the modern Marathi empire; his policies were instrumental in forging a distinct Maharashtrian identity[citation needed]. Shivaji Bhosale c. 1627/1630[31] – 3 April 1680), also known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was a member of the Bhonsle clan. Shivaji first carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati (Monarch) of his realm at Raigad. Shivaji was an able administrator and established a government that included such modern concepts as a cabinet (ashtapradhana mandala), foreign affairs (dabir) and internal intelligence. Shivaji Maharaj 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 of Maharashtra.

Expansion of Maratha Influence in 18th Century under Shahu I and Peshwa rule[edit]

Shaniwar Wada palace fort in Pune, the seat of the Peshwa rulers of the Maratha Empire until 1818.

The death of Aurangzeb in 1707, after an exhausting 27 years of war against the Marathas, led to the swift decline of the Mughal Empire. During much of the 18th century, the Peshwas, belonging to the (Bhat) Deshmukh Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin family, controlled the Maratha army and later became the hereditary heads of the Maratha Empire from 1749 to 1818.[32] During their rein, the Maratha empire reached its zenith in 1760, dominating most of the Indian subcontinent.[33] [34][35][36] Bajirao I, the second Peshwa from the Bhat family was only 20 when appointed Peshwa. For his campaigns in North India, he actively promoted young leaders of his own age such as Ranoji Shinde, Malharrao Holkar, the Puar brothers and Pilaji Gaekwad. These leaders also did not come from the traditional aristocratic families of Maharashtra.[37] Historian K.K. Datta claims that Bajirao I "may very well be regarded as the second founder of the Maratha Empire".[38] Independently of Bajirao I, Raghoji Bhonsle expanded Maratha rule in central and East India.[39] All these military leaders or their descendants later became rulers in their own right during the Maratha Confederacy era. In 1737, the Marathas defeated a Mughal army in their capital, in the Battle of Delhi. The Marathas continued their military campaigns against the Mughals, Nizam, Nawab of Bengal and the Durrani Empire to further extend their boundaries. By 1760, the domain of the Marathas stretched across most of the Indian subcontinent.[40] The Marathas even discussed abolishing the Mughal throne and placing Vishwasrao Peshwa on the Mughal imperial throne in Delhi.[41] The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu[42] in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan[43] [note 1]) in the north, and Bengal in the east. The Northwestern expansion of the Marathas was stopped after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). However, the Maratha authority in the north was re-established within a decade under Peshwa Madhavrao I.[45] However,under Madhavrao I, the strongest knights were granted semi-autonomy, creating a confederacy of Maratha states under the Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, the Bhonsales of Nagpur and the Puars of Dhar and Dewas. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a Peshwa family succession struggle in Pune, which led to the First Anglo-Maratha War, resulting in a Maratha victory.[46]

Maratha Navy[edit]

Shivaji developed a potent Naval force during his rule. Later the navy under the leadership of Kanhoji Angre, in the early part of 1700s dominated the territorial waters of the western coast of India from Bilimora, Gujarat[47] to Savantwadi.[48] It would engage in attacking the British, Portuguese, Dutch, and Siddi Naval ships and kept a check on their naval ambitions. The Maratha Navy dominated until around the 1730s, was in a state of decline by the 1770s, and ceased to exist by 1818.[49]

Revenue system and Chauth[edit]

One of the tools of the empire was collection of Chauth or 25% of the revenue from states that submitted to Maratha power. The Marathas also had an elaborate land revenue system which was retained by the British East India Company when they gained control of Maratha territory.[50]

Anglo-Maratha Wars[edit]

The areas controlled by the Peshwa were annexed by the East India Company in 1818.[citation needed]

British Colonial period (1818–1947 CE)[edit]

Company Rule[edit]

The East India company controlled Mumbai since the 17th century as one of their main trading post. The Company slowly expanded areas under its rule during the 18th century. Their conquest of Maharashtra was completed in 1818 with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.[51]

British Raj[edit]

The British ruled for more than a century and brought huge changes, in every aspect of life, for the people who resided in the Maharashtra region. Areas that correspond to present day Maharashtra were under direct or indirect British rule, first under the East India Company and then under the British crown from 1858. The Maharashtra region during this era was divided in to Bombay presidency, Berar, Central provinces, Hyderabad state and various Princely states such as Kolhapur, Miraj etc.

The British colonial period saw standardization of Marathi grammar through the efforts of the Christian missionary William Carey. Carey also published the first dictionary of Marathi in devanagari script. The most comprehensive Marathi-English dictionary was compiled by Captain James Thomas Molesworth and Major Thomas Candy in 1831. The book is still in print nearly two centuries after its publication.[52][53] Molesworth also worked on standardizing Marathi. He used Brahmins of Pune for this task and adopted the Sanskrit dominated dialect spoken by this caste in the city as the standard dialect for Marathi.[54][55]

Gateway of India, built in the early 20th century in the Indo-Saracenic style of Architecture which combines British, Indo-Islamic and Hindu temple architectural styles.

People from Maharashtra played an important part in the social and religious reform movements as well as the nationalist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Notable Civil society bodies founded by Marathi leaders during 19th century include the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Prarthana samaj, the Arya Mahila Samaj and the Satya Shodhak Samaj. The Sarvajanik sabha took active part in relief efforts during the famine of 1875-76. The Sabha is considered the forerunner of the Indian National Congress established in 1885.[56][57] The most prominent personalities of Indian Nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th century, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak on opposite side of political spectrum were both from Pune.Tilak was instrumental in using Shivaji and Ganesh worship in forging a collective Maharashtrian identity for Marathi people.[58] The Marathi social reformers of the colonial era include Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, and his wife Savitribai Phule, Justice Ranade, feminist Tarabai Shinde, Dhondo Keshav Karve, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, and Pandita Ramabai.[59] Jyotirao Phule was the pioneer in opening schools for girls and Marathi dalits castes.

Hyderabad state in 1956 (in yellowish green). After reorganization in 1956, Regions of the state west of Red and Blue lines merged with Bombay and Mysore states respectively and rest of the state (Telangana) was merged with Andhra State to form the state of Andhra Pradesh.

The non-Brahmin Hindu castes of Maharashtra started organizing at the beginning of the 20th century with the blessing of Chhatrapati Shahu of Kolhapur. The campaign took off in the early 1920s under the leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe and Baburao Javalkar. Both belonged to the Non-Brahmin party. Capturing the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals from Brahmin domination were their early goals.[60] They combined nationalism with anti-casteism as the party's aims.[61] Later on in the 1930s, Jedhe merged the non-Brahmin party with the Congress party and changed that party from an upper-caste dominated body to a more broadly based but also Maratha-dominated party.[62] Early 20th century also saw the rise of Dr Ambedkar who led the campaign for the rights of Dalits caste that included his own Mahar caste. Ambedkar disagreed with mainstream leaders like Gandhi on issues including untouchability, government system and the 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 led to the Dalit movement that still endures. 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.

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, Shreedhar Mahadev 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. B.G. Kher was the first Chief Minister of the tri-lingual Bombay Presidency in 1937.

Although the British originally regarded India a place for supply of raw materials for the factories of England, by the end of 19th century modern manufacturing industry was developing in the city of Mumbai.[63] The main product was cotton and the bulk of work force in these mills was from[64] Western Maharashtra but more specifically from the coastal Konkan region.[65] The census recorded for the city in the first half of the 20th century showed nearly half of the population of city listed Marathi as their mother tongue.[66][67]

During the period of 1835-1907, a large number of Indians including people from Maharashtra were taken to the island of Mauritius as indentured labourers to work on sugarcane plantations.[68]


States Reorganization[edit]

Present day State of Maharashtra

After India's independence, the Deccan States, including Kolhapur were integrated into Bombay State, which was created from the former Bombay Presidency in 1950.[69] In 1956,the States Reorganisation Act reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines, and Bombay Presidency State was enlarged by the addition of the predominantly Marathi-speaking regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from erstwhile Hyderabad state and Vidarbha region from the Central Provinces and Berar. The southernmost part of Bombay State was ceded to Mysore.From 1954 to 1955 the people of Maharashtra strongly protested against bilingual Bombay state and the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, was formed to fight for a United Maharashtra for Marathi people.[70][71] The Mahagujarat Movement was started, seeking a separate Gujarat state. Keshavrao Jedhe, S.M. Joshi, Shripad Amrit Dange, Pralhad Keshav Atre and Gopalrao Khedkar fought for a separate state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital under the banner of Samyukta Maharashtra Movement. On 1 May 1960, following mass protests and 105 deaths, the separate Marathi-speaking state was formed by dividing earlier Bombay State into the new states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.[72] The state continues to have a dispute with Karnataka regarding the region of Belgaum and Karwar.[73][74][75][76] Some Marathi majority talukas were also transferred to Adilabad, Medak, Nizamabad and Mahaboobnagar districts of new Telugu State (now Telangana) in 1956. Even today, the old town names of all these regions are Marathi names.

Since 1960[edit]



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External links[edit]

  1. ^ Many historians consider Attock to be the final frontier of the Maratha Empire[44]
  1. ^ Eaton, Richard M. (2005). The new Cambridge history of India (1. publ. ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-521-25484-7. Retrieved 25 March 2016.