Marathi people

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Total population
c. 120 million (2011)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations

Primary populations in: Maharashtra • Gujarat • Madhya Pradesh
Goa • Karnataka • Andhra Pradesh • Tamil Nadu[3]


Israel • Mauritius[3] • United States •

United Kingdom • Australia  • Canada, United Arab Emirates.
Marathi, Malwani, Varhadi, Khandeshi
Predominantly Hinduism, minorities of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Jainism

The Marathi people or Maharashtrians (Marathi:marāṭhī māṇsē, mahārāṣṭrīya māṇsē) are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of India that inhabits the Maharashtra region and as well as some border districts such as Belgaon and Karwar of Karanataka and Madgaon of Goa states in western India.[4] Their language, Marathi, is part of the southern group of Indo-Aryan languages. Although their history goes back more than two millennia, the community came to prominence when Maratha warriors under Shivaji Maharaj established the Maratha Empire in 1674.


Although Marathi people have been in Maharashtra for millennia, the community gained prominence during the days of the Maratha empire.

History from ancient to Medieval Period[edit]

During ancient period around 230 BCE Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty which ruled the region for 400 years.[5] The greatest ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty was Gautamiputra Satakarni. The Vakataka dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 3rd century to the 5th century.[6] 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.[7] The Arab traveler Sulaiman called the ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Amoghavarsha) as "one of the 4 great kings of the world".[8] From the early 11th century to the 12th century the Deccan Plateau was dominated by the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola dynasty.[9] The Seuna dynasty, also known as the Yadav dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 13th century to the 14th century.[10] The Yadavas were defeated by the Khiljis in 1321.Afer the Yadav defeat, the area was ruled for the next 300 years by a succession of Muslim rulers including in the chronological order, the Khiljis , the Tughlaqs, the Bahamani Sultanate and its successor states such as Adilshahi and Nizamshahi and the Mughal Empire.

Territory under Maratha control in 1760 (yellow), without its vassals.
Maratha Helmet
Maratha Armory
Maratha Armor
Signature Maratha helmet with curved back.
Maratha Armour from Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.

Maratha Empire[edit]

In the mid-17th century, Shivaji Maharaj (1630 - 1680) founded the Maratha Empire by conquering the Desh and the Konkan region from the Adilshahi. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.[11][12][13][14] After Shivaji's death, the Mughals, who had lost significant ground to the Marathas under Shivaji, invaded Maharashtra in 1681. Shivaji's son Sambhaji and successor as Chhatrapati led the Marathas valiantly against the much stronger Mughal opponent but in 1689, after being betrayed, he was captured, and then tortured and killed by Mughal emperor,Aurangzeb.[15] The war against the Mughals was then led by the Sambhaji's younger brother and successor Rajaram Chhatrapati. Upon Rajaram's death in 1700, his widow Tarabai took command of Maratha forces and won many battles against the Mughals. In 1707, upon the death of Aurangzeb, the War of 27 years between the much weakened Mughals and Marathas came to an end.

Shahu, the grandson of Shivaji, with the help of capable Maratha chieftains saw the greatest expansion of Maratha power.After Shahu's death in 1749, the Peshwa became the virtual rulers of the empire . The empire was expanded by many chieftains including Peshwa Bajirao I and his descendants, Shinde, Nikam[citation needed], Gaekwad, Pawar, Bhonsale and Holkar, Jadhav. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)[16] in the north, and Bengal and Andaman Islands in the east.[11][17] Pune under the Peshwa became the imperial seat with envoys, ambassadors and royals coming in from far and near. However, after the Third battle of Panipat in which the Marathas were defeated by Ahmed Shah Abdali, the Empire broke up into many independent kingdoms. Due to the efforts of Mahadji Shinde, it remained a confederacy until the British East India Company defeated Peshwa Bajirao II. Nevertheless, several Maratha states remained as vassals of the British until 1947 when they acceded to the Dominion of India.

British colonial rule[edit]

Modern Period since Indian Independence[edit]


The majority of Marathi people are Hindus.[18] Minorities by religion include Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Muslims and Jews.[18]

Castes and communities[edit]

Marathi people form an ethno-linguistic group that is distinct from others in terms of its language, history, cultural and religious practices, social structure, literature and art.[19]

The castes include:

  • Artisan castes. There are several artisan castes such as Lohar (Iron-smith), Sutar (carpenters), Mali ( florists/gardeners), Kumbhar (potters), Sonar (swarnakar / goldsmiths), Teli (oil pressers), and Nabhik (barbers). These communities fall under the Other Backward Class (OBC) classification. Other communities like the Bhavsars from the Nasik region along with Malis and Koshtis (weavers) from Maharashtra are economically more prosperous than their counterparts from other areas of India.
  • Agri
  • Bhandari - Traditional occupation was toddy tapping and as soldiers.[20]
  • Brahmin - The four major sub-groups are Deshastha, Karhade, Kokanstha, and Saraswat.[21]
  • Chamar (Called Chambhar in Marathi) - Their traditional occupation was leather work. The community is designated as a Scheduled Caste
  • (CKP) - Traditionally considered to be a well-educated Kshatriya-Brahmin community. They competed with Marathi Brahmins for military and administrative positions under Maratha and British rule. Socially and culturally, the community is close to the Marathi Brahmin community. They are also considered part of the broader Kayastha community.[22] The CKPs are today concentrated primarily in western Maharashtra, southern Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh (Indore region).[23]
  • Dhangar - The Shepherd caste. The Holkar rulers of Indore belonged to this community. Today it is classified as a Nomadic Tribe by the Government of India
  • Gurav - This community traditionally looked after Hindu temples and in some temples are the only temple priests.
  • Mangela Koli - Society Of Mangela is Very Mature Caste in Koli. Is the Sub-Caste Of Koli.Is Belongs From Western Region Of Maharashtra.The etymology of the word Mangela comes from the words Mang, meaning fishing nets in the Marathi language and Ela meaning people. Literally, the word means a Fisherman, and the Mangela Koli are a community of Koli Fishermen.
  • Maratha - The Marathas were traditionally considered to be Kshatriya in the Hindu ritual ranking system known as varna. The founder of the Maratha Empire, Shivaji, belonged to this caste. Numerically the Maratha and the Marathi Kunbi caste are the strongest group amongst Marathi people.
  • Mahar - This community accounts for 10% of the population of Maharashtra.[24] Most of the Mahar community followed social reformer B. R. Ambedkar in converting to Buddhism in the mid 20th century and have been at the forefront of struggle for Dalit rights.[25][26] The community is designated as a Scheduled Caste
  • Matang -The community is designated as a Scheduled Caste
  • Pathare Prabhu - A caste associated with Mumbai for centuries.
  • Ramoshi
  • Wani - Marathi Trader caste

Among the non-Hindu communities are:

  • Jews - There is a community of Marathi Jews, popularly known as Bene Israel. It is estimated that there were 6,000 Bene Israel in the 1830s; 10,000 at the turn of the 20th century; and in 1948—their peak in India—they numbered 20,000. At present, they number around 60,000 in Israel,.[27][28] The number of Bene Israel remaining in India was estimated to be around 5,000 in 1988 [29]
  • Christians - Portuguese missionaries brought Catholicism to this area during the 15th century, giving rise to the East Indian Marathi community, who are concentrated in and around Mumbai. Protestantism was brought to the region by American and Anglican missionaries during the 19th century, resulting in the community of Marathi Christians who are found in many parts of Maharashtra but concentrated mainly in the districts of Ahmednagar and Solapur.
  • Konkani Muslims are Marathi Muslims from the Konkan region who speak the Marathi language. Other Muslims in Maharashtra tend to identify with the Islamic culture of North India and mostly speak an Urdu dialect called Dakhni.
  • Sikhs - There is a small Sikh community called Dakhani or Maharashtrian Sikhs who migrated from the Punjab and settled in Maharashtra around 300 years ago. They came to south with their tenth Guru, Govind Singh, who visited Nanded of Maharashtra in 1708. They are mostly concentrated in Nanded, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Mumbai. They are fluent in the Marathi language and only a few know Punjabi.[30]



The many communities in Indo-Aryan Marathi society result in a diverse cuisine. This diversity extends to the family level because each family uses its own unique combination of spices. The majority of Maharashtrians do eat meat and eggs, but the Brahmin community is mostly lacto-vegetarian. The traditional staple food on Desh (the Deccan plateau) is usually bhakri, spiced cooked vegetables, dal and rice. Bhakri is an Unleavened bread made using Indian millet (jowar), bajra or bajri. However, the North Maharashtrians and Urban people prefer roti, which is a plain bread made with Wheat flour. In the coastal Konkan region, rice is the traditional staple food. An aromatic variety of ambemohar rice is more popular amongst Marathi people than the internationally known basmati rice. Malvani dishes use more wet coconut and coconut milk in their preparation. In the Vidarbha region, little coconut is used in daily preparations but dry coconut, along with peanuts, are used in dishes such as spicy savjis or mutton and chicken dishes.

Thalipeeth is a popular traditional breakfast flat bread bread that is prepared using bhajani, a mixture of many different varieties of roasted lentils.

Marathi Hindu people observe fasting days when traditional staple food like rice and chapatis are avoided. However, milk products and non-native foods such as potatoes, peanuts and sabudana preparations are allowed, which result in a Carbohydrate rich alternative fasting cuisine.

Some Maharashtrian dishes including sev bhaji, misal pav and patodi are distinctly regional dishes within Maharashtra.

In metropolitan areas including Mumbai and Pune, the pace of life makes fast food very popular. The most popular forms of fast food amongst Marathi people in these areas are: bhaji, vada pav, misal pav and pav bhaji. More traditional dishes are sabudana khichadi, pohe, upma, sheera and panipuri. Most Marathi fast food and snacks are purely lacto-vegetarian in nature.

In South Konkan, near Malvan, an independent exotic cuisine has developed called Malvani cuisine, which is predominantly non-vegetarian. Kombdi vade, fish preparations and baked preparations are more popular here.

Desserts are an important part of Marathi food and include puran poli, shrikhand, basundi, kheer, gulab jamun, and modak. Traditionally, these desserts were associated with a particular festival, for example, modaks are prepared during the Ganpati Festival.


 Traditional Maharashtrian dresses
Women wearing lugade (nauwar), a traditional nine yard sari

Traditionally, Marathi women commonly wore the sari, often distinctly designed according to local cultural customs.[31] Most middle aged and young women in urban Maharashtra dress in western outfits such as skirts and trousers or shalwar kameez with the traditionally nauvari or nine-yard sari, disappearing from the markets due to a lack of demand.[32] Older women wear the five-yard sari. In urban areas, the five-yard sari is worn by younger women for special occasions such as marriages and religious ceremonies.[33] Among men, western dressing has greater acceptance. Men also wear traditional costumes such as the dhoti and pheta on cultural occasions. The Gandhi cap along with a long white shirt and loose pajama style trousers is the popular attire among older men in rural Maharathra.[31][34][35] Women wear traditional jewelleries derived from Marathas and Peshwas dynasties. Kolhapuri saaj, a special type of necklace, is also worn by Marathi women.[31] In urban areas, many women and men wear western attire.[35]

Hindu Festivals[edit]

Marathi Hindu people celebrate most of the all India Hindu festivals like Dasara, Diwali and Raksha Bandhan . These are, however, celebrated with certain Maharashtrian regional variations. Others festivals like Ganeshotsav have a more characteristic Marathi flavour.

The Marathi, Kannada and Telugu people follow the Deccan Shalivahana Hindu calendar, which may have subtle differences with calendars followed by other communities in India. The festivals described below are in a chronological order as they occur during a Shaka year, starting with Shaka new year festival of Gudhi Padwa.

Gudhi Padwa[edit]

The first day of the month of Chaitra according to the Hindu Calendar, (usually in March) is celebrated as Marathi new year and also as the Kannada and Telugu new year known as Ugadi. A victory pole or Gudi is erected outside homes on the day. The leaves of Neem or and shrikhand are a part of the cuisine of the day.[36][37]

Akshaya Tritiya[edit]

The third day of Vaishakh is celebrated as Akshaya Tritiya. This is one of the three and a half most auspicious days in the Hindu Calendar and usually occurs in the month of April. This marks the end of the Haldi Kumkum festival which is a get-together organised by women for women. Married women invite lady friends, relatives and new acquaintances to meet in an atmosphere of merriment and fun. On such occasions, the hostess distributes bangles, sweets, small novelties, flowers, betel leaves and nuts as well as coconuts. The snacks include kairiche panhe (raw mango juice) and vatli dal, a dish prepared from crushed chickpeas.

Vat Savitri Purnima[edit]

This Vat Purnima festival is celebrated on Jyeshtha Purnima (full moon day of the Jyeshtha month in the Hindu calendar), around June. On this day, women fast and worship the banyan tree to pray for the growth and strength of their families, like the sprawling tree which lives for centuries. Married women visit a nearby tree and worship it by tying red threads of love around it. They pray for well-being and a long life for their husband.

Ashadhi Ekadashi[edit]

Ashadhi Ekadashi (11th day of the month of Ashadha, (falls in July– early August of Gregorian calendar) is closely associated with the Marathi sants Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram and others. Twenty days before this day, thousands of Varkaris start their pilgrimage to Pandharpur from the resting places of the saint. For example, in the case of Jñāneśvar, it starts from Alandi with Jñāneśvar's paduka (footwear made out of wood) in a Palakhi. Varkaris carry tals or small cymbals in their hand, wear a Hindu prayer beads made from tulasi around their necks and sing and dance to the devotional hymns and prayers to Vitthala. People all over Maharashtra fast on this day and offer prayers in the temples. This day marks the start of Chaturmas (The four monsoon months, from Asharh to Kartik) according to the Hindu calendar. This is one of the most important fasting day for Marathi Hindu people.

Guru Purnima[edit]

The full moon day of the month of Ashadh is celebrated as Guru Purnima. For Hindus Guru-Shishya (teacher-student) tradition is very important, be it educational or spiritual. Gurus are often equated with God and always regarded as a link between the individual and the immortal. On this day spiritual aspirants and devotees worship Maharshi Vyasa, who is regarded as Guru of Gurus.

Divyanchi Amavasya[edit]

The new moon day/last day of the month of Ashadh/आषाढ (falls between June and July of Gregorian Calendar) is celebrated as Divyanchi Amavasya. This new moon signifies the end of the month of Ashadh, and the arrival of the month of Shravan, which is considered the most pious month of the Hindu calendar. On this day, all the traditional lamps of the house are cleaned and fresh wicks are put in. The lamps are then lit and worshiped. People cook a specific item called diva (literally lamp), prepared by steaming sweet wheat dough batter and shaping it like little lamps. They are eaten warm with ghee.

Nag Panchami[edit]

One of the many festivals in India during which Marathi people celebrate and worship nature. Nags (cobras) are worshiped on the fifth day of the month of Shravan (around August) in the Hindu calendar. On Nagpanchami Day, people draw a nag family depicting the male and female snake and their nine offspring or nagkul. The nag family is worshiped and a bowl of milk and wet chandan (sandalwood powder) offered. It is believed that the nag deity visits the household, enjoys languishing in the moist chandan, drinks the milk offering and blesses the household with good luck. Women put temporary henna tattoos (mehndi) on their hand on the previous day and buy new bangles on Nagpanchami Day. According to folklore, people refrain from digging the soil, cutting vegetables, frying and roasting on a hot plate on this day while farmers do not harrow their farms to prevent any accidental injury to snakes.

In a small village named Battis Shirala in Maharashtra a big snake festival is held which attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. In other parts of Maharashtra, snake charmers are seen sitting by the roadsides or moving from one place to another with their baskets holding snakes. While playing the lingering melodious notes on their pungi, they beckon devotees with their calls – Nagoba-la dudh de Mayi (give milk to the cobra oh mother!). Women offer sweetened milk, popcorn (lahya in Marathi) made out of jwari/dhan/corns to the snakes and pray. Cash and old clothes are also given to the snake-charmers.

In Barshi Town in the Solapur district, a big jatra (carnival) is held at Nagoba Mandir in Tilak chowk.

Narali Purnima[edit]

Narali Purnima is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravan in the Shaka Hindu calendar (around August). This is the most important festival for the coastal Konkan region because the new season for fishing starts on this day. Fishermen and women offer coconuts to the sea and ask for a peaceful season while praying for the sea to remain calm. The same day is celebrated as Rakhi Pournima to commemorate the abiding ties between brother and sister in Maharashtra as well other parts of Northern India. Narali bhaat (sweet rice with coconut) is the main dish on this day. On this day, Brahmin men change their sacred thread (Janve; Marathi: जानवे) at a common gathering ceremony called Shraavani (Marathi:श्रावणी).

Gukulashtami dahi-hundi celebration

Gokul Ashtami[edit]

The birthday of Krishna is celebrated with great fervour all over India on the 8th day of second fortnight of the month Shravan (usually in the month of August). In Maharashtra, Gokul Ashtami is synonymous with the ceremony of dahi handi. This is a reenactment of Krishna's efforts to steal butter from a matka (earthen pot) suspended from the ceiling. Large earthen pots filled with milk, curds, butter, honey, fruits etc. are suspended at a height of between 20 and 40 feet (6.1 and 12.2 m) in the streets. Teams of young men and boys come forward to claim this prize. They construct a human pyramid by standing on each other's shoulders until the pyramid is tall enough to enable the topmost person to reach the pot and claim the contents after breaking it. Currency notes are often tied to the rope by which the pot is suspended. The prize money is distributed among those who participate in the pyramid building. The dahi-handi draws huge crowd and they support the teams trying to grab these pots by chanting 'Govinda ala re ala'.

Mangala Gaur[edit]

Pahili Mangala Gaur (first Mangala Gaur) is one of the most important celebrations for the new brides amongst Marathi Brahmins. On the Tuesday of the month of the Shravan falling within a year after her marriage, the new bride performs Shivling puja for the well-being of her husband and new family. It is also a get-together of all women folk. It includes chatting, playing games, ukhane (married women take their husband's name woven in 2/4 rhyming liners) and sumptuous food. They typically play zimma, fugadi, bhendya (more popularly known as Antakshari in modern India) until the early hours of the following morning.

Bail pola/Pithori Amavasya[edit]

Pola or Bail Pola is celebrated on the new moon day (Pithori Amavasya) of the month of Shravan, which usually falls in August, to pay respect to bulls for their year-long hard work, as India is mostly an agricultural country. The festival is very important for farmers.


The third day of the month of Bhadrapada (usually around August/September) is celebrated as Hartalika in honour of Harita Gauri or the green and golden goddess of harvests and prosperity. A lavishly decorated form of Parvati, Gauri is venerated as the mother of Ganesha. Women fast on this day and worship Shiva and Parvati in the evening with green leaves. Women wear green bangles and green clothes and stay awake till midnight. Both married and unmarried women may observe this fast.


This 11 day festival starts on Ganesh Chaturthi on the fourth day of Bhadrapada in honour of Ganesha, the God of wisdom. Hindu households install in their house, Ganesha idols made out of clay called shadu and painted in water colours. Early in the morning on this day, the clay idols of Ganesha are brought home while chanting Ganpati Bappa Morya and installed on decorated platforms. In 1894, Lokmanya Tilak turned this festival into a public event as means of uniting people towards the common goal of campaigning against British colonial rule. The festival is still celebrated as public and private household events respectively. The festival lasts for 11 days with various cultural programmes including music concerts, orchestra, plays and skits. Some social activities are also undertaken during this period like blood donation, scholarships for the needy or donation to people suffering from any kind of natural calamity.

Gauri / Mahalakshmi[edit]

Along with Ganesha, Gauri (also known as Mahalaxmi in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra) festival is celebrated in Maharashtra. On the first day of the three day festival, Gauris arrive home, the next day they eat lunch with a variety of sweets and on the third day they return to their home. Gauris arrive in a pair, one as Jyeshta (the Elder one) and another as Kanishta (the Younger one). They are treated with love since they represent the daughters arriving at their parents' home.

In many parts of Maharashtra including Marathwada and Vidarbha, this festival is called Mahalakshmi or Mahalakshmya or simply Lakshmya.

Anant Chaturdashi[edit]

The 11th day of the Ganesh festival (14th day of the month of Bhadrapada) is celebrated as Anant Chaturdashi, which marks the end of the celebration. People bid a tearful farewell to the God by immersing the installed idols from home / public places in water and chanting 'Ganapati Bappa Morya, pudhchya warshi Lawakar ya!!' (Ganesha, come early next year.) Some people also keep the traditional wow (Vrata) of Ananta Pooja. This invoves the worship of Ananta the coiled snake or Shesha on which Vishnu resides. A delicious mixture of 14 vegetables is prepared as naivedyam on this day.

Navratri and Ghatsthapana[edit]

Starting with first day of the month of Ashvin in the Hindu calendar (around the month of October), the nine-day and -night festival immediately preceding the most important festival Dasara is celebrated all over India with different traditions. In Maharashtra on the first day of this 10-day festival, idols of the Goddess Durga are installed at many homes. This installation of the Goddess is popularly known as Ghatsthapana. During this period, little girls celebrate 'Bhondla/Hadga' as the Sun moves to the thirteenth constellation of the zodiac called "Hasta" (Elephant). During the nine days, Bhondla (also known as 'Bhulabai' in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra) is celebrated in the garden or on the terrace during evening hours by inviting female friends of the daughter in the house. An elephant is drawn either with Rangoli on the soil or with a chalk on a slate and kept in the middle. The girls go around it in a circle, holding each other's hands and singing Bhondla songs. All Bhondla songs are traditional songs passed down through the generations. The last song typically ends with the words '...khirapatila kaay ga?' ('What is the special dish today?'). This 'Khirapat' is a special dish or dishes often made laboriously by the mother of the host girl. The food is served only after the rest of the girls have guessed what the covered dish or dishes are correctly.

There are some variations about how the Navratri festival is celebrated. For example, in many Brahmin families, celebrations include offering lunch for nine days to specially invited group of guests. The guests include a Married Woman (Marathi:सवाष्ण ), a Brahmin and, a Virgin (Marathi:कुमारिका). In the morning and evening, the head of the family ritually worships to either the goddess Durga, Lakshmi or Saraswati. On the eighth day, a special rite is carried out in some families. A statue of goddess Mahalakshmi with the face of a rice mask, is prepared and worshiped by newly married girls. In the evening of that day, women blow into earthen or metallic pots as a form of worship to please the goddess. Everyone in the family accompanies them by chanting verses and Bhajans. The nine day festival ends with a Yagna or reading of a Hindu Holy book (Marathi:पारायण ). [38]


This Dasara festival is celebrated on the tenth day of the Ashvin month (around October) according to the Hindu Calendar. This is one of the three and a half most auspicious days in the Hindu Lunar calendar, when every moment is important. On the last day (Dasara day), the idols installed on the first day of the Navratri are immersed in water. This day also marks the victory of Rama over Ravana. People visit each other and exchange sweets. On this day, people worship the Aapta tree and exchange its leaves (known as golden leaves) and wish each other future like gold. There is a legend involving Raghuraja, an ancestor of Rama, the Aapta tree and Kuber. There is also another legend about the Shami tree where the Pandava hid their weapons during their exile.


Written in the short form of Sanskrit as 'Ko Jagarti?' (meaning 'Who is awake?'), Kojagiri is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Ashvin. It is said that on this Kojagiri night, the Goddess Lakshmi visits every house asking "Ko Jagarti?" and blesses those who are awake with fortune and prosperity. To welcome the Goddess, houses, temples, streets, etc. are illuminated. People get together on this night usually in open spaces (e.g. in gardens or on terraces) and play games until midnight. At that hour, after seeing the reflection of the full moon in milk boiled with saffron and various varieties of dry fruits, they drink the concoction. The eldest child in the household is honoured on this day.


Main article: Diwali

Diwali (Marathi:दिवाळी ) is by far the most glamorous and important festival in India. Houses are illuminated with rows of clay lamps and decorated with rangoli and aakash kandils (decorative lanterns of different shapes and sizes). Diwali is celebrated with new clothes, spectacular firecrackers and a variety of sweets in the company of family and friends. This joyous celebration is, on the whole, symbolic of dispelling the darkness of misery and bringing the light of prosperity and happiness into human life.

Kartiki Ekadashi and Tulsi Vivah[edit]

The 11th day of the month of Kartik marks the end of Chaturmas and is called Kartiki Ekadashi (also known as Prabodhini Ekadashi). On this day, Hindus, particularly the followers of Vishnu, celebrate his awakening after a Yoganidra of four months of Chaturmas. People worship him and fast for the entire day.

The same evening or the evening of the next day is marked by Tulsi Vivah (Tulshicha Lagna). The Tulsi (Holy Basil plant) is held sacred by the Hindus as it is regarded as an incarnation of Mahalaxmi who was born as Vrinda. The end of Diwali celebrations marks the beginning of Tulsi-Vivah. Maharashtrians organise the marriage of a sacred Tulsi plant in their house with Krishna. On this day the Tulsi vrindavan is coloured and decorated as a bride. Sugarcane and branches of tamarind and amla trees are planted along with the tulsi plant. Though a mock marriage, all the ceremonies of an actual Maharashtrian marriage are conducted including chanting of mantras, Mangal Ashtaka and tying of Mangal Sutra to the Tulsi. Families and friends gather for this marriage ceremony which usually takes place in the late evening. Various poha dishes are offered to Krishna and then distributed among family members and friends. This also marks the beginning of marriage season. The celebration lasts for three days and ends on Kartiki Poornima or Tripurari Poornima.

Khandoba Festival/Champa Shashthi[edit]

A six-day festival, from the first to sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month of Margashirsha, in honour of Khandoba is celebrated by many Marathi families. Ghatasthapana, similar to navaratri, also takes place in households during this festival. A number of families also hold fasts during this period. The fast ends on the sixth day of the festival called Champa Shashthi. Among some Marathi Hindu communities, the Chaturmas period ends on Champa Sashthi. As it is customary in these communities not to consume onions, garlic and egg plant (Brinjal / Aubergine) during the Chaturmas, the consumption of these food items resumes with ritual preparation of Bharit (Baingan Bharta) and rodga, small round flat breads prepared from jwari (white millet).


The eve of the Hindu festival 'Makar Sankranti' and the day before is called Bhogi. Bhogi is a festival of happiness and enjoyment and generally takes place on 13 January. It is celebrated in honour of Indra, "the God of Clouds and Rains". Indra is worshiped for the abundance of the harvest, which brings plenty and prosperity to the land. Since it is held in the winter, the main food for Bhogi is mixed vegetable curry made with carrots, lima beans, green capsicums, drumsticks, green beans and peas. Bajra roti (i.e. roti made of Pearl millet) topped with sesame as well as rice and mung dal khichadi are eaten to keep warm in winter. During this festival people also take baths with sesame seeds.

Makar Sankranti[edit]

Sankraman means the passing of the sun from one zodiac sign to the next. This day marks the sun's passage from the Tropic of Dhanu (Sagittarius) to Makar (Capricorn). Makar Sankranti falls on 14 January in non-leap years and on 15 January in leap years. It is the only Hindu festival that is based on the solar calendar rather than the Lunar calendar.

Maha Shivratri[edit]

Maha Shivratri (also known as Maha Sivaratri, Shivaratri or Sivarathri) means Great Night of Shiva or Night of Shiva. It is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the 13th night and 14th day of Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha (as per Shalivahana or Gujarati Vikrama) or Phalguna (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu Calendar, that is, the night before and day of the new moon. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of bael (bilva) leaves to Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil. Per scriptural and discipleship traditions, the penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of yoga and meditation, in order to reach life's summum bonum steadily and swiftly.


The festival of Holi falls in Falgun, the last month of the Marathi Shaka calendar. Marathi people celebrate this festival by lighting a bonfire and offering puran poli to the fire. In North India, Holi is celebrated over two days with the second day celebrated with throwing colours. In Maharashtra it is known as Dhuli Vandan. However, Maharashtrians celebrate color throwing five days after Holi on Rangpanchami.

Village Urus or Jatra[edit]

A large number of villages in Maharashtra hold their annual festivals (village carnivals) or urus in the months of January–May. These may be in the honour of the village Hindu deity (Gram devta) or the tomb (dargah) of a local Sufi Pir saint. Apart from religious observations, celebrations may include bullock-cart racing, kabbadi, wrestling tournaments, a fair and entertainment such as a lavani/tamasha show by travelling dance troupes.[39][40][41] A number of families eat meat preparations only during this period. In some villages, women are given a break from cooking and other household chores by their men folk.[42]

Festivals observed by Other Communities[edit]

Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din[edit]

On the day of Dasara, 14 October 1956 at Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhist religion publicly and gave Diksha of Buddhist religion to his more than 500,000 followers. This is believed to be the largest conversion by number of people at a single event in the history of the world. The day is celebrated as Dharmacakra Pravartan Din. The place at which this conversion ceremony happened is known as Deekshabhoomi. Every year more than million Buddhist people especially Ambedkarite from all over the world visit Diksha Bhumi on this occasion of Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din.

Christmas or Naataal (Marathi:नाताळ)[edit]

Christmas is celebrated to mark the birthday of Jesus Christ. Like in other parts of India, Christmas is celebrated with zeal by a large number of Marathi people, both Christians and non-Christians. Owing to the Portuguese influence on Maharashtra, Christmas is also known as 'Naataal', a word similar to 'Natal' used in Portuguese.


Main article: Marathi literature

Ancient Marathi Inscriptions[edit]

Marathi, also known as Suena at that time, was the court language during the reign of the Yadava Kings. Yadava king Singhania was known for his magnanimous donations. Inscriptions recording these donations are found written in Marathion on stone slabs in the temple at Kolhapur in Maharashtra. Composition of noted works of scholars like Hemadri are also found. Hemadri was also responsible for introducing a style of architecture called Hemandpanth.[4] Among the various stone inscriptions are those found at Akshi in the Kolaba district, which are the first known stone inscription in Marathi.An example found at the bottom of the statue of Gomateshwar (Bahubali) at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka bears the inscription "Chamundraye karaviyale, Gangaraye suttale karaviyale" which gives some information regarding the sculptor of the statue and the king who ordered its construction.[5]

Classical Literature[edit]

Marathi people have a long literary tradition which started in the ancient era. However, it was the 13th-century saint, Jñāneśvar who made writing in Marathi popular among the masses. His Jñānēśvarī is considered a masterpiece. Along with Jñāneśvar, Namdev was also responsible for propagating Marathi religious Bhakti literature . Namdev is also important to the Sikh tradition, since several of his compositions are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib. Eknath,[43] Sant Tukaram,[44] Mukteshwar and Samarth Ramdas were equally important figures in the 17th century. In the 18th century, writers like Vaman Pandit, Raghunath Pandit, Shridhar Pandit, Mahipati and Mororpanta produced some well-known works. All of the above-mentioned writers produced religious literature.

Modern Marathi Literature[edit]

The first English book was translated into Marathi in 1817 while the first Marathi newspaper started in 1841.[45] Many books on social reform were written by Baba Padamji (Yamuna Paryatana, 1857), Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Lokhitawadi, Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, Hari Narayan Apte (1864–1919) etc. Lokmanya Tilak's newspaper Kesari, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's newspaper Bahishkrut Bharat set up in 1927, provided a platform for sharing literary views. Marathi at this time was efficiently aided by Marathi Drama.

In the mid-1950s, the "little magazine movement" gained momentum. It published writings which were non-conformist, radical and experimental. The Dalit literary movement also gained strength due to the little magazine movement. This radical movement was influenced by the philosophy of and challenged the literary establishment, which was largely middle class, urban and upper caste. The little magazine movement threw up many excellent writers including the well-known novelist, critic and poet Bhalchandra Nemade. Dalit writer Na Dho Mahanor is well known for his work while Dr. Sharad Rane is a well-known Children's writer.[46]

Martial tradition[edit]

Although ethnic Marathis have taken up military roles for many centuries,[47] their martial qualities came to prominence in seventeenth century India, under the leadership of the legendary emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji. Shivaji carved out his independent Hindu kingdom known as the Maratha Empire, which at some point controlled practically the entire Indian subcontinent, extending over large and distant areas of the country.[48][49] It was largely an ethnic Marathi polity,[50] with its chiefs and nobles coming from the Marathi ethnicity, such as the Chhatrapatis (Maratha caste), Maharaja Holkars (Dhangar caste),[51] Peshwas (1713 onwards)(Chitpavan caste).[52] The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.[53][54] Further, they were also considered by the British as the most important native power of 18th century India.[55][56] Today this ethnicity is represented in the Indian Army, with two regiments deriving their names from Marathi communities —the Maratha Light Infantry[57] and the Mahar Regiment.[58]

Marathi Diaspora[edit]

Main article: Maharashtra Mandal

Marathi people in other Indian states[edit]

As the Maratha Empire expanded across India, the Marathi population started migrating out of Maharashtra alongside their rulers. Peshwa, Holkars, Scindia and Gaekwad dynastic leaders took with them a considerable population of priests, clerks, clergymen, army men, businessmen and workers when they emigrated. These people have settled in various parts of India along with their rulers since the 1700s. Many families belonging to these groups still follow typical Marathi traditions even though they have lived more than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Maharashtra for more than 100 years.[38]

Other people have migrated in modern times in search of jobs outside Maharashtra. These people have also settled in almost all parts of the country. They have set up Maharashtra Mandals in many cities across the country. A national level central organization, the Brihan Maharashtra Mandal was formed in 1958[59] to promote Marathi culture outside Maharasthtra. Several sister organizations of the Brihan Maharashtra Mandal have also been formed outside India.[60]

Marathi populations abroad[edit]

A group of Marathis also live in Nepal, where they have resided for around 17 generations. However, they write their surnames differently and use Maharatta, Marahata, etc.

In the 1830s, a large number of Indian people were taken to Mauritius to work on Sugarcane plantations. The majority of these migrants were Hindi speaking or from Southern India but also included a significant number of Marathis.[61][62]

Since the state of Israel was established in 1948, around 25,000-30,000 Marathi Jews have emigrated there, of which around 20,000 were from the Bene Israel community.[63]

Indians including Marathi People have migrated to Europe and particularly Great Britain for more than a century. The Maharashtra Mandal of London was founded in 1932[64]

A small number of Marathi people also settled in British East Africa during the colonial era. After the African Great Lakes countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyka gained independence from Britain, most of the South Asian population residing there, including Marathi people, migrated to the United Kingdom,[65][66][67] or India.

Large-scale immigration of Indians into the United States started when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 came into effect. Most of the Marathi immigrants who came after 1965 were professionals such as doctors, engineers or scientists. A second wave of immigration took place during the I.T. boom of the 1990s and later.

Mainly due to the I.T. boom and general ease of travel, Marathi people may be found in all corners of the world including Australia,[68] Canada,[69] Gulf countries,[70] European countries,[71] Japan and China.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]