Maratha

Maratha

Overview
The Maratha are an Indian caste, predominantly in the state of Maharashtra
Maharashtra
Maharashtra is a state located in India. It is the second most populous after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India...

. The term Marāthā has three related usages: within the Marathi speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste; outside Maharashtra it can refer to the entire regional population of Marathi-speaking people
Marathi people
The Marathi people or Maharashtrians are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, that inhabit the Maharashtra region and state of western India. Their language Marathi is part of the southern group of Indo-Aryan languages...

; historically, it describes the Maratha empire
Maratha Empire
The Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was an Indian imperial power that existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire covered much of South Asia, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million km²....

 founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century and continued by his successors, which included many
castes.

They primarily reside in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh , often called the Heart of India, is a state in central India. Its capital is Bhopal and Indore is the largest city....

, Haryana
Haryana
Haryana is a state in India. Historically, it has been a part of the Kuru region in North India. The name Haryana is found mentioned in the 12th century AD by the apabhramsha writer Vibudh Shridhar . It is bordered by Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to the north, and by Rajasthan to the west and south...

, Gujarat, Karnataka
Karnataka
Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

 and Goa
Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

.
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Encyclopedia
The Maratha are an Indian caste, predominantly in the state of Maharashtra
Maharashtra
Maharashtra is a state located in India. It is the second most populous after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India...

. The term Marāthā has three related usages: within the Marathi speaking region it describes the dominant Maratha caste; outside Maharashtra it can refer to the entire regional population of Marathi-speaking people
Marathi people
The Marathi people or Maharashtrians are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, that inhabit the Maharashtra region and state of western India. Their language Marathi is part of the southern group of Indo-Aryan languages...

; historically, it describes the Maratha empire
Maratha Empire
The Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was an Indian imperial power that existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire covered much of South Asia, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million km²....

 founded by Shivaji in the seventeenth century and continued by his successors, which included many
castes.

They primarily reside in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh , often called the Heart of India, is a state in central India. Its capital is Bhopal and Indore is the largest city....

, Haryana
Haryana
Haryana is a state in India. Historically, it has been a part of the Kuru region in North India. The name Haryana is found mentioned in the 12th century AD by the apabhramsha writer Vibudh Shridhar . It is bordered by Punjab and Himachal Pradesh to the north, and by Rajasthan to the west and south...

, Gujarat, Karnataka
Karnataka
Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

 and Goa
Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

. Those in Goa
Goa
Goa , a former Portuguese colony, is India's smallest state by area and the fourth smallest by population. Located in South West India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its...

 and neighbouring Karwar
Karwar
Karwar is the administrative headquarters of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka, India. It is a seaside town situated on the banks of the Kali river which is on the west coast of the Indian peninsula. The town lies about 15 kilometres south of the Karnataka–Goa border and 519 km north-west...

 are known specifically as Konkan Maratha
Konkan Maratha
Konkan Maratha or Konkana are Konkani-speaking Hindus claiming Kshatriya status, with their ancestral homes in Karwar, Ankola, and Goa with surnames such as Shinde/Kadams,Naik/Nayak, Rane, Kadam, Powar/Pawar, Savant/Sawant, Khalwadekar, Gaonkar, Khanvilkar, Salunke, Desai/Dessai, Phal, Sail,...

s as an affiliation to their regional and linguistic alignment. The Marathas of Indore
Indore
Indore is one of the major city in India, the largest city and commercial center of the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Indore is located 190 km west of the state capital Bhopal. According to the 2011 Indian census, Indore city has a population of 1,960,631...

 calls themselves as Dhangar
Dhangar
The Dhangar caste is primarily located in the Indian state of Maharashtra...

 Ahirs
Ahirs
Ahir is an Indian caste. The term can be used synonymously with Yadav, as the latter term refers to Ahirs who have identified as Yadavs. The major divisions of Ahirs are: Yaduvanshi, Nandvanshi, and Gwalvanshi.-Etymology:...

.

Etymology



All theories affirm, as do linguists, that the modern Marathi language has developed from the Prakrit known as Mahārāshtri
Maharashtri
Maharastri or Maharastri Prakrit, SIL: Mahārāṣṭri Prākrit , is a language of ancient and medieval India which is the ancestor of Marathi, Konkani, Sinhala and the Maldivian language as well. It is one of the many languages of a complex called Prakrit, and the chief Dramatic Prakrit...

. The words Maratha and Marathi may be a derivative of the Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 word Marhatta found in Jain Maharashtri literature, itself from Sanskrit Maharāṣhṭra. The etymology of the words "Maharashtra" is uncertain; the various theories include:
  • It derives from the Sanskrit words Maha ("great") and rāṣhṭra ("nation", "dominion")
  • Maha (Sanskrit for "great") + rashtra, derived from the name of a clan known as rashtrika (rāṣṭrika) mentioned in some of Ashoka
    Ashoka
    Ashok Maurya or Ashoka , popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from ca. 269 BC to 232 BC. One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests...

    's inscriptions. Rashtrika alludes to a people of the Deccan who were progenitors of the Marathi
    Marathi language
    Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

    -speaking people; that the later "Maharashtri Prakrit" is associated with these people
  • Maha (Sanskrit for "great") + rashtra, derived from ratta, supposedly a corruption of Rashtrakuta
    Rashtrakuta
    The Rashtrakuta Empire was a royal dynasty ruling large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and the 10th centuries. During this period they ruled as several closely related, but individual clans. Rastrakutas in inscriptions represented as descendants of Satyaki, a Yadava well known...

     (the name of a dynasty that held sway over the Deccan from the 8th to 10th centuries).
  • Maha (Sanskrit for "great") + Rathi or Ratha
    Ratha
    Ratha is the Indo-Iranian term for the spoked-wheel chariot of Antiquity.It derives from a collective to a Proto-Indo-European word for "wheel" that also resulted in Latin rota and is also known from Germanic, Celtic and Baltic...

     (charioteer)

Maratha clans



In theory, Marathas belong to one of the 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or Shahannav Kulee. The actual organization of this clan system is disputed in the popular culture and by historians. An authoritative listing was apparently first attempted in 1889 and a list finalised in 1956 by the Government of India.

Before Shivaji


The history of the Maratha caste prior to Shivaji Maharaj (1630–1680) is sparsely illuminated, although there is reference to the Marathas as the ruling class of the Deccan region in the Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

n epic texts Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
The Mahavamsa is a historical poem written in the Pali language, of the kings of Sri Lanka...

 and Dipavamsa
Dipavamsa
The Dipavamsa, or "Deepavamsa", is the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka.It means Chronicle of the Island. The chronicle is believe to be compiled from Atthakatha and other sources around the 3-4th century. Together with Mahavamsa, it is the source of many accounts of ancient history of Sri...

.

The fifth rock edict of Ashok Maurya (273 to 236 B.C.) mentions the countries of the Rashtrikas and the Aparantas who were his feudatories and to whose dominions he had sent his "Dharma Matra". The Ceylonese chronicle Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
The Mahavamsa is a historical poem written in the Pali language, of the kings of Sri Lanka...

 mentions the missions sent after the third Buddhist Council at Pataliputa - from which we know that one Rakkhita (Rashtrika) was sent to Vanavasi (afterwards the Capital of Kadamb Kingdom) and a Yona Damma Rakkhita was deputed to Apranta (North Kokan) and Maharakkhita to Maharashtra Country. In the cave temples of Maharashtra, which began to be excavated about the middle of first century BCE, we find among the list of donors princes and chiefs, who call themselves Mahabhojas and Maharathis. In the great cave temple of Kara, the lion pillar in the Court near the entrance was scooped out by a Maharathi named Agimitra. Varaha - Mihir a famous astronomer of the sixth century, used the word Maharashtra, which later came to be corrupted into Mahratta or Maratha. Hiuen-Tsang calls Pulakesi II
Pulakesi II
Pulakesin II is the most famous ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. In his reign the Chalukyas of Badami saw their kingdom extend over most of the Deccan.-Early life and accession:...

 the great Kshatriya king of Maharashtra (Mo-ho-la-cha) and describes his Maratha warriors as warriors from Mo-ho-la-cha who had hundreds of elephants which were intoxicated with liquor prior to battle and being invincible. He also goes on to say, "The king in consequences of possessing these men (The Marathas) and elephants, treats his neighbours with contempt. His plans and Undertaking are widespread, and his beneficient actions are felt over a great distance. His subjects obey him with perfect submission." Rajeshkar a Sanskrit author of the ninth century, used Marahatti (Marathi) in the feminine gender. The poet Jayamangal who lived in twelfth century, clearly defines the geographical limits of Maharashtra as follows : "Maharashtra is the name of country between the river Narmada and the province of Karnataka."

Hiuen-Tsang describes the Marathas and their country as", "This country is about 5000 li in circuit. The capital boarders on the west on a great river. It is about 30 li round. The soil is rich and fertile, it is regularly cultivated and very productive. The climate is hot, the disposition of the people is honest and simple, they are fall of stature, and of a stern, vindictive character. To their benefactor they are grateful, to their enemies relentless. If thy are insulted, they will risk their life to savage themselves. If they are asked to help one in distress, are going to seek revenge, they first give their enemy warning, then each being armed they attack each other with lances, When one turns to flee, the other pursues him, but they do not kill a man down (a person who submits). The country provides for a band of champions to the number of several hundred. Each time they are about to engage in conflict, they intoxicate themselves with wine, and then one man with lance in hand will meet ten thousand and challenges them in fight. "

A number of Rajputs and Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father Shahaji
Shahaji
Shahaji Raje Bhosle was an early exponent of guerilla warfare. He was the eldest son of Maloji Bhosale of Verul . He brought the house of Bhosle into prominence. The princely states of Tanjore, Kolhapur and Satara are Bhosle legacies...

 served the various Muslim kingdoms of the day. Shivaji's mother Jijabai
Jijabai
Jijabai was the mother of Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire.-Birth date and family life:Jijabai was born on 12 January 1598 and a daughter of Lakhoji Jadhav in present-day Buldhana district of Maharashtra State...

 was the daughter of Lakhuji Jadhav
Lakhuji Jadhav
Lakhuji Jadhav, a prominent grandee of Sindkhed Raja in the present-day Buldhana district of Maharashtra state during the 16th century. He was Jahigirdar in the court of Adil Shahi Sultans of Bijapur in thee present day Karnataka....

, a nobleman from Sindkhed Raja
Sindkhed Raja
Sindkhed Raja is a city and a municipal council in Buldhana district in the Indian state of Maharashtra.- Demographics : India census, Sindkhed Raja had a population of 13,940. Males constitute 53% of the population and females 47%. Sindkhed Raja has an average literacy rate of 65%, higher than...

. The Maratha clans and their subdivisions were also involved in fighting amongst themselves, until Jijabai started a trend toward greater Maratha unity. They also took up various other professions like writers, poets, landowners, ministers, etc.

Maratha Empire



Different Maratha (also called as Rastriks or Maha-rathis or Mahrattas) rulers during Medieval period (before twelfth century) include Satavahana
Satavahana
The Sātavāhana Empire or Andhra Empire, was a royal Indian dynasty based from Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar and Prathisthan in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward...

, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta
Rashtrakuta
The Rashtrakuta Empire was a royal dynasty ruling large parts of the Indian Subcontinent between the sixth and the 10th centuries. During this period they ruled as several closely related, but individual clans. Rastrakutas in inscriptions represented as descendants of Satyaki, a Yadava well known...

. They re-united into historical prominence under the leadership of Shivaji in the seventeenth century. Shivaji, born into the Bhosale clan of Marathas, secured an independent state by dint of lifelong struggle and thereby founded an empire, the remnants of which lasted until the independence of India in 1947. The state thus founded by Shivaji attained its zenith under the Peshwa
Peshwa
A Peshwa is the titular equivalent of a modern Prime Minister. Emporer Shivaji created the Peshwa designation in order to more effectively delegate administrative duties during the growth of the Maratha Empire. Prior to 1749, Peshwas held office for 8-9 years and controlled the Maratha army...

s in the eighteenth century, extending from the Indus
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

 in present-day Pakistan to Orissa
Orissa
Orissa , officially Odisha since Nov 2011, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April...

 in the east and from the Punjab
Punjab region
The Punjab , also spelled Panjab |water]]s"), is a geographical region straddling the border between Pakistan and India which includes Punjab province in Pakistan and the states of the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and some northern parts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi...

 to central Karnataka
Karnataka
Karnataka , the land of the Kannadigas, is a state in South West India. It was created on 1 November 1956, with the passing of the States Reorganisation Act and this day is annually celebrated as Karnataka Rajyotsava...

 in the south
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

. At its peak, the Maratha Empire established a protectorate over the Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 emperor and paramountcy over the numerous Rajput chieftains of Gujarat, Rajasthan
Rajasthan
Rājasthān the land of Rajasthanis, , is the largest state of the Republic of India by area. It is located in the northwest of India. It encompasses most of the area of the large, inhospitable Great Indian Desert , which has an edge paralleling the Sutlej-Indus river valley along its border with...

, Central India and elsewhere. This vast empire declined gradually after the Third Battle of Panipat
Third battle of Panipat
The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761, at Panipat , about 60 miles north of Delhi between a northern expeditionary force of the Maratha Confederacy and a coalition of the King of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali with 2 Indian Muslim allies—the Rohilla Afghans of the Doab, and the...

 (1761) in which Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Abdali defeated the Marathas; by 1849, all of present-day India had fallen to the British East India Company
British East India Company
The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

.

Influence


The history of the states and dynasties comprising the Maratha Empire constitutes a major portion of the history of late medieval India. While that extensive history is detailed elsewhere, the rise of the Marathas:
  • represented the revival of the political power of the Hindu
    Hindu
    Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

    s in north India
    North India
    North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

     after many centuries of Muslim rule.The Maratha Empire represented the biggest military challenge for the Mughals, and was primarily responsible for breaking the back of Mughal domination of India
  • led to the dilution of the caste system as a large number of lower castes, Brahmins and other castes fought along with them.
  • led to the modernisation of India's armed forces, as they introduced indigenously-designed and manufactured muskets (known as Gardi muskets), and modernised the Indian navy.
  • encouraged the usage of Sanskrit
    Sanskrit
    Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

     and development of the Marathi
    Marathi language
    Marathi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the Marathi people of western and central India. It is the official language of the state of Maharashtra. There are over 68 million fluent speakers worldwide. Marathi has the fourth largest number of native speakers in India and is the fifteenth most...

     language and was seminal to the consolidation of a distinct Maharashtrian
    Marathi people
    The Marathi people or Maharashtrians are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group, that inhabit the Maharashtra region and state of western India. Their language Marathi is part of the southern group of Indo-Aryan languages...

     identity.

Foreign observations


In 1798 Colonel Tone, who commanded a regiment of the Peshwa's army, wrote of the Marāthas: "The three great tribes which compose the Marātha caste are the Kunbi
Kunbi
Kunbi is a generic term applied to castes of traditionally non-elite tillers in Western India. These include the Dhonoje, Ghatole, Hindre, Jadav, Jhare, Khaire, Lewa , Lonari and Tirole communities of Vidharbha. The communities are largely found in the state of Maharashtra but also exist in the...

 or farmer, the Dhangar
Dhangar
The Dhangar caste is primarily located in the Indian state of Maharashtra...

 or shepherd, and the Gawli or cowherd; to this original cause may perhaps be ascribed that great simplicity of manner which distinguishes the Marātha people."

Maratha dynasties and states


Internal diaspora



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. Thus, there are today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants living in the north, south and west of India. These communities tend often to speak the languages of those areas, although many do also speak Marathi in addition. Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Scindia of Gwalior, Gaikwad of Baroda, Ghorpade of Mudhol, Holkar
Holkar
The Holkar dynasty , whose earliest known clan-man was Malhar Rao, who joined the service of the Peshwa in 1721, and quickly rose to the ranks of Subedar...

 of Indore
Indore
Indore is one of the major city in India, the largest city and commercial center of the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Indore is located 190 km west of the state capital Bhopal. According to the 2011 Indian census, Indore city has a population of 1,960,631...

 and Bhonsle
Bhonsle
The Bhonsle were a prominent clan within the Maratha clan system who served as rulers of several states in India.The most prominent member of the clan was Shivaji, the founder of the Maratha empire...

 of Thanjavur.

Political participation


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.

Military service


The Maratha Light Infantry
Maratha Light Infantry
The Maratha Light Infantry is a light infantry regiment of the Indian Army. It was formed as the 103rd Maharattas in 1768, making it the most senior light infantry regiment of the Army....

regiment of the Indian Army is one of the oldest and most influential regiments. Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan, was raised as far back in 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys. The Marathas came to special attention in World War I and have been awarded several medals and awards, including.

Sources

  • James Grant Duff - A History of the Mahrattas, 3 vols. London, Longmans, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green (1826) ISBN 81-7020-956-0

External links