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Maratha Empire

Origin of the Maratha Empire:

                       The Maratha Empire originated in the western Deccan plateau. Originating in the hills, they were  known for their bravery and guerrilla tactics.The influence of the Bhakti movement led by spiritual leaders like Ramdas, Waman Pandit, Tukaram and Eknath increased  religious and political unity among the Marathas.Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj played an important role in forging political unity among the Marathas.

                   Under the Deccan Sultanates, the Marathas served in significant positions  before establishing their own powerful state.Shahji Bhonsle and his son Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj established the  Maratha kingdom.The Maratha Empire  was established in the 17th century under the leadership of Shivaji.There was great rivalry between the Adil Shahi dynasty and the Mughals.Raigad was the capital  of the Maratha kingdom  .The Marathas played a major role in ending the Mughal rule.Bajirao I and his Peshwa successors took the Maratha Empire to its zenith in the early 18th century.The decline of the Maratha Empire began in the late 18th century.They were defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818) and the empire was dissolved.

Maratha Empire Rulers:

Ruler Reign
Chhatrapati  Shivaji 1674-1680
Chhatrapati Sambhaji 1681-1689
Rajaram and Tarabai 1689-1707
Shahu I 1707-1749
Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath 1718-1720
Peshwa Bajirao I 1720-1740
Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao 1740-1761
Peshwa Madhavrao I 1761-1772
Peshwa Narayana Rao 1772-1773
Peshwa Raghunathrao 1773-1774
Peshwa Madhavrao II 1774-1795
Peshwa Bajirao II 1796-1818


Shivaji Maharaj:

              Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was an important Maratha ruler.Born in 1630, Shivaji inherited the jagir of Poona.At the age of 18, he captured several hill forts  near Poona.His father was Shaji Bhonsle and his mother was Jija Bai.He conquered areas like Jawli and led successful raids on the kingdom of Bijapur.In the Battle of Pratapgarh in 1659,  Shivaji defeated Afzal Khan, the Duke of Bijapuri and capturedIn response to the Mughal invasions led by Shaista Khan, Shivaji faced massive attacks, including  the  Surat  attack of 1664.

             Despite facing Aurangzeb and Raja Jai Singhin, Shivaji  negotiated the  Treaty of Purandar in 1665.Shivaji’s visit to Agra in 1665 resulted in his  imprisonment, but he managed to escape with his son in disguise.In 1670, he again sacked Surat. Then he regained the lost territories.Shivaji was  crowned Chhatrapati in His travels to the Carnatic region, including the capture of Kinchi and Vellore, further demonstrated his military prowess.Shivaji died in Raigad in 1680,  leaving behind the powerful Maratha Empire that dominated western India for over a century.

History of the Peshwas:

                 The Maratha invasion did not stop even after the death  of Shivaji inThe Peshwa Maratha Empire is discussed below.Peshwa Baji Rao I emerged as one of the greatest Peshwas in Maratha history.Under Bajirao,  the Marathas  won 40.The expansion of the Maratha kingdom under Bajirao I  covered almost the whole of India.The victory at Peshawar established Maratha rule in India.

Sambhaji (1681 – 1689 CE):

            he was the son of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and his first wife Saibai.Sambhaji became the Chhatrapati after his father’s death  in April He was known asDharmaveer‘.he successfully led the Maratha forces against the Mughal forces of Aurangzeb for eight years.Sambhaji defeated the Portuguese and Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore .He signed  a treaty with the English in 1684 for arms .However, in 1689, Sambhaji was defeated by the Mughals and hanged at  Tulapur on 11 March.

Rajaram (1689 – 1707 CE):

                he ascended the throne of the Maratha Empire after  Sambhaji’s death in 1689.Rajaram ascended the throne with the support of the ministers of Rajgarh .In 1689, he  fled from Rajgarh to Jinji due to the Mughal invasion, which resulted  in the capture of Rajgarh and Sambhaji’s wife and son Shahu.Rajaram died in 1700  in Satara  , which became the capital after  the Mughal conquest of Jinji in 1698.

Shahu ( 1707 – 1749 CE):

               he born  on May 18, 1682, was the fifth Chhatrapati of the Maratha Empire.He was the son of Sambhaji I and Yesubai born in the Bhonsle family  .They held the title of Peshwa and virtually controlled the Maratha kingdom.Shahu was imprisoned by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb during the Siege  of Raigad when he was young and imprisoned by the Mughals.Shahu won the bloody battle of Khet and was later crowned Chhatrapati.During Shahu’s reign, the Maratha Empire significantly expanded its power and influence across northwestern, central, and western India, cementing its position as a dominant power in the region.Shahu died on December 15, 1749 .

Balaji Vishwanath Bhat (1713 – 1719 CE):

                    Balaji Vishwanath Bhat was the first lineage Peshwa from the Bhat family. The  Bhattas  are Chitpavan Brahmins from Srivardhan in the Konkan region.He played an important role in strengthening the Maratha Empire in the early 18th,He is hailed as the “second founder of Maharashtra State” for his efforts to stabilise and strengthen the empire.Along with Shahu, Balaji Vishwanath assisted the Saiyid brothers in  deposing  the Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar in 1719 CE.His son, Baji Rao, succeeded him as the Peshwa and  further expanded the Maratha Empire.

Baji Rao I. ( 1720 – 1740 CE):

                        Balaji Vishwanath’s eldest son became the Peshwa at the age of twenty and significantly expanded Maratha influence through strategic military campaigns and diplomatic efforts.Bajirao rescued Bundelkhand ruler Chhatrasal from Mughal siege.1722 CE, he captured Salset and Bassein from the Portuguese  .1728 CE, he shifted the administrative capital from Satara to Pune.He defeated the rebel Trimbak Rao Dabhade in the Battle of Dabhoi in 1731  .Bajirao played  an important role in the Maratha attack on Delhi in 1737.He propagated the idea of Hindu-pat-badshahi to gain the support of Hindu leaders against the Mughals.During his lifetime, he never lost a battleHe started the system of confederacy among the Maratha chiefs. Under this system, each Maratha chief was allotted a territory.

Balaji Baji Rao I.(1740 – 1761 CE):

                  he popularly known as Nana Saheb I, served as  the 8th Peshwa of the  Maratha confederacy  from 1740  to,Balaji Baji Rao I . He  succeeded his father as the Peshwa at the age of nineteen.In 1752 CE,  the Peshwa concluded a treaty with the Mughal Emperor.The boundaries of the Maratha Empire expanded under his rule to  include areas such as Peshawar, Srirangapatna and Medinipur.He undertook significant infrastructure projects, including the construction of canals, bridges, temples, and lodges throughout the empire.

               Balaji Baji Rao subdued major powers such as the Mughals, the Nizam and the Bengal Sultanate  during his reign.He also  weakened Afghan control over Punjab, protected Delhi from repeated invasions, subdued Rajputs and Rohillas,  and neutralized the state of Oudh.The Marathas fought bravely in the Third Battle of Panipat when Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded India. However,  the Marathas were defeated  and many Maratha leaders and thousands of soldiers died in the battle. Balaji Baji Rao also died after  hearing the tragic end of the war.

Madhav Rao (1761 – 1772 CE):

             He was a great Peshwa who regained the lost territories of the Maratha,During his reign, semi-independent states such as Holkars, Scindias, and Gaekwads (Khekwars) were created.It is referred to as the “Maratha revival” due to the resurgence of the Maratha confederacy during  the reign of Madhavrao.He defeated the Nizam, paid homage to Hyder Ali (Mysore),  and  reasserted control of northern India by defeating the Rohillas and subjugating the  Rajput states and Jat chiefs.

Narayan Rao (1772 – 1773 CE):

   he born on August 10, 1755, served as the 10th Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy  .He assumed office in  November 1772 and he was murdered on the orders of 1773 CE Raghunath Rao.Narayan Rao’s reign as the Peshwa was short-lived, marked by internal strife and political intrigues.

Raghunath Rao (c. 1773 – 1774 CE):

      Narayan Rao, born on August 10, 1755, served as the 10th Peshwa of the Maratha Confederacy  .1772 – 1773 CE was a  struggle for power between Raghunath Rao  and Narayan Rao.He usurped the throne, but was overthrown by the emperor.

Madhavrao II (1774 – 1795 CE):

 he also known as Sawai Madhav Rao, was the 12th Peshwa of the Maratha Empire  and was the  son of Narayan Rao, who was just 40 days old when  he was crowned Peshwa  .

   He rose to that position as a child following the assassination of  his father Narayanrao Peshwa  in 1773 on the orders  of Raghunath Rao.Nana Phadnavis, an able administrator and warrior, administered the empire with the Barbai Council.Raghunath Rao sought British help, which led to the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775 – 1782).

   Nana Fadnavis secured victory for the Marathas in the Battle of Talegaon (1776) and negotiated the Treaty of Purandar (1776) and the Treaty of Salbai ( 1782).  These treaties remained as they stand, but granted salcet to the British and renounced Raghunath Rao’s

Baji Rao II. (1796 – 1818 CE):

                he was the  last Peshwa of the Maratha confederacy that  ruled  from 1795 to 1818.He was essentially a puppet ruler, founded by powerful Maratha nobles.Faced with the growing influence of the Marathas, he left Poona and signed the Treaty of Basin with the British in 1802  .The treaty led to the Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805), which ended in a British victory and he was again appointed an overhead ruler.However, he later joined the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817) and opposed the British as they sided with the Gaekwad nobles in the revenue sharing dispute.Defeated by the British, he surrendered and received an estate at Bithoor in  return an annual pension.Baji Rao II’s son, Nana Sahib (Dhondu Pant), participated in the 1857 revolt against British rule, notably.

Relations of the Maratha Empire with the Mughals:

     Shah Jahan initially tried to ally with the Marathas, but  turned  against them after Shahji, Shivaji’s father, resigned,  and sided with the  Kingdom of Bijapur.Aurangzeb’s attempts to join  Shivaji in 1657 failed due to Shivaji’s Dabol and Adil Shahi Konkan demands.

  • In 1660, Aurangzeb sent Shaista Khan to invade the Maratha territories, resulting  in the  conquest of Poona and northern Konkan.Shivaji’s daring night raid  in 1663 severely wounded Shaista Khan,  shattering Mughal prestige,   followed by the capture of the Mughal port of Surat in  1664.
  • Aurangzeb appointed Mirza Raja Jai Singh as the viceroy of the Deccan after defeating Shivaji at Purandram in 1665 .Treaty of Purandar (1665) Shivaji retained some territories in Bijapur and surrendered 23 forts to the Mughals  .Shivajis son was inducted into the Mughal army  as a mansabdar of 5,000.
  • Shivaji‘s imprisonment in  Agra in 1665, which  led to  his escape in 1666, sparked tensions with the Mughals.Shivaji’s retaliation led to the  Battle of Singghat in 1670  and  the  recapture of Surat  port in 1670,  followed by the recovery of most of the forts in the next four years.
  • The Battle of Salhar in 1672 marked the Maratha victories on the open battlefield against the Mughals  .Shivaji assumed the title of Chhatrapati in 1674  and crowned himself king.

Maratha War:Maratha Empire

                      The Marathas excelled in warfare, using light cavalry, artillery, and hill forts for attack and defensive tactics.With the help of European mercenaries, especially French and British advisers, they improved their military capabilities over time.Women are not uncommon in the Maratha forces  and often  participate as fighters using guns, swords, and cavalry.

First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782):

           Warren Hastings, who had been appointed Governor General, led direct attacks against the Marathas, but the EIC  was defeated  at the Battle of Vadgaon in 1779.The war ended with the Treaty of Salbai  in May 1782, marking a period of peace between the EIC and the Marathas.

Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805):

                    Following the Treaty of Basain in 1802, which  made the Peshwa a subsidiary ally of  the EIC, tensions escalated,  leading to the Second Anglo-Maratha.The EIC gains in the Battle of Assay and the Battle of Laswari  significantly weakened the Maratha confederacy. The  war ended with the Treaty of Rajpurghat.Despite minor Maratha conquests, the EIC emerged as the dominant power in India, controlling vast territories.

Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1819):

           The political intervention of the EIC  and the  conflict over  the Pindari attacks  culminated in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.The EIC decisively defeated the Maratha princes,  leading to the dissolution of the Maratha confederacy and the end of Maratha domination.Baji Rao II was the last Peshwa, pensioned, and the Maratha princes became subject to sub-alliances,  cementing EIC control over India.

Administration of Maratha Empire:

Central Administration of Maratha Empire:

  • It was a centralized monarchy in which the king headed affairs.
  • Ashtapradhan: Shivaji’ s Council of 8
    1. Sari-i-Naubat (Senapati): Commander-in-Chief.
    2. Peshwa: Responsibility of finance and administration.
    3. Tabeer: Foreign Secretary.
    4. Panditarao: Head of the Church.
    5. Niyatish: Chief Justice.
    6. Amatya: Responsible for receipts and expenses.
    7. Tsurunavis or Chitnis: The King’s assistance in official correspondence.
    8. Wagenavis: Responsible for personal and family affairs.

Provincial Administration of Maratha Empire:

               Provincial administration under the Deccani and Mughal systems was used by the Marathas.Brandsà Darfsà Pargana à Villages.Shivaji reorganised and renamed the provinces called Bronds with a subedar.Sarsubedars supervised subedars in many brands .Tarfs, smaller than brands,  were led by a havaldar.Deshpande managed records at the pargana level, while the Deshmukhs handled legal and police matters.In urban areas there were kotwals as police officers, while  in rural areas there  were faujdars.

Military Administration of Maratha Empire:

                                          Shivaji’s army was highly organised with infantry, cavalry and navy.The chiefs and military commanders received jagir grants .The regular standing army, called the Bagha, consisted of 30,000  to 40,000 cavalry  supervised by the havaldars.The Maratha cavalry consisted of two divisions: the Barkirs (fitted and paid by the state), and the  Siladars, (maintained by the nobles).The Marathas are known for their guerrilla warfare and  innovative weapons like Bagh Naka (tiger claw).Shivaji established a powerful,The forts were administered by three officers (Sabnis, Khardadar, and Sar-i-Naubat) for supervision.The military line consisted of  Nayak  (  Small Infantry Division Chief),  Havaldar (Chief of  Five Nayaks), Jumleddar (Chief of  Two to Three Havaldars), Hazari  (Chief of Ten Jamledars), and Sarnobat (Senapati).

Decline of the Maratha Empire:

             The British East India Company initially gained control of eastern India.The British targeted the northern part, which was mostly ruled by the Marathas.General Lake led the  English forces to victory in the Battle of Delhi  in,The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1805) resulted in treaties favourable to the British.The second Peshwa Baji Rao was eventually overthrown by the British during the Third Anglo-Maratha War, leading to the downfall of the Maratha Empire.

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