Rise of Marathas in the 17th Century

  • From 1674 to 1818, the Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was an Indian imperial force. The empire sheltered much of India at its apex, comprising more than 2.8 million squre KM of land. The Mughal Empire in India was brought to an end by the Marathas.
  • The Marathas were a yeoman warrior group from the western Deccan who rose to prominence during the Adil Shahi dynasty and the Sultanate of Ahmadnagar.
  • Shivaji Bhosle, who publicly declared himself Chhatrapati (“Emperor”) with Raigad as his capital in 1674 and successfully challenged the Mughal Empire, establishing the empire.
  • From 1681 until 1707, the Maratha Empire fought the Mughals for 27 years, making it the longest war in Indian history. Shivaji was the first to adopt “Shiva sutra” or Ganimi Kava (guerrilla tactics) to beat his larger and more powerful opponents, relying on numbers, speed, surprise, and a focused attack. The Thanjavur Maratha kingdom was formed by Venkoji, Shivaji’s younger half-brother.
  • After Aurangzeb’s death, Shahu, Shivaji’s grandson, was liberated by the Mughals. Shahu became ruler after a brief fight with his aunt Tarabai. During this time, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath Bhat and later his heirs as Peshwas, or Maratha Empire prime ministers.
  • Following the demise of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the Peshwas expanded the realm significantly. At its height, the empire spanned Tamil Nadu in the south, Peshawar (modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghan border in the north, and Bengal and the Andaman Islands in the east.
  • The Maratha army was defeated by Abdali’s Afghan Durrani Empire in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, putting an end to their imperial ambition. Young Madhavrao Peshwa, ten years after Panipat, restored Maratha authority in North India.
  • In order to successfully rule the vast kingdom, he granted semi-autonomy to the most powerful knights, resulting in the formation of a Maratha confederacy. Gaekwads of Baroda, Holkars of Indore and Malwa, Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, and Bhonsales of Nagpur became household names.
  • The British East India Company intervened in a series of squabbles in Pune in 1775, resulting in the First Anglo-Maratha War. The Marathas remained India’s most powerful force until their loss in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha wars (1805–1818), which handed control of the country to the British East India Company.
  • The coastline, which had been controlled by a powerful navy under commanders like Knhj ngré, made up a substantial part of the Maratha empire. He was exceedingly successful in keeping enemy naval ships at bay, especially those of the Portuguese and the British. The Maratha’s dubious strategy and regional military history included securing coastal locations and constructing land-based fortresses.
Maratha Empire
Maratha Empire

Brief History

  • Shivaji legally acknowledged an independent Hindu Maratha kingdom in 1674 when he named himself Chhatrapati with Raigad as its capital, after a career of guerrilla warfare with the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur and Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Shivaji died in 1680, leaving a massive kingdom in his wake. The Mughals entered soon after Shivaji’s death, and fought a futile 27-year war from 1681 to 1707.
  • Shahu, Shivaji’s grandson, ruled as Emperor till 1749. Under certain circumstances, Shahu named the first Peshwa as the head of the administration during his rule. From 1749 until 1761, after Shahu’s death, the Peshwas ruled the Maratha Empire as de facto rulers, while Shivaji’s heirs ruled as titular kings from Satara.
  • The Maratha Empire, which spanned most of the subcontinent, kept the British at bay throughout the 18th century, until the Third Battle of Panipat, after which the Marathas never fought as a unified entity again.
  • Under Shahu and Peshwa Baji Rao I, the Maratha Empire reached its pinnacle in the 18th century. Losses at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 halted the empire’s development in the north-west and reduced the Peshwas’ control.
  • After suffering heavy casualties in the Panipat war in 1761, the Peshwas began to lose control of the realm. Shinde, Holkar, Gaikwad, Pant Pratinidhi, Bhosale of Nagpur, and Pandit of Bhor, Patwardhan were among the Maratha Empire’s military chiefs who began to work toward their aim of becoming independent kings in their own districts. Though, ten years after the battle of Panipat, Maratha rule in North India was restored under Madhavrao Peshwa.
  • Following Madhavrao’s death, the empire disintegrated into a loose Confederacy, with political power concentrated in a ‘pentarchy’ of five mostly Maratha dynasties:
    • the Peshwas of Pune,
    • the Sindhias (originally “Shinde”) of Malwa and Gwalior,
    • the Holkars of Indore,
    • the Bhonsles of Nagpur, and
    • the Gaekwads of Baroda.
  • The confederation’s affairs were dominated by a rivalry between Sindhia and Holkar into the early nineteenth century, as were battles with the British and the British East India Company in the three Anglo-Maratha Wars.
  • The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818. Although most of the ancient Maratha Empire was absorbed by British India, several Maratha provinces remained British vassals until India’s independence in 1947.
marathas empire family tree

The Bhosle Era (1674–1749)

Shivaji Maharaj

  • Shivaji was a Bhosle clan Maratha aristocrat who built the Maratha empire. Shivaji staged a revolt to reclaim Hindavi Swarajya and free the Maratha people from the Sultanate of Bijapur (“self-rule of Hindu people”).
  • He established an independent Maratha kingdom with Vedant Raigad as its capital and successfully defended his country against the Mughals. In 1674, he was crowned as the Maratha empire’s Chhatrapati (“Sovereign”).


  • Sambhaji and Rajaram were Shivaji’s two sons. The oldest son, Sambhaji, was extremely popular among the courtiers. Sambhaji was king in 1681 and continued his father’s expansionist policies. Sambhaji had previously vanquished the Portuguese and Mysore’s Chikka Deva Raya.
  • In 1681, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb travelled south to dismantle any Rajput-Maratha alliance as well as the Deccan Sultanates. He proceeded to conquer the whole Maratha Empire, as well as the sultanates of Bijapur and Golconda, with his entire imperial court, administration, and an army of over 500,000 warriors.
  • Sambhaji led the Marathas for the next eight years, never losing a battle or a fort to Aurangzeb. Except for an occurrence in early 1689, Aurangzeb had almost lost the campaign.
  • Sambhaji convened a strategic council at Sangameshwar with his commanders to plan the last assault on the Mughal soldiers. When Sambhaji was escorted by a few soldiers, Ganoji Shirke and Aurangzeb’s commander, Mukarrab Khan, attacked Sangameshwar in a painstakingly planned operation.
  • On February 1, 1689, Mughal forces ambushed and kidnapped Sambhaji. He was taken to Bahadurgad with his counsellor, Kavi Kalash. On March 11, 1689, Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash were killed for insurrection against the (Mughal) Empire.

Rajaram and Tarabai

  • Rajaram, Sambhaji’s half-brother, ascended to the throne after his death. He had to withstand the siege of Raigad, his seat of government, by the Mughal army. Rajaram, on the other hand, was able to run to Vishalgad and then to Ginge for refuge.
  • From there, Maratha commanders such as Santaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav, Parshuram Pant Pratinidhi, Shankaraji Narayan Sacheev, and Melgiri Pandit assaulted Mughal territory and regained various forts. Rajaram proposed a truce in 1697, but it was rejected by Aurangzeb.
  • Rajaram died in Sinhagad in the year 1700. Tarabai, his widow, took power in the name of her son Ramaraja (Shivaji II). Then Tarabai led the Marathas against the Mughals, crossing the Narmada River and entering Malwa, which was then under Mughal control.
  • The Battle of Malwa was a major victory for the Maratha Empire. The Mughals’ eminence on the Indian subcontinent was irreversibly lost, and successive Mughal emperors were only nominal rulers.
  • After a long and bloody conflict, the Marathas appeared to be triumphant. The warriors and commanders who fought in this conflict were responsible for the Maratha Empire’s true expansion. The victory also laid the groundwork for eventual imperial conquests under the Peshwas.
  • Under the supervision and support of Shivaji, Ramchandra Pant Amatya Bawdekar climbed from the ranks of a local Kulkarni to the levels of Ashtapradhan. Rajaram granted Pant the title of “Hukumat Panha” (King Status) before fleeing the Maratha Empire in 1689.
  • Ramchandra Pant was in charge of the entire state during a period marked by influxes of Mughals, betrayal by Vatandars (local satraps of the Maratha kingdom), and societal difficulties such as food scarcity.
  • Sachiv managed to keep the Maratha Empire’s economic situation under check with the support of Pantpratinidhi. He wrote Adnyapatra, in which he explains various battle strategies, fort maintenance, and administration, among other things.


  • Shahuji, the son of Sambhaji (and grandson of Shivaji), was released by Bahadur Shah I, the next Mughal emperor, after Aurangzeb’s death in 1707.
    • To guarantee that Shahuji followed the Mughal release conditions, the Mughals made him a vassal of the Mughal emperor and held his mother as a Mughal hostage.
    • Following his release, Shahu claimed the Maratha throne and challenged his aunt Tarabai and her son to a duel.
    • The now-sputtering Mughal Maratha conflict was quickly turned into a three-cornered battle. Because of a succession conflict over the Maratha throne, the principalities of Satara and Kolhapur were formed in 1707.
    • By 1710, the existence of two independent principalities had been established, which was later confirmed by the Treaty of Warna in 1731.
  • Furrukhsiyar named himself Mughal Emperor in 1713. His bid for power was mainly reliant on two brothers, known as the Saiyids, one of whom was governor of Allahabad and the other of Patna. The brothers did, however, have a quarrel with the Emperor.
    • The Saiyids and Peshwas bordered the negotiations. A civilian representative of Shahu, Balaji Vishwanath, dragged the Marathas into the Mughal emperor’s vendetta.
  • In 1714, an army of Marathas led by Parsoji Bhosale marched unchallenged up to Delhi and supervised the deposition of the Mughal ruler.
    • Balaji Vishwanath managed the negotiation of a large treaty in exchange for this assistance. In the Deccan, Shahuji would have to accept Mughal sovereignty, provide forces for the imperial army, and pay an annual tribute.
      • In exchange, he got a farman, or imperial order, promising him Swaraj, or freedom, in the Maratha homeland, as well as rights to chauth and sardeshmukh (amounting to 35 percent of total revenue) throughout Gujarat, Malwa, and the Mughal Deccan’s now six provinces. Yesubai, Shahuji’s mother, was also freed from Mughal captivity as a result of this deal.
  • Raghuji Bhosale expanded the kingdom in the East during Shahu’s reign, reaching present-day Bangladesh. Senapati Dabhade grew in the west.
    • The North was expanded by Peshwa Bajirao and his three chiefs, Pawar (Dhar), Holkar (Indore), and Scindia (Gwalior).
    • All of these houses became hereditary, eroding the king’s authority over time.

The Peshwa Era (1749 to 1761)

  • Peshwas from the Bhat family ruled the Maratha army during this time and ultimately became the hereditary rulers of the Maratha Empire from 1749 to 1818. The Maratha empire reached its pinnacle during their reign, dominating most of the Indian Subcontinent.
  • Prior to 1700, a Peshwa may hold the position of imperial regent for up to eight years. With the support of Sardars like Holkar, Scindia, Bhosale, and Gaekwad, they supervised the greatest growth of the Maratha Empire around 1760. (Dhane).
  • Other generals involved in the expansion included Pantpratinidhi, Panse, Vinchurkar, Pethe, Raste, Phadke, Patwardhan, Pawar, Pandit, Purandare, and Mehendale. In 1818, the British East India Company annexed the peshwa-controlled regions.

Baji Rao I

  • After Balaji Vishwanath’s death in April 1720, Chattrapati Shahu installed his son, Baji Rao I, as Peshwa. Shahu had a keen sense of potential and was responsible for a social revolution by putting capable people in positions of power, regardless of their social class. This was a sign of the Maratha Empire’s high social mobility, which enabled its fast expansion.
  • Baji Rao Vishwanath Bhatt, popularly known as Baji Rao I, was a famous general who served as Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Maratha Chhatrapati (Emperor) Shahu from 1720 until his death in 1740. He never lost a combat in his entire life. He is credited with increasing the Maratha Empire, which peaked twenty years after his death in the north.
  • Peshwa Bajirao is said to have fought in over 41 wars and never lost one. The Conflict of Palkhed was a field battle that took place on February 28, 1728, near the village of Palkhed, Maharashtra, India, between Baji Rao I and the Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad. The Nizam was beaten by the Marathas. The battle is regarded as an example of great military strategy implementation.
  • The Marathas and Portuguese rulers of Vasai, a village near Bombay in modern-day Maharashtra, India, fought the Battle of Vasai flanked by each other. The Marathas were led by Chimaji Appa, Peshwa Baji Rao I’s brother. The triumph of the Marathas in this conflict was a notable accomplishment of Baji Rao I’s reign.

Balaji Baji Rao

  • Balaji Bajirao (Nanasaheb), Baji Rao’s son, was appointed as a Peshwa by Shahuji. Between 1741 and 1745, the Deccan experienced a period of relative peace. Shahuji died in 1749, leaving authority to Peshwa on the condition that the dignity of Shivaji’s house be preserved, as well as the wellbeing of his subjects.
  • In 1740, the Maratha armies descended on Arcot and defeated Dost Ali, the Nawab of Arcot, in the Damalcherry Pass. Dost Ali, one of his sons, Hasan Ali, and a number of significant figures perished in the ensuing conflict. This early accomplishment immediately raised the Maratha’s status in the south.
  • The Marathas travelled to Arcot from Damalcherry. It didn’t put up much of a fight and surrendered to them. In December 1740, Raghuji invaded Trichinopoly. Chanda Saheb, unable to resist, surrendered the fort to Raghuji on Ram Navami, 14 March 1741. Chanda Saheb and his son were apprehended and taken to Nagpur for questioning.
Following the successful Karnatak campaign and the Battle of Trichinopolly,
  • Raghuji made his way back from Karnatak. From 1741 until 1748, he went on six missions to Bengal. Raghuji was able to permanently annex Odisha to his kingdom by taking advantage of the chaos that erupted in Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha following the death of their Governor Murshid Quli Khan in 1727.
  • Bengal and sections of Bihar were economically devastated after being tormented by the Bhonsles in Odisha or Cuttack. In 1751, Alivardi Khan, Nawab of Bengal, reached an agreement with Raghuji, relinquishing Cuttack up to the Subarnarekha River in perpetuity and agreed to pay Rs.1.2 million annually in lieu of the Chauth of Bengal and Bihar.
  • The minor Chhattisgad states of Raipur, Ratanpur, Bilaspur, and Sambalpur were seized by Bhaskar Ram and placed under the command of Mohansingh, Raghuji’s illegitimate son. Raghuji had conquered all of Berar by the conclusion of his career, as well as the Gond kingdoms of Devgad, comprising Nagpur, Gadha-Mandla, and Chandrapur, the Suba of Cuttack, and the lesser states flanking Nagpur and Cuttack.
  • Nanasaheb promoted agriculture, provided protection to the peasants, and improved the state of the territory significantly. Raghunath Rao, Nanasaheb’s brother, pushed into the region following the Afghan withdrawal following Ahmed Shah Abdali’s conquest of Delhi in 1756.
  • In August 1757, the Maratha force led by Raghunath Rao defeated the Afghan garrison in the Battle of Delhi. The groundwork for the Maratha invasion of Northwest India was set here. The Marathas were now prominent players in Lahore, just as they were in Delhi.
Raghoba’s letter to Peshwa Balaji Bajirao, 4 May 1758:
  • Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subhas on this side of Attock are under our rule for the most part, and places which have not come under our rule we shall soon bring under us.
    • Ahmad Shah Durrani’s son Timur Shah Durrani and Jahan Khan have been pursued through our troops, and their troops totally looted. Both of them have now reached Peshawar with a few broken troops.
    • So Ahmad Shah Durrani has returned to Kandahar with some 12–14 thousand broken troops. Therefore all have risen against Ahmad who has lost control in excess of the region. We have decided to extend our rule up to Kandahar.
  • The Marathas seized Peshawar on May 8, 1758, defeating Afghan soldiers in the Battle of Peshawar. In 1759, the Marathas, led by Sadashivrao Bhau (also known as the Bhau or Bhao in sources), sent a large force to North India in response to news of the Afghans’ return.
    • Some Maratha forces under Holkar, Scindia, Gaikwad, and Govind Pant Bundele bolstered Bhau’s force. In August 1760, a joint force of over 100,000 regular troops retook Delhi, the erstwhile Mughal capital, from an Afghan garrison.
    • Previous attacks had turned Delhi to ashes on multiple occasions, and there was a severe lack of supplies in the Maratha camp.
    • Bhau ordered the sacking of the city, which was already deserted. Vishwasrao, his nephew and the Peshwa’s son, is claimed to have been his plan for the Mughal throne. With the fall of the Nizam in the Deccan in 1760, Maratha power reached its pinnacle, with a territory of over 2,800,000 km2 acres.
  • Ahmad Shah Durrani, then known as Rohillas, enlisted the help of the Nawab of Oudh to drive away the ‘infidel’ Marathas from Delhi. On 14 January 1761, vast armies of Muslim soldiers and Marathas clashed in the Third Battle of Panipat. The Maratha army was defeated in the conflict that put an end to imperial expansion. The Marathas were opposed by the Jats and Rajputs. Their absence from the subsequent conflict was critical to its outcome.
  • The Marathas had enraged the Jats and Rajputs by imposing heavy taxes on them, punishing them for fighting the Mughals, and meddling in their internal affairs.
    • The Marathas were abandoned by Raja Suraj Mal of Bharatpur and the Rajputs, who left the Maratha alliance at Agra before the start of the great battle and withdrew their troops, because Maratha general Sadashivrao Bhau refused to heed the advice to leave soldier’s families (women and children) and pilgrims at Agra and not take them to the battle field with the soldiers. Their supply chains, which had previously been guaranteed by Raja Suraj Mal and Rajputs, did not exist.

The Confederacy era (1761–1818)

  • Several chiefs and statesmen became de facto rulers during this time. The Peshwa was demoted to a supporting role. After the death of Peshwa Madhavrao I, he also became a ceremonial king.
  • Despite his fragile health, youthful Madhavrao Peshwa attempted to rebuild the empire following the battle of Panipat in 1761, and restored Maratha control in most of North India 10 years later. Semi-autonomy was granted to the strongest of the knights in order to successfully oversee the vast dominion. As a result, the semi-autonomous Maratha states arose in far-flung corners of the empire:
    • Peshwas of Pune
    • Gaekwads of Baroda
    • Puars (or Pawars) of Dewas & Dhar
    • Holkars of Indore and Malwa
    • Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain
    • Bhonsales of Nagpur (no blood relation with Shivaji’s or Tarabai’s family)
    • Even in the Maharashtra itself several knights were given semiautonomous charges of small districts, which led to princely states like Sangli, Aundh, Bhor, Bawda, Phaltan, Miraj etc. Pawars of Udgir were also part of confederacy.
  • Mahadaji Shinde was the Maratha ruler of the central Indian state of Gwalior. Mahadaji played a key role in restoring Maratha supremacy following the defeat at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, rising to become a trusted lieutenant of both the Peshwa, the Maratha Empire’s ruler, and Mughal king Shah Alam II.
  • He took full advantage of the British neutrality policy to restore Maratha supremacy in Northern India. Benoît de Boigne, who boosted Sindhia’s regular forces to three brigades, aided him in this. Sindhia rose to prominence in northern India as a result of these forces.
  • Feudal lords such as the Malwa sardars, the landlords of Bundelkhand, and the Rajput kingdoms of Rajasthan grew in power and refused to pay tribute to Mahadji. As a result, he dispatched an army to conquer states including Bhopal, Datiya, Chanderi (1782), Narwar, Salbai, and Gohad. After the inconclusive Battle of Lalsot in 1787, he led an expedition against the Raja of Jaipur, but withdrew.
  • Chhatar Singh, the Jat ruler of Gohad, held the strong fort of Gwalior during the time. Mahadji besieged and seized the fort of Gwalior in 1783. Gwalior’s administration was transferred to Khanderao Hari Bhalerao. Mahadji Shinde turned his focus to Delhi after celebrating the capture of Gwalior.
  • Ten years after the collapse of Maratha power in North India, in early 1771, Mahadji recovered Delhi after the Third Battle of Panipat and placed Shah Alam II as the Mughal throne’s puppet king. receiving the title of deputy Vakil-ul-Mutlak or vice-regent of the Empire in exchange, and the title of Vakil-ul-Mutlak being conferred on the Peshwa at his request.
    • He was also given the title of Amir-ul-Amara by the Mughals (head of the amirs). Sikh sardars and other Rajas of the cis-Sutlej region paid tribute to Mahadji, who governed the Punjab as a Mughal province.
  • From March 1786 to March 1787, the Marathas under the direction of Tukojirao Holkar (the adopted son of Malharrao Holkar) and Tipu Sultan battled in the Battle of Gajendragad, in which Tipu Sultan was defeated by the Marathas. The Maratha territory’s border was extended to the Tungabhadra river as a result of the victory in this fight.
  • Mahadji’s soldiers defeated Ismail Beg, a Mughal lord who stood up to the Marathas, in 1788. Ismail Beg’s ally, Rohilla leader Ghulam Kadir, seized control of Delhi, the Mughal dynasty’s capital, and ousted and blinded King Shah Alam II, putting a puppet on the throne.
    • On October 2, Mahadji intervened, seizing Delhi and reinstating Shah Alam II to the throne while also acting as his bodyguard. On 20 June 1790, Mahadji dispatched Benoît de Boigne to crush the soldiers of Jaipur at Patan, and on 10 September 1790, the armies of Marwar at Merta.
  • Mahadji’s victory over the Nizam of Hyderabad’s troops in a fight was another of his achievements.
    • After this conflict, the Nizam was no longer a factor in north Indian affairs, and it mostly restricted itself to the Deccan. Following the ceasefire with Tipu Sultan of Mysore in 1792, Mahadji successfully used his authority to prevent the signing of a treaty directed against Tipu that was flanked by the British, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Peshwa.

Maharaja Yashwantrao Holkar

  • The flight of Peshwa after the Battle of Poona placed Yashwantrao Holkar in charge of the Maratha state administration. On March 13, 1803, he named Amrutrao as Peshwa and travelled to Indore. The new rule was approved by everybody save the Gaikwad chief of Baroda, who had already accepted British protection through a separate treaty signed on July 26, 1802. In 1805, he signed a treaty with the British that met his objectives.
  • In addition, Yashwant-Rao was successful in resolving conflicts with Scindia and the Peshwa. His fights were among the most extraordinary in Indian military history, and the title bestowed upon him by the Mughal Emperor elevated him to a significant place among India’s rulers.
  • He attempted to bring the Maratha Confederacy together. He was as good at organising as he was at fighting. The army’s many branches were organised on a solid military foundation.
    • He is one of the most accomplished military strategists who has ever walked on Indian soil. His military genius, political savviness, and indefatigable work ethic were all gilded by his epic successes.
    • He was, without a question, the greatest and most romantic character in Indian history. Yashwant Rao Holkar came to power from obscurity entirely due to his own personal tenacity and spirit of adventure.
    • His personality was so powerful that no state or authority dared to attack his land during those turbulent times, and this power kept the Holkar State secure for several years after his death.

British Intervention

  • The British East India Company interfered in a succession of thrashings in Pune on favour of Raghunathrao (also known as Raghobadada) in 1775, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War, from its base in Bombay.
    • This came to an end in 1782, when the pre-war status quo was restored. In the battle of Vadgaon, the Marathas led by Tukojirao Holkar and Mahadaji Shinde defeated the British.
    • The British intervened in Baroda in 1802 to defend the heir to the throne against competing claimants, and they signed a treaty with the new Maharaja, recognising his independence from the Maratha Empire in exchange for his recognition of British supremacy.
    • A similar peace was signed by Peshwa Baji Rao II during the Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803–1805).
  • Yashwantrao Holkar was crowned King in 1799, and he conquered Ujjain. He began campaigning in the north in order to expand his kingdom there.
    • Yashwant Rao was an outspoken critic of Peshwa Baji Rao II’s policies. He marched towards Pune, the Peshwa capital, in May 1802. The Peshwa were defeated in the Battle of Poona as a result of this.
    • The flight of Peshwa after the Battle of Poona placed Yashwantrao Holkar in charge of the Maratha state administration.
    • On March 13, 1803, he named Amrutrao as Peshwa and travelled to Indore. The new rule was approved by everybody save the Gaikwad chief of Baroda, who had already accepted British protection through a separate treaty signed on July 26, 1802.
    • In 1805, he signed a treaty with the British that met his objectives. In addition, Yashwant-Rao was successful in resolving conflicts with Scindia and the Peshwa. He attempted, but failed, to unite the Maratha Confederacy.
  • The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818), a last-ditch attempt to reclaim sovereignty, ultimately resulted in Maratha independence being lost, leaving the British in control of most of India.
    • As a British pensioner, the Peshwa was exiled to Bithoor (Marat, near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh). With the exception of the states of Kolhapur and Satara, which kept local Maratha kings, the Maratha stronghold of Desh, including Pune, came under direct British rule.
    • The Maratha-ruled states of Gwalior, Indore, and Nagpur all lost land and were absorbed into the British Raj as princely states with internal autonomy under British ‘paramountcy.’ Under the British Raj, other tiny princely realms of Maratha knights were also kept.
  • All of the Maratha powers surrendered to the British at the end of the war, resulting in the Treaty of Gwailor on November 5, 1817.
    • Shinde agreed to aid the British fight the Pindaris in exchange for the submission of Rajasthan.
    • Holkar was defeated on December 21, 1817, and on January 6, 1818, he signed the Treaty of Mandeswar.
    • The Holkar state became a British colony as a result of this treaty. Malhar Rao, a youthful prince, was elevated to the throne.
    • On November 26, 1817, Bhonsle was defeated and captured, but he managed to flee to Jodhpur and live out his days there.
    • The Peshwa surrendered on June 3, 1818, and were transferred to Bithur, near Kanpur, in accordance with the terms of the treaty.
    • Karim Khan, one of the Pindari chiefs, surrendered to Malcolm in February 1818, Wasim Mohammad surrendered to Shinde and afterwards poisoned himself, and Setu was murdered by a tiger.
  • Under the aegis of the British East India Company, the British gained control of practically all of modern-day India south of the Sutlej River.
    • The fabled Nassak Diamond was acquired as part of the war’s spoils by the Company.
    • The British took significant swaths of land from the Maratha Empire, thereby putting an end to their most ferocious foe.
    • The conditions of surrender Malcolm provided the Peshwa were criticised by the British as being overly liberal:
      • the Peshwa was promised a luxury existence near Kanpur and a pension of almost 80,000 pounds.
    • Napoleon, who was imprisoned on a small rock in the south Atlantic and given a meagre stipend for his upkeep, was compared.
    • After the war, Trimbakji Dengale was caught and brought to the Bengal fortress of Chunar, where he spent the remainder of his life.
    • With all active resistance exhausted, John Malcolm was instrumental in apprehending and appeasing the surviving fugitives.


  • The organization of Marathas‘ administration was composed of many ministers (pradhaanas):
    • Peshwa: Mukhya (main) Pradhan, Prime Minister to the Emperor, for supervising and governing in his absence. The Emperor’s orders bore the Peshwa’s seal.
    • Mutalik: Deputy to the Peshwa, Deputy Prime Minister to the Emperor
    • Rajadnya: Deputy to the Crown Sardar Senapati or Sarnaubat: To manage military forces and administer lands (e.g., Sarsenapati Ghorpade)
    • Sardar: To manage military forces and administer lands
    • Mazumdar: An auditor to manage receipts and expenditures, keep the Crown informed of finances and sign district-stage accounts
    • Amatya: Chief Mazumdar (Chief Revenue Minister) (e.g., Ramchandra Pant Amatya)
    • Navis or Waqia Mantri: to record daily activities of the royal family and to serve as the master of ceremonies
    • Sur Navis or Sacheev: Imperial Secretary, to oversee the Crown’s correspondence to ensure letter and style adherence (e.g., Shankaraji Narayan Sacheev)
    • Sumant or Dabir: Foreign Minister, to manage foreign affairs and receive ambassadors
    • Pandit: to adjudicate internal religious disputes and promote formal education and spiritual practice (e.g., Melgiri Pandit)
    • Nyayadhish: the highest judicial authority (Chief Justice).
  • Peshwa was the equivalent of a modern Prime Minister in terms of title. Emperor Shivaji established the Peshwa title in order to more effectively distribute administrative duties as the Maratha Empire grew. Peshwas ruled for 8–9 years and commanded the Maratha army before to 1749. From 1749 to 1818, they served as the de facto hereditary governors of the Maratha Empire.
  • The Maratha Empire reached its pinnacle under Peshwa governance, with the help of numerous notable generals and diplomats, dominating most of the Indian subcontinent. The Peshwas were also responsible for the Maratha Empire’s formal incorporation into the British Empire through the British East India Company in 1818.
  • The Marathas had a secular governance philosophy and permitted unrestricted religious freedom.
    • Ibrahim Khan Gardi, Haider Ali Kohari, Daulat Khan, Siddi Ibrahim, Jiva Mahal, and others were prominent Muslims in the Marathas’ military and administration.
  • Shivaji was a capable administrator who understood the importance of an administration that included modern notions like cabinet, foreign affairs, and internal intelligence.
    • He understood the importance of a well-run civil and military administration. He hinted to a close relationship between the state and its inhabitants.
    • He was regarded as a reasonable and welfare-minded monarch. In his book ‘Life of the Celebrated Sevaji,‘ Cosme da Guarda writes about Shivaji:
      • Such was the good treatment Shivaji accorded to people and such was the honesty with which he observed the capitulations that none looked upon him without a feeling of love and confidence.
      • Through his people he was exceedingly loved. Both in matters of reward and punishment he was so impartial that while he existed he made no exception for any person; no merit was left unrewarded, no offence went unpunished; and this he did with so much care and attention that he specially charged his governors to inform him in writing of the conduct of his soldiers, mentioning in scrupulous those who had distinguished themselves, and he would at once order their promotion, either in rank or in pay, according to their merit.
      • He was naturally loved through all men of valor and good conduct.
  • Though, the later Marathas are remembered more for their military campaigns, not for their administration. Hindu historians have criticized the treatment of Marathas with Jats and Rajputs. Historian K Roy writes:
    • The treatment of Marathas with their co-religionist fellows – Jats and Rajputs was definitely unfair, and ultimately they had to pay its price in Panipat where Muslim forces had united in the name of religion.


  • At its apex, the Maratha Empire reigned over a large portion of the Indian Subcontinent (modern-day Republic of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as bordering Nepal and Afghanistan).
    • In addition to seizing various districts, the Marathas retained a significant number of tributaries who were bound by an agreement to pay a regular tax, known as “Chauth.” The Maratha Empire defeated the Sultanate of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, the Nawab of Oudh, the Nawab of Bengal, the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the Nawab of Arcot, as well as the Polygar kingdoms of South India, in addition to seizing the whole Mughal Empire.
    • They got chauth from the states of Delhi, Oudh, Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Punjab, Hyderabad, Mysore, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajput.
  • The Marathas began their invasion of the north-west in 1758 and extended their borders all the way to Afghanistan.
    • In what is now Pakistan, as well as Kashmir, they defeated Afghan soldiers.
    • The Afghans numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 people and were led by Timur Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani’s son.
    • Thousands of Afghan soldiers were slaughtered and looted by the Marathas, who took over Lahore, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Attock, and Peshawar in the Punjab region, as well as Kashmir.
    • In 1752, Safdarjung, the Nawab of Oudh, asked the Marathas to assist him in defeating Afghani Rohilla.
    • In 1752, the Maratha force marched out of Poona and fought Afghan Rohilla, taking all of Rohilkhand.
  • The Marathas are credited with tying the Andaman Islands to India by recognising naval outposts there.
    • During the Confederacy era, Mahadji Sindhia resurrected Maratha dominance over much of North India, which had been lost after the Third Battle of Panipat, including the cis-Sutlej states (south of Sutlej) like Kaithal, Patiala, Jind, Thanesar, Maler Kotla, and Faridkot, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were under the suzerainty of the Scind.


Maratha Navy

  • The Maratha Empire is credited with establishing the Indian Navy and introducing significant advancements in naval combat with the introduction of a blue-water navy.
  • The Maratha Empire is also responsible for the development of important cities such as Pune, Baroda, and Indore. The Marathas acknowledged a naval force composed of guns mounted aboard ships from the start, in 1674.
  • The Maratha Navy’s ascendancy began with Kanhoji Angre’s promotion to Darya-Saranga by the Maratha lord of Satara.
    • Except for Janjira, which was part of the Mughal Empire, he was admiral of the Western coast of India from Bombay to Vingoria (now Vengurla) in the present-day state of Maharashtra.
  • The Andaman Islands’ guard stations were recognised by the Marathas, and they are credited with tying the islands to India. He attacked ships sailing to and from the East Indies, including English, Dutch, and Portuguese ships.
    • He continually attacked the colonial powers of Britain and Portugal until his death in 1729, capturing numerous vessels of the British East India Company and demanding a ransom for their release.
  • A united effort by the Portuguese Viceroy Francisco José de Sampaio e Castro and the British General Robert Cowan to bring Kanhoji to his knees failed tragically on November 29, 1721.
    • Captain Thomas Mathews of the Bombay Marine led a combined fleet of 6,000 soldiers in no fewer than four Men-of-War and additional ships, but they failed horribly.
    • Kanhoji continued to harass and plunder European ships until his death in 1729, with the help of Maratha naval leaders Mendhaji Bhatkar and Mainak Bhandari.
    • The ‘Pal’ was a Maratha man-of-war with three masts and guns on the broadsides.

Accounts through Afghans and Europeans

  • Almost all of the Maratha Empire’s foes, from the Duke of Wellington to Ahmad Shah Abdali, admired the Maratha army, particularly its infantry.
    • After the Third Battle of Panipat, Abdali was relieved because the Maratha army was on the verge of crushing the Afghan troops and their Indian allies, the Nawab of Oudh and the Rohillas, in the early phases of the battle.
    • Shah Wali Khan, the grand wazir of the Durrani Empire, was shocked when Maratha commander-in-chief Sadashivrao Bhau launched a fierce assault on the Afghan Army’s heartland, killing over 3,000 Durrani soldiers as well as Haji Atai Khan, one of the Afghan army’s top commanders and a nephew of wazir Shah Wali Khan.
    • Afghan soldiers began to retreat as a result of the strong assault of Maratha infantry in hand-to-hand fighting, and the wazir, desperate and enraged, yelled, “Comrades Whither do you escape, our nation is distant off.”
    • In a letter to an Indian ruler after the battle, Ahmad Shah Abdali claimed that the Afghans were only able to defeat the Marathas because of the Almighty’s blessings, and that any other army would have been destroyed by the Maratha army on that fateful day, despite the fact that the Maratha army was numerically inferior to the Afghan army and its Indian allies. The letter is housed in India’s National Archives.
  • Similarly, after defeating the Marathas, Duke of Wellington stated that while the Marathas were poorly commanded by their Generals, their regular infantry and artillery matched that of Europeans, and he urged other British officers not to underestimate the Marathas on the battlefield. “You must never let Maratha infantry to charge head on or in close hand to hand combat, as your army will cover itself with total disgrace,” he warned one British commander.
    • Even when Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister of Britain, he held the Maratha infantry in high regard, proclaiming it to be one of the best in the world, despite the fact that he observed the Maratha Generals’ poor leadership, which was often to blame for their failures.
    • After the Third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818, the Maratha agreed to serve the British Empire, and Britain designated the Maratha as one of the Martial races, most British authors agree that Maratha infantry was equal to British army.

Maratha Notable Generals and Administrators

Ramchandra Pant Amatya Bawdekar

  • Pant Ramchandra Amatya Bawdekar was a court administrator who ascended through the ranks from a local Kulkarni to Ashtapradhan with Shivaji’s supervision and support.
    • Prior to the development of the later Peshwas who dominated the kingdom after Shahuji, he was one of the most notable Peshwas from the time of Shivaji.
  • Before fleeing the Maratha Empire in 1689, Chhatrapati Rajaram bestowed the title of “Hukumat Panha” (King Status) on Pant. Ramchandra Pant was in charge of the entire state during a period marked by influxes of Mughals, betrayal by Vatandars (local satraps of the Maratha kingdom), and societal difficulties such as food scarcity.
    • Sachiv managed to keep the Maratha Empire’s economic situation under check with the support of Pantpratinidhi.
  • Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, two Maratha commanders, aided him militarily. He took part in wars against the Mughals on various occasions.
  • When Rajaram offered the position of “Hukumat Panha” to his wife, Tarabai, in 1698, he resigned. Pant was given a key position by Tarabai among the Maratha State’s leading administrators.
    • He wrote “Adnyapatra,” in which he explains various battle strategies, fort maintenance, and administration, among other things. However, after Shahuji’s arrival in 1707, he was sidelined due to his loyalty to Tarabai against Shahuji (who was supported by many local satraps).

Rise of the Maratha Power : Theoretical Framework

  • The rise of Maratha power has been a subject of debate among scholars and historians.
    • Grant Duff opines that it was the result of ‘conflagration’ in the forests of Sahyadri. However, according to M.G. Ranade, it was much more than mere accidental circumstances. He labels it as a national struggle for independence against foreign rule.
    • This opinion is disputed on the ground that if the Mughals were foreigners then Bijapur and Ahmadnagar rulers were also equally outlandish.
    • If the Marathas could accept the rule of one power then why not of the Mughals?
  • Historians Jadunath Sarkar and G.S. Sardesai highlighted the emergence of Maratha power as a ‘Hindu’ reaction against the religious policies of Aurangzeb. Yet, one finds Shivaji applauding Akbar’s policy of sulh-i-kul. In fact, this argument also does not seems to have any sound base.
    • The Muslim rulers of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar were the earliest patrons of Marathas.
    • Apart from this, one does not find Shivaji fighting for the cause of Hindus and their welfare outside Maharashtra.
    • Even within Maharashtra he never undertook social reforms. It is argued that Shivaji’s assumption of the title Haindava dharmoddharak at the time of his coronation was not novel in those times.
  • Andre Wink has seen the rise of Marathas in the growing Mughal pressure on the Sultans of Deccan. Even Grant Duff admits the Mughal factor in their rise. But it was perhaps more than that.
  • Satish Chandra emphasizes on the socio-economic factors in the rise of the Marathas. The success of Shivaji lay in his ability to mobilize the peasants in his region. It is claimed that he discontinued the jagirdari and zamindari systems and established direct contact with the peasants thus emancipating them from exploitation.
    • However, Satish Chandra believes that he did not do abolish the system at all. Instead, he curbed the powers of big deshmukhs, reformed the abuses’ and established necessary supervisory authority.
    • Hence, he made the old system work better. Besides, their power was also regulated by limiting their armed retainers. This is the main reason that Shivaji’s military strength did not comprised ‘feudal levies’ of the bigger deshmukhs.
    • Petty landholders, who were often at the mercy of bigger deshmukhs, were benefitted by this policy. In fact, Shivaji’s strength lay in these petty landlords.
    • For example, the first to rally to Shivaji’s side were deshmukhs of Malve who were petty landholders. Also, his emphasis on extension and improvement of cultivation benefitted the peasants as well as the petty landholders.
  • There was struggle for control over land among bigger, middle, and smaller deshmukhs, mirasis and the uparis. It was an “all-absorbing passion” to expand one’s territory. At that time political authority also depended on control over land. Irfan Habib indicates the relation between the rise of the Maratha power and the rebellious mood of the oppressed peasantry.
  • Social factors also influenced the Maharashtra movement. Shivaji attempted to elevate the status of his family by forming matrimonial alliances with Shirkes, Morays and Nimbalkars–the leading deshmukh families. Thus he followed a dual policy of restricting the political power of the bigger deshmukhs and entering into matrimonial alliances with them for claiming equal status.
    • His coronation not only put him higher in status among other Maratha clans but also put him at par with other rulers of Deccan.
    • His assumption of the superior status of suryavamsi kshatriya with the help of the leading brahmans of Benaras, Gagabhat, was a step in this direction.
    • Shivaji not only got compiled suryavamsi kshatriya geneology of his family connecting it with Indra, but also claimed the high-sounding title of Kshatriya kulavatamsa (the ornament of Kshatriya families).
    • Thus, by sanctioning higher status among the Maratha families he claimed exclusive right to collect sardeshmukhi which was previously enjoyed by other Maratha families.
  • This evidently emphasizes the social tensions that existed in the Maratha society. The Marathas were mainly agriculturists and also formed a fighting class. Yet, they were not kshatriyas in status.
    • Thus the social movement started by Shivaji aided in welding together the Marathas and the kunbis. Large numbers of Kunbis, holis and other tribals of Maval region who rallied round Shivaji were also motivated by the desire to raise their status in the social order.
    • Thus, the rise of Maratha power was not just a result of a desire to overthrow the alien rule: it had innate socio-economic reasons.
  • The bhakti movement held sway over the minds of the Hindu masses during the large part of medieval India. It provided the intellectual and ideological framework for the rise of Marathas which got crystallized into “Maharashtra dharma”.
    • It also aided in providing cultural identity to the Marathas. The stress of the bhakti saints on egalitarianism provided ideal background vis-a-vis justification for the mobility in the varna scale by individuals and groups.
  • The success of the movement is exemplified by the rise of Marathas of such humble origins. During this time, a large number of groups raised their status in the varna hierarchy and legitimized their right to political power.
  • According to M.G. Ranade and V.K. Rajwade it was ‘Maharashtra dharma’ that led to the political independence of the Marathas. He described it as jayshnu (aggressive) Hinduism as against the sahishnu (tolerant) Hinduism.
  • Credit goes to a 17th century saint-poet Ramdas who expressed an unfavorable opinion about the Turko-Afghan-Mughal rule. Shivaji used it to his advantage. He used this popular ideological chant of Maharashtra dharma against the Deccanis and the Mughals.
    • The religious feelings of the Marathas revolved around the goddess Tulaja Bhavani, Vithoba aad Mahadeva. The war-cry of the Marathas “Har Har Mahadev” moved the sentiments of Maratha peasantry. However, P.V. Ranade rightly points out that “Hindu hostility to Muslim hegemony was not the primary motivating factor nor the dynamic element of medieval Indian political scene”.
  • The hollowness of the ideology is quite evident when the Marathas collected chauth and sardeshmukhi (a legalized plunder) across the boundaries. It served as a “psychological tonic” to mobilize the peasantry in the early phase of Maratha expansion.
  • It is also difficult admit that Shivaji wanted to carve out a ‘Hindu Swarajya’. Rather it should be seen more as a regional reaction against the centralizing tendencies of the Mughal Empire.
  • The Marathas desired to expand their empire, for which an ideal background was provided by the disintegration of the Nizam Shahi power of Ahmadnagar and the introduction of the Mughals as a new factor.
  • Its characteristic socio-economic contradiction also aided in mobilizing the local petty chieftains.
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