Maharashtra is the 3rd largest state of India both in area and population, is a state in west central India. It has a western coastline stretching 330 miles (530 Km) along the Arabian Sea from Goa on the south to Daman on the north. On the northwest is the state of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh on the north and east, Andhra Pradesh on the southeast, and Karnataka is on the southwest.
Maharashtra was formed in 1960 when the Marathi and Gujarati linguistic areas of the former Bombay state were separated. Bombay (Mumbai) city is the capital of the state.
The name Maharashtra first appeared in a 7th century inscription and in a Chinese traveler's account. Its name may have originated from rathi, which means, "chariot driver". At that age Maharashtra was full of builders and drivers of chariots who formed a maharathis, a "fighting force." In 90 A.D. king Vedishri made Junnar, thirty miles north of Pune, the capital of his kingdom. In the early 14th century the Devgiri Yadavs were overthrown by the northern Muslim powers. In 1526, first Mughal king, Babar, established his influence in Delhi and soon the Mughal power spread to the southern India. The Mughals were to dominate India till the early 18th century.
Maharashtra's recorded history dates back to the 3rd century BC, with the use of the Maharastri language, which is a twisted and modified form of Sanskrit when written in Prakrit script.
Later, Maharashtra became a part of the Magadha empire which was ruled by the Buddhist emperor Ashoka. The port town of Sopara, just north of present day Mumbai, was the commercial centre of ancient India, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin. Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahanas between 230 BC and AD 225, with the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire.
Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra was ruled by the Vakatakas in AD 250-525. During this period, development of arts, religion and technology flourished. By the 6th century, Maharashtra came under the reign of the Chalukyas. Later, in 753, the region was governed by Rashtrakutas, an empire that spread over most of peninsula India. In 973, the Chalukayas mustered out the Rashtrakutas, and established their rule until 1189 when the region came under the hands of the Yadavas of Deogiri.
In the 13th century, Maharashtra came under Islamic influence for the first time after the Delhi Sultanate rulers Ala-ud-din Khalji, and later Muhammad bin Tughluq reserved parts of the Deccan. After the collapse of the Tughlaqs in 1347, the Bahmani Sultanate took over, governing the region for the next 150 years. By the 16th century, central Maharashtra was ruled by numerous independent Islamic kingdoms that owed faithfulness to the Mughals, while coastal region was acquired by the Portuguese, in their search to grab control of the spice trade.
By the early 17th century the Maratha Empire began to take root. The Marathas, native to western Maharashtra, were led by Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji Bhosle, who was crowned king in 1674.
Shivaji Bhosle, founder of the Maratha Empire, was born in 1627. He took the oath to make the land free at the fort Torna at the age of 16. This was the start of his lifelong struggle against Mughals and other Muslim powers. By 1680, the year of Shivaji's death, nearly whole of the Deccan belonged to his kingdom. He had developed an effective government and a powerful army. He also encouraged a spirit of independence among the Marathas that enabled them to withstand for 150 years all attempts to conquer them. Shivaji's achievements amongst enormous difficulties were really amazing and that is why he holds the highest place in Maratha history.
Shivaji's son and successor, Sambhaji Bhonsle was captured and executed by Aurangzeb, the Mughal in the late 1680s. The Mughals forced Sambhaji's younger brother, Rajaram Bhonsle to run away into the Tamil-speaking countryside. In somewhat changed circumstances, he repaired to the great fort of Jinji to barely recover in the early 18th century.
Rajaram had a nephew called Shahu Bhonsle who aspired to the throne. In 1714, Shahu's Brahmin Peshwa (chief minister) Balaji Vishwanath helped him grab the Maratha throne in 1708, with some rudeness from Rajaram's widow, Tara Bai.
In the following four decades, the Brahmin Peshwas virtually took over central authority in the Maratha state, reducing Shivaji's Bhonsle dynasty to figureheads. After defeating the Mughals, the Peshwas became the dominant rulers of India.
Maratha state was ruled by the Peshwas, Balaji Vishwanath and his son, Baji Rao I. They systematized the practice of tribute gathering from Mughal territories, under the heads of Sardesmukhi and Chauth, which are the two terms corresponding to the proportion of revenue collected.
They also collected Mughal-derived methods of estimation and collection of land revenue and other taxes. Much of the revenue terms used in Peshwa documents derives from Persian, suggesting a far greater continuity between Mughal and Maratha revenue practice than may be politically agreeable in the present day.
The years under Peshwa rule, saw the development of practical networks of trade, banking, and finance; the rise of substantial banking houses based at Pune, with branches extending into Gujarat, the Ganges Valley, and the south; and an expansion of the agricultural limit.
At the same time, Balaji Vishwanath cultivated the marine Angre organization, which controlled group of vessels or aircraft of vessels based in Kolaba and other centres of the west coast. These ships posed a threat not only to the new English settlement of Bombay, but to the Portuguese at Goa, Bassein, and Daman.
On the other hand, there also emerged a far larger domain of activity away from the original heartland of the Marathas, which was either subjected to invading or given over to subordinate chiefs as an estate of land held on condition of feudal service. Gwalior was given to Scindia, Indore to Holkar, Baroda to Gaekwad and Dhar to Pawar.
Under the control of the keen Brahmin-Peshwas, the Maratha Empire reached its peak, about almost the entire Deccan, central India and extending until Attock in modern day Pakistan and Bangladesh.
After suffering a heavy defeat to the Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha alliance broke into regional kingdoms.
Post-Panipat, the Peshwa's ex-generals looked after the little kingdoms they had been given. Pune continued to be ruled by what was left of the Peshwa family.
Branches of the Bhonsle family itself, relocated to Kolhapur and Nagpur, while the main line remained in the Deccan heartland, at Satara. The Kolhapur Bhonsles derived from Rajaram and his wife, Tara Bai, who had refused in 1708 to accept Shahu's rule and who negotiated with some Mughal court party in a bid to weaken Shahu. The Kolhapur Bhonsles remained in control of small territory into the early 19th century, when they allied themselves with the British against the Peshwas in the Anglo-Maratha wars.
With the arrival and later involvement of the British East India Company in Indian politics, the Marathas and the British fought the three Anglo-Maratha wars between 1777 and 1818, perfecting in the incorporation of Peshwa-ruled territory in Maharashtra in 1819, which proclaimed the end of the Maratha empire.
The British governed the region as part of the Bombay Presidency, which extended an area from Karachi in Pakistan to most of the northern Deccan. A number of the Maratha states remained as princely states, retaining local independence in return for confirming British supremacy. The largest princely states in the territory of present-day Maharashtra were Nagpur, Satara and Kolhapur; Satara was attached to Bombay Presidency in 1848, and Nagpur was connected in 1853 to become Nagpur Province, later part of the Central Provinces. Berar, which had been part of the Nizam of Hyderabad's kingdom, was occupied by the British in 1853 and annexed to the Central Provinces in 1903. The British rule was marked by social reforms, an improvement in infrastructure as well revolts due to their critical policies. At the beginning of the 20th century, a non-violent struggle started by Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and later led by Mahatma Gandhi began to take shape. In 1942, the Quit India Movement was called by Gandhi which was marked by a non-violent Civil disobedience movement and strikes.
After India's independence in 1947, the princely states were integrated into the Indian Union, and the Deccan States including Kolhapur were joined into Bombay State, which was created from the former Bombay Presidency in 1950. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines, and Bombay State was enlarged by the addition the predominantly Marathi-speaking regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from former Hyderabad state and Vidarbha region (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) from Madhya Pradesh (formerly the Central Provinces and Berar). On May 1, 1960, Maharashtra came into existence when Bombay State was split into the new linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Favourable economic policies in the 1970s led to Maharashtra becoming India's leading industrial state.
However, regions within Maharashtra show wide disparity in development. Apart from Mumbai, western Maharashtra is the most advanced. It also dominates the politics and power of the state. This has led to anger among backward regions like Vidarbha, Marathwada, and Konkan. There is a movement in Vidarbha now to separate from Maharashtra and become a separate state largely owing to lack of development and perceived sense of injustice.
History of Maharashtra - India