The Maratha Empire, which in its later years was known as the Maratha Confederacy, was an early modern Indian empire that came to dominate much of the Indian subcontinent in the 18th century. Maratha rule formally began in 1674 with the coronation of Shivaji of the Bhonsle Dynasty as the Chhatrapati (Marathi: "Keeper of the Umbrella"). Although Shivaji came from the Maratha caste, the Maratha empire also included warriors, administrators and other notables from Maratha and several other castes from Maharashtra.
|Motto: हर हर महादेव|
"Har Har Mahadev"
Other South Asian languages
Other religions in South Asia
|Government||Absolute monarchy (1674–1731)|
Oligarchy with restricted monarchial figurehead (1731–1818)
|Pratap Singh (last)|
|Peshwa (Prime Minister)|
|Moropant Pingle (first)|
|Baji Rao II (last)|
|Nana Saheb (titular)|
|2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi)|
|Currency||Rupee, Paisa, Mohur, Shivrai, Hon|
|Today part of|
They were responsible for weakening Mughal control over the Indian subcontinent and establishing the Maratha Empire. The religious attitude of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb estranged non-muslims, and his inability to finish the resulting Maratha uprising after a 27-year war at a great cost to his men and treasure, eventually ensued Maratha ascendency and control over sizeable portions of former Mughal lands in the north or about 1/3 of the subcontinent by 1757. Maratha rule officially ended in 1818 with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II at the hands of the English East India Company in Third Anglo-Maratha War.
The Marathas were a Marathi-speaking warrior group from the western Deccan Plateau (present-day Maharashtra) who rose to prominence by establishing Hindavi Swarajya (meaning "self-rule of Hindus"). The Marathas became prominent in the 17th century under the leadership of Shivaji, who revolted against the Adil Shahi dynasty, and the Mughals to carve out a kingdom with Raigad as his capital.
His father, Shahaji, had earlier conquered Thanjavur which Shivaji's half-brother, Venkoji Rao (alias Ekoji) inherited. This kingdom was known as the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom. Bangalore which was established in 1537 by a vassal of the Vijayanagara Empire, Kempe Gowda I who declared independence, was captured in 1638 by a large Adil Shahi Bijapur army led by Ranadulla Khan who, accompanied by his second in command Shahaji, defeated Kempe Gowda III. As a result, Bangalore was given to Shahaji as a jagir (feudal estate). Known for their mobility, the Marathas were able to consolidate their territory during the Mughal–Maratha Wars and later controlled a large part of the Indian subcontinent.
Upon his release from Mughal captivity, Shahu became the Maratha ruler after a brief struggle with his aunt Tarabai, with the help of Balaji Vishwanath. Pleased by his help, Shahu appointed Balaji and later, his descendants, as the Peshwas or prime ministers of the empire. Balaji and his descendants played a key role in the expansion of Maratha rule. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) in the north, and Orissa & West Bengal up to the Hooghly River, in the east. The Marathas discussed abolishing the Mughal throne and placing Vishwas Rao on it in Delhi.
In 1761, the Maratha Army lost the Third Battle of Panipat, which halted their imperial expansion into Afghanistan. Ten years after Panipat, the young Peshwa Madhav Rao I's Maratha Resurrection reinstated Maratha authority over North India.
To effectively manage the large empire, Madhav Rao gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, creating a confederacy of Maratha states. These leaders became known as the Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, the Bhonsales of Nagpur, the Jadhavs of Vidarbha, the Dabhades of Gujarat, the Puars of Dhar and Dewas. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a Peshwa family succession struggle in Pune, which led to the First Anglo-Maratha War in which the Marathas emerged victorious. The Marathas remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1805–1818), which resulted in the East India Company seizing control of most of the Indian subcontinent.
A large portion of the Maratha empire was coastline, which had been secured by the potent Maratha Navy under commanders such as Kanhoji Angre. He successfully kept foreign naval ships at bay, particularly those of the Portuguese and British. Securing the coastal areas and building land-based fortifications were crucial aspects of the Maratha's defensive strategy and regional military history.