Marathas and Shivaji

Learning Goals:

The Maratha kingdom was a powerful kingdom which arose out of a sustained opposition to Mughal rule.

Shivaji (1627-1680): He carved out a stable kingdom with the support of powerful warrior families (deshmukhs). The backbone of the Maratha army was the groups of highly mobile, peasant-pastoralists (kunbis). He used these forces to challenge the Mughals in India. After his death, effective power in the Maratha state were wielded by a family of Chitpavan Brahamanas who served his successors as Peshwa (or principal minister). Poona became Maratha kingdom’s capital.

The Peshwas

Under them the Marathas developed a very successful military organization. Their success lay in bypassing the fortified areas of the Mughals by:

Expansion of the Maratha Empire

The empire expanded between 1720 and 1761. It slowly chipped away at the authority of the Mughal Empire. By the 1720s Malwa and Gujarat were seized from the Mughals. The Maratha king was recognized as the overlord of the entire Deccan peninsula by the 1730s. He had the right to levy chauth and sardeshmukhi in the entire region. After the raid in Delhi by the Marathas in 1737, the frontiers of the Maratha domination expanded fast:

Though these were not formally included in the Maratha empire, they were made to pay tribute as a way of accepting Maratha sovereignty.

Drawbacks of expansion

Though the expansion brought enormous wealth, it came at a price. It made other rulers hostile towards the Marathas. Consequently, they were not inclined to support the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat in 1761.

Administrative system

The Administration system of the Marathas was well organized. After the Maratha rule became secure subsequent to the conquests, revenue demands were gradually introduced taking local conditions into account. Agriculture was encouraged and trade was revived. This allowed the following Maratha chiefs enough resources to raise powerful armies:

The campaigns of Marathas into Malwa in the 1720s did not challenge the growth and prosperity of the cities of the region. Ujjain expanded under Sindhia’s patronage and Indore under that of Holkar. These cities were large and prosperous by all accounts and functioned as important commercial and cultural centres. New trade routes emerged within the areas that were controlled by the Marathas. The silk produced in the Chanderi region found a new outlet in the city of Poona. Burhanpur which had earlier participated in the trade between Agra and Surat now expanded its hinterland to include Poona and Nagpur in the south and, in the east, Lucknow and Allahabad.

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