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Maratha, maratha kranti morcha
The Maratha IPA: ˈməraʈʰa; archaically transliterated as Marhatta or Mahratta is a group of castes in India found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "Marathas are people of India, famed in history as yeoman warriorsThey reside primarily in the Indian state of Maharashtra1

Territory under Maratha control in 1760 yellow, without its vassals

Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature,2 wrote that the Marathas are subdivided into 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or 'Shahānnau Kule'3 Shahānnau means 96 in Marathi The general body of lists are often at great variance with each other4


  • 1 History
  • 2 Internal diaspora
  • 3 Varna status
  • 4 Political participation
  • 5 Military service
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading


Maratha armour Typical Maratha helmet with curved back Maratha Armour from Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia See also: Maratha Empire

The term "Maratha" originally referred to the speakers of the Marathi language In the 17th century, it emerged as a designation for soldiers serving in the armies of Deccan sultanates and later Shivaji5 A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, originally served in those armies6 By the mid-1660s, Shivaji had established an independent Maratha kingdom7 After his death, Marathas fought under his sons and defeated Aurangzeb in the war of 27 years It was further expanded into a vast empire by Maratha Confederacy including Peshwas, stretching from central India 8 in the south, to Peshawar9 in modern-day Pakistan on the Afghanistan border in the north, and with expeditions to Bengal in the east By the 19th century, the empire had become a confederacy of individual states controlled by Maratha chiefs such as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore, the Scindias of Gwalior, the Puars of Dhar and Dewas, and Bhonsles of Nagpurcitation needed The Confederacy remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War 1817–181810page needed

By 19th century, the term Maratha had several interpretations in the British administrative records In the Thane District Gazetteer of 1882, the term was used to denote elite layers within various castes: for example, "Maratha-Agri" within Agri caste, "Maratha-Koli" within Koli caste and so on5 In the Pune District, the words Kunbi and Maratha had become synonymous, giving rise to the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex11 The Pune District Gazetteer of 1882 divided the Kunbis into two classes: Marathas and other Kunbis5 The 1901 census listed three groups within the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex: "Marathas proper", "Maratha Kunbis" and "Konkani Marathas"12 The Kunbi class comprised agricultural workers and soldiers The upper-class "Marathas proper" comprising 96 clans claimed Rajput descent with Kshatriya status, and included princes, officers and landowners1314 Some of the Maratha clans claiming Rajput descent include Bhonsales from Sisodias,15 Chavans from Chauhans,16 and Pawar from Parmar17

Gradually, the term Maratha came to denote an endogamous caste5 From 1900 onwards, the Satyashodhak Samaj movement defined the Marathas as a broader social category of non-Brahmin groups18 These non-Brahmins gained prominence in Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement In independent India, these Marathas became the dominant political force in the newly-formed state of Maharashtra19

Internal diasporaedit

The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of Maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India Today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants live in the north, south and west of India These descendant communities tend often to speak the local languages, although many also speak Marathi in addition Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Holkar of Indore, Puar of Dewas and Dhar, Ghorpade of Mudhol, and Bhonsle of Nagpur20

Varna statusedit

The varna of the Maratha is a contested issue, with arguments for their being of the Kshatriya warrior varna, and others for their being of Shudra origins This issue was the subject of antagonism between the Brahmins and Marathas, dating back to the time of Pratapsing, but by the late 19th century moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain These Brahmins supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, but their success in this political alliance was sporadic and fell apart entirely following independence in 194721

Even at the turn of 20th century, the Brahmins priests of Chhatrapathi Shahu,the Maratha ruler of Kolhapur refused to use Vedic mantras and would not take a bath before chanting, on the grounds that even the leading Marathas like Shahu and his families belonged to the Shudra varna This opinion about the Shudra varna was supported by Brahmin Councils in Maharashtra and they stuck to their opinion even when theyBrahmins were threatened with the loss of land and property This led to Shahu supporting Satyashodhak samaj as well as campaigning for the rights of the Maratha community 22 23He soon became the leader of the non-Brahmin movement and united the Marathas under his banner2425

In the 21st century, the Government of Maharasthra cited historical evidence for the shudra status of prominent Maratha families as well as the prominent Maratha family Bhosle being declared as Shudras by the British Madras High Court to form a case for reservation for the Marathas in Maharashtra26

Political participationedit

Arms of Maratha Leaving for the Hunt, Gwalior, Edwin Lord Weeks, 1887

The 1919 Montague-Chelmsford reforms of the British colonial government called for caste based representation in legislative councilIn anticipation a Maratha league party was formed The league and other groups came together to form the non-Brahmins party in the Marathi speaking areas in the early 1920s under the leadership of Maratha leaders Keshavrao Jedhe and Baburao javalkarTheir early goals in that period were capturing the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals from Brahmin domination27 They combined nationalism with anti-casteism as the party's aims28 Later on in the 1930s, Jedhe merged the non-Brahmin party with the Congress party and changed the Congress party in the Maharashtra region from an upper-caste dominated body to a more broadly based but Maratha-dominated party29Apart from Jedhe,most Congress leaders from the Maratha /Kunbi community remained aloof from the Samyukta Maharashtra campaign of the 1950sHowever,they have dominated the state politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 196030

The INC was the preferred party of the Maratha/Kunbi community in the early days of Maharashtra and the party was long without a major challenger, and enjoyed overwhelming support from the Maratha dominated sugar co-operatives and thousands of other cooperative organizations involved in the rural agricultural economy of the state such as marketing of dairy and vegetable produce, credit unions etc31 32 The domination by Marathas of the cooperative institutions and with it the rural economic power allowed the community to control politics from the village level up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats33, 34Since the 1980s, this group has also been active in setting up private educational institutions353637 Major past political figures of Congress party from Maharashtra such as Keshavrao Jedhe, Yashwantrao Chavan38,Shankarrao Chavan and Vilasrao Deshmukh have been from this group Sharad Pawar, who had been a towering figure in Maharashtrian and national politics, belongs to this group

The state has had many Maratha government ministers and officials, as well as in local municipal commissions, and panchayats Marathas comprise around 32 per cent of the state population3940 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of 201241

The rise of the Hindu Nationalist Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party in recent years have not dented Maratha representation in Maharashtra Legislative assembly42

Military serviceedit

Beginning early in the 20th century, the British recognised Maratha as a "martial race"43 Earlier listings of martial races had often excluded them, with Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army 1885–1893, stating the need to substitute "more warlike and hardy races for the Hindusthani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so-called Marathas of Bombay"44 Historian Sikata Banerjee notes a dissonance in British military opinions of the Maratha, wherein the British portrayed them as both "formidable opponents" and yet not "properly qualified" for fighting, criticising the Maratha guerrilla tactics as an improper way of war Banerjee cites an 1859 statement as emblematic of this disparity:

There is something noble in the carriage of an ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished Mahratta The Rajput is the most worthy antagonist, the Mahratta the most formidable enemy45

The Maratha Light Infantry regiment is one of the "oldest and most renowned" regiments of the Indian Army46 Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan "Warrior Platoon",47 traces its origins to 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys The battle cry of Maratha Light Infantry is Bol Shri Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! "Hail Victory to Emperor Shivaji!" in tribute to the Maratha sovereign

See alsoedit

  • List of Maratha dynasties and states
  • List of notable Maratha People
  • Thanjavur Marathi people
  • Maratha People in Uttar Pradesh


  1. ^ "Maratha people" Encyclopædia Britannica Retrieved 12 July 2013 
  2. ^ Bates, Crispin 1995 "Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry" In Robb, Peter The Concept of Race in South Asia Delhi: Oxford University Press pp 240–242 ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0 Retrieved 2011-12-09 
  3. ^ Russell, Robert Vane 1916 Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India 4 Lal, Rai Bahadur Hira London: Macmillan & Co pp 201–203 Retrieved 3 October 2012 
  4. ^ O'Hanlon, Rosalind 2002 Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p 17 ISBN 978-0-52152-308-0 Retrieved 13 May 2011 
  5. ^ a b c d Hansen 2001, p 31
  6. ^ Gordon, Stewart N 1993 The Marathas 1600–1818 The New Cambridge History of India Cambridge University Press p 35 ISBN 978-0-52126-883-7 Second, we have that Marathas regularly served in the armies of the Muslim Deccan kingdoms 
  7. ^ Pearson, M N February 1976 "Shivaji and the Decline of the Mughal Empire" The Journal of Asian Studies Association for Asian Studies 35 2: 221–235 JSTOR 2053980 doi:102307/2053980 
  8. ^ Mehta, J L Advanced study in the history of modern India 1707–1813
  9. ^ Alexander Mikaberidze 31 July 2011 Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia: A Historical Encyclopedia ABC-CLIO pp 43– ISBN 978-1-59884-337-8 Retrieved 15 September 2013 
  10. ^ Chhabra, GS 2005 1971 Advanced Study in the History of Modern India Lotus Press ISBN 81-89093-06-1 
  11. ^ O'Hanlon 2002, p 45
  12. ^ O'Hanlon 2002, p 47
  13. ^ Pereira 2008, p 65
  14. ^ Haynes 1992, p 65
  15. ^ Singh 1998, p 2211
  16. ^ The Illustrated Weekly of India Volume 92, Part 2 Bennett, Coleman & Company 1971 p 7 
  17. ^ A Aiyappan; L K Bala Ratnam 1956 Society in India Social Sciences Association p 41 
  18. ^ Hansen 2001, p 32
  19. ^ Hansen 2001, p 34
  20. ^ "History of Medieval India" googlecom Retrieved 18 August 2015 
  21. ^ Kurtz, Donald V 1994 Contradictions and Conflict: A Dialectical Political Anthropology of a University in Western India Leiden: Brill p 63 ISBN 978-9-00409-828-2 
  22. ^ Kashinath Kavlekar 1979 Non-Brahmin Movement in Southern India, 1873-1949 p 63 
  23. ^ Mike Shepperdson, Colin Simmons 1988 The Indian National Congress and the political economy of India, 1885-1985 p 109 
  24. ^ "Pune’s endless identity wars" Indian Express Retrieved 1 August 2015 
  25. ^ Rajarshi Shahu Chhatrapati Papers: 1900-1905 AD: Vedokta controversy Shahu Research Institute, 1985 - Kolhapur Princely State 
  26. ^ "'Maharashtra to justify quota with historical evidence'" 2014 
  27. ^ Hansen, Thomas Blom 2002 Wages of violence : naming and identity in postcolonial Bombay Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press p 33 ISBN 978-0691088402 Retrieved 10 January 2017 
  28. ^ Jayapalan, N 2000 Social and cultural history of India since 1556 New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors p 162 ISBN 9788171568260 
  29. ^ Omvedt, Gail 1974 "Non-Brahmans and Nationalists in Poona" Economic and Political Weekly 9 6/8: 201–219 Retrieved 18 November 2016 
  30. ^ Kurtz, Donald V 1994 Contradictions and Conflict: A Dialectical Political Anthropology of a University in Western India Leiden: Brill p 63 ISBN 978-9-00409-828-2 
  31. ^ Brass, Paul R 2006 The politics of India since independence 2nd ed New Delhi: Cambridge University Press p 142 ISBN 978-0521543057 Retrieved 1 February 2017 
  32. ^ Mishra, Sumita 2000 Grassroot politics in India New Delhi: Mittal Publications p 27 ISBN 9788170997320 
  33. ^ Vora, Rajendra 2009 "Chapter 7 Maharashtra or Maratha Rashtra" In Kumar, Sanjay; Jaffrelot, Christophe Rise of the plebeians : the changing face of Indian legislative assemblies New Delhi: Routledge ISBN 978-0415460927 
  34. ^ Kulkarni, AR Editor; Wagle, NKEditor; Sirsikar, VM Author 1999 State intervention and popular response : western India in the nineteenth century Mumbai: Popular Prakashan p 9 ISBN 81-7154-835-0 CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list link
  35. ^ Dahiwale, S M 1995 "Consolidation of Maratha Dominance in Maharashtra Economic and Political Weekly Vol 30, No 6 Feb 11, 1995, pp 336-342 Published by:" Economic and Political Weekly 30, 6: 336–342 JSTOR 4402382 
  36. ^ Kurtz, Donald V 1994 Contradictions and conflict : a dialectical political anthropology of a University in Western India Leiden ua: Brill p 50 ISBN 978-9004098282 
  37. ^ Singh, R; Lele, JK 1989 Language and society : steps towards an integrated theory Leiden: EJ Brill pp 32–42 ISBN 9789004087897 
  38. ^ Kulkarni, AR Editor; Wagle, NKEditor; Sirsikar, VM Author 1999 State intervention and popular response : western India in the nineteenth century Mumbai: Popular Prakashan p 9 ISBN 81-7154-835-0 CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list link
  39. ^ Mishra, Sumita 2000 Grassroot Politics in India New Delhi: Mittal Publications p 27 ISBN 9788170997320 
  40. ^ Dhanagare, D N 1995 "The Class Character and Politics of the Farmers' Movement in Maharashtra during the 1980s" In Brass, Tom New Farmers' Movements in India Ilford: Routledge/Frank Cass p 80 ISBN 9780714646091 
  41. ^ Economic and Political Weekly: January 2012 First Volume Pg 45
  42. ^ Vora, Rajendra 2009 "Chapter 7 Maharashtra or Maratha Rashtra" In Kumar, Sanjay; Jaffrelot, Christophe Rise of the plebeians : the changing face of Indian legislative assemblies New Delhi: Routledge ISBN 978-0415460927 
  43. ^ Deshpande, Prachi 2007 2006 Permanent Black Creative Pasts: Historical Memory And Identity in Western India, 1700–1960 New York & Chichester: Columbia University Press p 189 ISBN 9780231124867 Retrieved 2012-10-03 
  44. ^ Samanta, Amiya K 2000 Gorkhaland Movement: A Study in Ethnic Separatism New Delhi: APH Publishing p 26 ISBN 9788176481663 Retrieved 2012-10-03 
  45. ^ Banerjee, Sikata 2005 Make Me a Man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India Albany, NY: SUNY Press p 33 ISBN 9780791463673 Retrieved 2012-10-03 
  46. ^ Frank Edwards 2003 The Gaysh: A History of the Aden Protectorate Levies 1927–61 and the Federal Regular Army of South Arabia 1961–67 Helion & Company Limited pp 86– ISBN 978-1-874622-96-3 Retrieved 15 September 2013 
  47. ^ Roger Perkins 1994 Regiments: Regiments and Corps of the British Empire and Commonwealth, 1758–1993 : a Critical Bibliography of Their Published Histories Roger Perkins ISBN 978-0-9506429-3-2 Retrieved 15 September 2013 

Further readingedit

  • Asher, Catherine B; Talbot, Cynthia 2006 India Before Europe Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-80904-7 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • Bayly, Christopher Alan 1990 Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-38650-0 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • Bayly, Susan 2001 Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-79842-6 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • Hansen, Thomas Blom 2001 Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay Princeton University Press ISBN 0-691-08840-3 
  • Haynes, Douglas E 1992 Contesting Power: Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia University of California Press ISBN 978-0-520-07585-6 
  • Ludden, David 2013 India and South Asia: A Short History Oneworld Publications ISBN 978-1-85168-936-1 
  • Hendre Patil
  • Ludden, David 1999 An Agrarian History of South Asia Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-36424-9 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • Metcalf, Barbara D; Metcalf, Thomas R 28 September 2006 A Concise History of Modern India Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-1-139-45887-0 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • O'Hanlon, Rosalind 2002 Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-52308-0 
  • Pereira, A B de Bragnanca 2008 Ethnography of Goa, Daman and Diu Penguin Books ISBN 978-93-5118-208-5 
  • Robb, Peter 2011 A History of India Palgrave Macmillan ISBN 978-0-230-34549-2 
  • Singh, K S 1998 India's Communities Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-563354-2 
  • Stein, Burton 2010 A History of India John Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-4443-2351-1 Retrieved 20 October 2013 
  • Wink, André 2007 Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian Society and Politics Under the Eighteenth-Century Maratha Svarājya Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-05180-4 Retrieved 20 October 2013 

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