Who were the marathas

The marathas

Early history

There is no doubt that the main power that emerged in the long twilight of the Mughal dynasty was the Maratha Confederation. Originally from the western Deccan, the Marathas were a peasant warrior group who gained prominence during the rule in this region of the Sultans of Bijapur and Bijapur, Ahmadnagar. The most important Maratha warrior clan, theBhonsles, had extensive rulers under the ʿĀdil Shāhī rulers jāgīr (Property tax claims), and these were consolidated over the course of the 1630s and 40s as Bijapur expanded south and south-west. Shahji Bhonsle, the first prominent member of the clan, generated substantial revenues from the Karnataka area in areas once owned by the rulers were controlled by Mysore and other chiefs from the collapsing kingdom of Vijayanagar. One of his children, Shivaji Bhonsle, became the most powerful figure of the clan in the west, while Shivaji's half-brother Vyamkoji gained control of the Kaveri (Cauvery) River Delta and the kingdom of Thanjavur in the 1670s.

Shivaji's early successes were based on a complex relationship of mixed negotiations and conflicts with the ʿĀdil Shāhīs on the one hand and the Mughals on the other. His raids brought him considerable income and were directed not only against agricultural resources but also against trade. In 1664 he undertook a celebrated raid on the port city of Surat in Gujarat, which at the time was the most important of the Mughal ports. The next year he signed a treaty with the Mughals, but it soon collapsed after a disastrous visit by the Maratha leader to the Aurangzeb court in Agra. Between 1670 and the end of his life (1680), Shivaji devoted his time to a series of expeditions stretching from Thanjavur in the southeast to Khandesh and Khandesh in the north. This was a sign of the future, as the mobility of the marathas was to become legendary in the 18th century.

Rise of the peshwa s

Shivaji's fortune did not fall to his son and successor, Sambhaji, who was captured and executed by the Mughals in the late 1680s. His younger brother, Rajaram, who succeeded him, relocated his base to the Tamil country, in which Shivaji had previously had an interest. In the 1690s he stayed in the great fortress of Jinji (formerly the seat of a Nayaka dynasty under Vijayanagar) for eight years, besieged by a Mughal force, and for a time it seemed that the power of the Maratha was declining. However, a recovery took place at the beginning of the 18th century under somewhat different circumstances. A particularly important phase in this regard is the reign of Shahu, who in 1708 succeeded Rajaram with some severity from his widow Tara Bai.

Shahu's reign lasted about four decades until 1749 and was marked by the rise of a line of Citpavan Brahman ministers who practically controlled central authority in Maratha state, with the bhonsles being reduced to figureheads. With the title Peshwa (Prime Minister) is the first really prominent figure in this line of Balaji Vishvanath, who helped Shahu rise to power. Vishvanath and his successor, Baji Rao I ( Peshwa between 1720 and 1740) succeeded in bureaucratising the Maratha state to a far greater extent than was the case under the early Bhonsles. On the one hand, they systematized the practice of collecting tribute Mughal areas under the heads of Sardeshmukhi and Cauth (the two terms correspond to the share of the collected revenue). Likewise, however, they appear to have consolidated methods of assessing and collecting land revenues and other taxes derived from the Mughals. Much of the information contained in the documents of the Peshwa And the terminology used by his subordinates for revenue comes from Persian (the language of the Mughal administration), suggesting a far greater continuity between the Mughal and Maratha revenue practices than could have been imagined.

At the end of Shahu's reign, a complex role had been established for the marathas. On the one hand, in the areas they closely controlled, particularly in the Deccan, sophisticated trading, banking and financial networks developed during these years. the rise of major banking houses in Pune with branches in Gujarat, the Ganges Valley and the south; and an extension of the agricultural frontier. At the same time, maritime affairs were not completely neglected either, and Balaji Vishvanth took care to cultivate the Angria clan, who controlled a fleet of ships in Kolaba and other centers on the west coast. These ships posed a threat not only to the new English settlement of Bombay (Mumbai) but to the Portuguese in Goa, Bassein and Daman.

On the other hand, a much larger area of ​​activity emerged outside the original heartland of the Marathas, which was either attacked or given to subordinate chiefs. Of these chiefs, the Gaekwads (Gaikwars), Sindhias, and Holkars were the most important. There were also branches of the Bhonsle family themselves that were relocated to Kolhapur and Nagpur, while the main route in the Deccan heartland remained at Satara. The Kolhapur line came from Rajaram and his wife Tara Bai, who refused to accept Shahu's rule in 1708 and who negotiated with some Mughal factions to undermine Shahu. The Kolhapur Bhonsles retained control of a limited area until the early 19th century when the Raja and the British opposed the Peshwa allied in the Maratha Wars.

In contrast to the Kolhapur Bhonsles and the descendants of Vyamkoji in Thanjavur, who both claimed a status equal to that of the Satara Raja, the lineage at Nagpur, clearly subordinate to the Satara rulers. A crucial figure from this line is Raghuji Bhonsle (ruled 1727-55), who was responsible for the Maratha incursions on Bengal and Bihar in the 1740s and early ’50s. The relations of his successors, Janoji, Sabaji, and Mudoji, with the peshwas and the Satara line were variable, and it is in this sense that these domains can be regarded as only loosely confederated, rather than tightly bound together.

Subordinate Maratha rulers

Other subordinate rulers who emerged under the overarching umbrella provided by the Satara ruler and his peshwa were equally somewhat opportunistic in their use of politics. The Gaekwads, who came to prominence in the 1720s with the incursions of Damaji and Pilaji Gaekwad into Gujarat, were initially subordinate not only to the Bhonsles but also to the powerful Dabhade family. Their role in this period was largely confined to the collection of the cauth levy, and they consolidated their position by taking advantage of differences between the peshwa and the Dabhades. The fact that various interests at the Mughal court were at loggerheads with each other also worked to the Gaekwads' advantage. However, it was only after the death of Shahu, when the power of the peshwas was further enhanced that the position of the Gaekwads has really improved. In the early 1750s, family rights to a large portion of Gujarat's revenue were held by the Peshwa recognized and an amicable apportionment agreed. The eviction of the Mughal governor of the Gujarat Subah (Province) from its capital Ahmedabad in 1752 sealed the process. However, the Gaekwads preferred to set up their capital in Baroda, leading to a realignment of the trade and consumption network in the region.

The rule of Damaji (died 1768) in Baroda was followed by some turmoil. The Gaekwads were still partly from Pune and the Peshwa dependent, especially to intervene in moments of succession crisis. The later successor of Damaji, Fateh Singh (r. 1771-89) did not stay long with the Peshwa allied. Rather, he made an agreement with the English East India Company in the late 1770s and early 80s, which eventually led to increased British interference in his affairs. By 1800 the British were more likely than that Peshwa the ultimate arbiter in determining the succession under the Gaekwad, who became subordinate rulers to them in the 19th century.

In the mid-18th century a great part of the holdings of the Gaekwads was described in the peshwa’S correspondence and papers as saranyam (nonhereditary grants to maintain troops), and the ruler himself was termed saranjamdar, or at times jāgīrdār. The same was broadly true of the Holkars and Sindhias and also of another relatively minor dynasty of chiefs, the Pawars of Dhar. In the case of the Holkars, the rise in status and wealth was particularly rapid and marked. From petty local power brokers, they emerged by the 1730s into a position in which Malhar Rao Holkar could be granted a large share of the cauth collection in Malwa, East Gujarat and Khandesh. Within a few years, Malhar Rao consolidated his own principality in Indore, from which his successors controlled important trade routes as well as the crucial trading center of Burhanpur. After him, control of the dynastic fate fell largely to his son's widow, Ahalya Bai, who ruled from 1765 to 1794 and brought Holkar to its peak. Nevertheless, their success could not match that of the last great chief family, the Sindhias, who carved a prominent place for themselves in north Indian politics in the decades following the third battle of Panipat (1761). Again, like the Holkars, the Sindhias were based largely in central India, first at Ujjain, and later (from the last quarter of the 18th century) in Gwalior. It was during the long reign of Mahadaji Sindhia, which began after Panipat and continued to 1794, that the family’s fortunes were truly consolidated.

Mahadaji, employing in the 1780s a large number of European mercenaries in his forces, proved an effective and innovative military commander who went beyond the usual Maratha dependence on light cavalry. His power, however, had already grown in the 1770s, when he managed to make substantial inroads into a north India that had been weakened by Afghan attacks. He intervened with some effect in the Mughal court during the reign of Shah ʿĀlam II, who made him the “deputy regent” of his affairs in the mid-1780s. His shadow fell not only across the provinces of Delhi and Agra but also on Rajasthan and Gujarat, making him the most formidable Maratha leader of the era. He left anxiety among the staff of the East India Company and also in Pune, where his relations with the incumbent Peshwa , nana fadnavis, were fraught with tension. Eventually the momentum generated by Mahadaji could not be sustained by his successor Daulat Rao Sindhia (r. 1794-1827), who was defeated by the British and, under the influence of the government, forced to the Treaty of Surji-Arjungaon (1803) to surrender his territories to both North as well as west.