Maratha Empire

The Maratha Empire was a Hindu empire that existed in India from the late 17th century to the early 19th century. It was founded by the warrior king Shivaji, who established a powerful military force and expanded his dominion over much of western India.
Under the leadership of the Peshwas, who served as the chief ministers of the empire, the Marathas grew in power and influence, eventually becoming one of the most formidable forces in India. The empire reached its peak under the rule of Peshwa Baji Rao I, who expanded the Maratha territory to include much of northern and central India.
However, the Maratha Empire faced significant challenges from internal divisions, as well as external threats from the British and other European powers. In the late 18th century, the empire began to decline, and it was eventually defeated by the British in a series of wars in the early 19th century.

Shivaji Maharaj (1627-1680)

  • Shivaji Maharaj was Born at Shivneri fort. Father Shahaji Bhosle initially served Nizam ruler of Ahmednagar. Shivaji belonged to the Bhonsle clan of the Marathas. Later he joined the Bijapur.
  • Mother of Shivaji – Jija Bai, Shivaji’s tutor was Dadaji Kondadev.
  • He inherited the jagir of Poona from his father in 1637. At the age of 16, he captured the Torna fort, followed by many more forts.
  • He created an independent Maratha kingdom with Raigad as its capital.
  • He captured Javali from Chandrarao More in 1656. At the Battle of Pratapgarh (1659) he killed Afzal Khan (Adil shah’s general).
  • Battle of Pavankhind (1660) – smaller Maratha force led by Baji Prabhu Deshpande held back the larger enemy to buy time for Shivaji to escape.
  • Shivaji was defeated by Shaista Khan (sent by Aurangzeb). Later He made a bold attack on Shaista Khan’s military camp at Poona in 1663 & wounded him.
  • Treaty of Purander (1665)
    • Signed between Raja Jai Singh (under Aurangzeb) and Shivaji.
    • Shivaji ceded some forts to the Mughals & visited Agra to meet Aurangzeb.
  • He defeated the Mughals in the Battle of Salher (1672). He was crowned & assumed the title Maharaja Chhatrapati in 1674 at Raigad fort.
  • Shivaji Maharaj had two sons: Sambhaji and Rajaram. Sambhaji Maharaj was the eldest son of Shivaji Maharaj.
  • He died in 1680 at the age of 52.
Maratha Empire and Shivaji Maharaj

Administration of Shivaji Maharaj

  • He divided the territory into three provinces. Provinces were divided into Prants which were subdivided into Parganas or Tarafs.
  • Shivaji had well organized Army & Navy. The regular army was called Paga, while the loose auxiliaries were called silahdars & were supervised by havildars.
  • Salary in cash was paid to the regular soldier, though sometimes the chiefs received revenue grants (saranjam).
  • He was assisted by a council of ministers called “Ashtapradhan” Mandal. Each minister was directly responsible to Shivaji. (No collective responsibility).
Maratha Empire and Shivaji Maharaj

Ashtapradhan Mandal

  1. Peshwa (Mukhya Pradhan) – Finance & general administration. Later became prime minister
  2. Senapati (Sar-i-Naubat) – Military commander
  3. Majumdar (Amatya) – Accountant General
  4. Waqenavis (Mantri) – Intelligence, posts, and household affairs
  5. Sachiv (Surnavis) – Correspondence
  6. Dabir (Sumant) – Foreign minister & Master of ceremonies.
  7. Nyayadhish – Justice
  8. Panditrao (Sadar) – High Priest, managing internal religious matters

Revenue System of Shivaji

  • The revenue system of Shivaji was based on that of Malik Amber of Ahmednagar.
  • The land was measured using a measuring rod called Kathi.
  • Discouraged revenue farming
  • Chauth (1/4th of land revenue) was paid to Marathas to avoid the Maratha raid.
  • Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of ten percent, that is.1/10 of standard land revenue on those lands on which the Marathas claimed hereditary rights.
  • Reduced the power of existing Deshmukhs and Kulkarni.
  • Appointed own revenue officer called Karkuns.

Sambhaji Maharaj (1680-1689)

  • Sambhaji Maharaj was the eldest son of Shivaji Maharaj.
  • Sambhaji was the son of Shivaji Maharaj and as per the Treaty of Purandar was a Mansabdar of the Mughals.
  • His rule was largely shaped by the ongoing wars between the Maratha kingdom and Mughal Empire as well as other neighboring powers such as Siddis, Mysore, and the Portuguese in Goa.
  • In 1687, at the Battle of Wai, he defeated Mughal forces.
  • In 1689, Sambhaji was captured, tortured, and executed by the Mughals.
  • He was succeeded by his brother Rajaram I.
  • Rajaram was the younger brother of Sambhaji Maharaj, and he was the successor of Sambhaji.
  • Shivaji II was the son of Rajaram Maharaj and Rani Tarabai. After the death of Rajaram Maharaj, Tarabai crowned her son and took control of the Maratha Empire.

Aurangzeb breathed his last on March 3, 1707, while Tarabai was still in power.

Shahu ji Maharaj (1707-1749)

  • After the death of Aurangazeb, Sambhaji’s son Sahu, who had been a Mughal prisoner since November 3, 1689, was released on 8th May 1707, by Aurangzeb’s second son Azam Shah. He took the title of Bahadur Shah I.
  • Shahu’s reign saw the rise of Peshwas & reducing Bhosale to mere figureheads. With the release of Sahu, a civil war broke out between the forces of Tarabai and Sahu.
  • However, with the support of the forces of Maratha Senapati Dhanaji Jadhav and Diwan Balaji Vishwanath, Sahu triumphed over Tarabai.
  • In the ensuing battle of Khed (October 12, 1707), between the forces of Sahu and Tarabai, the latter’s forces were defeated, and in January 1708, Sahu occupied Satara.
  • In his coronation ceremony, in January 1708, Sahu conferred upon Balaji Vishwanath, the title of Sena-Karte. His role is paralleled as “maker of the army”, and eventually he was given the post of Peshwa in 1713.
  • Balaji’s appointment as Peshwa marked a significant change in the office of Peshwa. Henceforth, the office of Peshwa became hereditary. Balaji and his successors became the de-facto rulers of the Maratha kingdom while the Chhatrapati reduces to just a figurehead.
  • By the time of Rajaram II/Ram raja, the power of Chhatrapati was almost overshadowed by that of Peshwa.

Maratha Confederacy (1720-1818)

The Maratha Confederacy, also known as the Maratha Empire or Maratha Kingdom, was a Hindu state that existed in India from 1674 to 1818. It was founded by Shivaji, a warrior, and leader who envisioned a united and independent state for the Maratha people. After Shivaji’s death in 1680, the empire was ruled by various members of his family and other leaders.
The Maratha Confederacy expanded rapidly under the leadership of Peshwa Baji Rao I and his successors, controlling large parts of India and defeating the Mughal Empire in several battles. However, the empire faced internal conflicts and eventually declined in the early 19th century, leading to its defeat by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.
Despite its eventual downfall, the Maratha Confederacy played a significant role in Indian history, influencing the culture, politics, and military tactics of the region.

Balaji Vishwanath (1713-20)

  • He started his career as a small revenue official. He was given the title of Sena Karte in 1708 by Shahu.
  • He became a Peshwa in 1713 & made the post most important and powerful as well as hereditary.
  • Balaji Vishwanath is called the second founder of the Maratha state. 
  • Balaji was credited with “a mastery of finance”.
  • Bajali opened direct negotiations with the Saiyyad brothers, and in February 1719 all his demands were accepted.

Peshwa Baji Rao I (1720-40)

  • After the demise of Balaji Vishwanath, his eldest son Baji Rao was appointed as Peshwa. He was merely 20 at that time.
  • It was under his command that the policy of northward expansion of the Marathas was adopted to achieve the goal “the Maratha flag shall fly from Krishna to Attock”.
  • Baji Rao succeeded in defeating the Nizam near Bhopal. With the signing of the Treaty of Durai Sarai (January 1738), Nizam agreed to surrender to the Peshwa the whole of Malwa, along with complete sovereignty over the area between the Narmada and the Chambal rivers. Nizam also agreed to pay 50 lakhs as war indemnity.
  • He conquered Malwa, Bundelkhand, Bassein, and Gujarat and reached up to Gujarat in 1737.
  • He made Poona the center of his activities and it soon came to be known as the seat of the Peshwas.
  • Baji Rao founded the Maratha empire through his conquest, but he didn’t consolidate it through an administrative organization.
Maratha FamiliesLocation

Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao (1740-61)

  • Peshwa Baji Rao died at the young age of 40 and was succeeded by his son Balaji Baji Rao who, throughout his Peshwaship, remained dependent on the advice and guidance of his cousin Sada Shiva Rao Bhau.
  • Defeated Nawab of Bengal Alivardi Khan in 1751 and 1/3rd of the Indian Subcontinent came under the Martha empire.
  • Signed agreement with Ahmad Shah (Mughal emperor) – Peshwas assured to protect the Mughal from internal and external enemies in return for the Chauth of the north-west provinces, total revenue of Agra & Ajmer provinces.
  • The Third battle of Panipat (1761) was fought between the Maratha Empire and the Durrani Empire (Afghanistan).
  • People involved: Sadashivrao Bhau (Commander-in-chief of the Maratha Army), Vishwasrao, Malharrao Holkar, Ahmad Shah Durrani (also called Ahmad Shah Abdali).
  • When: 14th January 1761.
  • Result: Victory for the Afghans. Durrani got support from the Rohillas of the Doab and Shuja-Ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh. The Marathas failed to get support from the Rajputs, Jats, or Sikhs.
  • • Successor: Madhav Rao à Narayan Rao à Sawai Madhav Rao à Baji Rao II.

Peshwa Madhava Rao I (1761-72)

  • After the death of Balaji Baji Rao, his younger son Madhava Rao was placed on Peshwa’s throne.
  • Since the new Peshwa was only 17 years old, his uncle Raghunatha Rao, the eldest surviving member of the Peshwa’s family, became his regent and the de facto ruler of the state.
  • During this period, serious differences broke out between the Peshwa and his uncle, leading to a war between the two in 1762, in which the Peshwa’s army was defeated.
  • In January 1771, Mahadaji Sindhia occupied Delhi and succeeded in extracting money from the leading Rajput princes. But the premature death of Madhava Rao in November 1772 placed the Maratha dominion in a deep crisis.

After Madhava Rao’s death the fortunes of the Maratha kingdom and the prestige of Peshwas under Narayana Rao (1772-74), Madhava Rao Narayan (1774-95), and Baji Rao II (1796-1818) rapidly declined.
The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British East India Company in the Battle of Khadki which was a part of the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818).

Anglo Maratha Wars

First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-82):

  • The immediate cause for the First Anglo-Maratha War was due to British interference in the internal matters of Marathas, particularly the act of successions.
  • Narayan Rao, who was the Maratha Peshwa then, died without a legal heir to the seat of Peshwa.
  • However, the birth of a posthumous son to Narayan Rao jeopardised Raghunath Rao’s chances of getting the throne. Under desperation to get the throne, he signed the Treaty of Surat in 1775 asking for British help.
  • In return, Raghunatha Rao promised to cede Salsette and Bassein, and also refrained from allying with the adversaries of the Company.
  • In the First Anglo-Maratha War, with no party gaining any ground, both realized the futility of the struggle. The first Anglo-Maratha War thus ended with the Treaty of Salbai in 1782.
  • Treaty of Salbai provided peace between the Marathas and the British.
  • Post this treaty; the British started exerting pressure on Mysore with help from Marathas to recover their territories from Haider Ali.

The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1806):

  • In Poona, with the death of two astute statesmen, Mahadji Sindhia and Nana Fadnavis, there began a fierce rivalry for power between the successors of Jaswant Rao Holkar, Mahadji Sindhia and Daulat Rao Sindhia. 
  • After that, Baji Rao II fled to Bassein and then signed a subsidiary alliance with the British. Under the treaty of Bassein, the Peshwa surrendered the city of Surat and gave up claims for Chauth on Nizam’s dominions.
  • He also agreed not to fight against the house of Gaekwads’.
  • The Treaty of Rajpurghat was signed in 1805 between Sir George Barlow and Holkar. Maratha Chiefs agreed to give up their claims over the territories to the north of Chambal, Bundelkhand.
  • The second Anglo-Maratha War thus ended with the signing of the Treaty of Rajpurghat.

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818):

  • In 1813, with the appointment of Lord Hastings as the Governor-General, the third and final Anglo-Maratha war began.
  • Marathas were defeated in the battle and thus Peshwa was forced to sign the Treaty of Poona (1817). Under this, the Peshwa agreed to give up the headship of the Maratha Confederacy. Also, from now onwards, there would be a British resident posted who will look into the matters of Marathas while dealing with other states.
  • The Peshwa had to cede large swaths of land in the Konkan region, rights in Bundelkhand and Malwa.
  • The Treaty of Gwalior (1817) was signed between Lord Hastings and Daulat Rao Scindhia as part of preparations for the campaign against Pindaris.
  • Consequently, the Pindari War was merged with the 3rd Anglo-Maratha War.

All Maratha houses united to fight against the British but lost. As a result of this, a new settlement was made with the Maratha Chiefs. The Peshwa surrendered his name and authority forever in lieu of eight lakh rupees as pension and retired to Bithur in Kanpur. A small district Satara was reserved for the descendant of Shivaji as the Raja of Satara. All the remaining Peshwa’s territories were annexed to the Presidency of Bombay.

End of Maratha Kingdom

  • The third Anglo-Martha war led to the end of the Maratha Empire. All the Maratha powers surrendered to the British.
  • The Peshwa was eventually captured and placed on a small estate at Bithur, near Kanpur.
  • The Maharaja of Satara was restored as the ruler of his territory as a princely state. Most of his territory was annexed and became part of the Bombay Presidency.
  • In 1848 this territory was also annexed under the “doctrine of lapse policy” of Lord Dalhousie.


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