Hinduism Maratha Rule (1674–1818)
by
Daniel Jasper
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0202

Introduction

Maratha Rule was established by Shivaji Bhosale in western India in the 17th century. Shivaji’s father, Shahaji Bhosale and his grandfather, Maloji Bhosale acquired lands in return for service to the Deccan Sultanates. As a teenager, Shivaji, who was raised on his father’s jagir lands near Pune, began a series of campaigns, supported by local youth, to seize land and forts in the western ghats. Shivaji had himself crowned king in 1674 and adopted the honorific titles of Chhatrapati and Maharaj. Through his military campaigns, Shivaji challenged the Deccani Sultanates based in Bijapur and Ahmednagar; in declaring himself king, Shivaji challenged the authority of the Mughal regime. Though he died in 1680, the Maratha kingdom that he established remained in existence until 1818. After his death, while his descendants occupied the titular throne, power was consolidated in the office of Peshwa, located in Pune. The Peshwa was occupied by a hereditary line of Chitpavan Brahmins, who expanded the reach of the Maratha empire and retained control of large sections of western and central India in the face of expanding British colonial power. The Marathas finally succumbed to British power in 1818. The life and accomplishments of Shivaji, as well as the Peshwai that inherited his regime, have become important focal points in debates about caste, religion, and national identity in western India during the colonial and postcolonial periods.

General Overviews

Works in this section provide an overview of Shivaji, his rise to power, and the Maratha rule that he established. Kotani 2012 is an encyclopedia entry that provides a brief summary of key events and accomplishments. Gordon 1993 is a brief but comprehensive historical treatment that spans the time period of Maratha power. Kulkarni 1996 is a similar overview, with a detailed section on Shivaji’s family background. Mehendale 2011 is the most comprehensive of these overviews in detailing events and people important in Shivaji’s rise to power.

  • Gordon, Stewart. The Marathas, 1600–1818. Vol. 2, Part 4 of The New Cambridge History of India. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    Gordon draws on a range of archival documents and secondary sources to combine a history of elite families with a social history. He details the military and administrative history of the Marathas and a gives a sense of how people on the ground experienced life during the Maratha era.

  • Kotani, H. “Maratha (1674–1818).” In Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. 4. Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, and Vasudha Narayanan, 96–103. Leiden, The Netherlands & Boston: Brill, 2012.

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    Encyclopedia entry providing an overview of Maratha power, including sections on economics and religious practices.

  • Kulkarni, A. R. The Marathas. New Delhi: Books & Books, 1996.

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    An historical overview of Shivaji and the Marathas. Part 1 focuses on the historical context, Shivaji’s family background, significant moments in Shivaji’s rise to power, and an overview of the administration. Part 2 is focused on Maratha expansion under the Peshwa and the decline of Maratha influence.

  • Mehendale, Gajanan Bhaskar. Shivaji: His Life and Times. Thane, India: Param Mitra, 2011.

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    A richly documented account of Shivaji’s rise to power that is particularly strong in detailing the military and diplomatic campaigns that led to the geographic expansion of Maratha influence. Also includes very useful appendices, including a review of the historical sources available in many languages. In other appendices, Mehendale reviews the documentation relevant for debated topics, including Shivaj’s birth date, the role played by and Shivaji’s relationship with the Saints, and whether Shivaji was literate.

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