What is A Maratha ?
famed in history as yeoman warriors and champions of Hinduism. Their homeland is the present state of Mahārāshtra, the Marāṭhī-speaking region that extends from Bombay to Goa along the west coast of India and inland about 100 miles (160 km) east of Nāgpur.
The term Marāṭhā is used in three overlapping senses: within the Marāṭhī-speaking region it refers to the single dominant Marāṭhā caste or to the group of Marāṭhā and Kunbī castes; outside Mahārāshtra, the term often loosely designates the entire regional population speaking the Marāṭhī language, numbering approximately 65,000,000; and, used historically, the term denotes the regional kingdom founded by the Marāṭhā leader Śhivājī in the 17th century and expanded by his successors of many castes in the 18th century.
The Marāṭhā group of castes is a largely rural class of peasant cultivators, landowners, and soldiers. Some Marāṭhā and Kunbī have at times claimed Kshatriya (the warrior and ruling class) standing and supported their claims to this rank by reference to clan names and genealogies linking themselves with epic heroes, Rājput clans of the north, or historic dynasties of the early medieval period. The Marāṭhā and Kunbī group of castes is divided into subregional groupings of coast, western hills, and Deccan Plains, among which there is little intermarriage. Within each subregion, clans of these castes are classed in social circles of decreasing rank.
A maximal circle of 96 clans is said to include all true Marāṭhā, but the lists of these 96 clans are highly various and disputed.
The good fortune of Śivājī did not fall to his son and successor, Sambhājī, who was captured and executed by the Mughals in the late 1680s. His younger brother, Rājārām, who succeeded him, faced with a Mughal army that was now on the ascendant, moved his base into the Tamil country, where Śivājī, too, had earlier kept an interest. He remained in the great fortress of Señjī (earlier the seat of a Nāyaka dynasty subordinate to Vijayanagar) for eight years in the 1690s, under siege by a Mughal force, and for a time it may have appeared that Marāṭhā power was on the decline. But a recovery was effected in the early 18th century, in somewhat changed circumstances. A particularly important phase in this respect is the reign of Śāhū, who succeeded Rājārām in 1708 with some acrimony from his widow, Tārā Bāī. Lasting some four decades, to 1749, Śāhū's reign was marked by the ascendancy of a lineage of Citpāvan Brahman ministers, who virtually came to control central authority in the Marāṭhā state, with the Bhonsles reduced to figureheads. Holding the title of peshwa (chief minister), the first truly prominent figure of this line is Bālājī Viśvanāth, who had aided Śāhū in his rise to power. Viśvanāth and his successor, Bājī Rāo I (peshwa between 1720 and 1740), managed to bureaucratize the Marāṭhā state to a far greater extent than had been the case under the early Bhonsles.
On the one hand, they systematized the practice of tribute gathering from Mughal territories, under the heads of sardeśmukhī and cauth (the two terms corresponding to the proportion of revenue collected). But, equally, they seem to have consolidated methods of assessment and collection of land revenue and other taxes, which were derived from the Mughals. Much of the revenue terminology used in the documents of the peshwa and his subordinates derives from Persian, which suggests a far greater continuity between Mughal and Marāṭhā revenue practice than might have been imagined.
By the close of Śāhū's reign, a complex role had been established for the Marāṭhās. On the one hand, in the territories that they controlled closely, particularly in the Deccan, these years saw the development of sophisticated networks of trade, banking, and finance; the rise of substantial banking houses based at Pune, with branches extending into Gujarāt, the Ganges Valley, and the south; and an expansion of the agricultural frontier. At the same time, maritime affairs were not totally neglected either, and Bālājī Viśvanāth took some care to cultivate the Āngria clan, which controlled a fleet of vessels based in Kolābā and other centres of the west coast. These ships posed a threat not only to the new English settlement of Bombay, but to the Portuguese at Goa, Bassein, and Damān. On the other hand, there also emerged a far larger domain of activity away from the original heartland of the Marāṭhās, which was either subjected to raiding or given over to subordinate chiefs. Of these chiefs, the most important were the Gaikwāḍs (Gaekwars), the Sindhias, and the Holkars. Also, there were branches of the Bhonsle family itself that relocated to Kolhāpur and Nāgpur, while the main line remained in the Deccan heartland, at Sātāra. The Kolhāpur line derived from Rājārām and his wife, Tārā Bāī, who had refused in 1708 to accept Śāhū's rule and who negotiated with some Mughal court factions in a bid to undermine Śāhū. The Kolhāpur Bhonsles remained in control of a limited territory into the early 19th century, when the raja allied himself with the British against the peshwas in the Anglo-Marāṭhā wars.
Unlike the Kolhāpur Bhonsles and the descendants of Vyaṃkojī at Thanjāvūr, both of whom claimed a status equal to that of the Sātāra raja, the line at Nāgpur was clearly subordinate to the Sātāra rulers. A crucial figure from this line is Raghūjī Bhonsle (ruled 1727–55), who was responsible for the Marāṭhā incursions on Bengal and Bihār in the 1740s and early 1750s. The relations of his successors, Jānojī, Sabāıī, and Muḍhōjī, with the peshwas and the Sātāra line were variable, and it is in this sense that these domains can be regarded as only loosely confederated, rather than tightly bound together.
The Marāṭhā confederacy
alliance formed in the 18th century after Mughal pressure forced the collapse of Śivājī's kingdom of Mahārāshtra in western India. After the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb's death (1707), Marāṭhā power revived under Śivājī's grandson Shāhū.
He confided power to the Brahman Bhat family, who became hereditary Peshwas (chief ministers). He also decided to expand northward with armies under the peshwas' control. In Shāhū's later years the power of the peshwas increased. After his death (1749) they became the effective rulers.
The peshwa, also known as the mukhya pradhan, originally headed the advisory council of the raja Śivājī (reigned c. 1659–80). After Śivājī's death, the council broke up and the office lost its primacy, but it was revived when Śhivājī's grandson Shāhū appointed Bālājī Visvanāth Bhat, a Chitpavan Brahman, as peshwa in 1714. Bālājī's son Bājī Rāo I secured the hereditary succession to the peshwaship.
From Shāhū's death, in 1749, the peshwa Bālājī Bājī Rāo was the virtual ruler of Mahārāshtra. He hoped to succeed the Mughals in Delhi, but, after a disastrous defeat of his army at Pānīpat (1761), he became the head of a confederacy of himself and four northern chiefs. Succession disputes from 1772 weakened the Peshwa's authority. Defeat by Holkars—the Marāthā rulers of Indore—led Bājī Rāo II to seek British protection by the Treaty of Bassein (1802). Bājī Rāo was deposed after attacking the British in 1818; he died in 1853.
The effective control of the peshwas ended with the great defeat of Pānīpat (1761) at the hands of the Afghans and the death of the young peshwa Mādhav Rāo I in 1772. Thereafter the Marāṭhā state was a confederacy of five chiefs under the nominal leadership of the peshwa at Poona (Pune) in western India. Though they united on occasion, as against the British (1775–82), more often they quarreled. After he was defeated by the Holkar in 1802, the peshwa Bājī Rāo II sought protection from the British, whose intervention destroyed the confederacy by 1818. The confederacy expressed a general Marāṭhā nationalist sentiment but was divided bitterly by the jealousies of its chiefs.
The leading Marāṭhā families—Sindhia, Holkar, Bhonsle, and Gaekwaḍ (Gaekwar)—extended their conquests in northern and central India and became more independent and difficult to control.
Treaty of Surji-Arjungaon
settlement between the Marāṭhā chief Daulat Rāo Sindhia and the British, the result of Lord Lake's campaign in upper India in the first phase of the second Marāṭhā war (1803–05).
Lake captured Alīgarh and defeated Sindhia's French-trained army at Delhi and Laswarī (September-November 1803). By this treaty the Mughal emperor Shāh Ālam II passed under British protection; the Yamuna-Ganges doab (territory between the rivers), Āgra, and Sindhia's territories in Gohad and Gujarāt were entrusted to the British East India Company; and Sindhia's control over Rājasthān was relaxed. In addition, Sindhia received a British resident and signed a defensive treaty.
Anglo –Maratha Wars
(1775–82, 1803–05, 1817–18), three conflicts between the British and the Marāṭhā confederacy, resulting in the destruction of the confederacy.
The first war (1775–82)
began with British support for Raghunath Rāo's bid for the office of peshwa (chief minister) of the confederacy. The British were defeated at Wadgaon in January 1779, but they continued to fight the Marāṭhā until conclusion of the Treaty of Salbai (May 1782); the sole British gain was the island of Salsette adjacent to Bombay.
Treaty of Purandar
(March 1, 1776), pact between the peshwa (chief minister) of the Marāthā people and the supreme government of the British East India Company in Calcutta. It was an example of the tangled relations between the British and the Marāthās.
After the death of the peshwa Narāyan Rāo in 1773, his uncle Raghunath Rāo tried to secure the succession. The company's Bombay government supported Raghunath's claim in the Treaty of Surat (March 7, 1775) in return for Salsette Island and Bassein (Vasai). But the supreme government disallowed this treaty and sent its own agent to renegotiate. The resulting Treaty of Purandhar annulled that of Surat. Raghunath was pensioned and his cause abandoned, but Salsette and the Broach revenues were retained by the British. The tangle was increased by the support of the London authorities for Bombay, which in 1778–79 again supported Raghunath. Peace was finally restored in 1782.
The third war (1817–18)
was the result of an invasion of Marāṭhā territory in the course of operations against Pindari robber bands by the British governor-general, Lord Hastings. The peshwa's forces, followed by those of the Bhonsle and Holkar, rose against the British (November 1817), but the Sindhia remained neutral. Defeat was swift, followed by the pensioning of the Peshwa and the annexation of his territories, thus completing the supremacy of the British in India.
Who were the PINDARIS ?
historically, an irregular horseman, plunderer, or forager attached to a Muslim army in India who was allowed to plunder in lieu of pay. The name is Marāṭhi and probably derives from two words, meaning “bundle of grass” and “who takes.”
The Pindaris followed the Marāṭhā bands who raided Mughal territory from the late 17th century. With the collapse of the Mughal empire in the 18th century, these camp followers organized themselves into groups, each usually attached to one of the leading Marāṭhā chiefs. But as those chiefs themselves grew weak at the end of the century, the Pindaris became largely a law unto themselves and conducted raids from hideouts in central India. The majority of their leaders were Muslims, but they recruited from all classes.
After the regular forces of the Marāṭhās had been broken up by the British in the campaigns of 1803–04, the Pindaris made their headquarters in Mālwa, under the tacit protection of the rulers of Gwalior and Indore. They usually assembled in November to set forth over British-held territory in search of plunder. In one such raid on the Masulipatam coast, they plundered 339 villages, killing and wounding 682 persons, torturing 3,600 others, and carrying off much valuable property. In 1808–09 they plundered Gujarāt, and in 1812, Mirzāpur. In 1814 they numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 horsemen, half of them well armed.
At last their practices became intolerable, and in 1816 the British organized the campaign known as the Pindari War (1817–18). The Pindaris were surrounded by an army of about 120,000 men, which converged upon them from Bengal, the Deccan, and Gujarāt under the supreme command of the governor-general Warren Hastings. The Pindaris' protectors in Gwalior were overawed and signed a treaty (1817) against the Pindaris. Their other allies against the British took up arms but were separately defeated. The Pindaris themselves offered little resistance; most of the leaders surrendered, and their followers dispersed.