(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "The Maratha Age"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: The Maratha Age

The origin of the Marathi ­speaking community of Maharashtra cannot be identified with certainty. Whether the term itself is derived from Maharashtra or whether the land assumes the name from its dwellers is difficult to say. But it cannot be denied that there exists a great admixture of aboriginal to elements in the Marathas, of all grades. Marathi, which evolved from Maharastri­Prakrit, has been the lingua franca of the people of this area from the 10th century onwards. And, in the course of time, the term ‘Maharashtra’ was used to describe a region which consisted of Aparanta, Vidarbha, Mulaka, Asmaka and Kuntala.

The tribal communities of Nagas, Mundas and Bhils inhabited this area, also known as Dandakaranya, in ancient times. They were joined by the Aryans, the Sakas and the Hunas, who came from the North, as well as by foreigners, who arrived by sea. The Dravidians from the South colonised the land, joining a group which collectively came known as ‘Marathas’. The Marathas dominated the political scene in Maharashtra from the middle of the 17th century to the early 19th century. Although for historical purposes the term ‘Maratha’ is used in a comprehensive sense to include all Marathi speaking people, in actual fact the word signifies the distinct community which has dominated the political scene of Maharashtra since medieval times. Maloji Bhonsale (1552-1606) joined Nizam Shah with a small band of cavalry. His son, Shahji (1599-1664) served under Nizam Shah and Adil Shah, and came to prominence as a leading Maratha.

Shivaji (1630 - 80)

Born on February 19, 1630 at Shivner to Shahji Bhonsle and Jija Bai, he inherited the Jagir of Poona from his father till 1637. After the death of his guardian Dadaji Kondadev, in 1647, he assumed full charge of his jagir. Before that, at the age of 18, he conquered Torna, built forts at Raigarh & Pratapgarh (1645-47). Afzal Khan was deputed by the Adil Shah ruler to punish Shivaji, but the later murdered Afzal in 1659. Later Shaista Khan, governor of Deccan, was deputed by Aurangazeb to put down the rising power of Shivaji in 1660. Shivaji lost Poona and suffered several defeats till he made a bold attack on Shaista’s military camp and plundered Surat (1664) and later Ahmadnagar.

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Raja Jai Singh of Amber was then appointed by Aurangazeb to put down Shivaji (1665) and Jai Singh succeeded in besieging Shivaji in the fort of Purandhar. Consequently the treaty of Purandhar (1665) was signed according to which Shivaji ceded 23 forts to the Mughals and pay a visit to the Mughal court at Agra. Recognition of Shivaji’s right to certain parts of Bijapur kingdom by the Mughals. Grant of a mansab of 5000 to Shivaji’s son.

Shivaji’s visited to Agra and he imprisonment and escaped in 1666. Four years of military conquests recovering all his former forts and territories, his coronation at Raigarh in 1674 and assumption of the title of “Haindava Dharmodharak” (Protector of Hinduism). His alliance with the Qutub Shahis of Golconda and his campaign into Bijapuri Karnataka and conquest of Gingee (Jinji), Vellore, etc. In 1674 he was coronated at Raigarh and assumed the title of ‘Haindava Dharmodharak’ (Protector of Hinduism). Shivaji died in 1680.

He stabilised the state with effective civil and military administration and adopted a policy of religious tolerance to accommodate all religions and sects in his state. He was the first Maratha Chhatrapati (ruler) and issued the gold coin, shivarai hon, on the occasion of his coronation (1674). His premature death at the age of 50 (April 5, 1680) created a vacuum.

Successors of Shivaji

Sambhaji (1680-89)

Sambhaji, the elder son, defeated Rajaram, the younger son of Shivaji, in the war of succession. He provided protection and support to Akbar, the rebellious son of Aurangzeb. He was captured at Sangamesvar by a Mughal noble and executed.

Rajaram (1689-1700)

He succeeded the throne with the help of the ministers at Raigarh. He fled from Raigarh to Jinji in 1689 due to a Mughal invasion in which Raigarh was captured along with Sambhaji’s wife and son (Shahu) by the Mughals. Rajaram died at Satara, which had become the capital alter the fall of Jinji to Mughals in 1698. Rajaram’s created the new post of pratinidhi, thus taking the total number of ministers to nine.

Sivaji II and Tarabai (1700-1707)

Rajaram was succeeded by his minor son Sivaji II under the guardianship of his mother Tarabai.

Shahu (1707-1749)

Shahu was released by the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah. Tarabai’s army was defeated by Shahu at the battle of Khed (1700) and Shahu occupied Satara. But the southern part of the Maratha kingdom with its capital at Kolhapur continued to be under the control of the descendants of Rajaram (Shivaji II and later Sambhaji II). Shahu’s reign saw the rise of Peshwas and transformation of the Maratha kingdom into an empire based on the principle of confederacy.

Peshwas (1713-1818)

Balaji Viswanath (1713-20)

He began his career as a small revenue official and was given the title of “Sena Karte” (marker of the army) by Shahu in 1708. He became Peshwa in 1713 and made the post the most important and powerful as well as hereditary. He played a crucial role the final victory of Shahu by winning over almost all the Maratha sardars to the side of Shahu. Lie concluded an agreement with the Sayyid brothers (1719) by which the Mughal emperor (Farukh Siyar) recognised Shahu as the king of the swarajya.’

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