Maratha

This article is about the specific "Maratha caste". For the wider group of Marathi speakers, see Marathi people.
Maratha
मराठा
Maratha Soldier.jpg
Engraving of a Maratha Soldier by James Forbes, 1813.
Religions Om.svg Hinduism
Languages Marathi and Marathi dialects
Populated states Major: Maharashtra
Minor: Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh.

The Maratha (IPA:  [ˈməraʈa]; archaically transliterated as Marhatta or Mahratta) is a group of castes in India found predominantly in the state of Maharashtra. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "Marathas are people of India, famed in history as yeoman warriors and champions of Hinduism." [1] They reside primarily in the Indian state of Maharashtra. [1]

Territory under Maratha control in 1760 (yellow), without its vassals.

Robert Vane Russell, an untrained ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature, [2] wrote that the Marathas are subdivided into 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or 'Shahānnau Kule' [3] Shahannau means 96 in Marathi. The general body of lists are often at great variance with each other. [4]

History

Maratha helmet
Maratha armour
Maratha armour
Typical Maratha helmet with curved back.
Maratha Armour from Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.
See also: Maratha Empire

The term "Maratha" originally referred to the speakers of the Marathi language. In the 17th century, it emerged as a designation for soldiers serving in the armies of Deccan sultanates (and later Shivaji). [5] A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, originally served in those armies. [6] By the mid-1660s, Shivaji had established an independent Maratha kingdom. [7] After his death, the kingdom expanded into a vast empire under the Peshwas, stretching from central India [8] in the south, to Peshawar [9] (in modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and with expeditions to Bengal in the east. By the 19th century, the Empire had become a Confederacy of individual states controlled by Maratha chiefs such as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore, the Scindias of Gwalior, the Puars of Dhar & Dewas, and Bhonsles of Nagpur.[ citation needed] The Confederacy remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817–1818). [10][ page needed]

By 19th century, the term Maratha had several interpretations in the British administrative records. In the Thane District Gazetteer of 1882, the term was used to denote elite layers within various castes: for example, The upper-class "Marathas proper" (comprising 96 clans) claimed Rajput descent with Kshatriya status, and included princes, officers and landowners. [11] [12] Some of the Maratha clans claiming Rajput descent include Bhonsales (from Sisodias), [13] Chavans (from Chauhans), [14] and Pawar (from Parmar). [15] "Maratha-Agri" within Agri caste, "Maratha-Koli" within Koli caste and so on. [5] In the Pune District, the words Kunbi and Maratha had become synonymous, giving rise to the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex. [16] The Pune District Gazetteer of 1882 divided the Kunbis into two classes: Marathas and other Kunbis. [5] The 1901 census listed three groups within the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex: "Marathas proper", "Maratha Kunbis" and " Konkani Marathas". [17] The Kunbi class comprised agricultural workers and soldiers.

Gradually, the term Maratha came to denote an endogamous caste. [5] From 1900 onwards, the Satyashodhak Samaj movement defined the Marathas as a broader social category of non- Brahmin groups. [18] These non-Brahmins gained prominence in Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement. In independent India, these Marathas became the dominant political force in the newly-formed state of Maharashtra. [19]