from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Flag of Maratha
flag coat of arms
Capital Raigad
surface 2,800,000 km²
founding 1674
resolution 1818
India at the time of Robert Clive around 1760. State structure and area of ​​influence of the Marathas are shown in yellow
India at the time of Robert Clive around 1760. State structure and area of ​​influence of the Marathas are shown in yellow

Maratha , the empire of the Marathas, ( Marathi मराठा साम्राज्य Marāṭhā Sāmrājya Maratha Samrajya ) was a state in central India (1674-1818) that almost reached great power status in the 18th century. At the same time as the fall of the Mughal Empire, he initiated a renewal of Hindu influence in India.

Origins under Shivaji

The Marathas were originally a clan alliance in what is now the Indian state of Maharashtra , which owned some fortresses in the mountains. Their language was the Marathi language, which found expression in literature as early as the 13th century. Since that time, their own literary and religious traditions, represented by personalities such as Tukaram (17th century), created a feeling of togetherness among these tribes.

Under their leader Shivaji (ruled approx. 1657–80) the Marathas rose to rivals of the Deccan sultanates of Bijapur and Golkonda . Shivaji proclaimed himself king in 1674 according to the old Vedic ritual, but had little to counter the expansionist urge of the Mughal empire under Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707). Nevertheless, he is considered one of the greatest Indian heroes. The taxes were up to half the harvest, but there was government subsidy for agriculture. The Chauth, the tribute collected by the Marathas, is mentioned for the first time in 1670.

Shivaji's son Sambhaji allied himself with Prince Akbar, the fourth son of Aurangzeb, who was rebelling against his father, but the alliance between the two remained fruitless (1681). Aurangzeb's army captured Bijapur and Golkonda in 1686/87 and then turned against the Marathas. In 1689, Sambhaji was caught, tortured and executed on a pleasure excursion. Sambhaji was followed by his brother Rajaram (–1700), who continued the guerrilla war .

The Peshwas and the way to a great power

When Sambhaji's son Shahu was released from Mughal imprisonment in 1707, there was a split in the Marathas between him and the sons of Rajaram or his widow Tara Bai .

Shahu's prime minister, the Peshwa Baji Rao I , who ruled for his mild king from 1720-40, nevertheless led the Marathan power to its zenith. The time was marked by low taxes and religious tolerance. On the other side stood the Mughal politician Nizam-ul-Mulk in Delhi , but he was ultimately unable to prevail at court. The Marathas received monetary payments and political concessions, e.g. B. Balaji Vishwanath was awarded the Chauth for the Dekkan in Delhi in 1719. In 1734 they stood before Agra, and in 1737 Delhi was only saved by a stroke of luck.

After the abdication of Nizam-ul-Mulk in 1724 (he created a quasi-independent state in Hyderabad ) and the sack of Delhi by the Persian conqueror Nadir Shah in 1739, the Mughal empire was politically weakened.

Instead of a centralized Marathen state, a confederation of petty kings was gradually emerging, held together by the authority of the Prime Minister, the Peshwa. Four clans stood out: the Gaekwad in Baroda ( Gujarat region ), the Sindia in Gwalior , the Holkar in Indore ( Malwa region ) and the Bhonsle in Nagpur ( Berar region ). The king was now only a nominal head and the prime minister (peshwa) had to do with balancing their political aspirations. The Peshwas benefited from the fact that only they and their kind (the Brahmin caste) had the necessary knowledge of rulership due to the complicated tax collection and wealth distribution within the marathic confederation. At the same time, the Marathas sometimes violated the Indian class structure : The first Peshwa had once been a village accountant, and the ancestors of the Holkars were goatherds.

The Marathas collected a tribute called Chauth (1/4 of the state revenue) and a surcharge on local taxes (Sardeshmukhi) and left everything else to the local rulers, the nawabs , emirs and rajas . They also refused to appoint new owners in a conquered area when there was the slightest chance that the old might come back. In not subject or directly “managed” areas such as B. in Bengal des Nawabs and Hyderabad administered by Asaf Jah I. They only appeared as plunderers who were feared because of their cruelty. A raid of Raghuji Bhonsle in Bengal in 1742 may serve as an example, it also led to the conflict between the Peshwa and Raghuji Bhonsle.

Baji Rao I was followed by his son Balaji Rao 1740–61 as premier. King Shahu died in 1749 and the Prime Ministers (Peshwa) became the de facto authority of the Marathas, the (adopted) heir to the throne Ramaraja was imprisoned by Rajaram's widow Tara Bai and Damaji Gaikwar after a victory over the opposition .

Prime Minister Balaji Rao limited himself to the administration, while his brother Ragunath commanded the army in the north and repeatedly fought back the Afghans. Finally, another relative led a large Marathi army into the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 against Ahmad Shah Durrani . It was about the newly occupied Delhi. However, the Afghans prevailed with more agile tactics, lighter cannons and secure supply lines. Balaji Rao was shocked and died a little later.

In the first half of the 18th century, the Marathas under Kanhoji Angre (1667-1729) and his son Tulaji engaged in extensive piracy , mainly for their own account, but also sea and trade wars against the English East India Company . Several punitive expeditions by the European colonial powers failed; it was not until 1756 that the British achieved a decisive sea victory, and Tulaji Angre fled to the Peshwa.

Stagnation and decline

The next Peshwa, Madhav Rao I (1761–72), was still able to hold back his opponents and Delhi and the Great Mogul Shah Alam II . incorporate into the empire. But after his death, his uncle Ragunath allied himself with the British East India Company against the legitimate next Peshwa and his followers. Ragunath split the Marathas and gave the British Warren Hastings freedom of action. The first war broke out between the East India Company and Marathen (the latter even in alliance with their opponents in Mysore and Hyderabad ), in which the Marathas under General Mahadji Sindia were defeated at Sipri in 1781 after a victory in 1779 and to the peace of Salbai in 1782 were forced.

At that time the central power wavered: sub-kings and generals like Mahadji Sindia were the masters in their provinces and even gave orders to the Peshwa in 1785. But Mahadji Sindia († 1795) failed to protect the Mughal Mughal Shah Alam II in 1788 against plundering Afghan Rohilla under the leadership of Ghulam Qadir , who captured Shah Alam II and blinded him . Mahadji Sindia had his army trained according to the European pattern by a French officer named Perron and nevertheless suffered a defeat against the Rajputs . His lack of money and his conflict with the Holkar family (Queen Ahalya Bai, † 1795) added. After his death and the death of Minister Nana Fadnavis in 1800, the state finally collapsed.

The Peshwa Baji Rao II (1796-1818), Ragunath's son, came under British protection after a defeat against his rival Jaswant Rao Holkar in 1802. The lower kings, especially Daulat Rao Sindia and Raghuji Bhonsle, did not tolerate this. So it came afterwards to the war between the Marathas and the British, which, due to the disagreement of the Marathas and their inadequate attempt to copy European warfare, ended in favor of the latter. The British under Arthur Wellesley triumphed over Sindia and Bhonsle at Assaye and in 1803 occupied Delhi. Jaswant Rao Holkar inflicted heavy losses on the British in August 1804, but lost at Farrukhabad in November . The Sindia, Bhonsle and Holkar had to bow to the British one after the other and were given special contracts.

In the Third Marathas War in 1817/18 the East India Company finally deprived the Marathas of their independence. Governor General Francis Rawdon Hastings provided 120,000 soldiers for this. The Peshwa Baji Rao II lost two battles, was captured, and eventually retired on a pension of £ 80,000. This left only petty kings with the status of princely states of British India until 1947/48.

The regents



  • 1713-1720 Balaji Vishwanath
  • 1720-1740 Baji Rao I.
  • 1740-1761 Balaji Baji Rao
  • 1761-1772 Madhav Rao I. Ballal
  • 1772-1773 Narayan Rao
  • 1773–1774 Ragunath (pretender)
  • 1774–1795 Madhav Rao II. Narayan
  • 1796-1818 Baji Rao II.

See also


  • Stewart Gordon: The Marathas. 1600-1818 (= The New Cambridge History of India. 2, 4). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 1993, ISBN 0-521-26883-4 .

Web links