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Intro to The Rise of Marathas


  • The Marathas played a major role in the decline of Mughal power.
  • Under the dynamic leadership of Shivaji, they posed a strong challenge to Mughal power during the 1670s.
  • By the middle of the 18th century, they had succeeded in displacing Mughal power in central India.
  • Nayak rule ended in 1674 in Thanjavur, when the Maratha General Venkoji (half brother of Shivaji) leading the Bijapur forces invaded Thanjavur and succeeded in establishing Maratha rule in the Tamil region.
  • Maratha rule in Thanjavur which started from 1674 continued until the death of Serfoji II in 1832.

Causes of the Rise of the Marathas

(a) Physical features and Nature of the People

  • The region of the Marathas consisted of a narrow strip of land called Konkan.
  • Its precipitous mountains, inaccessible valleys and impregnable hill-forts were most favourable for military defence.
  • The Marathas claimed a long tradition of military prowess and prided themselves on their loyalty, courage, discipline, cunningness, and endurance.
  • They had earlier served under the Bahmani Sultans and later, after its disintegration, under the Sultans of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda, Bidar and Berar.
  • Marathas avoided direct battles with the Mughal armies that were equipped with strong cavalry and deadly cannons.
  • “Guerrilla warfare” was their strength.
  • They possessed the ability to plan and execute the surprise lightning attacks at night.
  • Further, they exhibited skills to change their tactics according to the battle situation without waiting for orders from a superior officer.

(b) Bhakti Movement and its Impact

  • The spread of the Bhakti movement inculcated the spirit of oneness among the Marathas.
  • Tukaram, Ramdas, and Eknath were the leading lights of the movement.
  • The hymns of the Bhakti saints were sung in Marathi and they created a bond among people across the society.

(c) External causes

  • The degeneration of Bijapur and Golkonda prompted the Marathas to unite and fight together.
  • The Deccan wars against the Sultans of Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar had exhausted the Mughal treasury.
  • Shivaji rallied the Marathas who lay scattered in many parts of Deccan under his leadership and built a mighty kingdom, with Raigarh (Raigad) as the capital.

“The religious revival [in Maratha country] was not Brahmanical” in its orthodoxy, it was heterodox in its spirit of protest against forms, ceremonies and class distinctions. The saints sprang chiefly from the lower order of the society other than Brahmins. – Justice Ranade.

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