(Last Updated on : 01-10-2014)
Maharashtra, the land of charismatic Marathas, unfolds the legend of diverse culture and tradition, keeping in pace with the modernity. The history was recorded with the use of Marathi language, a Prakrit adaptation of Sanskrit. According to excavated evidences Maharashtra was inhibited since the Paleolithic era. The name Maharashtra derived from "rathi" or "chariot driver" has its close affinity with the occupation of the inhabitants used to exist there who assembled to form the "fighting force" and used to be known as " maharathis". Maharashtra has a valiant history, which still murmurs the enigmatic aura of the state. The history of Maharashtra can actually be classified into five broad periods like Pre-medieval, Islamic Rule, The Rise of the Marathas,
The Peshwas and the British rule.
Not much information is available about the early history of Maharashtra. Depending on the evidences till unearthed, several dynasties from its advent have dominated the land. Vidarbha, the eastern part of Maharashtra was once controlled by the Vakatakas (250 -525 AD) under whose patronage art and religion flourished and technology became prominent. By the 6th century Maharashtra came under the Chalukyan regime. Later the
Rashtrakutas spread out their kingdom in most of the peninsular India. Thus Maharashtra was in chaotic turmoil by the continuous wars and conquest of various dynasties until Ashoka, the Buddhist king came in power and managed to consolidate the disintigatrated parts. Maharashtra became the nucleus of Indian Commerce during Ashoka's reign and Indian trade was prospered even in abroad.
Maharashtra was originally unaffected from the Muslim influences because the principal site of the Mughal Empire was Delhi. It was when Ala-ud-din Khalji invaded parts of Deccan, Islamic influence engulfed the land and for a considerable period the Islams dominated the land. With the downfall of Tughluqs, the Bahamani Sultanate overpowered their kingdom and constituted the episode of next 150 years of Islamic rule. Till 16th century Maharashtra was separated into many autonomous Islamic states that were under the direct provision of Mughal Empire in Delhi.
The Rise of the Marathas
As the history records, till the 16th century, Maharashtra undergoes great upheaval with the rise and fall of different dynasties. 17th century emerged with the ascension of Marathas with the leadership of Shivaji Bhosle. He was crowned king in 1674 after a hard won battle with the Muslims. The Maratha Empire reached its pinnacle in the reign of Shivaji. He integrated almost the entire Deccan and even annexed some parts of central India and parts of modern Pakistan with the Maratha Empire. After crushing the Mughals in 1707, it was the Marathas who became prominent in Indian politics. In 1712, Bajirao I ascend the throne. He introduced the post of Peshwa or Prime minister. However Bajirao was not competent enough to control the administration and Marathas had to suffer a set back in the third battle of Panipat in the hands of Afghan chief Ahmed Shah Abdali. Consequentially the Marathas incurred a huge loss and finally reduced to a provincial state.
With the introduction of the post of Peshwa, the concept of the separation of power came into being where the king no longer had the absolute power. The history of Maharashtra thus unfolds the fact that the Peshwas supervised the major part of the administrative jobs. Balaji Bishwanath and Bajirao were the most renowned Peshwas. They regulated the practice of collecting taxes from the Mughal territories. Chauth and sardeshmuki were two kinds of taxes introduced by the Peshwaraj. They followed the Mughals in collecting the land revenues and other taxes. However, it was under the Peshwas , Maharashtra finally came under the hold of the British Raj and the Peshwas remained as nothing but the puppets of the British.
The political pendulum started swinging in opposite direction with the death of Madhav Rao , which created a split among the Marathas for holding the post of Peshwa. In such circumstances, the then Peshwa Raghunath Rao sought help from the British, who agreed to help at the cost of the Treaty of Surat, 1775. According to the treaty, Raghunath had to yield Salsette and Bassein to the English along with the revenues collected from Broach and Surat districts. However the Marathas succeeded to conquer their lost status and collapsed the English army at Telegaon for which Company had to surrender all the territories they acquired till date.
Warren Hastings, the governor-general implemented strong measures to retrieve the lost status and sent a force headed by Colonel Goddard to capture Bassein and Ahmedabad. Another force he sent against Mahadaji Sindhia. Finally Sindhia was crushed and the British conclude the treaty of Salbai by which the English regained their lost status and finally the erstwhile territories of Marathas.
The incompetency of Raghunath Rao and his timid expediency irritated and shocked the Maratha chieftains and in utter dismay they opposed the ways of Raghunath. Taking advantage of this discord, the British occupied Orissa and parts of the Western Gujrat.
However with the conclusion of third Anglo- Maratha War, Peshwa Baji Rao II , surrendered to Malcolm in 1818 and was granted allowance of 8 lakh annually. The post of Peshwa was abolished and the Peshwa rights in Poona were incorporated in Bombay Presidency. Thus the Third Anglo -Maratha War was a complete obliteration of the hard earned Maratha kingdom.
The British rule and the Post Independence
The British rule started in actuality only after they attained victory in three Anglo - Maratha wars. The northern part of Deccan was incorporated with Bombay Presidency from 1848 to1853. The princely states like Nagpur, Satara etc submitted to the British supremacy to maintain their local autonomy. The British generals crushed the minor revolts, later arose. Therefore the fall of Marathas before the British supremacy smoothened the path of the British to establish them politically in India.
After India unchained herself from the clutches of the British Raj, the political scenario of Maharashtra has undergone certain changes. Several states are annexed and the former disintegrated princely states were consolidated to form an integrated whole of the present Maharashtra. In 1960, under the Bombay Reorganization Act, Maharashtra and Gujarat were recognized legally as the separate states and the present state of Maharashtra came into being with Bombay as its capital. The post independence history of Maharashtra comprises the period from the attainment of independence to the final separation and integration of the states. The post independence era prompts the social and economic policies adopted by the government for the welfare of the state.