The history of the Mughal Period is incomplete without a reference to the factors responsible for the rise of  Marathas. The Marathas played an important role in the downfall of the Mughal Empire.

The Marathas initially hailed from Maharashtra-Western part of the Deccan Plateau. The people of Maratha engage in trade and commerce and were farmers.

Some top-ranking families took up services with Muslim Kingdoms in the Deccan. They served as military commanders or jagirdars. The Marathas by faith were Hindus, but they believed in the quality of all irrespective of caste or economic status.

FACTORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RISE OF THE MARATHAS IN 17TH CENTURY

There were various factors responsible for the rise of the Marathas in the 17th century. Some of the factors are:

The Geographical Features of the Marathas

The distinct physical or geographical features of the Marathas greatly contributed to the development of military and moral qualities.

The region surrounding the land of Maratha was hilly and arid. The soil was unproductive and hence not conducive to agriculture. Therefore, people had to leave a tough life. Living in a tough life situation has led to the development of qualities like courage and hard work.

Besides the mountainous nature of the region, it helped the Marathas to develop a unique war strategy, i.e. guerrilla tactic (Hit and run policy). By adopting this strategy of warfare, the Marathas were able to fight even against the mighty Mughal Empire.

Guerrilla Warfare

The geographical features and locations are other factors responsible for the rise of Marathas, it has helped them to embrace guerrilla warfare.

Economic Equality

We do not see many people who can be called rich. There were no class disparity and economic exploiters. As a result, there was a spirit of self-respect and unity amongst the Marathas.

The Preaching of Bhakti Reformer

The Bhakti Movement of the 15th – 16th Centuries also reached the Marathas. This movement played an important role to unite the people of Maratha.

Just like the Bhakti Saints in Northern India, the Bhakti reformers in Maharashtra like Eknath, Tuka Ram, Ram Das, and others have preached against superstitious beliefs, rituals, caste system, and preached on the unity of God. They also emphasized the equality of men. As a result of their preaching, it created a spirit of unity among various sections of the society. It also sowed the seed of awakening among the Maratha people.

Influence of Language and Literature

The Hymns and teachings of the Bhakti Saints of Maharashtra who preached in Marathi (the language of the people) have aroused a sense of pride in the common heritage. Thus, it helped in binding them together.

The Experiences and Training Acquired by the Marathas

Even before the rise of Shivaji, some of the Marathas had served in the Deccan states. Therefore they acquired experiences and training in the art of administration and military field.

The Political Situation of the Deccan

The Deccan Policy of the Mughals was also responsible for the rise of the Marathas. The Deccan states like Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmadnagar engage in the process of disintegration. Therefore, they could not put a check on the rising power of the Marathas.

Unstable Political Condition in the South

The disintegration of the Muslim Kingdom in the Southern part has also resulted in the rise of the Marathas.

Charismatics Personality of Shivaji

Shivaji brings the territories of the Marathas into one nation.  He provided a sense of independence to each territory. In doing so, Shivaji no doubt had to face resistance from the Deccan States, particularly that of Bijapur. He then later faces conflict from the mighty Mughal Empire. Shivaji was not only a great conqueror but also a skillful tactician and a clever diplomat.

It was also under his leadership that the Marathas were able to defy Mughal authority. Shivaji was also a good administrator. He introduced a sound administrative system to the Marathas. Shivaji also created the Ashta Pradhan (Council of 8 Ministers), divided his empire into various provinces. He also reformed the revenue system of the Marathas and introduced a new form of taxes, known as Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.

Shivaji also reformed his army and enforced strict discipline on it. The soldiers were paid in cash and the army was also strengthened by a cavalry. Many forts were built by Shivaji. He ensures that these forts were well protected.

In addition to all of these, Shivaji was a pioneer of his time because he was one of the few amongst the people of Indian who try to develop a navy.

Rise of Shivaji

Shivaji was born in 1627 at the Hill Fort of Shivner near Pune. His father was Shahji Bhonsle, an important officer in the court of Bijapur. His mother was Jijabai, a virtuous lady. She imbibes in her son a spirit of heroism and devotion to the motherland.

Shivaji’s father remarried. He, therefore, was brought up under the care of his mother and under the care of his tutor as well as guardian.

Dadaji Kondadeva trained Shivaji in the art of fighting as well as in administration. Another person who had an impact on the life of Shivaji was a socio-religious reformer; his name is Guru Ram Das. It was also him who sowed in Shivaji not only love for the religion of India but also the spirit of patriotism.

In the year 1647 C.E, Dadaji Kondadeva died. Therefore, Shivaji became his own master and took full control of his father’s jagir at Poona.

Relationship of the Mughals with the Marathas

The Mughal Empire was one of the greatest Empires in India during the mid-16th Century until the 18th Century. During its height of power, the Mughals had to deal with different groups of people like the Rajput’s states, Marathas, and others.

It was during the time of Aurangzeb that the Marathas emerged as a strong power under the leadership of Shivaji and thus the Mughals had to deal with him.

Shivaji first came into clash with the Mughals in 1657 CE. During this period, Aurangzeb as a viceroy of the Deccan had invaded Bijapur. On hearing about the advance of Aurangzeb to Bijapur, Shivaji assisted him.

This assistance has a condition that Aurangzeb should recognize him as the legal master of the forts and territories which he had captured from Bijapur.

However, Aurangzeb did not give a firm response. In return, Shivaji made an incursion on Mughal territory but soon Shivaji realized that his power and resources are no match with that of the Mughals. Thus, Shivaji concluded peace with the Mughals.

In meanwhile, Aurangzeb returned back to the north as he was involved in the war of succession. Shivaji took advantage of this and he started to attack provinces that were part of the Mughal territories. On the other hand, Aurangzeb who was now the Mughal Emperor could not tolerate this act of Shivaji. He, therefore, directed Shaista Khan, the governor of the Deccan as well as the great general to surprise Shivaji.

The Capture of Poona by Shaista Khan

In 1660 CE, Shaista Khan captured Poona and made it his headquarters. In 1663 CE, Shivaji raided the harem of Shaista Khan at night, killing his son and one of his captains and wounding the Khan. Shaista Khan was then called back and Aurangzeb appointed his son Mauzzam as governor of the Deccan.

In 1664 CE, Shivaji attacked Surat which was one of the premier Mughal ports and acquired lots of wealth. This was followed by the plunder of Ahmadnagar.

In 1665 CE Aurangzeb deputed Raja Jai Singh of Amber to deal with Shivaji. Jai Singh did not belittle the strength of the Marathas. He made careful and diplomatic preparation. He then opened a campaign to seize Purandar.

After months of resistance, Shivaji opened up negotiations with Jai Singh.  This results in the singing of a treaty, popularly known as the Treaty of Purandar.

The Treaty of Purandar

This treaty allowed Shivaji to retain 12 forts including Raigarh. He had to surrender 23 forts along with the surrounding territory which yielded a good sum of revenue.

As a sequel to the peace, Shivaji agreed to visit Agra. However, he did not receive respectful treatment. Therefore, Shivaji openly accused Aurangzeb of breach of faith. He was then thrown to prison but later he was able to escape and to reach his homeland on 30th November 1666.

Hostility Between the Mughals and the Marathas

In 1670 CE hostilities again began between the Mughals and the Marathas. During this year Shivaji recovered all the forts which he had surrendered to the Mughals earlier. Again Surat was plundered this year, and he received enormous wealth. From 1670 to 1674 CE, the Marathas gained success everywhere.

The Glory and Last Expedition of Shivaji

In 1674, Shivaji reached the Zenith of his glory. He crowned himself on 16th June 1674 at Raigarh and assumed the title of Maharaja Chatrapati. His last expedition was the Karnataka expedition, he died in 1680. After his death, Tara Bai continued to fight against the Mughals.

Conclusion

Thus, from the above points, we can say that there are various factors responsible for the rise of Marathas. Factors such as the geographical location, guerilla warfare, economic equality, the preaching of the Bhakti Reformer, the political situation of the Deccan and the South, etc. all contribute to the rise of the Marathas.

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