The Marathas Notes 11th History For Tnpsc Exam

The Marathas Notes 11th History For Tnpsc Exam

11th History Lesson 10 Notes in English

10. The 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

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 Ahmadnagar, 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.

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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.

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 Raigad as the capital.

Shivaji (1627–1680)

  • Shivaji was born in Shivner near Junnar.
  • He was the son of Shahji Bhonsle by his first wife Jijabai.
  • Shahji was a descendant of the Yadava rulers of Devagiri from his mother’s side and the Sisodias of Mewar on his father’s side.
  • Shahji Bhonsle served under Malik Ambar (1548–1626), former slave, and the Abyssinian minister of Ahmed Shah of Ahmednagar.
  • After the death of Malik Ambar, Shahji played a vital role in its politics.
  • After the annexation of Ahmednagar by the Mughals, he entered the service of the Sultan of Bijapur.
  • Shivaji and his mother were left under the care of Dadaji Kondadev who administered Shahji Bhonsle’s jagirs (land grants given in recognition of military or administrative services rendered) at Poona.

  • Shivaji earned the goodwill of the Mavali peasants and chiefs, who were a martial people with knowledge about the hilly areas around Poona.
  • Shivaji made himself familiar with the hilly areas around Poona.
  • Religious heads, Ramdas and Tukaram, also influenced Shivaji.
  • Ramdas was regarded by Shivaji as his guru.

Military Conquests

  • Shivaji began his military career at the age of nineteen. In 1646, he captured the fortress of Torna from the Sultan of Bijapur.
  • The fort of Raigad, located five miles east of Torna, was captured and wholly rebuilt.
  • After the death of Dadaji Kondadev in 1647, Shivaji took over all the jagirs of his father.
  • Subsequently, the forts of Baramati, Indapura, Purandhar and Kondana came under his direct control.
  • The Marathas had already captured Kalyan, an important town in that region. Shivaji’s father had been humiliated and imprisoned by the Sultan of Bijapur.
  • He negotiated with Prince Murad, the Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan and expressed his wish to join Mughal service.
  • The Sultan of Bijapur released Shahji in 1649 on some conditions.
  • So, Shivaji refrained from his military activities from 1649 to 1655.
  • During this period, he consolidated his power and toned up his administration. In 1656, Shivaji re-started his military activities.
  • He captured Javli in the Satara district and the immense booty that he won made him popular among the Marathas.
  • Many young men joined his army. A new fort, Pratapgarh, was built two miles west of Javli.

Confrontation against Bijapur

  • After Mohammad Adilshah of Bijapur died in November 1656, Adilshah II, a young man of eighteen, succeeded him.
  • Aurangzeb captured Bidar, Kalyani and Parinder in 1657.
  • So, both Shivaji and the Bijapur Sultan were forced to make peace with Aurangzeb.
  • At this time Shah Jahan fell ill, and a war of succession was imminent in Delhi.
  • Aurangzeb left for Delhi to take part in it.
  • Using this opportunity, Shivaji invaded north Konkan and captured the cities of Kalyan, Bhivandi and fort of Mahuli.

Shivaji and Afzal Khan, 1659

  • As there was no danger from the Mughals, Bijapur Sultan decided to attack Shivaji. Afzal Khan was sent with a huge army.
  • He boasted that he would bring the “mountain-rat” in chains.
  • But, he found fighting in the mountainous country extremely difficult.
  • So, he planned to trick Shivaji but he was outwitted.
  • The Maratha forces ravaged South Konkan and Kolhapur district and captured the fort of Panhala.
  • The Sultan of Bijapur himself led the army and the war dragged on for more than a year. Nothing substantial was gained.
  • Finally, after negotiations,Shivaji was recognised as the ruler of the territories in his possession.

Shivaji and the Mughals

  • In July 1658, Aurangzeb ascended the throne as the Emperor.
  • Shaista Khan was appointed the Governor of the Deccan in 1660 with the main purpose of crushing Shivaji.
  • Shivaji hit upon a bold plan.
  • He entered Poona at night with 400 soldiers in the form of a marriage party and attacked the home of Shaista Khan.
  • Aurangzeb was forced to recall Shaista Khan from the Deccan in December 1663.

Shivaji and Jaisingh

  • In 1664, Shivaji attacked Surat, the major Mughal port in Arabian Sea and his soldiers plundered the city.
  • Aurangzeb despatched an army under the command of the Rajput general Raja Jai Singh to defeat Shivaji and annex Bijapur.
  • At that time, Prince Muazzam, later Bahadur Shah I, was the Governor of the Deccan.
  • Jai Singh made elaborate plans to encircle Shivaji on all sides.
  • Even Raigarh was under threat.
  • Purandar was besieged in June 1665.

  • The heroic resistance of Shivaji became futile.
  • Therfore he decided to come to negotiate with Jai Singh.
  • According to the treaty of Purandar signed on 11 June 1665 Shivaji yielded the fortresses that he had captured and agreed to serve as a mansabdar and assist the Mughals in conquering Bijapur.

Visit to Agra

  • Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to visit the Mughal court.
  • He fed Shivaji with high hopes and took personal responsibility for his safety at the capital.
  • Shivaji and his son Sambhaji reached Agra in May 1666.
  • But, they were not shown due respect.
  • Humiliated, he burst out and abused the Emperor.
  • When Shivaji was imprisoned, he managed to escape.
  • In 1666, Shivaji resumed his belligerent policy and led Maratha soldiers in new conquests.
  • As the Mughals were busy with the Afghan risings in the North-West, they could not deal with Shivaji.
  • Shivaji also occupied himself with the re-organisation of his internal administration.
  • Prince Muazzam, Viceroy of the Deccan, was weak and indolent.
  • Raja Jaswant Singh was friendly towards Shivaji. Sambhaji was also made a mansabdar of 5000.

Conflict with the Mughals (1670)

  • Aurangzeb took back a part of the jagir in Berar which was once given to Shivaji.
  • Shivaji got annoyed and recalled his troops from Mughal service.
  • He recovered almost all the forts he had ceded to the Mughals by the treaty of Purandar.
  • In 1670, he again sacked Surat, the most important port on the western coast.
  • In 1672, the Marathas imposed chauth or one fourth of the revenue as annual tribute on Surat.


  • On 6 June 1674, Shivaji was crowned at Raigad. He assumed the title of “Chhatrapathi”( metaphor for “supreme king ”).

Deccan Campaigns

  • In 1676, Shivaji began his career of conquests in the south. A secret treaty was signed with the Sultan of Golkonda.
  • Shivaji promised him some territories in return for his support.
  • He captured Senji and Vellore and annexed the adjoining territories which belonged to his father, Shahji.
  • He allowed his halfbrother Venkoji or Ekoji to carry on administering Thanjavur.
  • The Nayaks of Madurai promised a huge amount as tribute.
  • The Carnatic campaigns added glory and prestige to Shivaji.

  • Senji, the newly conquered place, acted as the second line of defence for his successors.

Last days of Shivaji

  • Shivaji’s last days were not happy.
  • His eldest son Sambhaji deserted him and joined the Mughal camp.
  • Although he returned, he was imprisoned and sent to Panhala fort.
  • The relentless campaigns affected Shivaji’s health.
  • He died in 1680 at the age of 53.
  • At the time of his death, Shivaji’s kingdom comprised the Western Ghats and the Konkan between Kalyan and Goa.
  • The provinces in the south included western Karnataka extending from Belgaum to the bank of Tungabhadra.
  • Vellore, Senji and a few other districts were not settled at the time of his death.

Marathas after Shivaji

  • A year after the death of Shivaji, his eldest son and successor Sambhaji led a Maratha army into Mughal territory, captured Bahadurpur in Berar, and plundered its wealth.
  • Provoked by this humiliation, Aurangzeb struck a compromise with the Mewar Rajputs and led an army into the Deccan.
  • Bijapur and Golkonda were annexed in 1686 and 1687 respectively.
  • The next task of Aurangzeb was to punish Sambhaji for giving protection to his rebellious son Prince Akbar.
  • In 1689 the Mughal forces captured Sambhaji and killed him.
  • Sambhaji’s death did not deter the Marathas.
  • His younger brother Rajaram renewed the fight from the fortress of Senji in the Tamil country.
  • The fight continued for many years.
  • After the death of Rajaram in 1700, resistance continued under the leadership of his widow, Tara Bai.
  • Acting on behalf of his infant son, she despatched an army of 50,000 horsemen and infantry to Hyderabad.
  • The capital was plundered and, as a result, trade in Masulipatnam, the major port of the region, remained disrupted for years.
  • At the time of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 Marathas still had many fortified places under their control.
  • After Aurangzeb’s death, Sambhaji’s son Shahu was released from prison and claimed the Maratha throne.
  • Tara Bai objected and it led to a civil war, in which Shahu emerged victorious and ascended the throne in 1708.
  • Balaji Viswanath was very supportive of Shahu and helped him ascend to the throne in 1708.
  • As a gesture of his gratitude Shahu appointed Balaji Viswanath as the Peshwa in 1713.
  • In course of time, the Peshwa became the real ruler.
  • Shahu retired to Satara and the Peshwa started to rule from Poona.
  • Tara Bai carried on a parallel rival government with Kolhapur as capital.
  • But Raja Bai, the second wife of Rajaram and her son Sambhaji II imprisoned Tara Bai and her son in 1714.
  • Sambhaji II ascended the throne of Kolhapur.
  • However he had to accept the overlordship of Shahu.
  • After Shahu died in 1749, Rama Raja who ascended the throne, made a pact with the Peshwa, according to which he became a titular head.

  • Tara Bai was disappointed. Tara Bai and Rama Raja died in 1761 and 1777 respectively.
  • Shahu II, the adopted son of Rama Raja, ruled till his death in 1808 as a nonentity.
  • His son Pratap Singh who came to the throne next was deposed by the British government in 1839 on the charge that he plotted against the British Government.
  • Pratap Singh died as a prisoner in 1847.
  • His younger brother Shaji Appa Saheb, Shaji II, was made king by the British in 1839. Shahji II died in 1848 without a successor.

Maratha Administration

Central Government

  • Shivaji was a not only a great warrior but a good administrator too.
  • He had an advisory council to assist him in his day-to-day administration.
  • This council of eight ministers was known as Ashta Pradhan. Its functions were advisory. The eight ministers were:
  1. The Mukhya Pradhan or Peshwa or prime minister whose duty was to look after the general welfare and interests of the State. He officiated for the king in his absence.
  2. The Amatya or finance minister checked and countersigned all public accounts of the kingdom.
  3. The Walkia-Nawis or Mantri maintained the records of the king’s activities and the proceedings in the court.
  4. Summant or Dabir or foreign secretary was to advise king on all matters of war and peace and to receive ambassadors and envoys from other countries.
  5. Sachiv or Shuru Nawis or home secretary was to look after the correspondence of the king with the power to revise the drafts. He also checked the accounts of the Parganas.
  6. Pandit Rao or Danadhyaksha or Sadar and Muhtasib or ecclesiastical head was in charge of religion, ceremonies and charities. He was the judge of canon law and censor of public morals.
  7. Nyayadhish or chief justice was responsible for civil and military justice.
  8. Sari Naubat or commander-in-chief was in charge of recruitment, organization and discipline of the Army.
  • With the exception of the Nyayadhish and Pandit Rao, all the other ministers were to command armies and lead expeditions.
  • All royal letters, charters and treaties had to get the seal of the King and the Peshwa and the endorsement of the four ministers other than the Danadyksha, Nyayadhisha and Senapati.
  • There were eighteen departments under the charge of the various ministers.

Provincial Government

  • For the sake of administrative convenience, Shivaji divided the kingdom into four provinces, each under a viceroy.
  • The provinces were divided into a number of Pranths.
  • The practice of granting jagirs was abandoned and all officers were paid in cash.
  • Even when the revenues of a particular place were assigned to any official, his only link was with the income generated from the property.
  • He had no control over the people associated with it.
  • No office was to be hereditary.
  • The fort was the nerve-centre of the activities of the Pranth.
  • The lowest unit of the government was the village in which the traditional system of administration prevailed.

Revenue System

  • The revenue administration of Shivaji was humane and beneficent to the cultivators. The lands were carefully surveyed and assessed.
  • The state demand was fixed at 30% of the gross produce to be payable in cash or kind. Later, the tax was raised to 40%.
  • The amount of money to be paid was fixed.
  • In times of famine, the government advanced money and grain to the cultivators which were to be paid back in instalments later.
  • Liberal loans were also advanced to the peasants for purchasing cattle, seed, etc.

Chauth and Sardeshmukhi

  • As the revenue collected from the state was insufficient to meet its requirements, Shivaji collected two taxes, Chauth and Sardeshmukhi, from the adjoining territories of his empire, the Mughal provinces and the territories of the Sultan of Bijapur.
  • Chauth was one-fourth of the revenue of the district conquered by the Marthas.
  • Sardeshmukhi was an additional 10% of the revenue which Shivaji collected by virtue of his position as Sardeshmukh.
  • Sardeshmukh was the superior head of many Desais or Deshmukhs.
  • Shivaji claimed that he was the hereditary Sardeshmukh of his country.

Military Organization

  • Shivaji organized a standing army. As we have seen, he discouraged the practice of granting jagirs and making hereditary appointments.
  • Quarters were provided to the soldiers. The soldiers were given regular salaries.
  • The army consisted of four divisions: infantry, cavalry, an elephant corps and artillery.
  • Though the soldiers were good at guerrilla methods of warfare, at a later stage they were also trained in conventional warfare.
  • The infantry was divided into regiments, brigades and divisions. The smallest unit with nine soldiers was headed by a Naik (corporal).
  • Each unit with 25 horsemen was placed under one havildar (equivalent to the rank of a sergeant).
  • Over five havildars were placed under one jamaladar and over ten jamaladars under one hazari.
  • Sari Naubat was the supreme commander of cavalry.
  • The cavalry was divided into two classes: the bargirs (soldiers whose horses were given by the state) and the shiledars (mercenary horsemen who had to find their own horses).
  • There were water-carriers and farriers too.


  • The administration of justice was of a rudimentary nature. There were no regular courts and regular procedures.
  • The panchayats functioned in the villages. The system of ordeals was common. Criminal cases were tried by the Patels.
  • Appeals in both civil and criminal cases were heard by the Nyayadhish (chief justice) with the guidance of the smritis. Hazir Majlim was the final court of appeal.

Rule of the Peshwas (1713-1818)

  • The Peshwa or the prime minister was the foremost minister in the Ashta Pradhan,the council of ministers of Shivaji.
  • The Peshwas gained more powers and became dominant in the eighteenth Century. Balaji Viswanath was the first powerful Peshwa.

Balaji Viswanath (1713–1720)

  • Balaji Viswanath assisted the Maratha emperor Shahu to consolidate his control over the kingdom that had been plagued by a civil war.
  • Kanhoji Angre was the most powerful naval chief on the western coast.
  • During the civil war Kanhoji had supported Tarabai.

  • The Peshwa convinced him of the common danger from the Europeans and secured his loyalty to Shahu.
  • The practice of granting jagirs was revived.
  • And the office of Peshwa was made hereditary.

Baji Rao I (1720–1740)

  • After Balaji Viswanath, his son Baji Rao I was appointed Peshwa in 1720 by Shahu.
  • Baji Rao enhanced the power and prestige of the Maratha Empire by defeating the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Rajput Governor of Malwa and the Governor of Gujarat.
  • He freed Bundelkhand from the control of Mughals and for this the Marathas got one third of the territories from its ruler.
  • The commander-in-chief, Trimbak Rao, who troubled the Peshwa, was defeated and killed in the battle of Dabhai near Baroda in 1731.
  • And the Peshwa assumed the office of the commander-in-chief also.
  • By the treaty of Warna signed in 1731, Sambhaji of Kolhapur was forced to accept the sovereignty of Shahu.
  • Thana, Salsette and Bassein were captured from the Portuguese in 1738 and they were driven out of the Konkan coast.
  • At the same time, the English made friendly overtures to the Marathas and got the right to free trade in the Deccan region.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740–1761)

  • Balaji Baji Rao succeeded as the Peshwa after the death of his father Baji Rao.
  • Known as Nana Sahib, he proved to be a good administrator and an expert in handling financial matters


Carnatic Expedition

  • Chanda Sahib, son-in-law of the Nawab of Arcot, after capturing Tiruchirappalli threatened to lay siege to Thanjavur.
  • Its Maratha ruler appealed to Shahu for help in 1739.
  • Responding to this appeal, the Peshwa sent Raghoji Bhonsle (Sahu’s brother-in-law) to Thanjavur.
  • Raghoji Bhonsle defeated and killed the Nawab of Arcot, Dost Ali, in 1740.
  • Tiruchirappalli was captured and Chanda Sahib imprisoned.
  • As the Peshwa was subsequently engaged in military expeditions in Bundelkhand and Bengal, Mohammed Ali, who succeeded Dost Ali, could easily retake Arcot and recapture Tiruchirappalli in 1743.
  • The Peshwa then sent his cousin Sadasiva Rao to the Carnatic.
  • Although the authority of the Marathas was reestablished, Tiruchirappalli could not be regained.

Battle of Udgir, 1760

  • A war of succession broke out after the death of Nizam Asaf Jah in 1748. Peshwa supported the eldest son of the Nizam.
  • The army sent by Peshwa under Sadasiva Rao won the battle of Udgir in 1760.
  • This success marked the climax of Maratha military might.
  • The Peshwa took over Bijapur, Aurangabad, Dulatabad, Ahmadnagar and Burhanpur.
  • The Marathas had brought Rajaputana under their domination after six expeditions between 1741 and 1748.
  • In 1751 the Nawab of Bengal had to cede Orissa and pay an annual tribute to the Marathas.
  • As the Marathas were always after the Mughal throne they entered Delhi in 1752 to drive out the Afghans and Rohillas from Delhi.
  • Imadul-Mulk who was made the Wazir with the help of Marathas became a puppet in their hands.
  • After bringing the Punjab under their control, they expelled the representative of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the founder of the Durani Empire in Afghanistan.
  • A major conflict with Ahmad Shah Abdali became therefore inevitable.
  • The Marathas tried to find allies among the powers in the north-west. But their earlier deeds had antagonized all of them.
  • The Sikhs, Jat chiefs and Muslims did not trust them.
  • The Marathas did not help Siraj-ud-Daulah in the battle of Plassey in 1757.
  • So no help was forthcoming from Bengal either.
  • A move on the part of the Peshwa against the British, both in Karnataka and Bengal, would have probably checked their advance.
  • But the Peshwa’s undue interests in Delhi earned the enmity of various regional powers. Ahmad Shah Abdali brought about the disaster at Panipat in 1761.

The Third Battle of Panipat, 1761

  • The third battle of Panipat, 1761 is one of the decisive battles in the history of India.
  • The defeat in the battle dealt a severe blow to the Marathas and the Mughal Empire and thereby paved the way for the rise of the British power in India.
  • Circumstances The tottering Mughal Empire neglected the defence of the North-West frontier areas.
  • This prompted Nadir Shah, the then ruler of Afghanistan, to invade India.
  • In spite of his repeated demands, the Mughal ruler, Muhammad Shah, provided asylum to the Afghan rebels. So, his invasions started in 1739.
  • Delhi was plundered. The Kohinoor diamond and the valuable peacock throne were taken away by Nadir Shah.
  • When Nadir Shah was assassinated in 1747, one of his military generals, Ahmad Shah Abdali became an independent ruler of Afghanistan.
  • After consolidating his position, he started his military expeditions.
  • The Mughal emperor made peace with him by ceding Multan and the Punjab.
  • Mir Mannu, appointed by the Mughal Emperor as the governor of Punjab, was to act only as an agent of Ahmad Shah Abdali.
  • On Mir Mannu’s death, the widow of Mir Mannu, with the help of the Wazir of Delhi, Imad-ul-Mulk, appointed Mir Munim as the Governor of the Punjab, without the consent of Abdali.
  • Infuriated by this move Abdali invaded India and captured the Punjab.
  • Mir Munim fled to Delhi. Pursuing him Abdali captured Delhi and pillaged it in January 1757.
  • Mathura and Brindavan were desecrated. Before leaving Delhi, Abdali appointed Mir Bakshi as his agent in Delhi.
  • Timur Shah, his son, was made the Viceroy of Lahore.
  • An expedition under Malhar Rao Holkar and Raghunatha Rao reached Delhi after Abdali had left.
  • They removed the agent of Abdali at Delhi and appointed a man of their choice as the Wazir.
  • Thereafter they captured Sirhind and Lahore in 1758.
  • The Afghan forces were defeated, and Timur Shah deposed.

The Peshwa recruits a huge army

  • So, Abdali returned to India in October 1759 and recovered the Punjab. The Marathas were forced to withdraw from Lahore, Multan and Sirhind.
  • The wildest anarchy prevailed in the region. So, the Peshwa sent Dattaji Scindia, the brother of Mahadhaji Scindia, to the Punjab to set matters right.
  • But Abdali defeated and killed him in the battle (1760).
  • Malhar Rao Holkar was also defeated at Sikandara.
  • Thereupon the Peshwa recruited a huge army under the command of Sadasiva Rao.
  • Abdali responded by forming an alliance with Najib-ud-Daulah of Rohilkhand and Shuja-ud-Daulah of Oudh.
  • The Marathas could not find allies among the northern powers, as they had already alienated from the Nawab of Oudh, the Sikh and Jat chiefs and gained the distrust of the Rajputs.
  • The Maratha army was under the nominal command of Vishwas Rao, the young son of the Peshwa.
  • The real command, however, was in the hands of Sadasiva Rao.
  • On their way, they were joined by the Holkar, Scindia and Gaikwar.
  • Around this time, Alamgir II, the Mughal Emperor had been assassinated and his eldest son crowned himself as Shah Alam II.
  • But the Wazir who manoeuvred the assassination enthroned Shah Jahan III.
  • Sadasiva Rao intruded and deposed Shah Jahan III and proclaimed Shah Alam II as Emperor.
  • After the preliminaries were settled, Sadasiva Rao, instead of attacking the forces of Abdali, remained quiet for a long time, until the scarcity of food became acute.
  • Abdali stationed his troops in the fertile doab from where he could get food without interruption.

Effects of the Battle of Panipat

  • The third battle of Panipat was fought on 14 January 1761.
  • The Maratha army was completely routed.
  • The Peshwa’s son Viswas Rao, Sadasiva Rao and numerous Maratha commanders were killed.
  • Holkar fled and the contingents of Scindia followed him.
  • The Peshwa was stunned by the tragic news.
  • The Peshwa died broken hearted in June 1761.
  • After the battle of Panipat, Abdali recognized Shah Alam II as the Emperor of Delhi. He got an annual tribute.
  • The Marathas, though they received a severe blow initially, managed to restore their power within ten years in the north by becoming the guardian of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.

Peshwa Madhav Rao I (1761–1772) and His Successors

  • In 1761, Madhav Rao, the son of Balaji Baji Rao, became the Peshwa under the regency of Raghoba, the younger brother of Peshwa.
  • Madhav Rao tried to regain the Maratha power which was lost in the battle of Panipat.
  • In 1763 a fierce battle was fought with the Nizam of Hyderabad.
  • His expeditions (1765–1767) against Haider Ali of Mysore were successful.
  • However Haider Ali soon recovered almost all his lost territories.
  • But Madhav Rao regained them in 1772 and Haider Ali was forced to sign a humiliating treaty.
  • The Peshwa reasserted control over northern India by defeating the Rohillas (Pathans) and subjugating the Rajput states and Jat Chiefs.
  • Shah Alam II, the fugitive Emperor, was in Allahabad under the protection of the British.
  • In 1771, the Marathas brought him back to Delhi. The Emperor ceded Kora and Allahabad to them.
  • But the sudden death of Peshwa in 1772 brought an end to his glorious career.
  • As Madhav Rao I had no sons, his younger brother Narayan Rao became Peshwa in 1772. But he was murdered the next year.
  • His posthumous son Sawai Madhav Rao (Madhav Rao II) was proclaimed Peshwa on the 40th day of his birth.
  • After the death of Madhav Rao II, Baji Rao II, the son of Raghunath Rao became the Peshwa and was the last Peshwa.

The Anglo-Maratha Wars

The First Anglo Maratha War (1775-1782)

  • Madhav Rao Narayan was an infant Peshwa under the regency of Nana Fadnavis.
  • The usurping of power by Ragunath Rao, uncle of the former Peshwa Madhava Rao I, provided the scope for the Company administration to fish in the troubled waters.
  • The Company administration in Bombay supported Ragunath Rao in return for getting Salsette and Bassein.
  • As Mahadaji Scindia and the Bhonsle of Nagpur turned pro-British, the Marathas had to concede Thane and Salsette to the latter.
  • By the treaty of Salbai, in 1782, Ragunath Rao was pensioned off. Following this, peace prevailed between the Company and the Marathas for about two decades.

The Second Anglo-Maratha War (1803-1806)

  • The death of Nana Fadnavis resulted in a scramble for his huge possessions.
  • Peshwa Baji Rao II was dethroned. In the then trying circumstances, he had to accept the help of the British.
  • Wellesley, the then Governor General, forced the Subsidiary Alliance on the Peshwa. The treaty of Bassein was signed in 1802.
  • According to the treaty the territory to be ceaded should fetch an income of Rs. 26 Lakhs.
  • The leading Maratha States regarded the treaty as humiliating and hence decided to defy it.
  • So the second Anglo-Maratha war broke out. In spite of the brave resistance put up by the Marathas, the Maratha leaders were completely routed.
  • The Subsidiary Alliance was accepted. The British got Doab, Ahmadnagar, Broach and all of the hilly regions.

The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1819)

  • Peshwa Baji Rao II became anti-British, as the prime minister of the Gaikwar (ruler) of Baroda Gangadhar Sastri was killed by Trimbakji, a favourite of Peshwa.
  • At the instance of the Resident at Poona, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Trimabakji was imprisoned.
  • The murderer however managed to escape from the prison with the assistance of the Peshwa.
  • Peshwa was also charged with creating the Maratha confederacy and plotting with Scindia, Bhonsle and Holkar against the British.
  • So, the British forced the Peshwa to sign a new treaty at Poona in 1817.
  • Accordingly,
  1. The Peshwa resigned the headship of the Maratha confederacy.
  2. Ceded Konkan to the British and recognised the independence of the Gaikwar. Baji Rao was not reconciled to this humiliation.
  • So when the British were busily engaged in the suppression of the Pindaris, Baji Rao II burnt down the Poona Residency.
  • General Smith rushed to Poona and captured it, with the Peshwa fleeing to Satara, which was also captured by General Smith.
  • Baji Rao fled from place to place.
  • General Smith defeated his forces at Ashta, Kirkee and Korgaon. Finally, Baji Rao surrendered to Elphinstone in 1818.

Outcome of the Third AngloMaratha War

  1. The British abolished the Peshwai (office of the Peshwa) and annexed all the Peshwa’s dominions. But the jagirs of the fief holders were restored.
  2. Until his death in 1851 Baji Rao II remained a prisoner with an annual pension.
  3. Pratap Singh, a descendent of Shivaji, was made the king of a small kingdom carved around Satara.
  4. The Maratha Confederacy organised by Baji Rao I comprising Bhonsle, Holkar and Scindia was dissolved.
  5. Mountstuart Elphinstone, who had been Resident at Poona, became Governor of Bombay.

Maratha Administration under Peshwas (1714-1818)

  • The Peshwa was one of the Ashta Pradhan of Shivaji.
  • This office was not a hereditary one. As the power and prestige of the king declined, the Peshwas rose to prominence.
  • The genius of Balaji Vishwanath (1713-1720) made the office of the Peshwa supreme and hereditary.
  • The Peshwas virtually controlled the whole administration, usurping the powers of the king. They were also recognized as the religious head of the state.

Central Secretariat

  • The centre of the Maratha administration was the Peshwa Secretariat at Poona.
  • It dealt with the revenues and expenditure of all the districts, the accounts submitted by the village and district officials.
  • The pay and rights of all grades of public servants and the budgets under civil, military and religious heads were also handled.
  • The daily register recorded all revenues, all grants and the payments received from foreign territories.


  • Provinces under the Peshwas were of various sizes.
  • Larger provinces were under the provincial governors called Sarsubahdars. The divisions in the provinces were termed Subahs and Pranths.
  • The Mamlatdar and Kamavistar were Peshwa’s representatives in the districts.
  • They were responsible for every branch of district administration.
  • Deshmukhs and Deshpandes were district officers who were in charge of accounts and were to observe the activities of Mamlatdars and Kamavistars.
  • It was a system of checks and balances. In order to prevent misappropriation of public money, the Maratha government collected a heavy sum (Rasad) from the Mamlatdars and other officials.
  • It was collected on their first appointment to a district.
  • In Baji Rao II’s time, these offices were auctioned off. The clerks and menials were paid for 10 or 11 months in a year.

Village Administration

  • The village was the basic unit of administration and was self-supportive.
  • The Patel was the chief village officer and was responsible for remitting revenue collections to the centre.
  • He was not paid by the government.
  • His post was hereditary.
  • The Patel was helped by the Kulkarni or accountant and recordkeeper.
  • There were hereditary village servants who had to perform the communal functions.
  • The carpenters, blacksmiths and other village artisans gave begar or compulsory labour.

Urban Administration

  • In towns and cities the chief officer was the Kotwal.
  • The maintenance of peace and order, regulation of prices, settling civil disputes and sending of monthly accounts to the governments were his main duties.
  • He was the head of the city police and also functioned as the magistrate.

Sources of Revenue

  • Land revenue was the main source of income.
  • The Peshwas gave up the system of sharing the produce of the agricultural land followed under Shivaji’s rule.
  • The Peshwas followed the system of tax farming.
  • Land was settled against a stipulated amount to be paid annually to the government.
  • The fertility the land was assessed for fixation of taxes. Income was derived from the forests.
  • Permits were given on the payment of a fee for cutting trees and using pastures.
  • Revenue was derived even from the sale of grass, bamboo, fuel wood, honey and the like.
  • The land revenue assessment was based on a careful survey.
  • Land was divided into three classes: according to the kinds of the crops, facilities for irrigation, and productivity of the land.
  • The villagers were the original settlers who acquired the forest. They could not be deprived of their lands.
  • But only the Patel could represent their rights to the higher authorities. Other sources of revenue were Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
  • The Chauth was divided into
  1. 25 percent for the ruler
  2. 66 percent for Maratha officials and military heads for the maintenance of troops.
  3. 6 percent for the Pant Sachiv (Chief, a Brahman by birth)
  4. 3 percent for the tax collectors.
  • Customs, excise duties and sale of forest produce also yielded much income.
  • Goldsmiths were allowed to mint coins on payment of royalty to the government and getting license for the purpose. They had to maintain a certain standard.
  • When it was found that the standard was not being met all private mints were closed in 1760 and a central mint was established.
  • Miscellaneous taxes were also collected.
  • It included :

1. Tax on land, held by Deshmukhs and Deshpandes.

2. Tax on land kept for the village Mahars.

3. Tax on the lands irrigated by wells.

4. House tax from all except Brahmins and village officials.

5. Annual fee for the testing of weights and measures.

6. Tax on the remarriage of widows.

7. Tax on sheep and buffaloes.

8. Pasture fee.

9. Tax on melon cultivation in river beds.

10. Succession duty.

11. Duty on the sale of horses, etc.

  • When the Maratha government was in financial difficulty, it levied on all landholders, Kurja-Patti or Tasti-Patti, a tax equal to one year’s income of the taxpayer.
  • The administration of justice also earned some income.
  • A fee of 25% was charged on money bonds. Fines were collected from persons suspected or found guilty of adultery.
  • Brahmins were exempted from duty on things imported for their own use.

Police System

  • Watchmen, generally the Mahars, were employed in every village.
  • But whenever crime was on the rise, government sent forces from the irregular infantry to control crimes.
  • The residents of the disturbed area had to pay an additional house tax to meet the expenditure arising out of maintaining these armed forces.
  • Baji Rao II appointed additional police officers to detect and seize offenders.
  • In the urban areas, magisterial and police powers were given to the Kotwal.
  • Their additional duties were to monitor the prices, take a census of the inhabitants, conduct trials on civil cases, supply labour to the government and levy fees from the professional duties given to the Nagarka or police superintendent.

Judicial System

The Judicial System was very imperfect.There was no codified law.

  • There were no rules of procedure.Arbitration was given high priority.
  • If it failed, then the case was transferred for decision to a panchayat appointed by the Patel in the village and by the leading merchants in towns.
  • The panchayat was a powerful institution. Retrial also took place.
  • Appeals were made to the Mamlatdar. In criminal cases there was a hierarchy of the judicial officers.
  • At the top was the Raja Chhatrapati and below him were the Peshwa, Sar-Subahdar, the Mamlatdar and the Patel.
  • Flogging and torture were inflicted to extort confession.


  • The Maratha military system under the Peshwas was modelled on the Mughal military system.
  • The mode of recruitment, payment of salaries, provisions for the families of the soldiers, and the importance given to the cavalry showed a strong resemblance to the Mughal military system.
  • The Peshwas gave up the notable features of the military system followed under Shivaji. Shivaji had recruited soldiers locally from Maratha region.
  • But the Peshwas drafted soldiers from all parts of India and from all social groups.
  • The army had Arabs, Abyssinians, Rajputs, Rohillas and Sikhs. The Peshwa’s army comprised mercenaries of the feudal chieftains.
  • As the fiefs of the rival chiefs were in the same area, there were lots of internal disputes. It affected the solidarity of the people of the Maratha state.


  • The cavalry was naturally the main strength of the Maratha army.
  • Every jagirdar had to bring a stipulated number of horsemen for a general muster, every year.
  • The horsemen were divided into three classes based on the quality of the horses they kept.

Infantry and Artillery

  • The Marathas preferred to serve in the cavalry. So men for infantry were recruited from other parts of the country.
  • The Arabs, Rohillas, Sikhs and Sindhis in the Maratha infantry were paid a higher salary compared to the Maratha soldiers.
  • The Maratha artillery was manned mostly by the Portuguese and Indian Christians.
  • Later on, the English were also recruited.


  • The Maratha navy was built for the purpose of guarding the Maratha ports, thereby checking piracy, and collecting customs duties from the incoming and outgoing ships.
  • Balaji Vishwanath built naval bases at Konkan, Khanderi and Vijayadurg. Dockyard facilities were also developed.

Maratha Rule in Tamilnadu

Circumstances leading to its establishment

  • Krishna Devaraya, during his reign (1509-1529), developed the Nayankara system.
  • Accordingly, the Tamil country was divided into three large Nayankaras: Senji, Thanjavur and Madurai.
  • Under the new system the subordinate chieftains were designated as Palayakkarars and their fiefdom as Palayams.
  • Thanjavur which remained as a part of the Chola territories first and then of the Pandya kingdom became a vassal state of the Madurai Sultanate, from which it passed into the hands of Nayaks.
  • The rivalry between the Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur finally led to the eclipse of Nayak rule of Thanjavur in 1673.
  • Troops from Bijapur, led by the Maratha general Venkoji, defeated the Nayak of Madurai and captured Thanjavur.
  • Venkoji crowned himself king, and Maratha rule began in Thanjavur in 1676.
  • When Shivaji invaded the Carnatic in 1677, he removed Venkoji and placed his half-brother Santaji on the throne.
  • But Venkoji recaptured Thanjavur and, after his death, his son Shahji became the ruler of Thanjavur kingdom.
  • Shaji had no heir to succeed. So his brother Serfoji I became the next ruler and remained in power for sixteen years (1712-1728).
  • After him one of his brothers Tukkoji succeeded him (1728), followed by Pratap Singh (1739-1763),
  • whose son Thuljaji ruled up to 1787. Serfoji II aged 10, was then crowned,with Thuljoji‘s brother Amarsingh acting as Regent.
  • Disputing this succession, the English thrust an agreement on Serfoji II, according to which the latter was forced to cede the administration of the kingdom to the British.
  • Serfoji II was the last ruler of the Bhonsle dynasty of the Maratha principality of Thanjavur.

Serfoji II

  • Serfoji II was a remarkable ruler. He was educated by the German Christian missionary Friedrich Schwartz, Serfoji.
  • Similarly Serfoji II turned out to be a well-known practitioner of Western science and medicine.
  • Yet he was a devoted keeper of Indian traditions. He mastered several European languages and had an impressive library of books in every branch of learning.
  • Serfoji’s modernising projects included the establishment of a printing press (the first press for Marathi and Sanskrit) and enrichment of the Saraswati Mahal Library.

  • His most innovative project, however, was the establishment of free modern public schools run by his court, for instruction in English and the vernacular languages.
  • Serfoji II found in his contemporary missionary scholar C.S. John in Tranquebar, an innovator in education.
  • John carried out reforms and experiments in schooling ranging from residential arrangements for students and innovations in curriculum and pedagogy.
  • But his most important proposal was a project submitted to the English colonial government in 1812, urging it to sponsor free schools for Indian children, for instruction in Tamil and English.
  • This was at a time when English education was not available to non-Christian Indians.
  • Thomas Munro, governor of Madras, proposed a scheme for elementary public schools in the 1820s, but the Company government did not establish a modern school for natives in Madras till 1841

  • In contrast, from the start, the German missionaries had run several free vernacular and English schools in the southern provinces since 1707.
  • Serfoji II was in advance of both the missionary and the colonial state, for as early as 1803 in Thanjavur he had established the first modern public school for non-Christian natives.
  • While Indian rulers often endowed educational institutions of higher learning, they did not establish elementary schools, nor did they administer any schools or colleges.
  • Serfoji’s most striking initiative was the founding and management of free elementary and secondary schools for orphans and the poor in Thanjavur city and other adjacent places.
  • Included were schools for all levels, charity schools, colleges and padashalas for Sanskrit higher learning.
  • The schools catered to the court elites, Vedic scholars, orphans and the poor. A second innovation was the introduction of navavidya (‘modern’ or ‘new’ learning) in the state-run schools.
  • In 1822, at the free school in Muktambal Chattiram the king’s favourite almshouse established in 1803, 15 teachers taught a total of 464 students of diverse castes, in two classes, in the morning and in the evening.
  • Serfoji also supported a free school for needy Christians, run by missionaries in the village of Kannandangudi.
  • Serfoji II established Dhanvantari Mahal, a research institution that produced herbal medicine for humans and animals.
  • Maintaining case-sheets of patients was introduced.
  • Physicians of modern medicine, Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha schools undertook research on drugs and herbs for medical cure.
  • They produced eighteen volumes of research material.
  • Serfoji also catalogued the important herbs in the form of exquisite hand paintings.
  • Serfoji’s strategic initiatives in modern education enabled the Thanjavur court elite and subjects to enter and benefit from the emerging colonial social and economic order.
  • The court officials, mostly Brahmins, trained in European knowledge, technologies and arts became leading agents of colonial modernity, equal to the Englisheducated dubashes, writers and interpreters, both Hindu and Christian, who mediated between the Europeans and Indian courts.
  • Two of Serfoji’s pandits (one of them was Kottaiyur Sivakolundu Desigar) joined the Company’s College of Fort St.George and became leaders in translation and print culture.

Serfoji ‘s projects

  • The careers and projects of Serfoji and John illuminate the important roles that enterprising individuals, and small places, such as a Danish-Tamil fishing village and a Maratha-Tamil principality, played in the history of change in colonial Tamilnadu.
  • Serfoji II was a patron of traditional Indian arts like dance and music. He authored Kumarasambhava Champu, Devendra Kuravanji, and Mudra rakshaschaya.
  • He introduced western musical instruments like clarinet, and violin in Carnatic music. He is also credited with popularising the unique Thanjavur style of painting.
  • Serfoji was interested in painting, gardening, coincollecting, martial arts and patronized chariot-racing, hunting and bull-fighting.
  • He created the first zoological garden in Tamilnadu in the Thanjavur palace premises.
  • Serfoji II died on 7th March 1832 after almost forty years of his rule.
  • His death was mourned throughout the kingdom and his funeral procession was attended by more than 90, 000 people. At his funeral, Rev. Bishop Heber observed: ‘I have seen many crowned heads, but no one whose deportment was more princely’.

More to Know:

  • According to an 1823 report produced for Governor Munro’s census of education, 21 of the 44 free schools in the wider Thanjavur district were run by Serfoji’s government, 19 by the missionaries, one by a temple.
  • There were three schools that were run by teachers themselves free of cost.
  • In the state-run free schools Serfoji made modern education available to all.
  • The Saraswati Mahal library, built by the Nayak rulers and enriched by Serfoji II contains a record of the day-to-day proceedings of the Maratha court – as Modi documents, French-Maratha correspondence of the 18th century.
  • Modi was the script used to write the Marathi language. It is a treasure house of rare manuscripts and books in many languages

Raja Desinghu:

  • The Maratha king Rajaram, threatened by Mughal forces, had to flee from Raigarh and take asylum in Senji.
  • Pursuing him, the Mughal forces led by General Zulfikar Khan, and then by Daud Khan, succeeded in taking over Senji.
  • During the Mughal expedition against Senji, a Bundela Rajput chieftain, Swarup Singh was employed as Kiladar (fort commandant) of Senji in 1700.
  • In due course Swarup Singh gained control over the entire Senji. After his death in 1714, his son Tej Singh (Desinghu) assumed the governorship of Senji. Desinghu refused to pay tribute to the Mughal emperor and invited the wrath of Nawab Sadat-ul-lah Khan.
  • In the ensuing battle Raja Desinghu, who was only twenty two years old then, was killed.
  • His young wife committed sati.
  • The gallantry displayed by the daring Rajput youth against the Nawab is immortalized in many popular ballads in Tamil.
  • Peshwa is a Persian word which means “Foremost” or the “First Minister”.
  • “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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