Maratha Empire- Maratha Empire- Overview, Chhatrapatis Architecture, Social Status, Religious Practice

An Overview Of The Maratha Empire

The Hindu state of the Maratha Empire was established between the years of 1674 to 1818, with the principal city of Raigad being the capital. The Marathas were predominantly a farmer group who engaged in battlefields whenever the occasion arose. The roots of the Maratha empire can be drawn as far back as to the initial disruptions and revolts against the Bijapur Sultanate and the Mughal Empire under the authority of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who would later become the main figure spearheading the Maratha Empire. Ever since its initiation, Chhatrapati Shivaji had many capable personalities who handled the administrative affairs of the empire and the several departments that came along with it, like the agriculture and military sector. All the people who held important positions in the office were from humble backgrounds, including Chhatrapati Shivaji’s secretary Haider Ali Kohari. 

The Maratha Empire, which enclosed a rather large domain of the Indian subcontinent stretching from TamilNadu to Peshwar in modern-day Pakistan, included the vast coastline up to the Hoogly River. To secure the coastline from foreign intruders, the Maratha Navy secured their fortifications and was on the watch for infiltrators, especially those of the Portuguese and the British. The Maratha Navy, under the command of the acclaimed Kanhoji Angre, proved to be pivotal in maintaining the role of a defensive approach. 

Chhatrapatis Of The Maratha Empire

Here is a list of the prominent Chhatrapatis from the Maratha empire from 1645 till 1818. During the reign of the Maratha Empire, absolute monarchy was practised only from the years 1645 till 1731 while paving the way for Oligarchy with the monarch as the nominal head. After the demise of Chhatrapati Shahu I, the practical act of governance were administered by the Peshwas or the Prime Ministers of each jurisdiction. 

Chhatrapatis Of The Maratha EmpireA Brief Description Of Their Reign
Chhatrapati Shivaji MaharajEstablished the reign of the Maratha Empire.
His ideologies were centred around the Hindu Swaraj for the inhabitants of the country.
The inception of a Maratha kingdom with Raigad as the capital.
Under his reign, there was an impressive advancement of military and naval forces to protect the empire from the surrounding combative forces.
Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj and Maharani YesubaiSuccessor to the throne of the empire.
Reigned over the empire for almost nine years.
Overthrew the Portuguese and annexed the territories of Chikka Deva Raya of Mysore.
Upon his assassination, his wife Maharani Yesubai handled the affairs of the state before making Rajaram (the brother of Chhatrapati Sambhaji) the Chhatrapati in his brother’s stead.
She was later imprisoned for 30 years.
Chhatrapati Rajaram and Maharani TarabaiChhatrapati Rajaram acquired the throne after the death of his half brother.
The prolonged siege of the Mughals over Raigad seemed endless.
From Gingee the Marathas reclaimed their Mughal invaded territories.
After his untimely death, his wife Maharani Tarabai managed to run the affairs of the state under the persona of her son, Shivaji II.
Tarabai led the Maratha empire against the Mughals, leading them to victory. 
The victory led to the Mughal imperialism retreating from India, with the successive emperors becoming only the nominal heads.
The Maratha Empire expanded quite vastly, reaching the pinnacle of the Maratha empire’s conquests.
Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (Son of Chhartrapati Sambhaji and Maharani Yesubai)After being set free by Bahadur Shah I, he challenged Tarabai and her son Shivaji II for the throne.
He won the fight for the throne with the help of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath along with Mughal acceptance as the rightful heir to the throne and also managed to get his mother released from imprisonment in 1719.
During and after his reign, the empire expanded towards the north, reaching up to Attock, the west stretching towards Gujarat and eastwards towards Bengal.

After the reign of the Chhatrapatis came the era of the Peshwas or the Prime Ministers, who administered to several regions under the Maratha Empire.

Evolution Of Architecture During The Reign Of The Maratha Empire

Maratha Empire was majorly rich in culture and tradition because of the pre-existence of the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and the Jains. Owing to the Indo-Muslim dynasties before their reign, the Marathas were heavily influenced by their creative blend. 

The architectural approach of the royal era included civil, military and religious structures. 

Civil Architecture 

The Maratha Empire built roads and bridges, made proper town planning, gardens and fountains, step-wells, houses, wadas, and sanitary arrangements for the people under their regime. An important piece of architectural design included the Wadas. These conventional residential areas had a one-two storey standalone building with several rooms with a courtyard usually at the centre. The Wada style was a blend of the Gujarathi, Rajasthani and Mughal architecture completed with the local Marathi construction. Shaniwarda is a perfect present-day example of Wada style architecture. 

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Military Architecture

The military form of architecture evolved around fortifications as defence barricades and watchtowers to detect the presence of the enemy. The different types of defence fortifications that were typically used were Land forts, hill forts and sea forts. The Raigad fort seized during Chhatrapati Shivaji’s invasion into Jawali is a form of military architecture. 

Religious Architecture

The amalgamation of the Dravidian and Nagara along with the Hemadpanti style brought about an evolution of temple structures that can be classified into three major styles, namely The Neo-Yadava style, Nagara style and, The Maratha style. Although the Maratha architecture lacked the charm and sophistication of the Mughal architecture, the structures they built were more practical in case of invasion, which can be seen in their fort structures.

Social Status Of The People Under The Maratha Empire

From its commencement, the Maratha empire embraced religious pluralism since Chhatrapati Shivaji believed in religious tolerance. A noteworthy aspect of the Maratha reign was its complete ignorance of the caste system. The officials of the empire who held important positions in the court were of relatively varying backgrounds like those of Vaishyas, Kolis, Dhangars, and Bhandari’s. Of course, there were minor incidents here and there, but when compared to the dynasties before, the people experienced religious freedom and a break from the caste-related issues. Women like Umabai Dabhade, Jhansi Rani, challenged the gender norms and led armies against the British. 

Religious Practices During The Reign Of Maratha Empire

The Maratha Empire consisted of Hindus and Muslims, and the Maratha dynasty practised Hinduism with Shiva and his consort Parvathi as their main deities. The incarnation of Shiva in the form of Bhairav and Khandoba and Parvati as the Bhavani gives an insight into the height of reverence that even villages from the remotest of areas in Maharastra had for religion. After Shiva, much importance was given to the deity of Vishnu. The temple at Vithoba at Pandharpur is an important shrine dedicated to Vishnu and is now a famous pilgrimage centre. The people also believed that Maruti, the monkey god, would protect them from the evil eye and had built several shrines in the Deccan to ward off any such mishaps in their area. 

Conclusion

The Maratha empire was a unique blend of the Indian states, preserving the culture and tradition and aspiring to become an independent empire under the leadership of the Chhatrapati. The act of governance that the Chhatrapatis and the Peshwas demonstrated portrayed the capability of both the people and the great nation it was striving to become. Even with the decline of the Marathi speaking empire, the spirit of the Marathis still lives on. 

FAQs

Who was the founder of the Maratha Empire?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj established the Maratha empire in 1645.

In which year was Shivaji crowned as the Chhatrapati?

Shivaji was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati in the year 1674 in Raigad.

After the death of Chhatrapati Rajaram in 1700 AD, under whom did the Marathas wage war against the Mughals?

Maharani Tarabai took over the affairs of the Kingdom and, under her reign, led the Maratha Empire into victory against the Mughals.

What was the administrative Council of Chhatrapati Shivaji formed in 1674 known as?

The Council of eight, or the Ashta Pradhan, was the administrative Council of the Maratha Empire formed under the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.