History of Maharashtra

Maharashtra or the Great Land has a glorious past which forms a halo for the state. The history of Maharashtra has hidden inside it, great kings, great rulers, and great culture. The colour of the past has made the present equally bright. According to Archaeological evidences the history of Maharashtra dates back to the 3rd century BC. Maharashtra has been the hub of trade and industry since the early days. Satara was the port town which was located in north of present day Mumbai. This was the centre of all trade and commerce activities. Archaeological site of Daimabad in Srirampur taluka in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra was discovered in 1958 and dates back to the late Harrappan period. The historical periods of Maharashtra include the rule of the Vakatakas in the mid 3rd century CE, the Islamic influence from the reign of the Delhi sultanate, the Maratha Empire started by the great Shivaji, which was like renaissance for the state and later the rule of the Peshwas added more glitter to the glory. There was a fierce rivalry between the British and the Marathas. The whole state was subdivided into a number of princely states which was reunited after the independence into a single state of Maharashtra. The year 1960 is very important for the history of Maharashtra because it was in this year that the Bombay Re - organization Act was passed and Maharashtra legally became a separate state.

The history of Maharashtra can be divided into the following periods:

The early history:

The early history of this great state includes a short history of the name along with the various kingdoms which have been established in the land. Maharashtra etymologically derived from the word maharathi meaning the great chariot driver; the name 'Maharashtra' first appeared in the records of the Chinese traveller Huen Tsang in his 7th Century inscription. The early inhabitants of Maharashtra consisted of the great fighters and the epic name of the state was Dandakaranya or the jungle which was ruled by kings. This basically included the Marathwada and Vidarbha region. The region had been under continuous wars and conquests by various rulers and dynasties; the Vatakas, Rashtrkutas, Chalukyas, Yadavas to name a few.

Islamic Influence:

Just like any other rule, there was a considerable amount of Islamic influence on history of Maharashtra. The first Islamic invasions which reached the south of the Narmada River were made by the Khilji Dynasty. Ala - ud - din Khalji invaded the Deccan region in the year 1296 AD. He defeated the last of the Hindu kings of the state, the Yadavas. At first, the Islamic rulers invaded the northern part of the country and made Delhi their capital but after this invasion, the others followed the trend and extended their kingdoms further south.

After the Khalji Dynasty the next among Islamic invasions to influence the state was made by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. The Tughlaq Dynasty reigned till 1347 AD and extended the empire till Madurai. After the disintegration of the Tughlaq Dynasty, the Bahmani Sultanate of Bijapur ruled the region for the coming 150 years.

Maratha Empire:

The beginning of the Maratha Empire in the 17th century AD was an important landmark for the state of Maharashtra. The Maratha Empire was started by Shivaji, in the year 1674 in the Bijapur Sultanate. Before the establishment of the Maratha Empire, the cause of the natives was put forward through the Yadavas. But under the leadership of Shivaji, the Maratha Power gained a new momentum.

Shivaji unchained the Marathas from the rule of the Muslim ruler of Bijapur. The reign of the Marathas proved dangerous for the Mughal emperors, whose territory was continuously attacked by the army of Shivaji. Successful campaigns against the Mughals included the capturing of the port of Surat. Ten years later, Shivaji crowned himself the king of the Marathas or the Chhatrapati. After his death in the year 1680, the two sons of Shivaji, Shambhaji and Rajaram both ruled the empire for a considerable amount of time.

Shivaji Empire:

The rise of the Maratha power in Maharashtra received impetus and strength after the great Chhatrapati Shivaji, took the reign in his hands and founded the Shivaji Empire. In the early 17th century there was a sudden rise in the power of the Marathas who constantly fought the Mughals and the muslim rulers of Bijapur. Their causes were upheld by the Yadavas who gradually formed alliance with the Bahmani rulers due to their inability to defend their kingdom from the Bahmani invasions. There were basically two power centres after the Bhahmani kingdom was divided into - Bijapur, Ahmednagar and Golconda. They were the southern kingdoms and the Mughal rulers under the rule of the Emperor Shah Jahan.

Battles were fought with the Mughals. The battle which Shivaji fought with Shaista Khan, has been engraved in the chapters of history as example of bravery and intelligence. The Battle of Umberkhind in 1661, the attack on the Mughal camp in Pune and the Battle of Surat were enough to rouse the anger of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Shivaji lost his Purandhar fort which was later reclaimed during the years 1670 to 1674.

Peshwa Dynasty:

Peshwa stands for Prime Minister, in Marathi. As the name suggests, the Peshwa of the last ruler of the Shivaji dynasty, Shahu, ascended the throne and established the Peshwa Dynasty. In the year 1712, Balaji Vishwanath laid the foundations of the Peshwa Dynasty. The Peshwa Dynasty prevented the Maratha Empire from disintegration after the death of Shahu in the year 1712.

The Peshwa Dynasty took the Maratha Kingdom to new heights of glory during their reign from 1712 to 1804. Bajirao 1 made Pune the capital of the Peshwa rule. During his reign the Maratha Kingdom had to suffer a crumbling defeat at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat in the year 1761. The defeat reduced the power of the Maratha kingdom and confined it regionally.