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The Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was an Indian imperial power that existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire covered much of the subcontinent, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million km². The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.

The Marathas were a Hindu warrior group from the western Deccan Plateau (present day Maharashtra) that rose to prominence by establishing a Hindavi Swarajya. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Maratha group of castes is a largely rural class of peasant cultivators, landowners, and soldiers. The Marathas became prominent in the 17th century under the leadership of Shivaji who revolted against the Adil Shahi dynasty and the Mughal Empire and carved out a rebel territory with Raigad as his capital. Known for their mobility, the Marathas were able to consolidate their territory during the Mughal–Maratha Wars and later controlled a large part of India.

The word "Maratha" has also been used to describe all Marathi-speaking inhabitants of Maharashtra. Shivaji's lieutenants in addition to the "Maratha" included those belonging to the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Murar Baji) and Deshastha Brahmin castes. The expansion of the empire under Shahu was carried by the generals belonging to groups such as the Chitpavan (Bhat Peshwas of Pune), the Kunbis (Shinde of Gwalior) and Dhangar (Holkar of Indore).

Chhattrapati Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji, was released by the Mughals after the death of Aurangzeb. Following a brief struggle with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu became ruler. During this period, he appointed Balaji Vishwanath, and later, his descendants, as the peshwas or prime ministers of the empire. After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, the Maratha empire expanded greatly under the rule of the Peshwas. The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in the north, and Bengal and Andaman Islands in the east. In 1761, the Maratha army lost the Third Battle of Panipat to Ahmad Shah Durrani of the Afghan Durrani Empire which halted their imperial expansion in northwestern India. Ten years after Panipat, the young peshwa Madhavrao I's Maratha Resurrection reinstated Maratha authority over North India.

In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states. They became known as the Gaekwad dynasty of Vadodara, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain and the Bhonsles of the Nagpur kingdom. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a succession struggle in Pune, which became the First Anglo-Maratha War. The Marathas remained the preeminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1805–1818), which left the East India Company in control of most of India.

A large portion of the Maratha empire was coastline, which had been secured by a potent navy under commanders such as Kanhoji Angre. He was very successful at keeping foreign naval ships, particularly of the Portuguese and British, at bay. Securing the coastal areas and building land-based fortifications were crucial aspects of the Maratha's defensive strategy and regional military history.



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