Some of the most important factors responsible for the phenomenal rise of Marathas in India are as follows:
Rise of the Marathas:
The rise of the Marathas in the seventeen century is an important and fascinating event in the history of India.
This rise is primarily due to Shivaji and the circumstances that shaped his character and that of his followers. Shivaji welded the Marathas into a superb mobile fighting force. The Marathas fought for the defence of their religion and territory against Mughal rulers.
Following were the important factors responsible for the phenomenal rise of the Marathas:
1. Inspirational influence of religious and social leaders:
Several prominent leaders in the religious and social fields of Maharashtra inspired the people to unite by preaching faith and Bhakti in one God and by condemning the caste system which had divided the society. The most famous of these reformers were: Tuka Ram, Ram Das, Vaman Pandit and Eknath. Guru Ram Das exercised a tremendous influence by underlying the philosophy of ‘Karma’ (action) in his famous book ‘Das Bodh.
2. Love for the motherland:
Swami Ram Das’s message to the Marathas was, “Mother and mother country are dearer than heaven itself. Gods and cows, Brahmans and the faith, these are to be protected. Therefore, God has raised you up; when faith is dead, death is better than life: why live when religion has vanished? Gather ye, therefore, the Marathas together; make the dharma live again! For otherwise our forefathers will laugh at us from heaven.”
3. Character of the Marathas:
Elphinstone has observed in this regard. “They (Marathas) are all active, laboriousy hardy and preserving. If they have none of the pride and dignity of the Rajput’s, they have none of their indolence or want of worldly wisdom too. And all these traits were due to the peculiar physical features of their country.” Shivaji made the best use of these characteristics of the Marathas.
4. Ready-made and easily defensible rock forts:
The broken ranges of the hills provided natural forts and the people were inspired to regard these forts as their mother-the seats of their protection.
5. Influence of language and literature:
Eknath taught the Marathas to take pride in their mother tongue which helped in bringing about a sense of commonness and unity among the Marathas. As remarked by J.N. Sarkar, “A remarkable community of language, creed and life was attained in Maharashtra in the 17th century even before political unity was conferred by Shivaji”.
6. The geographical conditions:
The location of Maharashtra and its physical features helped in the rise of Maratha power. The large part of Maratha land is a plateau where the Marathas had to struggle hard for their existence. This made the Marathas courageous and hard working.
7. Economic equality:
The Marathas did not suffer much from economic inequality, as there were not many people to be accepted as rich. There was no class of economic exploiters. This gave the Marathas a spirit of self-respect and unity.
8. Guerilla warfare:
The mountainous areas made it possible for the Marathas to adopt guerilla warfare very successfully. The scattered areas in the villages provided provision for soldiers. The invaders were prone to sudden attacks from forts located on the tops of hills. Means of communications for the large armies to move freely were not easily available. This obstructed the deployment of large armies by the outside rulers.
9. Training in the art of administration:
Even prior to the rise of Shivaji, the Marathas had acquired experience and training in the art of administration. There were a number of Marathas employed in various departments and especially in the revenue department of the Muslim rulers of the Deccan. The Maratha Jagirdars were playing an important role in the political affairs of the states of Bijapur, Ahmednagar, Berar and Golkunda etc. Several departments were virtually controlled by Maratha statesmen and warriors.
10. Unstable political condition of the South:
The Muslim kingdoms in the South were in the process of disintegration. The political situation was quite favourable for the rise of the Marathas.
11. Charismatic personality of Shivaji:
J.N. Sarkar has described the influence of Shivaji in the rise of the Marathas in these words, “Before his rise, the Maratha race was scattered like atoms through many Deccan kingdoms. He welded them into a mighty nation and he achieved this in the teeth of the opposition of four mighty powers like Mughal empire, Bijapur, Portuguese India and the Abyssinians of Janjira. No other Hindu has shown such capacity in modern times. He was not only the maker of the Maratha nation, but also the greatest constructive genius of medieval India and the memory of a true hero as king like Shivaji remains imperishable historical legacy for the human race.”