Read this article to learn about the history of Maratha Movement its foundations and power !

The Foundation of Swaraj by Shivaji:

Shivaji was born in the fort of Shivneri on April 10, 1627 to Shahaji Bhonsle and Jijabai. His tutor and guardian was Dadaji Kondadev and his spiritual teacher was Ram Das.

With the death of his guardian Dadaji in 1647, Shivaji became his own master and the full control of his father’s jagir (Poona) passed under him.

Shivaji began his real conquest in 1656 by conquering Javli from the Maratha chief Chandra Rao More.


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In 1657, Shivaji first confronted the Mughals. On an invitation to Shivaji for a personal interview, Afzal Khan the leading Bijapur noble was killed by Shivaji in 1659. The Mughal governor of Deccan, Shaista Khan occupied Poona in 1669 and made it his headquarter. On the night of 15th April 1663, Shivaji raided Shaista Khan’s harem in Poona, where by Shaista Khan lost a thumb and his son, while Shivaji escaped.

He attacked Surat (1664), which was the premier Mughal post and looted (1664) it. In 1665, Aurangzeb sent Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber who besieged Purandhar and blockaded Rajgarh, his seat of government. Shivaji negotiated for submission and a treaty was con­cluded at Purandhar. Shivaji was excused from personal service, hence a mansab of 5,000 was granted in his place to his minor son Sambhaji.

Shivaji also promised to join personally in any Mughal campaign in the Deccan. On Jaisingh’s persuasion, Shivsji visited the Emperor at Agra where he was imprisoned (1666). Shivaji escaped from the detention in November 1666 and for three years he re­mained quiet consolidating his hold over his area. Auangzeb granted the title of Raja on Shivaji. In 1670, Shivaji again sacked Surat.


Shivaji was coronated at Raigarh on June 16, 1674 and assumed the title of Maharaja Chatrapati. A formal declaration was made by the priest Ganga Bhatt that Shivaji was a high class Kshatriya. In 1676, Shivaji launched a military campaign for the conquest of Bijapuri Karnataka (modern T.N.) with the active support of Qutub Shah of Golcunda.

The stronghold of Jinji, Vellore and Tanjore along with the territories held by his half-brother, Ekoji, was conquered. The Karnataka expedition being his last one, Shivaji died in 1680.

Maratha power under the Peshawar:

Shahu conferred the title of Sena-karte (organiser of forces) on Balaji Vishwanath and elevated him to the post of Peshwa in 1713. From now onwards the Chatrapati became just a figure-head. Balaji Vishwanath by his ability and statesmanship made the Peshwa ship hereditary in his family.

Balaji Vishwanath (1713-20):


He concluded an agreement with the Sayyid brothers (1719) by which the Mughal emperor Farukh Siyar recognised Shahu as the king of Shivaji’s home dominions, released all his family members and allowed him to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from the six Mughal Subahs of the Deccan.

Peshawar Baji Rao (1720-40):

He was considered the greatest exponent of guerrilla tactics after Shivaji and Maratha power reached its zenith under him. He preached and popularised the idea of Hindu-pad-padshahi or Hindu Empire to secure the support of the Hindu chiefs against the common enemy i.e., the Mughals. He said “Let us strike at the trunk, of the withering tree, and the branches will fall of themselves.”

Peshwar Balaji Baji Rao (1740-61):

Popularly known as Nana Saheb, he depended on the advice and guidance of his cousin Sadashiva Rao Bhau. He relentlessly worked for the expansion of Maratha power both in the North and the South. The Maratha state under him reached its territorial zenith extending from Cuttack to Attack and in July 1760 the Marathas occupied Delhi.

By the Sangola Agreement of 1750, the Maratha King became a roi Faineant and the Mayor of the palace and the Peshwa emerged as the real and effective head of the Maratha Confederacy (The Confederacy com­prised the Sindhia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Bhonsle of Nagpur, Holkars at Indore and the Peshwas at Poona). It originated under the Peshwaship of Baji Rao. Nana Saheb died on hearing the news of Maratha defeat at the Battle of Panipat on June 23, 1761.

Battle of Panipat (14 January 1761):

It resulted in the defeat of the Marathas under Sadashiv Rao Bhau by Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle decided who was not to rule India instead of who was to. It paved the way for the rise of the British power. The defeat was largely due to the alienation of the Rajput’s and the Jats and the failure on the part of Marathas to neutralise Shuja-ud-daula and Najib-ud-daula.

Peshwar Madhav Rao (1761-72):

The younger son of Balaji Baji Rao was placed on the Peshwa’s gaddi at the age of 17. His uncle Raghunath Rao became his regent and the de facto ruler of the state. In 1771, Mahadji Sindhia occupied Delhi.

Peshwar Narayan Rao (1772-73):

Narayan Rao was murdered by Raghunath Rao in 1773 A.D.

Peshwar Sawai IV dhav Rao Narayan (1773-95):

During his Peshwaship the first Anglo-Maratha war took place (1776-82) which concluded with the Treaty of Salbai (1782).

Peshwar Baji Rao 11(1795-1818):

During his peshwa ship the subsidiary Treaty at Bassein (1802) was signed by the Peshwa with the British. It led to the second Aglo-Maratha war (1803-05). The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-18) brought an end to the Maratha power. The Peshwaship was abolished and he was pensioned off to Bithur near Kanpur. The kingdom of Satara with a nominal head, Pratap Singh, was created to satisfy the Maratha pride.

Maratha Confederacy:

The fall of the Marathas began with the death of Madhav Rao. Narayan Rao who succeeded Madhav Rao as the Peshwar was murdered by his uncle Raghunath Rao in 1773 A.D. While Raghunath Rao claimed the gaadi of Peshwar, the Maratha nobles headed by Nana Phadnavis made Madhav Rao Narayan, the posthumous child of Narayan Rao, the Peshwa. Failed in his plans, Raghunath Rao sought the help of the English at Bombay and concluded the treaty of Surat with them.

The English agreed to help Raghunath Rao in getting the gaddi of the Peshwa on condition that Salsette and Bassein would be handed over to them. The council of the English at Calcutta, however, refused to accept, this treaty as valid and by sending an emissary at the court of Poona signed another treaty called the treaty of Purandhar in 1776 A.D. by which the English agreed to drop the cause of Raghunath Rao after retaining only Salsette for themselves.

But then, the governor-general Warren Hastings rejected the treaty of Purandhar and supported the cause of the Bombay-government. The army of the English government of Bombay was severely defeated by the Marathas and was forced to sign the humiliating agreement of Wodgaon (1779 A.D.).

Warren Hastings refused to accept this agreement and dispatched a large army from Bengal under the command of Goddard which captured Ahmedabad and Bassein in 1780 A.D. But Goddard was defeated in a battle by the Marathas in 1781 A.D.

The English gained more success in the north. An army under Captain Poham defeated the army of the Sindia and occupied Gwalior. Sindia then agreed to act as a mediator and, due to his efforts the treaty of Salbai was signed between the English and the Poona court in 1782 A.D. The treaty virtually restored status quo except that the English retained Salsette and dropped the cause of Raghunath Rao.

Further, after the completion of 18th century the English under Lord Wellesley were determined to become the supreme power in India. Therefore, it was necessary for them to weaken the power of the Marathas. Lord Wellesley got this opportunity because of the internal quarrels among the Maratha chiefs.

By that time, the Peshwars had lost their hold over their powerful chiefs and the Maratha Empire had become confederacy of five Maratha chiefs. Among them the Sindias and the Holkars were be­coming each others’ sworn enemies. Peshwa Baji Rao II entered into an agreement with Daulat Rao Sindia against Yashwant Rao Holkar.

The murder of Bithoji Holkar, brother of Yashwant Rao created an open conflict between the rival parties. Yashwant Rao, attacked Poona, defeated a combined army of the Peshwar and the Sindia and occupied Poona. Peshwar Baji Rao fled to Bassein and sought the help of the British to regain his gaddi.

Wellesley agreed and the Peshwar signed the subsidiary treaty of Bassein on December 31, 1802 A.D. Owen has remarked: “The treaty (of Bassein) by its direct and indirect operations gave the company the empire of India.”

Of course, the treaty was of great signifi­cance to the British, yet it was the British arms which settled the issue with the Marathas.” The British succeeded in placing Baji Rao on the gaddi of Peshwar at Poona. Holkar left for Malwa. But all was not over. The Peshwa felt humiliated in accepting this treaty by which he had surrendered his foreign policy to the English and kept and English force at Poona.

He opened correspondence with other Maratha chiefs. Sindia and Bhonsle agreed to fight against the British. The fighting started in August 1803 A.D. The British made two front attacks on the Marathas. The command of the army of the north was given to General Lake while that of the south to Arthur Wellesley.

The British mostly did not allow Sindia and Bhonsle to combine their forces and defeated them separately. Within five months, the English occu­pied Ahmadnagar and Gawalgarh in the south and defeated Bhonsle in several engagements and, in the north, defeated Sindia in a few battles and captured Aligarh, Agra and Delhi.

Therefore both Bhonsle and Sindia agreed for peace and signed the subsidiary treaties offered by the English. Bhonsle signed the treaty of Deogaon on December 17, 1803 A. D. and Sindia that of Suraji Arjun Gaon on December 30, 1803 A.D. Both surrendered large territories and their foreign policy to the British and agreed to keep a British resident and an army in their respective state.

Both also agreed to the terms of the treaty of Bassein. Holkar had remained aloof from this war. But when in 1804 A.D., he attacked the state of Jaipur, the English declared war against him. Holkar was defeated in the battles of Dig and Farukhabad. He fled towards Punjab. Ultimately, he also signed the treaty of Rajpurghat with the British in 1806 A.D.

The second Anglo-Maratha war did not finish the Maratha power for ever. The British had to fight one more war against them to give them a final blow. But the second war made it sufficiently clear that the Marathas were no match to the British and their final defeat was only a matter of time.