Group Photograph of a Maratha family in the late 19th century
The Maratha caste[note 1] are a Marathi clan originally formed in the earlier centuries from the amalgamation of families from the peasant (Kunbi), shepherd (Dhangar), blacksmith (Lohar), Sutar (carpenter), Bhandari, Thakar and Koli castes in Maharashtra. Many of them took to military service in the 16th century such as the Deccan sultanates or the Mughals. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, they served in the armies of the Maratha empire, founded by the Maratha king Shivaji Bhosale I. Some were granted fiefs by the rulers for their service.
According to the Maharashtrian historian B. R. Sunthankar, and scholars such as Rajendra Vora, the "Marathas" are a "middle-peasantry" caste which formed the bulk of the Maharashtrian society together with the other Kunbi peasant caste. Vora adds that the Maratha caste is the largest caste of India and dominate the power structure in Maharashtra because of their numerical strength, especially in the rural society.
According to Jeremy Black, British historian at the University of Exeter, "Maratha caste is a coalescence of peasants, shepherds, ironworkers, etc. as a result of serving in the military in the 17th and 18th century". They are dominant in rural areas and mainly constitute the landed peasantry. As of 2018, 80% of the members of the Maratha caste were farmers.
The Maratha king Shivaji founded the Maratha empire that included warriors and other notables from Maratha and several other castes from Maharashtra. This empire was the dominant in India for much of 18th century.
The term Maratha referred broadly to all the speakers of the Marathi language. In the 17th century, it also served as a designation for peasants from the Deccan Plateau who served as soldiers in the armies of Muslim rulers and later in the armies of Shivaji. Thus, the term Maratha became a marker of an endogamous caste for them. A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, originally served in those Muslim armies. By the mid-1660s, Shivaji had established an independent Maratha kingdom. After Shivaji's death, Marathas fought under his sons and defeated Aurangzeb in the Mughal-Maratha Wars. The Maratha empire was further expanded into a vast empire by the Maratha Confederacy including Peshwas, stretching from central India in the south to Peshawar (in modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and with expeditions in Bengal to the east.
By the 19th century, the empire had become a confederacy of individual states controlled by Maratha chiefs such as Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore, the Scindias of Gwalior, the Puars of Dhar and Dewas, and Bhonsles of Nagpur. The Confederacy remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818).[page needed]
By the 19th century, the term Maratha had several interpretations in the British administrative records. In the Thane District Gazetteer of 1882, the term was used to denote elite layers within various castes: for example, "Maratha-Agri" within the Agri caste and "Maratha-Koli" within the Koli caste. In the Pune District, the words Kunbi and Maratha had become synonymous, giving rise to the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex. The Pune District Gazetteer of 1882 divided the Kunbis into two classes: Marathas and other Kunbis. The 1901 census listed three groups within the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex: "Marathas proper", "Maratha Kunbis" and Konkan Maratha.
According to Steele, in the early 19th century, Kunbis, who were agriculturists, and the Marathas who claimed Rajput descent and Kshatriya status, were distinguished by their customs related to widow remarriage. The Kunbis allowed it and the higher status Marathas prohibited it. However, there is no statistical evidence for this. However, the Kunbis and Marathas had hypergamous inter-community marriages - a rich Kunbi could always marry his daughter to a poor Maratha.
Historically, the Maratha population comprised more than 31% of the population in Maharashtra and the Kunbi was 7%, whereas the upper castes, Marathi Brahmins, Saraswat Brahmins, and Prabhus, were earlier only about 4% of the population. The Other Backward Class population (other than the Kunbi) was 27% while the population of the Mahars was 12%.
Gradually, the term Maratha came to denote an endogamous caste. From 1900 onwards, the Satyashodhak Samaj movement defined the Marathas as a broader social category of non-Brahmin groups. These non-Brahmins gained prominence in the Indian National Congress during the Indian independence movement. In independent India, these Marathas became the dominant political force in the newly-formed state of Maharashtra.
The ritual caste hierarchy in Maharashtra is led by the Deshasthas, Chitpawans, Karhades, Saraswats and the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus. The Maratha are ranked lower under this classification than the above castes but are considered higher than the Kunbi, backward castes and castes that were considered ritually impure. According to the Chairperson of the Centre for Social Justice and Governance, this caste ranking is significant even in recent times in inter-caste matrimonial alliances between Maharashtrians.
Modern research has revealed that the Marathas and Kunbi have the same origin. Most recently, the Kunbi origin of the Maratha has been explained in detail by historians Richard Eaton and Stewart Gordon. Marathas ("Assal" or true i.e. belonging to 96 clans), who were distinguished from the Kunbi, in the past claimed genealogical connections with Rajputs of northern India. However, modern researchers demonstrate, giving examples, that these claims are not factual. Modern scholars agree that Marathas and Kunbi are the same. Anthropologist J. V. Ferreira writes: "The Maratha claim to belong to the ancient 96 Kshatriya families has no foundation in fact and may have been adopted after the Marathas became with Shivaji a power to be reckoned with". Gordon writes how the Maratha caste was generated from the Kunbis who served the Muslim rulers, prospered, and over time adopted different customs like different dressing styles, employed genealogists, started identifying as Maratha, and caste boundaries solidified between them. In the nineteenth century, economic prosperity rather than martial service to the Muslims replaced the mobility into Maratha identity. Eaton gives an example of the Holkar family that originally belonged to the Dhangar (shepherd) caste but was given a Maratha or even an "arch-Maratha" identity. The other example, given by Susan Bayly, is of the Bhonsles who originated among Maratha and Kunbi populations of the Deccani tiller-plainsmen. Similarly, scholars write that the Shinde( also known as Scindia) Maratha clan originated from the Kunbi caste and the Scindia's founder was a servant of the Peshwa who would carry his slippers. Dhanmanjiri Sathe states that "The line between Marathas and Kunbis is thin and sometimes difficult to ascertain".Iravati Karve, an anthropologist, showed how the Maratha caste was generated from Kunbis who simply started calling themselves "Maratha". She states that Maratha, Kunbi and Mali are the three main farming communities of Maharashtra - the difference being that the Marathas and Kunbis were "dry farmers" whereas the Mali farmed throughout the year. Cynthia Talbot quotes a saying in Maharashtra, "when a Kunbi prospers he becomes Maratha". The Kunbi origin has been one of the factors on the basis of which the head of Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC), a Judge, M.G. Gaikwad, and some others in 2018, stated that Maratha associations have submitted historical proofs and petitions to be included in the Other Backward Class. The decision for giving reservation in jobs and education for Marathas based on the petitions that Marathas and Kunbis are one and the same caste was upheld by the Mumbai court in 2019.
The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of Maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India. Today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants live in the north, south and west of India. These descendant communities tend often to speak the local languages, although many also speak Marathi in addition. Notable Maratha families outside Maharashtra include Bhonsle of Tanjore,Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Holkar of Indore, Puar of Dewas and Dhar, Ghorpade of Mudhol.
This section needs expansion with: post independence literacy research by Damle and Marathi marriage issues by Mokashi, wastage of education per caste - research by Dubey etc.. You can help by adding to it. (July 2018)
In 17th century Maharashtra, the Brahmins and CKPs were the communities that had a system of higher education in Gurukula or lower-level education in clerical work or book-keeping. Education of all other castes and communities consisted of listening to oral reproductions from sacred texts like the Puranas and Kirtans. However, despite lack of education, the Maratha caste due to their long tradition of service in military of the Yadavas and later the Muslim sultanates produced good soldiers and commanders.
Gail Omvedt concludes that during the British era, the overall literacy of Brahmins and CKPs was overwhelmingly high as compared to the literacy of the Maratha and Kunbi communities where it was strikingly low. The artisan castes were intermediate in terms of literacy. For all castes, men were more literate than the women from that caste(respectively). Female literacy, as well as English literacy, showed the same pattern among castes.[a]
Brahmins are not to blame for the lack of education of Marathas, as shown by other non-Brahmin communities whose occupations required education, like the Prabhus, Saraswats and Kayasthas. These communities got education despite the barriers imposed by the Brahmins and it has been argued that the need for reservations does not arise if each community tries for its own development.
Like other Maharashtrian communities such as Kunbis, Malis, Mahars, etc., the marriage of a man to his maternal uncle's (mama in Marathi) daughter is common in the Maratha community. Maratha and Kunbis intermarried in a hypergamous way i.e. a rich Kunbi's daughter could always marry a poor Maratha. Anthropologist Donald Attwood shows giving an example of the Karekars of Ahmednagar that this trend continues even in recent times indicating that the social order is fluid and flexible.
Being a politically dominant caste, the Marathas have not been able to progress beyond the social practices of Dowry (Dowry refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride's family gives to the bridegroom, his parents, or his relatives as a condition of the marriage.). 80% of the Maratha community are farmers and there have been cases where the Maratha farmers had to sell their lands just to get their daughters married. Data compiled by the Maratha Kranti Morcha members showed that the expenditure incurred by an average low income and poor Maratha family has doubled in the last 10 years when it comes to dowry. A member said (in 2018), "The dowry amount ranges from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 50 lakh, depending on the profession of the groom. The lower-middle class Marathas too often have to bear an expenditure of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for a daughter's wedding. Even in the remote villages, a small and marginal farmer spends Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh on a daughter's wedding." Some caste members tried to use the Morcha to address the issue of Dowry but they did not get a positive response. Dowry has now attained a status symbol in the community and that is part of the issue.
Research by a sociologist has shown that the restrictions faced by widows among Brahmins, Saraswats and CKP were significantly more than those faced by widows in Maratha caste.
Rosalind O'Hanlon, Professor at the University of Oxford stated that the Hindu God Khandoba, also known by the name Mhasoba, is traditionally very popular in the Maratha caste. She quotes about the devotion of the Marathas in the 19th century to Mhasoba as follows:
You will not find a single family among the Marathas who do not set up in the grounds around their village some stone or other in the name of Mhasoba, smear it with red lead, and offer incense to it; who without taking Mhasoba's name will not put his hand to the seed-box of the plough, will not put the harrow to the field, and will not put the measure to the heap of threshed corn on the threshing floor.
Maratha leaders said that "Chhatrapati Shivaji is worshiped by the Maratha community, while different sections of society hold him in high esteem". "Shivaji Jayanti" (his birthday) is celebrated with folk dances, songs, plays and Puja. There was some controversy over the date but it is now celebrated on 19 February. Earlier, the regional Marathi political parties - Shiv Sena as well as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena were celebrating it as per the Tithi according to the Hindu Calendar ("Falgun Vadya Tritiya" - third day of the month of Falgun), whereas the State Government was celebrating it as per the Gregorian Calendar.
Research by modern anthropologists and historians has shown that the Maratha caste originated from the amalgamation of families from the peasant communities that belonged to the Shudra Varna. However, after gaining political prominence with Shivaji's rise to power, this caste started claiming Kshatriya descent and genealogies were fabricated including those for Shivaji. Thus, the "96 clans"(Kuls)(96 Kuli Marathas or Shah?nnau Kule) genealogies were concocted most likely after Shivaji came to power. Gordon explains that there are three such lists for the 96 clans compiled in the 19th century and they are "impossible to reconcile" due to this nature of origin of the caste. Jaffrelot writes that this process where Shudras pretend to be Kshatriyas and follow their customs is called "Kshatriyatization" and is a variation of Sanskritization. 
Modern scholars such as M. S. A. Rao and Francine Frankel also agree that the Varna of Marathas remained Shudra, an indication being: "the maratha practice of hypergamy which permitted inter-marriage with rising peasant kunbi lineages, and created a hierarchy of maratha kuls, whose boundaries were flexible enough to incorporate, by the twentieth century, most of the kunbi population".
By the late 19th century, some Brahmins made public proclamations of their Shudra status but some moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain. These Brahmins, motivated by such political reasons, supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, but the success in this political alliance was sporadic and fell apart entirely following independence in 1947.
As late as the turn of 20th century, the Brahmin priests of Shahu, the Maratha ruler of Kolhapur refused to use Vedic mantras and would not take a bath before chanting, on the grounds that even the leading Marathas such as Shahu and his family belonged to the Shudra varna. This opinion about the Shudra varna was supported by Brahmin Councils in Maharashtra and they stuck to their opinion even when they (the Brahmins) were threatened with the loss of land and property. This led to Shahu supporting Arya Samaj and Satyashodhak Samaj as well as campaigning for the rights of the Maratha community. He soon became the leader of the non-Brahmin movement and united the Marathas under his banner.
Gaikwad, the leader of Samhaji Brigade, a prominent Maratha caste organization, stated in an interview, that before Indian Independence, "Backward Class federation had raised the concerns of the Shudra communities including the Marathas".
In the 21st century, the Government of Maharashtra cited historical incidents for the claim of Shudra status of prominent Maratha families to form a case for reservation for the Marathas in the state. Additionally, a report by an independent commission in November 2018 concluded that the Maratha caste is educationally, socially and economically a backward community.
The Marathas were classified as a Forward caste by the Mandal commission. In 2018, they were classified as Socially and Educationally Backward (SEBC) and were granted 16% reservation in jobs and education. In 2019, the court upheld the quota but recommended that the quota be cut to 12%.
Claude Markovits, director of center of Indian and South-Asian studies, writes, that in 1875, in places such as Pune and Ahmednagar, Marwadi moneylenders became victims of coordinated attacks by the "local peasantry of the Maratha caste". Historian, David Ludlen states that the motivation for the violence was destroying the debt agreements that the moneylenders held over the Maratha farmers. These riots were known as the "Deccan riots".
Following the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a Chitpawan Brahmin from Pune, other Brahmins in Maharashtra became targets of violence, mostly from elements from the Maratha caste. Later, in Sangli, Jains and Lingayats joined the marathas in their attacks against the Brahmins. Thousands of offices and homes were also set on fire. Molestation incidents were also reported during these attacks. On the first day alone, the number of deaths in Bombay were 15, and 50 in Pune.
One scholar has observed, "It will be too much to believe that the riots took place because of the intense love of Gandhiji on the part of the Marathas. Godse became a very convenient hate symbol to damn the Brahmins and burn their properties." Donald Rosenthal opines that the motivation for the violence was the historic discrimination and humiliation that the Maratha community faced due to their caste status. He writes, "Even today, local Brahmins claim that the Marathas organized the riots to take political advantage of the situation".
In Satara alone, the official reports show that about 1000 houses were burnt in about 300 villages. There were "cruel, cold-blooded killings" as well - for example, one family whose last name happened to be 'Godse' had three of its male members killed. Brahmins suffered from serious physical violence as well as economic violence in the form of looting.
Maureen Patterson concludes that the greatest violence took place not in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur - but in Satara, Kolhapur and Belgaum. Destruction was extensive in Kolhapur. Shahu of Kolhapur had actively collaborated with the British against the Indian freedom struggle that was identified with Chitpawans such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Shahu was also actively involved in the anti-Brahmin movement as well. In Sangli, the Jains and the Lingayats joined the Marathas in the attacks against the Brahmins. Here, specifically, the factories owned by the Chitpawan Brahmins were destroyed. This event led to the hasty integration of the Patwardhan states into the Bombay Province by March 1948.[need quotation to verify]
The BDD Chawl in the Worli inner suburb of Mumbai is a complex of buildings which were built in 1920s to house workers employed by the textile mills. In the 1970s, at the height of the Dalit Panther movement, fights between the Chawl's dominant Maratha population and the Neo-Buddhists living in 20-odd buildings resulted in full-scale riots. Violence between the communities continued through the 1970s to the early 1990s.
Sambhaji Brigade is a branch of "Maratha Seva Sangh"(a Maratha caste organisation) and has committed acts of violence. In 2004, a mob of 150 Maratha activists attacked the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute - the reason being a book by James Laine. The vandalism led to loss of valuable historic documents and an estimated loss of Rs 1.25 crore. Sanskrit and religious documents dating back to the 16th century were destroyed, translation of the RigVeda by the Shankaracharya was thrown on the road. A woman who tried to call the police had bricks pelted at her by the mob.
In 2017, the statue of Ram Ganesh Gadkari, a noted playwright and poet who showed Sambhaji in a poor light in his 1919 play 'Rajsanyas', was uprooted and thrown in the river by Sambhaji Brigade. The Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu(CKP), the community to which Gadkari belonged later organised a meeting to protest this incident at the "Ram Ganesh Gadkari Rangayatan"(a theatre named after Gadkari) in Thane.Indian National Congress leader Nitesh Rane later rewarded the vandals and made inflammatory remarks claiming that he had announced a reward earlier in 2016 for removing the bust, and was proud of the act carried out by the accused.
In 2018, several incidents of violence were reported due to agitation over the delay of the inclusion of the Maratha caste in the Other Backward Class category. The agitation was started by the Maratha Kranti Morcha. In June 2018, the Marathas threatened violent protests if their demands were not met. In July, Maratha protests turned violent as the protesters attacked police and torched police vehicles. Several incidents, including some deaths, were reported in other locations as well - several police were injured by the mobs, public property was damaged and private cars were torched. In Navi Mumbai itself, hundreds of vehicles were torched and buses were set on fire in cities such as Mumbai and Pune.
In a widely publicised 2017 incident, a Brahmin scientist by the name of Medha Vinayak Khole(Deputy Director-General for the weather forecasting section) filed a police complaint against her Maratha domestic worker, Nirmala Yadav, for hiding her caste and "violating ritual purity and sanctity". Khole even insulted the latter's Gods, Khandoba (a popular God worshipped by most Marathi Hindu communities) and Mhasoba (a Hindu God worshiped by Pastoral communities and very popular in the Marathas). The "Akhil Bhartiya Bramhan Mahasangh" initially came out in support of Khole. However, there were widespread protests not just by Maratha caste organisations but also by non-caste organisations like Domestic Workers Unions and Women's organisations and Khole was widely criticised.
The 1919 Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of the British colonial government called for caste based representation in legislative council. In anticipation a Maratha league party was formed. The league and other groups came together to form the non-Brahmins party in the Marathi speaking areas in the early 1920s under the leadership of Maratha leaders Keshavrao Jedhe and Baburao Javalkar. Their early goals in that period were capturing the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals from Brahmin domination. They combined nationalism with anti-casteism as the party's aims. Later on in the 1930s, Jedhe merged the non-Brahmin party with the Congress party and changed the Congress party in the Maharashtra region from an upper-caste dominated body to a more broadly based but Maratha-dominated party. Apart from Jedhe, most Congress leaders from the Maratha /Kunbi community remained aloof from the Samyukta Maharashtra campaign of the 1950s. However, they have dominated the state politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 1960.
The INC was the preferred party of the Maratha/Kunbi community in the early days of Maharashtra and the party was long without a major challenger, and enjoyed overwhelming support from the Maratha dominated sugar co-operatives and thousands of other cooperative organisations involved in the rural agricultural economy of the state such as marketing of dairy and vegetable produce, credit unions etc. The domination by Marathas of the cooperative institutions and with it the rural economic power allowed the community to control politics from the village level up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. Since the 1980s, this group has also been active in setting up private educational institutions. Major past political figures of Congress party from Maharashtra such as Keshavrao Jedhe, Yashwantrao Chavan,Shankarrao Chavan and Vilasrao Deshmukh have been from this group. Sharad Pawar, who has been a towering figure in Maharashtrian and national politics, belongs to this group.
The state has had many Maratha government ministers and officials, as well as in local municipal councils, and panchayats. Marathas comprise around 32 per cent of the state population. 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of 2012.
Shiv Sena's strength mainly came from the Maratha support which it drew away from the Congress. In 1990, 24 MLAs elected from Shiv Sena were Marathas which increased to 33 in 2004 (more than 50%). Thus, researcher Vora concludes that the Shiv Sena has been emerging as a "Maratha Party".
Maratha Seva Sangh, a Maratha caste based organisation and its youth wing Sambhaji Brigade came into the political scene after the BORI attack. The group distances itself from the Hindu nationalist parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena and invokes a secular anti-Brahmin genealogy from Shivaji, Tukaram, Jyotirao Phule and B. R. Ambedkar. In late 2004, Maratha Seva Sangh announced that they had established a new religion called Shiv Dharma to protest "Vedic Brahminism" and oppose Hinduism. The details of this are published in Jijau Brigade va Sambhaji Brigade Sanskarmala, Maratha Sanskarmala I.
The Duke of Wellington, after defeating the Marathas, noted that the Marathas, though poorly led by their Generals, had regular infantry and artillery that matched the level of that of the Europeans and warned other British officers from underestimating the Marathas on the battlefield. He cautioned one British general that: "You must never allow Maratha infantry to attack head on or in close hand to hand combat as in that your army will cover itself with utter disgrace".
Norman Gash says that the Maratha infantry was equal to that of British infantry. After the Third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818, Britain listed the Marathas as one of the Martial Races to serve in the British Indian Army although it was unclear whether this categorisation referred to the Maratha caste or a subset of some Marathi castes. Despite praising the military prowess of the Marathas, the British considered them inferior to Sikhs and Gurkhas in terms of other masculine traits due to prevailing Christian notions of being a "man at arm" in battlefield i.e., they disapproved of Maratha utilisation of guerrilla warfare in combat along with their uncharitable and ruthless attitudes. However, racial theories have been discredited.
Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief of the Indian Army 1885-1893, who came up with the "Martial Race" theory, stated that in order to improve the quality of the army, there was a need to use "more warlike and hardy races" instead of the current sepoys from Bengal, the Tamils, Telugus and the Marathas. Based on this theory, Gurkhas and Sikhs were recruited by the British army and they were "construed as martial races" in preference to other races in India. Historian Sikata Banerjee notes a dissonance in British military opinions of the Maratha, wherein the British portrayed them as both "formidable opponents" and yet not "properly qualified" for fighting in the western manner, criticising the Maratha guerrilla tactics as an improper way of war. Banerjee cites an 1859 statement as emblematic of this disparity:
There is something noble in the carriage of an ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that of the most distinguished Mahratta. The Rajput is the most worthy antagonist, the Mahratta the most formidable enemy.
The Maratha Light Infantry regiment is one of the "oldest and most renowned" regiments of the Indian Army. Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan ("Warrior Platoon"), traces its origins to 1768 as part of the Bombay Sepoys.
The battle cry of Maratha Light Infantry is Bol Shri Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj ki Jai! ("Hail Victory to Emperor Shivaji!") in tribute to the Maratha sovereign and their motto is Shatrujeet (victory over enemy).
Looking backward from ample material on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we know that Maratha as a category of caste represents the amalgamation of families from several castes - Kunbi, Lohar, Sutar, Bhandari, Thakar, and even Dhangars (shepherds) - which existed in the seventeenth century and, indeed, exist as castes in Maharashtra today. What differentiated, for example, "Maratha" from "Kunbi"? It was precisely the martial tradition, of which they were proud, and the rights (watans and inams) they gained from military service. It was these rights which differentiated them from the ordinary cultivator, ironworkers and tailors, especially at the local level
The early history of the marathas is obscure, but they were predominantly of the sudra(peasant) class, though later, after they gained a political role in the Deccan, they claimed to be Kshatriyas(warriors) and dressed themselves up with pedigrees of appopriate grandeur, with the Bhosles specifically claiming descent from the Sidodia's of Mewar. The fact however is that the marathas were not even a distinct caste, but essentially a status group, made up of individual families from different Maharashtrian castes..
Historically the term Maratha emerged in the seventeenth century from being an imprecise designation for speakers of Marathi to become a title of Martial honor and entitlements earned by Deccan peasants serving as cavalrymen in the armies of Muslim rulers and later in Shivaji's armies.
In seventeenth and eighteenth century India, military service was the most viable form of entrepreneurship for the peasants, shepherds, ironworkers and others who coalesced into the Maratha caste
The Marathas, a middle-peasantry caste accounting for around 30 percent of the total population of the state, dominate the power structure in Maharashtra. In no other state of India we find a caste as large as the Marathas. In the past years, scholars have turned their attention to the rural society of Maharashtra in which they thought the roots of this domination lay.
The peasant castes of Marathas and kunbis formed the bulk of the Maharashtrian society and, owing to their numerical strength, held a dominating position in the old village organisation.
The second caste conflict which is of political significance is that of the Marathas and the Mahars. Marathas are dominant in rural areas and mainly constitute the landed peasantry.
Second, we have that Marathas regularly served in the armies of the Muslim Deccan kingdoms.
But hypergamous marriage existed between these groups: a rich Kunbi could always marry his daughter to a poor Maratha
The Maratha had hypergamous relationship with the Kunbi
The upper castes, composed mainly of Brahmins, constitute around 4 per cent of the total population. While Marathi Brahmins are found in all the districts of the state, the Saraswat Brahmins and Prabhus, the two other literary castes of this category, are significant number only in Mumbai city.
The traditional caste hierarchy was headed by the brahmin castes-the deshasthas, chitpawans, karhades, saraswats and the chandraseniya Kayastha prabhus.
(p. 1228) High castes include all the Brahmin jatis, as well as a few other elite jatis (CKP and Pathare Prabhus).Low castes include formerly untouchable and backward castes (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Castes, as defined by the government of India). Medium castes are drawn mostly from the cultivator jatis, such as the Marathas and the Kunbis, as well as other traditional vocations that were not considered to be ritually impure.
Of the six groups, four are Brahmins; one is high non-brahmin caste, Chandraseniya Kayashth Prabhu (CKP), ranking next only to the Brahmins; and the other is a cultivating caste, Maratha (MK), belonging to the middle level of the hierarchy.
In the Hindu social hierarchy the privileged classes were Brahmins, CKP's and others. Similarly other elite classes were Parsis and Europeans.
Most of the advertisements exclude Other Backward Castes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from their purview. For instance, an advertisement seeking a groom for a girl from a Maratha caste in Maharashtra says she is born of "an inter-caste alliance" and that her "family values are liberal". The advertisement states a preference for a good-looking man who earns well. Yet, while seemingly progressive so far, it goes on to note the preferred castes: Hindu Brahmin Deshastha, Hindu Brahmin Gaud Saraswat, Hindu Brahmin Koknastha, Hindu Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu, and Hindu Maratha. The choice here is for Marathas and those above Marathas in hierarchy. It further clearly specifies in brackets, "OBC, SC/ST, please excuse" -- clearly seeking to follow the older order of keeping the "untouchables" out of the varna system, but in a new form wherein all other castes on the ladder above the SCs, STs and OBCs are seen as marriageable.
Together with the Marathas, the Maratha Kunbi belonged originally, says Enthoven, to the same caste; and both their exogamous kuls and exogamous devaks are identical with those of the Marathas. Enthoven opines that the totemic nature of their devak system suggests that they are largely of a non-Aryan origin. ... The Kunbi cultivators are also Marathas but of a somewhat inferior social standing. The Maratha claim to belong to the ancient 96 Kshatriya families has no foundation in fact and may have been adopted after the Marathas became with Shivaji a power to be reckoned with.
The founder of the family was one Ranoji , who bore the common Maratha surname of Shinde , that by some mysterious process has been Italianized - possibly through the influence of the Filoze family -- into Scindia
Ranoji Scindia (d. 1750), the founder of Gwalior state, started his political career reputedly as a slipper-bearer at the court of the peshwa, or prime minister, of the Marathas, but soon rose to high office.
The carrying of the Pallimaradi before the Zamorin on public occasions might have been due to the same reason as the carrying of a pair of golden slippers before Scindia , whose ancestor was the slipper - bearer of Peshwa Baji Rao - to show his respect for his original humble office which was the cause of his subsequent success
The Sindhias, it is well-known, were drawn from a Kunbi family which had the hereditary patel-ship of Kumberkerrab in the district of Wai. The origins of the Holkar were even more humble: they belonged to the caste of goat-herds (dungar), the family holding zamindari rights in the village of Hal.
Many peasant caste men who distinguished themselves in battle or otherwise served the ruler became Marathas . Witness the first Holkar who was a shepherd and the first Scindia who was a Kunbi personal servant of the PeshwaCite journal requires
For Maharashtra, Karve (1968) has reported that the line between Marathas and Kunbis is thin and sometimes difficult to ascertain
These figures as they stand are obviously wrong. The Marathas had not doubled their numbers between 1901 and 1911 nor were the Kunbis reduced by almost three-fourths. Either the recorders had made wrong entries or what is more probable, "Kunbi" as a caste-category was no longer acceptable to cultivators who must have given up their old appellation, Kunbi, and taken up the caste name, Maratha. ... The agricultural community of the Maratha country is made up of Kunbis, Marathas and Malis. The first two are dry farmers depending solely on the monsoon rains for their crop, while the Malis work on irrigated lands working their fields all the year round on well-water or canals and growing fruit, vegetables, sugarcane and some varieties of cereals
The petitioners also argued that as per the MSBCC report, Marathas and Kunbis were one and the same caste
The Ghorpade family was Maratha and almost certainly illiterate. Record keepers were Brahmin, literate families.
For example, the families having Bhosale and Ghorpade as surnames are believed to belong to the same clan-stock namely the Bhosale
page 1426:There is difficulty in using such Census data, particularly because the various categories tended to be defined in different ways in different years, and different criteria were used in different provinces for classifying the population. Nonetheless, the overall trend is clear...page 1416: Table 1: Literacy of selected castes(male and female). literacy caste(1921,1931): CKP(57.3%,64.4%); Chitpawan(40.9%,55.2%); Deshastha(40.3%,55.8%);sonar(22%,23.1%);shimpi(tailor)(21.2%,29.6%);koshti(weaver)(11.0%,17.5%);Maratha in Bombay(?, 11.3%), sutar(4.0%,7.5%), teli(oil presser): (3.8%,7.5%), Maratha in ratnagiri(2.9%,?), dhobi(washerman) (2.9%, 5.7%); Mali(2.3%,8.7%);Mahar(1.2%,2.9%); dhangar(shepherd) (1.2%,2.7%); chambhar(1.1%, 2.0%); kumbhar(1.1%,2.0%), Mang(0.5%,1.6%), Kunbi(0.6%,?),Bania-Berar(27.9%, 46.6%), Rajput-Berar(8.7%,11.4%);page 1419:Male literacy rates were much higher than the male and female together, but show the same pattern, as does the literacy in English. Not only were the Brahmans and CKPs overwhelmingly dominant, but Maratha Kunbi figures were amazingly low, especially for Bombay province. Even allowing for the effects of sampling differences, the low rates for the Marathas Kunbis are striking, and it is noteworthy that many artisan castes were more literate. This also tended to be true in the central provinces-Berar.
Secondly, those whose occupations required an education, like the Prabhu, Saraswat and Kayastha castes, took education despite the barriers imposed by the Brahmins. However, the Marathas and Bhandaris failed to take to education and had only themselves to blame for their condition. Ignorance and inability to protect one's property are the results of a lack of education. Each must try for their own development, and concentration on education seems to be the best solution. By becoming educationally qualified, the need to ask for special concessions and reservations would not arise.
Among Maharashtrian communities such as Marathas, Kunbis, Malis, Mahars, etc., the marriage of a brother's daughter with a sister's son is common
Consequently, I doubt if the terms Maratha and Kunbi ever had very distinct referents, and I take this as another indication of a fluid and flexible social order. Even today, for example, there is a small, local caste of farmers known as Karekars in Ahmednagar district, who are not normally considered true Marathas; yet some of the more successful Karekar families have intermarried with Marathas (Baviskar 1980; n.d.). I believe this process has occurred continuously in the "maratha country"...
(page 97, 98) In the process of Brahminisation, other upper castes across the country, tried to imitate the Brahmins and followed similar norms in the matters of marriage, divorce or treatment of widows. In Maharashtra, for instance, the family norms among the Saraswats and CKPs were similar to those of the Brahmins. Marathas although politically powerful and economically well to do, were on the lower rung of the caste echelon. They had different ritual norms which were marginally lenient as compared to the Brahmins. In contrast, the women from the lower castes enjoyed a little more freedom in these matters. Widow remarriage was an accepted practice in many lower castes[Ranade,1991]...For the purpose of analysis, we have grouped these 56 castes into the following basic categories (1) Brahmin, Saraswat, and CKP (2) Maratha, and (3) other castes (page99) Table 8 reveals that women from the upper castes i.e. Brahmin, Saraswat, and CKP together form the largest group(46%) among the women admitted[in the Ashrams]...The data also reveals some significant differences in the marital status of Brahmin, CKP and Saraswat women on one hand and Maratha and other caste women on the other...These statistical differences acquire a special meaning when we look at them in the context of our earlier statement that oppression of widows and the restrictions on married women were far more severe for the women from Brahmin, CKP and Saraswat castes than for women from Maratha and other castes.
Mahisha is called Mhasoba (Mahisha Baba or Father/Lord Mahisha) and worshipped by pastoral tribes in western and central India. Mhasoba is worshipped by the Katkari tribe of Maharashtra and the Bhosles (Shivaji's clan)
Referring to the chief deities of the Marathas, Khandoba and Bhawani, Edwards quotes Brahma Purana, according to which Shiva assumed the form of Malhari Martand, another name of Khandoba, while Bhawani was the consort of Shiva
His theory, which is based on scant historical evidence , doubtless echoed this episode in Maharashtra's history,whereas in fact Shivaji, a Maratha-Kunbi, was a Shudra. Nevertheless, he had won power and so expected the Brahmins to confirm his new status by writing for him an adequate genealogy. This process recalls that of Sanskritization, but sociologists refer to such emulation of Ksatriyas by Shudras as 'Kshatriyatization' and describe it as a variant of Sanskritization.
marathas not being accounted as of kshatriya status, a bogus genealogy had to be fabricated
An indication that the Shudra varna of elite marathas remained unchanged was the maratha practice of hypergamy which permitted inter-marriage with rising peasant kunbi lineages, and created a hierarchy of maratha kuls, whose boundaries were flexible enough to incorporate, by the twentieth century, most of the kunbi population.
In 1875, in Maharashtra, in the regions of Poona and Ahmadnagar, moneylenders (sowcars), most often Marwaris, became the object of coordinated attacks by the local peasantry of the Maratha caste: this episode, known as the Deccan riots...
Like Vitthal, Khandoba too is a regional deity of Maharashtra. While Vithoba is a deity of one's choice, Khandoba is the family deity of the majority of persons spread in Maharashtra, from Brahmins to Dalits.
Vilasrao Deshmukh (from Congress), a Maratha from Marathwada
...Sharad Pawar, the founder of the NCP and also described as the Maratha Strong Man, who has been...
Shiv Sena's strength primarily came from Maratha support, which it drew away from the Congress
The Shiv Sena is emerging as another Maratha party if we go by the number of Marathas elected on its ticket in the last four elections to the Vidhan Sabha.
As many commentators noted after the BORI attack, the Maratha Seva Sangh and the Sambhaji Brigade seemed to suddenly on the political scene. There has yet been no substantiated scholarly or journalistic studies of this movement, which is a caste based Maratha led organization of Marathi society focused on rural youth belonging to the broad Maratha caste cluster...The Maratha Seva Sangh, for instance, consciously distances itself from the Hindu nationalist parties such as the BJP and Shiv Sena in invoking a secular anti-Brahman genealogy from Shivaji and Tukaram in the seventeenth century to Jyotirao Phule and B.R.Ambedkar in the nineteenth and twentieth. The Sambhaji Brigade is its youth wing. In late 2004, the group announced the establishment of a new religion, "Shiv Dharma", as a protest against Vedic Brahmanism and counterpoint to Hinduism, See Maratha Seva Sangh, Jijau Brigade va Sambhaji Brigade Sanskarmala, Maratha Sanskarmala I(Nagpur: N.p., n.d.). I am grateful to Lee Schlesinger for making this pamphlet available to me.
The first step towards improving the quality of the army was to substitute men of more warlike and hardy races for the Hindustani sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telugus of Madras and the so called Marathas of Bombay.