Maratha (caste)

The Maratha (or Mahratta) caste was originally formed from the amalgamation of families from the agricultural castes in Maharashtra who took to military service under the various Muslim rulers and later in the armies of Shivaji and earned vatans and inams in return.[1][2][3][4][note 1]

Engraving of a Maratha Soldier by James Forbes, 1813
Populated statesMajor:
Madhya Pradesh
RegionWestern India

The Maratha king Shivaji established the Maratha empire that included warriors and other notables from Maratha and several other castes from Maharashtra.[5] This empire was the dominant force against the Mughal Empire until 1818.

According to the Maharashtrian historian B.R. Sunthankar, and scholars such as Rajendra Vora, the "Maratha caste" is a "caste of peasants" 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.[6][7]

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".[8] According to one scholar, Marathas are dominant in rural areas and mainly constitute the landed peasantry.[9] As of 2018, 80% of the members of the Maratha caste were farmers.[10]

Robert Vane Russell, an ethnologist of the British Raj period, basing his research largely on Vedic literature,[11] wrote that the Marathas are subdivided into 96 different clans, known as the 96 Kuli Marathas or Shahānnau Kule[12][13] The general body of lists are often at great variance with each other.[14]


The term "Maratha" referred broadly to all the speakers of the Marathi language.[15][16] 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 Maharaj. Thus, the term 'Maratha' became a marker of an endogamous caste for them.[17] A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, originally served in those Muslim armies.[18] By the mid-1660s, Shivaji had established an independent Maratha kingdom.[19] 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[20] in the south to Peshawar[21] (in modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the north, and with expeditions to Bengal in 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).[22]

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.[17] In the Pune District, the words Kunbi and Maratha had become synonymous, giving rise to the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex.[23] The Pune District Gazetteer of 1882 divided the Kunbis into two classes: Marathas and other Kunbis.[17] The 1901 census listed three groups within the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex: "Marathas proper", "Maratha Kunbis" and Konkan Maratha.[24]

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.[25] However, the Kunbis and Marathas had hypergamous inter-community marriages – a rich Kunbi could always marry his daughter to a poor Maratha.[26][27]

As per academic scholars, 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%.[28][29]

Gradually, the term Maratha came to denote an endogamous caste.[17] From 1900 onwards, the Satyashodhak Samaj movement defined the Marathas as a broader social category of non-Brahmin groups.[30] 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.[31]

The ritual caste hierarchy in Maharashtra is led by the Deshasthas, Chitpawans, Karhades, Saraswats and the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus (CKP). 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.[32][33][34][35][28][36]


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 Professor Richard Eaton from the University of Arizona and Professor Stewart Gordon from the University of Michigan. 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.[37] 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, from the University of Mumbai states: "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".[38] Gordon shows 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 marital 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.[39][40] The other example, given by Professor Susan Bayly of Cambridge University, is of the Bhonsles who originated among the populations of the Deccani tiller-plainsmen who were known by the names Kunbi and Maratha.[41] Professor Dhanmanjiri Sathe from the University of Pune states that "The line between Marathas and Kunbis is thin and sometimes difficult to ascertain".[42] Iravati Karve, Anthropologist, University of Pune, 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.[43] Professor Cynthia Talbot from the University of Texas quotes a saying in Maharashtra, "when a Kunbi prospers he becomes Maratha".[44] 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.[45][46]

Internal diaspora

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,[47] Scindia of Gwalior, Gaekwad of Baroda, Holkar of Indore, Puar of Dewas and Dhar, Ghorpade of Mudhol.



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.[5]

Steward Gordon, Professor Emeritus of world history at the Michigan State University[48] writes that the prominent Ghorpade Maratha family, for instance, was not literate and had to use Brahmins as record keepers.[49][50]

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.[51][lower-alpha 1]

A University of Pune historian cites a 20th-century article about the non-Brahmin movement to show that Brahmins are not to blame for the lack of education of Marathas. She gives the example of other non-Brahmin communities (whose occupations required education), like the Prabhus, Saraswats and Kayasthas, got education despite the barriers imposed by the Brahmins to illustrate this and opines that the need for reservations does not arise if each community tries for its own development.[52]


Like other Maharashtrian communities such as Kunbis, Malis, Mahars, etc., the marriage of a man to his maternal uncle's daughter is common in the Maratha community.[53] 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.[26][27][53][54]


Dr. Neela Dabir conducted her research on widows in Maharashtra by dividing them into three groups. The first group consisted of the women belonging to Saraswat, CKP and Brahmin communities. The second group consisted of women from the Maratha caste and the third group was all others. She concluded that the Brahmins, CKPs and Saraswats who had similar "family norms" of following the higher caste Hindu rituals and traditions, discouraged widow remarriage. Although the Marathas were politically dominant in the 20th century, they did not prohibit widow remarriage due to their ritualistic norms. The widows from the three castes (Saraswat, CKP, Brahmin) had to join Ashrams in large proportions whereas the widows from Maratha and other Hindu castes did not generally face such distress in their life in the 20th century.[55]

Dowry Issues

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.[56]). 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.[57]

Festivals and Gods

Rosalind O'Hanlon, Professor at the University of Oxford stated that the Hindu God 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.[58][59]

Mhasoba was also worshiped by the Bhonsles.[60] The other Hindu Gods popular in the Maratha community are Khandoba and the Goddess Bhavani of Tuljapur.[61]

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.[62][63][64]

Varna status

The varna of the Maratha was a contested issue, with arguments for their being of the Kshatriya (warrior) varna, and others for their being of Shudra origins. This issue was the subject of antagonism between the Brahmins and Marathas, dating back to the time of Pratap Singh, but by the late 19th century moderate Brahmins were keen to ally with the influential Marathas of Bombay in the interests of Indian independence from Britain. These Brahmins supported the Maratha claim to Kshatriya status, but their success in this political alliance was sporadic and fell apart entirely following independence in 1947.[65]

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.[66][67] He soon became the leader of the non-Brahmin movement and united the Marathas under his banner.[68][69]

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.[70] Additionally, a report by an independent commission in November 2018 concluded that the Maratha caste is educationally, socially and economically a backward community.[71][72]


The Marathas were classified as a Forward caste by the Mandal commission.[73] 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%.[74]

Inter-caste issues

Anti-Marwadi Deccan riots of 1875

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".[75][76][77][78]

Anti-Brahmin Violence

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.[79][80] 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.[81]

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".[80][79]

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.[81]

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.[81]

Worli BDD Chawl violence

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 erupted 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.[82][83]

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

Sambhaji Brigade is a branch of "Maratha Seva Sangh"(a Maratha caste organisation) and has committed acts of violence.[84] 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 crores. 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.[85][86]

Ram Ganesh Gadkari Statue

In 2017, the statue of Ram Ganesh Gadkari, a noted playwright and poet who showed Sambhaji Maharaj 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.[87] 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.[88]

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.[89][90][91][92][93] Some Marathas have also committed suicide, citing lack of inclusion in the OBC quota.[94][95]

Other inter caste issues

Medha Khole Incident

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 and Mhasoba – a Hindu God worshiped by the pastoral communities of western India and very popular in the Maratha community. Yadav alleged that "she [Khole] discovered I was a Maratha and not a Brahmin. Following this, she barged into my house and began assaulting me, while stating that our God was of the streets while theirs was in the heaven". 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.[58][96][97][60][98]

Political participation

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.[99] They combined nationalism with anti-casteism as the party's aims.[100] 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.[101] 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.[65]

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.[102][103] 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.[104][105] Since the 1980s, this group has also been active in setting up private educational institutions.[106][107][108] Major past political figures of Congress party from Maharashtra such as Keshavrao Jedhe, Yashwantrao Chavan,[105] Shankarrao Chavan[109] and Vilasrao Deshmukh[110] have been from this group. Sharad Pawar, who has been a towering figure in Maharashtrian and national politics, belongs to this group.[111]

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.[112][113] 10 out of 16 chief ministers of Maharashtra hailed from the Maratha community as of 2012.[114]

The rise of the Hindu Nationalist Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party in recent years have not dented Maratha representation in Maharashtra Legislative assembly.[104]

Shiv Sena's strength mainly came from the Maratha support which it drew away from the Congress.[115] 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".[116]

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.[117]

Military service

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".[118]

Even when Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, became the Prime Minister of Britain, he held the Maratha infantry in utmost respect, claiming it to be one of the best in the world. However, at the same time he believed the poor leadership of Maratha Generals, was often responsible for their defeats.[119] Norman Gash stated 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.[120][121][122] The British, despite praising the military prowess of the Marathas and placing them foremost in military power and on account of them being the most formidable foes of 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 utilization of guerrilla warfare in combat along with their uncharitable and ruthless attitudes.[123] However, racial theories have been discredited.[124]

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 marital races" in preference to other races in India.[125] 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.[126]

The Maratha Light Infantry regiment is one of the "oldest and most renowned" regiments of the Indian Army.[127] Its First Battalion, also known as the Jangi Paltan ("Warrior Platoon"),[128] 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).[129]

See also


  1. "Maratha", in a wider sense may be extended to include all who inhabit Maharashtra, and speak Marathi as their mother tongue.


  1. "The name of the ‘caste-cluster of agriculturalists-turned-warriors’ inhabiting the north-west Dakhan, Mahārās̲h̲tra ‘the great country’, a term which is extended to all Marāt́hī speakers": P. Hardy (1991). "Marāt́hās". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VI: Mahk–Mid. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-08112-7.
  2. Thomas Blom Hansen (5 June 2018). Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay. Princeton University Press. pp. 31–. ISBN 978-0-691-18862-1. 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.
  3. Stewart Gordon (16 September 1993). The Marathas 1600-1818. Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-0-521-26883-7. 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
  4. Jeremy Black (1 March 2005). Why Wars Happen. Reaktion Books. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-1-86189-415-1. 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
  5. Kantak, M. R. (1978). "The Political Role of Different Hindu Castes and Communities in Maharashtra in the Foundation of the Shivaji's Swarajya". Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Institute. 38 (1): 44. JSTOR 42931051.
  6. Rajendra Vora (2007). Manoranjan Mohanty, George Mathew, Richard Baum, Rong Ma (eds.). Grass-Roots Democracy in India and China: The Right To Participate. Sage Publications. ISBN 9788132101130. 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.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  7. B. R. Sunthankar. Nineteenth Century History of Maharashtra: 1818–1857. p. 122. 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."
  8. Jeremy Black (2005). Why Wars Happen. Reaktion Books. p. 111. ISBN 9781861890177.
  9. V. M. Sirsikar (1995). Politics in Modern Maharashtra. Orient Longman. p. 64. 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.
  10. "Dowry, child marriage issues plague Maratha and Dhangar communities". 9 September 2018.
  11. Bates, Crispin (1995). "Race, Caste and Tribe in Central India: the early origins of Indian anthropometry". In Robb, Peter (ed.). The Concept of Race in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 240–242. ISBN 978-0-19-563767-0. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  12. Kathleen Kuiper, ed. (2010). The Culture of India. Rosen. p. 34. ISBN 978-1615301492.
  13. Louis Dumont (1980). Homo hierarchicus: the caste system and its implications. University of Chicago Press. p. 121. ISBN 978-0226169637. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  14. O'Hanlon, Rosalind (2002). Caste, Conflict and Ideology: Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Low Caste Protest in Nineteenth-Century Western India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-52152-308-0. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  15. W. J. Johnson (ed.), "Marāṭhā", A Dictionary of Hinduism (Oxford, 2009): "The name of a dominant caste in western India (Maharashtra), which was united into an independent Marāṭhā kingdom (or empire) by Śivajī in 1674. His successors, who eventually splintered into a confederacy, resisted first the Mughals and then the British. After a prolonged series of wars, they were finally defeated in 1818."
  16. "The name of the ‘caste-cluster of agriculturalists-turned-warriors’ inhabiting the north-west Dakhan, Mahārās̲h̲tra ‘the great country’, a term which is extended to all Marāt́hī speakers": P. Hardy (1991). "Marāt́hās". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume VI: Mahk–Mid. Leiden: E. J. Brill. ISBN 90-04-08112-7.
  17. Hansen 2001, p. 31.
  18. Gordon, Stewart N. (1993). The Marathas 1600–1818. The New Cambridge History of India. Cambridge University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-52126-883-7. Second, we have that Marathas regularly served in the armies of the Muslim Deccan kingdoms.
  19. Pearson, M. N. (February 1976). "Shivaji and the Decline of the Mughal Empire". The Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies. 35 (2): 221–235. doi:10.2307/2053980. JSTOR 2053980.
  20. Mehta, J. L. Advanced study in the history of modern India 1707–1813
  21. Alexander Mikaberidze (31 July 2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 43–. ISBN 978-1-59884-337-8. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
  22. Chhabra, G.S. (2005) [1971]. Advanced Study in the History of Modern India. Lotus Press. ISBN 81-89093-06-1.
  23. O'Hanlon 2002, p. 45.
  24. O'Hanlon 2002, p. 47.
  25. Haynes 1992, p. 65The prohibition of widow remarriage, Steele reported, served also to mark a ranking within caste groupings, distinguishing Maratha families claiming a Rajput descent and Kshatriya status from ordinary Kunbi communities of agriculturists: "such of them are the high Mahratta (as the families of the Satara Raja, and other houses of pure Mahratta descent) do not allow their widows to form Pat'. In the absence of any sort of statistical evidence, it is hard to know how accurate Steele's report was.
  26. Gail Marie Omvedt (1966). Caste, Conflict, and Rebellion. University of California. p. 60. But hypergamous marriage existed between these groups: a rich Kunbi could always marry his daughter to a poor Maratha
  27. India's Communities volume.5. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 2213. ISBN 978-0-19-563354-2. The Maratha had hypergamous relationship with the Kunbi
  28. Christophe Jaffrelot; Sanjay Kumar, eds. (2009). Rise of the Plebeians?: The Changing Face of the Indian Legislative Assemblies (Exploring the Political in South Asia). Routledge India. pp. 216, 217. ISBN 9781136516627. 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.
  29. Dhaval Kulkarni. "Brahmins too demand for reservations in Maharashtra". Daily News and Analysis. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  30. Hansen 2001, p. 32.
  31. Hansen 2001, p. 34.
  32. Sharmila Rege (2013). Writing Caste/Writing Gender: Narrating Dalit Women's Testimonies. Zubaan Books. p. 28. The traditional caste hierarchy was headed by the brahmin castes-the deshasthas, chitpawans, karhades, saraswats and the chandraseniya Kayastha prabhus.
  33. Rosenzweig, Mark; Munshi, Kaivan (September 2006). "Traditional Institutions Meet the Modern World: Caste, Gender, and Schooling Choice in a Globalizing Economy". American Economic Review. 96 (4): 1225–1252. doi:10.1257/aer.96.4.1225. (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.
  34. Bidyut Chakrabarty (2003). "Race, caste and ethnic identity". Communal Identity in India: Its Construction and Articulation in the Twentieth Century. Oxford University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0195663303. 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.
  35. V. B. Ghuge (1994). Rajarshi Shahu: a model ruler. kirti prakashan. p. 20. In the Hindu social hierarchy the privileged classes were Brahmins, CKP's and others. Similarly other elite classes were Parsis and Europeans.
  36. Suryakant Waghmore. "Prejudice disguised as politeness". 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.
  37. O'Hanlon 2002, p. 17.
  38. John Vincent Ferreira. Totemism in India. Oxford University Press. p. 191; 202. 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.
  39. Richard M. Eaton (17 November 2005). A Social History of the Deccan, 1300–1761: Eight Indian Lives, Volume 1. Cambridge university press. pp. 191, 200. ISBN 9780521254847.
  40. Stewart Gordon (February 2007). The Marathas 1600–1818. cambridge university press. pp. 15, 16. ISBN 9780521033169.
  41. Bayly, Susan (2001). Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. Cambridge University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780521798426.
  42. Dhanmanjiri Sathe (2017). The Political Economy of Land Acquisition in India: How a Village Stops Being One. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9789811053269. For Maharashtra, Karve (1968) has reported that the line between Marathas and Kunbis is thin and sometimes difficult to ascertain
  43. Irawati Karmarkar Karve (1948). Anthropometric measurements of the Marathas. Deccan College Postgraduate Research Institute. pp. 13, 14. 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
  44. Cynthia Talbot (2001). Precolonial India in Practice: Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198031239.
  45. "Commission gets over 1L petitions, proof for Maratha reservation". 21 May 2018.
  46. "HC upholds Maratha quota". Pune Mirror. The petitioners also argued that as per the MSBCC report, Marathas and Kunbis were one and the same caste
  47. "Christian Schwartz: The Raj-Guru of Thanjavur". 30 September 2018.
  48. University, Michigan State. "MSU History Department". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  49. Steward Gordon (1993). The New Cambridge History of India, Volume 2, Part 4: The Marathas 1600–1818. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521033169. The Ghorpade family was Maratha and almost certainly illiterate. Record keepers were Brahmin, literate families.
  50. Kumar Suresh Singh (2004). People of India – Volume VI, Part 2. Anthropological Survey of India. p. 1436. For example, the families having Bhosale and Ghorpade as surnames are believed to belong to the same clan-stock namely the Bhosale
  51. Omvedt, Gail (August 1973). "Development of the Maharashtrian Class Structure, 1818 to 1931". Economic and Political Weekly. 8 (31/33): 1418–1419. 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 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.
  52. Radhika Seshan; Shraddha Kumbhojkar, eds. (2018). Re-searching Transitions in Indian History. Taylor & Francis. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-429-94631-8. 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.
  53. Flavia Agnes (2011). Family Law: Volume 1: Family Laws and Constitutional Claims. Oxford University Press. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-0-19-908826-3. Among Maharashtrian communities such as Marathas, Kunbis, Malis, Mahars, etc., the marriage of a brother's daughter with a sister's son is common
  54. Donal Attwood (1988). Donald W. Attwood; Milton Israel; Narendra K.Wagle (eds.). City, countryside and society in Maharashtra. University of Toronto, Centre for South Asian Studies. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-9692907-2-8. 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"...
  55. Dr.Neela Dabir (2000). women in distress. Rawat Publishers. pp. 97–99. (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.
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  62. "Processions, folk dances mark Shivaji Jayanti in Thane". Times of India. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
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  110. Paul Wallace; Ramashray Roy, eds. (9 May 2011). India′s 2009 Elections: Coalition Politics, Party Competition and Congress Continuity. SagePublications Pvt. Ltd. p. 252. ISBN 9788132107743. ...Sharad Pawar, the founder of the NCP and also described as the Maratha Strong Man, who has been...
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  115. Rajendra Vora (4 May 2012). Christophe Jaffrelot; Sanjay Kumar (eds.). Rise of the Plebeians?: The Changing Face of the Indian Legislative Assemblies. pp. 240, 241. ISBN 9781136516627. 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.
  116. Prachi Deshpande (2007). Creative Pasts: Historical Memory and Identity in Western India, 1700-1960. Columbia University Press. pp. 266–267. ISBN 978-0-231-12486-7. 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.
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  118. Lee, Wayne (2011). Empires and Indigenes: Intercultural Alliance, Imperial Expansion, and Warfare in the Early Modern World. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-6527-2. Pg. 85
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  125. Banerjee, Sikata (2005). Make Me a Man!: Masculinity, Hinduism, and Nationalism in India. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. p. 33. ISBN 9780791463673. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
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  1. Omvedt does add a proviso saying that: 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

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