The Mughals

The Marathas


   The first major threat to Mughal imperial power came from a Hindu tribal confederacy known as the Marathas. Located in the mountainous regions of the Deccan, the Marathas were mainly drawn from the lowest caste of society, but they became a powerfully militant community under their ruler, King Sivaji, who died in 1680. Under his leadership, the Marathas managed to carve out their own kingdom in 1646. Aurangzeb, the last great conqueror of the Mughal rulers, defeated the Marathas and annexed their territories, but the Marathas never put down their arms. They could never be defeated by the Mughals because they adopted guerilla warfare tactics, hiding and living in the forests. They continued to rule over their territory, even though it was under the control of the Mughals, as a separate state within a state. By 1740, the Marathas controlled more territory than the Mughals.

   In the later eighteenth century, the kingdom of Mysore and the Maratha confederacy were the major obstacles in the British attempt to control the economy of India. The East India Company, originally started as a trading company, had become an official arm of the British Empire. It's objective was to control the economy of India and, if necessary, control the administration of its territories. It turned to the Mughal Empire for its model of ruling India, but the Marathas were very resistant to British imperialism. The British, under General Wellesley, defeated the Maratha chieftains, Scindia and Holkar, but the Maratha chieftains continued to rebel all throughout the early decades of the nineteenth century.

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 3-1-97