Although some Paleolithic remains have been discovered, Maharashtra
enters recorded history in the second century BC, with the
construction of its first Buddhist caves. These lay, and still lie, in
peaceful places of great natural beauty, but could never have been
created without the wealth generated by the nearby caravan trade
routes between north and south India.
The name Maharashtra first appeared in a 7th centuuilders
and drivers of chariots who formed a maharathis, a "fighting force."
This region seems to have attained prominence as early as 90 A.D.,
when king Vedishri made Junnar the capital of his kingdom, thirty
miles north of Pune. For the 900 years ending in the early fourteenth
century, with the overthrow of the Devgiri Yadavs by the northern
Muslim powers, no historical information in this region is available.
In 1526, first Mughal king, Babar, established his prominanace in
Delhi and soon the Mughal power spread to the southern India. The
Mughals were to dominate India till the early eighteenth century.
The regions's first Hindu rulers, based in Badami, appeared during the
sixth century, but the eighth-century Rashtrakutas achieved a greater
authority. Buddhism was almost entirely supplanted throughout the
entire country by the twelfth century, in what has been characterized
as a peaceful popular revolution attributable largely to the popular
poet-saints. Maharashtra was one of the main channels that helped the
emotional and emotional bhakti school of Hinduism spread from southern
to northern India, thanks here to work of Jnanesvara (1271-1296) whose
commentary on the Bhagwad Gita, the Jnanesvari, was significantly
written in the day-to-day spoken language, Marathi, as opposed to
classical Sanskrit. The most famous of his contemporary poet-saints
was the tailor Namdev (1270-1350), whose passionate devotional hymns
caught the popular imagination. The tradition they established
continued to flourish, even when forced underground by Islam, reaching
its zenith in the simple faith of the anguished Tukaram (1598-1650),
whose wife and son died in a famine, and Ramdas, the "Servant of Rama"
(1608-1681). Ramdas, both ascetic and political activist, provided the
philosophical underpinning behind the campaigns of Maharashtra's
greatest warrior, Shivaji.
The Maratha Reign
In the sixteenth century, regional Muslim powers like Nizamshahi,
Adilshahi, and Qutubshahi established their prominence in the Deccan
region. They basically served the Mughal empire but were autonomous to
an extent. One of them, Nizamshahi was located in Ahmednagar, a town
95 miles east of Pune. Maloji Bhosle, Grandfather of Shivaji served
for the Nizam as a Sardar. In 1595, Bahadur Nizam II honored him as
'Raja' for his courage in a battle with Mughals and gave him the
estates of Pune and the fort of Chakan, near Pune. This is generally
considered as the starting point of the Maratha history.
The Reign of Shivaji (1627 - 1680)
Shivaji Bhosle, founder of the Maratha empire, was born in 1627, in
the fort of Shivneri, 40 miles north of Pune. In 1629, Shivaji's
father Shahaji, who had succeeded his father
Maloji, in Pune and Chakan, disengaged himself from the service of the
Nizamshahi. Consequently, in 1635 the Nizam's army attacked Pune.
Shahaji surrendered and his estates were returned to him. Soon,
Shahaji put Dadaji Kondadev in charge of Pune,and as a caretaker for
the Shivaji while he joined the Adilshahi in Vijapur, aprox. 400 miles
south of Pune, which was soon to emerge as the most important power in
the region as the other local powers slowly diminished.
In Pune, Dadoji built a palace 'Lal Mahal', for Shivaji and his mother
Jijabai. At the age of sixteen (1643 AD), Shivaji took great delight
in stirring up his friends' hopes and nursed the thought of becoming
independent. He took the oath to make the land free at the fort Torna
at the age of sixteen. This was the start of his lifelong struggle
against Mughals and other Muslim powers. By 1647, Shivaji had captured
two forts and had the complete charge of Pune. In 1657, he committed
his first act of hostility against the Adilshahi by plundering a large
booty in Ahmednagar. Thus, began a sequence of attacks on the
Adilshahi.He slowly started capturing forts in the region, Purandar,
Rajgad, Torna being most notable of his first achievements.
Disturbed by his continuing success, Adilshahi sent a famous Sardar, 'Afzalkhan'
to destroy Shivaji. Afzalkhan knew that Shivaji's army, which was much
smaller than his huge force would be unable to fight him on open land.
He tried all the tricks in the book to make him fight on plains, but
Shivaji was no less clever. He convinced Khan that he was very much
afraid of him and requested him for a meeting at a place near Vai (
100 miles south of Pune) which was densely wooded, mountainous region,
and ideal for his army to fight. Khan still had plans to kill him in
the meeting and Shivaji knew it well. Ultimately it was Khan who was
killed and his unsuspecting army was completed washed out by Shivaji.
After this, Shivaji went on a winning spree and spread his reach till
Panhala near Kolhapur.
Meanwhile, Aurangzeb got concerned by Shivaji's rise to power. It was
now clear that local Muslim Powers were unable to stop him. So he sent
a huge Army, led by Mirzaraje Jaisingh to defeat Shivaji(1666).
Jaising's army was much stronger than Shivaji and soon he lost most of
his important forts. Realising that he was fighting a losing battle,
he signed a treaty with Mirza and agreed to serve Aurangzeb, his young
son, Sambhaji being made a sardar. He went to Delhi with Mirza to meet
Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb gave a humiliating treatment to Shivaji and soon
put him under house imprisonment under some excuse. It looked certain
that Shivaji will be killed sooner or later by Aurangzeb. But this was
not to happen, fortunately, for Maratha kingdom. Shivaji made a clever
plot to escape and escaped with Sambhaji to south.
After this turning point, Shivaji never looked back and slowly
regained his lost glory. By 1673, he had control over most of western
Maharashtra and had made 'Raigad' ( Dist. Raigad , 150 miles southwest
of Pune) his capital. He was ceremeniously enthroned as a sovereign
king in 1673. By 1680, the year of Shivaji's death, nearly whole of
the Deccan belonged to his kingdom. He had developed an efficient
administration and a powerful army. He also encouraged a spirit of
independence among the Marathas that enabled them to withstand for 150
years all attempts to conquer them. Shivaji's achievements amongst
monumental difficulties were really spectacular and that is why he
holds the highest place in Maratha history.
The Period of Unstability - 1680 to 1707
Shivaji was succeeded by his son Sambhaji. He showed the same vigor as
his father, but was taken prisoner and executed by the Mughal ruler
Aurangzeb, in 1689. Rajaram, Sambhaji's younger brother then took the
throne, since Sambhaji's son, Shahu was still a minor. The death of
Rajaram in 1700 seemed to end the power of the Marathas, but Tarabai,
the elder widow of Rajaram, put her young son Shahu on the throne, at
the tender age of ten, and continued the struggle against Aurangzeb
who had come to south with the sole purpose of destroying Maratha
kingdom. Between 1700 and 1703, Aurangzeb captured the fort of
Sinhagad, near Pune. During the siege, his son prince Muhuil-Mulk
died; so Aurangzeb changed Pune's name to Muhiabad, in the prince's
honor. Shahu continued to fight against the Mughals and captured
Rajgad, the former capital of the Maratha territory. The fight against
the Mughals ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 which was
another turning point in Maratha history. After Aurangzeb, Mughal
power never regained its status as main power in India and Balance of
power shifted towards Marathas, which was soon to be controlled by
The Peshwe Dynasty - 1712 to 1818
Balaji Vishwanath - 1712 to 1721
In 1712, Shahu died of smallpox and his minister or peshwa, Balaji
Vishwanath took over the throne.
Negotiations between the Mughal court of Delhi and Balaji Vishwanath
enabled him to send a large Maratha delegation to Delhi to assist the
Mughals. The year 1718 marked the beginning of the Maratha influence
in Delhi, to which they remained closely acquainted, till 1803. Balaji
Vishwanath's health had suffered considerably, and he died in 1721.
Bajirao Peshwa ( Pahila Bajirao ) - 1721 to 1740
Bajirao, his elder son was awarded the title of peshwa after the death
of his father . It was Bajirao's dream to extend the Maratha empire to
North India. By this time, Pune had regained its status as capital of
Maratha Kingdom from Rajgad. Rajgad was made capital by Shivaji
beacuse it was a safe place, high in the moutainous, wooded area. As
Pune was in plains, it always had a threat. By 1720's, Maratha power
was spreading in large areas and the threat of local battles fought
over forts did not exist much. Pune remained the capital till the end
of Maratha empire in 1818.
In 1734, Bajirao captured the Malwa territory in the north, and in
1739, his brother Chimnaji drove out the Portuguese from almost all
their possessions in the northern Western Ghats. Bajirao diedi in 1740
and left three sons behind him. It was Bajirao who built the 'Shanivarwada',
the residence and ruling place for the Peshwas.
Nanasaheb Peshwa - 1740 to 1761
Nanasaheb succeeded Bajirao as Peshwa in 1740. He had two brothers,
Raghunathrao, who later betrayed the Marathas and joined hands with
the British, and Janardan, who died in his early youth.
Nanasaheb was ambitious and a multifaceted person.In 1741, when his
uncle Chimnaji died, he returned from the northern districts and spent
nearly a year improving the civil administration of Pune. The period
between 1741 and 1745 was of comparative calm in the Deccan. Nanasaheb
encouraged agriculture, protected the villagers and brought about a
marked improvement in the state of the territory.
The scene changed in 1751, when the Mughals, supported by the French,
advanced towards Pune, totally destroying every village in their way.
The Marathas fought with great determination, and nothing but the
French artillery saved them from total defeat. In 1754, Raghunathrao,
Nanasaheb's brother started on an expedition to conquer Gujarat, the
state north of Bombay. In 1756, Nanasaheb marched south to attack
Karnatak. In the meantime, news spread that the war had broken out
between the English and the French, in Europe.
In 1756, the fall of the formidable navy formed by Shivaji gave
British their chance to regain importance in the region. The navy was
headed by Kanhoji Angre and its destruction was a cruical blow to
Maratha sea power. It was a sad outcome of neglect of navy by Marathas
which turned out to be a horrible mistake. Marathas never regained
control of the sea after that.
In 1761, the Marathas were defeated at the third Battle of Panipat
against Ahmadshah Abdali , a great warrior from Afganistan. Marathas
were fighting to save Delhi Sultanat and consequently their power in
the north. NajibUddowla was the person responsible for calling Abdali.
14th January, 1761 was the D-Day. This was a cruical blow to the
rising Maratha power from which they never recovered. They lost more
than 100,000 men and dozens of important Sardars in the battle.
Nanasaheb Peshwe ( Balaji Bajirao ) lost his brother, Sadashivrao (
After whom the Sadashiv Peth in Pune is named ), and also his first
son, Vishwasrao, in this battle. This news shattered Balaji Bajirao,
who died shortly afterwards, in the temple on Parvati hill in Pune.
The Maratha power was at the zenith of its glory during Balaji
Bajirao's (also called Nana Saheb Peshwa) reign. It never fully
recovered from the crushing defeat at Panipat.
'Thorale' Madhaorao Peshwa - 1761 to 1772
Madhavrao, his second son then took over, but had to constantly face
administrative disputes with his uncle, Raghunathrao. Despite of this,
he achieved many remarkable victories and restored the shattred
Maratha kingdom to a large extent. His outstanding achievements
included defeat of Nizam (Hyderabad), Hyder (Karnataka) and Bhosle of
Nagpur. He also had to fight wars with Raghunathrao whose greed for
power never waned. Ultimately, Madhavrao took Raghunathrao prisoner in
1768; the same year when the Nizam attacked Pune.He was eventually
defeated. Madhavrao, also called 'Thorale'or Greatest Madhavrao, is
entitled to special praise for supporting the poor and for his sense
of justice. Ramshastri Prabhune, the chief justice, has become a
legend for his work. The people who rose to power in his rule were
Mahadji Shinde, Nana Phadnis and Haribhau Phadke who became the key
figures in the power structure after his death. He took ill in 1771
and died in 1772 at an early age of 27, causing yet another blow to
recovering Maratha power.
Narayanrao Peshwa - 1772 to 1773
Narayanrao, Balaji Bajirao's third son succeeded the throne at
Shaniwarwada as the next Peshwa. He neither had the courage to take
any bold decisions nor administrative skills and soon became very
unpopular among the people. In 1773, Raghunathrao, who had been
imprisoned by Madhavrao, in a room in the palace in Pune, escaped with
the help of the Gardi people . Narayanrao was murdered at the Shaniwar
wada , owing to a conspiracy by Anandibai, Raghunathrao's wife.
'Sawai' Madhaorao Peshwa - 1774 to 1795
Raghunathrao was proclaimed the next peshwa, although he was not heir
to the title. Narayanrao's widow gave birth to a son, Sawai Madhavrao,
who was legally the next peshwa. Raghunathrao tried to maintain his
kingdom by signing treaties with the English , and relied on them for
manpower in exchange for money and territory. However his plans did
not succeed. Raghoba was displaced from power by a clever plot by the
12 Maratha sardar's " Barambhainche karasthaan" ( Plot by 12 people )
including Nana, Holkar, Phadke Shinde . Sawai Madhavrao was then
declared the next Peshwa. As he was only one year old at that time,
Nana Phadnis became the main administrator with Phadke,Shinde,Holkar
taking care of Military duties. These people handled the Peshwai well
and with great unity till the premature death of Sawai Madhaorao in
1795. They defeated the rising British Power in 1784, near Pune and
halted their advancements, temporarily. Sawai Madhaorao's death was
the last blow to the Maratha empire and all the unity among its
leaders vanished after his death causing a downfall of Peshwai in a
'Second' Bajirao Peshwa - 1795 to 1802
Raghunathrao died in 1782, leaving behind him, two sons; Bajirao, who
in 1817 confronted the British at the Battle of Kirkee, in Pune; and
the younger, Chimnaji Appa. Bajirao became the next Peshwa after
Madhaorao's death. Nana was still the administrator and the Peshwai
remained in stable condition till his death owing to his superb
administrative skills. Nana died in 1800 and Pune fell into the hands
of the Sindia's ( Shinde) ; the former chiefs of Nana's army. They
remained in power for a short while and in 1802, Bajirao reestablished
himself in Pune, by signing the treaty of Bassein with the British.
This essentially ended Peshwai , establishing British supremacy in the
region. The capturing of the Ahmednagar fort in 1803, proved British
supremacy in the Deccan. In 1804, General Wellesly proclaimed the
Deccan in a state of chaos, established military rule and the Peshwas
remained rulers for name's sake.
The British Raj - 1818 to 1947
Towards the end of 1805 Sir James Mackintosh, the Chief Justice of
Bombay (1804-1811), came from Bombay to visit Colonel Close, the
Resident at Pune. The Residency on the 'Sangam'(confluence of the Mula
and Mutha rivers) Mackintosh describes as a set of bungalows, fitted
conveniently and luxuriously. Pune city had its principal streets
paved with stone, and was reckoned one of the best built native towns
in India. The Peshwa's residence, that is the Shaniwar wada, added to
Pune's glory. Between 1805 and 1811, under Colonel Close and for a
short while under Mr. Russel, affairs went smoothly in Pune.
In 1811, Mr. Russel was succeeded by Lord Mountstuart Elphinstone.
Bajirao was very disloyal to the British, and in November of 1817, he
declared war against them. This battle was fought at Kirkee, that is
the Cantonment area, in the east of Pune. The Peshwa fled and the
power of the country passed from the Peshwas to the British by 1819.
The rest of the nineteenth century witnessed a few minor uprisings in
and around Pune, but the British established their supremacy. As the
Maratha's were the key power in India at this time, their fall clearly
marked the begining of British Rule in India.
The first step towards establishing a municipal government in the city
of Pune, was taken in 1856, when the Pune Municipality came into
existence under the Act of 1850. The fact that Pune is not recognized
as a major tourist center, is probably because it cannot boast of
outstanding artistic specimens of architecture, like those of Delhi or
Agra. Yet, it is rich in its associations with the past.
In the early 20th century, the whole of India was in revolt against
the British; yearning for freedom. Mahatma Gandhi launched his
movement of nonviolence, and people participated by the thousands in
the 'Chale Jao' ('go away') struggle. Paradoxically, Pune witnessed
violence when the Chaphekar brothers killed a British police officer
by the name of Mr. Rand. On one hand, as the violence overrode the
city, improvements were made in the education of women and the
abolition of child labor. Independence was attained in 1947, but that
was not the end of violence.
Modern Maharashtra - 1947 to Present
At Indian Independence in 1947, western Maharashtra and present-day
Gujarat were joined as Bombay state. The eastern districts were then
part of Hyderabad State, but were later added to Bombay in 1956. The
present state was formed in 1960 when the Marathi and Gujarati
linguistic areas of former Bombay state were separated. Bombay city
became the capital of the new state.