Question by a friend of mine got me started on this topic . Every era and rule leaves some or the other lasting impact on the region it thrives in , and the same is true for Maratha rule of 18th century India . Their domination of the Indian sub continent for around a century shaped politics and social life in many ways .
First and foremost , the rise of Chhatrapati Shivaji himself was nothing short of a miracle . The very fact that someone could challenge the Turkic – Afghan – Mughal hegemony in the country , and win , inspired people as far afield as Assam and Bundelkhand to carry out similar ventures . Shivaji’s success was India’s first step towards self rule .
Next came the 27 year war of independence . An empire fell , largely in part due to the administrative and military set up of Shivaji , and most of India was free of Mughal rule for the large part .
Come 1720 , and Bajirao decided to thrust north . This is an important event , because it shows his intent to keep outsiders out . There had indeed been a debate as to whether Marathas should head north or south . If they had spent the next generation in consolidating south India only , who knows what would have happened to the North ? Perhaps another foreigner at Delhi ? Note that it was Bajirao’s armies in Central India that hastened Nadir Shah’s retreat . In annexing central and north India , the Marathas became the first indeginious power in 800 years to do so .
Towards the south , Maratha activities hastened the exit of the French . Later Maratha activities hastened entry of the British too , but a British – French combination might have led to a Canada type situation in India , or perhaps even an Algeria – Egypt type case , with countries divided where the French and British drew a line .
The battle of Panipat , in which Abdali won a phyrric victory , truly cleared the decks for the Sikh empire to rise . Free of attacks from the Northwest , they went on to build an empire spanning whole of undivided Punjab , KPK , much of J& K .
Apart from this , there was a temple building spree during the days of Ahilyabai Holkar . The scale of this temple building shows the extent of Hindu rule , as well as it’s resurgence . Without political hold , that was not possible .
Finally , the large number of Maratha states in Central and Northern India , like that of Gwalior was a major contributor to the ‘moth eaten ‘ Pakistan of Jinnah . Note the financial help and moral support of the Nawabs and Nizams of the time towards the Pakistan movement . Without the presence of Maratha rule in large parts , ‘Mughalistan ‘ might well have been a reality . ( Mughalistan – pipe dream about re creating Mughal India , cherished by some people ) . After all , the landed Muslim gentry was one of the driving forces of this .
Infact , if the Marathas had focused bit more on uprooting the landed Muslim gentry of Uttar Pradesh , especially that of its western parts , history of India might well have been totally different , British rule not withstanding .