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 .

Published by Aneesh Gokhale

Author - "Brahmaputra - The Story of Lachit Barphukan, Assamese contemporary of Chhatrapati Shivaji" , "Sahyadris to Hindukush" and " Battles of the Maratha Empire". Written over thirty five articles for a history column in DNA Newspaper. Published on many occasions in online publications such as IndiaFacts , Swarajya , TFI , Creative India , Indic Today and others. Given talks on Maratha and Assamese history at Pune Intl Lit Fest , INTACH (Delhi), Wadia College (Pune), Indian Institute of Democratic Leadership (Mumbai), Thakur College's TCET Talk (Mumbai), Pondy Lit Fest (Pondicherry), various Rotary Clubs and educational institutions in Pune and Mumbai. Also, qualified to navigate a ship.

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