This was a question first posted to me on quora .. well here is my answer
This is an extremely good question. And one must understand that it is rhetorical, not literal. The methods of governance today, infact the road to Delhi itself is fundamentally different from that during Mughal and Maratha empire times. Back then, wars were fought, today elections are fought.
So, whether Republic of India is a successor to the Mughal empire or Maratha empire is to be seen in the ethos of political parties. Chronologically, Maratha empire succeeded the Mughal empire. So that way yes, RoI is successor to Maratha empire. But we will leave that and answer question at hand.
An undivided India, would certainly have been Mughal empire and Maratha empire living together, somehow trying to govern the country. Pakistan is most definitely a successor to the Mughal empire. Their more fanciful day dreamers want to a reinstate a – note the word – Mughalistan – across the cow belt, just at it was at time of Mughals. Plus, Pakistan itself was to protect the landed gentry of UP as also the Waderas of Punjab – Sindh, all of whom owed their importance of many generations to the Mughal empire. Add to it the importance given to Islam, and very frankly, the neighbouring country can call itself an ideological successor to the Mughals.
Coming to India. First, one has to recognise the contribution – the long term contributions of Maratha empire to India. In this, we have political , social and cultural influences. Political influence was ofcourse the cutting down to size the 500 yr old Muslim rule in India, and establishing themselves across the huge swathes of Gujarat , Malwa , Bundelkhand. When we see the crucial role played by the surviving Muslim princely states, esp of the Ganga Jamuna doab in the creation of Pakistan, the importance of Maratha empire becomes apparent. Also, because they were successors to Gaikwad , Holkar , Shinde of yore, they readily joined the new Indian Union.
It was Chhatrapati Shivaji who inspired most, if not all, of the freedom fighters from Maharashtra.
Then we have Ahilyabai Holkar, who built temples and ghats across the length and breadth of India, leading to a cultural rejuvenation. Also, the Maratha empire and its egalitarian treatment of women and caste had direct effect on the 19th and 20th century. The foundations laid by Jijabai and Tarabai created an Ahilyabai Holkar and later day an Anandibai Gokhale. The equal treatment of Ramoshis , Bhils and responsibility given to Holkar and Shinde led to Phule and Ambedkar being born in Maharashtra. This too, as we know, deeply influenced Indian contemporary politics.
Then, we have the Sanskrit slogans for all govt deparatments. The Ashok chakra and stambh – taking India back to the days of Ashok. Now, one can debate here, but most definitely , Ashok is far more dharmic and Indian than any Mughal emperor. The promotion of local culture etc etc . Thus, on the eve of independence, India was most definitely a successor to the Maratha empire.
Infact, if we see India’s map, it is more or less the areas (save the NE and outlying Islands) where Marathas had influence over their nearly 200 yrs.
Although one must say, that with appeasement politics in full swing, we might turn Mughal very soon.