Shivaji was born of a Maratha family in 1627 A.D. His father was a chief of the kingdom of Bijapur. Though he was high up, he was not allowed to control any fort. In his early youth, Shivaji inspired the local peasant youths around Poona to follow him in his idealistic pursuits.
In his early, his band attacked the mountain fort of Torna about twenty miles from Poona. He took control from the fort as Governor. It was characteristic of him immediately send a word to the King of Bijapur, that he had done purely in the king's interest as the ex-governor was not given all the revenue due to the king. This brought more time, and Shivaji used this technique of cunningness to conquer more and more such forts. The king eventually ordered Shivaji to stop these activities. But Shivaji knew that by now the whole region was behind him and thus ignored any warnings from the King of Bijapur.
The King then sent a small army under Afzal Khan to catch him dead or alive. Shivaji now portrayed even more cunning techniques. He pretended to be extremely afraid of Afzal Khan and his army, and offered to surrender personally to him provided his well-being was guaranteed. He suggested that he should be accompanied by two unarmed followers to meet Afzal Khan and two of his guards personally. This was agreed to. When the meeting took place, Afzal Khan (a big, stocky and giant of a figure, compared to short and agile figure of Shivaji) tried to kill Shivaji with a big embrace and stab at Shivaji. Shivaji was however prepared with a short knife under his palm. With a swift action, he slayed the giant.
When the ruler in Delhi heard of this he sent his general Shaista Khan to suppress this uprising which was gaining momentum at great speed. Shivaji had to abandon temporarily the plains to a much more powerful Moghul army. With the help of the locals, he could enter into the living quarters of the general with his followers and created chaos. He had caused irreversible injury to the generals’ body and pride, so much so that he was recalled to Delhi.
Due to requirement of maintaining a large army, Shivaji felt the need of finance. His next crusade was to loot the Mughal city of Surat, which was the centre of the rich, traders from all over. He is likened here to Robin Hood here. No injury to women, children of elderly was ever caused. This wealth gave Shivaji sufficient wherewithal to continue his crusade.
This time the Mughal emperor sent a vast army under its senior general, Jai Singh. After a few skirmishes Shivaji thought it prudent nominally to accept the emperor's sovereignty and offered to come to court itself to pay homage. The trick worked and his army remained intact. He proceeded to Agra to present himself at the mughal court. However the perfidious emperor arrested him. As is well known, Shivaji tricked his jailors and escaped. By the time he returned to Poona, his army was in good condition. This was his opportunity to give a crushing defeat to the retreating armies.
Now Shivaji had an unquestioned sway over a big area. Fort Raigad was to become the centre of power and prowess. During the coronation ceremony he gave magnificent gifts to holy men and the poor. He died after three years. His son could not amass sufficient strength to finish the work of liberation throughout Bharat. Nevertheless, Shivaji had laid the foundation of a great Hindu empire which lasted for two centuries.
According to some sources, every maratha must belong to one of 96 different clans (the "96 Kuli Marathas"). The list of 96 Maratha clans is different as per different historians. An authoritative listing was apparently first attempted in 1888 and a list finalised in 1956 by the Government of India.
Maratha empire c.1760 AD
Different Maratha (also called as Rastriks or Maha-rathis or Mahrattas) rulers during Medieval period (before 12th century) include Satavahana, Rashtrakuta, Yadhav-Jadhavs.
During Modern historical period, The Marathas have contributed a glorious chapter to the history of India. They re-united into historical prominence under the leadership of Chhatrapati Shivaji in the 17th century. Shivaji Maharaj, born into the Bhonsle clan of Marathas, secured an independent state by dint of lifelong struggle and thereby founded an empire, the remnants of which lasted until the independence of India in 1947. The state thus founded by Chhatrapati Shivaji attained its zenith under the tutelage of the Peshwas in the 18th century, extending from the Indus in present-day Pakistan to Orissa in the east and northern Karnataka in the south. The kingdom of Thanjavur in present-day Tamil Nadu was also ruled by a Maratha dynasty, albeit outside the ambit of the main Maratha Empire. At its peak, the Maratha Empire established a protectorate over the mughal emperor and paramountcy over the numerous Rajput chieftains of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Central India and elsewhere. This vast empire declined gradually after the third battle of Panipat (1761); by 1818, all of present-day India had fallen to the British East India Company.
The history of the states and dynasties comprising the Maratha Empire constitutes a major portion of the history of late medieval India. While that extensive history is detailed elsewhere, it is noteworthy that the rise of the Marathas:
represented the revival of the political power of the Hindus in north India after many centuries of Muslim overlordship;
prevented the spread of the Mughal Empire and associated Islamic culture to south India;
was the primary cause of the decline of the Mughal Empire, a momentous development;
constituted one of the earlier instances, in later medieval India, of the empowerment of subaltern castes; this arguably presaged the social modernization of India;
encouraged the development of the Marathi language and was seminal to the consolidation of a distinct Maharashtrian identity.
Since the marathas ruled much of India in the period immediately preceding the consolidation of British rule in India, the maratha states came to form the largest bloc of princely states in the British Raj, if size be reckoned by territory and population. Prominent maratha states included:
Sandur, India in Bellary District of Karnataka India
Thanjavur, and many others
Prominent Maratha dynasties
Yadavas of Deogiri
Bhonsles of Kolhapur, Satara, Nagpur and Thanjavur
Sindhias (Shinde) of Gwalior
Gaekwads of Baroda
Holkars of Indore
Pawars of Dewas, Dhar and Chhatarpur
Jadhavs of Sindkhed Raja, Vidarbha
The empire also resulted in the voluntary relocation of substantial numbers of maratha and other Marathi-speaking people outside Maharashtra, and across a big part of India. Thus, there are today several small but significant communities descended from these emigrants living in the north, south and west of India. These communities tend often to speak the languages of those areas, although many do also speak Marathi in addition. Gujarati, Hindi, Konkani, Kannada, Telugu and Tamil are some of the other languages thus spoken