Decline of Marathas

Marathas emerged on the political map of India like a star during the second half of the 17th century but the light of this star failed to last long and by the closing decades of the 18th century the Marathas were no longer formidable power. The rise of the Maratha Empire was rapid but the decline was even much faster.

The decline of Marathas as political power was almost the same factor that contributed to their rise. The military achievement of Shivaji had prepared background for Marathas as dominant power & defeat in battle doomed faith of Maratha power.

Role of Geographical limitations in Decline

Geographical factors had played important role in the rising of Marathas but when Marathas move into place & tried to consolidate their authority in North India, their geography became the biggest limitation.

Shrimant Peshwa Bajirao II
Shrimant Peshwa Bajirao II

The geographical isolation of Marathas had resulted in the emergence of typical Maratha culture. This cultural identity was the main binding force among Marathas but overemphasis on Maratha cultural identity didn’t allow Marathas to win over the support of other Indian groups such as Rajput. This obstructed the procedure of the consolidation of the Maratha Empire.

The scarcity of resources in Maratha reign compelled Marathas to impose Chouth & other demands on the neighboring kingdom. Though instrument of Chouth stability of Maratha on other Indian power but Rajput, Nizam & Nawab of Bengal, etc. always resented the imposition of Chouth so Marathas couldn’t get wholehearted support of Indian group in their endeavor to create a lasting empire.

Geography of Maratha land was conducive to the Guerilla method of warfare but when Maratha reached Northern place they had to face to face battle in which their expertise was limited.

Role of Change in character of Maratha Political System

During the phase of the rising Maratha Empire based on the idea of the centralized polity. But during the first half of the 18th century, It was assumed from confederacy because of this the unity & co-operation between Maratha commander were no longer very strong. Their internal division and difference started dominating the Maratha state system & doomed the faith of the Maratha Empire.

Role of degeneration of the leadership

After the death of Peshwa Madhav Rao in c.1772 CE, there was hardly any capable Peshwa in the Maratha Empire. Unable to control his desire to sit on the throne of Peshwa Raghunathan got Peshwa Narayan Rao murdered. This triggered the intense war in Maratha land which soon transformed into the 1st Anglo Maratha War (1772-82).

Anglo-Maratha war
Anglo-Maratha war

Though this war ended in terms of equality & Maratha got a long period of 20 years of peace with an English company but it couldn’t be utilized to strengthen Maratha’s power. With the death of Nana-Padnavis in 1800; the wisdom & moderation departed from Maratha land.

Till the time he was alive, the internal difference of Maratha was not allowed to get out of control. But when he was no more the insight of Maratha resurfaced with much greater intensity. As a result, Maratha lost 2nd war against the East India Company. Hereafter Maratha power was only symbolic.

Role of Change in character of Maratha Political System

Third Battle of Panipat
Third Battle of Panipat

Disasterous 3rd battle of Panipat was the biggest setback to hopes & aspiration of Marathas. Before losing this battle, Maratha power was at its generation. But the defeat shattered Maratha’s power as well as prestige. More than 50000 soldiers were lost by Marathas in this battle. There wasn’t a single-family in the entire Maratha land that didn’t lose anyone. Almost the entire young generation had got wiped out.

When the news of this disaster came to Pune, Peshwa Balaji Bajirao died of shock all of a sudden fortune had stopped smiling on the Maratha nation. The military loss was swiftly put aside by PeshwaMadhav Rao within a period of fewer than 10 years. Marathas regained lost strength but the loss of prestige couldn’t be revived easily.

The Marathas were considered invisible before the disaster of Panipat but this myth of invisibility had got shattered. Other Indian groups had started raising their voice against Marathas. After the defeat of the battle of Panipat, into different of Marathas started coming out in open. The battle of Panipat didn’t decide who would be ruling India but it made the decision of who would not be.

When Maratha was losing the battlefield of Panipat, East India Company consolidating them in Bengal. Once the resource of Bengal failed under control of East India Company the faith India got decided & company was bound to get an upper hand over all other containers including Marathas…

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