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Maharashtra Before King Shivaji

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For about three hundred and fifty years before Shivaji, Maharashtra

was not a free state. A large portion of it was under the rule of the

Nizamshah of Ahmednagar and the Adilshah of Bijapur. These two had

divided Maharashtra among themselves. Their officers rules

Maharashtra on their behalf.

 

Adilshah and Nizamshah, were very narrow in their outlook and

oppressed the people over whom they ruled. They were also sworn

enemies of each other. They constantly fought each other and as a

result the people of Maharashtra suffered untold hardships.

 

There was hunger everywhere and the people were starving. People were

not free to celebrate festivals and worship their Gods openly. Life

was not safe at all and injustice prevailed everywhere.

 

In Maharashtra, there were also many Deshmukhs and Deshpandes who

owned Jagirs. They cared only about their jagirs and were least

concerned about their country. This constant fighting amongst

themselves also caused great misery to the people. There was misrule

everywhere. The people of Maharashtra were tired of this oppression

and were living in very unhappy times.

 

>From INDIA Since 1526 by V.D. Mahajan

 

It is true that Shivaji contributed a lot towards the rise and growth

of Maratha power in India, but it is equally true that at the time he

appeared on the scene, the ground had already been prepared for him.

 

According to Dr. Ishwari Prasad, "But Shivaji's rise to power cannot

be treated as an isolated phenomenon in Maratha history. It was as

much the result of his personal daring and heroism as of the peculiar

geographical situation of the Deccan country and unifying religious

influences that were animating the people with new hopes and

aspirations in the 15th and 16th centuries."

 

Physical features of Maharashtra.

 

The physical features of the Maratha country developed certain

peculiar qualities among the Marathas which distinguished them from

the rest of the people of India. The mountainous territory gave

security to the Marathas from the outside invaders. It also made them

hardy soldiers who were not afraid of difficulties and hardships. The

scarcity of rains in Maharashtra and the difficulties of finding

livelihood developed among the Marathas a spirit of self-reliance and

hard work. Without these qualities, they would have faced death from

starvation. Their hardy character stood them in good stead when they

were pitted against the Mughals.

 

While the Marathas could be seen galloping in their small narrow

paths in search of their enemies without the least feeling of any

inconvenience or hardship, the Mughal soldiers found their life

miserable. The mountainous country made it possible for the Marathas

to adopt successfully the guerilla tactics. The broken ranges of

hills provided the Marathas "ready-made and easily defendable rock

forts."

 

"The people were taught to regard the forts as their mother as indeed

it was, for thither the inhabitants of the surrounding villages

resorted in time of invasions with their flocks and herds and

treasure, and in time of peace they afforded a living by supplying

the garrisons with provisions and fodder." According to J.N. Sarkar,

nature developed in the Marathas "Self-reliance, courage,

perseverance, a stern simplicity, a rough straight-forwardness, a

sense of social equality and consequently pride in the dignity of man

as man." There were no social distinctions among the people and

Maratha women added to the strength and patriotism of men.

 

According to Elphinstone, "They (the Marathas) are all active,

laborious, hardy and persevering. If they have none of the pride and

dignity of the Rajputs, they have none of their indolence or want of

worldly wisdom. A Rajput warrior as long as he does not dishonour his

race, seems almost indifferent to the result of any contest he is

engaged in. A Maratha thinks of nothing but the result, and cares

little for the means, if he can attain his object. For this purpose,

he will strain his wits, renounce his pleasures and hazard his

person; but has not a conception of sacrificing his life, or even his

interest for a point of honour. This difference of sentiment affects

the outward appearance of the two nations; there is something noble

in the carriage of the ordinary Rajput, and something vulgar in that

of the most distinguished Maratha.The Rajput is the most worthy

antagonist - the Maratha the most formidable enemy; for he will not

fail in boldness and enterprise when they are indispensible, and will

always support them or supply their place, by stratagem, activity and

perseverance. All this applies chiefly to the soldiery to whom more

bad qualities might fairly be ascribed. The mere husbandmen are

sober, frugal and industrious, and though they have a dash of

national cunning, are neither turbulent nor insincere."

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