Destinations Covered



Population : 56,473,122 (8th)



Capital : Mumbai
Largest city : Mumbai
District(s) : 35
Population : 96,752,247 (2nd)
Density : 314.42/km² (814/sq mi)
Language(s) : Marathi
Established : 1960-05-01

Maharashtra is India’s third largest state in area and second largest in population after Uttar Pradesh. It is bordered by the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The Arabian Sea makes up the state’s western coast. Mumbai, India’s most populous city, is the capital of Maharashtra. Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, and serves as the financial and entertainment capital of the country.

The name Maharashtra first appeared in a 7th century inscription and in the account of a Chinese traveler, Hiuen-Tsang.

In 90 A.D. Vedishri, son of the Satavahana king Satakarni, the “Lord of Dakshinapatha, wielder of the unchecked wheel of Sovereignty”, made Junnar, thirty miles north of Pune, the capital of his kingdom. In the early fourteenth century the Devgiri Yadavs were overthrown by the northern Muslim powers. Then on, the region was administered by various kingdoms called Deccan Sultanates.

In 17th Century, the Marathas rose under leadership of Shivaji Raje Bhosale against the Mughals who were ruling a large part of India. After a lifelong struggle against Mughals and other rulers (mostly Muslim), he established an independent state, with an efficient administration and a powerful army. By 1680, the year of Shivaji’s death, nearly all of the Deccan belonged to his kingdom. He is thus regarded as the father of the Maratha state.

After Indian independence, in 1960 a separate Maharashtra state was carved out from Bombay presidency and Central provinces. The principal language of the state is Marathi.


Pre Medieval history

Not much is known about Maharashtra’s early history, and its recorded history dates back to the 3rd century B.C.E., with the use of Maharashtri Prakrit, one of the Prakrits derived from Sanskrit. In literature Maharashtra is referred to as Dandakaranya, i.e. the forest (aranya) bound by rules (dandakas). Later,{needs date} Maharashtra became a part of the Magadha empire, ruled by emperor Ashoka. The port town of Sopara, north of present day Mumbai, was the centre of ancient India’s commerce, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin.

With the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, a local dynasty called Satavahanas came into prominence in Maharashtra between 230 B.C.E. and 225 C.E. The period saw the biggest cultural development of Maharashtra. The Satavahana’s official language was Maharashtri, which later developed into Marathi. The great ruler Gautamiputra Satkarni (also known as “Shalivahan”) ruled around 78 C.E. He started the Shalivahana era, a new calendar, still used by Maharashtrian populace and as the Indian national calendar. The empire gradually disintegrated in the third century.

During (250 C.E. – 525 C.E.), Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra, came under the rule of Vakatakas. During this period, development of arts, religion and technology flourished. Later, in 753 C.E., the region was governed by the Rashtrakutas, an empire that spread over most of India. In 973 C.E., the Chalukyas of Badami expelled the Rashtrakutas, and ruled parts of Maharashtra until 1189 when the region came under the Yadavas of Deogiri.

Islamic Rule

Maharashtra came under Islamic influence for the first time after the Delhi Sultanate rulers Ala-ud-din Khalji, and later Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan in the 13th century. After the collapse of the Tughlaqs in 1347, the Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga took over, governing the region for the next 150 years. After the breakup of the Bahamani sultanate, in 1518, Maharashtra was ruled by the breakaway Shah’s, namely Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur and Imadshah of Berar.

The Rise of the Marathas

By the early seventeenth century the Maratha Empire began to take root. Shahaji Bhosale, an ambitious local general in the employ of the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur, at various times attempted to establish his independent rule. The attempts succeeded through his son Shivaji Bhosale. Marathas were led by Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji Bhosale, who was crowned king in 1674. Shivaji constantly battled with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Adil Shah of Vijapur. Shivaji Raje was the most able, successful, popular and respected king Maharashtra ever had. By the time of his death in 1680, Shivaji has created a kingdom covering most of Maharashtra today (except the aurangabad district which was part of the Nizam) and Gujarat.

Shivaji’s son and successor became the ruler of the maratha kingdom in 1680. He Sambhaji Bhosale was tortured and killed by Aurangzeb. Sambaji Maharaj accepted painfull death but refused to accept ISLAM, the Mughal emperor in the late 1689s. The Mughals forced Sambhaji’s younger brother, Rajaram Bhosale to flee into the Tamil-speaking countryside. He retreated to the fortress of Jinji (sometimes anglicised to Ginjee) thereafter recovering his power in Maharashtra in the early 18th century, in somewhat changed circumstances.

Rajaram’s nephew & Sambhaji’s son, Shahu Bhosale declared himself to be the legitimate heir to the Bhosale throne. In 1714, Shahu’s Peshwa (chief minister) Balaji Vishwanath, helped him seize the Maratha throne in 1708, with some acrimony from Rajaram’s widow, Tara Bai.

The Peshwas

The Peshwas, Balaji Vishwanath and his son, Baji Rao I, bureaucratized the Maratha state. They systematized the practice of tribute gathering from Mughal territories, under the heads of sardesmukhi and chauth (the two terms corresponding to the proportion of revenue collected). They also consolidated Mughal-derived methods of assessment and collection of land revenue and other taxes. Much of the revenue terminology used in Peshwa documents derives from Persian, suggesting a far greater continuity between Mughal and Maratha revenue practice than may be politically palatable in the present day. At the same time, Balaji Vishwanath cultivated the maritime Angre clan, which controlled a fleet of vessels based in Kolaba and other centres of the west coast. These ships posed a threat not only to the new English settlement of Bombay, but to the Portuguese at Goa, Bassein, and Daman. On the other hand, there emerged a far larger domain of activity away from the original heartland of the Marathas, which was given over to subordinate chiefs as fiefs. Gwalior was given to Scindia/Shinde, Indore to Holkar, Baroda to Gaekwad and Dhar to Pawar. After suffering a stinging defeat at the hands of Afghan chieftain Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Confederacy broke into regional kingdoms. Post-Panipat, the Peshwa’s ex-generals looked after the regional kingdoms they had earned and carved out for themselves in the service of Peshwas covering north-central and Deccan regions of India. Pune continued to be ruled by what was left of the Peshwa family.

British Rule and Post-Independence

With the arrival and subsequent involvement of the British East India Company in Indian politics, the Marathas and the British fought the three Anglo-Maratha wars between 1777 and 1818, culminating in the annexation of Peshwa-ruled territory in Maharashtra in 1819, which heralded the end of the Maratha empire.


As per the 2001 census, Maharashtra has a population of 96,752,247 inhabitants making it the second most populous state in India, and the second most populous country subdivision in existence, and third ever after the Russian SFSR of the former Soviet Union. The Marathi-speaking population of Maharashtra numbers 62,481,681 according to the 2001 census. This is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the state. Only eleven countries of the world have a population greater than Maharashtra. Its density is 322.5 inhabitants per square kilometre. Males constitute 50.3 million and females, 46.4 million. Maharashtra’s urban population stands at 42.4%. Its sex ratio is 922 females to 1000 males. 77.27% of its population is literate, broken into 86.2% males and 67.5% females. Its growth rate between 1991-2001 was pegged at 22.57%.

Marathi is the official state language. Marathi is spoken by a vast majority of its populace. In Mumbai however, due to its cosmopolitan nature, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati and English, along with a variety of other languages are also spoken. In the northwest portion of Maharashtra, a dialect Ahirani is spoken by a minority. In south Konkan, a dialect of Konkani (sometimes called a dialect of Marathi) known as Malvani is spoken by most of the people. In the Desh region of the Deccan, a dialect called Deshi is spoken, while in Vidarbha, a dialect known as Varhadi is spoken by most of the people.

The state has a Hindu majority of 80.2% with minorities of Muslims 10.6%, Buddhists 6%, Jains 1.3% and Christians 1%. Maharashtra has the biggest Jain, Zoroastrian and Jewish populations in India.

The Total Fertility Rate in 2001 was 2.23. Caste Hindus – 2.09, Muslims – 2.49, Christians – 1.41, Jains – 1.41, Sikh – 1.57, Buddhist – 2.24, Others -2.25, Tribals – 3.14 and Dalits of all religions – 2.42(Hindu Dalits had higher TFR compared to Buddhist Dalits).

It should be noted that about 76% of Hindus of Maharashtra speak Marathi while the rest speak Hindi, Gujarati and other languages. About two-thirds of the Muslim population speak Urdu while the rest speak Marathi. Almost all of the Buddhist, Jain and Christian population of Maharashtra speak Marathi.


See also: Maharashtrian cuisine and Marathi cinema
Hindus form the majority of Maharashtra population and the culture of Maharashtra reflects that. There are many temples in Maharashtra some of them being hundreds of years old. These temples are constructed in a fusion of architectural styles borrowed from North and South India. The temples also blend themes from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. The temple of Vitthala at Pandharpur is the most important temple for the Varkari sect. Other important religious places are the Ashtavinayak (eight temple sites of Ganesha), Bhimashankar which is one of the Jyotirlinga (12 important shiva temples). Amongst the cave art and architecture is the famous tourist attraction of Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. A famous example of Mughal architecture is the tomb of the wife of Aurangzeb called Bibi Ka Maqbara also located at Aurangabad.


Maharashtra has a large number of hill, land and sea forts. Forts have played an important role in the history of Maharashtra.


Maharashtra like other states of India has its own folk music. The folk music viz. Gondhal Lavani, Bharud, Powada, stand popular especially in rural areas, while the common form of music favored in urban areas is from the Hindi and Marathi Film Industry.

Like its rich folk culture Maharashtra has equally rich Literature. The earliest instances of Marathi literature is by Dnyaneshwar with his Bhawarthadeepika (popularly known as Dnyaneshwari). The compositions done during this period are spiritually inclined.The other compositions are by Sant Tukaram, Sant Namdev, Sant Gora Kumbhar. The compositions are mostly in poetic form, which are called as Bhajans. These bhajans by saints are popular and part of day to day life. The Modern Marathi literature has been enriched by famous poets and authors like P. L. Deshpande, Kusumagraj, Prahlad Keshav Atre, Vyankatesh Madgulkar. This literature has been passed on to the next generations through the medium of large number of books that are published every year in Marathi.

The world famous Film industry Bollywood is in Maharatstra located in the economic capital of India Mumbai. The Marathi film industry was once placed in Kolhapur but now is spread out through Mumbai too. The pioneer of Indian movie industry, Dadasaheb Phalke, producer & director V. Shantaram, B.R.Chopra, Shakti Samanta, Raj Kapoor, form a few names of the Hindi Film fraternity, while writer, director, and actor P. L. Deshpande, actor Ashok Saraf, actor Laxmikant Berde, actor & producer, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Mahesh Kothare belong to the Marathi Film Industry. The early period of Marathi theatre was dominated by playwrights like Kolhatkar, Khadilkar, Deval, Gadkari and Kirloskar who enriched the Marathi theatre for about half a century with excellent musical plays known as Sangeet Naatak. The genre of music used in such plays known as Natyasangeet. It is during this era of the Marathi theatre that great singer actors like Bal Gandharva, Keshavrao Bhosle, Bhaurao Kolhatkar, Deenanath Mangeshkar thrived.

Some of the popular Marathi television channels are DD Sahyadri, Zee Marathi and ETV Marathi, which host shows ranging from soap operas, cooking and travel to political satire and game shows. Recently (31 Sept 2007) Zee Telefilms launched a new channel Zee Talkies, which will be broadcasting total range of Marathi cinema.

The cuisine of Maharashtra varies according to the region of Maharashtra. The people of the Konkan region have a chiefly rice based diet with fish being a major component, due the close proximity to the sea. In eastern Maharashtra, the diet is based more on Wheat, Jowar and Bajra. Puran Poli, Bakarwadi, plain simple Varan Bhat(dish cooked with plain rice and curry), Modak are few dishes to name. Chicken and Mutton are also widely used for a variety of cuisines. Kolhapuri Mutton is famous dish for its peculiar spicy nature.

Women traditionally wear a nine yard or five yard sari and men a dhoti or pajama with a shirt. This, however, is changing with women in urban Maharashtra wearing Punjabi dresses, consisting of a Salwar and a Kurta while men wear trousers and a shirt.

The Cricket craze can be seen through out Maharashtra, as it is the most widely followed and played sport. Kabaddi, Hockey are also played with fervor. Children’s games include Viti-Dandu (Gilli-danda in Hindi) and Pakada-pakadi (Tag).

Hindus in Maharashtra follow the Saka era calendar. Gudi Padwa, Diwali, Rangapanchami, Gokulashtami and Ganeshotsav are some of the festivals that are celebrated in Maharashtra. Ganeshotsav is the biggest festival of Maharashtra which is celebrated with much reverence and festivity throughout the state and has since some time become popular all over the country. The festival which continues over ten days is in honour of Ganesha the God of learning and knowledge. A large number of people walk hundreds of kilometers to Pandharpur for the annual pilgrimage in the month of Ashadh.

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