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The term "Maratha" originally referred to the speakers of Marathi language. In the 17th century, it
emerged as a designation for soldiers serving in the armies of Deccan sultanates (and later Shivaji).
A number of Maratha warriors, including Shivaji's father, Shahaji, originally served the various
Deccan sultanates.[6] By the mid-1660s, Shivaji had established an independent Maratha kingdom.
After his death, the kingdom expanded into a vast empire under the Peshwas, stretching from
central India [8] in the south, to Peshawar[9] (in modern-day Pakistan) on the Afghanistan border in the
north, and with expeditions to Bengal in the east. By the 19th century, the Empire had become a
Confederacy of individual states controlled by Maratha chiefs such as Gaekwads of Baroda,
the Holkars of Indore, the Scindias of Gwalior, the Puars of Dhar & Dewas,
and Bhonsles of Nagpur. The Confederacy remained the pre-eminent power in India until their
defeat by the British East India Company in the Third Anglo-Maratha War (18171818).
By 19th century, the term "Maratha" had several interpretations in the British administrative records.
In the Thane District Gazetteer of 1882, the term was used to denote elite layers within various
castes: for example, The upper-class "Marathas proper" (comprising 96 clans)
claimed Rajput descent with Kshatriya status, and included princes, officers and landowners.[11]
Some of the Maratha clans claiming Rajput descent include Bhonsales (from Sisodias),
Chavans (from Chauhans),[14] and Pawar (from Parmar).[15] "Maratha-Agri" within Agri caste,
"Maratha-Koli" within Koli caste and so on.[5] In the Pune District, the words Kunbi and Maratha had
become synonymous, giving rise to the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex. [16] The Pune District Gazetteer
of 1882 divided the Kunbis into two classes: Marathas and other Kunbis.[5] The 1901 census listed
three groups within the Maratha-Kunbi caste complex: "Marathas proper", "Maratha Kunbis" and
"Konkani Marathas".[17] The Kunbi class comprised agricultural workers and soldiers.
Gradually, the term "Maratha" came to denote an endogamous caste. [5] 1900 onwards,
the Satyashodhak Samaj movement defined the Marathas as a broader social category of nonBrahmin groups.[18] These non-Brahmins gained prominence in Indian National Congress during
the Indian independence movement. In independent India, these Marathas became the dominant
political force in the newly formed state of Maharashtra