Although some paleolithic remains have been discovered, Maharashtra enters recorded history in the second century BC, with the construction of its first Buddhist caves. These lay, and still lie, in peaceful places of great natural beauty, but could never have been created without the wealth generated by the nearby caravan trade routes between north and south India.
The name Maharashtra first appeared in a 7th century inscription and in a Chinese traveler's account. Its name may have originated from rathi, meaning "chariot driver" and referring to builders and drivers of chariots who formed a maharathis, a "fighting force." This region seems to have attained prominence as early as 90 A.D., when king Vedishri made Junnar the capital of his kingdom, thirty miles north of Pune. For the 900 years ending in the early fourteenth century, with the overthrow of the Devgiri Yadavs by the northern Muslim powers, no historical information in this region is available. In 1526, first Mughal king, Babar, established his prominanace in Delhi and soon the Mughal power spread to the southern India. The Mughals were to dominate India till the early eighteenth century.
The regions's first Hindu rulers, based in Badami, appeared during the sixth century, but the eighth-century Rashtrakutas achieved a greater authority. Buddhism was almost entirely supplanted throughout the entire country by the twelfth century, in what has been characterized as a peaceful popular revolution attributable largely to the popular poet-saints. Maharashtra was one of the main channels that helped the emotional and evotional bhakti school of Hinduism spread from southern to northern India, thanks here to work of Jnanesvara (1271-1296) whose commentary on the Bhagwad Gita, the Jnanesvari, was significantly written in the day-to-day spoken language, Marathi, as opposed to classical Sanskrit. The most famous of his contemporary poet-saints was the tailor Namdev (1270-1350), whose passionate devotional hymns caught the popular imagination. The tradition they established continued to flourish, even when forced underground by Islam, reaching its zenith in the simple faith of the anguished Tukaram (1598-1650), whose wife and son died in a famine, and Ramdas, the "Servant of Rama" (1608-1681). Ramdas, both ascetic and political activist, provided the philosophical underpinning behind the campaigns of Maharashtra's greatest warrior, Shivaji.
In the sixteenth century, regional Muslim powers like Nizamshahi, Adilshahi, and Qutubshahi established their prominance in the Deccan region. They basically served the Mughal empire but were autonomous to an extent. One of them, Nizamshahi was located in Ahmednagar, a town 95 miles east of Pune. Maloji Bhosle, Grandfather of Shivaji served for the Nizam as a Sardar. In 1595, Bahadur Nizam II honored him as 'Raja' for his courage in a battle with Mughals and gave him the estates of Pune and the fort of Chakan, near Pune. This is generally considered as the starting point of the Maratha history.
Shivaji Bhosle, founder of the Maratha empire, was born in 1627, in the fort of Shivneri, 40 miles north of Pune. In 1629, Shivaji's father Shahaji, who had succeeded his father Maloji, in Pune and Chakan, disengaged himself from the service of the Nizamshahi. Consequently, in 1635 the Nizam's army attacked Pune. Shahaji surrendered and his estates were returned to him. Soon, Shahaji put Dadaji Kondadev in charge of Pune,and as a caretaker for the Shivaji while he joined the Adilshahi in Vijapur, aprox. 400 miles south of Pune, which was soon to emerge as the most important power in the region as the other local powers slowly diminished.
In Pune, Dadoji built a palace 'Lal Mahal', for Shivaji and his mother Jijabai. At the age of sixteen (1643 A.D.), Shivaji took great delight in stirring up his friends' hopes and nursed the thought of becoming independent. He took the oath to make the land free at the fort Torna at the age of sixteen. This was the start of his lifelong struggle against Mughals and other Muslim powers. By 1647, Shivaji had captured two forts and had the complete charge of Pune. In 1657, he committed his first act of hostility against the Adilshahi by plundering a large booty in Ahmednagar. Thus, began a sequence of attacks on the Adilshahi.He slowly started capturing forts in the region, Purandar, Rajgad, Torna being most notable of his first achievements.
Disturbed by his continuing success, Adilshahi sent a famous Sardar, 'Afzalkhan' to destroy Shivaji. Afzalkhan knew that Shivaji's army, which was much smaller than his huge force would be unable to fight him on open land. He tried all the tricks in the book to make him fight on plains, but Shivaji was no less clever. He convinced Khan that he was very much afraid of him and requested him for a meeting at a place near Vai ( 100 miles south of Pune) which was densely wooded, mountainous region, and ideal for his army to fight. Khan still had plans to kill him in the meeting and Shivaji knew it well. Ultimately it was Khan who was killed and his unsuspecting army was completed washed out by Shivaji. After this, Shivaji went on a winning spree and spread his reach till Panhala near Kolhapur.
Meanwhile, Aurangzeb got concerned by Shivaji's rise to power. It was now clear that local Muslim Powers were unable to stop him. So he sent a huge Army, led by Mirzaraje Jaisingh to defeat Shivaji(1666). Jaising's army was much stronger than Shivaji and soon he lost most of his important forts. Realising that he was fighting a losing battle, he signed a treaty with Mirza and agreed to serve Aurangzeb, his young son, Sambhaji being made a sardar. He went to Delhi with Mirza to meet Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb gave a humiliating treatment to Shivaji and soon put him under house imprisonment under some excuse. It looked certain that Shivaji will be killed sooner or later by Aurangzeb. But this was not to happen, fortunately, for Maratha kingdom. Shivaji made a clever plot to escape and escaped with Sambhaji to south.
After this turning point, Shivaji never looked back and slowly regained his lost glory. By 1673, he had control over most of western Maharashtra and had made 'Raigad' ( Dist. Raigad , 150 miles southwest of Pune) his capital. He was ceremeniously enthroned as a sovereign king in 1673. By 1680, the year of Shivaji's death, nearly whole of the Deccan belonged to his kingdom. He had developed an efficient administration and a powerful army. He also encouraged a spirit of independence among the Marathas that enabled them to withstand for 150 years all attempts to conquer them. Shivaji's achievements amongst monumental difficulties were really spectacular and that is why he holds the highest place in Maratha history.
Shivaji was succeeded by his son Sambhaji. He showed the same vigor as his father, but was taken prisoner and executed by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, in 1689. Rajaram, Sambhaji's younger brother then took the throne, since Sambhaji's son, Shahu was still a minor. The death of Rajaram in 1700 seemed to end the power of the Marathas, but Tarabai, the elder widow of Rajaram, put her young son Shahu on the throne, at the tender age of ten, and continued the struggle against Aurangzeb who had come to south with the sole purpose of destroying Maratha kingdom. Between 1700 and 1703, Aurangzeb captured the fort of Sinhagad, near Pune. During the siege, his son prince Muhuil-Mulk died; so Aurangzeb changed Pune's name to Muhiabad, in the prince's honor. Shahu continued to fight against the Mughals and captured Rajgad, the former capital of the Maratha territory. The fight against the Mughals ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 which was another turning point in Maratha history. After Aurangzeb, Mughal power never regained its status as main power in India and Balance of power shifted towards Marathas, which was soon to be controlled by Peshwas.
In 1712, Shahu died of smallpox and his minister or peshwa, Balaji Vishwanath took over the throne.
Negotiations between the Mughal court of Delhi and Balaji Vishwanath enabled him to send a large Maratha delegation to Delhi to assist the Mughals. The year 1718 marked the beginning of the Maratha influence in Delhi, to which they remained closely acquainted, till 1803. Balaji Vishwanath's health had suffered considerably, and he died in 1721.
Bajirao, his elder son was awarded the title of peshwa after the death of his father . It was Bajirao's dream to extend the Maratha empire to North India. By this time, Pune had regained its status as capital of Maratha Kingdom from Rajgad. Rajgad was made capital by Shivaji beacuse it was a safe place, high in the moutainous, wooded area. As Pune was in plains, it always had a threat. By 1720's, Maratha power was spreading in large areas and the threat of local battles fought over forts did not exist much. Pune remained the capital till the end of Maratha empire in 1818.
In 1734, Bajirao captured the Malwa territory in the north, and in 1739, his brother Chimnaji drove out the Portuguese from almost all their possessions in the northern Western Ghats. Bajirao diedi in 1740 and left three sons behind him. It was Bajirao who built the 'Shanivarwada', the residence and ruling place for the Peshwas.
Nanasaheb succeeded Bajirao as Peshwa in 1740. He had two brothers, Raghunathrao, who later betrayed the Marathas and joined hands with the British, and Janardan, who died in his early youth.
Nanasaheb was ambitious and a multifaceted person.In 1741, when his uncle Chimnaji died, he returned from the northern districts and spent nearly a year improving the civil administration of Pune. The period between 1741 and 1745 was of comparative calm in the Deccan. Nanasaheb encouraged agriculture, protected the villagers and brought about a marked improvement in the state of the territory.
The scene changed in 1751, when the Mughals, supported by the French, advanced towards Pune, totally destroying every village in their way. The Marathas fought with great determination, and nothing but the French artillery saved them from total defeat. In 1754, Raghunathrao, Nanasaheb's brother started on an expedition to conquer Gujarat, the state north of Bombay. In 1756, Nanasaheb marched south to attack Karnatak. In the meantime, news spread that the war had broken out between the English and the French, in Europe.
In 1756, the fall of the formidable navy formed by Shivaji gave British their chance to regain importance in the region. The navy was headed by Kanhoji Angre and its destruction was a cruical blow to Maratha sea power. It was a sad outcome of neglect of navy by Marathas which turned out to be a horrible mistake. Marathas never regained control of the sea after that.
In 1761, the Marathas were defeated at the third Battle of Panipat against Ahmadshah Abdali , a great warrior from Afganistan. Marathas were fighting to save Delhi Sultanat and consequently their power in the north. NajibUddowla was the person responsible for calling Abdali. 14th January, 1761 was the D-Day. This was a cruical blow to the rising Maratha power from which they never recovered. They lost more than 100,000 men and dozens of important Sardars in the battle. Nanasaheb Peshwe ( Balaji Bajirao ) lost his brother, Sadashivrao ( After whom the Sadashiv Peth in Pune is named ), and also his first son, Vishwasrao, in this battle. This news shattered Balaji Bajirao, who died shortly afterwards, in the temple on Parvati hill in Pune. The Maratha power was at the zenith of its glory during Balaji Bajirao's (also called Nana Saheb Peshwa) reign. It never fully recovered from the crushing defeat at Panipat.
Madhavrao, his second son then took over, but had to constantly face administrative disputes with his uncle, Raghunathrao. Despite of this, he achieved many remarkable victories and restored the shattred Maratha kingdom to a large extent. His outstanding achievements included defeat of Nizam (Hyderabad), Hyder (Karnataka) and Bhosle of Nagpur. He also had to fight wars with Raghunathrao whose greed for power never waned. Ultimately, Madhavrao took Raghunathrao prisoner in 1768; the same year when the Nizam attacked Pune.He was eventually defeated. Madhavrao, also called 'Thorale'or Greatest Madhavrao, is entitled to special praise for supporting the poor and for his sense of justice. Ramshastri Prabhune, the chief justice, has become a legend for his work. The people who rose to power in his rule were Mahadji Shinde, Nana Phadnis and Haribhau Phadke who became the key figures in the power structure after his death. He took ill in 1771 and died in 1772 at an early age of 27, causing yet another blow to recovering Maratha power.
Narayanrao, Balaji Bajirao's third son succeeded the throne at Shaniwarwada as the next Peshwa. He neither had the courage to take any bold decisions nor administrative skills and soon became very unpopular among the poeple. In 1773, Raghunathrao, who had been imprisoned by Madhavrao, in a room in the palace in Pune, escaped with the help of the Gardi people . Narayanrao was murdered at the Shaniwar wada , owing to a conspiracy by Anandibai, Raghunathrao's wife.
Raghunathrao was proclaimed the next peshwa, although he was not heir to the title. Narayanrao's widow gave birth to a son, Sawai Madhavrao, who was legally the next peshwa. Raghunathrao tried to maintain his kingdom by signing treaties with the English , and relied on them for man-power in exchange for money and territory. However his plans did not succeed. Raghoba was displaced from power by a clever plot by the 12 maratha sardar's " Barambhainche karasthaan" ( Plot by 12 people ) including Nana, Holkar, Phadke Shinde . Sawai Madhavrao was then declared the next Peshwa. As he was only one year old at that time, Nana Phadnis bacame the main administrator with Phadke,Shinde,Holkar taking care of Military duties. These paople handled the Peshwai well and with great unity till the premature death of Sawai Madhaorao in 1795. They defeated the rising British Power in 1784, near Pune and halted their advancements, temporarily. Sawai Madhaorao's death was the last blow to the Maratha empire and all the unity among its leaders vanished after his death causing a downfall of Peshwai in a short time.
Raghunathrao died in 1782, leaving behind him, two sons; Bajirao, who in 1817 confronted the British at the Battle of Kirkee, in Pune; and the younger, Chimnaji Appa. Bajirao became the next Peshwa after Madhaorao's death. Nana was still the administrator and the Peshwai remained in stable condition till his death owing to his superb administrative skills. Nana died in 1800 and Pune fell into the hands of the Sindia's ( Shinde) ; the former chiefs of Nana's army. They remained in power for a short while and in 1802, Bajirao reestablished himself in Pune, by signing the treaty of Bassein with the British. This essentially ended Peshwai , establishing British supremacy in the region. The capturing of the Ahmednagar fort in 1803, proved British supremacy in the Deccan. In 1804, General Wellesly proclaimed the Deccan in a state of chaos, established military rule and the Peshwas remained rulers for name's sake.
Towards the end of 1805 Sir James Mackintosh, the Chief Justice of Bombay (1804-1811), came from Bombay to visit Colonel Close, the Resident at Pune. The Residency on the 'Sangam'(confluence of the Mula and Mutha rivers) Mackintosh describes as a set of bungalows, fitted conveniently and luxuriously. Pune city had its principal streets paved with stone, and was reckoned one of the best built native towns in India. The Peshwa's residence, that is the Shaniwar wada, added to Pune's glory. Between 1805 and 1811, under Colonel Close and for a short while under Mr. Russel, affairs went smoothly in Pune.
In 1811, Mr. Russel was succeeded by Lord Mountstuart Elphinstone. Bajirao was very disloyal to the British, and in November of 1817, he declared war against them. This battle was fought at Kirkee, that is the Cantonment area, in the east of Pune. The Peshwa fled and the power of the country passed from the Peshwas to the British by 1819. The rest of the nineteenth century witnessed a few minor uprisings in and around Pune, but the British established their supremacy. As the Maratha's were the key power in India at this time, their fall clearly marked the begining of British Rule in India.
The first step towards establishing a municipal government in the city of Pune, was taken in 1856, when the Pune Municipality came into existence under the Act of 1850. The fact that Pune is not recognized as a major tourist center, is probably because it cannot boast of outstanding artistic specimens of architecture, like those of Delhi or Agra. Yet, it is rich in its associations with the past.
In the early 20th century, the whole of India was in revolt against the British; yearning for freedom. Mahatma Gandhi launched his movement of non-violence, and people participated by the thousands in the 'Chale Jao' ('go away') struggle. Paradoxically, Pune witnessed violence when the Chaphekar brothers killed a British police officer by the name of Mr. Rand. On one hand, as the violence overrode the city, improvements were made in the education of women and the abolition of child labor. Independence was attained in 1947, but that was not the end of violence.
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At Indian Independence in 1947, western Maharashtra and present-day Gujarat were joined as Bombay state. The eastern districts were then part of Hyderabad State, but were later added to Bombay in 1956. The present state was formed in 1960 when the Marathi and Gujarati linguistic areas of former Bombay state were separated. Bombay city became the capital of the new state.