Maratha Mindset: How to Control Your History and Emotions to Grasp the Future on Your Terms


The film Panipat is on Netflix, and I watched a bit of mostly for anthropological reasons. It seems a typical melodramatic Bollywood gloss on this period, and I found the depiction of Ahmad Shah Durrani rather amusing.

But it brought to mind a broader issue that I’ve been reflecting on over the past few years: the re-pivoting of Indian historical imagination around the Maratha moment. Most recently my thoughts have been sharpened by the goings-on in the United States, as we reevaluate our own historical figures and events. History is what it is, but the interpretation is multi-layered, and the process of analysis is subject to an infinite chain of point and counterpoint.

For example, Ulysses S. Grant has been rehabilitated because broadly on the questions of racial justice he was on the “right side of history,” though ultimately his efforts failed. This, after a period in the 20th-century when Southern historians slandered his character and competence in a clever trick of defeating him long after his death through control of historical memory.

And yet, if you talk to a Native American their view of Grant is far less positive. This is due to the fact that Grant participated in and executed the American government’s wars against Indian tribes.

The final verdict on Grant and his legacy depends on where you stand. The elements of history which lead up to this judgment though are far more solid. The terminus of the analysis is conditional on the analyst, but the facts themselves are invariant.

So how should we view the Marathas and the Mughals? When I wrote Haunted by History I alluded to general issues I’ve noticed in Indians in relation to their past. I have read enough history to be aware of the Marathas as a factual matter. But my conscious understanding of what they meant to Indians, and what they could have been, was stimulated by the arguments of a Hindu nationalist friend of mine.

In the 19th and 20th century various nationalist movements rose up which recaptured the political system from cosmopolitan and/or alien elites. The Chinese took back their state from the Manchus. Across Europe, ethnic groups such as the Lithuanians and Hungarians, submerged, sublimated, or subordinated, rose up and asserted their national identity. Lithuanians and Hungarians, to give two examples, had great histories as nations in the past, but by the early modern period, their elites had become subordinated and assimilated. The Lithuanian nobility became totally Polonized after the Union of Lubin. The rise of Habsburgs, and the fall of the Hungarians to the Ottomans, resulted in a Magyar nation which was under German and Turkish domination for centuries. The Dual Monarchy period after 1868 allowed the Hungarian nobility more freedom and status, though ironically they continued to oppress and subordinate the ethnic minorities under their hegemony in the eastern part of Austria-Hungary.

The emergence of these new identities entailed a reinterpretation of the valence of historical events.

Before we get to that, let’s consider the Marathas, of all castes and persuasions. The debates I have seen often end up at two antipodes. On the one hand, the Marathas are depicted as proto-Hindu nationalists, defending themselves against Muslim oppressors, and giving their swords in the service of the broader pan-ethnic Hindu Rashtra. The contrasting position is that the Marathas were motivated by more prosaic concerns, and their Hinduism was a secondary or ancillary element to their identity. In fact, one might problematize what “Hindu” even meant in the 17th and 18th centuries. That is, they didn’t have a “Hindu identity,” but had a Maratha identity, and Maratha religious practices and beliefs.

Both of these views are I think wrong-headed in understanding this period and these people. Humans are complex, and not cartoons. Someone like Shijavi may have reimagined who he was, what he could become, over his lifetime. In the beginning, he fought to survive. By the end, he fought to conquer.

Certainly, it seems probable, to give a different example, that Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, reconceptualized his relationship to his new faith over the decades and also reimagined what it might mean for Rome. This is a different reading than that of those who assert that Constantine was never really a Christian because in the early years of his acceptance of the new faith he seems to still have nodded to aspects of the Solar cult which he was once a devotee, or of those who assert that he was a zealous Christian as they would understand it after he issued the Edict of Milan.

Where does this leave us? I have spoken earlier of the fact that to be frank, many people from Uttar Pradesh who are Hindu seem somewhat “broken.” Perhaps I should use a different word, as what I’m trying to get at is ineffable. But I believe that hundreds of years of continuous Turco-Muslim domination, and the historical predations upon their sacred geography, has left an imprint. Their land was the heart of the Mughal Empire, the shining exemplar of Turco-Muslim civilization. Though the Indian religion and self-identity maintained itself in a resilient fashion, it was subaltern. Though never sublimated as the Lithuanians were, it was subordinated.

Mount Rushmore means a very different thing to Native Americans than it does to white Americans. To many Hindus from the Gangetic plain, the apogee of the Mughals means something different than it does to Urdu-speaking Muslims. One man’s glory is another man’s shame. One man’s seduction is another man’s cuckoldry.

Which brings me to the “Maratha mindset.” What do I mean by this? I mean a self-assured, self-confident attitude. The sense that the arc of history bends toward the Dharma. The Maratha project failed in the end, but its ultimate failure was due to the reality of European hegemony and the rise of white supremacy across the globe. It seems possible in an alternative history where European domination occurred later, or in an incomplete fashion, the Maratha polities would have served as the ultimate basis for what became the Indian nation-state. This does not mean that Maratha would be the language of the Indian nation-state, or that the culture of the northwest Deccan would be hegemonic. An analogy here might be the role that elites from the Chūgoku region of western Japan played in driving modernization in the Meiji period, before eventually ceding ground to the resurgent Kanto region around Tokyo. Chūgoku was the nucleus, but only the beginning, the “starter.” The final product is always richer and more multi-faceted.

The moral of this post is that the Hindus of the Gangetic plain resisted Islamicization through a process of fracturing into localities, with a broader civilizational identity. But the resistance and centuries of Mughal domination crushed cross-regional asabiya, which is necessary for nation-building. Obviously the nation is built, and Uttar Pradesh in particular is politically central. But the psychology of the Hindus of this region has to move from negation, reaction, to positive action. They need to shake off their history and move forward into the future. They need to adopt the Maratha mindset.

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66 Replies to “Maratha Mindset: How to Control Your History and Emotions to Grasp the Future on Your Terms”

  1. As I said before, the whole “broken” thing appears to be a post-independence development, going by what MacDonald said.

    Seems that a few decades of leftism did more harm than 20 Aurangzebs ever could have…

    “But the psychology of the Hindus of this region has to move from negation, reaction, to positive action. They need to shake off their history and move forward into the future. They need to adopt the Maratha mindset.”

    This is a sort of odd claim, because during the Belle Epoque (broadly defined), the Gangetic Plain was the nexus of Indian proto-nationalist movements such as Hindi Language and Cow Protection. Historically, it did much to move Hinduism forward.

  2. This is a sort of odd claim, because during the Belle Epoque (broadly defined), the Gangetic Plain was the nexus of Indian proto-nationalist movements such as Hindi Language and Cow Protection. Historically, it did much to move Hinduism forward.

    what dates are you giving? i am not well-read on 19th and 20th century indian nationalism, but it seemed to me that ppl from bengal konkan/maharashtra and guj overcontributed, and even in up you had ppl like nehru who were lineally from another region

    1. Late-1800s to Early-1900s. But I was speaking of those two movements specifically, and less about Indian nationalism at large.

      Anyways I actually don’t see us (Gangetic Plain Hindus) the same way you do. In fact I’ve been shocked when I meet my extended family, they are much more optimistic about Hinduism than I am (I don’t have the heart to tell them that our village temple is a dump.) I think there’s definitely an antipathy towards Islam, reciprocating their antipathy towards us, but that’s because we unfortunately have to live near each other.

      I don’t hang around too many Marathis, so I can’t speak for them. My understanding is that their politics is much less based around caste/religious cleavages than ours is, so they don’t have to talk much about the unsavory stuff.

  3. Black Lives Matter was the nucleus, but only the beginning, the “starter.” The final product is shaping-up to be much richer, as protests for “Black Femme Queer Lives Matter” has rocked the streets of Seattle and Portland for the past week.

  4. The Marathas are historically the nearest solvent bank offering a range of popular, emotive totems for the Hindu power elites. Plus many of the power elites live in close geographic proximity to Mumbai, the greatest culture production center of modern India.

    The weakest, broken Hindus are to be found today in Bengal, Kashmir and Kerala. It is changing, though. That’s a discussion for another day.

    UP and Bihar Hindus have strong memories of Magadh, the giant that straddled history and scared Alexander away. They are anything but weak. The flame still burns. Many of the playwrights and storytellers from Bollywood come from UP, Bihar and an imagined Magadh. They are the ones projecting their empire on Marathas from within and outside. The biggest distribution centres are Gujarat, UP and Bihar. Both consumer and producer preferences are driving a secular trend where historical figures are pushed into the screen.

    1. “The weakest, broken Hindus are to be found today in Bengal, Kashmir and Kerala”

      More Hindu, Less Hindu, Non Hindu region. “Hindu Space” theory 🙂

      “They are the ones projecting their empire on Marathas from within and outside. ”

      Actually if u ask the Marathis they think they are one leading the charge and N-Indians are the foot soldiers. LOL

  5. “On the one hand, the Marathas are depicted as proto-Hindu nationalists, defending themselves against Muslim oppressors, and giving their swords in the service of the broader pan-ethnic Hindu Rashtra. The contrasting position is that the Marathas were motivated by more prosaic concerns, and their Hinduism was a secondary or ancillary element to their identity. In fact, one might problematize what “Hindu” even meant in the 17th and 18th centuries. That is, they didn’t have a “Hindu identity,” but had a Maratha identity, and Maratha religious practices and beliefs.”

    Its fascinating that this is currently going on in Maharashtra,as we speak. The Shiv Sena is the former trying to be the later. And finding it difficult to saddle both.

    Notwithstanding Shivaji “Hindu” antecedents, i would say Marathas would have been “secularized” much like Pratap was to some extent, had it not been Bajirao. Bajirao put the spanner in the works by exclusively calling for a “Hindu-Pad-Padshahi”, which Shivaji didn’t , even though attempts were made to obfuscate the term as well, by marxist historians. The proclamation was also done quite early in Maratha rule in 18th century itself further embellishing the former view, rather than the latter. That;s the reason Marxist gave up secularizing the Marathas, as it was lost cause.

  6. I wonder where the events of 1857-58 fit in these models. My reading of that period suggests that there was a joint effort and collaboration among Hindus and Muslims of the Gangetic plains to drive the British out. And this rebellion had a decidedly anti-Christian flavor, as evidence suggests the rebel soldiers and the local population considered Indian Christians to be part of the enemy too.

    1. The maximum affected areas were in the Awadh heartland and spread to other towns along the Ganges and Yamuna.

      Maratha states were wholly quiet and even aided the British in some aspects

  7. “I don’t have the heart to tell them that our village temple is a dump”

    A good amount of the slow inertial pickup of modern habits (cleanliness, hygiene, good mannerisms) in India is partly due to collectivist culture. This nature of society does have its advantages in a resource-scarce low-policed state – reduces the friction between different groups and in individuals within them when there’s an unspoken clear-cut hierarchy, but also has many disadvantages as mentioned above.

    Indians have a tendency to not get involved in others’ business even if what they’re doing is wrong, as long as the person in question isn’t affected. An example would be a 50-year-old man beating up his adolescent son on the road with people watching but not doing anything because it’s ‘none of their business’, they will gossip to each other about it though.

    Similarly, someone who’s generationally younger or from a relatively lower social status would have to be careful about pointing out bad habits as it may result in irrational outbursts or even physical violence by the other party due to being ‘disrespectful’. However, if such comments are made by someone perceived as superior they would apologize, agree with the feedback, and change their manners accordingly. This creates issues as many of the regressive practices are more common among older and more ‘senior’ people who’re less amenable to advice from those they consider less experienced or inferior.

    If Indian society adopts some of the verbal directness of the Dutch it may be a good thing. Germanic societies tend to nip these individual problems in the bud during interpersonal engagements in public settings by being open about pointing things out.

    1. I can tell you very frankly that the Dutch directness only extends to members of their own race. Germans become even more circumspect in the presence of foreigners.

      Both Germans and Dutch have been mono-racial-cultural-homogenous for a very long time. They cannot handle socio-ambiguity as well as Indians do.

  8. I have been saying this for a long time, but the Marathas are the foundation of modern Hinduism in terms of praxis, iconography (any print or depiction of Hindu deities follows the 18th century Maratha model) and other aspects of material culture. Even in the ultra-conservative south, a large portion of the Carnatic repertoire is made of Marathi Abhangs.

    I don’t think this is just about politics, but rather about a very real historic impact they had. Whether you are a Gujarati Baniya, a UP Thakur, Himachali Rajput, or Kerala Iyer, your praxis is fundamentally Maratha – morning visit to temple or home shrine with flowers and fruit, puranic story emphasis, puja room or shrine maintenance, prints and images of deities in a particular shine, arti and incense etc.

    At a broader spiritual and philosophical level, I would say that Theosophy had a huge impact on the reimagination of Hinduism, and ideologies like Hindutva were created from this environment, but the Marathas had a huge impact on material culture.

    It is much in the same way that Muslim South Asia took its present form from the declining Mughal Empire and its successor states (Urdu, cooking, religious praxis)

  9. razib, good to see that you are plugged in well in the current indian thoughtspace. the broad outlines of the “maratha mindset” you sketched in this article are correct. however, there are important nuances and subtleties that should not be ignored. there are counter currents under the surface.

    the so called “maratha mindset” is actually being championed by non-marathi people, mostly N indian and Gujarati hindus. maharashtrians themselves are increasingly turning parochial and inward looking. the reason is that major maharashtra metros like mumbai and pune are increasingly being overrun by same “broken” gangetic belt indians, and as a reaction marathi people are doubling down on their marathi identity at the cost of an indian identity.

    then, within maharashtra, there is actually a tendency to downplay the triumphs of the mature maratha empire, and to focus disproportionately on the nascent maratha state formed by shivaji. here the reasons are good old caste politics. maratha state became an empire under the stewardship of peshwas, and since peshwas were brahmins, nobody will risk their reputation by standing up for them. it is simply not good politics to glorify the brahmins. the maratha-caste people (the agrarian castes who formed the bulk of the maratha empire soldiery) in fact think of peshwas as something of usurpers, the upstarts who seized the rein of the state formed by a maratha king.

    stories within stories.

    1. I think that a Maratha mindset is not contingent on actually being a Maratha. The Marathas were a major force as the last major power across the subcontinent, and the effect of their rule cannot be underestimated.

      I really do think that in terms of material culture, aesthetics, and sensibilities, Hindu Indians have been heavily shaped by the Marathas, even continuing after British rule until the Bengal Renaissance took off.

    2. “the so called “maratha mindset” is actually being championed by non-marathi people, mostly N indian and Gujarati hindus”

      I agree with that view, but the reasons for this championing is just recent fascination with Marathas. In India we get a glut of movies on a similar topic (early 2000’s fascination with Bhagat Singh) and then they die down. The championing of Marathas historically has been done by Marathis only. So much so they have been allergic to other people writing about the topic lest they pose a critical eye on them. So dont; take the recent fascination of non marathis to be something permanent.

      On your second point of “doubling down on their marathi identity” i am undecided. I think there is a rise of marathi younger class which wants to associate more with the larger Hindutva pantheon. And the only other personality type i meet is the liberal cosmopolitan marathi or progressive Marathi (NCP types). Long story short i dont see hardening of Marathi identity to the extent it was in the earlier generation.

  10. I see many comments on Marathas’ influence on all of Hindu India. I can’t comment on the cultural influences but the Maratha empire seems to have made little impression on folk memory outside the heartland. My ancestral region (Thanjavur in Tamilnadu) was apparently ruled by Marathas for over a century, but this was a fact that remained unknown to me until adulthood, when I encountered it in a history book.

    Maratha influence on Hindutva is undeniable though, but this is a more modern phenomenon, starting with the likes of Tilak.

    1. Even in Heartland, its a very recent phenomena. Its USP is that provides variety to Hindutva narrative as having some thing even for non Heartland Hindutva folks.

    2. I too have Thanjavur ancestry. They actually had a massive impact. If you think of any Hindu padam, or painting, it descends from Maratha iconography.

      Even in Carnatic music, there is a large repertoire of Marathi Abhangs dating to the days of the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom.

      The memory of the Marathas may have gone, but look at any image of Vijayanagara Hinduism and compare it to modern Tamil Hinduism, and you can see the Maratha influence.

  11. The Marathas are interesting in world history because the rise of a peasant group to political supremacy is pretty rare. Although, it was the subordination of traditional Gangetic plain upper castes that gave them this window of opportunity. I understand that even today Rajputs in N. India are loathe to see the Maratha ruling clans from MP, MH and GJ as their equals, remember reading Vasundhara Raje having trouble in the Shekawat household.

    Like the Mughals, they did not produce any notable literature, but their guerilla warfare against a larger, richer enemy is cool, so they have a ‘my life is my story’ kind of thing going for them. You cant make movies like Tanhaji about a lot of historical actors.

    1. Vikram, cultural output often lags behind power. The administrative castes of bombay presidency, konkan + deccan, engendered their own literati in the 19th century and early 20th centuries. A great deal of modern theatre and classical music came out of that cultural milieu as well. One of the interesting legacies of maharashtra is a kind of gentry that isn’t completely decadent. These illustrious military lineages, of the nimbalkars, bhosles, ghorpades, ghatges ect, didn’t have anything that approached the sumptuousness of rajputana or awadhi courts, but they have a communitarian ethos that is notable, and they were early movers in social movements for female literacy and cooperative societies for example.

      1. You are right girmit, I stand corrected. The cultural and social legacy of the Marathas is deeper than I assumed. Ironic because I grew up in Mumbai and speak fluent Marathi.

        We learnt about both Shivaji and Mahatma Phule in school, somehow Shivaji stuck in the head, Phule didnt. Even though, in many ways, Phule’s contributions were more important.

  12. Anyways, I’m not sure how Razib would operationalize his term “broken.” In fact it seems that us cowbelters tend to be more strident about our faith than others.

    Rajnath Singh (former UP CM and now Defense Minister) ignored jeers from Muslims and Leftists when he performed the nimbu-mirchi ritual for the Rafales we purchased. Yogi (current UP CM) actually did an interview with BBC against an outright hostile milieu, and doubled down instead of backing down.

    Do these sound like things that someone hesitant or ashamed of Hinduism would be doing? And I get that these are leaders rather than dudes on the street, but…if they’re doing this to show off for their voters, then obviously it’s something that cowbelt Hindus like to see.

    1. HMB, gangetic man is broken in the sense he is recovering from humiliation, and his assertiveness is compensatory. Maratha man was bested by only the best, Angloman, his culture isn’t subaltern to the bone. His masculinity isn’t a performance.

      1. If that’s the parameter, than the most “Unbroken” Hindu is a Mallu. And the most “Broken” is a Punjabi. LOL

        Maratha culture is only subaltern, that;s the whole USP. They went around seeking “upper class” wherever they could. Sometimes Brahmins from N-India would do, trying to marry into Rajputs etc. Everywhere outside Maratha heartland they went, they were recognized as “non royalty” to put it mildly.

        And on masculinity let just say anyone who has grew up in India knows the hierarchy of masculinity of ethncities. So we all know where each of us sort of lay.

      2. By this logic, Mallus and Bongcommies are “unbroken.”

        Uh…no.

        Seriously this is dumb because it is unfalsifiable. If Yogi and Rajnath acted meek and servile or like some DMK tard, you’d be attacking for them. If they stand up for their culture in hostile milieus, you’d attack them.

        Sounds to me like you are just going to make the same argument no matter what.

    2. Maybe a way to reconcile what you and Razib are saying is that Hindus in UP were more oppressed and subjugated, which had a long hangover effect under the colonial period and early independence. However, the resurgence of Hindutva over the last 30 or so years is a sign of them becoming more assertive and confident again. A reawakening of sorts.

  13. @Vikram

    because the rise of a peasant group to political supremacy is pretty rare .. Like the Mughals, they did not produce any notable literature

    Lol. You clearly don’t know much about Maharashtrian culture.
    In Sanskrit literature, māhāraṣṭrī was considered to be the highest of the Prakrit forms (above shauraseni, of which Hindostani-Punjabi continuum is the modern form), and a common language used in poetry and drama by various Sanskrit poets and authors (including Kalidasa). This was due to early patronage given to the language by the Shatavahana-s and later Rashtrakuta-s. The cultural bench strength of Maharashtrians has exceeded that of the Gangetic belt since like 5c CE, let alone in Shivaji’s time.

    The Rashtrakuta-s created the basis of the Maratha samanta (feudal) system in the Konkan and along the windward side of the Sahyadris, and these people formed the backbone of the Maratha confederacy.

    Many of the Maratha sardars / lords (Prabhus) esp in N Maharashtra were also of Gurjara-Pratihara stock (cf Pathare Prabhus), who had moved southwards into Deccan.

    The key reason for Maratha success against Moghals was a general militarisation of the local farming population, which ensured that the Moghals were caught in an endless war with belligerent locals in the Deccan (where ultimately Aurangzeb died on campaign).

    1. Was definitely not referring to the older Sanskrit literature, of which I know little about.

      About the late medieval era, girmit above pointed out that their strengths were classical music and theatre.

    2. I think there is greater overemphasis on “general militarization” of Marathas, than required. The Deccan Sultanates which Aurangzeb (and predecessor) broke also had Marathas. The Marathas survival success lies in lot of different factors including distance, providence etc. The events post Shivaji-Aurangzeb showed how the pendulum swinged frantically, and could have rested anywhere.

      If there are folks whose “general militarization” has to be marveled, its the sikhs. In Mughal heartland, multi generational blood letting, enemies on either side of border, no demography heft (unlike Marathas) to speak of, etc.

      1. Saurav, regarding demographic heft, the kernel of maratha ascendancy is really just a cluster of clans with roots in the southwest of MH, not an intensely populated region at the time. Their caste genesis seems to be fairly recent and not fully formed even by the 15th century. They weren’t leveraging the demographic heft of this current entity we know as maharashtra.

    3. “The cultural bench strength of Maharashtrians has exceeded that of the Gangetic belt since like 5c CE, let alone in Shivaji’s time.”

      Well i hardly remember any cultural text of Marathi origin being taught or being famous in N-India. I could be wrong.

      On the other hand, i have come across translation of both Ramcharitmanas and/or Hanuman Chalisa in multiple occasion in Marathi household, both of which are written by a certain non descriptive Gangetic belt guy. 🙂

      1. How about Namdev from bhakti movement that found a way to Guru granth sahib?

        The bench strength is apparent from the copious literature being referenced to in 20th century marathi cultural scene that goes back to medieval period (around 13th century). That in turn finds inspiration in the earllier literature slapstick refers to.

        The religious praxis, iconography, devotional songs, revered shrines etc are mostly distinct from the Hindi heartland and local in nature. Tht would not have been the case if the region was not a cultural center in itself from long time.

        1. Again if this is the parameter, than Kabir has influenced Sikhism more than Namdev. But we don’t see it that way right, Sikhism is distinctly Punjabi.

          “The religious praxis, iconography, devotional songs, revered shrines etc are mostly distinct from the Hindi heartland and local in nature. ”

          This is true for all ethnicity, or atleast they feel so. Do Tamils, Bengalis feel that their state was not a cultural center?
          I am not arguing about the cultural corpus wrt to Marathi literature production for their own folks. Each state was distinct and in their view produced the best. In absence of a real comparative parameter the only way to judge is who’s literature really flowed outwards and influenced other areas in a substantial manner.

          1. I am not arguing Sikhism is not rooted in Punjab. Just giving example of instance on top of my mind that illustrates that there was a flow outwards which was your question.
            Aditya already alluded to the Maratha influence on ‘Hinduism as practiced’ which only continues to widen in recent times looking at Ganesh chaturthi celebrations in north india over past decade

          2. I think Aditya;s example is not persuasive enough, there are Marathi influences in MP as well. In a way i see that similar to Bengali influences (Chaitanya, Hare Krishna) in North Eastern states and Orissa.I would categorize them as broadly border influences, similar to how Lingaytism influence in Maharashtra from Karnataka. Or as you said Ganesh chaturthi in Telangana.

            Overall i think if you take the sum of how ‘Hinduism as practiced’ today, yes there is a substantial Marathi component, but it does not even come close to Gangetic belt component.

  14. “ And on masculinity let just say anyone who has grew up in India knows the hierarchy of masculinity of ethncities.”

    As someone who didn’t grow up in India. I am scared to ask. Lol.

    1. “Uttar Pradesh in particular is politically central. But the psychology of the Hindus of this region has to move from negation, reaction, to positive action. They need to shake off their history and move forward into the future.”

      I think in this regard and virtually every other regard, UP is just like the rest of India, only more so.

    2. LOL, if u read comments on the blog u might get a fair idea.

      This is not to say the each ethnicity in India, have their own perception of being masculine , at least for a section (feudal class, warrior caste etc) of their community. Their own regional movies try to burnish it.

  15. I don’t think UP/Biharis are “broken” (not sure exactly what it means btw) due to Muslim rule. I do think however the lack of post independence achievements probably subconsciously weighs on them (as does the resultant mild mocking in the rest of the country- BIMARU)…Like they don’t have something they can point to – like Punjab and prosperity/agriculture/military, Gujarat/commerce, Maharashtra/commerce, Karnataka/tech, Himachal/beauty etc..I do agree that they would do well to develop a bit of subnationalism which they could leverage to get more favorable terms from the center

    1. “I do agree that they would do well to develop a bit of subnationalism which they could leverage to get more favorable terms from the center”

      LOL, Bro we UP folks might just demand the whole country if we get more leverage. 😛

      On a serious note, I think we get enough from centre. Anything more might jeopardize the fragile centre-state relations existing in India, especially other states.

      1. “On a serious note, I think we get enough from centre. Anything more might jeopardize the fragile centre-state relations existing in India, especially other states.”
        Then what explains the persistent backwardness and laggard status..Low human capital? Bad politicians? culture? You guys even have the good looking Jaats in the western part of the state, and yet?
        Something needs to change – we can’t have 40 crore Indians lagging 🙂

        1. “You guys even have the good looking Jaats”

          Perhaps u didnt get the memo, they are fake Jats. Tall guys, not that good looking 😛

          “Then what explains the persistent backwardness and laggard status”

          Well i think we need to first shore up our own performance and put back some money in centre’s kitty before demanding more. In the current situation i think it unreasonable for UP to demand more.

          I actually i am more optimistic over UP than Bihar, TBH. UP for all its problem has western UP, which if channelized properly can provide the base to uplift the rest of the state. Easier said than done, but still a possibility. Bihar, OTOH just gives me nightmares, it does not have any urban centre which can help pull out at least part of the state, like Delhi does for NCR area.

        2. I think that’s what Razib meant by broken. Something missing that prevents all cylinders firing (actually more than one cylinder firing)

          But I agree with Saurav that if that happens they will weigh large over the country given their demographic weight. They would be like Germans, too big for India too small for the world. But currently they are not close to that situation.

          Maybe breaking UP into smaller units could help on both counts. Getting them started and not overwhelming the country in future.

          1. In short UP is to India, what India is to the World.

            Perennially the sleepy Elephant, which others want to wake up. Everyone feels we will wake up one of these days, but we know it won’t happen since we are too mired in our shit

    2. The large Haryana-Delhi-Western UP-Uttarakhand-Himachal-Chandigarh-Punjab region of North India is about as developed as it gets in India.

      The North has Delhi, the nation’s capital and largest metropolitan area by area and population; satellite cities like Noida and Gurugram that excel in services; the best metro system; the best freeways; access to the Himalayas for holiday getaways; access to some of the nation’s most celebrated history and culture; some of the most fertile agricultural land.

      The poorest part of North India (Eastern UP and Bihar) are arguably better placed in East India. Most organizations already include BIhar in East India, and that has also historically been the case in different time periods. Prayagraj seems like the nexus between East and North.

      1. “The poorest part of North India (Eastern UP and Bihar) are arguably better placed in East India.”

        East India has the connotation of Bangla-sphere. These regions are definitely not Bengali.

        You could say that they are their own regions that are neither truly north nor east. 20 crore people should be enough to grant you that status.

        1. I would say Eastern UP/Bihar is so desperate that they would not mind being grouped with Bengali/East. The border regions of Bengal (the BJP supporting one’s) are essentially Bihar now. They just want at least one city in that region to become Surat if it can’t become Mumbai. Unfortunately even that does not seem possible.

  16. UP did elect a Dalit woman as CM. In contrast, even the ‘wokest’ US states have not had a Black female as governor. I dont think they’ve even had a Black male as governor.

    Most Biharis are agrarian and Bihar’s agrarian land holding equality is on par with Kerala and J&K. Murder rates in these regions are quite low despite all the weird series Anushka Sharma and Anurag Kashyap keep making.

    These states are economically poor, they are laggards in social indicators. But I wont call them broken by any stretch of imagination.

    1. Deval Patrick (African-American male) was governor of Massachussetts. He was even briefly in the running for Democratic nominee this election cycle. So you are facutally incorrect on that point.

      1. Thanks, didnt know that. But I think my broader point still stands. UP/Bihar are poor, but not ‘broken’.

        1. I dont know which part of India is broken. Even the dalit (which translates as broken) aren;t that broken anymore.

  17. Let’s step away from whether Marathi influence on the rest of India was greater than Bengali, Gangetic plans, etc. That is not central to the blog post.

    The fact remains that Shivaji was able to establish a Maratha ethno-linguistic-political identity where none existed. Yes, there are other examples of ethno-linguistic-political entities in South Asia that predate the Marathas, e.g. Chola-Pandya empires. However, the Marathas were the first that emerged from the maelstrom of Muslim conquests and cultural depradation/subjugation.

    Marathas inhabited lands that were agriculturally marginal and the Western ghats posed unique challenges to armies of the middle ages. The gunpowder empire’s strengths could not be fully brought to bear in these environments. Shivaji extracted full advantage of the geography, but most importantly was able to weld together a coalition of communities and castes who were willing to take on the Deccani kingdoms and the Mughals. Shivaji’s real genius was in getting the peasantry to take up arms. He succeeded in this because he himself was from peasant (Shudra) stock. The Bhosles owed their ascendancy in part to Shivaji’s grandfather – Maloji Bhosale – being recognized by Malik Amber for his skills and loyalty.

    The identity forged under Shivaji enabled the Marathas to withstand the 25 years of constant strife that Aurangzeb’s armies visited upon the Maratha heartland. Aurangzeb died a broken man realizing the futility of his Deccani enterprise, and the Marathas under the Peshwas, Shindes, Gaekwads, Holkars, and Bhoslas (of Nagpur) went on to dominate much of the Deccan and the Indian heartland for over a hundred years.

    [So many parallels between the Sikhs and Marathas – a topic in of itself.]

    Throughout Maratha dominance, we see a zeal around protection of Hindu temples, holy places, and the cow. But the zeal did not seem to extend to destruction of Islamic religious objects. Perhaps this is why Marathas from the days of Shivaji had significant contingents of Muslims, especially in the artillery and the navy.

    Marathas seemed to have succeeded in defining their struggle to be one against the “Turk” – Muslim elites who were a constant flow into South Asia from Persia and Central Asia. So while defense of the “Dharma” was an important element of the identity, so was resistance against foreign rule.

    More later if time permits.

  18. “The film Panipat… It seems a typical melodramatic Bollywood gloss on this period…”
    Given the post springs off a film made in Maharashtra, it should be noted that the “Father of Indian Cinema” was Dadasaheb Phalke, a Marathi who kicked off modernizing performance theatre by shifting to screen. The story he told was that of the Iksvaku king Harishchandra. A 100 years later we continue to produce Maratha stories that focus on defeat, where heroic acts are diluted by melodrama, faux feminism and 2 dimensional protagonists. Do the protagonists have to die in every Maratha story? I mean, they wins hundreds of battles and survived right?

  19. Marathas were only good for their own rashtra.
    Since we all lived in our own region. Nobody ever decided to unite (Fight for yourself). They are considered thugs in Gujarat (they looted us).
    Our ancestors have equally paid taxes to them as we well to Rajputs and Turks Persian (evidence Jagirdars (Rajputs), Rajputs for Turks and Marathi Brahmins /Imposter king living in all coastal areas of South Gujarat).
    No difference whoever the ruler was.
    Stop glorifying any leader who fought for particular region in today’s time.

    1. “They are considered thugs in Gujarat (they looted us).”

      Weren’t the Gaekwads very progressive?

    2. I dunno I never hear any negative sentiment about historic marathas.

      The Gaekwads and their descendants are still highly regarded.

      Gujju dislike of post-independence maratha politics stems from this…

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombay_State

      Basically in Mumbai they would complain about migrants from the interior regions that had only been recently added on telling Gujaratis to get out of Mumbai etc.

      1. I agree.

        A lot of the strife can be linked back to the dispute over Mumbai city and Bombay state.
        Both communities in Mumbai have pejorative stereotypes of the other.
        There is also envy of Gujju material success among Marathis

    3. They are not outlier to any ethnic linguistic group including current one in power under Modi. The region of people in leadership is seen to be benefiting at expense of others.

      As rightly pointed out this is just exploited by left to demonize people they dont see furthering their cause.

  20. I think that what happens when we swing extreme to extreme. Time to defend the Marathas.

    The Marathas are seen as liberators in many regions as well. The Bhonsles in Orissa. In entire MP and Bundelkhand, parts of UP as well. The whole Marathas were only looters meme started when the marxist couldn’t co-opt the Marathas in their “secular” pantheons because of their “Hindu” antecedents. It didn;t help that in addition they were co-opted by Hindu-right.

    Since the bulk of those historians were from regions who suffered their excess, they pushed this narrative, and other folks who also faced those excess, started bandwagoning on it. So eventually the only folks who stood up for Marathas were (obviously) Marathis and Hindu right.


  21. “They are considered thugs in Gujarat (they looted us).”

    roma, marathas may have been thugs, but at least they were *our* thugs.

    you see, conquering people everywhere plunder the conquered people. empires are just extraction machines for rent seeking rulers. marathas were no different.

    the difference lies in the fact that they were authentic indians, so whatever they plundered from the land was ploughed back into the land. by contrast, mughals and awadh nawabs and hyderabad nizams sent shiploads of indian gold to their holy lands in hejaz and iraq. british famously built their industrial empire from the indian raw material.

    and since marathas were hindu, they did not damage the core identity of india. by contrast muslim rulers apparently inflicted such deep wounds on the indian soul that its repercussions are felt to this day. ( in calamities like partition, indo- pak wars, hindu muslim riots and raging debates on blogs like this).

    1. Also the same sentiments are reciprocated by the Marathis regarding Gujjus after Independence

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