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The Maratha Empire or the Maratha Confederacy was an Indian imperial power that existed from 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire covered much of the subcontinent, encompassing a territory of over 2.8 million km². TheMarathas are credited to a large extent in ending the Mughal rule in India.[2][3]

The Marathas were a Hindu warrior group from the western Deccan (present day Maharashtra) that rose to prominence by establishing 'Hindavi Swarajya'. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Maratha group of castes is a largely rural class of peasant cultivators, landowners, and soldiers. Some Maratha and Kunbi have at times claimed Kshatriya (the warrior and ruling class) standing."[4] The Marathas became prominent in the 17th century under the leadership of Shivaji who revolted against the Bijapur Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, and carved out a rebel territory with Raigad as his capital.[5] Known for their mobility, the Marathas were able to consolidate their territory during the Deccan Wars against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and, later in time, controlled a large part of India.[4]

The word Maratha has been used to describe all the Marathi speaking inhabitants of Maharashtra. Shivaji's lieutenants in addition to the "Maratha" included those belonging to the CKP ( Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Murar Baji)[6] and Deshastha Brahmin castes.[7] The expansion of the empire under Shahu was carried by the generals belonging to groups such as Chitpavan Brahmin (Bhat Peshwas of Pune),[8] the Kunbis (Shinde of Gwalior) and Dhangar (Holkar of Indore).[9][10]

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