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.
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." 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. 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.
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) and Deshastha Brahmin castes. The expansion of the empire under Shahu was carried by the generals belonging to groups such as Chitpavan Brahmin (Bhat Peshwas of Pune), the Kunbis (Shinde of Gwalior) and Dhangar (Holkar of Indore).