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Maharashtra (Marathi: महाराष्ट्र mahārāṣṭra, IPA: Template:Audio, English: Great Nation) is India's third largest state in terms of area (after Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh), and second largest in terms of population (after Uttar Pradesh). It lies along the west coast of the Indian Peninsula, and is bordered by the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to its north, Chhattisgarh to its east, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa to its south, and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to its north-west. The Arabian Sea makes up the state's western coast. Mumbai, India's largest city, is the capital of Maharashtra, whereas the city of Nagpur serves as the second (and winter) capital of the state.


For more information, see: Origins of the name of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra has been referred to as Rashtra in the Rig Veda, Rashtrik in Ashoka's inscriptions, and Maha rashtra afterwards, as attested by Huein-Tsang and other travelers. The name appears to have been derived from Maharashtri, in an old form of Prakrit, an ancient Indian language.


For more information, see: History of Maharashtra.

Medieval history and Islamic rule

Maharashtra's early history has been lost in antiquity. The first recorded reference to the history of this region dates back to the 3rd century BC, with the use of the Maharastri language, a Prakrit corruption of Sanskrit. The region which is today the state of Maharashtra was also known as Dandakaranya, (the jungle (aranya) which is bound by rules (dandakas). The port town of Sopara, just north of present day Mumbai, was the centre of naval commerce in ancient India, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin.

This region has been under the rule of the Mauryas during the reigns of Emperors Bindusara and Ashoka The Great, and then passed on to the Satavahanas between 230 BC and AD 225. The Satavahanas were great patrons of their official court language, called Maharashtri which later developed into Marathi. Gautamiputra Satkarni (also known as "Shalivahan") was a prominent ruler of this dynasty who started the Shalivahana era, a new calendar still used by Maharashtrian populace.

Other prominent Hindu kingdoms which have held sway over this region during the middle ages include the Vakatakas (AD 250 to 525), the Rashtrakutas, the Chalukyas of Badami (till 1189) and finally the Yadavas of Deogiri.

Maharashtra came under Islamic influence for the first time when the Ala-ud-din Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughluq appropriated parts of the Deccan in the 13th century. After the Tughlaqs, the Bahmani Sultanate of Bijapur was the last Indian kingdom to rule the entire region of Maharashtra. By the 16th century, central Maharashtra was ruled by numerous autonomous Islamic kingdoms that owed allegiance to the Mughals, while coastal region was annexed by the Portuguese, in their quest to seize control of the spice trade.

Marathas and Peshwas

For more information, see: Maratha Empire.

By the early seventeenth century, the Marathas, a warrior caste native to western Maharashtra, began to take establish their own kingdom in the region. They were led by their first ruler Shivaji Bhosale, who took the title of Chhatrapati Raje after being crowned king in 1674.

Shivaji's son and successor, Shambhaji Bhosale was captured and executed by Aurangzeb. The Mughals forced Shambhaji's younger brother, Rajaram Bhosale to flee to present day Tamil Nadu. He retreated to the fortress of Jinji (sometimes anglicised to Ginjee).

After Rajaram's death, infighting between two branches of the family led to the increasing influence of the Peshwa (titular Prime Minister) in the political and administrative affairs of the Maratha state, gradually reducing Shivaji's Bhosale dynasty to mere figureheads. After defeating the Mughals, the Peshwas became the dominant rulers of India, extending their realm from Delhi and Panipat in the north, Gujarat (Mehsana) and present day Madhya Pradesh (Gwalior and Indore) to the west and Thanjaur to the south.

Beginning with Balaji Vishwanath and his son, Baji Rao I, the Peshwas strengthened their hold over the day to day affairs of the empire by institutionalizing the bureaucracy, the collection of tributes and taxes, as well as the assessment and collection of land revenue. They also built a network of trade links within and outside the Maratha empire, and consolidated the financial, banking and agricultural systems prevalent during the time.

The Marathas are also credited in building the first naval force for the defence of the western coast of India, under the Angre clan.

After being defeated by the Afghan chieftain Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Confederacy broke into regional kingdoms. Much of the political power was now focussed on individual fiefdoms within the erstwhile empire, such as Gwalior under the Shindes, Indore under the Holkars, Baroda under the Gaekwads and Dhar under the Pawar clan.

British Rule and Post-Independence

With the arrival and subsequent involvement of the British East India Company in Indian politics, the Marathas and the British fought the three Anglo-Maratha wars between 1777 and 1818, culminating in the annexation of Peshwa-ruled territories in Maharashtra by the British East India Company in 1819 and heralding the end of the Maratha empire.

The British governed the region as part of the Bombay Presidency, which included the province of Sind in present day Pakistan and most of the northern Deccan. Several small principalities in the region, which were fiefdoms during the time of the Marathas, retained local autonomy in administrative affairs in return for acknowledging British sovereignty over their political affairs. Prominent amongst them were Nagpur, Satara and Kolhapur; Satara was annexed into the British controlled Bombay Presidency in 1848. Nagpur and Berar (till then a part of the Nizam of Hyderabad's kingdom), were occupied by the British in 1853, and eventually integrated into the Central Provinces. A large part of present day Maharashtra, called the Marathwada region, remained part of the Nizam's Hyderabad state during British rule. In the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle for independence from British rule started by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and later led by Mahatma Gandhi began to take root from Bombay. In 1942, the Quit India Movement called by Mahatma Gandhi had its origins in Bombay.

After India's independence in 1947, as part of the drive to unify the various princely states into the Indian Union, the Deccan States, including Kolhapur, were integrated into the State of Bombay, which was created from the former Bombay Presidency in 1950. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines. Accordingly, Bombay was made the capital of the new state of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960, which constituted all Marathi speaking regions of the State of Bombay, Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from erstwhile Hyderabad state and the Vidarbha region (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) from the Central Provinces and Berar. The Gujarati speaking areas of the State of Bombay was spinned off into the separate state of Gujarat.


For more information, see: Geography of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra encompasses an area of 308,000 km² (119,000 mi²), and is the third largest state in India. Maharashtra is bordered by the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa to the south, and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the north-west. The Arabian Sea makes up Maharashtra's west coast.

Maharashtra is bound by the Satpura Range to the north and the Western Ghats, known locally as the Sahyadri Range, to the west. The Sahyadri hills bifurcate the state into the Konkan, a narrow coastal strip to the west and the larger Deccan Plateau to the east. The average elevation of the western ghats in Maharashtra is 1,200 metres (4,000 feet)) above sea level.

The Sahyadri hills form a major watershed within the state, and is the source of several major rivers flowing east into the Deccan plateau and onward into the Bay of Bengal, and some minor rivers flowing west through Konkan into the Arabian Sea. Notable rivers flowing east include the Godavari and the Krishna rivers.

There are many multi-state irrigation projects in development, including Godavari River Basin Irrigation Projects.

The plateau is composed of black basalt soil, rich in humus. This soil is well suited for cultivating cotton, and hence is often called black cotton soil.

The major cities in the state are Mumbai, Pune, Nasik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur.


For more information, see: Districts of Maharashtra.

Maharashtra is divided into thirty-five districts, which are grouped into six divisions for the purposes of revenue collection: Aurangabad, Amravati, Konkan, Nagput, Nashik, and Pune.

Historically, Maharashtra has five main regions: Vidarbha or Berar (Nagpur and Amravati divisions), Marathwada (Aurangabad Division), Khandesh and North Maharashtra (Nashik Division), Desh or Western Maharashtra (Pune Division), and Konkan (Konkan Division).


The Indian Railways covers most of Maharashtra, and is the preferred (and most economical) mode of transport to cover large distances. Almost the entire state comes under the Central Railways branch which is headquartered in Mumbai. The coastal belt is served by the Western Railway (north of Mumbai), and the Konkan Railway to its south. Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses, popularly called ST or MSRTC, link most major and minor towns and villages within the state. Privately operated luxury buses are also a popular mode of transport between major towns and cities.

Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have international airports, serving the entire South Asia, Middle East and the rest of the world. Mumbai's airport system (comprising separate facilities for domestic and international operations) is the biggest and busiest in India. Other large towns such as Aurangabad, Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Nashik are served by domestic airlines. Ferry services also operate near the capital, linking the city to neighbouring coastal towns. Maharashtra has a large network of national and state highways, and also the recently built Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which is India's first controlled-access toll road project in India. Maharashtra has three major sea ports at Mumbai (operated by the Mumbai Port Trust), the JNPT lying across the Mumbai harbour in Nhava Sheva, and in Ratnagiri, which primarily handles cargo.


Favourable economic policies in the 1970s led to Maharashtra becoming India's leading industrial state. However, regions within Maharashtra show wide disparity in development. Apart from Mumbai, Pune and western Maharashtra are comparatively more advanced than the eastern parts of the state. Because of its economic clout, the western parts of the state also tend to dominate the politics and bureaucratic control in the state.

Maharashtra's gross state domestic product for the financial year 2004 is estimated at $106 billion in current prices. Maharastra is the second most urbanised state in India (after Tamil Nadu), with urban population constituting 42% of the entire population.

Maharashtra's is India's leading industrial state, contributing 13% of total national economic output. 64% of the people in the state are employed in agriculture and allied activities, while 46% of the GSDP is contributed by industry. Major industries in Maharashtra include chemical and allied products, electrical and non-electrical machinery, textiles, petroleum and allied products. Other important industries include metal products, wine, jewellery, pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, machine tools, steel and iron castings and plastic wares. Food crops include mangoes, grapes, bananas, oranges, wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, and pulses. Cash crops include groundnut, cotton, sugarcane, turmeric, and tobacco. The net irrigated area totals 33,500 square kilometres.

Mumbai houses the headquarters of almost all major banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and mutual funds which operate in India. Mumbai is also the headquarters of many major Indian corporations. Bollywood, the centre of India's Hindi film and television industry is based in the city. The Bombay Stock Exchange, India's largest (and Asia's oldest) stock exchange, is located in the city. After the success of information technology entrepreneurs in neighbouring states such as Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the state has set up software parks in Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Nasik.

Maharashtra has the highest installed thermal and nuclear power generation capacity in India.


The head of state is the governor, appointed by the federal government. The post is largely ceremonial, whereas the Chief Minister is the head of government and is vested with most of the executive powers. Maharashtra's capital is Mumbai, home to the Vidhan Sabha - the state assembly and Mantralaya, the administrative offices of the government. It is also home to the Bombay High Court, which has jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Goa, and the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. The legislature convenes its budget and monsoon sessions in Mumbai, and the winter session in Nagpur, which was designated as the state's second (winter) capital.

Like most large states in India, Maharashtra has a bicameral legislature. The Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) is the lower house of legislature, consisting of directly elected members. Likewise, the Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) is the upper house, whose members are indirectly voted through an electoral college. Maharashtra is allocated nineteen seats in the Rajya Sabha (The upper house in India's national parliament), and forty-eight seats in the Lok Sabha (its lower house).

After India's independence, most of Maharashtra's political history has been dominated by the centre-left Congress party, led by stalwarts such as Y.B. Chavan (who was also one of its most prominent Chief Ministers). Since 1995, the right wing Shiv Sena and BJP have played major role in the state's politics, including the formation of a coalition government. The third major force in the political arena of the state is the NCP led by Sharad Pawar.


A person native to the state of Maharashtra is called a Maharashtrian. As per the 2001 census, Maharashtra has a population of 96,752,247 inhabitants, making it the second most populous state in India (If Maharashtra were to be an independent nation, it would rank 12th in terms of population). As per the same census, the total population of people who register Marathi as their native language is 62,481,681. This is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the state. Its population density is 322.5 inhabitants per square kilometre. Maharashtra's urban population stands at 42.4%, making it the second most urbanized state in India (after Tamil Nadu). Its sex ratio is 922 females to 1000 males, which is above the national average. Its literacy rate is 77.27% (86.2% males and 67.5% females).

Marathi is the official state language, and is spoken as a first or second language by a vast majority of its populace. In Mumbai however, due to its cosmopolitan nature, Hindi, and English, along with a variety of other Indian languages are also spoken. Marathi also boasts several regional dialects such as Ahirani, Malvani, Deshi and Varhadi, spoken by scattered sections of the population.

A majority of the population are Hindus (80.2%), with minorities of Muslims (10.6%), Buddhists (6%), Jains (1.3%) and Christians (1%). Maharashtra has the biggest Jain, Zoroastrian and Jewish populations in India.

The Total Fertility Rate as of 2001 was 2.23.


For more information, see: Cultural festivals in Maharashtra and Maharashtrian cuisine.

Temples and Forts

Various temples and forts, build by the various kingdoms that ruled Maharashtra are a reflection of the cultural and architectural taste of the Maharashtrian people. Many of these temples have borrowed heavily from North and South Indian, as well as Hindu, Jain and Buddhist styles. The most prominent temple in the state is the temple of Vitthala at Pandharpur. The Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, and the Elephanta Caves (also called Gharapuri) are elegant instances of a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist techniques in building cave temples. A famous example of Mughal architecture in this region is the Bibi Ka Maqbara, which is the tomb of the wife of Aurangzeb (located at Aurangabad).

The landscape of Maharashtra is dotted with many forts, prominent amongst them being Raigad, Panhala and Pratapgad. The western sea board boasts several naval fortress formations, including Sindhudurg, Vijaydurg, Janjira and the ruins of Bassein.


One of the earliest instances of Marathi literature is by the saint Dnyaneshwar, with his Bhawarthadeepika (popularly known as Dnyaneshwari). The religious songs called bhajans by saints like Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram and Namdev are very popular. Modern Marathi literature has its share of great poets and authors. P. L. Deshpande (popularly called Pu La), Kusumagraj, Prahlad Keshav Atre, Vyankatesh Madgulkar are a few of them. A large number of books and periodicals are published every year in Marathi.

Music and Theater

The modern theater, movie and television movements in Maharashtra are chiefly based out of Mumbai, with the actors moving freely between the different media. Some notable names in the movie industry include the pioneers such as Dadasaheb Phalke and V. Shantaram (actor, producer and director), and contemporaries such as P. L. Deshpande (writer, director and actor), Ashok Saraf (actor), Laxmikant Berde (actor), Sachin Pilgaonkar (actor and producer) and Mahesh Kothare.

The early period of Marathi theatre was dominated by playwrights such as Kolhatkar, Khadilkar, Deval, Gadkari and Kirloskar, who enriched the Marathi theater with their own style of musical and dance dramas (Sangeet Naatak and Natyasangeet). It is during this era of the Marathi theater that great singer actors like Bal Gandharva, Keshavrao Bhosle, Bhaurao Kolhatkar and Dinanath Mangeshkar thrived. The Mangeshkar family is credited with the popularization of both traditional Marathi folk as well as contemporary singing styles in Bollywood and Marathi movies

Some of the popular Marathi television channels are Zee Marathi and ETV Marathi, with shows ranging from soap operas, cooking and travel to political satire and game shows.

The folk music of Maharashtra is of various types viz. Gondhal, Lavani, Bharud, Powada, etc.


There is a great variety of culinary styles within the state, depending on climatic and geographical factors. The people of the Konkan region have a rice and/or fish based diet. In eastern Maharashtra, the diet is based primarily on Wheat, Jowar and Bajra. All kinds of lentils and vegetables are common ingredients. Chicken and Mutton are also widely eaten throughout the state.


Women traditionally wear a nine yard sari, while men don a dhoti or pajama with a shirt. However, the urban population also prefer wearing western style jeans, trousers and shirts (for both men and women) and Punjabi dresses, consisting of a Salwar and a Kurta (for women).


Cricket is widely played and followed by the local population of the state. The Mumbai and Maharashtra cricket teams are rated as top cricket playing outfits in the national cricketing league. Indigenous sports such as Kabaddi and Viti-Dandu (Gilli-danda in Hindi) are also popular.


Hindus in Maharashtra follow the Saka era calendar. Gudi Padwa, Diwali, Rangapanchami, Gokulashtami and Ganeshotsav are celebrated widely, though the prime focus is on the Ganeshotsav festival celebrated in late summer. The faithful walk hundreds of kilometers to Pandharpur for the annual pilgrimage in the (Hindu calendar) month of Ashadh.

See also