Elephanta Cave Elephanta Cave
Capital : Mumbai
Largest city : Mumbai
District(s) : 35
Population : 96,752,247 (2nd)
Density : 314.42/km² (814/sq mi)
Language(s) : Marathi
Established : 1960-05-01

Maharashtra is India's third largest state in area and second largest in population after Uttar Pradesh. It is bordered by the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The Arabian Sea makes up the state's western coast. Mumbai, India's most populous city, is the capital of Maharashtra. Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, and serves as the financial and entertainment capital of the country. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India contributing 14 % of its GDP (2011–2012 figures).

The name Maharashtra first appeared in a 7th century inscription and in the account of a Chinese traveler, Hiuen-Tsang.

Pre Medieval history

 Maharashtra was ruled by the Maurya Empire in the 4th and 3rd century BC. The Nashik Gazetteer states that in 246 BC Maharashtra is mentioned as one of the places to which Mauryan emperor  sent an emissary, and it is recorded in a Chalukyan inscription of 580 CE as including three provinces and 99,000 villages. In literature Maharashtra is referred to as Dandakaranya, i.e. the forest (aranya) bound by rules (dandakas). Later, Maharashtra became a part of the Magadha empire, ruled by emperor Ashoka. The port town of Sopara, north of present day Mumbai, was the centre of ancient India's commerce, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin. The Chalukya dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 6th century to the 8th century and the two prominent rulers were Pulakesi II, who defeated the north Indian Emperor Harsha and Vikramaditya, who defeated the Arab invaders in the 8th century.

With the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, a local dynasty called Satavahanas came into prominence in Maharashtra between 230 B.C.E. and 225 C.E. The Satavahana dynasty  ruled the region for 400 years.The period saw the biggest cultural development of Maharashtra. The Satavahana's official language was Maharashtri, which later developed into Marathi. The great ruler Gautamiputra Satkarni (also known as "Shalivahan") ruled around 78 C.E. He started the Shalivahana era, a new calendar, still used by Maharashtrian populace and as the Indian national calendar. The empire gradually disintegrated in the third century.

During (250 C.E. – 525 C.E.), Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra, came under the rule of Vakatakas. During this period, development of arts, religion and technology flourished. Later, in 753 C.E., the region was governed by the Rashtrakutas, an empire that spread over most of India. In 973 C.E., the Chalukyas of Badami expelled the Rashtrakutas, and ruled parts of Maharashtra until 1189 when the region came under the Yadavas of Deogiri.

Islamic Rule
In the early 14th century the Yadava dynasty, which ruled most of present-day Maharashtra, was overthrown by the Delhi Sultante ruler Ala-ud-dinKhalji. Later, Muhammad Bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan, and temporarily shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra. Maharashtra came under Islamic influence for the first time after the Delhi Sultanate rulers Ala-ud-din Khalji and later Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan in the 13th century. After the collapse of the Tughlaqs in 1347, the Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga took over governing the region for the next 150 years. After the breakup of the Bahamani sultanate, in 1518, Maharashtra was ruled by the breakaway Shah's, namely Nizamshah of Ahmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur and Imadshah of Berar.

The Rise of the Marathas
Gateway of India Gateway of India
By the early seventeenth century the Maratha Empire began to take root. Shahaji Bhosale, an ambitious local general in the employ of the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur, at various times attempted to establish his independent rule. The attempts succeeded through his son Shivaji Bhosale. Marathas were led by Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji Bhosale, who was crowned king in 1674. Shivaji constantly battled with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and Adil Shah of Vijapur. Shivaji Raje was the most able, successful, popular and respected king Maharashtra ever had. By the time of his death in 1680, Shivaji has created a kingdom covering most of Maharashtra today (except the aurangabad district which was part of the Nizam) and Gujarat.

The Peshwas
The Peshwas, Balaji Vishwanath and his son, Baji Rao I, bureaucratized the Maratha state. They systematized the practice of tribute gathering from Mughal territories, under the heads of sardesmukhi and chauth (the two terms corresponding to the proportion of revenue collected). They also consolidated Mughal-derived methods of assessment and collection of land revenue and other taxes. Much of the revenue terminology used in Peshwa documents derives from Persian, suggesting a far greater continuity between Mughal and Maratha revenue practice than may be politically palatable in the present day.

Marine Drive Marine Drive

After suffering a stinging defeat at the hands of Afghan chieftain Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Confederacy broke into regional kingdoms.

Post-Panipat, the Peshwa's ex-generals looked after the regional kingdoms they had earned and carved out for themselves in the service of Peshwas covering north-central and Deccan regions of India. Pune continued to be ruled by what was left of the Peshwa family.

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 territory in Maharashtra in 1819, which heralded the end of the Maratha empire.

The British governed the region as part of the Bombay Presidency, which spanned an area from Karachi in Pakistan to most of the northern Deccan. A number of the Maratha states persisted as princely states, retaining local autonomy in return for acknowledging British sovereignty. The largest princely states in the territory of present - day Maharashtra were Nagpur, Satara and Kolhapur; Satara was annexed to Bombay Presidency in 1848, and Nagpur was annexed in 1853 to become Nagpur Province, later part of the Central Provinces. Berar, which had been part of the Nizam of Hyderabad's kingdom, was occupied by the British in 1853 and annexed to the Central Provinces in 1903. A large part of present day Maharashtra called Marathwada remained part of the Nizam's Hyderabad state during British rule. The British rule was marked by social reforms, an improvement in infrastructure as well revolts due to their discriminatory policies. At the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle for independence took shape led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the moderates like Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Agarkar, Pherozeshah Mehta and Dadabhai Naoroji. In 1942, the Quit India Movement was called by Mahatma Gandhi which was marked by a non-violent civil disobedience movement and strikes.

Snake Park Snake Park
After India's independence in 1947, the princely states were integrated into the Indian Union, and the Deccan States including Kolhapur were integrated into Bombay State, which was created from the former Bombay Presidency in 1950. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines, and Bombay Presidency State was enlarged by the addition of the predominantly Marathi-speaking regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from erstwhile Hyderabad state and Vidarbha region (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) from Madhya Pradesh (formerly the Central Provinces and Berar). On May 1, 1960, Maharashtra came into existence when Bombay Presidency State was split into the new linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

According to the provisional results of the 2011 national census, Maharashtra is the  second most populous state in India with a population of 112,374,333 (9.28% of India's population) of which male and female are 58,243,056 and 54,131,277 respectively and the second most populous country subdivision in existence, and third ever after the Russian SFSR of the former Soviet Union. The total population growth in 2011 is 15.99 percent while in previous decade it was 22.57 percent. Since independence, the decadal growth rate of population in Maharashtra has remained higher (except in the year 1971) than the national average. For the first time, in the year 2011, the decadal growth rate of population has been found to be lower than the national average. State has a large number of Utar Pradesh diaspora. Marathis comprise the majority of the population. The Bihari, Gujrati, Tamil, Punabis and Parsis   minorities are scattered throughout the state. Maharashtra is home to indigenous tribal Adivasis such as Thakar, Worli, Halba and Konkana. The Marathi-speaking population of Maharashtra numbers 62,481,681 according to the 2001 census. This is a reflection of the cosmopolitan nature of the state. Only eleven countries of the world have a population greater than Maharashtra. Its density is 322.5 inhabitants per square kilometre. Males constitute 50.3 million and females, 46.4 million. Maharashtra's urban population stands at 42.4%. Its sex ratio is 922 females to 1000 males. 77.27% of its population is literate, broken into 86.2% males and 67.5% females. Its growth rate between 1991-2001 was pegged at 22.57%.

Marathi is the official state language. Marathi is spoken by a vast majority of its populace. In Mumbai however, due to its cosmopolitan nature, Urdu, Hindi, Gujarati and English, along with a variety of other languages are also spoken. In the northwest portion of Maharashtra, a dialect Ahirani is spoken by a minority. In south Konkan, a dialect of Konkani (sometimes called a dialect of Marathi) known as Malvani is spoken by most of the people. In the Desh region of the Deccan, a dialect called Deshi is spoken, while in Vidarbha, a dialect known as Varhadi is spoken by most of the people.

The state has a Hindu majority of 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.

Juhu Beach Juhu Beach
It should be noted that about 76% of Hindus of Maharashtra speak Marathi while the rest speak Hindi, Gujarati and other languages. About two-thirds of the Muslim population speak Urdu while the rest speak Marathi. Almost all of the Buddhist, Jain and Christian population of Maharashtra speak Marathi.

Hindus form the majority of Maharashtra population and the culture of Maharashtra reflects that. There are many temples in Maharashtra some of them being hundreds of years old. These temples are constructed in a fusion of architectural styles borrowed from North and South India. The temples also blend themes from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cultures. The temple of Vitthala at Pandharpur is the most important temple for the Varkari sect. Other important religious places are the Ashtavinayak (eight temple sites of Ganesha), Bhimashankar which is one of the Jyotirlinga (12 important shiva temples). Amongst the cave art and architecture is the famous tourist attraction of Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. A famous example of Mughal architecture is the tomb of the wife of Aurangzeb called Bibi Ka Maqbara also located at Aurangabad.

Maharashtra has a large number of hill, land and sea forts. Forts have played an important role in the history of Maharashtra.

Mumbai is called the entertainment capital of India. The world famous Film industry Bollywood is in Maharatstra located in the economic capital of India Mumbai. The Marathi film industry was once placed in Kolhapur but now is spread out through Mumbai too. The pioneer of Indian movie industry, Dadasaheb Phalke, producer & director V. Shantaram, B.R.Chopra, Shakti Samanta, Raj Kapoor, form a few names of the Hindi Film fraternity, while writer, director, and actor P. L. Deshpande, actor Ashok Saraf, actor Laxmikant Berde, actor & producer, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Mahesh Kothare belong to the Marathi Film Industry.Maharashtra like other states of India has its own folk music. The folk music viz. Gondhal Lavani, Bharud, Powada, stand popular especially in rural areas, while the common form of music favored in urban areas is from the Hindi and Marathi Film Industry.

Like its rich folk culture Maharashtra has equally rich Literature. The earliest instances of Marathi literature is by Dnyaneshwar with his Bhawarthadeepika (popularly known as Dnyaneshwari). The compositions done during this period are spiritually inclined.The other compositions are by Sant Tukaram, Sant Namdev, Sant Gora Kumbhar. The compositions are mostly in poetic form, which are called as Bhajans. These bhajans by saints are popular and part of day to day life. The Modern Marathi literature has been enriched by famous poets and authors like P. L. Deshpande, Kusumagraj, Prahlad Keshav Atre, Vyankatesh Madgulkar. This literature has been passed on to the next generations through the medium of large number of books that are published every year in Marathi.

Chowpatty Beach Chowpatty Beach
The early period of Marathi theatre was dominated by playwrights like Kolhatkar, Khadilkar, Deval, Gadkari and Kirloskar who enriched the Marathi theatre for about half a century with excellent musical plays known as Sangeet Naatak. The genre of music used in such plays known as Natyasangeet. It is during this era of the Marathi theatre that great singer actors like Bal Gandharva, Keshavrao Bhosle, Bhaurao Kolhatkar, Deenanath Mangeshkar thrived.

Some of the popular Marathi television channels are DD Sahyadri, Zee Marathi and ETV Marathi, which host shows ranging from soap operas, cooking and travel to political satire and game shows. Recently (31 Sept 2007) Zee Telefilms launched a new channel Zee Talkies, which will be broadcasting total range of Marathi cinema.

The cuisine of Maharashtra varies according to the region of Maharashtra. The people of the Konkan region have a chiefly rice based diet with fish being a major component, due the close proximity to the sea. In eastern Maharashtra, the diet is based more on Wheat, Jowar and Bajra. Puran Poli, Bakarwadi, plain simple Varan Bhat(dish cooked with plain rice and curry), Modak are few dishes to name. Chicken and Mutton are also widely used for a variety of cuisines. Kolhapuri Mutton is famous dish for its peculiar spicy nature.

Ajanta Ellora Caves Ajanta Ellora Caves
Women traditionally wear a nine yard or five yard sari and men a dhoti or pajama with a shirt. This, however, is changing with women in urban Maharashtra wearing Punjabi dresses, consisting of a Salwar and a Kurta while men wear trousers and a shirt.

The Cricket craze can be seen through out Maharashtra, as it is the most widely followed and played sport. Kabaddi, Hockey are also played with fervor. Children’s games include Viti-Dandu (Gilli-danda in Hindi) and Pakada-pakadi (Tag).

Hindus in Maharashtra follow the Saka era calendar. Gudi Padwa, Diwali, Rangapanchami, Gokulashtami and Ganeshotsav are some of the festivals that are celebrated in Maharashtra. Ganeshotsav is the biggest festival of Maharashtra which is celebrated with much reverence and festivity throughout the state and has since some time become popular all over the country. The festival which continues over ten days is in honour of Ganesha the God of learning and knowledge. A large number of people walk hundreds of kilometers to Pandharpur for the annual pilgrimage in the month of Ashadh.