Maharashtra is a state in the western region of India. It is the second most populous state after Uttar Pradesh and third largest state by area in India. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India, contributing 15% of the country’s industrial output and 13.3% of its GDP. Maharashtra is bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west, Gujarat and the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli to the northwest, Madhya Pradesh to the north and northeast, Chhattisgarh to the east, Karnataka to the south, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast and Goa to the southwest. The state covers an area of 307,731 km2 (118,816 sq mi) or 9.84% of the total geographical area of India. Mumbai, the capital city of the state, is India’s largest city and the financial capital of the nation. Maharashtra is the world’s second most populous first-level administrative country sub-division. Were it a nation in its own right, Maharashtra would be the world’s twelfth most populous country ahead of Philippines.
The modern Marathi language developed from the Maharashtri Prakrit, and the word Marhatta (later used for the Marathas) is found in the Jain Maharashtri literature. The terms Maharashtra, Maharashtri, Marathi and Maratha may have derived from the same root. However, their exact etymology is uncertain. The most widely accepted theory among the scholars is that the words Maratha and Maharashtra ultimately derive from a compound of Maha (Sanskrit for “great”) and rashtrika. The word rashtrika is a Sanskritised form of Ratta, the name of a tribe or a dynasty of petty chiefs ruling in the Deccan region. Another theory is that the term is derived from Maha (“great”) and rathi or ratha (great chariot driver), which refers to a skillful northern fighting force that migrated southward into the area.
The Nashik Gazetteer states that in 246 BC Maharashtra is mentioned as one of the places to which Mauryan emperor Asoka sent an embassy, and it is recorded in a Chalukyan inscription of 580 CE as including three provinces and 99,000 villages. The name Maharashtra also appeared in a 7th-century inscription and in the account of a Chinese traveller, Hiuen-Tsang. In 90 AD Vedishri, son of the Satavahana king Satakarni, the “Lord of Dakshinapatha, wielder of the unchecked wheel of Sovereignty”, made Junnar, thirty miles north of Pune, the capital of his kingdom. It was also ruled by Kharavela, Satavahana dynasty, Western Satraps, Gupta Empire, Gurjara-Pratihara, Vakataka, Kadambas, Chalukya Empire, Rashtrakuta Dynasty, and Western Chalukya before Yadava rule. Maharashtra was ruled by the Maurya Empire in the 4th and 3rd century BC. Around 230 BCE Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty which ruled the region for 400 years. The greatest ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty was Gautamiputra Satakarni.
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 II, who defeated the Arab invaders in the 8th century. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 8th to the 10th century. The Arab traveler Sulaiman called the ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Amoghavarsha) as “one of the 4 great kings of the world”. From the early 11th century to the 12th century the Deccan Plateau was dominated by the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola dynasty. Several battles were fought between the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola dynasty in the Deccan Plateau during the reigns of Raja Raja Chola I, Rajendra Chola I, Jayasimha II, Somesvara I and Vikramaditya VI. In the early 14th century the Yadava dynasty, which ruled most of present-day Maharashtra, was overthrown by the Delhi Sultanate ruler Ala-ud-din Khalji. Later, Muhammad bin Tughluq conquered parts of the Deccan, and temporarily shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad in Maharashtra.
After the collapse of the Tughlaqs in 1347, the local Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga took over, governing the region for the next 150 years. After the break-up of the Bahamani sultanate, in 1518, Maharashtra split into and was ruled by five Deccan Sultanates: namely Nizamshah ofAhmednagar, Adilshah of Bijapur, Qutubshah of Golkonda, Bidarshah of Bidar and Imadshah of Berar. These kingdoms often fought amongst each other. United, they decisively defeated theVijayanagara Empire of the south in 1565. Also present area of Mumbai was ruled by Sultanate of Gujarat before capturing by Portugal in 1535 and Faruqi dynasty ruled Khandesh region between 1382 and 1601 before Mughal annexation. Malik Ambar was the regent of the Nizamshahi dynasty of Ahmednagar from 1607 to 1626. During this period he increased the strength and power of Murtaza Nizam Shah and raised a large army. Malik Ambar is said to be the one of proponent of guerilla warfare in the Deccan region. Malik Ambar assisted Shah Jahan wrestle power in Delhi from his stepmother, Nur Jahan, who had ambitions of seating her son-in-law on the throne.
By the early 17th century, Shahaji Bhosale, an ambitious local general in the service of the Mughals and Adil Shah of Bijapur, attempted to establish his independent rule. His son Shivaji succeeded in establishing Maratha Empire which was further expanded by Bhonsle of Nagpur, Gaekwad of Baroda, Holkar of Indore, Scindia of Gwalior and Peshwas (prime ministers). The Marathas defeated the Mughals, and conquered large territories in Northern and Central parts of the Indian subcontinent. After the defeat at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha restored their supremacy and ruled central and north India including New Delhi till the end of the eighteenth century. The Third Anglo-Maratha war (1817–1818) led to the end of the Maratha Empire and East India Company ruled the country in 1819. After India’s independence, 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 reorganised 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 from the Central Provinces and Berar. Also, southernmost part of Bombay State was ceded to Mysore one. From 1954–1955 the people of Maharashtra strongly protested against bilingual Bombay state and Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti under the leadership of Dr. Gopalrao Khedkar was formed.
Mahagujarat Movement was also started for separate Gujarat state. Gopalrao Khedkar, S.M. Joshi, S.A. Dange, P.K. Atre and other leaders fought for a separate state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital. On 1 May 1960, following mass protests and sacrifice of 105 human lives the separate Marathi-speaking state was formed by dividing earlier Bombay state into new states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The demand of the local people of merging some of the Marathi speaking areas of Karnataka namely Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani is still pending.
Maharashtra encompasses an area of 308,000 km² (119,000 mi²), and is the third largest state in India. It is bordered by the states of Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast, Karnataka to the south, and Goa to the southwest. The state of Gujarat lies to the northwest, with the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Havelisandwiched in between.
The Arabian Sea makes up Maharashtra’s west coast.
Pune is located at the confluence of theMula and Mutha rivers. The Western Ghats better known as Sahyadri, are a hilly range running parallel to the coast, at an average elevation of 1,200 metres (4,000 ft). Kalsubai, a peak in the Sahyadris, near Nashik City is the highest elevated point in Maharashtra. To the west of these hills lie theKonkan coastal plains, 50–80 kilometres in width. To the east of the Ghats lies the flat Deccan Plateau. The Western Ghats form one of the three watersheds of India, from which many South Indian rivers originate, notable among them beingGodavari River, and Krishna River, which flow eastward into the Bay of Bengal, forming one of the greatest river basins in India.
Several wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and Project Tiger reserves have been created in Maharashtra, with the aim of conserving the rich bio-diversity of the region. As of May 2004, India has 92 national parks, of which six are located in Maharashtra.There are 4 project tiger areas in Maharashtra. viz Tadoba-Andhari, Melghat, Sahyadri and Pench. A large percentage of Maharashtra’s forests and wildlife lie along the western Ghats or western Maharashtra and eastern Vidarbha. Navegaon National Park Nagzira wildlife sanctuary Tadoba Andhari Tiger Projec Sanjay Gandhi National Park, also known as Borivali National Park is located in Mumbai and is the world’s largest national park within city limits. Apart from these, Maharashtra has 35 wildlife sanctuaries spread all over the state.
Aashadi Ekadashi is one of most important festivals celebrated across Maharashtra. It is also referred to as ‘Wari’ and pilgrimage from all over Maharashtra, Karnataka and other parts of India walk to Pandharpur from their respective villages. Devotion to the god Ganesh is celebrated in the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in August–September of every year. Town of Pen in Raigad district is famous for Ganesh Idols made of special Shadu Clay. Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati,Lalbaugcha Raja, Shri Siddhivinayak Temple, Shri Ashtavinayaka’s are the major holy places for Maharashtrians.