Day 2 – Q 2. How did the Anglo-Maratha rivalry shape the contemporary politics of the Indian subcontinent? What were its long term implications? Discuss. 

  • IASbaba
  • June 11, 2020
  • 0
GS 1, Indian History & Post-Independence, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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2. How did the Anglo-Maratha rivalry shape the contemporary politics of the Indian subcontinent? What were its long term implications? Discuss. 

एंग्लोमराठा प्रतिद्वंद्विता ने भारतीय उपमहाद्वीप की समकालीन राजनीति को कैसे आकार दिया? इसके दीर्घकालिक प्रभाव क्या थे? चर्चा करें।

Demand of the question:

It expects students to write about the role played by Anglo-Maratha rivalry in shaping contemporary politics of Indian subcontinent along with its long term implication. 


There were three Anglo-Maratha wars fought between the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century between the British and the Marathas. In the end, the Maratha power was destroyed and British supremacy established. However Maratha war machine delayed British occupation of India by around 50 years. 


Rise of Maratha Empire: 

  • The Hindu Maratha Empire was founded by the warrior Shivaji Bhonsle in 1674 in what is today the state of Maharashtra. 
  • Its power grew as bands of Marathas fought the Mughals, whose empire has grown weak after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and the Persian invasion of Nader Shah in 1739. 
  • The Marathas, moreover, utilized guerrilla tactics that proved to their advantage against large and divided Mughal armies. 
  • By the middle of the 18th century, the Marathas had emerged as the most powerful entity in India. 

Rivalry of Anglo-Maratha shaped contemporary politics of India:

  • Even though the Maratha Empire lost the Third Battle of Panipat to the Afghans in 1761, it still remained the dominant power in India, and occupied Delhi from between 1770 to 1803, officially as the agents of the Mughal Empire, though in reality the converse was closer to the truth. In addition, the Marathas dominated much of the rest of India, including Odisha and the Rajput states.
  • Frequently allied with the British against South Indian states such as Hyderabad and Mysore, which were both closer to the French.
  • After 1761, Maratha state became more of a confederacy than an empire, as its successful generals carved out new territories for themselves, and established dynasties, such as the Holkars and Sindhias, in addition to the peshwas, the title of the hereditary prime ministers who had become the de facto rulers of the empire during the course of the 18th century.
  • As the Maratha Empire assumed the shape of a confederacy after the Panipat loss, with strong regional leaders asserting greater power and control, the Peshwas in Pune started to lose ‘visibility’ over the kingdom.
  • British foresight exemplified in keeping Awadh as buffer state to keep Marathas at bay even after defeat of later in 1764, battle of Buxar.  
  • The British took advantage of this situation and continued to intervene in local succession battles in Pune, Indore and Gwalior, trying to provide local support to make small incremental gains. 
  • The main cause of the first Maratha war was the increased interference of the British in the affairs, both internal and external, of the Marathas and also the struggle for power between Madhav Rao and Raghunath Rao.
  • It was these divisions between Maratha chiefs, as well as the competing ambitions of the Marathas and British, the region’s two greatest powers that made war hard to avoid. 
  • Even in 1800, the Maratha Empire controlled most of western, central, and north India, including territory it administered on the behalf of the Mughals, the greatest in the world after the Qing Empire of China; if it had acted in a strategic and united manner, it could have held its own in the subcontinent.
  • In terms of military technology, it was not as a particular disadvantage, and moreover the British were preoccupied with fighting Napoleon. Nonetheless, the British were in a stronger position because of their ability to better monetize revenue from their now-substantive Indian territories, their perfecting of military drilling, and their ability to use divisions among their enemies to their advantage.
  • Delhi and most of north India passed into British hands in 1803, as well as the protectorate of the Mughal family, still nominally the rulers of much of India, a legal fiction that both the Maratha and British maintained.
  • The Maratha polity ultimately had too many constituent components jostling for self-preservation for the state to hold together, especially when British protection seemed to provide more stability than the constant clashes of the main Maratha clans, however competent they were in commanding their own particular armies and fiefs.

Long term implications of Anglo-Maratha rivalry:

  • According to Percival Spear in The Oxford History of Modern India, 1740-1947, by the time of Maratha defeat, most other central and western Indian states previously tributary to the Marathas made subsidiary treaties with the British, including Bhopal, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jodhpur. However, the territories ruled by the peshwas in western Maharashtra were annexed and became part of the Bombay Presidency, directly ruled by the British. 
  • Moreover, many of the non-Maratha states under Maratha influence, such as the Rajput states, were happy in their relief from Marathas and Pathans. 
  • British rule in South Asia began in Bengal between 1757 and 1765 as the British East India Company won battles, and was eventually given the legal right to collect revenue from that region by the powerless Mughal government.
  • Marathas lacked vision to unite Indian powers against British, rather british succeeded to divide Indian powers and defeat one at a time. Marathas hegemony could not become popular outside Maharashtra.
  • British had no enemy in west and south after the defeat of Marathas, which areas remained quite inactive in 1857 revolt indicate fatigue to fight against British or hope of reforms in caste system and education.
  • Failure of native power to defeat British or replace Mughal with legitimate indigenous alternative power lowered the morale of Indians about political and military capacity.


The debacle of Marathas in 1818 led to the complete dominance of the British throughout India, except for the northwest where the Sikh Empire still thrived, leaving the principal surviving Indians state as islands in a sea of British territory, or fenced in.

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