Marathas or Mahrattas (both: mərăt´əz, mərä´təz), Marathi-speaking people of W central India, known for their ability as warriors and their devotion to Hinduism. From their homeland in Maharashtra their chieftains rose to power in the 17th cent. The Marathas helped bring about the fall of the Mughal empire and were the most determined rivals to British supremacy in India. Under the leadership of Śivaji, power was extended throughout the Deccan and much of S India. By the mid-18th cent. the Marathas, with their capital at Pune, were the leading power in India, but their domain soon split into several territories. In the early 18th cent. power passed to a succession of Brahmans who had been serving as peshwas (prime ministers) to the weaker descendants of Śivaji. Great Britain waged several wars with the Marathas, finally subduing them in 1818. The major states of the Maratha confederation included Baroda, Gwalior, and Indore. During the nationalist period, Marathas played a leading part.
See J. G. Duff, History of the Mahrattas (rev. ed. 1921, repr. 1971); Rao Bahadur G. S. Sardesai, New History of the Marathas (3 vol., 1957, repr. 1986); M. G. Ranade, Rise of the Maratha Power (1962); R. Kumar, Western India in the Nineteenth Century (1968).