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The Marathi people (Marathi: मराठी लोक) are an ethnic group that speak Marathi, an Indo-Aryan language. They inhabit the state of Maharashtra as well as districts bordering the state, such as Belagava and Karwar of Karnataka and Madagava of Goa states in western India. Their language, Marathi, is part of the Southern branch of Indo-Aryan languages. The community came into political prominence in the 17th century when Maratha warriors, under Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, established the Maratha Empire, which is credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule.
Ancient to medieval period
During the ancient period, around 230 BC, Maharashtra came under the rule of the Satavahana dynasty which ruled the region for 400 years. The greatest ruler of the Satavahana Dynasty was Gautami putra Satakarni[relevant?– discuss]. The Vakataka dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 3rd century to the 5th century. The Chalukya dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 6th century to the 8th century. The two prominent rulers were Pulakeshin II, who defeated the north Indian Emperor Harsh, and Vikramaditya II, who defeated Arab invaders[who?] in the 8th century. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty ruled Maharashtra from the 8th to the 10th century. The Arab traveler Sulaiman[who?] called the ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Amoghavarsha) '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.
The Seuna dynasty, also known as the Yadava dynasty of Devagiri, ruled Maharashtra from the 13th century to the 14th century. The Yadavas were defeated by the Khaljis in 1321. After the Yadav defeat, the area was ruled for the next 300 years by a succession of Muslim rulers including (in chronological order): the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs, the Bahamani Sultanate and its successor states called the Deccan sultanates such as Adilshahi, Nizamshahi, and the Mughal Empire.
The early period of Islamic rule saw atrocities such as the imposition of a Jaziya tax on non-Muslims, temple destruction and forcible conversions. However, the mainly Hindu population and their Islamic rulers came to an accommodation over time. For most of this period Brahmins were in charge of accounts whereas revenue collection was in the hands of Marathas who had watans (Hereditary rights) of Patilki (revenue collection at village level), and Deshmukhi (revenue collection over a larger area). A number of families such as Bhosale, Shirke, Ghorpade, Jadhav, More, Mahadik, Ghatge, and Nimbalkar loyally served different sultans at different periods in time. All watandar considered their watan a source of economic power and pride and were reluctant to part with it. The watandars were the first to oppose Shivaji because it hurt their economic interests. Since most of the population was Hindu and spoke Marathi, even the sultans such as Ibrahim Adil Shah I adopted Marathi as the court language for administration and record keeping. Islamic rule also led to Persian vocabulary being used in the Marathi language. Per Kulkarni, for the elites of the era using Persian words was a status symbol. Surnames derived from service during that period such as Fadnis, Chitnis, Mirasdar etc. are still in use.
The decline of Islamic rule in Deccan started when Shivaji founded the Maratha Empire by annexing a portion of the Bijapur Sultanate in 1674. Shivaji later led rebellions against the Mughal rule, thus becoming a symbol of Hindu resistance and self-rule. Maratha Empire went on to end the Mughal rule and ruled over a vast empire stretching from Attock to Cuttack.
In the mid-17th century, Shivaji Maharaj (1630–1680) founded the Maratha Empire by conquering the Desh and the Konkan region from the Adilshahi, and established Hindavi Swaraj ('self-rule of Hindu people').) The Marathas are credited to a large extent with ending Mughal rule in India. After Shivaji's death, the Mughals, who had lost significant ground to the Marathas under him, invaded Maharashtra in 1681. Shivaji's son Sambhaji, and successor as Chhatrapati, led the Marathas valiantly against the much stronger Mughal opponent, but in 1689, after being betrayed, he was captured, tortured and killed by Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. The war against the Mughals was then led by the Sambhaji's younger brother and successor Rajaram Chhatrapati. Upon Rajaram's death in 1700, his widow Tarabai took command of Maratha forces and won many battles against the Mughals. In 1707, upon the death of Aurangzeb, the War of 27 years between the much weakened Mughals and Marathas came to an end.
Shahu, the grandson of Shivaji, with the help of capable Maratha administrators and generals such as the Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath and his descendants, saw the greatest expansion of Maratha power. After Shahu's death in 1749, the Peshwa Nanasaheb and his successors became the virtual rulers of the Empire. The Empire was expanded by many chieftains including Peshwa Bajirao Ballal I and his descendants, the Shindes, Gaekwad, Pawar, Bhonsale of Nagpur and the Holkars. The Empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in the north, and Bengal in the east.Pune, under the Peshwa, became the imperial seat with envoys, ambassadors, and royals coming in from far and near. However, after the Third battle of Panipat, in which the Marathas were defeated by Ahmed Shah Abdali, the Empire broke up into many independent kingdoms. Due to the efforts of Mahadji Shinde, it remained a confederacy until the British East India Company defeated Peshwa Bajirao II. Nevertheless, several Maratha states remained as vassals of the British until 1947 when they acceded to the Dominion of India.
The Marathas also developed a potent navy circa 1660s. At its peak under Kanhoji Angre, the naval force dominated the territorial waters of the western coast of India from Mumbai to Savantwadi. It would engage in attacking the British, Portuguese, Dutch, and Siddi Naval ships and kept a check on their naval ambitions. The Maratha Navy dominated until around the 1730s, and was in a state of decline by the 1770s, and ceased to exist by 1818.
Before British rule, the Maharashtra region was divided into many revenue divisions. The medieval equivalent of a county or district was the Pargana. The chief of the Pargana was called Deshmukh and record keepers were called Deshpande. Most Deshmukhs were from the elite Maratha families. The Deshpande belonged to Brahmin or CKP communities. The lowest administrative unit was the village. Village society in Marathi areas included the Patil or the head of the village, collector of revenue, and Kulkarni, the village record keeper. These were hereditary positions. The Patil usually came from the Maratha community. The Kulkarni was usually from Brahmin or CKP caste. The village also used to have twelve hereditary servants called the Balutedar. The Balutedar system was supportive of the agriculture sector. Servants under this system provided services to the farmers and the economic system of the village. The base of this system was caste. The servants were responsible for tasks specific to their castes. There were twelve kinds of servants under Bara Balutedar; these were Sonar (goldsmith), Gurav (temple priest), Nhawi (barber), Parit (washerman), Kumbhar (potter), Sutar (carpenter, Lohar (blacksmith), Chambhar (cobbler), Dhor, Koli (fisherman or water carrier), Chougula (assistant to Patil), Mang (rope maker), and Mahar (village watchman and other tasks). In this list of Balutedar: Dhor, Mang, Mahar, and Chambhar belonged to the untouchable group of castes. In exchange for their services, the balutedars were granted hereditary rights (watan) to a share in the village harvest.
British colonial rule
The British rule of more than a century in the present-day Maharashtra region saw huge changes for the Marathi people in every aspect of their lives. Areas that correspond to present day Maharashtra were under direct or indirect British rule, first under the East India Trading Company, and then under the British crown from 1858. During this era the Marathi resided in the Bombay presidency, Berar, Central provinces, Hyderabad state and in various princely states that are currently part of present-day Maharashtra. Significant Marathi populations also resided in Maratha princely states far from Maharashtra such as Baroda, Gwalior, Indore, and Tanjore.
The British colonial period saw standardisation of Marathi grammar through the efforts of the Christian missionary William Carey. Carey also published the first dictionary of Marathi in Devanagari script. The most comprehensive Marathi-English dictionary was compiled by Captain James Thomas Molesworth and Major Thomas Candy in 1831. The book is still in print nearly two centuries after its publication. Molesworth also worked on standardizing Marathi. He used Brahmins of Pune for this task and adopted the Sanskrit dominated dialect spoken by this caste in the city as the standard dialect for Marathi.
The Marathi community played an important part in the social and religious reform movements, as well as the nationalist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Notable civil society bodies founded by Marathi leaders during the 19th century include the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Prarthana Samaj, the Arya Mahila Samaj, and the Satya Shodhak Samaj. The Pune Sarvajanik Sabha took an active part in relief efforts during the famine of 1875-76. It is considered the forerunner of the Indian National Congress established in 1885. The most prominent personalities of Indian Nationalism in the late 19th and early 20th century, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, on opposite sides of the political spectrum, were both Marathi. Tilak was instrumental in using Shivaji and Ganesh worship in forging a collective Maharashtrian identity for the Marathi people. Marathi social reformers of the colonial era include Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, and his wife Savitribai Phule, Justice Ranade, feminist Tarabai Shinde, Dhondo Keshav Karve, Vitthal Ramji Shinde, and Pandita Ramabai. Jyotirao Phule was a pioneer in opening schools for girls and Marathi dalits castes.
The non-Brahmin Hindu castes started organizing at the beginning of the 20th century with the blessing of Chhatrapati Shahu of Kolhapur. The campaign took off in the early 1920s under the leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe and Baburao Javalkar. Both belonged to the Non-Brahmin party. Capturing the Ganpati and Shivaji festivals from Brahmin domination were their early goals. They combined nationalism with anti-casteism as the party's aims. Later on in the 1930s, Jedhe merged the non-Brahmin party with the Congress party and changed it from an upper-caste dominated body to a more broadly based but also Maratha-dominated party. The early 20th century also saw the rise of Dr. Ambedkar who led the campaign for the rights of the Dalits caste that included his own Mahar caste.
Although the British originally regarded India a place for the supply of raw materials for the factories of England, by the end of the 19th-century a modern manufacturing industry was developing in the city of Mumbai. The main product was cotton and the bulk of the workforce in these mills was of Marathi origin from Western Maharashtra, but more specifically from the coastal Konkan region. The census recorded for the city in the first half of the 20th century showed nearly half the city's population listed Marathi as their mother tongue,
During the period of 1835-1907, a large number of Indians, including Marathi people, were taken to the island of Mauritius as indentured labourers to work on sugarcane plantations. The Marathi people on the island form the oldest diaspora of Marathi people outside India.
Modern period since Indian independence in 1947
After India's independence in 1947, all princely states lying within the borders of the Bombay Presidency acceded to the Indian Union and were integrated into the newly created Bombay State in 1950.
The small community of Marathi Jews (Bene Israel - Sons of Insrael) started emigrating to the newly created country of Israel in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The number of Bene Israel remaining in India was estimated to be around 4,000-5,000 in 1988. the 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. The enlarged state also included Gujarati-speaking areas. The southernmost part of Bombay State was ceded to Mysore. From 1954 to 1955 the people of Maharashtra strongly protested against the bilingual Bombay state and the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti was formed. The Mahagujarat Movement was started, seeking a separate Gujarat state. A number of mainly Pune-based leaders such as Keshavrao Jedhe, S.M. Joshi, Shripad Amrit Dange, and Pralhad Keshav Atre formed the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, with Vidarbha-based leaders such as Gopalrao Khedkar, to fight for a separate state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its state capital. Mass protests, 105 deaths, and heavy losses in the Marathi speaking areas by the ruling Congress Party in the 1957 election, led the government under Prime Minister Nehru to change their policy and agree to the protesters' demands. On 1 May 1960, the separate Marathi-speaking state was formed by dividing earlier Bombay State into the new states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The city of Mumbai was declared the capital of the new state. The state continues to have a dispute with Karnataka regarding the districts of Belgaum and Karwar both with a large population of Marathi people.
For the first time, the creation of Maharashtra brought most Marathi people under one state with the mainly rural Kunbi-Maratha community as the largest social group. This group has dominated the rural economy and politics of the state since 1960. The community accounts for 31% of the population of Maharashtra. They dominate the cooperative institutions and with the resultant economic power, control politics from the village level up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha seats. Since the 1980s, this group has also been active in setting up private educational institutions. Major past political figures of Maharashtra have been from this group. The rise of the Hindu Nationalist Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party in recent years have not dented Maratha representation in the Maharashtra Legislative assembly.
After the Maratha-Kunbi cluster, the scheduled caste (SC) Mahars are numerically the second largest community among the Marathi people in Maharashtra. Most of them embraced Buddhism in 1956 with their leader, the late Dr. Ambedkar. Writers from this group in the 1950s and 60s were pioneers of Dalit Literature
The Portuguese-occupied enclave of Goa was liberated in 1962. The main political party formed immediately after liberation was the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party. It wanted Goa to merge with Maharashtra because of the affinity between Goan Hindus and the Marathi people. However, the referendum held on this issue rejected the merger. Later,Konkani was made the official language of Goa, but Marathi is also allowed in any government correspondence.
The 1960s also saw the establishment by Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena, a populist sectarian party advocating the rights of Marathi people in the heterogeneous city of Mumbai. Early campaigns by Shiv Sena advocated for more opportunities for Marathi people in government jobs. The party also led a campaign against the city's South Indian population. By the 1980s the party captured power in the Mumbai Corporation, and in the 1990s it led the government of Maharashtra's coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During this transition from founding to capturing power, the party toned down its rhetoric against non-Marathi people and adopted a more Hindu nationalist stance.
Castes and communities
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The Marathi people form an ethnolinguistic group that is distinct from others in terms of its language, history, cultural and religious practices, social structure, literature, and art.
- Artisan castes. There are several artisan castes such as Lohar (Iron-smith), Aare kshatriya known as Arya kshatriya (Aare, Aare Maratha) in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, Sutar (carpenters), Mali ( florists/vegetable farmers & gardener), Kumbhar (potters), Sonar (swarnakar / Goldsmiths), Daivadnya Sonar (goldsmiths of temple), Teli (oil pressers), and Nabhik (barbers). These communities fall under the Other Backward Class (OBC) classification. Other communities like the Bhavsars from the Nasik region along with Malis and Koshtis (weavers) from Maharashtra are economically more prosperous than their counterparts from other areas of India.
- Agri caste – Three major districts of Maharashtra namely Thane, Raigad and Mumbai are shelters of Agri Samaj. Salt making, fishery on the sea coast and rice farming were the major occupations of this community.
- Bhandari – Traditional occupation was toddy tapping, store keepers, and as soldiers.
- Brahmin – Four to five percent contributed in all sectors including education and social rReforms. Most fall in the middle class. The four major sub-groups are Deshastha, Karhade, Kokanastha and Saraswat. The most common last names for people in the Brahmin caste includes Joshi, Deshpande, and Kulkarni.
- Chambhar – Their traditional occupation was leather work. The community is designated as a Scheduled Caste
- Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) – Traditionally considered to be a well-educated Kshatriya-Brahmin community. They competed with Marathi Brahmins for military and administrative positions under Maratha and British rule. Socially and culturally, the community is close to the Marathi Brahmin community. They are also considered part of the broader Kayastha community. Today the CKPs are concentrated primarily in western Maharashtra, southern Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh (Indore region).
- Bhoi – The 22 sub-groups of the community found there to use the Ahirani language within their family and within kin groups but speak in Marathi while talking to the others.
- Lonari – The Lomesh Rusedithi belonged to this community.
- Dhangar – The Shepherd caste. The Holkar rulers of Indore belonged to this community. Today it is classified as a Nomadic Tribe by the Government of India
- Gurav – This community traditionally looked after Hindu temples and in some temples are the only temple priests.
- Mangela Koli – The etymology of the word Mangela comes from the words 'Mang', meaning fishing nets in the Marathi language and 'Ela' meaning people.
- Matang – This community associated with the work of making ropes in villages. People from this community serve as a village musicians. Some of the squires farm on their land.
- Maratha – The Marathas were traditionally considered to be Kshatriya in the Hindu ritual ranking system known as Varna.
- Kunbi – Kunbi people were the traditional peasant group in Maharashtra and are found all around Maharashtra and numerically form the largest group of Marathi people. For most of the 20th century, the upper caste Maratha and the Kunbis were lumped together as one community. Now the Kunbis have been recognized as a separate OBC caste[note 1]
- Mahar – This community accounts for 6% to 7% of the population of Maharashtra. Most of the Mahar community followed social reformer B. R. Ambedkar in converting to Buddhism in the mid 20th century and have been at the forefront of struggle for Dalit rights. The community is designated as a Scheduled Caste
- Pathare Prabhu – A caste associated with Mumbai for centuries. Very close to CKP community.
- Panchkalshi—Panckalshi also known as Somvanshi Kshatriya Pathare(SKP). They are one of the original tribes, who migrated to Mumbai in 13th century AD with Yaduvanshi King Raja Bhimdev.
This community settled in Mumbai and suburban, Vasai, Palghar, Alibag. They are very close to CKP and Pathare Prabhus.
- Vanjari- A caste of farmers that is believed to have migrated from Rajasthan centuries ago.
- Ramoshi – Mostly performed work related to Watchman, Chatrpati Shivaji's close aid- Bahirjee Naik was of this caste.
- Wani – Marathi Trader caste
- Kshatriya – A caste of soldiers, pattedars and agriculturists. This Marathi-speaking community is originally from Telugu regions and moved from Maharashtra to Telangana during the 17th century. They were settled as police patils and village rulers. Most of the people adopted agriculture as their profession. This community follows a vegetarian diet.
- Teli – Marathi Trader cast.
- Marathi Buddhist – Most Buddhist Marathi people belong to the former Mahar community which adopted Buddhism en masse with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in 1956.
- Marathi Christians – Portuguese missionaries brought Catholicism to this area during the 15th century, giving rise to the East Indian Marathi community, who are concentrated in and around Mumbai, and to Konkani Christians in the Konkan region. Protestantism was brought to the region by American and Anglican missionaries during the 19th century, resulting in the community of Marathi Christians who are found in many parts of Maharashtra, but concentrated mainly in the districts of Ahmednagar and Solapur.
- Konkani Muslims are Marathi Muslims from the Konkan region who speak the Marathi language. Other Muslims in Maharashtra tend to identify with the Islamic culture of North India and mostly speak an Urdu dialect called Dakhni.
- Sikhs – There is a small Sikh community called Dakhani or Maharashtrian Sikhs who migrated from Punjab and settled in Maharashtra around 300 years ago. They came to the south with their tenth Guru, Govind Singh, who visited Nanded of Maharashtra in 1708. They are mostly concentrated in Nanded, Aurangabad, Nagpur, and Mumbai. They are fluent in the Marathi language and only a few know Punjabi.
- Jains – In present-day Maharashtra, there is an indigenous community that follows the jain religion.The late educationalist Bhaurao Patil belonged to the Marathi Jain community. The noted film personality of early Indian cinema, V. Shantaram's father was also a Marathi Jain. Maharashtra had many Jain rulers such as the Rashtrakuta dynasty and the Shilaharas. Many of forts were built by kings from these dynasties and thus Jain temples or their remains are found in them. Texts such as the Shankardigvijaya and Shivlilamruta suggest that a large number of Maharashtrians were Jains in the ancient period. The first Marathi inscription known is at Shravanabelagola, Karnataka near the left foot of the statue of Bahubali, dated 981 CE. The oldest inscription in Maharashtra is a 2nd-century BC Jain inscription in a cave near Pale village in the Pune District. It was written in the Jain Prakrit and includes the Navkar Mantra.
- Jews – There is a community of Marathi Jews, popularly known as Bene Israel. It is estimated that there were 6,000 Bene Israel in the 1830s; 10,000 at the turn of the 20th century; and in 1948—their peak in India—they numbered 20,000. At present, they number around 60,000 in Israel. The number of Bene Israel remaining in India was estimated to be around 5,000 in 1988
See also: Maharashtra Mandal
In other Indian states
As the Maratha Empire expanded across India, the Marathi population started migrating out of Maharashtra alongside their rulers. Peshwa, Holkars, Scindia and Gaekwad dynastic leaders took with them a considerable population of priests, clerks, clergymen, army men, businessmen, and workers when they established new seats of power. These people have settled in various parts of India, along with their rulers, since the 1700s. Many families belonging to these groups still follow typical Marathi traditions even though they have lived more than 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Maharashtra for more than 200 years.
Other people have migrated in modern times in search of jobs outside Maharashtra. These people have also settled in almost all parts of the country. They have set up community organizations called Maharashtra Mandals in many cities across the country. A national level central organization, the Brihan Maharashtra Mandal was formed in 1958 to promote Marathi culture outside Maharashtra. Several sister organizations of the Brihan Maharashtra Mandal have also been formed outside India.
In the 1800s, a large number of Indian people were taken to Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica, and other places in the Caribbean as indentured laborers to work on sugarcane plantations. The majority of these migrants were from the Hindustani speaking areas or from Southern India, however, the migrants to Mauritius included a significant number of Marathis.
Since the state of Israel was established in 1948, around 25,000-30,000 Jews have emigrated there, of which around 20,000 were from the Marathi speaking Bene Israel community of Konkan.
Indians, including Marathi People, have migrated to Europe and particularly Great Britain for more than a century. The Maharashtra Mandal of London was founded in 1932. A small number of Marathi people also settled in British East Africa during the colonial era. After the African Great Lakes countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika gained independence from Britain, most of the South Asian population residing there, including Marathi people, migrated to the United Kingdom, or India.
Large-scale immigration of Indians into the United States started when the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 came into effect. Most of the Marathi immigrants who came after 1965 were professionals such as doctors, engineers or scientists. The second wave of immigration took place during the I.T. boom of the 1990s and later.
Since the 1990s due to the I.T. boom and because of the general ease of travel, Marathi people are now found in greater numbers in all corners of the world including the United States, Australia, Canada, the Gulf countries, European countries, Japan, and China.
Main article: Religion in Maharashtra
The majority of Marathi people are Hindus. Minorities by religion include Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Jews. It has been noted by scholars that a number of Dravidian-like cultural patterns appear among Marathi people.
Marathi Hindu Customs
The main life ceremonies in Hindu culture include those related to birth, weddings, initiation ceremonies, as well as death rituals. Other ceremonies for different occasions in Hindu life include Vastushanti which is performed before a family formally establishes residence in a new house. Satyanarayana Puja is a ceremony performed before commencing any new endeavour or for no particular reason. Invoking the name of the family's gotra and the kula daivat are important aspects of these ceremonies for many communities.
Like most other Hindu communities, the Marathi people have a household shrine called a devaghar with idols, symbols, and pictures of various deities for daily worship. Ritual reading of religious texts known as pothi is also popular in some communities.
In some traditional families, food is first offered to the preferred deity in the household shrine, as naivedya, before being consumed by family members and guests. Meals or snacks are not taken before this religious offering. In present times, the naivedya is offered by families only on days of special religious significance.
Many Marathi people trace their paternal ancestors to one of the seven or eight sages, the saptarshi. They classify themselves as gotras, named after the ancestor rishi. Intra-marriage within gotras (Sagotra Vivaha) was uncommon until recently, being discouraged as it was likened to incest.
Most Marathi families have their own family patron or protective deity or the Kuladaivat. This deity is common to a lineage or a clan of several families who are connected to each other through a common ancestor. The Khandoba of Jejuri is an example of a Kuladaivat of some families; he is a common Kuladaivat to several castes ranging from Brahmins to Dalits. The practice of worshiping local or territorial deities as Kuladaivats began in the period of the Yadava dynasty. Other family deities of the people of Maharashtra are Bhavani of Tuljapur, Mahalaxmi of Kolhapur, Mahalaxmi of Amravati, Renuka of Mahur, Parashuram in Konkan, Saptashringi on Saptashringa hill at Vani in Nasik district, and Balaji . Despite being the most popular deity amongst Marathi people, very few families regard Vitthal or other popular Avatars of Vishnu such as Rama or Krishna as their Kuldaivat.
Ceremonies and rituals
At birth, a child is initiated into the family ritually. The child's naming ceremony may happen many weeks or even months later, and it is called the barsa. In many Indian Hindu communities, the naming is most often done by consulting the child's horoscope, which suggests various names depending on the child's Lunar sign (called Rashi). However, in Marathi Hindu families, the name that the child inevitably uses in secular functions is the one decided by their parents. If a name is chosen on the basis of the horoscope, then that is kept a secret to ward off the casting of a spell on the child during their life. During the naming ceremony, the child's paternal aunt has the honor of naming the infant. When the child is 11 months old, they get their first hair-cut. This is also an important ritual and is called Jawal.
In Brahmin, CKP, and Kshtriya Maratha communities when a male child reaches his eighth birthday, he undergoes the initiation thread ceremony variously known as Munja (in reference to the Munja grass that is of official ritual specification), Vratabandha, or Upanayanam.
Marathi Hindu people are historically endogamous within their caste but exogamous with their clan.Hindu marriages take place by negotiation. The Mangalsutra is the symbol of marriage for the woman. Studies show that most Indians' traditional views on caste, religion, and family background have remained unchanged when it came to marriage, that is, people marry within their own castes, and matrimonial advertisements in newspapers are still classified by caste and sub-caste.
While arranging a marriage, gana, gotra, pravara, devak are all kept in mind. Horoscopes are matched. Ghosal describes the marriage ceremony as, 'The groom, along with the bride's party goes to the bride's house. A ritual named Akshat is performed in which people around the groom and bride throw haldi (turmeric) and sindur (vermilion) colored rice grains on the couple. After the Kanyadan ceremony, there is an exchange of garlands between the bride and the groom. Then, the groom ties the Mangalsutra around the neck of the bride. This is followed by granthibandhan in which the end of the bride's sari is tied to the end of the groom's dhoti, and a feast is arranged at the groom's place.'
Elements of a traditional Marathi Hindu wedding ceremony include seemant poojan on the wedding eve. The dharmic wedding includes the antarpat ceremony followed by the vedic ceremony which involves the bridegroom and the bride walking around the sacred fire seven times to complete the marriage. Modern urban wedding ceremonies conclude with an evening reception. A Marathi Hindu woman becomes part of her husband's family after marriage and adopts the gotra as well as the traditions of her husband's family.[note 2]
After weddings and after thread ceremonies, many Maratha and Deshastha Brahmin families arrange a traditional religious singing performance by a Gondali group
Decades ago, girls used to get married to the groom of their parents' choice by their early teens or before. Even today, girls are married off in their late teens by rural and less educated people. Urban women may choose to remain unmarried until the late 20s or even early 30s.
Marathi Hindu people dispose their dead by cremation. The deceased's son carries the corpse to the cremation ground atop a bier. The eldest son lights the fire for the corpse at the head for males and at the feet for females. The ashes are gathered in an earthen pitcher and immersed in a river on the third day after death. This is a 13-day ritual with the pinda being offered to the dead soul on the 11th and a Śrāddha ceremony followed by a funeral feast on the 13th. Cremation is performed according to vedic rites, usually within a day of the individual's death. Like all other Hindus, the preference is for the ashes to be immersed in the Ganges river or Godavari river. Śrāddha becomes an annual ritual in which all forefathers of the family who have passed on are remembered. These rituals are expected to be performed only by male descendants, preferably the eldest son of the deceased.
The first day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March - April)) is celebrated as Marathi New Year.
Marathi Hindus celebrate most of the Indian Hindu festivals such as Dasara, Diwali and Raksha Bandhan. These are, however, celebrated with certain Maharashtrian regional variations. Others festivals like Ganeshotsav have a more characteristic Marathi flavour. The Marathi, Kannada and Telugu people follow the Deccan ShalivahanaHindu calendar, which may have subtle differences with calendars followed by other communities in India. The festivals described below are in a chronological order as they occur during a Shaka year, starting with Shaka new year festival of Gudhi Padwa.
- Gudi Padwa: A victory pole or Gudi is erected outside homes on the day. This day is considered one of the three-and-a-half most auspicious days of the Hindu calendar and many new ventures and activities such as opening a new business etc. are started on this day. The leaves of Neem or and shrikhand are a part of the day's cuisine. The day is also known as Ugadi, the Kannada and Telugu New Year.
- Akshaya Tritiya: The third day of Vaishakh is celebrated as Akshaya Tritiya. This is one of the three-and-a-half most auspicious days in the Hindu Calendar and usually occurs in the month of April. In the Vidharbha region, this festival is celebrated in remembrance of the departed members of the family. The upper castes feed a Brahmin and married couple on this day. The Mahars community used to celebrate it by offering food to crows. This marks the end of the Haldi Kumkum festival which is a get-together organised by women for women. Married women invite lady friends, relatives, and new acquaintances to meet in an atmosphere of merriment and fun. On such occasions, the hostess distributes bangles, sweets, small novelties, flowers, betel leaves, and nuts as well as coconuts. The snacks include kairichi panhe (raw mango juice) and vatli dal, a dish prepared from crushed chickpeas.
- Vat Pournima: This festival is celebrated on JyeshthaPuounima (full moon day of the Jyeshtha month in the Hindu calendar), around June. On this day, women fast and worship the banyan tree to pray for the growth and strength of their families, like the sprawling tree which lives for centuries. Married women visit a nearby tree and worship it by tying red threads of love around it. They pray for well-being and a long life for their husband.
- Ashadhi Ekadashi: Ashadhi Ekadashi (11th day of the month of Ashadha, (falls in July–early August of Gregorian calendar) is closely associated with the Marathi sants Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram and others. Twenty days before this day, thousands of Varkaris start their pilgrimage to Pandharpur from the resting places of the saint. For example, in the case of Dynaneshwar, it starts from Alandi with Dynaneshwar's paduka (symbolic sandals made out of wood) in a Palakhi. Varkaris carry tals or small cymbals in their hand, wear Hindu prayer beads made from tulasi around their necks and sing and dance to the devotional hymns and prayers to Vitthala. People all over Maharashtra fast on this day and offer prayers in the temples. This day marks the start of Chaturmas (The four monsoon months, from Ashadh to Kartik) according to the Hindu calendar. This is one of the most important fasting days for Marathi Hindu people.
- Guru Purnima: The full moon day of the month of Ashadh is celebrated as Guru Purnima. For Hindus Guru-Shishya (teacher-student) tradition is very important, be it educational or spiritual. Gurus are often equated with God and always regarded as a link between the individual and the immortal. On this day spiritual aspirants and devotees worship Maharshi Vyasa, who is regarded as Guru of Gurus.
- Divyanchi Amavasya: The new moon day/last day of the month of Ashadh/आषाढ (falls between June and July of Gregorian Calendar) is celebrated as Divyanchi Amavasya. This new moon signifies the end of the month of Ashadh, and the arrival of the month of Shravan, which is considered the most pious month of the Hindu calendar. On this day, all the traditional lamps of the house are cleaned and fresh wicks are put in. The lamps are then lit and worshiped. People cook a specific item called diva (literally lamp), prepared by steaming sweet wheat dough batter and shaping it like little lamps. They are eaten warm with ghee.
- Nag Panchami: One of the many festivals in India during which Marathi people celebrate and worship nature. Nags (cobras) are worshiped on the fifth day of the month of Shravan (around August) in the Hindu calendar. On Nagpanchami Day, people draw a nag family depicting the male and female snake and their nine offspring or nagkul. The nag family is worshiped and a bowl of milk and wet chandan (sandalwood powder) offered. It is believed that the nag deity visits the household, enjoys languishing in the moist chandan, drinks the milk offering, and blesses the household with good luck. Women put temporary henna tattoos (mehndi) on their hand on the previous day, and buy new bangles on Nagpanchami Day. According to folklore, people refrain from digging the soil, cutting vegetables, frying and roasting on a hot plate on this day, while farmers do not harrow their farms to prevent any accidental injury to snakes. In a small village named Battis Shirala in Maharashtra a big snake festival is held which attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world. In other parts of Maharashtra, snake charmers are seen sitting by the roadsides or moving from one place to another with their baskets holding snakes. While playing the lingering melodious notes on their pungi, they beckon devotees with their calls—Nagoba-la dudh de Mayi ('Give milk to the cobra oh mother!'). Women offer sweetened milk, popcorn (lahya in Marathi) made out of jwari/dhan/corns to the snakes and pray. Cash and old clothes are also given to the snake-charmers. In Barshi Town in the Solapur district, a big jatra (carnival) is held at Nagoba Mandir in Tilak chowk.
- Narali Purnima or Narali Purnima: is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Shravan in the Shaka Hindu calendar (around August). This is the most important festival for the coastalKonkan region because the new season for fishing starts on this day. Fishermen and women offer coconuts to the sea and ask for a peaceful season while praying for the sea to remain calm. The same day is celebrated as Rakhi Pournima to commemorate the abiding ties between brother and sister in Maharashtra as well other parts of Northern India. Narali bhaat (sweet rice with coconut) is the main dish on this day. On this day, Brahmin men change their sacred thread (Janve; Marathi: जानवे) at a common gathering ceremony called Shraavani (Marathi:श्रावणी).
- Gokul Ashtami: The birthday of Krishna is celebrated with great fervour all over India on the eighth day of second fortnight of the month Shravan (usually in the month of August). In Maharashtra, Gokul Ashtami is synonymous with the ceremony of dahi handi. This is a reenactment of Krishna's efforts to steal butter from a matka
Signature Maratha helmet with curved back.
Maratha Armour from Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia.