Marathas failed to fill the vacuum created by the disintegration of Mughal Empire in the eighteenth century. Explain
The Mughal Empire, in the beginning of 18th century, started declining as the central authority become weak after Aurangzeb’s death (1707). As Marathas were the most powerful regional kingdom, they tried to gain control over the erstwhile Mughal territories.
Through their repeated attacks on the declining Mughal Empire they further weakened it but failed to build an all India Empire:
Weaknesses of strong leaders
- The Marathas had many leaders of immense abilities but none of them could create a unified empire. For example, Baji Rao contained Nizam’s power in Deccan. He transformed the kingdom of Maharashtra into an empire expanding to north. But, failed to lay firm foundations of an empire.
- Maratha sardars lacked unity and outlook for founding an all-India empire. Maratha confederacies joined opposing factions at Poona and intrigued with the enemies of the Maratha Empire. Nobles were even less disciplined than Mughal nobles.
- When the central authority tried to control the sardars, they joined hands with enemies.
- British divided mutually warring Maratha sardars through clever diplomacy and then overpowered them in separate battles during the second Maratha War (1803-05) and the Third Maratha War (1816-19).
- Socio- economic policy
- System of assignment of chauth and sardeshmukhi enabled the Peshwas to increase their personal power through patronage. This was a major weakness of the Maratha Empire as it made Maratha sardars strong, autonomous, and jealous of the central power.
- New territories were conquered and occupied but little attention was paid to their administration. Rulers were mainly interested in raising revenue from peasantry.
- Unlike Mughals, they failed to give sound administration to people outside Maharashtra.
- Maratha sardars did not try to develop a new economy. They failed to encourage science and technology or to develop trade and industry.
- Third Battle of Panipat
Their earlier behaviour and political ambitions had antagonized all northern powers so they did not get any support and got defeated in Panipat from Abdali and allies. This was a disaster for them as they lost the cream of their army and their political prestige suffered a big blow.
They could not inspire the Indian people with any higher degree of loyalty than the Mughals had succeeded in doing. Their dominion, too, depended on force and force alone. Most of all, their defeat gave an opportunity to the English East India Company to consolidate its power in Bengal and south India and paved the way for rise of the British power in India.