The Maratha Empire,sometimes spelled Mahratta, was a kingdom in southern India. It was founded in 1674 and existed until 1818.
The Marathi had lived in the area around Pune for many years and had fought the Mughal rulers of northern India. Under Shivaji the Marathi became much more aggressive and began to frequently raid Mughal territory. Eventually Aurangzeb, leader of the Mughal's launched an attack on the south. While the Marathi army was quickly defeated they turned to guerilla warfare and succeeded in holding off the Moghals. The long running war in the south began to severely drain Mughal finances. The battle with the Hindu Marathi and also began to fray the religious co-operation that had marked the Mughal period. This conflict lead to the collapse of Mughal power in India.
Shivaji, then leader of the Marathi, felt secure enough to proclaim himself emperor in 1674. With the collapse of Mughal power the Marathi spread and conquered much of central India by 1680. The Marathi empire quickly split, however, and by the end of the 18th century were only a loosely knit confederacy under a leader entitled the Peshwa. The Marathi put up some of the stiffest resistance to the British conquest of India, but by 1818 they had been forced into submission.
The name of the empire is today preserved in the India province of Maharashtra
See also: History of India