If ever Indian history has seen phenomenal rise of Hindus as a united force then it must be in Maharashtra. The biggest movement of all, which has attracted the major share of historical attention, was that of the Marathas. This hardy, capable, and rough-hewn people stretched along the Western Ghats, spilling over into the narrow coastal plain of the Konkan and across the Deccan towards central India.
They consisted mainly of a minority of highly intelligent and exclusive Brahmins and a majority of the Shudra or cultivator class. They were short and stocky, unhandsome in appearance but wiry and enduring, tenacious, enterprising, and preserving. They lived in a poor country, had few monuments of the past and little taste for the graces of the life. Hitherto they had no history, but they had the sense of belonging which is one of the prerequisites of national feeling.
It is difficult to say why they burst forth with such brilliance in the seventeenth century unless one surrenders to the great man doctrine and attributes it all to Shivaji. Nor can one say that Muslim intolerance or invasion touched off a national Hindu movement. If this were so, why did they not rise against the Muslim Bahminis in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, who were much more active than Bijapur in the sixteenth and no more tolerant than the Mughals?
The rise of the Marathas can be attributed to all these facts. The Muslim intolerance towards Hindus coupled with the leadership of a great man Shivaji.
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