Mask of Vaikuntha Vishnu, late 5th century. Learn more about 5th century masks
An empire originating in present-day Maharashtra in western India, it exercised control over a large swathe of central India, and some parts of southern India, from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Founded by Shivaji Bhonsle in 1674 CE, it emerged at a time of transition in the the ruling Mughal empire. Through a series of military attacks, Shivaji successfully destabilised the Mughal influence in the region and established his kingdom’s capital at Raigad. During the reign of his grandson Shahu, the Maratha empire, commanded by the peshwa (prime minister) Baji Rao I, consolidated and expanded its territory and political influence across central, northern and eastern India, as well as parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the south. Following the death of Shahu in 1749, the empire was transformed into a confederacy of Maratha states, ruled by regional chiefs such as the Holkars, Scindias, Gaikwads and Bhonsles, and controlled by the Peshwas based in Pune. The end of the empire arrived in 1818, following Peshwa Bajirao II’s defeat at the hands of the East India Company.