I spend lot of time figure out how the ruling-system of the Maratha Confederation works in the period 1750-1800 but it's difficult for me to figure out. I can't even find a list of the prime rulers of the confederation.

I read about the Queen Ahilyabai Holkar was the leader of Malwa. Was she just a leader of the Malwa region or did she also had power in the confederation? In the game Empire Total War she is the prime leader of Maratha Confederation but was she the prime leader in reality.

How did the confederation worked compared to other confederations? Did they had a prime ruler of the confederation and sub-rulers for the regions, like for example the Holy Roman Emperor was the prime ruler of Germany and each region in Germany had sub-rulers.


2 Answers 2


tl; dr The empire was a collection of semi-autonomous states that shared a long coastline protected by a Marathan Navy.

Most of the answers can be found in Wikipedia.

Chhattrapati Shahu, a grandson of Shivaji, was released by the Mughals after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb. Following a brief struggle with his aunt Tarabai, Shahu became ruler and appointed Balaji Vishwanath, and later, his descendants, as the peshwas or prime ministers of the empire.[6] Wikipedia


Maratha power was fragmented among several discreet fragments.


In a bid to effectively manage the large empire, he gave semi-autonomy to the strongest of the knights, which created a confederacy of Maratha states.


The empire had its head in the Chhatrapati as de jure but the de facto governance was in the hands of the Peshwas after death of Shahu and with the death of Madhavrao - I, various chiefs played the role of the de facto rulers in their own regions.

The article goes on to discuss each of Shahu's successors.

  • I like to know more about Ahilyabai - the ruler of Malwa. They way I understand this is, she was a Queen of Malwa but she was also subjected to the Confederation, right? Sep 15, 2016 at 7:08
  • That appears to be the case.
    – MCW
    Sep 15, 2016 at 16:23
  • 1
    I think it is important to mention Peshwas. They not only held the traditional heartland of Maratha Empire, but the prominent leaders in several campaigns (such as the Third Battle of Panipat) were also from Peshwa ruling family.
    – taninamdar
    Sep 18, 2016 at 21:51
  • 1
    Edit: I noticed that you have indeed mentioned Peshwas. But I think the answer is still misleading. There was indeed a rivalry between the Kolhapur family of Shahus which held the Chhatrapati title, and the Peshwas, the title whose meaning is Prime Minister. As I said earlier, I think it's fair to say that the real power was in the hands of Peshwas of Pune, and not in the Kolhapur state.
    – taninamdar
    Sep 18, 2016 at 21:57

Peshwa's were prime ruler of Maratha Confederation.

Although they were 'prime minister' to Chattrapati (or King) ruling from Satara. However they were de-facto rulers. Prominent peshwa's were Balaji Vishwanath & Baji Rao I. Chattrapati gave most of administrative powers to Peshwa who use it to conquer most of India and allocated the new won territories to various Generals including Shinde (gwalior), Holkars (central India), Bhosale (Central and East part of India including Orissa) and Gaikwads (Gujrat).

By the treaties most were suppose to pay 'Nazar' or tribute to Peshwa along with taxes collected.

It should be noted that Office of Peshwa was created on non-hereditary basis but Balaji Vishwanath took advantage of Shahu Maharaj who had least interest in administration (he spent most of his youth under Aurangjeb as his prisoner). Baji Rao I captured Malwa, his son spread empire to Gujrat and also collected 25% tax from Deccan (ruled by Nawab of Hyderabad). Until this point empire was centrally controlled barring some dispute over Gujarat where fights between Dhabade and Peshwa over territory. After battle of Panipat (3rd battle) Marath empire got weak and Madhavrao Peshwa decided to give autonomy to Shinde, Bhosale, Holkar and Gaikwar.

Edit : Source : History of Maratha I, II & III - James Grant Duff

All three books are in public domain, published 1826

  • Sources would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Sep 22, 2016 at 12:53

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