The “Maratha Kshatriya” community known as Arya, Arya Marathas, Maratha Kshatriyas and Kshatriyas have been residing in Kasargod district of Kerala and Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka since over the past 200 years (Mangalore, Karkala, Udupi, Kalianpur, Mulki-Kasargod were part of Dakshina Kannada district under the erstwhile Madras Presidency prior to the language-wise reorganization of states). This minority community, the population of which is less than 10,000, has 24 clans of the Saptarishi gotra. Every clan has separate places of worship. Apart from worshipping different Goddesses, the community even worships Naga, Bhairava, Veerabhadra, Bhadre, Kudrekali, Zinkini, Lakshmi, Ganapathi, Eshwara, Raulnatha, Mahakali, Mahasathi (Masthi) and Bhoomi Daivas like Bhuvaneshwari, Vishnumurthi, Rakteshwari, Guliga, Brahmarakshassu, Chamundi and Mantramurthi Guliga. The Maratha Kshatriyas have now accepted Kannada as their mother tongue, though their original mother tongue is Marathi and their place of origin Maharashtra. If this is so, how did these Marathas migrate to Dakshina Kannada, from where, how, when and why? What reasons prompted them to settle in this region? There seems to be a need to undertake a detailed study and research regarding these aspects.

Devagiri was the capital of Rashtrakutas when the state of Ahmednagar was being ruled by the Nizamshahis after the arrival of the Moghuls into this Hindu nation. Lakmojiraya Jadhav who belonged to the Chandravamsha was attached to the Jadhava clan of Devagiri. He was the Deshmukh for Simhakheda region and history refers to him as a Dalapathi. He had a strong army, comprising of over 10,000 horses.

During the regime of the Moghul emperors, Hindus were subject to torture and then converted. Hindus were not only exploited but also the Jezia tax was imposed on them. During this time when exploitation by Moghul emperors was at its peak, Maloji Bhonsle and Veeroji Bhonsle brothers born in the Bhonsle family belonging to the Rajput Royal family of Shishodhia in Mevada of Udaypur of Rajasthan region, migrated to Daulatabad in Ahmednagar unable to bear the atrocities of the Moghuls. From there they arrived at Merula village and sought shelter under Lakmoji Raya Jadhava of Jadhava clan of Devagiri. Jadhava in turn, with the help of the Nizam saw to it that the brothers received royal asylum through Shilledari work. Maloji Bhonsle worked in the Barnir army under the Nizam. Deshmukh Jagapal Nimbalkar, who was the army leader of Phalatna village, was impressed by the courage, confidence and the good physique of Maloji and gave his daughter Deepabai in marriage to him. The couple was issueless for some time and later after serving a Fakir named Shahasherief, with his blessings begot two sons. The elder son was named Shahaji Bhonsle and the younger one as Shaha Sherief.

The Nizam too was impressed with Bhonsle’s courage, spirit of adventure, sincerity, devotion and discipline and appointed him as the Jahagirdar of Pune and Soopa villages. He was even accorded the title of king after appointing him as Dalapathi of a five thousand strong army and was made Adhipathi of Shivaneru and Chakana forts.

Lakmoji Jadhav too admired the handsome personality and the valour of Shahaji and gave his daughter Jeejabai in marriage to him. In due course of time the couple was blessed with a son named Shambhuji. The political ups and downs in Ahmednagar resulted in a rift between Lakmoji Raya Jadhav and his son-in-law Shahaji and eventually Shahaji left Ahmednagar towards the North along with his pregnant wife and son Shambhuji. Lakmoji Raya Jadhav who came to know of this obstructed Shahaji near Pune. But when Shahaji refused to return to Ahmednagar, he forcibly took his pregnant daughter Jeejabai along with him. An infuriated Shahaji deserted his wife and settled in Bijapur with his son Shambhuji and even attained a high post with due help of Muraripanth, the minister of the Bijapur Sultan.

Meanwhile, Lakmoji Raya Jadhav made his daughter stay in Shivaneru fort and saw to it that she did not suffer in any way. Jeejabai who was sorrowful following separation from her husband, spent her time in Shivaneru fort by worshipping Shivai Devi, the presiding deity. Jeejabai gave birth to a baby boy on a Thursday falling on Shuklapaksha Bidige on 24th day of Uttarayana Vasantha Ruthu in Vaishakha Maasa of 1548 Prabhava Nama Samvatsara (06-05-1627). The baby was named Shivaji as Jeejabai was a devotee of Shivai Goddess (Shirkai). Though her father had opposed intimating Shahaji of the birth of the son, she sent the news to her husband secretly through a messenger. But Shahaji who was displeased with his father-in-law and also owing to the fear of a possible clash with him in case he arrived there to see his son, refrained from visiting his wife and son. Shahaji had a second marriage with Tukabai belonging to the Mohithe clan after he settled in Bijapur from Ahmednagar. He had a son named Venkoji or Ekoji Raje from her.

In 1637, Ahmednagar was captured by the Bijapur Sultan in a battle. Following this Jeejabai along with her ten year old son Shivaji joined her husband Shahaji at Bijapur. Shahaji openheartedly accepted his first wife and son who sought his shelter and even constructed a house for Jeejabai at Pune and provided her a Jahagir. In 1638, Ranadulla Khan defeated Kempegowda, the ruler of Yalahanka in Bangalore and included it in Bijapur. Shahaji Bhonsle as the army commander of the Bijapur Sultan captured Kolar, Hosapete, Bangalore, Doddaballapur and other regions and extended the strength of Bijapur Sultanate. The Bijapur Sultan who was immensely pleased with Shahaji Bhonsle’s achievement, returned to him the areas won by him in the battle as a reward. He conferred him the title of king and also gave him the supreme authority over all the lands which he had captured. Shahaji Bhonsle who had Bangalore as his administrative headquarters later came to be known as the king of Karnataka. Later he surrounded the nearby Tanjavore and eventually captured it and handed over its responsibility to his son Venkoji.

Shahaji appointed a Brahmin scholar named Dadajikondadevaru as teacher for his son Shivaji Bhonsle in order to help him learn politics, Dharmasthastra and also the skills of battle. The teacher Dadaji enlightened young Shivaji that it was the utmost duty of a king to protect the cattle, Brahmins and women in his kingdom. Shivaji was a devotee of Amba Bhavani and used to worship the Goddess with immense devotion. That was the time when Saint Sri Samartha Ramadas from Maharashtra had travelled the length and breadth of the country for twelve long years and had undertook a thorough study of the Veda Shastras. As an ascetic he used to preach religious ideals to the masses. Shivaji too accepted him as his Guru to attain Dharmopadesha from him. Meanwhile, Shahaji Bhonsle got young Shivaji married to a Kshatriya lady named Putalibai. However when the couple remained issueless for a long time, he saw to it that Shivaji was remarried to another eligible Kshatriya lady named Sayibai. Shivaji continued to reside in Pune along with his wife and mother and had two sons named Shambhaji and Rajaram from Sayibai.

On 23-01-1664, the Karnataka ruler Maharaja Shahaji lost his life after he fell from his horse while hunting at Hodigere (on the banks of Tungabhadra in Chennagiri Taluk of Keladi) of Shimoga district which too was under his rule. Venkoji who was in Tanjavore performed the last rites of his father. Shivaji who was in Pune could not participate in the funeral as the news did not reach him in time. Still, he along with his brothers saw to it that the Uttarakriya and Vaikunta Samaradhane of his father were done in a grand manner. He also constructed a tomb for his father at the place where he fell from the horse. Shivaji was well aware of the atrocities of the Moghuls, which he had learnt from his mother. He was also worried over the increasing exploitation by the Moghuls. As his worries increased, he had an immense desire to fight back, but could not do much as he had none to assist him.

Sri Samartha Ramadasa who realized the intentions of Shivaji who had all the makings of a King encouraged Shivaji to set up a Maratha Kingdom and also to help realize his dreams of setting a Hindu Kingdom. Later on Shivaji decided to strive relentlessly to drive the aliens out of the Hindu nation. After the death of Shahaji all the Maratha soldiers under him joined the army of the Keladi kings. Some even joined the army of Mysore and Tanjavore kings.

Shivaji inducted the Marathas in Pune as well as the Mavaliga tribal community men known for their valour and sincerity, into his army. Shivaji had no faith in Marathas as well as others.  He even saw to it that all those who were inducted into his army accepted an oath of striving towards founding an independent Maratha kingdom and protection of Hindu Dharma. He handed over the leadership of some battalions of his army to some eligible men. (These are the Naika community people who have been along with Maratha Kshatriyas and settled in places where they  resided  and had remained their faithful servants. They are the Marathi Naikas of Kasargod who have their mother tongue as Marathi and belong to the SC category)

As founding the Maratha kingdom was the main objective of Shivaji, he selected the saffron coloured flag which signified something auspicious, as the flag of the Maratha kingdom. He extended the Maratha Kingdom by adopting guerilla warfare against the atrocities of Aurangzeb the Moghul emperor, as well as the Muslim Sultans of Bijapur. Over 209 forts in several districts including Malava, Ethara, Kolhapur, Ratnagiri, Nasik, Dharwad, Mysore, Andhra, Arcot and Tanjavore came under Shivaji’s control. The attempt made by Aurangzeb to capture Shivaji through his soldiers also went in vain.

Shivaji Maharaj ascended the throne in the traditional manner on June 6, 1674 when he was 47 years old. The pattabhisheka ceremony was held at Raigarh in the presence of one thousand Brahmin scholars and priests, under the leadership of the renowned scholar Gaga Bhatta of Kashi, as per the directions of Guru Sri Samartha Ramdas, and was accorded the title of Chatrapathi. Since then Shivaji was known as Sri Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj. Rajmatha Jeejabai breathed her last on 17-06-1674. On September 24, 1674, Chalapuri, a Mantravadi, performed Shivaji’s Pattabhisheka as per Shakta tradition.

The rulers of Keladi who belonged to the Ikkeri clan were in good terms with Shivaji Maharaj after offering him what was known as Kappa (gift). After his ascending the throne, Sri Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj ruled for a few years and left for heavenly abode at Raigarh on Hanumajjayanthi on 03-04-1680. Shivaji’s better half Putalabai, committed Sahagamana along with her husband’s Padukas on 27-06-1680, 85 days after the death of her husband. After the death of Sri Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj, the Maratha Kingdom became weak during the tenure of his sons Shambhaji and Rajaram. The Maratha Peshwas, who were the ministers as well as scholars, tried their level best to save the Maratha Kingdom.

Aurangzeb had in fact failed in all his efforts to trounce Shivaji Maharaj. Still he had vowed to finish off the Maratha Kingdom which was a hindrance in the expansion of his empire. For this he attempted to trap the weak Rajaram. Rajaram fearing Aurangzeb sought shelter under Rani Chennamma of Keladi. (This has been mentioned in the inscription on the Garudapillar in Keladi Veerabhadra Temple) Chennammaji provided shelter to Rajaram for quite some time and then secretly sent him along with some Maratha soldiers to his uncle Venkoji who was ruling Tanjavore. Even Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan and British tried to bring down the Maratha Kingdom. The Battle of Maratha fought in 1764-66 and 1772 are ample proof to this.

But, as the Maratha Kingdom had no able successors after the demise of Venkoji, Shambhuji, Shambhaji and Rajaram Shahuraj, the Peshwas themselves ruled the kingdom. The Marathas had cordial relationship with the Keladi kingdom of Chennammaji during the times of Chennammaji and even later on. In 1680 after the death of Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj, Maratha soldiers joined the army of the Keladi king. Later on, when the Kings of Keladi of Ikkeri began to invade the Western Karavali region, even the Maratha families too seemed to have migrated along with them. Probably the Marathas were appointed to take care of the forts in the coastal region that were captured. It is owing to this reason that senior members of the Maratha community say that the history of Maratha Kshatriyas is available for the past 300 years.

According to a few others the Maratha Kshatriyas have a history of 200 years. Even this can be justified in this manner. During the rule of the Peshwas, there was a fierce battle between Marathas and Ahmed Shah Abdali in Panipat. In this III Battle of Panipat fought in 1761, the Marathas were completely trounced and the Maratha Kingdom suffered a major split. The Mavali soldiers and the Maratha soldiers were left scattered and they in order to eke out a living joined the Keladi army, Mysore army and the Tanjavore army. In the later 150 years, the remaining parts of the kingdom were ruled by the Maratha Peshwas.

In the later years, Shivappa Naika who was ruling the Ikkeri Keladi Samsthan had emerged as a strong power. Shivappa Naika defeated the kings ruling the Western Malabar region and captured the forts there and appointed the brave Marathas to look after the forts. He even handed over to the head of each family of Marathas which was along with him, the charge of the forts he won at Chervattur, Neeleshwar, Hosadurga, Dekal, Chandragiri, Kasargod, Kumble, Ullal and Malpe. Apart from the authority to manage the forts, they were also given enough land to make  a living. Thus the Hosadurga fort went to Jagatapa clan, Dekala (now Bekal) fort to Pawar clan, Chandragiri fort to Jadhav clan, Kasargod fort to Kaumar clan and Kumble fort to Sindhya clan. During this time, Maratha Kshatriyas even settled in Kalianpur, Mulki, Karkala, Bhadravathi, Koppa and Shimoga. Kedajiraya was the chief of the Bahaddurgada fort located about three miles away from the sea shore in Badanidiyoor village of Malpe.

Thus, these Maratha Kshatriyas who were made in-charge of the forts, appointed the local youth as their soldiers. These were known as Koteyavaru (Ramaraja Kshatriyas). There is also a community named Mallava (Kumara) Kshatriyas. (In Maharashtra there is a community of Mavaligas known as Bhavasara Kshatriyas). In 1766 Hyder captured the then Dakshina Kannada district (From Trikkalpura to Hosadurga, Kasargod, Mangalore Udupi upto Kundapur) and Malabar. From 1767 to 1784, during the rule of Tipu Sultan, several temples in Dakshina Kannada district were converted into masjids. Hindus were converted. It was during this time itself that the ceiling of the Chandrashale of Madhur Sri Madanantheshwara Siddi Vinayaka Temple was damaged with sword. The British and Tipu were involved in frequent battles with a view to expand their empire. In the second war of Mysore held between British and Tipu from 1780 to 1784, British took complete hold over Dakshina Kannada district. The Mangalore Agreement of 11-03-1784 stands as a proof to all this. During this time, the Marathas who were in-charge of the forts in the western coast, lost power and were jobless. Gradually as the population of Maratha Kshatriyas increased, they remained uneducated owing to non-availability of good jobs as well as education. They then began to engage in farming in the land provided to them, along with the Mavalis. The forts were captured by the British. Gradually, the rulers lost hold of their land due to the British administration. The Maratha Kshatriyas who suffered for want of any royal patronage, along with the Mavalis who had come along with them from Maharashtra, Ikkeri, Mysore and Tanjavore, settled in inland areas like Galimukha, Adoor, Kuntaru, Aadoor, Karle, Muliyar, Majakkaru, Malla, Mundodu, Adruguli, Kundangoli, Sullia Suntikoppa, Madikeri, Dasanakere and other areas. Some began to work as agricultural labourers for Brahmin families. While migrating from Ikkeri some had even brought along with them idols of the main deities worshipped by them. Some after resettling themselves had their own main deities. Gradually they began to cultivate their own lands. This in a way helped in the rise of the Maratha Kshatriya community in the then Dakshina Kannada (including Kasargod)district. They then constructed “Devaramanes” in their own lands and began to worship the almighty.

There is no information now of the Maratha Kshatriyas who were in-charge of Chervattur fort and none of them are also residing in the region.

The Pawar clan which was in-charge of the Dekal (Bekal) Fort, after losing power is still residing in the land leased out to them in the eastern part of the fort at Agasara Hole. There is also the Devaramane of their presiding deity Mahishamardini. Some are undertaking cultivation in the properties of their ancestors, while others are working in some other place. Some festivals including Navaratri and Guligana Kola are being held in a grand manner here even today. The festivals are well attended by devotees of the town. Devotees even today believe that the influence of the Guliga Daiva of Agasara Hole was immense. Along with the Pawar clan, even Ramaraja Kshatriyas (Koteyavaru), Mallava (Kumara), Kshastriyas (Halepaikaru), Billawaru and members of the barber community are living in the vicinity. At Periyattadka and near Mailati, Naamada Okkaligaru are still residing in large numbers. The Pawar clan had renovated its Devaramane in the year 2002.

The Jagatapa clan members, who were in-charge of the Hosadurga fort, are now no longer settled in Hosadurga (present Kanhangad). All the family members are residing in Katramoole (in-between Uduma and Bekal). Many have settled in far off towns and employed there. In Katramoole there is a temple of Durgaparameshwari Devi, the main deity of the Jagatap clan. Veerabhadra, Zinkini, Ganapathi, Lakshmi have all been installed in a single Peetha. The Holekere Pooja and Guligana Kola are performed here in the traditional manner every year.

The Jadhav clan members who were managing the Chandragiri fort after losing power began residing in Moolehitlu (Sooroji Hitlu) close by the fort. But as the produce from the land was insufficient to meet the demand, one group shifted to Orkoodlu in Kasargod taluk and began residing as tenants of Puninchittayas. They were experts in traditional medicine, black magic and astrology. They even cured a Maniyani youth who had come to Orkoodlu of his disease. They worked as farm labourers in Orkoodlu for a few years. But when their honour was at stake there, they deserted the Puninchittaya house and migrated to Madangoli.

As per the Aliya Kattu tradition of the land, the rights of the property had come to the Maniyani youth who was cured of his disease. The youth on knowing that the Marathas had migrated to Madangoli, approached the elders of the community and fell at their feet in gratitude. As a mark of gratitude to the Marathas of the Jadhava clan who saved his life, he donated around 40 acres of land at Mundodi which was under his ownership, to the Marathas. He thus freed himself of his debt to the Marathas by asking them to reap the benefits of the land, and also to  hand over 8 mudi of sesame to the Kumara Mangala Kshetra of Uliya Sankesha every year on the occasion of Subrahmanya Shashti as it was a sesame growing land pertaining to the Kshetra. Thus, the Jadhava clan Marathas settled in this land since then.

The authority of the Kumble fort went to the Mayippady Ramantharasus. Members of the Ramavarma Raja family are residing in Mayippadi of Kumble Seeme. There is a separate palace there now. The remains of the forts of Maila kings are still seen towards the east of the Sri Madhur Madanantheshwara Siddi Vinayaka Temple near Mayippady. This is still famous as the Mailana Fort.

No information is available as of now regarding the Maratha Kshatriyas who were in possession of rest of the forts.

Source: Maratharu by Mundood Dharmapal Rao Jadhav