Marathas are a very sturdy and brave people. Once they inhabited the region of India called “Deccan” which is modern day Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka and some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Andhra.
But extent of their valor is reflected in the fact that once they ruled even Delhi and many parts of South India. The foundations were laid down by the Great Shivaji.
It fills one with awe to know that Marathas under Shivaji occupied many areas in the Tamil Nadu which so far away from Deccan. What strength and grit these people must have possessed. Shivaji captured the famous fort of Gingee which is located in the Viluppuram district of Tamil Nadu. Shivaji described the Gingee fort as the toughest he had won in the battles.
Gingee is more of a temples cluster inside a fort on a hill. From this hill, the whole plain below are clearly visible and thus it is best suited for guarding the place below as well as taking shelter in the circumstances of emergency.
The history of their forays into deep south begun with Shivaji father Shahaji Bhosale capturing Gandikota in the present day Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh. At that time he was a commander in the Army of Bijapur Sultan. Sultan bestowed a large Jagir upon him in the North Karnataka which included the present day areas Bangalore, Kolar and Tumkur. This was the beginning of the strong presence of Marathas in the South India although many maratha families were employed in many Muslim kingdoms of South and Vijaynagar empire.
Shahaji Bhosale was almost an independent ruler of the Jagirs. He died suddenly in 1664 and his son Venkoji took over the administration of the Jagirs. Venkoji was the son of Tuka Bai Mohite whereas Shivaji was the son of Jija Bai, the first wife of Shahaji. This way he was the brother of Shivaji. Venkoji lost no time in shaking off the allegiance to Bijapur Sultan and took campaign to Thanjavur in 1675 marking the beginning of Maratha people’s absorption into the alien culture of Tamil Nadu. These people are called “Raoji”. For centuries they are living there and have almost lost all the links to their relatives in Maharashtra. They speak fluent Tamil and their Marathi has taken different connotations. Original Marathi has undergone a sea change. The feminine gender has almost been replaced by neuter gender (“Gaadi aala”). The pronunciation veers towards Tamil, Telugu or Kannada.
Although Venkoji and his successors were no match to the military genius of Shivaji, they were great patrons of arts and literature. Venkoji himself was a writer of sorts but his sons were versatile writers who wrote in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. Tukoji in fact was a great linguist with mastery over these languages. During their regime, the place became a great centre of Carnatic Music. The great saint Thyagayya lived in their time.
The marathi influence is attested by the use of gottuvadya and jal taranga. They introduced Kirtan in the Tamil culture. Before this the Tamil had Bhavataras giving religious discourses without the accompaniment of music. During the reign of Marathi kings, Buvas and kirtankars introduced the kirtaan there.