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Maharashtra (Marathi: महाराष्ट्र) is India's 3rd largest state in terms of area and second largest in terms of population. Mumbai, India's largest city, is the capital of Maharashtra where as Nagpur serves as the second capital or winter capital of the state. Maharashtra was known as Rashtra in the Rig Veda, Rashtrik in Ashoka's inscriptions, and Maha rashtra afterwards, as attested by Huein-Tsang and other travelers.

Maharashtra became a part of the Magadha empire, ruled by emperor Ashoka. The port town of Sopara, just north of present day Mumbai, was the centre of ancient India's commerce, with links to Eastern Africa, Mesopotamia, Aden and Cochin. With the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire, a local dynasty called Satavahanas came into prominence in Maharashtra between 230 BC and AD 225. The period saw the biggest cultural development of Maharashtra. The Satavahana's official language was Maharashtri, which later developed into Marathi. The great ruler Gautamiputra Satkarni (also known as "Shalivahan") ruled around 78 AD. He started the Shalivahana era, a new calendar, still used by Maharashtrian populace. The empire gradually disintegrated in the third century.

During the reign of the Vakatakas (AD 250–525), Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra, come under their rule. During this period, development of arts, religion and technology flourished. By the 6th century, Maharashtra came under the reign of the Chalukyas from Badami. Later, in 753, the region was governed by Rashtrakutas, an empire that spread over most of peninsula India. In 973, the Chalukayas of Badami expelled the Rashtrakutas, and ruled parts of Maharashtra until 1189 when the region came under the hands of the Yadavas of Deogiri.

By the early seventeenth century the Maratha Empire began to take root. The Marathas, native to western Maharashtra, were led by Chhatrapati Raje Shivaji Bhosale, who was crowned king in 1674. Shivaji Maharaj fought many battles with Mughal empire which was then ruled by Aurangzeb. He also fought several battles with King of Vijapur, Adilshah. Shivaji Raje was the most able, successful, popular and respected king Maharashtra ever had. Shivaji's son and successor, Sambhaji Bhosale was captured and executed by Aurangzeb, the Mughal in the late 1680s. The Mughals forced Sambhaji's younger brother, Rajaram Bhosale to flee into the Tamil-speaking countryside. He retreated to the great fortress of Jinji to barely recover in the early 18th century. Rajaram's nephew & Sambhaji's son, Shahu Bhosale considered himself to be the legitimate heir to the Bhosale throne.

In the following four decades, the Peshwas virtually took over central authority in the Maratha state, reducing Shivaji's Bhosale dynasty to figureheads. After defeating the Mughals, the Peshwas became the dominant rulers of India. Peshwas not only ruled Maharashtra, but their empire was also covering Delhi (Panipat) - Gujarat ( Mehsana) - Madhya Pradesh (Gwalior, Indore) and to south till Thanjaur. After suffering a heavy defeat to the Afghan chieftain Ahmad Shah Abdali, in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha Confederacy broke into regional kingdoms. Pune continued to be ruled by what was left of the Peshwa family.

With the arrival and subsequent involvement of the British East India Company in Indian politics, the Marathas and the British fought the three Anglo-Maratha wars between 1777 and 1818, culminating in the annexation of Peshwa-ruled territory in Maharashtra in 1819, which heralded the end of the Maratha empire.

The British governed the region as part of the Bombay Presidency, which spanned an area from Karachi in Pakistan to most of the northern Deccan. A large part of present day Maharashtra called Marathwada remained part of the Nizam's Hyderabad state during British rule. At the beginning of the 20th century, A non-violent struggle started by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and later led by Mahatma Gandhi began to take shape. In 1942, the Quit India Movement was called by Mahatma Gandhi which was marked by a non-violent civil disobedience movement and strikes.

After India's independence the States Reorganisation Act (1956) reorganized the Indian states along linguistic lines, and Bombay Presidency State was enlarged by the addition the predominantly Marathi-speaking regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad Division) from erstwhile Hyderabad state and Vidarbha region (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) from Madhya Pradesh (formerly the Central Provinces and Berar). On May 1, 1960, Maharashtra came into existence when Bombay Presidency State was split into the new linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Maharashtra is spread over an area of 308,000 km², and is bordered by the states of Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh to the east, Andhra Pradesh to the southeast, Karnataka to the south, and Goa to the southwest. The state of Gujarat lies to the northwest, with the Union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli sandwiched in between. The Arabian Sea makes up Maharashtra's west coast.

The Western Ghats are a hilly range running parallel to the coast, at an average elevation of 1,200 m. To the west of these hills lie the Konkan coastal plains, which is 50 – 80 km in width. To the east of the Ghats lies the flat Deccan Plateau. The plateau is composed of black basalt soil, rich in humus. This soil is well suited for cultivating cotton, and hence is often called black cotton soil. The Western Ghats form one of the three watersheds of India, from which many South Indian rivers originate. To the north of the state, near the Madhya Pradesh border, lies the Satpura Range. The various sections of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra are Tamhini Ghat, Varandha Ghat and Sawantwadi Ghat.

The Western Ghats form the source of several major rivers of Maharashtra, notable among them being Godavari River, flow eastwards into the Bay of Bengal, irrigating most of central and eastern Maharashtra. The Ghats are also the source of numerous small rivers which flow westwards emptying into the Arabian Sea. To the north of the state, the Tapti River and River Narmada flow westwards into the Arabian Sea, irrigating most of northern Maharashtra. To the east are major rivers like Vainganga that flow to the south and eventually to Bay of Bengal.

Maharashtra's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $106 billion in current prices. Maharashtra is India's leading industrial state contributing 13% of national industrial output. Maharashtra ranks first nationwide in coal-based thermal electricity as well as nuclear electricity generation with national market shares of over 13% and 17% respectively. Major industries in Maharashtra include chemical and allied products, electrical and non-electrical machinery, textiles, petroleum and allied products. Food crops include mangoes, grapes, bananas, oranges, wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, and pulses. Cash crops include groundnut, cotton, sugarcane, turmeric, and tobacco.

Mumbai houses the headquarters of almost all major banks, financial institutions, insurance companies and mutual funds. Within Mumbai is located Bollywood, the centre of India's Hindi film and television industry. India's largest stock exchange, Bombay Stock Exchange, is located in the city.

Maharashtra's capital is Mumbai, home to the Vidhan Sabha – the state assembly and Mantralaya, the administrative offices of the government. It is also home to the Bombay High Court which has jurisdiction over Maharashtra, Goa, and the Union Territory of Daman and Diu. The legislature convenes its budget and monsoon sessions in Mumbai, and the winter session in Nagpur, which was designated as the state's auxiliary capital.

Maharashtra's legislature is bicameral; the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) consists of directly elected members and the Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council)  consists of members voted indirectly through an electoral college. Maharashtra is allocated nineteen seats in the Rajya Sabha and forty-eight in the Lok Sabha, India's national parliament.

As per the 2001 census, Maharashtra has a population of 96,752,247 inhabitants making it the second most populous state in India. The Marathi-speaking population of Maharashtra numbers 62,481,681. Only eleven countries of the world have a population greater than Maharashtra. Maharashtra's urban population stands at 42.4%. The state has a Hindu majority of 80.2% with minorities of Muslims 10.6%, Buddhists 6%, Jains 1.3% and Christians 1%. Maharashtra has the biggest Jain, Zoroastrian and Jewish populations in India. 77.27% of its population is literate.

Marathi is the official state language and is spoken by a vast majority of its populace. In Mumbai and other larger cities Hindi, and English, along with a variety of other languages are also spoken. In the northwest Maharashtra, a dialect Ahirani is spoken by a minority. In south Konkan, a dialect of Konkani called as Malvani is spoken by most of the people. In the Desh region of the Deccan, a dialect called Deshi is spoken. While in Vidarbha, a dialect of Marathi, known as Varhadi is spoken.

Maharashtra is divided into thirty-five districts, which are grouped into six divisions: Aurangabad Division, Amravati Division, Konkan Division, Nagpur Division, Nashik Division, and Pune Division. These are official revenue divisions of government of Maharashtra. The state has one metropolitan city, two mini-metropolises and many large towns. Mumbai is the state capital, with a population of approximately 9.926 million people. The other large cities are Pune, Nasik, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur.

Geographically and historically Maharashtra has five main regions: Vidarbha or Berar (Nagpur and Amravati divisions), Marathwada (Aurangabad Division), Khandesh and Northern Maharashtra (Nashik Division), Desh or Western Maharashtra (Pune Division), and Konkan (Konkan Division).

Hindus form the majority of Maharashtra population & the culture of Maharashtra reflects that. The temples in Maharashtra blend themes from Hinduism, Jain and Buddhist cultures. The temple of Vitthala at Pandharpur may be considered the most important to the Hindus. Many of the temples are tourist attractions with the most famous amongst them being the Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad. The landscape of Maharashtra is dotted with many forts, like Raigad and Pratapgad which played an extremely important part in the establishment of the Maratha empire and also sea forts like the one at Sindhudurg.

The folk music of Maharashtra is of various types viz. Gondhal, Lavani, Bharud, Powada, etc.

One of the earliest instances of Marathi literature is by Dnyaneshwar with his Bhawarthadeepika. The religious songs called bhajans by saints like Dnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Namdev are very poular. The theatre, movies and television in Maharashtra are chiefly based out of Mumbai. The early period of Marathi theatre was dominated by playwrights like Kolhatkar, Khadilkar, Deval, and Gadkari who enriched the Marathi theatre with musical plays known as Sangeet Naatak. It is during this era of the Marathi theatre that great singer actors like Bal Gandharva, Keshavrao Bhosle, Bhaurao Kolhatkar, Dinanath Mangeshkar thrived.

The cuisine of Maharashtra varies according to the region of Maharashtra. The people of the Konkan region have a chiefly rice based diet with fish being a major component for people living close to the sea. In eastern Maharashtra, the diet is based more on Wheat, Jowar and Bajra. Women traditionally wear a nine yard sari and men a dhoti or pajama with a shirt.

Gudi Padwa, Diwali, Rangapanchami and Ganeshotsav are some of the festivals that are celebrated in Maharashtra. Ganeshotsav is the biggest festival of Maharashtra which is celebrated with much reverence and festivity throughout the state and has since some time become popular all over the country. The festival which continues over ten days is in honour of Ganesha the God of learning and knowledge.

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