As warriors and administrators,the close-knit community of 96 Kuli Marathas has enriched the pages of Maharashtra’s history
Traditionally called the warrior clans from the west,the 96 Kuli Marathas have been the mainstay of the state since the foundation of the Maratha empire was laid in the 16th century. The community derives its name from the 96 clans that ran the day-to-day empires of the Adilshahi and the Nizamshahi kingdoms. When the heads of the clans were rewarded with jagirs,they proclaimed themselves as the heads of the respective jagirs or as Raje.
The Jadhavs,Nimbalkars,Bhosales,Deshmukhs,Pawars,Patils,Shindes amongst others are some of the families that fall under the 96 Kuli Maratha community. Speaking more about their origins,historian Pandurang Bhalkawade says,The various families often call themselves kshatriyas and descendants of the Rajputs from the north of India. While there are many different stories about the origin of the community,this is the most common.
In Pune,the 96 Kuli Marathas are more concentrated in the old city and Satara Road. Shekhar Paygude,a member of the community,says,The clan is made up of members of royal families. We are Deshmukhs. Before the Maratha empire came into existence,the Deshmukhs were involved in maintaining the day-to-day administration of the state. Paygude says that the Marathas follow the same rituals,culture and festivals as other Maharashtrians. Especially festivals of Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali. Our diet and cuisine too is simple. Some of the staple dishes are puran poli,bhakri and bhaji, he adds. The 96 Kuli Marathas are non-vegetarians unlike the Brahmins.
Earlier,a 96 Kuli Maratha woman was not allowed to re-marry if she was a widow. Men however were allowed to do so. Also,since the caste system and class hierarchy were major influences,people were not allowed to marry outside the community, Bhalkawade says.
http://www.anandmaratha.com,a matrimonial website dedicated to this community ,has seen an increase in the number of members since its launch in 2000. Suhas Shirke,founder of the website,says,Currently there are around 10,000-12,000 members. 96 Kuli Marathas from around the world post their profile on the website.
Sandip Bhosale,a 96 Kuli Maratha who lives at Satara Road,says,When the Mughals took over the whole of North India,the rajputs came down to Western India and began living in what is today modern-day Maharashtra. We can trace our origins back to these times. We don’t have any one organisation that can be called a representative of the community,because the community itself is so vast. The community absorbed the ideas and traditions of the locals when they settled here several centuries ago. “This united the different families and ensured that they were established as a close-knit community, he says.