State in west central India; area 307,762 sq km/118,828 sq mi; population (2001 est) 96,752,200. The capital is Mumbai (formerly Bombay), and other towns and cities include Pune, Nagpur, Ulhasnagar, Solapur, Nasik, Thana, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Sangli, and Amravati. The state is divided by the heavily forested Western Ghats into the Konkan coastal plain and the Deccan plateau. The plain is subject to the southwest monsoon from June to September. Inland is in a rain shadow receiving only half the coastal rainfall. The Godavari and Krishna rivers rise in the Western Ghats and flow eastwards across the Deccan. The Marathi language is spoken by 50% of the population. 80% of the population are Hindu, with Parsee, Jain, and Sikh minorities. The state was formed in 1960 from the southern part of the former Bombay state.
Maharashtra's present economic importance originates from the trading role of Mumbai and a cotton-growing hinterland. The Mumbai-Pune complex is the major industrial area, with Mumbai producing about one-third of India's tax revenues. In the 1970s, decentralization initiatives led to the rapid growth of other centres such as Aurangabad.
Features of Maharashtra include cave temples of Ajanta, containing 200 BC-7th century AD Buddhist murals and sculptures, and Ellora cave temples from 6th-9th century with Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain sculptures.
Industries include cotton processing at Mumbai, Nagpur, and Solapur, oil refining at Vasai, electrical goods, agricultural machinery, chemicals, and plastics; manganese ore, coal, iron ore, bauxite, and copper ore. India's first nuclear power plant is at Tarapur, 112 km/70 mi north of Mumbai. Agriculture products include rice (on the coastal plain), cotton, millet and wheat on the Deccan, dairy farming, groundnuts, sugar, and fruit.
7th -20th centuries
The western upland of the state has been known as Maharashtra since the 7th century AD. The earliest inhabitants were Nagas, who were joined by settlers from the north until,by the 8th century, the Marathi culture had developed. After 1307 there was a succession of Muslim rulers, but by the mid-16th century the state had split into several independent domains, until Chhatrapati Shivaji founded the Marathi empire and challenged the Moguls. When the British took control, they created the Mumbai Presidency which became Mumbai state after independence, and was enlarged by the accession of a number of former princely states. In 1956 large parts of Hyderabad and Madhya Pradesh were added, so that the northern sector was predominantly Gujarati-speaking and the south Marathi-speaking. In 1960, the Gujurati areas in the north were allocated to Gujurat.
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