Maharashtra is a state in Western India bordered by the Arabian Sea to the west and the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to the north, Chhattisgarh and Telangana to the east, and Karnataka and Goa to the south. The Konkan coastal plain predominates in the western portion of the state, flush with the Arabian Sea. Immediately east lies the Western Ghats, part of the larger Sahyadri Mountain range, home of many famous British-era hill stations popular with vacationing Indians. The Ghats gradually decline into the Deccan Plateu, the predominant physical feature of central and eastern Maharastra, and the site of most of the state’s primary cities outside of Mumbai. Maharashtra has distinct seasons, typical of a tropical monsoon climate. A mild winter in December-Feb is followed by a sizzling summer (extremely humid along the coasts, drier away from the coasts), monsoon season from June-Sept, and a second warm period in October and November.
Maharashtra’s capital is Mumbai, known as Bombay until 1995, and is India’s financial, commercial, and entertainment capital. It is home to the country’s world-renowned film industry, Bollywood, and its metropolitan area is home to approximately 21 million inhabitants. Other important cities include Nagpur, the winter capital and Pune, the center of Maharashtrian culture and home to many of the state’s preeminent academic institutions and a burgeoning IT industry. Maharashtra is further subdivided into six administrative districts- Konkan, Nashik, Pune, Amravati, Aurangabad, and Nagpur.
Maharashtra was the center of the Maratha empire, founded by Chhatrapati Shivaji and ruled by the Peshwas until its defeat by the British in 1818. The Maratha Empire is largely credited with stemming the Mughal Empire’s advance, an episode that continues to play a significant role in Marathi culture and collective memory. Forts, monuments, ruins, tombs, and temples from this period, and earlier, dot the Maharashtrian landscape, including the 2000 yr-old world heritage sites of Ajanta (pictured above) and Ellora Caves. The state’s current boundaries were established on May 1, 1960, when Maharashtra and Gujarat were formally split into separate states due to differing linguistic histories.
According to the 2011 census, the population of Maharashtra is over 112 million, making it India’s second most populous state. 55% of the state’s residents reside in rural areas, while 45% live in urban areas. Hindus comprise 80% of the population, Muslims 11.5%, Buddhists 6%, (approximately 77% of India’s total Buddhist population), Christians and Jains 1% each. Marathi is the official language, though English and Hindi are widely spoken in urban areas.
Maharashtra has a Parliamentary style of government with a bicameral, democratically-elected legislature. The lower house is called the Legislative Assembly and is comprised of 288 members, elected to 5-year terms. The upper house is known as the Legislative Council and is composed of 78 members elected to permanent terms.
The Governor is the de jure and constitutional head of state, however the Chief Minister exercises the most influence as he or she is the head of the state government and is appointed by the ruling party members of the Legislative Council. The current Governor is C. Vidyasagar Rao and the current chief minister is Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP.
From 1960- 1995, the Indian National Congress Party (INCP) dominated state politics. Relative power began to shift in 1995, when the Bharatiya Janati Party (BJP) allied with the Hindutva Shiv Sena party to secure a majority in local elections. The BJP-dominated coalition currently controls a majority of the seats in the state legislature, along with in the Lok Sahba, the lower house of India’s parliament.
Maharashtra is India’s wealthiest and most industrialized state, accounting for approximately 25% of the country’s industrial output and 23% of its GDP circa as of fiscal year 2010-2011. The economy is driven by manufacturing, international trade, entertainment and media, aerospace, technology, petroleum, fashion, and tourism. Many of India’s primary corporations and financial institutions, along with the national stock exchange are all located in Maharashtra’s capital, Mumbai.