Identification. Marathas are a Marathi-speaking people found on the Deccan Plateau throughout the present state of Maharashtra and nearby areas. The word "Kunbi" derives from the Sanskrit "Kutumbin" or "householder" (i.e., a settled person with home and land). Marathas/Kunbis are the dominant caste in Maharashtra State. They are landowners and cultivators, and they make up about 50 percent of the population. The distinction between Marathas and Kunbis is confused, and the former consider themselves superior to the latter. The Marathas were traditionally chieftains and Warriors who claimed Kshatriya descent. The Kunbis are primarily cultivators. The distinction between them seems mostly one of wealth, and we may assume a common origin for both.
Location. Maratha territory comprises roughly one-tenth the area of modern India and is of interest as the southernmost area where an Indo-Aryan language is spoken in India. It is bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea, on the north by the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, on the east by Tribal pats of Madhya Pradesh, and on the south by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka states, as well as Goa. Maharashtra therefore is a culture contact region between the Indo-Aryan north and the Dravidian south, and so it reveals a mixture of culture traits characteristic of any region that is a buffer Between two great traditions. Besides occupying the heartland of Maharashtra, Marathas have also penetrated southward through Goa into Karnataka. The area is watered by many rivers, including the Tapti, the Godavari, the Bhima, the Krishna, and their tributaries, which divide the land into subregions that have been important historically and culturally. There is also the fertile coastal plain of Konkan and thickly forested regions on the north and east.
Demography. According to the 1981 census, the population of Maharashtra was 62,784,171.
Linguistic Affiliation. All Marathas speak Marathi or a dialect of it. Historically Maharashtri, a form of Prakrit, became the language of the ruling house in the Godavari Valley; and from it modern Marathi is derived. People in the various subregions speak the following dialects: Khandesh has Ahirani, Konkan has Konkani, the Nagpur Plateau has Varhadi, the southern Krishna Valley has Kolhapuri, and an unnamed dialect that is found along the banks of the Godavari became the court language and rose to be the literary form of Marathi.