The Chinese pilgrim, Hiun Tsang, visited Maharashtra during AD 640-641 and was very impressed by the prosperity of the country, the efficiency of the administration and the character of the people. He called the land Mo-ho-lo-cha (Moholesh), and was perhaps the first person to discuss the region and its people.
He says: "The soil is rich and fertile and it is regularly cultivated and very productive. Men are fond of learning and studying both heretical and orthodox books. The disposition of the people is honest and simple; they are tall in stature and of a stern and vindictive character. To their benefactors, they are grateful; to their enemies, relentless. If they are insulted, they will risk their lives to avenge themselves. If they are asked to help one in distress, they will forget themselves in their haste to render assistance."
The antiquity of this region can be traced to approximately the 3rd century BC, which is when the Maharastri language, a Prakrit corruption of Sanskrit from which the term 'Maharashtra' is derived, was then in use. Marathi, which evolved from Maharastri-Prakrit, has been the lingua franca of the people of this area from the 10th century onwards.
And, in the course of time, the term 'Maharashtra' was used to describe a region which consisted of Aparanta, Vidarbha, Mulak, Ashmak and Kuntal. The tribal communities of Nags, Munds and Bhils inhabited this area, also known as Dandakaranya, in ancient times.
They were joined by the Aryas, the Shakas and the Huns, who came from the North, as well as by foreigners, who arrived by sea. The Dravidians from the South colonised the land, joining a group which collectively became known as 'Marathas'.