Administration under Shivaji

Our only contemporary source for the Maratha administration of this period is John Fryer: all others are later works. In the kingdom of Shivaji, the Brahmins were highly respected but they were always in chains as Fryer remarked. Because they were revenue officials, so whenever they could not realize the amount, they were imprisoned. Shivaji adopted extremely harsh measures against the Canarese, who were Maratha speaking people, as well as the Kundis who were agriculturists par excellence. They were exploited to the maximum limit. Three-fourth (3/4th) of the actual yield of the soil was taken in revenue. The whole agrarian system of Shivaji was based on tyranny and the exploitation was the rule and not an exception. In the military administration, Fryer says, the maxim was ‘No plunder, No pay!’ Fryer says that the army of Shivaji consisted of half-naked rascals. The army was not paid regularly. The soldiers were asked to plunder the area to meet their pay claims. Shivaji had an infantry and a comparatively strong navy.

On taking royal powers, Shivaji assumed the title of haindava dharmodhārak (protector of the Hindu faith). In spite of this he did not hesitate to plunder mercilessly the Hindu population of the area.

His system of administration was largely based on the administrative practices of the Deccani states.

The contention of the modern scholars that Shivaji had eight ministers is misleading. He had only eight secretaries who had no discretion in administrative affairs or matters. These were the eight ashtapradhānas, translated by Sarkar and others as ‘ministers’. Each of them was directly responsible to the ruler: thus, in other words, there was no ‘council of ministers’.

The peshwa were ministers who looked after the finance and general administration.

The commander of the army, senapati, also known as sar-i naubat held a post of honour. He was generally one of the leading Maratha chieftains. Majumdar was the accountant. The household affairs and intelligence were looked after by the waqi’a nawis. The office of Correspondence was looked after by chitnis or surunawis.

Like in other Muslim courts, the master of ceremonies in the court was the dabīr who also helped the Maratha ruler in his dealings with foreign powers.

The nyāyadhīsh and pandit rao were the incharge of department of Justice and Charitable Affairs (to give grants).

The Asthapradhans:

  • Peshwa or the Chief Minister- He looked after general administration.
  • Amatya or Majumdar– Accountant general, he later became revenue and finance mnister.
  • Sachiv or Surunavis– Also called Chitnis; he looked after the Royal correspondence.
  • Sumant or Dabir- Foreign affairs and the master of Royal ceremonies.
  • Senapati or Sari-i-Naubat- Military commander. He looked after the recruitment, training and discipline of army.
  • Mantri or Waqia Navis– Personal safety of the king, he looked after the intelligence, post and household affairs.
  • Nyayadhish- Administration of Justice
  • Punditrao- Looking after charitable and religious affairs of the state. He worked for the moral upliftment of the people.
  • Apart from the departmental duties, three of the ministers- Peshwas, Schiva and the Mantri were also given incharge of extensive provinces.
  • All ministers, except the Panditrao and the Nyayadish, had to serve in a war whenever necessary.

Minister was assisted by a staff of eight clerks

  • Diwan – secretary
  • Mujumdar – auditor and accountant
  • Fadnis – deputy auditor
  • Sabnis or Daftardar – office incharge
  • Karkhanis – commissary
  • Chitins – correspondence clerk
  • Jamdar – treasurer
  • Potnis – cashier

Shivaji strictly regulated the “mirasdars,” (mirasdarswere those who had the hereditary rights in land). Later mirasdars grew and strengthened themselves by building strongholds and castles in the villages. Likewise, they had become unruly and seized the country. He also destroyed their bastions and forced them to surrender.

Shivaji divided entire territory into three provinces, each under a viceroy. He further divided the provinces into Prants then Pargana and Tarafs. The lowest unit was the village which was headed by its headman or Patel.

The form of government was the worst type of dictatorship. The titles which were awarded by Shivaji to his officials were the mixture of Bijapuri and Mughal titles. High sounding titles were given to petty officials. The subadar under Shivaji was equivalent to the thanedar under the Mughals; and the faujdar under Shivaji was equivalent to chaukidars under the there were high sounding posts with small jurisdictions.

However the most distinctive feature of Shivaji’s administration was his organization of army and the revenue system. We come to know that under Shivaji, cash salaries were given to the soldiers. Some chiefs could also be given saranjām or revenue grants. The strict discipline in the army meant that no woman or dancing girl was allowed to accompany the army.

The regular army (paga) consisted of cavalry (30,000 to 40,000); then there were silahdārs (auxillaries) supervised by havaldars who received fixed salaries. The forts were put in the charge of three men of equal rank – to guard against treachery.

The revenue system was patterned on the system of Malik Ambar. In 1679 Annaji Datto completed the new revenue assessment. Shivaji further continued with the deshmukhi (zamindari) system and awarded mokasa (jagirs) to his officials.

Chauth: Origin & Significance

Revenue Administration:

Shivaji abolished the Jagirdari Systemand replaced with Ryotwari System, and changes in the position of hereditary revenue officials which was popularly known as Deshmukhs, Deshpande, Patils and Kulkarnis.

Shivaji strictly supervised the Mirasdarswho had hereditary rights in land.

The revenue system was patterned on the Kathi system of Malik Amber. According to this system, every piece of land was measured by Rod or Kathi.

Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were other sources of income: Chauth was amounted to 1/4th of the standard which was paid to Marathas as a safeguard against Shivaji’s forces plundering or raiding Non-Maratha territories. Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of 10 percent demanded from areas outside from the kingdom.

Maratha Territory under Shivaji

Azad Bilgrami remarked in 1761 that the Marathas, in spite of attaining most brilliant success in the battlefields, were not like emperors or kings but like zamindars. Meaning thereby – that the horizon of the Maratha leaders was limited. The entire basis of the Maratha state was tyranny and the Marathas were a failure as an empire. They could not work out even a repository of a political authority. The Raja of Satara was reduced to the position of a puppet by the Peshwas; and the Peshwas in turn, were reduced to nothingness by Nana Fardnawis [Nana Phadnis]. So they could not work out even the repository of political authority: and this was an inbuilt defect.

Chauth was a customary tax which was realized by the zamindars. It was 1/4th of the assessed revenue. During the 17th Century, the Mughal Emperor used to pay chauth to the ruler of Kathiawar. That is it was an amount which a superior authority paid to a lesser authority. Likewise, the Portuguese paid chauth on western coast to some zamindars.

The chauth levied by Shivaji has been erroneously confused with the subsidiary alliance of Lord Wellesley. Under the scheme of Wellesley, if a state paid subsidy to the British, his protection was in the hands of the Britishers. But here the Marathas after realizing the chauth provided protection against none except themselves: that is, they undertook not to plunder that area themselves. So practically it was a system of blackmail. So after realizing chauth the Marathas undertook no guarantee for them. It was 1/4th of the assessed revenue. This signified the zamindar outlook of the Marathas: they theoretically never thought beyond that. So the origin of chauth was from the zamindari rights and the term existed before the emergence of the Marathas as a political entity.

Sardeshmukhi was 1/10 th of the assessed revenue. That also was connected with the customary claim on the usufruct of the land.

Military Administration

Shivaji organised a disciplined and efficient army. The ordinary soldiers were paid in cash, but big chief and military commander were paid through jagir grants (Saranjam or Mokasa).

The army consists of Infantry i.e. Mavali foot soldiers; Cavalry i.e. Horse riders and equipment holders; Navy.

Military Personnel 

Sar-i-Naubat (Senapati)-Incharge of army

Qiladars- Officers of Forts

Nayak- Head of the member unit of infantry

Havaldar- Head of five Nayaks

Jumladar- Head of five Nayaks

Ghuraw- Boats laden with guns

Gallivat- Rowing boats 40-50 rowers

Paik- Foot SoldiersThe army was effective instrument of policies of Marathas State where rapidity of movement was the most important factors. Only in the rainy season, the army get rested otherwise rest of the year was engaged in expeditions.

Pindaries were allowed to accompany the army who were allowed to collect“Pal-Patti” which was 25% of war booty.