Maratha Cavalry

A short write up by me on the military structure of the Maratha army in the 18th century , with a special focus on the cavalry .

As the empire spread from its confines amongst the hills and valleys of the Sahyadris , the reliance on forts and attendent guerilla warfare declined and gave rise to large contingents of cavalry . These allowed the armies mobility across the vast plains of Hindustan , enabling them to conduct lightning raids on far away places . It also enabled them to ‘live off the land ‘, since a cavalryman travelled light . Through efficient use of his cavalry , Bajirao I  was able to travel from Pune to Delhi in few days flat – a feat unheard of in those days !! .  The cavalry could said to have been roughly divided into  –  huzurat , shiledar , bargir and pindari contingents . The last being a purely mercenary force .

 Huzurat –   The huzurat cavalry was a picked regiment of the Peshwa . They were his personal soldiers . Obviously , only the best of the best made up contingents of the Huzurat cavalry . They were paid from the government treasury. Their special stables were called huzurat paga .

Shiledar  –    Shiledars owned both – their horses as well as their weapons . A contingent was known as ‘pathak’and their leader was called  ‘Patki ‘ .  Many times these Patkis would have status of a ‘sardar’ .

The ‘pathak’ itself would be called ítlakhi ‘ incase its upkeep was through the government treasury . It was called ‘saranjami pathak ‘   incase the upkeep was through land given for the same .

A shiledar was given a salary of Rs 25 – 30  per month .  About 1/3 –  1/2   was paid before Patkis would commit their contingents towards a campaign . This was called  ‘naalbandi ‘

Bargi –    They owned neither their horse nor their weapons . Both was provided for by the ruler . The bargirs were given regular salary of Rs 5 –  10  .  Their stables would range from 10 horse to well over 500 . Heads of stables were known as ‘amaldars ‘ . Incase of large stables , these amaldars were given the status of sardars .  Bargirs are most well known for carrying out raids deep into Bengal under the leadership of Bhaskarram Kolhatkar and Raghuji Bhosale .

Pindaris ––  They were mainly  Muslim mercenaries from central  parts of India . A contingent of 1000 to 4000 was called a labhur . They were armed with spears , swords and few muskets . The pindaris lived entirely off loot and plunder .After getting some area marked out for them , they would proceed to lay it waste .The pindaris would keep whatever they looted , apart from flags , nishaan and other such symbols of someone else’s rule .  The pindaris operated mainly under Holkar and Scindia .

_____________________________________________Ref :  Marathyancha Itihas – Kulkarni n Khare –  vol 2 . Univ of Pune         State at war in south asia – Pradeep Barua

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