Marathas : Administration and finances in the 18th century

 So you actually clicked on that title !! Wow ! That’s  quite amazing . I hope you can brave it out till the end of this blog .Well , would just like to discuss the basics of administration , finances etc in the 18th century . The boring jobs that the Peshwa and others did when they weren’t invading kingdoms left , right and centre . Ofcourse , the boring jobs were then introduced to these conquered people .

I will concentrate on specifically the Peshwas for the purpose of this blog . The land  , just like today’s talukas , districts , states had been divided into gaon , tarf  , prant etc . Essentially

Gaon  / Mauja  <  Tarf / Kuryat < Subah / Prant / Pargana .

The lowest administrative unit was the Gaon or village . The Patil was in charge of the well fare of the village and villagers . He was to collect revenue from each farmer , protect his crops , keep note of new settlers and new land being farmed etc .Land was measured by him in ‘ shiv shahi kathi ‘ . 1 shivkathi being equal to 114 inches approx .  In this , he would be helped by the Kulkarni .The Kulkarni , alongwith the Patil , would settle revenue issues of a village , maintain documents to the effect etc . Sometimes a Chougule would also be present , but such cases are rare . The Patil deputed Maharis to protect the crops as also carry messages elsewhere . Both Patil and Kulkarni were hereditary positions .

A collection of villages made up a Tarf  ( I wonder whether turf war comes from this , especially given it’s Maharashtra😀 ) Anyways , dumb jokes apart , this was an administrative unit just above the village . The Deshmukh was in charge of a tarf . He was an analogy of the Patil on a higher level . His official work would be handled by the Deshpande , much like the Kulkarni . The Deshmukh and Deshpande were hereditary .Kings came and went , but Deshmukhs stayed ! Infact , some Deshmukhs ended up serving two masters at the same time . ( Things like patriotism  , nationalism as we know it  , fenced borders etc was still way in the future , so hold your horses . Such kind of hilarious behaviour was completely normal )

The Peshwa appointed Kamavisdars or Tarafdar  at every Tarf .He also appointed Mamledar( Mamlatdars )
if total revenue was going to top 1,00,000 . The Patil , Kulkarni would report to the Deshmukh , Deshpande and Kamavisdar . They would do all the donkey work year round . Twice a year , at harvest time , the Mamledar sauntered in for his own audit at  every tarf and settled the revenue , dues , documents etc .He would receive 1 % of revenue as his fees .  He would then directly report to the Peshwa . Precursor to corporate life I think .

Thus we have  :  Patil <  Deshmukh  < Kamavisdar < Mamledar < Sarsubhedar* < Peshwa

Yeah , so where did Sarsubhedar come from ? This was another post created to manage lands and mahals which were not close to Pune , but were under jurisdiction of the Peshwa . Gujarat , North Karnatak , some Mahals in Bengal etc . So , the Peshwa deputed sarsubhedars to act on ‘his behalf ‘ . He had the power to apply the Peshwa’s seal on documents . He could also appoint Mamledars and Kamavisdars . Phadnis , Mujumdar , Diwan , Potdar , Potnis , Chitnis etc were still appointed by the Peshwa to work under these Mamledars and sarsubhedars . ( Yawn … I am falling asleep writing this ) .

This was the case with land based administration and revenue .

Apart from this , 25 % tax ( chauthai ) was collected from vassals and defeated kingdoms . If someone was awarded Sardeshmukhi , 10 % of the prant’s or subah’s revenues went straight to him . eg Holkar getting sardeshmukhi of Chandore in 1748 .

Finally , at the Shaniwarwada , the Phadnis would help the Peshwa with official work . Offices of 18 different types were set up at the wada including :

1) Tofkhana
2) Hatti khana
3) Armoury
4) Faraskhana
5) Wood workshops
6) Buildings
7) Gardens
8) Kurne
9) Chariots
10) Jamadarkhana
11) Vaidyashala
12) Pustak shala
13) Ratna shala

Sources : Konkan – Earliest to 1818  :  Dr VG Khobrekar
: Marathayancha Itihas – Kulkarni & Khare  ( essay in book on administration by V.T.Gune )

© Aneesh Gokhale

You can read more about my book on Maratha history – Sahyadris to Hindukush – here

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