Category: Hindavi Swarajya

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

Maratha – Rajput relations in 18th century- A complete mess

The fractured and disjointed nature of the events in this part of the country showed me the limits of a historical novel . I did not have the luxury of putting a title on top – Marathas and Rajputs – and then blazing away with all facts and figures .  Through this blog post , I will try and paint a picture of the scene that was Rajasthan in the 18th century . When the Marathas were on the ascent and the Rajputs had become truly free after serving some or the other sultanate for upwards of 800 years .

The Rajputs , after serving some or the other Mughal for ages , began life as sovereigns in about 1700 . To the north , the Mughals had fallen apart  and to the south , the Marathas were still fighting whatever Aurangzeb could throw at them . This situation prevailed till around 1712 , when the Marathas began plundering Gujarat and Malwa . The Rajputs too were free by then , and one would think they would take the opportunity with both hands . They even had Bappa Rawal , Veer Hammir and others to look up to . A Rajput invasion of Multan and Sindh was highly possible , even desirable . Sadly , that didn’t happen .
Upto the late 1730s there was no real contact between the two powers . After invading Gujarat and Malwa ,    Bajirao did not sweep into the Rajput states . Infact , he seems to have followed a policy of targeting the erstwhile Mughal provinces of Gujarat , Malwa and Hyderabad , which were still being ruled by Nawabs and Nizams . There is one fleeting case of Bajirao being called to settle a Rajput dispute . Bajirao himself , alarmed at the pasting that Nadir Shah gave Delhi , wanted to create a Rajput confederacy in 1739 . As it turned out , Nadir Shah did not venture south , and this grand plan fizzled out .
But by the late 1730s , the Marathas had come to dominate much of western , southern and central India . They were the power brokers . Everyone , including the Rajputs , wanted to ride piggy back on this new kid in town . They were expected to wade into two warring parties and solve their problems . The Marathas also took upon themselves the task of putting the whole country in order . By the mid 1740s , the Marathas and Rajputs were well and truly entangled in their politics .
They had so far maintained a hands off approach , but when they did finally take matters in their own hands , the Marathas found it to be anything but a smooth ride . I will cite two examples here , from the 1740s .. to give a rough idea of the mess that was Rajasthan back then .

Case 1 :  Jaipur

Jaipur was being ruled by Sawai Jai Singh . He promised one of his queens that her son would be the heir . But as it turned out , Madho Singh was born to her AFTER Ishwar Singh was born to another wife of Jai Singh . Incredibly , Jai Singh tried to get Madho Singh killed to settle the issue !  The king died and it came down to war between the two brothers .Madho Singh combined with his uncle Maharana Jagat Singh and  declared war on Ishwar Singh. The latter  called upon Holkar .After a couple of skirmishes ,  Holkar was of the belief that Ishwar Singh should hand over Niwai , Tonk , Toda and Malpura to Madho Singh . But the Rajput did not budge . One thing led to another and finally in 1748 the Peshwa himself arrived at Niwai to settle the issue . This time , Nanasaheb asked him to hand over Rampura , Bhanpura , Toda and Niwai to Madho Singh . It again came down to war at Bagru  , in which Holkar sided with Ishwar Singh and defeated madho singh . Shinde stayed aloof from this . ( Some sources say Surajmal was involved and that this episode is actually the beginning of the Shinde – Holkar rivalry ) . Ishwar Singh refused to hand over the four parganas as promised and the Marathas were once again left wringing their hands . His untimely death in 1750 meant that the whole of Jaipur went to Madho Singh . Holkar and Shinde supported this . Everything seemed settled at last , but Madho Singh was more interested in playing politics of vendetta . He once tried to poison Maratha sardars to death at a luncheon . In another incident , he ordered a summary massacre at a bazaar , where marathas from the nearby camp had gathered . Luckily , none of the important leaders died in either incident . After this , Madho Singh spent his time warring with the neighbouring kingdoms .

Case 2 : Jodhpur

This case in worse than Jaipur . Here the dispute was between one Ramsingh and his cousin Vijay singh  in 1752 . Both were fighting a feud that was two generations old , originating in the time of Farukh Siyar .According to their treaty with the Mughals , the Marathas were called upon to settle this problem too . Jayappa Shinde was deputed to resolve the crisis . He decided to put down Vijay Singh . Accordingly , the Marathas laid siege to Nagore , where Vijay Singh was staying . It was a straight forward battle , until one day when Jayappa Shinde got murdered while taking a bath .Now the Marathas were totally pissed off . They tightened the siege and forced Vijay Singh to give up Ajmer and Jalore forts  This case was also marred by Marathas not receiving khandani as wished .

There were other similar cases like Bundi etc during this time . All follow the same track of infighting , deceit , inability to reach a solution etc .

Further on at Panipat , the Rajputs of this era forgot all their chivalry and dharma of ages past and refused to join the Marathas . As to how was Abdali a better bet, in light of his destruction of temples etc is quite mind boggling .

In the 1780s , Mahadji Shinde tried to bring some order to this province . His artillery under DeBoigne had a telling effect . The nominal control that the Peshwa had in 1740s was tightened further by him . Alwar , Ajmer , Jaipur etc passed into Maratha hands . Mahadji’s death in 1794 put a spoke into these plans .

So there it is .. political wrangling between Marathas and rajputs – a sad chapter in indian history .

Conclusions :

1) The Marathas followed a ‘hands off ‘ policy for much of the time . They were invited in by the Rajputs . After this , there was complete lack of planning and coherence . Suffice to say , Marathas burnt their fingers in this province .

2) Does this absolve the Rajputs ? Ofcourse not . They were truly free for the first time . A Bappa Rawal at this juncture could have changed the course of history . Sadly , the Rajputs spent all the time fighting amongst themselves . and when others like the Marathas tried to resolve issues , they too were dragged into the muck . Further on , no amount of looting by Marathas could match the actions of Abdali . They forgot their chivalry and history on the eve of Panipat .

Chhatrapati Shivaji -An inspiration for many generations


Chhatrapati Shivaji was one of the greatest men to be born in this country. His exemplary vision and courage gave us “swarajya” from the clutches of the Mughals and Turkic sultanates. A lot has been written about his prowess on the battlefield the incidents involving Afzal Khan, Shaiste Khan, the battle at Kolhapur, the siege of Salher (a fort near Nashik), are all legendary and excellent examples of how Shivaji put the terrain and the meagre resources at his disposal to good use to win against far more formidable enemies. Bravery and cunning were gifts found in ample measure even amongst Shivaji’s adversaries – the Rajputs and Pathans. The greatness in Shivaji is the thinking and inspiration behind his actions. When we think of Shivaji as an idol, this facet of his personality must be borne in mind. The Rajputs and Pathans against whom Shivaji fought were also sacrificing their lives on the battlefield, but for a different purpose. While their sacrifices were for a foreign power – that of the Mughals, Shivaji’s soldiers fought for the lofty ideal of a ‘swarajya’. This is a major difference, we must bear in mind.

Shivaji’s life was an inspiration for his own and future generations to come. Maharaja Chhatrasal Bundela in particular and Lachit Barphukan to a much lesser extent, were influenced by the heroics of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Furthermore, Chhatrapati Sambhaji, Chhatrapati Rajaram, Bajirao Peshwa, Ahilyabai Holkar etc were the ones who strove to follow in the great king’s footsteps. Whenever the later Marathas tried to follow the policies laid down by Shivaji, greatness had awaited them! So what indeed were the policies of Shivaji that have rendered him a goliath of his age?

First and foremost – the ideal of ‘swarajya’…….

Read the complete essay on the Expert Oped website –> 

Chhatrapati Shivaji – Inspiration for future generations