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 .
© Aneesh Gokhale.
Published author of three books. Purchase on Amazon India and Kindle
Ref : Marathyancha Itihas – Kulkarni n Khare – vol 2 . Univ of Pune
State at war in south asia – Pradeep Barua ___________________________________________________________________________________________