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Administrative System of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj

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  • Last Updated : 08 Jun, 2022

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was born in Shivneri of Pune (formerly Pune was known as Poona) in the year 1627 to Shahaji Bhonsle and Jija Bai. The credit for establishing such a huge kingdom goes to Shivaji and his father, Shahaji. In 1637, he received the jagir of Poona from his father and later emerged as one of the greatest rulers of the Maratha empire. The Maratha regime was primarily an advanced and centralized authoritarian monarchy. The king was in charge and his main goal was the happiness and security of his subjects.

In this article, we will discuss the salient features of the administration under Shivaji which were extensively borrowed from the administrative approaches of the Deccan states.

Central Administration:

  • Shivaji appointed eight ministers, known as the Ashtapradhan who were each personally accountable to the emperor. They were as follows:
    1. Peshwa: In charge of the finances and overall administration.
    2. Sari-i-Naubat (Senapati): commander in chief of the army.
    3. Amatya: Responsible for states revenue and expenditure; accountant
    4. Waqenavis: Responsible for personal and family affairs.
    5. Surunavis or Chitnis: Assisted the king in official correspondence.
    6. Dabir: Foreign secretary
    7. Nyayadhish: Chief Justice
    8. Panditrao: Ecclesiastical head
  • All the ministers were asked to lead martial campaigns, except for Panditrao and Nyayadhish. The ministers were not appointed on a hereditary basis and the posts were not permanent. They were held till the king’s delight and were regularly moved. No jagir was endowed to any civil or military officer, and they were paid directly by the treasury.

Military Administration:

  • Shivaji’s army organization was very remarkable. He gave cash salaries to ordinary soldiers and the chieftains received revenue grants known as Saranjam along with the cash.
  • Military discipline was instituted firmly. There were strict rules of not bringing women or dancing girls to accompany the army.
  • The loot taken per soldier during military attacks was precisely accounted for.
  • The regular troop known as Paga consisted of 30-40,000 cavalry along with the auxiliary help known as Silahdars. They all were supervised by Havaldars.
  • In the medieval era, Shivaji was the first Indian monarch to recognize the need for a naval force. He built dockyards and ships for both trade and defense. Artillerymen and foot soldiers were designated in fortresses to safeguard against treason.
  • To maintain fairness and stability he appointed people from all castes. For example, Pindaris– tribals of neighboring villages were also part of the Maratha army.
  • He prepared his soldiers extensively in mountain combat techniques and a unique fighting methodology called guerrilla warfare.

Revenue Administration: 

  • The revenue system was established on Malik Amber’s Kathi system where the land was calculated by Rod or Kathi.
  • Shivaji introduced a new taxation system called Chauthai or Chauth which was one-fourth of the land revenue from the neighboring Mughal territories. It was a kind of military subsidy in return for safeguarding them from external attacks.  Another taxation that was introduced called Sardeshmukhi was a supplementary tax of 10% claimed by Shivaji as the overlord of the kingdom.
  • The local peasants were asked to pay 40% of their produce as land revenue.
  • He established the Ryotwari agricultural system where the state maintained direct communication with the Ryots or farmers. It reduced the corruption done by the middlemen.
  • Shivaji rigorously supervised the Mirasdars– a class of people who had hereditary rights over their land. They paid a very small amount of tax and maintained a powerful position in the villages.  Shivaji attacked them and brought this section under his control.

Provincial Administration:

  • Shivaji’s kingdom was divided into several provinces for revenue collection and governance. Each province was split into Parganas which were further subdivided into Tarafs. The village was the smallest unit. Shivaji abandoned the then prevalent practice of contracting out land revenue. Instead, he started the practice of collecting taxes directly from the ryots by government officials.
  • Conquered territories were divided into Prants (province)–> Its officers were Subedar supervised by Sarsubedar.
  • Provinces were divided into Tarafs (districts) –> Its officer was the Havaldar.
  • The District was divided into Parganas  (sub-districts)–> It was headed by an officer called Deshpandey (for accountancy) and Deshmukh (for law and order).
  • Parganas were divided into Mauza (village)–> Kulkarni (Account and record keeper) and Patil (law and order).

Progressive Religious Policy:

  • Shivaji was a secular and tolerant ruler. He was proclaimed to be the protector of Hindus, Brahmins, and cows. He showed respect for religious texts of all religions. He did not destroy a single mosque. Shivaji also protected Muslim women and children during the war.
  • He provided financial help to Muslim saints and scholars. He appointed Muslims in the civil and military departments. Shivaji created a secular space under the Maratha administration.
  • Shivaji wrote a strong letter of protest against Aurangzeb. He wrote “God is the Lord of all men and not of Muhammad alone. Islam and Hinduism are different pigments used by the divine painter to photograph the human species.” At the same time, Shivaji never hated Muslims. He respected the personal honor of a Muslim.

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