Administrative machinery of Shiv Chhatrapati

(Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series on Chhatrapati Shivaji  Maharaj)

Just like all aspects of his life, Raje began laying down his administrative rules and regulations long before he became a Chhatrapati or even acquired a Jagir of his own. According to the Sabhasad bhakar, Shivchhatrapati had a Peshwa (Prime Minister), Mazumdar (financial head), Dabir (minister of foreign affairs) and Sabnis (those who kept accounts of forts) as early as 1746 if not earlier, when he was still under the regentship of Dadaji Kondadev.

Raje was very observant and studied all existing systems in detail including those of the Mahomedans to analyse their positives and negatives. In addition, his study of the Puranas and other Hindu scriptures provided him a fair knowledge of ancient Hindu systems. After thoroughly weighing in the merits and demerits of each system and studying their methods in depth, he set forth evolving a system of his own best suited for his age and circumstances of the time, the need of the country and of course one that ensured the highest good of the rayat (his subjects) which was one of his most important aims. It would be no exaggeration to say that he was as effective an administrator as he was a military general and conqueror. This makes him a rare combination of military and administrative genius along with a statesman who was a benevolent father figure to his subjects.

Ashta Pradhan Mandal (group of eight ministers)

A cabinet of eight ministers, known as Ashta Pradhan Mandal, was set up who were to assist Raje in conducting the affairs of government. Each of the eight ministers had direct charge of a department of government.

  1. Prime minister (Mukhya Pradhan or Peshwa) – was second in rank after the king and in-charge of the entire administrative system, both civil and military.
  2. Military commander (Senapati or Sarnobat) – headed the military department. Although there were two senapatis, one heading the cavalry and the other heading the infantry, it was the cavalry head who was part of the cabinet and exercised control over the infantry senapati as well.
  3. Finance minister (Pant Amatya or Mazumdar) – was the chief of finance department whose duty was to examine civil and military accounts besides checking the separate accounts of each fort. Since it was his duty to exercise strict financial control and audit accounts of all districts of the kingdom, he had an elaborate department comprising of several clerks and accountants and also numerous supervisors of accounts for each separate districts, forts or regiment.
  4. Secretary (Pant Sachiv or Surnis) – was entrusted with the task of keeping government records, supervising correspondence department and examining all letters and despatches, including government despatches to local officers. He was also the registrar of all grants, inams (gifts), sanad (document) and commissions.
  5. Minister (Mantri or Waknis) – was a keeper of private records and correspondence and also superintendent of the household troops and establishment.
  6. Foreign minister (Sumant or Dabir) – looked after all business related with foreign states such as receiving and sending letters and messengers etc.
  7. Minister of religious affairs (Nyaya Shastri or Panditrao) – advised on all religious matters and expounded the shastras (Hindu scriptures). He supervised state ceremonies and religious charities conducted using public funds. It was also his responsibility to ensure that punishments awarded in criminal trials were in accordance with the shastras.
  8. Chief Justice (Nyayadhish) – was entrusted with the task of administering both civil and criminal justice. It was he who heard all appeals made to the king over decisions of local panchayats and gave his decision based on examination of evidence.

Thus, the entire administrative work was divided among different ministers and each of them was empowered to take decisions with respect to his department. In intricate cases the minister would consult the king and if the matter was of much gravity then it was subjected to a full cabinet discussion. Policy decisions that affected the entire kingdom were subjected to full council discussion and final decision was arrived at with the agreement of all.

Except the Panditrao and Nyayadhish, all ministers were required to serve in army. The nascent Maratha Empire was always under threat of war and therefore, all ministers had to be prepared at any given point of time. In view of these emergencies each minister had a deputy known as mutalik who were given full authority to take decisions on behalf of their heads and affix their seals except in cases of special importance. Under each deputy were staffs of officers: a) Mazumdar in charge of departmental audit b) Phadnis who assisted the mazumdar c) Sabnis in charge of departmental records d) Chitnis in charge of departmental correspondence e) Karkhanis who looked after departmental stores f) Jamdar who was the office curator and g) Potnis who was the cashier. In addition there were numerous clerks to process the volumes of work pertaining to each department.

Area under Swarajya (Shivchhatrapati’s direct control) was divided into a number of districts (mahals and prants). One mahal included villages which yielded revenue of 75,000 to 1,25,000 rupees and two or three mahals put together made a prant. The chief of each mahal was known as ‘mahalkari’ and ‘subhedar’ headed the prant (also called subha). Two-fifths of the assessed produce was taken by way of land tax. However, during times of scarcity advances were given to the cultivators who had to repay them in instalments over four or five years after agriculture distress came to an end. Another important feature was that government provided agricultural cattle and seeds besides advances of corn and cash till the first yield was gathered to the holder of uncultivated land which was brought under cultivation for the first time.

One very significant reform which Shivchhatrapati brought to the revenue system was that unlike the Mahomedan states he did away with the concept of revenue collector as a middleman between the cultivators and government. Revenue was now directly collected from the rayat (people) by paid officials of the central government. Above all, the most significant change that Chhatrapati Shivray made to his administration was that the language of communication and official transactions was changed from Deccani and Farsi to Sanskrit and Marathi. After all Swarajya was a mean to establish self-pride.

Each of Shivchhatrapati’s reforms would form a book in itself. We have merely brought some significant features of his administration with the aim of providing a primary insight into his functioning and kindling the spirit of inquiry which would lead the readers to read more and gather a deeper understanding of Shivray.

References

  1. Punyahshlok Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Part 2 by Sahityacharya Balshastri Hardas (Source)
  2. Life of Shivaji Maharaj by N.S. Takakhav (Original in Marathi by K.A. Keluskar) (Source)

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About the Author

Maitri
A opinionated girl-next-door with an attitude. I'm certainly not afraid to call myself 'a proud Hindu' and am positively politically incorrect. A Bharatiya at heart who loves reading, music, sports and nature. Travelling and writing are my passions.