Administration of Shivaji

Administration of Shivaji

Administration of Shivaji

Shivaji was a great administrative genius. He possessed a creative ability of a high order. He brought law and order out of chaos and confusion. He also cemented the Marathas into a compact nation. His system of government suited the people of Maharashtra very much. Although Shivaji was an autocrat, he did not make use of his powers for the fulfillment of his own ends but always looked after the welfare of the people. He was assisted in the administration by a council of eight ministers known As Ashta Pradhan.

Ashta Pradhan

It was not an advisory body and had none of the characteristics of modern cabinet. All the eight ministers had independent charge of their respective departments. Shivaji was at liberty to consult them jointly if he felt the need but their opinion was not at all binding upon him. The following were the eight ministers who formed Ashta Pradhan.

1.  Peshwa :- He was the Prime Minister. He was in charge of general welfare of the state.

2.  Amatya :- He was the finance Minister. He used to check and countersign all public accounts of the state.

3.  Mantri :- The Mantra or chronicler used to keep a diary of the king’s daily work in the court. He was also known as Wakia Navis.

4.  Sumant :- He was the Foreign Secretary. He was in charge of foreign affairs. He discussed questions of war and peace with the king and advised him on matters relating to foreign affairs. His duty was to keep himself in touch with other states.

5. Sachiva :- He was the Home secretary. It was his duty to look to the correspondence of the king. He was authorized to revise the king’s letters. He used to check the accounts of the Parganas.

6.  Pandit Rao or Davadhyaksha :- He was the Ecclesiastical head and looked after grants to religious bodies and learned men.

7.  Nyayadhish :- He was the Chief justice. He was responsible for civil and military justice.

8.  Senapati :- He was the Commander-in-Chief and looked after the recruitment, organization and discipline of the army.

Provincial Administration

Shivaji had divided his entire kingdom into four parts for the facility of administration and well-being of the people :

1.  The first part, known as northern province, containing Dung, Baglana, Loli Pradesh, south of Surat, Konkan, northern Bombay and Deccan plateau in southern Poona.

2.  The second part, known as southern province, contained Konkan, southern Bombay, Sawantvadi and the northern Kanara coast.

3.  The third part, known as south-eastern province, contained Satara and Kolhapur district, Belgaon in the west of Tungabhadra, Dharwar and Kopal.

4.  The fourth part, the newly conquered province contained the area on the other side of Tungbhadra, i.e. from Kopal to Vellore, modern Mysore and Arcot.

Military Administration

The military organization of Shivaji was quite good. The basic part of the army of Shivaji was infantry and cavalry. 45,000 paga and 60,000 silhadar cavalry was the strength of the army of Shivaji when he breathed his last. It also contained one lakh Malve infantry. Elephants and small artillery was also significant part of his army. The paga soldiers were also known as Bargirs. They were provided horses and arms by the state whereas the Silhadars were the owners of their horses and arms. In the army organization of Shivaji a Havaldar was appointed on twenty-five horsemen. One Jumaldar was appointed on five Havaldars, one Hazari on ten Jumaldars and one five-hazari was appointed over five Hazaris. Sar-i-Naubat was the head of all cavalry in the army of Shivaji.

The infantry of Shivaji was also divided in the same style. One Nayak was posted on nine foot-soldiers, one Havaldar over ten Nayaks, one Jumaldar over two or three Havaldars and one Hazari mansabdar was appointed over ten Jumaldars. The post of Sat-Hazari was considered the highest in the infantry but he was controlled by Sar-i-Naubat.

The army of Shivaji comprised soldiers of different castes but all of them were always prepared to sacrifice their lives on the command of their masters. The soldiers were paid their salary in cash and they were kept in strict discipline. During rainy season the army remained at the headquarters but went on expeditions afterwards. The soldiers were strictly warned not to misbehave with the womenfolk and Brahmins nor were they permitted to harm the peasants and agriculture.

There were about 250 forts under the control of Shivaji which were properly administered. Normally, the forts were constructed on the top of hills and no enemy could conquer them easily. Contingents were kept in the forts for their safety.

Realizing the significance of the navy, Shivaji organized it also as it was essential for the safety of sea-coast. Hence Shivaji resorted to the organization of a strong navy, and safeguarded his empire from the invasions of the Sidis of Janjira. Shivaji’s navy consisted of about four hundred ships of different kinds.

Revenue System

In order to strengthen the economic condition of the empire Shivaji paid proper attention towards the revenue system of the empire. After making an assessment of the total produce of empire, 2/3 part was fixed as the share of the roayal treasury. The farmers were at liberty to deposit this revenue (tax) in the form of corn or cash. During his regime Shivaji did not encourage the system of Jagirdari, as he believed in Rayatwari system in which the state used to keep direct relations with the peasants and looked after the welfare of the peasants by providing them help at the time of natural calamity.

Besides land revenue, Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were also the source of income of the empire. Shivaji used to realize both these taxes from the neighboring countries. The Chauth was 1/4 part of the income of the province while Sardeshmukhi was 1/10. Historians are not unanimous about the causes of the realization of these taxes. M. G. Ranade opines that these taxes were collected from the neighboring states in lieu of their safety from foreign invaders, but Dr. Sarkar, Dr. Sardesai and Dr. Sen do not agree to this opinion of Ranade. They mention that Shivaji did not undertake the responsibility of their safety but only realized these taxes by dint of his force of arms. Besides these taxes there were some other sources of income of the state in the form of taxes on the sales and purchase of things, trade taxes, forest tax, gifts and presents and the booty collected during invasions.

Religious Policy

Shivaji was a tolerant ruler. His spiritual teacher Guru Ram Dass infused the spirit of tolerance in him and as a true Hindu he honored the Brahmins, the Vedas and the cows but he was not fanatic at all. He behaved with the people of other sects quite politely and never offended them for their being followers of Islam or other religions. He used to pay proper regards to the Quran and the mosques and protected the Muslim ladies and children during wars. Owing to his liberal religious attitude, his bitter critic Khafi Khan also has praised him a lot.


Milan Tomic

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