Shivaji has been called the ‘father of the Maratha nation.’ Besides being a great conqueror and a diplomat, he was a successful administrator.
In the words of Dr. Ishwari Prasad,
“His system of administration was better than the Mughal administration in several areas.”
A benevolent administrator:
Dr. R.C. Majumdar writes of him, “He was not merely a daring soldier and successful military conqueror but also an enlightened ruler of his people.” Shivaji was readily accessible to his all subjects. He was a popular monarch. He kept a close watch on the administrative affairs of the state. All powers were concentrated on him but he ruled with the advice of his ministers. The common people regarded him with great devotion. They considered him as their greatest benefactor.
General features of Shivaji’s administration:
1. He employed members of all castes and tribes to maintain balance among them.
2. He assigned separate responsibilities to the ministers and each of them was made responsible for his work to him.
3. He made no office hereditary.
4. In general he did not assign jagirs to his civil and military officers.
5. He gave special attention towards the administration of the forts.
6. In matters of administration, he gave superior position to his civil officers as compared to military officers.
7. He established Ryotwari system in revenue administration. The state kept direct contact with the farmers.
Shivaji took special care to make his administrative system responsive to the needs of the people. In the words of Dr. Ishwari Prasad, “The institutions which he established were an improvement upon the existing order and were well adapted to the well-being of his subjects.”
He had a council of ministers (Asht Pradhari) to advise him on the matters of the state but he was not bound by it. He could appoint or dismiss them. This appointment was subject to their efficiency. The Peshwa was the first among ministers. The word Peshwa stands for leader or senior one.
Shivaji’s Asht Pradhan (Council of Eight Ministers):
Excepting the Senapati, all other ministers were Brahmans.
All excepting the Pandit Rao and Nyayadish were expected to command the army whenever needed.
Shivaji divided his kingdom into four provinces. Each province was under the head called Mamlatdar or Viceroy. Each province was divided into several districts and villages. The village was an organised institution.
The chief of the village was called Deshpande or Patel. The head used to run the affairs of the village with the help of the Village Panchayat.
Like the centre, there was a committee or council of eight ministers with Sar-i- ‘Karkun’ or the ‘prantpati’ (Head of the province)
Fiscal system or Revenue system:
Important features were:
(1) Land in every village was measured and the produce was roughly assessed.
(2) On the basis of assessment, the cultivators were asked to pay 40 per cent of their produce as land revenue.
(3) The Ryotwari system was introduced in which the revenue was directly collected from the farmers.
(4) Wherever possible, Shivaji abolished the jagirdari system.
(5) The farmers had the option to pay land revenue in cash or kind.
(6) The peasants could pay the revenue in installments.
(7) The accounts of the revenue officers began to be thoroughly checked.
(8) In the event of famine of natural calamity, the state offered loans to the peasants.
(9) Shivaji introduced the collection of two taxes called the Chauth and ‘Sardeshmukhi’.
‘Chauth’ and ‘Sardeshmukhi’:
Historians differ as to the exact nature of these two taxies levied by Shivaji. According to Ranade, ‘Chauth’ was not merely a military contribution without any moral or legal obligation but a payment in lieu of protection against the invasion of a third power and he compares it with Wellesley’s Subsidiary Alliance System. Sardesai holds that it was a tribute exacted from hostile or conquered territories.
J.N. Sarkar is of the opinion that Chauth was only a means of buying off one robber and not a subsidiary system for the maintenance of peace and order against all enemies. Thus ‘Chauth’ was a military contribution paid toward off any attack of the Marhatas. It was, in theory, ¼ of revenues of the district invaded but in practice it was sometimes much more than that. Sardeshmukhi was an additional tax of 10% which Shivaji claimed as the hereditary Sardeshmukhi or overlord of Maharashtra.
Judicial administrative system was rather simple, crude and primitive. The highest court was ‘Hazar Majils’ or the court of the king. The day-to-day administration was carried on by the village Panchayats and the village ‘Patel’ decided criminal cases.
Shivaji’s army administration:
Shivaji’s army organisation was very efficient. His army was very patriotic, well trained, efficient and extremely mobile.
Shivaji introduced the following reforms in the army:
1. Regular army:
He maintained a regular army. In the traditional military organisation, the soldiers served army for six months and thereafter, they worked in their fields. Now the soldiers were to serve around the year.
2. Cash payment:
He paid the soldiers in cash.
He inspired the soldiers with patriotism.
He recruited the soldiers on merit.
5. Branding of horses:
He introduced the system of branding the horses and keeping the identification of the soldiers.
He enforced strict discipline.
7. Guerilla warfare:
He trained his soldiers in the guerilla warfare.
The guerilla warfare was very suitable in the geographical location of most territories in Maharashtra. He believed in the surprise attacks on the enemy, killed or looted it and disappeared into the forest.
He paid particular attention to the maintenance of forts. Old forts were repaired and new forts built. The forts also served as military cantonments. About the sanctity of forts it is said that the “people were taught to regard them as their mother.” There were about 280 forts. The inhabitants of the surrounding villages took protection in these forts.
The families of the deceased soldiers were looked after carefully.
9. Muslim soldiers:
Shivaji had about seven hundred Muslim soldiers.
Divisions in the army:
Army had six divisions namely, cavalry, infantry, camel battalions, elephant battalions, artillery and navy.
1. The cavalry:
The cavalry formed the main part of the army. Its number was 40,000. There were two categories of horsemen:
They were paid from the state exchange.
They were casual soldiers and they numbered about 50,000.
Discipline in the army:
Shivaji was very strict in maintaining discipline in the army. To kill or torture ladies and children, to loot the Brahmans, to spoil cultivation etc. were punishable offences even during the course of war. Elaborate rules for the maintenance of discipline were rigorously enforced. No soldier was allowed to take his wife in the battlefield.
Liberal Religious policy:
Shivaji was a cultured and a tolerant Hindu ruler. He proclaimed to be the protector of the Hindus, the Brahmans and the cows. He showed respect to religious texts of all religions. He did not destroy a single mosque. He protected Muslim ladies and children even during the course of war.
He gave financial help to Muslim scholars and saints. He employed Muslims in civil and military departments. When Aurangzeb issued a fresh order reimposing the jizya on all the Hindu population, it was an open challenge as much to Shivaji as to many Rajput chiefs.
Shivaji wrote a strong letter of protest to Aurangzeb. He wrote “God is the Lord of all men and not of the Muhammadans only. Islam and Hinduism are only different pigments used by the Divine Painter to picture the human species.” At the same time Shivaji was never actuated by a hatred of the Muslims. He respected the personal honour of a Muslim.