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Maratha Administration under Peshwas I

Maratha Administration under Peshwas (1714-1818)

  • The Peshwa was one of the Ashta Pradhan of Shivaji.
  • This office was not a hereditary one.
  • As the power and prestige of the king declined, the Peshwas rose to prominence.
  • The genius of Balaji Vishwanath (1713-1720) made the office of the Peshwa supreme and hereditary.
  • The Peshwas virtually controlled the whole administration, usurping the powers of the king.
  • They were also recognized as the religious head of the state.

Central Secretariat

  • The centre of the Maratha administration was the Peshwa Secretariat at Poona.
  • It dealt with the revenues and expenditure of all the districts, the accounts submitted by the village and district officials.
  • The pay and rights of all grades of public servants and the budgets under civil, military and religious heads were also handled.
  • The daily register recorded all revenues, all grants and the payments received from foreign territories.


  • Provinces under the Peshwas were of various sizes.
  • Larger provinces were under the provincial governors called Sar-subahdars.
  • The divisions in the provinces were termed Subahs and Pranths.
  • The Mamlatdar and Kamavistar were Peshwa’s representatives in the districts.
  • They were responsible for every branch of district administration.
  • Deshmukhs and Deshpandes were district officers who were in charge of accounts and were to observe the activities of Mamlatdars and Kamavistars.
  • It was a system of checks and balances.
  • In order to prevent misappropriation of public money, the Maratha government collected a heavy sum (Rasad) from the Mamlatdars and other officials.
  • It was collected on their first appointment to a district.
  • In Baji Rao II’s time, these offices were auctioned off.
  • The clerks and menials were paid for 10 or 11 months in a year.

Village Administration

  • The village was the basic unit of administration and was self-supportive.
  • The Patel was the chief village officer and was responsible for remitting revenue collections to the centre.
  • He was not paid by the government.
  • His post was hereditary.
  • The Patel was helped by the Kulkarni or accountant and recordkeeper.
  • There were hereditary village servants who had to perform the communal functions.
  • The carpenters, blacksmiths and other village artisans gave begar or compulsory labour.

Urban Administration

  • In towns and cities the chief officer was the Kotwal.
  • The maintenance of peace and order, regulation of prices, settling civil disputes and sending of monthly accounts to the governments were his main duties.
  • He was the head of the city police and also functioned as the magistrate.

Sources of Revenue

  • Land revenue was the main source of income.
  • The Peshwas gave up the system of sharing the produce of the agricultural land followed under Shivaji’s rule.
  • The Peshwas followed the system of tax farming.
  • Land was settled against a stipulated amount to be paid annually to the government.
  • The fertility the land was assessed for fixation of taxes.
  • Income was derived from the forests.
  • Permits were given on the payment of a fee for cutting trees and using pastures.
  • Revenue was derived even from the sale of grass, bamboo, fuel wood, honey and the like.
  • The land revenue assessment was based on a careful survey.
  • Land was divided into three classes: according to the kinds of the crops, facilities for irrigation, and productivity of the land.
  • The villagers were the original settlers who acquired the forest.
  • They could not be deprived of their lands.
  • But only the Patel could represent their rights to the higher authorities.
  • Other sources of revenue were Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
  • The Chauth was divided into
    • 25 percent for the ruler
    • 66 percent for Maratha officials and military heads for the maintenance of troops.
    • 6 percent for the Pant Sachiv (Chief, a Brahman by birth)
    • 3 percent for the tax collectors.
  • Customs, excise duties and sale of forest produce also yielded much income.
  • Goldsmiths were allowed to mint coins on payment of royalty to the government and getting license for the purpose.
  • They had to maintain a certain standard.
  • When it was found that the standard was not being met all private mints were closed in 1760 and a central mint was established.
  • Miscellaneous taxes were also collected. It included
    • Tax on land, held by Deshmukhs and Deshpandes.
    • Tax on land kept for the village Mahars.
    • Tax on the lands irrigated by wells.
    • House tax from all except Brahmins and village officials.
    • Annual fee for the testing of weights and measures.
    • Tax on the re-marriage of widows.
    • Tax on sheep and buffaloes.
    • Pasture fee.
    • Tax on melon cultivation in river beds.
    • Succession duty.
    • Duty on the sale of horses, etc.
  • When the Maratha government was in financial difficulty, it levied on all landholders, Kurja-Patti or Tasti-Patti, a tax equal to one year’s income of the tax-payer.
  • The administration of justice also earned some income.
  • A fee of 25% was charged on money bonds.
  • Fines were collected from persons suspected or found guilty of adultery.
  • Brahmins were exempted from duty on things imported for their own use.

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