Get Complete Information on Shivaji's Administrative System

According to Rawlinson, "Like nearly all great warriors-Napoleon is a consipcuous example-Shivaji was also a great administrator, for the qualities which go to make a capable general are those which are required by the successful organiser and statesman."

In theory, Shivaji was an autocrat, like his contemporaries. He could do what he pleased. However he was assisted by a Council of 8 ministers known as the Ashta Pradhan. It is absolutely misleading to say that Ashta Pradhan was like a modern cabinet. Its functions were purely advisory. The eight ministers were the following:

(1) The Peshwa or Prime Minister whose duty was to look after the general welfare and interests of the state.

(2) The Amatya or Finance Minister whose duty was to check and countersign all public accounts of the Kingdom in general and the particular districts.

(3) The Mantri or Chronicler whose duty was to keep a diary of the daily doings of the King and also record everything that happened at the court. He was also called Wakia-Nawis.

(4) Summant or Dabir or Foreign Secretary whose duty was to advise the King on matters relating to foreign states and all questions of war and peace. He was also to see foreign Ambassadors and envoys and keep touch with the state of affairs in other states.

(5) Sachiv or Shuru Nawis or Home Secretary whose duty was to look after the correspondence of the King, He was to see that ail royal ietters and dispatches were drafted in the proper style. He had the authority to revise them. He also checked the account of the Parganas.

(6) Pandit Rao or Danadhyaksha or Sadar and Muhtasib or Ecclesiastical Head whose duty was to fix dates for religious ceremonies, punish hearsay and distribute among the Brahmins the charity of the King. He was the judge of canon law and censor of public morals.

(7) Nyayadhish or Chief Justice who was responsible for civil and military justice.

(8) Senapati or Sari Naubat or Commander-in-Chief who was in charge of the recruitment, organisation and discipline of the Army. He arranged disposition of the troops in the battlefield.

It is to be noted that with the exception of the Nyayadhish and Pandit Rao, all other ministers were required to command armies and lead expeditions. "All royal letters, charters and treaties had to bear the seal of the King and the Peshwa and the endorsement of the next four ministers, i.e., other than the Commander-in-Chief, the Ecclesiastical head and the Chief Justice. There were 18 departments of the state and those were under the charge of the various ministers who worked under the supervision and guidance of the King.

Local Government

Shivaji divided his kingdom into four provinces and a Viceroy was appointed for each. The provinces were divided into a number of Prants. The system of granting Jagirs was abolished and Shivaji started the system of paying the officers in cahs. Even when the revenues of a particular place were assigned to any official, his only concern was with the money and he had no control over the people. It was laid down that no office was to be hereditary.


Shivaji was a military genius and no wonder he took pains to put the army on an efficient footing. It was the practice of the Marathas to work for half the year upon their field and to spend the dry season in the saddle on active service. Such a system was considered to be defective by Shivaji and he introduced the system of keeping a regular standing army. During the rainy season, it was provided with quarters and the soldiers were given regular salaries for the whole year. Regular grades were fixed up. In the case of cavalry, the unit was formed by 25 troopers.

Over 25 troopers was placed one Havaldar. Over 5 Havaldars was placed one Jumladar and over 10 Jumladars was placed one Hazari. Other higher ranks were the Five Hazari and the Sari Naubat of cavalry or Supreme Commander. For every 25 troopers, there was a water-carrier and a farrier. The cavalry was divided into two classes: the Bargirs and the Shiledars. The Bargirs were supplied with horses and arms by the state and the Shiledars had to find their own equipment.

The infantry was divided into regiments, brigades and divisions. The smallest unit was formed by 9 soldiers who were under a Naik. Over 5 Naiks was placed a Havaldar and over two or three Havaldars was placed a Jumladar. Over 10 Jumladars was placed a Hazari and over 7 Hazaris was placed a Sari Naubat.

Both Hindus and Muslims were recruited in the army without any distinction. Soldiers were paid in cash and had full confidence in their leaders. Those soldiers, who showed bravery, were rewarded. Shivaji was able to attract a large number of persons from different parts of the country on account of his appreciation of worth.

Forts played a very important role in the military organisation. Garrisons of forts were carefully selected.Great care was taken to keep the troops disiplined. Every fort was placed under three officers of equal status, viz., the Havaldar, the Sabnis and the Sari Naubat.

Shivaji built a considerable fleet which was stationed at Kolaba. He checked the power of the Abyssinian Pirates of Janjira. It also plundered the rich Mughal Ships.

Shivaji was very anxious to maintain discipline in the army. Women were not allowed to go with the army. The baggage was restricted to the minimum. The following were some of the regulations of the army: "The army should return to cantonments in the home territory during the rainy season. Grain, fodder and medicines were to be stored for the horses and thatched huts for the troopers. Soon after Dashehra the army marched out of the cantonments and for eight months it subsisted in foreign territories.

No women, female slaves or dancing girls should be permitted. Any one breaking the rule should be put to death. Women and children of the enemy should be protected. Brahmins were to be let alone and should not be accepted as sureties, when contributions were levied from conquered country. Precious articles seized by the troops during their sojourn abroad should be sent to the treasury. Those who kept back anything should be severely dealt with."

According to Khafi Khan, Shivaji "laid down the rule that whenever a place was plundered the goods of poor people, pulsiyah (copper money) and vessels of brass and copper, should belong to the man who found them; that other articles, gold and silver, coined or uncoiled jems, valuable stuffs and jewels, were not to belong to the finder, but were to be given up without the smallest deduction to the officers and to be paid over by them to Shivaji's Government." It is stated that on the occasion of the sack of Surat, the Marathas did not touch cloth, copper utensils and other insignificant articles.

Fiscal System

Shivaji abolished the system of taxing of farmers. A direct arrangement was made by the Government with cultivators. According to J.N. Sarkar, "The Ryots were not subject to the authority of the Zamindars, Deshmukhs and Desais who had no right to exercise the powers of a political superior or harass the Ryots. The land was carefully surveyed with the help of a measuring rod or Kathi.

The share of the state was fixed at 30% of the produce but later on it was increased to 40% when other taxes were abolished. The cultivator was allowed to pay in cash or in king according to his sweet will. The amount of money to be paid was fixed and consequently there was not much chance of their oppression. The state encouraged agriculture. We are told that in time of famine, the Government advanced money and grain to the cultivators which were to be paid back in installments later on. Fryer has condemned the revenue system of Shivaji and according to him there was oppression of the peasants.

"The great fish prey on the little and even Bijapur rule was milder than that of Shivaji." It is admitted that Shivaji was very strict in the matter of realisation of land revenue so that much discretion may not be left in the hands of the officers for oppression or favouritism. It is admitted on all hands that shivaji's system was humane and beneficent and according to Grant Duff, Shivaji's claim to "a high rank in the page of history must be admitted."

Shivaji started the system of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. According to Justice, Mahadev Govind Ranade, the Chauth was not a military contribution without any moral or legal obligation. It was a payment in lieu of protection against the invasion of a third power.

Mahadev Govind Ranade compared the system of Chauth with the system of subsidiary alliances of Wellesley and added that "the demand for Chauth was subsequently added with the consent of the powers whose protection was undertaken against foreign aggression on payment of fixed sums for the troops maintained for such services. This was the original idea as worked out by Shivaji and it was the same idea which in Marquis or Wellesley's hands bore such fruit a hundred and twenty years later."

Sir J.N. Sarkar holds a different opinion. According to him, "The payment of the Chauth merely saved a place from the unwelcome presence of the Maratha Soldiers and civil| underlings, but did not impose on Shivaji any corresponding obligation to guard the district from foreign invasion or any internal disorder.

The Marathas looked only to their own gain and not to the fate of their prey after they had left. The 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. The lands subject to the Chauth cannot, therefore, be rightly called spheres of influence."

According to GS. Sardesai, the Great Maratha Historian, "the Chauth was a tribute realised from hostile or rival territories. Such a system prevailed in Western India even before the advent of Shivaji. Shivaji got Chauth from the countries invaded by him with the promise that he would protect them from other foreign invaders."

According to Dr S.N. Sen the Author of Administrative System of the Marathas. "Chauth was a contribution exacted by a military leader. Such a demand was justified by the circumstances of the times. In theory, the Chauth was one-fourth of the revenue of a district invaded by the Marathas.

According to J.N. Sarkar, "As the paper assessment was always larger than the actual collect, the real incidence of the Chauth was considerably more than one-fourth of what the peasant paid to their legitimate sovereign."

The term "Desai" is a corrupted form of the Sanskrit word "Desaswami" or "Deshmukh". Sardeshmukh was over many Deshmukhs or Desais. He was paid for his services and that payment was called 'Sardeshmukhi,' Shivaji claimed to be the hereditary Sardeshmukh of his country and consequently demanded an additional levy of 10 per cent as Sardeshmukhi. However, it cannot be denied that it was merely a legal fiction.


The administration of justice was of a primitive nature. No regular courts were set up and no regular procedure was laid down. The Panchayats continued to decide disputes in the villages. The system of ordeals was common. Criminal cases were tried by the Patels. Appeals in both civil and criminal cases were heard by the Nyayadhish who was guided by the Smritis. Hazir Majlis was the final Court of appeal.