The state during Nizam Shahi period was theocratic in nature. All the necessary elements of theocracy, the sovereignty of God and government by direction of God through priests and in accordance with the divine law were present. The Nizam Shahi sultans considered themselves as deputies or vice-regents of God on earth.
They were given honorific titles such as “Candle of the family of khilafat”, “Lord of the world and mankind”. In theory, the power of the sultan was undisputed. He was the fountain head of all authority. He was “the supreme governor of the realm, the final court of appeal, the chief law giver and the chief commander of forces.
“In spite of this, he could not afford to be an absolute despot. He had to abide by the shariat, listen to the advice of the ulema and theologians and avoid such unpopular measures which may lead to rebellion.
Moreover, there was a council of ministers which advised the king on all political and religious matters. It was not a regularly constituted body nor was the number of its members or its tenure fixed. They held office at the pleasure of the king.
The prime minister was the highest office next only to the king. He was the chief adviser to the sultan who would frequently hold confidential and secret talks with him. In fact, most of the important matters were decided by the king in consultation with the prime minister. He was given the title of vakil or peshwa.
He supervised the work of the various departments including the department of revenue and finance. He was assisted by a diwan who looked after the revenue department. All transactions and payments were first checked by him and later on countersigned by the vakil or peshwa.
He did not enjoy the powers of the Mughal diwan as he had to work directly under the peshwa. He was assisted in his work by nazirs (superintendents). There is ample evidence to support the assumption that the Nizam Shahis continued to maintain a department of law and justice. The king was the highest court of appeal. He decided the cases in consultation with the qazis and muftis.
While Ahmad Nizam Shah was quite lenient in awarding punishment and would let off an accused if he admitted his guilt, Burhan Nizam Shah severely punished the criminals. Murtaza Nizam Shah I had ordered that “a chain of justice should be hung in the plains of Kola Chabutra”. Jahangir adopted this practice later. He had made it a practice to hear appeals at Ahmadnagar where he would invite leading jurists.
The department of endowments and trusts was quite important. It dealt with all the money given in charity by the state nobles and other philanthropists. The wazir headed this department and was assisted by mutawallis.
The department of public works supervised the construction of all state buildings, waterworks, mosques, etc. It was also responsible for laying out canals and gardens. A wazir or minister was incharge of this department with a chief engineer to assist him.
Some of the important canals laid out during Nizam Shah times were kapurwadi channel, nagabai canal, shendi channel, bhinanaga channel, nagapur channel and varulvadi channel. Many beautiful gardens were laid out during the period of Nizam Shah Kings.
The most important of them was bagh-i-hasht bahisht, completed under the supervision of Malik Ahmad Tabrizi. Under the orders of Murtaza Nizam Shah I, a magnificient garden house called farah baksh was constructed by Nimat Khan Samnani. But unfortunately this was pulled down at the instigation of certain nobles who were hostile to Nimat Khan. It was reconstructed by Salabat Khan. He also planted a large number of flowers and fruit trees.
The most important department was of course that of military which looked after the recruitment, training and equipment of soldiers. There were quite a few karkhanas or factories which produced various types of cannons. The largest of these cannons known as malik-i-maidan can still be seen in Bijapur fort.
The Nizam Shahi sultans were keen to keep an efficient and well equipped army as they were surrounded by hostile states. Their meagre resources and the hilly nature of the country did not allow them to keep a large standing army. Their army was composed of two types of soldiers.
The bergis who formed the regular army and were paid by the state directly. Secondly, there were soldiers who were maintained by the silehdars. The latter were paid by the state an annual sum, according to the number of soldiers kept by them.
Besides the regular three divisions of the army viz. infantry, cavalry and artillery, the sultans also kept a navy which was essential to protect the coast line. Malik Ambar maintained a strong fleet and strengthened the strong naval base at Janjira near Rajgadh. Cavalry was, however, the most important.
The hilly nature of the country facilitated mobility of the soldiers on horse backs. Moreover, it was of immense help in guerilla warfare which the Nizam Shahi sultans had developed. Later on, this technique was perfected by the Marathas and used so effectively against the Mughals.
This department was under commander-in-chief who was directly responsible to the prime minister. There were a large number of forts scattered throughout the hilly country. Each fort was under a kotwal who had a number of junior officers. The smaller forts were managed by local officers who were Marathas, Kolis and Dhongars.
The Nizam Shahi kingdom was divided into provinces. The most important of them were Bir, Berar, Junnar and Chaul. Each suba or province was under a governor who was directly appointed by the king.
He exercised almost all the power of sultan in the area under his control. He was the executive as well as judicial head. He was required to maintain a fixed number of soldiers which he had to send when the Sultan required.
He had a number of officers to assist him in his multifarious duties. Each province was divided into districts or sarkars. The Faujdar was the chief officer in the sarkar. There was a kotwal, qazi, a revenue collector and treasurer to assist him. Districts were further divided into parganas, kuryat, simt, mahal and taluka. Sometimes they carried Hindi nomenclature of prant or desh.