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The history of the Marathas can be divided into two well marked phases:
1. The earlier phase from the later half of the seventeenth century till the death of Aurangzeb i.e., the period of Shivaji, Shambaji, Raja Ram and Tarabai, and
2. The later mughal phase, when the Peshwas became the de facto rulers and the Maratha Empire turned into a loose confederacy of the Maratha chiefs under the leadership of the Peshwas.
· Born in 1627 in fort of Shivner, belonged to the Bhonsle clan and his grandfather, Maloji, rose to prominence in the Nizam-shahi kingdom of Ahmadnagar.
· Maloji’s eldest son, Shahji, father of Shivaji, married Jijabai, daughter of Nizam-shahi noble named Lakuji Yadav Rao, a descendent of the Yadavas of Devagiri.
· Shahji played an important part in the political and military affairs of Nizam-shahi kingdom and fought for Ahmadnagar in its final struggle against the Mughals in 1636. He then entered in the service of Bijapur and subsequently had to flee for life to Karnataka after entrusting his paternal jagir of Poona and the care of his wife Jijabai and her young son Shivaji to his trusted agent Dadaji Kondadev, who was earlier an officer of the Adilshahi kingdom.
· Probably in 1637 or 1638, Dadaji became the guardian of Shivaji and the administration of the jagir remained under Dadaji’s de facto control till his death in 1647, when shivaji assumed full charge.
· Shivaji’s early campigns were directed against the Adilshahi kingdom of Bijapur. In 1653, he captured Kalyan, an important city and wealthy mart of the Adilshahis on the west coast. From 1657 to 1660, Shivaji repeatedly attacked and plundered the Adilshahi territories. In 1660, Afzal Khan, a front rank noble and general of the Adilshahi kingdom, was entrusted with the command of an expedition against Shivaji. Afzal Khan proposed an interview with Shivaji, promising him pardon and grant of territory. But his actual plan was to arrest Shivaji. At the said meeting, when Afzal Khan, while embracing Shivaji, attacked him with a dagger, the latter promptly killed him with the tiger-claws (baghnakh).
· Meanwhile Aurangzeb deputed his maternal uncle Shayista Khan to the deccan to annihilate Shivaji. Early in 1660 a joint attack was launched against Shivaji, the Mughals advancing from the north and the Bijapuris from the south.
· For three years (1660-63), Shivaji was so hunted from all directions that he became a homeless wanderer.
· At this juncture, he launched a night attack at the well-guarded mansion of Shayista Khan, who was wounded in the attack and whose son was killed. This incident gave a rude shock to the Mughal prestige in the Deccan, leading to the recall of Shayista Khan and the appointment of Aurangzeb’s son Mauzzam as viceroy in the Deccan.
· The next blow to the Mughal prestige in the Deccan was the sack of Surat by Shivaji in 1664, which was followed by plunder of Ahmadnagar.
· In 1665, Aurangzeb entrusted the task of suppressing Shivaji to Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber who opened the campaign with the seize of Purandar. Driven to desperation after months of resistance, Shivaji negotiated for submission and a treaty was concluded at Purandar (1665), by which Shivaji was allowed to retain 12 of his forts, including Raigarh, on condition of obedience and service to the Mughals and surrender to 23 of his forts. After the treaty of Purander, Shivaji’s visit to the Mughal court at Agra, his confinement there and his great escape are well-known facts of history.
· After returning to the Deccan in 1666, Shivaji took no aggressive measures and devoted a year or two in reorganizing his resources.
· On the other hand, Mauzzam, the Mughal viceroy in the Deccan, also adopted a conciliatory policy and Aurangzeb conferred the title of ‘Raja’ on Shivaji and his son Shambaji was granted a mansab and jagir in Berar.
· But the three year long peace (1667-70) was broken when Aurangzeb attacked a part of the jagir in Berar. Now Shivaji, with a second sack and plunder of Surat in 1670, renewed his attacks against the Mughal and the Adilshahi territories.
· In 1674, he arranged his grand coronation according to the Vedic rites at his capital Raigarh. He also introduced a new era of his own, dating from his coronation.
· The Siddis of Janjira and the Portuguese were his constant enemies on the west coast. Even his brother Vyankoji in the south had imitated him and announced his sovereignty at Tanjavur in a similar coronation ceremony.
· It was against this background that Shivaji marched for his longest and last campaign in 1677, which took him to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
· The objective of this campaign was the subjugation of the Adilshahi kingdom of Bijapur, for which he entered into a secret pact with the Sultan of Golconda through the good offices of Madanna and Akkanna, the two Brahmin ministers of Golconda.
· During the course of this campaign Shivaji conquered Gingee, Mathura, Vellore etc. and about 100 forts in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
· He also settled the affairs with his brother Vyankoji, who was ruling at Tanjaore.
· He seized certain territories to the south of Goa and conquered the island of Janjira (70 km south of Bombay) from its Abyssinian ruler called the Siddis.
· The last two years of Shivaji’s life were tragic. In December 1678, his son Shambaji escaped with his wife Yesubai and joined Diler Khan, the Mughal governor in the Deccan. It was nearly after a year that he returned to the Maratha dominion. During this period the Mughals exerted great pressure on the Marathas. All these events had a shattering effect on Shivaji’s health from which he never recovered and died on April 4, 1680.
· His empire was divided into two parts: Swaraj (own kingdom) or Mulk-i-qadim (old territory), and an undefined belt of land legally part of the Mughal empire which paid chauth but was not subject to Shivaji’s administration.
· Shivaji appointed Hindus to high offices and by replaced Urdu and Persian by Marathi as the language for official work. A dictionary of official terms, entitled Raja Vyavahara Kosha, was prepared by a panel of experts under the supervision of Raghunath Pandit Hanumate.
· Council of ministers (known as Astapradhans):
1. The Peshwa or the mukhya pradan.
2. The Muzmudar or the Amatya (minister for finance and revenue).
3. The Waqia-navis or the Mantra (home minister).
4. The Dabir or the Sumantha (in-charge of foreign affairs).
5. The Shru-navis (surnis) or the Sachiv (looks after the royal correspondence).
6. The Pandit Rao (minister for religion).
7. The Sarinaubat or the Senapati (commander-in-chief).
8. The Nyayadhish (chief justice).
· Besides performing the departmental duties, three of the ministers - the Peshwa, the Sachiva and the Mantra - were put in-charge of extensive provinces.
· All ministers, except the Pandit Rao and the Nyayadish, had to serve in a war whenever necessary.
· In his departmental duties, each minister was assisted by a staff of eight clerks:
1. Diwan secretary
2. Mujumdar – auditor and accountant
3. Fadnis – deputy auditor
4. Sabnis or Daftardar – office in-charge
5. Karkhanis – commissary
6. Chitins – correspondence clerk
7. Jamadar – treasurer
8. Potnis – cashier
· There were 18 departments in the state which were looked after by the ministers under the guidance of the king.
· The Swaraj territory, which was directly under the rule of Shivaji, was divided into a number of prants (group of districts) which were all aggregated into three provinces, each being placed under a viceroy.
· Officers were paid in cash. Shivaji guarded against this danger by making a rule that none of these offices should be hereditary, but after his death this practice was departed.
· Shivaji’s revenue system was based on the principles followed by Malik Amber in the Ahmadnagar kingdom. The provinces in the Swaraj region were, for revenue purposes, divided into a number of prants, each consisting of two or more districts.
· The number of prants in Sahu’s time were 37. Some of these might have been created after Shivaji’s death.
· Shivaji did away with the hereditary revenue officers, such as the patil, the kulkarni, the deshmukh and the deshpande in the districts.
· The officer incharge of a prant was designated as subahdar, karkun or mukhya deshadhikari.
· The old division of the country into subahs, sarkars, paraganas and mauzas was replaced with a fresh division into mahals, prants, tarafs, mauzas.
· The state demand was at first fixed at 30%, but later it was raised to 40% by Shivaji, when all other taxes and cesses had been abolished.
· The two most important taxes in the Maratha taxation system were chauth and sardeshmukhi.
· Chauth was a military contribution in lieu of not attacking their territory.
· Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of 10% which Shivaji demanded on the basis of a legal fiction that he was the hereditary sardeshmukh (chief headman) of Maharashtra.
Administration of justice:
· There were no regular courts and no systematic procedure. Trial by ordeal was common.
· Criminal cases were heard by the Patel who was an officer having the qualification of a modern tehshildar.
· Appeals in civil and criminal cases were heard by the Brahmin Nyayadhish.
· The final court of appeal was the Hazir Majlis who seems to have disappeared after Shivaji’s death.
· There were about 280 forts in Shivaji’s possession. Each fort was under a Maratha Havaldar with whom were associated a Brahmin subahdar responsible for civil and revenue administration, and an officer of the Prabhu (kayastha) caste.
· Shivaji maintained a regular, standing army, and provided quarters for it during the rainy season. At the time of his death, his army, which was originally a small force, consisted of 30,000 to 40,000 cavalry, and one lakh infantry drawn from the ranks of the peasantry.
· He had an elephant corps.
· Use of firearms in battles; enemies were attacked with rockets, musket shots, bombs and stones.
· The cavalry was divided into two classes: the Barges and the Shiledars. The former were supplied with horses and arms by the state, while the latter had to find their own equipment.
· The infantry arm was divided into regiments, bridges and divisions. The smallest unit was formed by the nine soldiers who were under the command of Naik.
· In time of need Shivaji could also call the feudal forces of the Maratha Wattandars.
· There was a dispute about succession between the two sons of Shivaji (from his two different wives) Sambhaji and Rajaram.
· Finally, after defeating Rajaram, Sambhaji ascended the throne in July, 1680.
· Distrust of the Maratha leaders led him to place his confidence in a Brahmins whom he invested with the supreme control of the administration and the title of Kavikalash.
· In 1680-81, when Aurangzeb was engaged in the Rajput war, Sambhaji renewed war with the Mughal, raided Burhanpur and even attempted an attack on Ahmadnagar.
· The Marathas regarded Kavikalash as a foreigner.
· While Sambhaji was absorbed in incautious merrymaking, he was captured along with Kavikalash by a Mughal officer in February 1689. After cruel torture for more than three weeks, they were hacked to pieces in March 1689.
· At the time of Sambhaji’s death, his son Sahu was only seven years old.
· Rajaram, the younger son of Shivaji and step-brother of Sambhaji, who had been kept in prison by the latter, was proclaimed king by the Maratha council of ministers and crowned at Raigarh in February 1689.
· But soon thereafter, apprehending a Mughal attack, Rajaram left Raigarh and, moving from one place to another, ultimately reached Jinji or Gingee. The Maratha council of ministers and other officials also joined him at Gingee which, till 1698, became the centre of Maratha activity against the Mughals.
· Shortly after Rajaram’s flight to Gingee, the Mughals under Zulfiqar Khan captured Raigarh in October 1689 and all members of Sambhaji’s family, including his son Sahu, fell into Mughal hands.
· Although Sahu was given the title of Raja and granted a mansab, he virtually remained a prisoner in the hands of the Mughals till the death of Aurangzeb (1707).
· The continuing Mughal threat produced four able leaders:
o Nilakantha Moreshwas Pingle (the Peshwa),
o Ramachandra Nilkantha Bavdekar (the Amatya),
o Shankarji Malhar (the Sachiva), and
o Prahlad Niraji Ravji (the son of the late chief justice).
· Three other men, who had hitherto served in unimportant posts, came to the front by virtue of their abilities: Dhanjai Yadhav, Santaji Ghorpare and Parashuram Triambak.
· Ramachandra Bavdekar was made dictator (hukumat-panah) with full authority over the Maratha commanders and other officials in Maharashtra.
· Towards the middle of 1690, the Marathas won their first important victory, when the Mughal general Sharza Khan was captured near Satara with his family, horses and the entire bag and baggage of his army.
· In 1692, there was a conspicuous success: the recovery of Panhala.
· Throughout 1694 and 1695, the Mughals were worn down by desultory fighting and at the end of 1695 Santaji defeated and killed two top ranking Mughal generals, Qasim Khan and Himmat Khan.
· In 1696-97, the Maratha cause was weakened by a civil war which had its origin in the rivalry of Santaji and Dhanaji for the high office of Senapathi (commander-in-chief).
· In 1698, Gingee fell to the Mughals and after fleeing from there, Rajaram reached Vishalgarh.
· In 1699, he made plans for an extensive raid through Khandesh and Berar and started from Satara which had become the Maratha capital after the fall of Gingee. But soon afterwards Rajaram died in March 1700.
· After Rajaram’s death, his minor son by his wife Tarabai, named Shivaji II, was placed on the throne. Tarabai’s energy and ability made her the de facto ruler of the state.
· She took into her own hands the control of all affairs, such as the appointment and change of generals, the cultivation of the country and the planning of raids into the Mughal territory.
· In 1703, the Marathas attacked Berar.
· In 1706, they invaded Gujarat and sacked Baroda.
· In the same year the Marathas threatened the camp of Aurangzeb at Ahmadnagar.
· Aurangzeb died on March 3, 1707, while Tarabai was still in power.
Sahu’s release from the mughal captivity and the rise of the peshwas:
· Nearly three months after Aurangzeb’s death, Sambhaji’s son Sahu (born May 18, 1682) who had been in Mughal captivity since November 1689, was liberated by Aurangzeb’s second son Azam Shah who ascended the throne as Bahadur Shah I.
· Sahu’s release was followed by a civil war between the forces of Tarabai and Sahu, which lasted up to 1714.
· When Sahu reached Satara after his release, Tarabai called him an impostor and ordered her generals to destroy him. But common people and soldiers were on Sahu’s side.
· The support of the Maratha Senapati Dhanaji Yadhav and Diwan Balaji Vishwanath helped Sahu triumph over odds.
· In the ensuring battle of Khed (October 12, 1707) between the forces of Sahu and Tarabai, the latter’s forces were defeated and in January 1708, Sahu occupied Satara.
· Marathas came under two rulers: Sahu as the head at Satara and Shivaji II, or really Tarabai, as the head at Kolhapur.
· When Shivaji II died, another son of Rajaram from Rajasbai, Sambhaji II, ascended the gaddi of Kolhapur.
· The feud between these two rival forces was finally settled by the treaty of Warna in 1731 which provided that Sambhaji II should rule over the southern division of the Maratha kingdom with Kolhapur as its capital and the northern part with the capital at Satara should be considered as the territory of Sahu.
· At his coronation in January 1708, Sahu conferred upon Balaji Vishwanth, the title of Senakarte (maker of the army) and eventually elevated him to the post of Peshwa in 1713.
· With Balaji’s appointment as the Peshwa, the office of the Peshwa became hereditary and Balaji and his successors became the de facto rulers of the Maratha kingdom. From now onwards the Chhatrapati became just a figurehead.