1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
3. Rise of the Marathas
4. Shivaji
5. The Maratha Administration

1. Central Administration
2. Provincial Administration
3. Military Organization
6. Maratha Society and Economy
7. Let Us sum Up
8. Further Readings
9. Answers To Check Your Progress
10. Possible Questions


After going through this unit, you will be able to:
discuss the emergence of the Marathas,
explain the career of Shivaji,
discuss the Maratha administration,
describe the society and economy of the Maratha.


In the previous unit, we have discussed the rise of the Vijaynagara and Bahmani kingdoms. Now in this chapter, we shall discuss the rise of one of the most important powers of India viz. the Marathas.


The rise of the Maratha power occupies an important chapter in Indian history during the second half of the seventeenth century. The Marathas had brilliant traditions of political and cultural attainments. There is no doubt that Shivaji was the harbinger of the Maratha national unity, though it has to be noted that the ground was prepared for his rise by several other factors.

Firstly, the geography of Maharastra exercised a profound influence in moulding the character and history of its people. Encircled on two sides by the mountain ranges of the Sahyadri running from north to south and the Satpura and the Vindhyas running from east to west, this land was protected by the Narmada and the Tapti rivers with numerous easily defensible hill forts. The rugged and unproductive soil of the land, its precarious and scanty rainfall and its meager agricultural resources, kept the Marathas immune from the vices of luxury and idleness and helped them to develop the virtues of self-reliance, courage, perseverance and a sense of social equality.

Secondly, the Marathi religious reformers, Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas and Vaman Pandit, were preaching through successive centuries, the doctrines of devotion to god and equality of all men before Him, without any distinction of caste or position. Furthermore, the concept of the dignity of work which had been repeatedly emphasized by these reformers helped germination of the seeds of a renaissance or self-awakening which is generally considered as the presage of political revolution in a country. Ramdas Samartha, the spiritual Guru of Shivaji, exercised a profound influence on the minds of his countrymen and inspired them with ideals of social reform and national regeneration through his famous work known as Dasabodha.

Thirdly, their rich literature and language brought a bond of unity among the people of Maharastra. The devotional songs of religious reformers were composed in the Marathi language and consequently a rich Marathi literature grew up during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries which inspired the people of the land with noble aspirations. Thus, as observed by Sir J. N. Sarkar, a remarkable community of language, creed and life was attained in Maharastra in the seventeenth century even before political unity was brought by Shivaji. What little was wanting to the solidarity of the people was supplied by his creation of a national state, the long struggle with the invaders from Delhi under his sons and the imperial expansion of the race under the Peshwas.

Before the rise of Shivaji, the Marathas had acquired some experience in political and military administration through their employment under the Sultan of the Deccan. Shahji, father of Shivaji, began his career as a trooper in the army of the Sultan of Ahmadnagar. He gradually rose to distinction, acquired vast territorial possessions in that state and played the role of a kingmaker during the last years of the Nizam Shahi rule. After the annexation of Ahmadnagar by Shah Jahan, he entered the service of the Bijapur State in 1636. Here also he earned considerable fame and received an extensive fief in the Karnatak, besides his old Jagir of Poona, which he had held as an officer of the Ahmadnagar state.


Shivaji was born in the hill-fort of Shivner near Poona in 1627. Soon Shahji, his father, moved to his new Jagir with his second wife leaving Shivaji and his mother Jija Bai under the guardianship of an able Brahmana, Dadaji Khondev. India at that time was under the Muslim rulers, the Mughals in the north and the Muslim Sultans of Bijapur and Golkunda in the south. All three ruled by right of conquest and made no pretence that they had any obligation towards the ruled. His mother, a maverick Hindu woman, groomed him right from birth to fight for the rights of the oppressed Hindus and overthrow the Muslim rulers. At the age of 12, Shivaji was assigned the Jagir of Poona by his father. By the time he was 16, he was committed that he was the divinely appointed instrument for the cause of Hindu freedom – a conviction that was to inspire him throughout his life.

Shivaji collected a small band of followers from among his playmates. He personally trained them in guerilla tactics and began to seize the weak Bijapur outposts around 1655. His daring and military skill, coupled with his sternness towards the oppressors of the Hindus, won him the adulation of all. His actions became increasingly bold and several minor expeditions sent to chastise him proved ineffective.

In 1659, when the Sultan of Bijapur sent an army of 20,000 under Afzal Khan (a great general of Bijapur) to subdue him, Shivaji lured him to a meeting, where in a deadly embrace, he killed the general with steel claws. Meanwhile, hand-picked troops that were already positioned swooped down on the unwary Bijapur army and routed it. Overnight, Shivaji had become a formidable warlord, possessing the horses, the guns and the ammunitions of the Bijapur army. Alarmed by Shivaji’s rising strength, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb ordered Shayista Khan, the Mughal governor of the Deccan, to march against him. Shivaji countered by carrying out a daring midnight raid right within the camp of Shayista Khan in which the governor lost the fingers of one hand and his son was killed. Discomfited by this reverse, Shayista Khan withdrew his force. Shivaji, as if to provoke the Mughals further, attacked the rich coastal town of Surat and took an immense booty.

Aurangzeb could hardly ignore so blatant a challenge and sent out his most prominent general Mirza Raja Jai Singh at the head of an army said to number some 100,000 men. Jai Singh did not underestimate the Marathas. He made careful diplomatic and military preparations. Marching to Poona, he decided to strike at the heart of Shivaji’s territories, the fort Purandar where Shivaji had lodged his family and his treasures. In 1665, he besieged Purandar, beating off all Maratha attempts to relieve it. With the fall of the fort and finding that no relief was likely to come from any quarter, Shivaji opened negotiations with Jai Singh for peace. After hard bargaining, they concluded the treaty of Purandar by which Shivaji surrendered 23 forts to the Mughals, retaining 12 on condition of service and loyalty to the Mughal emperor. Shivaji’s son Shambhuji was appointed a Mansabdar of 5000 at the Mughal court and was granted a jagir. Shivaji was excused from personal service, but he promised to join any Mughal campaign in the Deccan in future. Shivaji was allowed to occupy the Bijapuri territory of Balaghat which was in advance granted to him. Jai Singh thus cleverly created a gulf between Shivaji and the Bijapuri ruler. It is believed that he aimed at conquering the whole of Deccan in alliance with Shivaji.

The Mughal-Maratha joint expedition against Bijapur however, did not materialize whereupon, Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to visit the emperor at Agra. But the visit proved to be a disaster. Shivaji felt insulted when he was put in the category of Mansabdars of 5000 which was granted to his son. This infuriated him and he walked off angrily refusing imperial service. Shivaji and his son Shambhuji who accompanied him to Agra were placed under house arrest. But they escaped from detention in the guise of sanyasis.
Returning to his homeland, Shivaji kept himself busy in consolidating his powers. He enacted new laws and made several administrative reforms which served the best interests of the people. Though a devout Hindu, he was not intolerant to people of other faiths. He respected all people, including the Muslims and the Christians. There were many Muslims in his service. From 1670 onwards he renewed his campaigns against the Mughals as he could not reconcile to the loss of 23 forts and the territory worth four lakhs huns a year to the Mughals without any compensation from Bijapur. He sacked Surat a second time in 1670. During the next four years, he recaptured one by one the forts of Purandar, Kalyan, Singhagarh, etc from the Mughals and made deep inroads into the Mughal territories in Berar and Khandesh. He also renewed his war with Bijapur, securing Panhala and Satara by means of bribes, and raiding the Kanara country at will.

Shivaji’s coronation as “Chhatrapati” (king) took place at Raigarh in 1674 with great show of pomp and grandeur. In 1676, he undertook an expedition into the Bijapuri Karnataka. He captured Jinji and Vellore from the Bijapuri officials. He also conquered much of the territories held by his half-brother, Ekoji. He captured Ponda and Karbar and came into conflict with the Janjibar Siddis. Shivaji built a strong navy and a fleet of ships to guard the coastal regions of Maharastra. He died a natural death in the year 1680 at Raigarh.

Shivaji was a great warrior and an efficient administrator. From a petty jagirdar at Poona, he rose to the position of a king by dint of hard labour and skilful generalship. His country was well administered and it possessed all the qualities of charity, justice and benevolence in abundance. He could not rule for a long time, but he laid the foundation of a powerful country which was prosperous and stable. Unfortunately, at the hands of his weak successors the process of disintegration began within years of his death.


The devotional songs of the religious reformers were scomposed in the Marathi language.


1. Write True / False :
(a) Maharastra is encircled on two sides by the mountain ranges of the Sahyadri, Satpura and the Vindhyas. (True/ False)
(b) Ramdas Samartha was not the spiritual guru of Shivaji. (True/ False)
(c) Shivaji’s father began his career as a trooper in the army of the Sultan of Ahmadnagar. (True/ False)

2. Fill in the blanks :
(a) Shivaji was born in the hill fort of ________.
(b) Maharastra is protected by the _______ and the_________ rivers.
(c) After the annexation of Ahmednagar by __________Shivaji’s father Shahji entered the service of the Bijapur state in 1636.


In the present section, we are confining overselves to the central and provincial administration and the military organization of the Maratha empire. The Maratha administration was essentially the work of Shivaji though some of its institutions were borrowed from the Mughal system of administration.

Central Administration

The Maratha state was a centralised autocratic monarchy though it was an enlightened one. The king was at the helm of affairs. The king’s chief objective was the happiness and prosperity of his subjects (raja kalsya karanam).

To assist the king, there was a council of eight ministers known as the Ashtapradhan. They were:

i) Peshwa (Prime Minister): He was officially known as the Mukhya Pradhan. He was the head of both civil and military affairs.

ii) Mazumdar (Auditor): He looked after the income and expenditure of the state.

iii) Waqia-Nawis: He was the incharge of king’s private affairs.

iv) Suru-Nawis (Superintendent): He used to look after all official correspondences.

v) Dabir (Foreign Secretary): His duty was to advise the king on matters relating to foreign affairs and on questions of war and peace.

vi) Sar-i-Naubat (Commander in Chief): He is also known as Senapati. He was in charge of recruitment, organization and discipline of the army.

vii) Pandit Rao (Head of Ecclesiastical Department): He is also known as Dandadhyaksha. His main duties were to fix the dates of festivals, to prohibit heresy and to conduct disbursement of charitable money to Brahmanas.

viii) Nyayadhish (Chief Justice): He was the Chief Judge and was responsible for dispensation of justice on judicial, civil and military disputes.

The Ashtapradhan was neither the creation of Shivaji nor was it at first organised at the time of his coronation. The offices of Peshwa, Mazumdar, Wakins, Dabir, Surnis (and the Sarnobat) existed under the Deccani rulers. Of these eight ministers, the Peshwa was the chief enjoying higher status and royal confidence, but not supremacy over the other ministers. Actually the Ashtapradhan was not strictly in the nature of a council of ministers having collective responsibility, each minister being directly responsible to the king. All, except Pandit Rao and Nyayadhish were expected to lead military campaigns in time of war. The Ashtapradhan could advise the king but it was not binding on him to accept its advice. They could not even appoint officers or clerks in their own departments. The king was the sole appointing authority. Besides these eight ministers, there were Chitnis or Munshis who wrote official letters and documents. There was also Dewan, Farnis, Sabnis and Patnis as other officials in the government service.

Under Shivaji, these offices were neither hereditary nor permanent, the officers held office during the king's pleasure. However, they were frequently transferred. They were paid from the exchequer and no jagir was granted to them. Shivaji abolished jagirdari and paid his officers in cash. Later, under the peshwas these offices became hereditary and permanent.

Provincial Administration

Shivaji’s kingdom was divided into three provinces, each under a head called Subedar or Viceroy. The Northern provinces were under Moro Trimbak Pingle, the Southern provinces were governed by Annaji Datto, and the South- Eastern provinces were ruled by Dattaji Pant. These three parts formed the core part of the kingdom. Besides these provinces, Shivaji enjoyed suzerainty in some other places of the Deccan which paid him tribute. Each Subedar had eight subordinate officers: Dewan, Majumdar, Farnis, Sabnis, Karkhanis, Chitnis, Jamadar and Potnis. Over a number of provinces there was the Sarsubedar to control and supervise the work of the Subedars.

The provinces were divided into Prantas (districts) which were again sub-divided into Parganas or Tarafs. A few villages formed a Taraf. The head of the Pranta was called Mamlatdar. Habildar or Karkoon was the chief administrator of Taraf. Patel, Deshpande or Deshmukhyia was the title of a village chief. The village council or Panchayat took decisions on all affairs of the village. The village chief used to execute the decisions of the village councils. Under Shivaji none of the officers was permanent and hereditary. All officers were liable to frequent transfers.

Military Organisation

Shivaji’s army was a well-organised and disciplined force. It had six divisions namely, cavalry, infantry, camel battalions, elephant battalions, artillery and navy. The most important section of the army was the cavalry which was divided into Paga or Bargi and Shiladar. The Bargis were regular army who were paid salaries and given horse from the state. Shiladars were troopers who supplied their own men and horses. They were irregular cavalrymen recruited only in times of war. Shivaji also introduced the system of branding the horses and maintaining the identity of the soldiers. He paid the soldiers in cash and recruited them on merit. The soldiers were trained in the guerilla tactics of warfare which was very useful in the geographical location of the Maratha territory.

Shivaji was very keen in maintaining discipline in the army. Elaborate rules for maintenance of discipline were prepared and rigorously enforced. No woman was permitted to accompany the troops. The plunder taken during campaigns was strictly accounted for. Killing or torturing women and children, looting the Brahmana, destroying standing crops, etc during war were punishable offences.

Forts found an important place in Shivaji's scheme of military reforms. He built such a long chain of forts that not a single Taluka or Pargana was left without a fort. During his life, Shivaji constructed about 250 forts. No single officer was entrusted sole charge of a fort. Instead, in every fort there were a Havaldar, a Sabnis and a Sarnobat. Big forts had five to ten Tat-Sarnobats. All these officers were of equal status and rank and were frequently transferred. This system acted as check and balance on each others' authority. The Havaldar was in-charge of the keys of the fort. The Sabnis controlled the muster-roll and dealt with all government correspondences. He also looked after the revenue-estimates of the place (under the jurisdiction of the fort). The Sarnobat was the officer in-charge of the garrison. Besides, there was Karkhanis who used to look after the grain stores and other material requirements. All daily accounts of income and expenditure were to be maintained by the Karkhanis. None held absolute power. Though literally, the Sabnis was the overall in-charge of accounts, all orders had to bear the seal of the Havaldar and the Karkhanis. Same was also the case with other offices. Thus, a good system of checks and balances was maintained by Shivaji to keep his officers under control.


The Marathas were the most formidable Hindu power in India. The unity and cohesion of the Maratha society was the result of their strong religious sentiments and love for their land. Lack of abundance of resources and productive soil, its precarious and scanty rainfall and its meager agricultural produce, made the Marathas immune from the vices of luxury and idleness and helped them to develop the virtues of “self-reliance, courage, perseverance, a sense of social equality and consequently pride in the dignity of man as man”. Vaishnava saints and reformers like Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas and Vaman Pandit united the Marathi people through their preachings of Bhakti. There was little distinction between the rich and the poor in the Maratha society. Unlike some other parts of India, in Maharastra, land was not concentrated in the hands of a few rich. The tillers enjoyed full rights over the land they cultivated. There was least class division in the Maratha society as all the people had more or less equal economic status. The women enjoyed respectable place in the Maratha society. Hence, the edifice of social unity was strong among the Maratha people.

As the hilly regions of Maharastra did not yield much land revenue, Shivaji levied Chauth and Sardeshmukhi on the neighbouring tracts. Chauth was ¼th of the land tax paid to the state in return for freedom from subjection to raid. It was a sort of military tax which he spent on his army. Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of 10% on those lands over which the Marathas claimed hereditary rights, but which formed part of the Mughal empire.


Vaishnava saints like Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas and Vaman Pandit united the Maratha people through their preachings of Bhakti.


1. Fill in the blanks :

(a) The Maratha state was essentially a centralised __________ monarchy though an enlightened one.
(b) To assist the king, there was a council of state ministers known as__________.
(c) Shivaji constructed about __________ forts.
(d) The women enjoyed ___________ place in the Maratha society.

2. Match the following :

(a) Waqia-Nawis (i) Superintendent
(b) Dabir (ii) Auditor
(c) Peshwa (iii) In charge of kings private affairs
(d) Suru-Nawis (iv) Foreign Secretary
(e) Mazumdar (v) Prime Minister



The rise of the Marathas forms an interesting chapter in the history of India. It was not a sudden or an isolated phenomenon. It was the natural outcome of a long preparation of several years under the stress of a religious and social movement. To become a strong nation the Marathas needed political power and leadership which was provided to them by Shivaji. In this unit, we have discussed the main factors of the rise of the Marathas under Shivaji and his career and achievements. The salient aspects of the Maratha administration and Maratha society and economy have also been discussed.

Shivaji’s administrative set-up, though not new, he gave it fresh colour by introducing certain new elements in it. He avoided every possible configuration of various groups to assume political power. But such a set up was efficient only when an able ruler was there to administer the country. With the death of Shivaji, the process of decline set in under his weak successors. Growing corruption and slackness among the nobles infected not only the central and provincial government but also the army.


1. Majumdar, R.C.,
Raychaudhuri H.C. : An Advanced History of India
and Dutta, K.

2. Chandra, Satish : Medieval India: From Sultanate to the Mughals



1. (a) True
(b) False
(c) True

2. (a) Shivner
(b) Narmada and Tapti
(c) Shah Jahan

1. (a) Autocratic
(b) Ashtapradhan
(c) 250
(d) Respectable

2. (a) iii
(b) iv
(c) v
(d) i
(e) ii


1. Discuss the rise of the Marathas under Shivaji.

2. Write an account on the Maratha administration.

3. Write a note on the Maratha society and economy.

4. Write short notes on the following:
a) Ashtapradhan
b) Shivaji’s military organisation