In this volume in the New Cambridge History of India, Dr Stewart Gordon presents the first recent comprehensive history of one of the most colorful and least understood kingdoms of India: the Maratha polity. The kingdom was founded by Shivaji in the mid-seventeenth century and spread across much of India during the following century. It was subsequently conquered by the British in the nine- teenth century, but none the less provided the basis for the formation of many princely states.

Since independence a huge mass of administrative documents of the Maratha polity and many important family papers have become available to scholars. Stewart Gordon draws on this material to explore the origin of the Marathas in the Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan, their emergence as elite families, patterns of loyalty, and strategies for maintaining legitimacy. He traces how the Maratha armies developed from bands of lightly armed cavalry to European- style infantry and artillery and assesses the economics that funded the polity, especially taxation and credit. Finally, the author considers the legacy of the Maratha polity: the profound effects it had upon revenue administration, law, education, trade patterns, migration, and the economic and social make-up of Central India, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

In this book, Stewart Gordon presents a picture of everyday life in the Maratha polity as well as an important example of the dynamics of kingdoms during this period. The Marathas 1600-1818 will be widely read by students and specialists of Indian, military,and colonial history as well as by anthropologists.

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The Marathas 1600-1818

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General editor GORDON JOHNSON

Director, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Selwyn College

Associate editors C. A. BAYLY

Professor of Modern Indian History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of St Catharine’s College

and JouN F. RICHARDS Professor of History, Duke University

Although the original Cambridge History of India, published between 1922 and 1937, did much to formulate a chronology for Indian history and describe the administrative structures of government in India, it has inevitably been overtaken by the mass of new research published over the last fifty years.

Designed to take full account of recent scholarship and changing concep- tions of South Asia’s historical development, The New Cambridge History of India will be published as a series of short, self-contained volumes, each dealing with a separate theme and written by a single person, within an overall four-part structure. As before, each will conclude with a substantial bibliographical essay designed to lead non-specialists further into the literature.

The four parts are as follows:

I The Mughals and their Contemporaries. II Indian States and the Transition to Colonialism. III The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society. IV The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia.

A list of individual titles already published and in preparation will be found at the end of the volume.

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II - 4

The Marathas 1600-1818




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Published by the Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge ca2 1RP 40 West 2oth Street, New York, ny 10011-4211, USA 10 Stamford Road, Oakleigh, Victoria 3166, Australia

© Cambridge University Press 1993 First published 1993 A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress cataloguing in publication data

Gordon, Stewart, 1945- The Marathas 1600—1818/Stewart Gordon. p. cm.-(The New Cambridge History of India; 11.4) Includes index. ISBN 0 521 26883 4 (hc)

1. Maratha (Indic people) - History. 2. India History ~ 1500-1765. 3. India History - 18th century. 4. India History roth century. 1. Title. 11. Series.

DS485.M349G67 1993 954'.7025 dczo 92-165 25 CIP

ISBN © 521 26883 4 hardback

Transferred to digital printing 2003


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N Am > WY WN


List of maps

General editor’s preface Acknowledgements Glossary

Introduction: historiography and bibliography The geopolitics of Maharashtra

Marathas and the Deccan sultanates

Shivaji (1630-80) and the Maratha polity Family responses to invasion (1680-1719)

Baji Rao I’s northern expansion (1720-1740) Conquest to administration (1740-1760) Centripetal forces (1760-1803)

Epilogue (1803-1818)




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page viii ix Xl



37 59

114 132 194 175 178



Maharashtra of the seventeenth century showing the main roads


and towns page 11 2 Political and military situation of the northern Deccan

Cc. 1615-20 43 3 The Karnatak region 48 4 Main roads and forts of the Pune region c. 1660 72 5 Aurangzeb’s campaign against the Maratha hill forts, 1700-07 102 6 Provinces of the Mughal Empire north of the Deccan c. 1720 115 7 Burhanpur, Khandesh, and Malwa c. 1750 126 8 Rajasthan, Agra, and Awadh c. 1740-60 136 9 India in 1798 170


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The New Cambridge History of India covers the period from the beginning of the sixteenth century. In some respects it marks a radical change in the style of Cambridge Histories, but in others the editors feel that they are working firmly within an established academic tradition.

During the summer of 1896, F.W. Maitland and Lord Acton between them evolved the idea of a comprehensive modern history. By the end of the year the Syndics of the University Press had committed themselves to the Cambridge Modern History, and Lord Acton had been put in charge of it. It was hoped that publication would begin in 1899 and be completed by 1904, but the first volume in fact came out in 1902 and the last in 1910, with additional volumes of tables and maps in 1911 and 1912.

The History was a great success, and it was followed by a whole series of distinctive Cambridge Histories covering English Litera- ture, the Ancient World, India, British Foreign Policy, Economic History, Medieval History, the British Empire, Africa, China and Latin America; and even now other new series are being prepared. Indeed, the various Histories have given the Press notable strength in the publication of general reference books in the arts and social sciences.

What has made the Cambridge Histories so distinctive is that they have never been simply dictionaries or encyclopedias. The Histories have, in H.A.L. Fisher’s words, always been ‘written by an army of specialists concentrating the latest results of special study’. Yet as Acton agreed with the Syndics in 1896, they have not been mere compilations of existing material but original works. Undoubtedly many of the Histories are uneven in quality, some have become out of date very rapidly, but their virtue has been that they have consistently done more than simply record an existing state of knowledge: they have tended to focus interest on research and they have provided a massive stimulus to further work. This has made their publication doubly worthwhile and has distinguished them intellectually from


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other sorts of reference book. The editors of the New Cambridge History of India have acknowledged this in their work.

The original Cambridge History of India was published between 1922 and 1937. It was planned in six volumes, but of these, volume 2 dealing with the period between the first century ap and the Muslim invasion of India never appeared. Some of the material is still of value, but in many respects it is now out of date. The last fifty years have seen a great deal of new research on India, and a striking feature of recent work has been to cast doubt on the validity of the quite arbitrary chronological and categorical way in which Indian history has been conventionally divided.

The editors decided that it would not be academically desirable to prepare a new History of India using the traditional format. The selective nature of research on Indian history over the past half-century would doom such a project from the start and the whole of Indian history would not be covered in an even or comprehensive manner. They concluded that the best scheme would be to have a History divided into four overlapping chronological volumes, each containing about eight short books on individual themes or subjects. Although in extent the work will therefore be equivalent to a dozen massive tomes of the traditional sort, in form the New Cambridge History of India will appear as a shelf full of separate but complementary parts. Accordingly, the main divisions are between I. The Mughals and their Contemporaries, II. Indian States and the Transition to Colonialism, Ill. The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society, and IV. The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia.

Just as the books within these volumes are complementary so too do they intersect with each other, both thematically and chronologically. As the books appear they are intended to give a view of the subject as it now stands and to act as a stimulus to further research. We do not expect the New Cambridge History of India to be the last word on the

subject but an essential voice in the continuing discussion about it.

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I wish to thank the following scholars who read, discussed, and critiqued early drafts of this manuscript: Donald Attwood, John Richards, Richard Tucker, Richard Barnett, Eleanor Zelliot, and A. R. Kulkarni. In Pune, I wish to thank the “Court 12 group” for vigorous discussions of Maratha history, the sponsors of various seminars at which I was allowed to present papers, and the director and staff of the Pune Daftar. Finally, I gratefully acknowledge the American Institute of Indian Studies for support for my studies of Maratha history over the past two decades.


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Afagis Ahir babti

bakhar bargir bargir-giri bhakti Bhandari Bhil

bigar bigha

chaudhri chauth C.K.P. daftar


dakshina darbar

Deccan dehezada Desh


first generation immigrants from Arabia or Central Asia armed lineages, located in north-eastern Malwa

from the Persian, a portion or share of the government revenue from a district; the actual fraction varied from 16 percent to 22 percent

an indigenous history or memoir

cavalryman riding a horse belonging to his leader; later, refers to light cavalry generally

a style of warfare based on light cavalry which emphasized mobility rather than frontal attack in a plains battle

fervent popular Hindu faith expressed in vernacular songs, often associated with Krishna

a Maharashtrian caste, which originally prepared liquor from coconut trees

‘tribal’ hunters and gatherers located across a broad band of Rajasthan, Madya Pradesh, and Maharashtra

a tax payable in local labor

unit of land measure, typically 400 square rods, but the size of the rod varied from district to district

in areas north of Maharashtra, the head of an elite family controlling village and pargana rights in a local area

the claim to one-quarter of the government’s share of the revenue

Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu, a non-Brahmin writer caste

a compilation of documents, often from one family or one official

a language which evolved mainly in the Muslim courts of the Deccan with elements of Arabic, Persian, North Indian Urdu, and the indigenous Deccan languages; also refers to Muslims born in India

the distribution of presents to Brahmins

a formal audience

‘South’, generally refers to the area south of the border of a kingdom based in North India

detailed register of the villages and landholdings in a pargana

the plateau area of Maharashtra which is located east of the Ghats

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Deshasta deshmukh Deshpande Dhangar





hon hundi

inam istawa

jagir Jat


Konkan Kshatriya

Kulkarni kumkum Kunbi Lohar mahal


Marathi mirasdar mokasa

muqqadam muzumdar




a group or person indigenous to the Desh of Maharashtra head of an armed elite family in control of a pargana records keeper for a pargana


the head of the king’s administration, usually the highest civilian office in the kingdom

a police office

the western mountains which parallel the coast 30-50 miles inland; term used for steps leading down to a river or tank, often constructed as an act of religious merit

in Bijapuri usage, a government-appointed civilian/military administrator over several parganas; more generally, a

leader of a troop of cavalry

a gold coin

a check, payable at sight or in a specified time in a distant city

hereditary grant for special services or merit

a stepwise increasing revenue settlement commonly used in recovery from natural disaster or devastation

a grant for the maintenance of troops

largest cultivating caste in much of North India, formed into lineages which competed for control of the Delhi-Agra—Gwalior area

Maratha local administrator; his area was usually several parganas

coastal plain, below the Western Ghats

one of the four large Vedic categories of peoples; responsible for fighting in wartime and ruling in peacetime village records keeper

ground color, especially used for the forehead mark cultivator


from a simple term for ‘house’, the administrative use came to mean a revenue district as small as a single village or as large as a pargana

Mughal grant of revenue for maintenance of a specified number of troops

Sanskrit-based language of the current state of Maharashtra an owner of village agricultural land

an assigned portion of the government’s share of the revenue

village headman

general term for records keeper

armed elite families in South India; usually their original service had been with Vijaynagar

formal gift to a superior, often in return for the grant of rights to revenue


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palki pargana patil peshwa

peth pindaris

pir Prabhu pundit qazi Rajput



sanad sannyasi saranjam

sardar sardeshmukh sardeshmukhi



silahdar subah subahdar Sutar swaraj tacavi




a sedan-chair for travelling

a long-standing geographically compact unit of 20-100 villages village headman

the head of the central government records keepers; later the head of the Maratha polity

a sector or district of a city usually centered on a market irregular troops attached to the Maratha armies used mainly for plunder

a Muslim saint

a non-Brahmin writer caste

a Brahmin scholar

Muslim judge, whose decisions were based on Sharia law

a broad spectrum of men in military service in North India which slowly evolved into a caste

the advance paid by a kamavisdar to the Maratha government which was recovered from the revenues of his area; typically, one-third to one-half of yearly estimated revenue

immigrant Afghans who had settled mainly in an area east of Delhi and formed one of the main competing groups in the second half of the eighteenth century

a contract, specifying rights and responsibilities

Hindu holy man who has renounced the world non-hereditary grant for maintenance of troops

broad term for noble or noble family

a high position of authority over a group of deshmukhs the claim to one-tenth of the government’s share of the revenue, based on a position as sardeshmukh or head of the deshmukhs, generally a royal right

a Mughal administrative division, smaller than a subah, and usually composed of several parganas; also, a general term meaning government

a Persian term meaning the leader of a band

a Persian term meaning a cavalryman who enlisted with his own horse and equipment

A large Mughal administrative unit, typically dozens of parganas

the administrative and military head of a province carpenter

independent rule, that is, not dependent for legitimacy on a sanad from any other power

government loans at low rates for building or rebuilding local infrastructure

a caste centered in Northern Konkan, also a title of respect given to a leader

a landless laborer, often seeking refuge from some disturbance in his home village


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vazier in Muslim sultanates of the Deccan, the highest official after the sultan

vritti a long-standing grant for religious service or merit

watan the home, core rights forming the basis of a family’s status and wealth

zamindar a broad Mughal term covering a wide variety of local armed

landed elites


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The writing of the history of Maharashtra and the Marathas is almost as old as the polity itself. The first histories, termed bakhars, and written in Marathi by Brahmin eulogists, were the product of the late seven- teenth century to the mid-eighteenth century. The current consensus is that much of the genre was hagiographical and often confused in dating and placing events. Nevertheless, the best of this literature the Shabasad Bakhar and the 91-Kalami Bakhar is important both for the facts and the tone of the heroic and tragic events which form the basis of the popular history of Maharashtra.!

Unfortunately, many of the statements of even these two most reliable bakhars have found their way into scholarly writing without careful use of corroborating evidence. Considered critically, however, the bakhar literature does raise several important issues for our understanding of the Maratha polity. First, this literature treats Shivaji founder of the polity as a near divine figure, regularly inspired by the goddess Bhavani to great deeds, which were primarily important as a Hindu resistance to Muslim domination and as leading to the establishment of a Hindu state. This theme of some decisive difference between Shivaji’s Maharashtrian kingdom and earlier Muslim Maha- rashtrian kingdoms is an important one which runs regularly through the later historiography on Maharashtra. Just what those differences were and how they came about are critical to any discussion of the Maratha polity.

The second theme raised by these early histories is Shivaji as the ideal Hindu leader. A great part of the continuing interest in Shivaji is as a historical role model of perfect behavior. Any discussion of Shivaji, then, must deal with the events that any school-child in Maharashtra can relate, events that show courage and high moral character and charismatic leadership. With this background, it is understandable why acts of realpolitik, of dubious moral justification, get short shrift in much of the later writing. Recent research and published documents

1 Both of these bakhars have recent editions in Marathi edited by V.S. Vakaskar: 91-Kalami Bakhar (Poona, 1962) and Sabhasadaca Bakhar (Poona, 1973).


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THE MARATHAS 1600-1818

now allow a more balanced discussion of Shivaji and the early Maratha polity.?

Within a decade of the British conquest of Maharashtra (1818), two developments spurred the indigenous interest in Maratha history. The first was a series of reports by early British administrators of the conquered territories. These usually were based on both a search for documents of the previous Maratha government and questioning of clerks and others (mainly Brahmins) who had served the Marathas. Much of what became “Maratha” history was created out of the questions of the British, the answers of their informants, and mis- understandings on both sides.3

At the same time, an intense dialogue began between Christian missionaries and Brahmin pundits; it covered the nature of Indian society, Hinduism, and the role of Brahmins. By the 1840s and 1850s, this debate led to the vigorous development of a locally sponsored, Marathi-language press, mostly concerned with philosophical and social questions. Simultaneously, there was increasing pressure from the British colonial government (both through the census and the courts) to define and close castes and subcastes.* This pressure led both Brahmin and Maratha individuals and groups to rethink their history and the history of Maharashtra. Some of the general journals began including ballads and family histories, and a strictly historical journal, Bodhsagar, appeared in Bombay in 1849-50.

In 1863, the second and much more widely circulated edition of Grant Duff’s English-language history of the Marathas sharpened the debate. The author, an early administrator in the new Bombay government, produced three volumes that covered the rise of Shivaji in the mid-seventeenth century up to the British conquest in 1818.5 This

2 The best discussion of the bakhar literature is the study in Marathi by R. V. Hervadkar, Marathi Bakhar (Pune, 1975). The consensus is that the Shabasad and the 91-Kalami are the most reliable bakhars for the Shivaji period. A flavor of this literature can be found in the translations of P. P. Parwardhan and H. G. Rawlinson, A Sourcebook of Maratha History (reprinted by the Indian Council of Historical Research, Calcutta, 1978).

3 Some of the more famous of these reports are as follows: M. Elphinstone, Report on the Territories Conquered from the Peshwa (1809), T. Jenkins, Report on the Territories of the Raja of Nagpur (1827), T. B. Jervis, Geographical and Statistical Memoir of the Konkan (1840), W. H. Sykes, “On the land tenures of the Dekkan,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2 (1835), and J. Malcolm, A Memoir of Central India (London, third edition, 1832).

* The terms of the debate and generational differences are covered in Richard Tucker, “The early setting of the non-Brahmin movement in Maharashtra,” Indian Historical Review, 7, 1-2 (July, 1980-January, 1981), 134-58.

5 James Grant Duff, History of the Marathas (London, 1818, reprinted Jaipur, 1986).


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study, in several ways, set the terms for all subsequent debate about what the Maratha polity “was,” the central principles of governing, and even the “character” of the Marathas and Brahmins involved. Let me suggest some of Grant Duff’s viewpoints here; others will be suggested further into the text. First, Grant Duff gave only a cursory review of the period of the rise of Shivaji and, thus, downplayed continuities with prior kingdoms in Maharashtra. Second, for Grant Duff, history was mainly political history. He was interested in the wars and battles, the factions at court, and who won and lost. Other aspects, particularly economic and social, form only small parts of the narrative. Third, Grant Duff focused only on the head of the polity and occasionally on a few of the most powerful men who were his commanders. We get no picture of life outside court or sectors of the polity not immediately involved with the court. Fourth, the narrative is strictly chronological; it never steps back to consider long-term trends or changes. Finally, there is no question but that Grant Duff was proud of the British conquest and celebrated the brave acts of the British military involved. He emphasized great failures, especially the char- acter of crucial leaders of the Maratha polity, which allowed for British conquest.

Much of the subsequent historiography on the Maratha polity should be read as a gloss on Grant Duff. Each generation of historians of Maharashtra needed to “prove” Grant Duff was wrong, and that the Maratha polity represented something important to the political needs of the day. In the 1890s, for example, the early “moderates,” especially M. G. Ranade, tried to establish that in the seventeenth century the Marathas as a people emerged from a political, social, and religious renaissance. They represented an incipient “nationalism” and Shivaji’s resistance to the Mughal Empire should be seen as the resistance of the emerging “nation” to foreign domination. The parallels to the emerg- ing resistance to the British in Ranade’s own time placed Shivaji in the position of a leader of a principally secular, “national” movement of the seventeenth century.®

Another theme added to the study of Shivaji and the Maratha polity in the nineteenth century was that of Shivaji as a military strategist.

6 M. G. Ranade, The Rise of Maratha Power (Bombay, 1900). It should be noted, however, that it was Mountstuart Elphinstone, the well-known Bombay administrator of the early nineteenth century who, in his History of India, first referred to the Marathas as a “nation” and to Shivaji’s activities as a “war of independence.”


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THE MARATHAS 1600-1818

British writers wanted to see Shivaji primarily as a glorious rebel, capable of sustained resistance against a superior Mughal force. His use of mobility and terrain spoke to British military concerns in India.”

One very positive effect of these attempts to critique Grant Duff was the search for documents of the Maratha polity. The main source, the huge quantity of Maratha central government documents captured by the British in 1818, was, by colonial policy, closed to historical research. (The British perceived these documents as a dangerous source of national pride and probable sedition, and the archive remained closed until independence.) The first alternative source was the archives of the princely states and the larger Maratha families. Thus there appeared before 1900 histories of important Maharashtrian fami- lies, for example Shinde, Holkar, the Satara Rajas, the Pratnidhi family, the Angres, and the Dabhades.® The decades after 1900 saw a series of dedicated collectors combing the countryside in search of the documents of the Marathas which had not found their way to the central archives. What were located were mainly the family collections of administrative families, plus the land grants and records of smaller Maratha families. The collecting and printing of these documents was seen as important national work, leading to a new and more accurate history of the Marathas. The most famous of these collectors was V. K. Rajwade, who published thousands of documents along with extensive introductions.?

Largely in response to these private publications, the Bombay government permitted a series of volumes of selections from the vast

7 C.f. Dennis Kincaid, The Grand Rebel: An Impression of Shivaji, Founder of the Maratha Empire (London, 1937).

8 Most of these early family histories were never printed in large editions and most are long out of print. Some examples would include M. M. Atre, Thorle Malhar Rao Holkar yanchen Charitra (Life of Malhar Rao Holkar) (Poona, 1893), G. N. Deva, Srimanta Abilyabai yanchen Charitra (Life of Ahilyabai) (Bombay, 1892), and J. P. Saranjame, Sinde hyanche gharanyacha itibasa (History of the Shindes) (Poona, 1872).

9 Important associations for historical research were founded at this time in Pune and several regional towns of Maharashtra. Their lectures and publications gave a dynamism and excitement to the movement to recover the history of the Marathas. Examples of family and other documents collected in the 1900-30 period include D. V. Apte, Candracud Daftar (Poona, 1920), the early volumes of Stvacaritra Sahitya, published by the Bharat Itihas Samshodak Mandal, V. V. Khare (ed.), Aitibasik Lekh Samgraha (Miraj, 1918-26), and V. K. Rajwade (ed.) Marathyanchya Itihasacin Sadhanen (published Poona, Bombay, etc., 1898-1918), and K.V. Purandare (ed.) Purandare Daftar (Poona, 1929). Many important volumes from this period are now available only at the Bharat Itihas Samshodak Mandal, Pune.

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central government archive. The first printing was thirteen volumes between 1917 and 1925, selected and glossed by Rao Bahadur Wad.'° Subsequent selections were begun by G. S. Sardesai in 1928. The series now runs to forty-five volumes and continues today. Because they are readily available and in Devangari script (rather than the difficult Modi of the originals), these are the selections which form the basis of much of the historical scholarship on Maharashtra.!! They, however, have two drawbacks. First, the majority of the volumes were published in the British period and were explicitly intended to be of a “non- controversial” nature; thus, crucial and important documents and subjects were often simply left out. Second, in spite of the volume of printed material (perhaps 50,000 documents by now), the selection process has hampered many kinds of research. In areas such as economic history, the selections tended toward those which the historians found typical of the Maratha “system,” rather than long runs of documents of a particular area or family, which might have showed conflict or trends and changes.'?

In the 1930s and 1940s, the process of publication of documents, if anything, accelerated.!3 The writing of Maratha history also changed in this period. In response to deteriorating relations between Hindus and Muslims, Shivaji and the Maratha polity took on a new significance for a new generation of historians. The importance of the Maratha polity, for this group, was as a Hindu resistance to the overbearing and oppressive Muslim government, the Mughal Empire. Shivaji, thus, was turned into an ideal Hindu ruler, struggling against the foreign Muslim

10 Two typical volumes which came out of the joint editorship of Rao Bahadur G. C. Wad and D. B. Parasnis were Kaifiyats, Yadis, etc. (Bombay, 1908), and Selections from the Satara Rajas and the Peishwas’ Diaries (Bombay, 1907).

11 The princely states were also an important source of printed documents. See, for example, A. N. Bhagwat (ed.) Holkar Shahitchya Itibasachi Sadhne (Indore, 1924-25). Unfortunately, both the documents selected and the histories of the families written from them were sometimes attempts to glorify the family or settle old scores, such as rivalries and conflicts with other families.

12 This type of history, because of the fragmented nature of the documentation, tends to use material from all areas and all periods of Maratha history in search of a “Maratha” system. Some of the best, seminal work is plagued by this problem. See, for example, the two important studies by S. N. Sen, Administrative System of the Marathas (Calcutta, 1925) and Military System of the Marathas (Calcutta, 1928), and V. T. Gune, The Judicial System of the Marathas (Poona, 1953).

13 For example, see D.B. Diskalkar, Historical Papers of the Sindhias of Gwalior: 1777-1793 (Satara, 1940), Historical Selections from Baroda State Records, 5 vols. (Baroda, 1934-39), G. H. Khare (ed.), Hingane Daftar, 2 vols. (Poona, 1945-47), V. V. Thakur (ed.), Holkarsahica Itihasacin Sadhanen (Indore, 1944-45)-

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THE MARATHAS 1600-1818

rule.!* The parallels to the situation of the 1940s were apparent to all sides. Muslims were “foreigners” and the proper government for India should be a Hindu government. The best that Muslims could expect was what they got under Shivaji, the “tolerance” and general morality expected of a benign Hindu ruler.'5

In the decades after independence, there have been several significant trends in the study of Maratha history. The first is the publication and use of documents from the surrounding rivals of the Marathas English, French, Portuguese, and Mughals.!¢ Within Maharashtra, scholars have produced a very useful series of regional studies and biographies.!7 Overall, Shivaji and the Maratha polity have retreated to regional, rather than national symbols. This is perhaps understandable. Historically, though the Marathas ruled much of northern and central India in the eighteenth century, they were known as just another government, certainly neither the most efficient nor the most bene-’ volent that the area had known.

In the last ten years, Shivaji and the Maratha polity have assumed importance in yet another political struggle. Within Maharashtra, the struggles among Brahmins, non-Brahmins, and Untouchables have focused attention on the social reform aspects of Shivaji’s reign. In his person, as a Maratha, he has become a symbol of non-Brahmin power. More interestingly, Marxist and Untouchable writers have seized on his attempts to decrease the power of the independent landed elites as both consciousness of the need to end caste discrimination and a commitment to the task.

14 The best known of this group is G. S. Sardesai, Marathi Riyasat (Bombay, 1935) and New History of the Marathas (Bombay, 1946).

15 Two complementary bibliographies form the starting point for the history of Maha- rashtra and the Marathas: first, V. V. Divekar, Survey of Material in Marathi on the Economic and Social History of India (Pune, 1981); second, D. S$. Kharbas, Maharashtra and the Marathas, Their History and Culture: A Bibliographic Guide to Western Language Materials (Boston, 1975).

16 See, for example, the volumes edited and translated by V. G. Hatalkar, French Records Relating to the History of the Marathas (Bombay, 1983~_), P. S. Pissurlencar, Portuguese Maratha Relations (Bombay, 1983), J. N. Sarkar, The Military Dispatches of a Seventeenth Century General (Calcutta, 1969), the reprinting of H. M. Elliot and J. Dowson, The History of India a: Told by Its Own Historians, 7 vols. (Allahabad, 1964), and J. Sarkar, House of Shivaji (New Delhi, 1978).

17 See, for example, M. Malgonkar, Puars of Dewas Senior (Bombay, 1963), S. G. Vaidya, Peshwa Bajirao II and the Downfall of the Maratha Power (Nagpur, 1976), A. R. Kulkarni, Maharashtra in the Age of Shivaji (Poona, 1967), G. T. Kulkarni, The Mughal-Maratha Relations: Twenty Five Fateful Years (1682-1707) (Poona, 1983). A compilation of recent writing is R. C. Majumdar and V. G. Dighe’s The Maratha Supremacy, Volume Eight of the History and Culture of the Indian People (Bombay, 1977).


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Within Maharashtra, current writing on Shivaji and the Maratha polity explicitly or implicitly goes round and round the following three themes: (1) the Maratha polity as a “rising” of the regional conscious- ness of Maharashtra (2) the Maratha polity as Hindu response to oppressive Muslim rule, or (3) the Maratha polity as brave attempt to change the nature of Hindu society and better the lot of its poorest members. The more specific questions addressed by current historians arise from one or more of these three general concerns: Was Shivaji an ideal Hindu ruler? Was he a social reformer? How secular was he? Was the Maratha polity a Hindu state? Was the resistance to the Mughal Empire based on the perception of Mughals as “foreign”? How much of the success of the Maratha polity can be attributed to a developing regional consciousness in Maharashtra? What failures or problems led to British conquest?

It is now almost fifty years since independence and perhaps time to stop writing Maratha history as a gloss on Grant Duff, as only the failure of a resistance to colonial rule. It is time to stop combing the records for some historical figure to blame for the British conquest. It is less glamorous and less heroic to see the Maratha polity as one among many in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, not as a proto- nationalist resistance against the foreigner, nor as a Hindu crusade against Islam. Now, however, the only way an historian can reach these invalid conclusions is by ignoring or doing violence to the more than adequate historical records that have become available in the decades since independence.

In the last fifteen years, a small group of foreign historians of pre-colonial Maharashtra has explored quite different themes. Throughout, this scholarship is characterized by the use of primary Marathi sources (often from the Pune Daftar or the Bharat Itihas Samshodak Mandal) and active collaboration with scholars and scribes in Maharashtra. Overall, the focus has been away from the political events of court and campaign and towards the countryside, especially the relation of economic and political processes. Some of these studies have, for example, examined the dynamics of state and caste, and rural

labor relations.!® My own work has been on the nature of conquest, the

18 See these examples of the work of Hiroshi Fukazawa: “State and caste system (jati) in the eighteenth century Maratha kingdom,” Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics (June, 1968); “Rural servants in the 18th century Maharashtrian village demiurgic or jajmani system,”

Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics (February, 1972); several sections in The Cambridge Economic History of India Vol. I, c. 1200-c. 1750 (Cambridge, 1982).


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THE MARATHAS 1600-1818

relation of state and local areas, and on changes in military practice.!9 Others have focused attention on the great families which dominated Maratha history and the related processes of money use and credit.2° A third group of studies has examined patterns of conflict in the Maratha polity and the whole nature of “rights” within it.2! Finally, a fourth group of scholars has studied the religious and literary history of the Maratha polity.?2

This volume will respectfully draw on this body of history, both older and modern, produced both inside and outside Maharashtra. The overall perspective is to allow the Maratha polity to stand on its own as a significant part of India’s history. The discussion focuses mainly on economic and military questions and long-term trends and cycles; it will downplay the political narration in favor of many themes not covered in Grant Duff or subsequent histories. First, we will use the Maratha polity as a main example of the dynamics of kingdoms of the period how they came together and decentralized. The perspective will be not only from the court, but from the families who gave or withdrew loyalty. The historical sweep is necessarily longer than usually considered; we will consider the experience of Marathas and Brahmins in service under the Deccan sultanates and see the Maratha polity as the natural successor state to these kingdoms. Second, we will look at the Maratha polity in terms of social mobility for selected groups and individual families. Naturally, this will include patterns of downward mobility, for those who, for example, lost out in succession disputes. Third, we will consider the economics that funded the polity, especially taxation and credit. Throughout we will be seeking long-

19 Typical are “The slow conquest: administrative integration of Malwa into the Maratha Empire,” Modern Asian Studies, 11, 1 (1977); “Forts and social control in the Maratha state,” Modern Asian Studies, 22, 1 (1979); “Recovery from adversity in eighteenth century India: rethinking villages, peasants and politics in pre-modern kingdoms,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 8, 4 (Fall, 1979).

See these examples of Frank Perlin’s work, “Of ‘white whale’ and countrymen in the eighteenth-century Maratha Deccan: extended class relations, rights and the problem of rural autonomy under the old regime,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 5 (1978); “Proto-industriali- zation and pre-colonial South Asia,” Past and Present, 98 (1983); “Money use in late pre-colonial India,” in John F. Richards (ed.), The Imperial Monetary System of Mughal India (New Delhi, 1978).

71 See especially Andre Wink, Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian Society and Politics under the Eighteenth-century Maratha Svarajya (Cambridge, 1986).

22 See, for example, the work of the following scholars: Anne Feldhaus, The Deeds of God in Rddipur (Oxford, 1984); Eleanor Zelliot and Maxine Bernstein, The Experience of Hinduism: Essays on Maharashtra (Albany, 1989); G. A. Deleury, The Cult of Vithoba

(Poona, 1960); M.S. Mate, Temples and Legends of Maharashtra (Bombay, 1962); S. B. Tulpule, Classical Marathi Literature (Wiesbaden, 1979).


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term changes, such as the shift from tribute to regular tax collection. Fourth, we will examine the nature of loyalty and legitimacy, as continuing and insoluble problems. Fifth, the Maratha polity presents a fascinating case study of military and technological change and its social and economic effects both at court and at the local level. Finally, we must consider the legacy of the Maratha polity what, within India, did it change forever. As we shall see, it had profound effects on revenue administration, law, education, trade patterns, migration, and the economic and social make-up of Central India, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.

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For an understanding of the spatial framework of the Maratha polity there are several crucial terms which appear throughout this study. The two most important are the Deccan and Maharashtra. The Deccan, which translates as “south,” is an old term appearing in the Vedic litera- ture and the Mahabharata as Dakshinapatha. It meant the area below the Tapti River, and suggested an area suitable for conquest. Throughout history, “Deccan” has retained these overtones, the perspective of a northern conqueror considering possible domains. What constituted the Deccan, at any particular moment, depended on where the king- dom’s southern border lay and what lay beyond. Over the whole his- torical period, the area from the Tapti to the Godavari was frequently integrated into northern empires, and the area south of it, between the Godavari and the Krishna, became the Deccan. ! In this sense, I will use the term Deccan not as a fixed place, but only as a relational term, the area beyond the southern border of a northern-based kingdom.

The term “Maharashtra” is much easier to define. It is simply the area where Marathi is the dominant language. As a place, Maharashtra was mentioned from the first century aD onwards, but not until inscriptional evidence of the seventh century is it possible roughly to map the region. Ma ho leska (Maharashtra) figures prominently in the narrative of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, in this period. With the further development of Marathi, between 800 ap and 1300 AD, we can trace a definite linguistic region. For example, the saint- reformer Chakradhara travelled all over the Marathi-speaking region, preaching and plying his trade as a barber. He was proud never to set foot in Kanada or Telegu areas. The minute record of his journeys gives the limits of the Marathi language.? It agrees to a remarkable extent with the map of find-spots for Marathi inscriptions. This Marathi- language region is represented on Map 1. We should not think of this

' $.M. Alam, “The historic Deccan: a geographical appraisal,” in V. K. Bawa (ed.) Aspects of Deccan History: Report of a Seminar (Hyderabad, 1975), 16-29.

2 M. G. Panse, “Regional individuality of Maharashtra,” in Bawa (ed.), Aspects of Deccan History, 139-40.


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