Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who were Peshvas in Maratha state?

Maratha state, the one established by Shivaji can be categorized into three periods which are remembered by people. Period of Shivaji, that of Tarabai-Shahu I and last of Shahu II. The first period was the period of rule establishment, second one of expansion and third one of social reforms. Following is a detailed summary explaining who were Peshvas in this rule.   

1. Maratha rule was established by Chatrapati Shivaji Bhosale in second half of 1600. He had established the rule to protect the common people in region from Mughal and other rulers. Along with the protection he also implemented ideal administrative and welfare policies. One part of it was ashtapradhan mandal, where different responsibilities were handled by individual ministers. One of these minister used to be a prime minister or Peshva. After death of Shivaji, Sambhaji and Rajaram, the two sons of Shivaji were ruling the state. Sambhaji was elder and used to carry most of the responsibilities.     

2. After the death of Sambhaji, his brother Rajaram went to Karnataka and gave powers to peshvas,Ghorpades and Jadhavs. They all did well in that time. Later Tarabai came back and took over. She herself was a warrior and good ruler.

3. In the intrigues following the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal governor of the Deccan released Shahu, the grand son of Shivaji, from captivity, hoping to keep the Marathas locked in an internecine struggle between the partisans of Shahu, and Tarabai who governed in the name of her son Shivaji and denounced Shahu as an impostor substituted by the Mughals for the son of Sambhaji.

4. Tarabai sent her senapati Dhanaji Jadhav to attack Shahu. Dhanaji Jadhav sent Balaji Vishwanath to secretly meet with Shahu and verify his bona fides. Balaji is believed to have persuaded his master Dhanaji to support the cause of Shahu. Then Dhanaji's forces met Shahu's at Khed, in Pune District. Instead of attacking Shahu, Dhanaji Jadhav declared him to be the rightful successor to the Maratha throne. Dhanaji's confidence in Balaji Vishwanath however aroused the jealousy of his son and successor, Chandrasen Jadhav.

5. Then the Shahu was coronated and at that time of Shahu's coronation at Satara in January 1708, Balaji Vishwanath received appointment as mutaliq or deputy to Amburao Hunmante (Amatya of Shahu) to ensure his presence at the Maratha court and maintain personal contacts with monarch all the time.

6. After death of Dhanaji Jadhav in June 1708, Shahu appointed Dhanaji's son Chandrasen Jadhav as Senapati, but the rivalry between Chandrasen and Balaji led the former to intrigue with Tarabai, while seeking an opportunity to eliminate Balaji.

7. A dispute over the conduct of a junior officer in Balaji's employ led Chandrasen to attack Balaji, who fled to the fortress of Purandar.

8. Chandrasen besieged Purandar whereupon Balaji fled again to Pandavgad whence he sent an emissary to plead for help from his sovereign. Shahu had Balaji Vishwanath brought under escort to his capital Satara and asked Chandrasen to make the case against Balaji Vishwanath before him.

9. Instead of obeying Shahu Chandrasen defected to the cause of Tarabai in April 1711. Haibatrao Nimbalkar, who Shahu had dispatched against Chandrasen, also defected to Tarabai, and Shahu's fortunes were an at their lowest.

10. Bereft of his experienced generals, Shahu turned to Balaji Vishwanath, who undertook to raise a new army in the cause of Shahu. For this the monarch gave Balaji Vishwanath the title of Senakarte or Organiser of Maratha armies (20 August 1711).

11. Balaji next turned against Tarabai 'her own armoury of intrigue'. The fall of Tarabai at Kolhapur in 1712 was the outcome of a conspiracy hatched by Balaji Vishwanath in connivance with the disgruntled elements of Tarabai's court.

12. Balaji Vishwanath induced Rajaram's other widow, Rajasbai to install her son, Sambhaji, on the throne of Kolhapur, dethroning Shivaji II, the son of Tarabai. This brought the ruling house of Kolhapur under protection and subordination of Shahu.

13. Next Shahu turned to subdue the Angres. Tukoji Angre had commanded Chattrapati Shivaji's navy and was succeeded in 1690 by his son Kanhoji Angre.

14. Kanhoji received from Tarabai the title of "Sarkhel" or Admiral of the Maratha fleet.

15. Kanhoji seized the opportunity of war between Tarabai and Shahu to effectively free himself of the suzerainty of either. Instead he captured the major trading center of Kalyan and the neighboring forts of Rajmachi and Lohgad.

16. Shahu sent a large force under his "peshva" or Chief Minister, Bahiroji Pingale . Kanhoji defeated Pingle and imprisoned him at Lohgad, and started to advance towards Shahu's capital Satara.

17. Shahu commanded Balaji again to raise another army to subdue Kanhoji. Balaji preferred the path of negotiation and was appointed as Shahu's plenipotentiary to negotiate with the admiral.

18. Balaji convinced Shahu to alter Shivaji's old constitution of the Maratha state, whereby the nobles were salaried employees of the ruler.

19. Henceforth, nobles would be feudatories with grants of land over which they ruled as vassal princes.

20. In doing so, Balaji planted the seeds of the both the rise and the decline of the Maratha empire/confederacy.

21. Granting the nobles vast territories enabled the rapid expansion of the empire from 1713 to 1760 and then onwards.

22. Balaji and Kanhoji met at Lonavala. The newly appointed peshva appealed to the old sailor's patriotism for the Maratha cause. Angre agreed to become the Sarkhel (admiral) of Shahu's navy with control of the Konkan.

23. Balaji and Angre then jointly attacked the Muslim Siddis of Janjira. Their combined forces captured most of the Konkan coast, including Balaji's birthplace of Shrivardhan, which became part of the Angre fiefdom.

24. Delighted with Balaji's success, Shahu dismissed Bahiroji Pingale and appointed Balaji Vishwanath as peshva on 16 November 1713.

25. There existed a power vacuum in the Mughal empire, caused by the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and that of his successor Bahadur Shah, leading to continual internecine conflict within the imperial family and the leading Mughal grandees.

26. Farrukhsiyar came to the throne in 1713 with the help of the two powerful nobles, Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan and Sayyid Abdullah Khan. Claiming descent from the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, the Sayyid Brothers had turned king-makers in the Mughal court. Soon after, differences arose between them and the Emperor Farruksiyar.
27. And while the Mughals were intriguing in the civil war between the factions of Shahu and Tarabai, the Marathas themselves became a major factor in the quarrels between the Emperor and the Sayyids.

28. To rid himself of the tutelage of the Sayyids, in 1718 Farrukhsiyar dispatched Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan as Viceroy of the Deccan with orders to restore Mughal authority over the south.

29. Behind the Sayyid's back, Farrukhsiyar urged various Maratha chieftain's to attack his own viceroy.

30. Hussain Ali Khan found himself harried by the Marathas who resorted to their traditional guerilla tactics. Unable to defeat the Marathas in a pitched battle and weary of chasing after constantly marauding Maratha horsemen, Hussain Ali Khan sought to make peace with the Marathas.

31. In July 1718 Balaji negotiated a Maratha-Mughal treaty with Hussain Ali Khan, demanding the Maratha right of "chauth" (literally: 1/4th of revenues) and "sardeshmukhi" (an additional 10% of revenues) of the old Mughal provinces of the Deccan. To this Balaji Vishwanath added the demand of chauth and sardeshmukhi over the rich provinces of Gujarat and Khandesh, and the restoration of Chattrapati Shivaji's conquests in Karnataka.

32. In return for which Balaji promised that Shahu would acknowledge the nominal overlordship of the Mughal Emperor, and the Marathas would provide a force of 15,000 armed horsemen to the Mughal Empire. To these egregious demands Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan readily agreed, with a view to use the Maratha soldiers to their advantage in their struggle with the Emperor.

33. Farrukhsiyar refused to ratify this treaty and sought to depose and murder the Sayyids. The plot was betrayed to Sayyid Abdulla Khan who was in Delhi, who succeeded in neutralizing other powerful Mughal nobles like Asaf Jah I (also known as Chin Qilich Khan and Nizam-ul-Mulk) and Sarbuland Khan (governor of Patna) with promises of rich governorships of Malwa and Kabul respectively.

34. In September 1718, accompanied by Balaji Vishwanath and supported by (now) sixteen thousand Maratha horsemen commanded by the gallant Parsoji Bhosale Hussain Ali Khan arrived in Delhi. Most of Farrukhsiyar's supporters fled but the Emperor's partisans resisted but were overcome at the cost of two thousand Maratha soldiers.

35. Farrukhsiyar was dethroned, blinded and imprisoned by the Sayyid's, who substituted in his place a more pliable puppet,Rafi-ul-darjat in February 1719. (This hapless prince was dying of tuberculosis and was in turn replaced after a reign of only three months by his older brother Rafi Ud-Daulah.) Rafi-ul-Darjat duly ratified the Maratha treaty. Shahu and his successors were recognized by the Mughal Emperors as the rightfully heirs to Chattrapati Shivaji.

36. Balaji returned in triumph from Delhi to Satara, having also secured the release after decades of Mughal captivity, the mother (Yesubai), wife (Savitribai) and half-brother (Madan Singh) of Shahu. Weary from his labors and the tiresome journey back from the imperial capital, Balaji Vishwanath's health began to fail. In October 1719 he obtained leave from Shahu to retire to the village of Saswad near Pune that had been granted by Shahu to the peshva.On 11 March 1719 he celebrated the marriage of his son Visaji, the future peshva Baji Rao I with Kashibai.

37. Balaji Vishwanath died on 12 April 1720. He was succeeded by his elder son, the celebrated Bajirao I, who was appointed peshva by Chattrapati Shahu.

38. Before death, Balaji Vishwanath had laid the foundation for the complex administrative system of the Marathas that held sway for a century after his death. The Maratha tax collection system from a wide swathe of nominally Mughal provinces was based on a widespread network of agents and collectors. To it as much as to their victories in the field the Marathas owed the spread of their empire. The mechanism of revenue collected was supported by credit facilities from established banking families.

39. At the age of 20, Bajirao was appointed by Shahu as peshva, ignoring other more experienced and older claimants to the post. It is quite clear from this appointment that Shahu recognized his talent even as a boy and positioned him as peshva. Bajirao was popular with his soldiers and even today his name is an honorable one.

40. On the south front in 1722, the Nizam's personal ambitions lay exposed before the mughal emperor and the latter (Muhammed Shah) started sidelining him. The Nizam now rebelled openly against the mughal emperor and declared his regions as independent with the capital being Hyderabad. When the imperial army led by Mubariz Khan tried to seize the errant Nizam, the latter sought the help from his old enemies the Marathas and agreed to accept all their earlier demands.

41. Thus Shahu instructed Bajirao to send an contingent to assist the Nizam. Their collective armies, ably led by Bajirao, defeated the powerful Mughal imperial forces in the bloody battle at Sakherkheda in 1724. The Mughals withdrew thereby giving the Nizam a relatively secure kingdom in Hyderabad.

42. By the time Bajirao became the peshva, the Chhatrapati Shahu was almost a titular ruler, largely confined to his residence in Satara. The Maratha confederacy was run in his name, but the real power lay in the hands of the peshva.

43. By the time of Bajirao's appointment, the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah had recognized Marathas' rights over the territories possessed by Shivaji at his death. In 1719, the Mughals had also recognized the Maratha rights to collect taxes (chauth and sardeshmukhi) in the six provinces of Deccan. Bajirao believed that the Mughal Empire was in decline, and wanted to take advantage of this situation with aggressive expansion in north India. However, as a new peshva, he had several challenges.

44. His appointment as the peshva at young age had evoked jealousy from senior officials like Naro Ram Mantri, Anand Ram Somant and Shripat Rao Pratinidhi

45. Nizam-ul-Mulk Asaf Jah I, the Mughal viceroy of Deccan, had practically created his own independent kingdom in the region, and challenged the Maratha rights to collect taxes in Deccan
46. The Marathas needed to assert their rights over the nobles of the newly-gained territories in Malwa and Gujarat

47. Several areas that were nominally part of the Maratha territory, were not actaully under peshva's control. For example, the Siddis controlled the Janjira fort

48. In 1728, Bajirao moved the administrative capital of the Maratha Empire from Shahu's Satara to the city of Pune. His general, Bapuji Shripat, persuaded some of the richer families of Satara to settle in the Pune city, which was divided into 18 peths (boroughs).

49. This was shift of power from Satara, a Maratha dominated place, to Poona which had a complete domination of Brahmins in general and the Chitpavans in particular.

50. The establishment of the peshva rule elevated the Chitpavans to the status of the dominant of the dominant caste group. The Chitpavans regarded themselves as a governing caste with special privileges and exemptions.

51. They had a lions share in the monopoly of all the secretarial posts and received handsome salaries. They had the privileges of exemption of their goods from custom duties and ferry charges which the other Brahmins and Prabhus did not enjoy.

52. They had their land assessed at half of the lower rate of others. They also had the monopoly share in the Dakshina charity, a charity that was instituted during the time of Shivaji to honour the learned Brahmins, who once a year assembled at Poona to show their talents, knowledge and the understanding of the Vedas and other scriptures.

53. However, during the peshvas this institution degenerated into a system of maintaining their caste fellows to consolidate their position. The state under the peshvas was an institution established to perpetuate the stratification of the society.

54. The individuals as well as the caste-community as a whole could not deviate from the occupation and position assigned to them in the varnaashrama dharma.

55. Though the peshvas themselves had violated the caste rules by becoming the rulers, they justified their actions on the ground that the state had failed to maintain the varnashrama dharma in the preceding centuries.

56. In Sawantwadi conflict over rituals arose between the Saraswat and Karhade Brahmins and peshva decided the case in favour of Karhade Brahmins which resulted in the migration of Sarswat Brahmins from Sawantwadi to Shahapur.

57. In a conflict between the Brahmins and the Prabhus, which was settled during the time of peshvas Narayanrao, states an order binding on the Prabhus. They could not perform any religious rites accompanied by a recital of Vedic hymns, could visit only the temples frequented by Shudra and could not employ Brahmins in their household.

58. The Prabhus being a small well knit economically strong with highest percentage of literacy after Brahmins threatened the possible consolidation of Chitpavans position in the state.

59. Another regulation issued during the same period, stated that the Sonar or the gold smith community if performed the rituals, accompanied by Vedic hymns they were to be captured and put in chains and those belonging to this community, well versed in the Vedic mantras should be tied to an elephant's feet.

60. Unlike the Prabhus, the Sonars were not new to the Vedic studies. They had always observed the purity-pollution concept as strictly as the Brahmins themselves. They retaliated by establishing their right of employing their caste-fellows as priests.

61. If the social disabilities imposed on the intermediate castes, were aimed to curb the possible challenge that the Brahmins would face, the Mahars and the Mangs, the lowest castes infact outcastes in the Hindu hierarchy had to endure even harsher treatment at the hands of the peshvas.

62. Apart from the most inhuman disability that they suffered on an all-India basis, they were awarded mutilation of their limbs and capital punishments for even minor crimes.

63. Anyone who failed to observe the social disability was also punished. In 1746, a Chitpavan by name Govind Hari Patwardhan was punished for having entertained in service a maidservant of Mahar caste.

64. So the state under the peshvas, besides the normal functions of a state existed to protect the caste stratification and to interpret the Dharmasarthras or scriptures to emphasize and maintain their spiritual superiority.

65. The state played a decisive part in the restoration of caste status of individual persons who had deviated from traditional religious and social code of conduct. It was seen by all sections of the society as a protector of cows and Brahmins Go-Brahmana Pratipalak.

66. In this period the chitpavans enjoyed all the luxury. They also imposed various restrictions on the deshastha bramhins. The deshastha bramhins used to be Deshmukhs since the period of Shivaji. But the peshvas displaced the Deshastha Brahmins in the administration by Chitpavans.

67. The system of administration created by the peshvas to control the Deshmukhs and to collect the tax on land rested on simple principles. The kingdom was divided into revenue divisions, each one of which was placed under an officer called Mamlatdars, who supervised the collection of land tax and attended to police and judicial duties.

68. However, even under the oppressive peshva regime, their powers were not absolute. The power of collecting revenue within the village was in the hands of Patil.

69. In times of distress and drought, if the Patil who was always a Kunbi refused to collect the tax, the Mamletdars referred the matter to the village Panchayat and the Deshmukh.

70. Since the village Panchayat was numerically dominated by the Kunbis and the Deshmukhs who always had rivalry with the Chitpavan Mamlatders were in a position to secure a great measure of relief for the farmers.

71. With the introduction of new land revenue system, the Patil lost his overall responsibility for the collection and payment of taxes due from the village. Each individual cultivator was to be liable for the payment of his own tax. The Brahmin Kulkarni, or village accountant, became the main channel of communication between the village and the local revenue office.

72. In this strategic mediatory position the Kulkarni was able to influence such vital issues as the level of new assessment, remissions of rent in case of crop failure and the fate of cultivators unable to pay taxes.

73. As the land became a transferable and heritable property it paved the way for the transfer of land from the farmers to the professional classes and moneylenders who, happened to be Chitpavans in many cases. Kunbis were changing into hired labourers working on their own fields. The miseries were compounded by the fact that the condition of agricultural labourers was far from satisfactory.

74. The daily wage of an agriculture labourer in Poona district as late as 1900 was two anna and three paisa, the wages received by women were about 50 -60 percent of male wages and the children were paid only half of the adult male labourers wage. They could not obtain loans and having no reserves of money of grain, a day without labour to them meant a day of starvation.

75. If the economic policies of colonial rule continued and empowered the pre-colonial social structure, the educational policies, though aimed towards the same end created a different situation. Since the colonial rule was indifferent to the caste regulations, the educational institutions opened by the government were open to all. And this was start of the major social reforms!

By this way the peshvas were out of power and British had take over. This actually can be called as end of the Maratha dynasty as a separate rule. But for those interested in further happenings at Bhosales of Satara, more history can be explored through life of Shahu maharaj (Shahu II).

Now readers should understand that the Bajirao peshva indeed was a great warrior but he was not alone in wars. Holkars, Schindians and lot of other warriors were part of the kingdom expansion. The kingdom expansion was in a sense a franchise activity. The history and specially the historians have not done right justice to the non-peshvas. Most of the learned historians and eminent personalities with influence on history writing belonged to communities with legacy of Peshavas. Obviously the textual history favored them.

But the common masses who always remember rulers who loved praja and not lands, have done justice. You won't see anybody out-side certain communities praising the peshva rule. Atrocities and restrictions by them while protecting the varnashramdharma have wounded most of the other communities, even other bramhins. The wounds are unforgettable. Yes, the rule was doing good but at the expense of social harmony in the state!

So, now we should stop reading and interpreting history any more and live as one community. Our focus should be welfare of the downtrodden in the state, be it bramhins, marathas, malis, dhangars, mahars or mangs or any other caste. The Peshavai is no more. The British are no more. We are a free country and are being ruled by ourselves through the constitution. We should follow it line by line. Period.

Jai Hind.