Shivaji was a not only a great warrior but a good administrator too. He had an advisory council to assist him in his day-to-day administration. This council of eight ministers was known as Ashta Pradhan. Its functions were advisory. The eight ministers were:
1) The Mukhya Pradhan or Peshwa or prime minister whose duty was to look after the general welfare and interests of the State. He officiated for the king in his absence.
2) The Amatya or finance minister checked and countersigned all public accounts of the kingdom.
3) The Walkia-Nawis or Mantri maintained the records of the king’s activities and the proceedings in the court.
4) Summant or Dabir or foreign secretary was to advise king on all matters of war and peace and to receive ambassadors and envoys from other countries.
5) Sachiv or Shuru Nawis or home secretary was to look after the correspondence of the king with the power to revise the drafts.
6) He also checked the accounts of the Parganas. Pandit Rao or Danadhyaksha or Sadar and Muhtasib or ecclesiastical head was in charge of religion, ceremonies and charities.
7) He was the judge of canon law and censor of public morals. Nyayadhish or chief justice was responsible for civil and military justice.
8) Sari Naubat or commander-in-chief was in charge of recruitment, organization and discipline of the Army.
With the exception of the Nyayadhish and Pandit Rao, all the other ministers were to command armies and lead expeditions. All royal letters, charters and treaties had to get the seal of the King and the Peshwa and the endorsement of the four ministers other than the Danadyaksha, Nyayadhisha and Senapati. There were eighteen departments under the charge of the various ministers.
For the sake of administrative convenience, Shivaji divided the kingdom into four provinces, each under a viceroy. The provinces were divided into a number of Pranths. The practice of granting jagirs was abandoned and all officers were paid in cash. Even when the revenues of a particular place were assigned to any official, his only link was with the income generated from the property. He had no control over the people associated with it. No office was to be hereditary. The fort was the nerve-centre of the activities of the Pranth. The lowest unit of the government was the village in which the traditional system of administration prevailed.
The revenue administration of Shivaji was humane and beneficent to the cultivators. The lands were carefully surveyed and assessed. The state demand was fixed at 30% of the gross produce to be payable in cash or kind. Later, the tax was raised to 40%. The amount of money to be paid was fixed. In times of famine, the government advanced money and grain to the cultivators which were to be paid back in instalments later. Liberal loans were also advanced to the peasants for purchasing cattle, seed, etc.
Chauth and Sardeshmukhi
As the revenue collected from the state was insufficient to meet its requirements, Shivaji collected two taxes, Chauth and Sardeshmukhi, from the adjoining territories of his empire, the Mughal provinces and the territories of the Sultan of Bijapur. Chauth was one-fourth of the revenue of the district conquered by the Marthas. Sardeshmukhi was an additional 10% of the revenue which Shivaji collected by virtue of his position as Sardeshmukh. Sardeshmukh was the superior head of many Desais or Deshmukhs. Shivaji claimed that he was the hereditary Sardeshmukh of his country.
Shivaji organized a standing army. As we have seen, he discouraged the practice of granting jagirs and making hereditary appointments. Quarters were provided to the soldiers. The soldiers were given regular salaries. The army consisted of four divisions: infantry, cavalry, an elephant corps and artillery. Though the soldiers were good at guerrilla methods of warfare, at a later stage they were also trained in conventional warfare. T he infantry was divided into regiments, brigades. The smallest unit with nine soldiers was headed by a Naik (corporal). Each unit with 25 horsemen was placed under one havildar (equivalent to the rank of a sergeant). Over five havildars were placed under one jamaladar and over ten jamaladars under one hazari. Sari Naubat was the supreme commander of cavalry. T he cavalry was divided into two classes: the bargirs (soldiers whose horses were given by the state) and the shiledars (mercenary horsemen who had to find their own horses). T here were water-carriers and farriers too.
The administration of justice was of a rudimentary nature. There were no regular courts and regular procedures. The panchayats functioned in the villages. The system of ordeals was common. Criminal cases were tried by the Patels. Appeals in both civil and criminal cases were heard by the Nyayadhish (chief justice) with the guidance of the smritis. Hazir Majlim was the final court of appeal