History Optional Paper- 1 Solution – 2004: Q.5 (d)
Q.5 (d) Write a short essay on: “The system of the collection of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi by the Maratha rulers.”
Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were two instruments used by Shivaji and the subsequent Maratha rulers to obtain treasure from the enemy territories invaded.
Chauth and sardeshmukhi were the taxes collected generally in the neighbouring territories of the Maratha Kingdom such as Mughal Empire or Deccan sultanates.
The Chauth and Sardeshmukhi levies ensured a steady and large stream of income for the Marathas and helped them expand their beyond the swarajya territories of Shivaji.
Chauth (meaning one-fourth) was a tax or tribute imposed by the Marathas. It was nominally levied at 25% on revenue or produce.
Chauth has been interpreted differently by various historians:
(1) Ranade considers it as not merely a military contribution without any moral or legal obligation, but a payment in lieu of protection provided by Maratha against the foreign invasion.
This can be compared to the Subsidary Alliance System which later on Lord wellesley adopted in India. In this system, the ruler of a native state, if he chose to sign the subsidary treaty, had to keep a British force in his territory.
Even if it is true that there was a tacit understanding to protect the state that pays the Chauth from foreign agression, the Maratha leaders could not pursue it to its logical end and give protection to those states. Under the subsidary system, the control of the British over the other party was far more complete and extracting than under the Maratha system.
(2) Sardesai considers it as a tribute extracted by Maratha from hostile or conquered territories.
(3) Sir J.N. Sarkar interpreted it as merely buying protection against Maratha attack and did not impose on Maratha any corresponding obligation to guard the territory from foreign invasion or internal disorder. So, it was like a blackmail.
Whatever be the case, the Chauth was merely a military contribution levied by a strong power on the weak, without being in formal occupation of the country.
The share of Maratha King in Chauth was 1/3rd of the gross Chauth collected and rest remained with Maratha chiefs.
Some historians claim that in the time of the Peshwas, Chauth and Sardeshmukhi helped the growth of feudalism, which Shivaji wanted to put an end to.The chiefs who raised men and money for realising the claims of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi in distant land on their own, could neither be expected to obey the royal orders nor render accounts of money they raised and spent.
Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of ten percent on those lands which the Marathas claimed hereditary rights as Deshmukh.
The right to assess and collect this tax was asserted by Shivaji in the later seventeenth century, based on the spurious grounds that he was hereditary Sardeshmukh or head of all Deshmukhs in Maharashtra.
Generally Sardeshmukhi was collected from all areas which paid the Chauth.
Sardeshmukhi was an old tax. It was charge equal to one-tenth surcharge on land revenue which a hereditary Deshmukh in Deccan states kept to themselves in return for the collection of revenue and maintenence of law and order in a territory alloted to him.
The total amount of Sardeshmukhi went to the King’s treasury.
History of Collection by Marathas
Both Chauth and Sardeshmukhi rights were claimed by Shivaji first in 1650 when he requested the Mughal Emperor to accept his rights on certain lands which however was not accepted. In 1668, Shivaji on his own made Bijapur and Golkonda pay him both Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. In 1671, these two changes were levied on Khandesh; in 1674 on Portuguese possessions in Konkan; in 1676 on Carnatic; in 1680 on some other Mughal provinces of Deccan.
Peshwa Baji Rao started creating powerful Maratha nobility of his own by lavishly granting them territories outside the Swarajya territory with the right to collect Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. They were allowed to appropriate two-third of the total Chauth collected for maintaining troops and other expenses.
In 1719, the Mughal emperor granted Shahu the chauth and sardeshmukhi rights over the six Deccan provinces in exchange for his maintaining a contingent of 15,000 troops for the emperor.
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