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Shivaji's Administration and Economic Policies

Initially, Shivaji was not innovating, but only building power much like any other state at the time. First, on the matter of administration, all of Shivaji's appointed officials such as Peshwa, Muzumdar, and Sarnobat were the same as those found earlier in Ahmadnagar or the Bijapur state. In tax collection there were no innovations. He made stepwise increasing settlements which was already prevalent as measured settlement of the late Ahmadnagar kingdom. There is no concrete evidence that he surrounded himself with Brahmin advisors; to the contrary, recent evidence has shown that he did not meet the main candidate for the role of advisor, Ramdas, until 1672. Finally, there is considerable evidence of the Muslims that Shivaji welcomed into his state from the earliest times. For example, the court proceedings of 1657 list the names of the Muslim qazis (judges) who were on salary to adjudicate cases. At the same time, Shivaji welcomed Muslim recruits into his army. The first unit was a group of 700 Pathans, who had left Bijapur after the treaty with the Mughals. Individual Muslims also rose high in Shivaji's army, such as Sidi Ibrahim, who was one of ten trusted commanders at the confrontation with Afzal Khan or Nurkhan Beg, who was Shivaji's sarnobat at this time. It was in the period after the defeat of Afzal Khan that Shivaji put serious effort into consolidating his hold on the Konkan. He realized the importance of naval power and built a fleet of small fast ships. While they could not challenge a large European warship, they could capture merchant shipping. The main purpose of this fleet was, however, like the construction of several sea forts, to challenge and contain the Sidi of Janjira. Though he expanded control in the Konkan, Shivaji - because of ineffective artillery - was unable to defeat the Sidi in this or any later period of his reign.

His was a polity like others at the time, offering mainly social mobility for Maratha soldiers and Brahmin administrators. In revenue administration and social, the structure represented more continuity with these kingdoms than discontinuity. Second, Shivaji did not significantly alter the power of the rural elite families of Maharashtra, especially the deshmukhs. He attacked the largest of these who were rivals, but all the remaining families with "nested" rights were left in peace. It would have been impossible to collect taxes or govern without them. Shivaji's was not a revolt against deshmukhs, but a polity that attempted to integrate them. He was more successful with some than others; many remained partly or wholly loyal to the Mughals or Bijapur throughout his reign.

Shivaji was not attempting to create a universal Hindu rule. He espoused tolerance and syncretism. He even called on Aurangzeb to act like Akbar in according respect to Hindu beliefs and places. Shivaji had no difficulty in allying with the Muslim states that surrounded him - Bijapur, Golconda, and the Mughals - even against Hindu powers, such as the nayaks of the Carnatic. Further, he did not ally with other Hindu powers, such as the Rajput, rebelling against the Mughals. Shivaji followed his own judgment throughout his remarkable career.

Shivaji's main accomplishment, was to carve a small kingdom out of a marginal, frontier area of Bijapur and Ahmadnagar, and hold it against the vastly superior forces of Bijapur and the Mughal Empire. Shivaji was a general of extraordinary personal charisma and ability to motivate his progressively larger armies. The strategy he evolved was to use knowledge of the local terrain and the superior mobility of his light cavalry to cut off supplies to the enemy. His cavalry attacked caravans and devastated the countryside around the enemy camp. Shivaji regularly refused a decisive plains battle, which tactics of the day demanded. Instead he left the "battlefield" and struck some portion of the enemy territory, perhaps hundreds of miles away, forcing the enemy to chase him. Further, he understood the importance of forts for the geopolitics of Maharashtra. He captured dozens of them and spent much of what he gained on building dozens more.

Shivaji could never be sure of the loyalty of the families who held existing forts, and they, indeed, often supported the opposing side. Only by building and supplying his own forts could Shivaji staff and maintain them with troops of proven loyalty. Shivaji also well understood that forts had important symbolic value. They were the physical manifestation of supra-local power, virtually the only one in Maharashtra. Forts were the manifestation of kingly authority. There were several drawbacks to Shivaji's emphasis on light, mobile cavalry. The first was a limited ability to take forts. Shivaji captured forts by stratagem, but rarely by assault. He did not have the technical means of sapping or mining or artillery that were available to the large Muslim powers. Late in his reign, he did hire foreigners and develop artillery, but the quality was never high. The other much more serious problem was the way Shivaji's tactics spread warfare across the countryside. To make an army withdraw from central Maharashtra, he attacked the Ahmadnagar region or sacked Surat. To deny the Bijapuri army grain, he devastated a wide area around their camp. Looting their grain caravans forced longer foraging expeditions. There was an intrinsically destructive downward spiral to this style of warfare. Equally destructive was the ethic of the yearly campaign. It provided them with spoils and glory, but military expeditions were an extraordinarily inefficient and destructive way to extract either revenue or loyalty from a population. Shivaji recognized these problems. He realized that Maharashtra needed time, and peace, to recover from more than thirty years of continuous warfare. Shivaji, from the early years, had a larger vision, one that included welfare and prosperity for his subjects. It is possible that his negotiated treaty with Jai Singh in 1665 was, in part, to allow peace to return to Maharashtra.

In the last decade of his reign, Shivaji was fortunate that both Bijapuri and Mughal energies were focused elsewhere. The Mughals fought Pathans and Rajputs; Bijapur was consumed with factional disputes and a Mughal invasion. In this respite, Shivaji worked to rebuild Maharashtra. He encouraged taqqavi (developmental) loans, low settlements to repopulate devastated areas, and carefully commanded his army when they were in monsoon cantonments not to disturb cultivators. Further, he understood the importance of the administration for tax collection. At the top, was an advisory council; at the bottom, he laid out rules for the measurement of agricultural land. Even with scanty records, it seems that land measurements were carried out in some areas of the Desh, though perhaps not in the Konkan. Shivaji's most serious problem, after military pressure from the Mughals, was his relations with the other grant-holding, armed families in Maharashtra. Over the course of his life, Shivaji tried a series of strategies to woo and subdue these families. The deshmukhs of Supe, the remnants of the More family, the deshmukhs of Utroli, Phaltan, and Wai all joined Afzal Khan and the Bijapuri army in his campaign against Shivaji in 1659-60. The big families, such as those centered at Bhor or Wai, clearly remained strong powers throughout Shivaji's reign, and their loyalty was subject to negotiation between the main contenders - Bijapur, the Mughal Empire, and Shivaji. Another strategy adopted by Shivaji, which recognized the power of these families, was to marry into them. Shivaji thus married into the Shirke, the Mohite, and the Nimbalkar families powerful in their areas . Shivaji had an ambitious plan to establish authority over the large deshmukh families. It began with further strengthening his personal army, relative to the strength of deshmukh forces. Though there is no direct, documentary evidence of the size of Shivaji's army, there is some indirect evidence. From Shivaji's will, for example, we know that he personally owned 30,000 horses. This suggests that his personal forces were perhaps 15,000-20,000 cavalry. He owned the guns and gunpowder to supply the army. In addition, Shivaji was in possession of the largest and most important forts in Maharashtra.

In 1674 Shivaji crowned himself formally at Raigarh.He became the sovereign ruler of Maharashtra. In 1676 Shivaji planned and began to direct operations in the south. The objective of this campaign was the total subjugation of Adilshahi kingdom. During the course of this campaign Shivaji conquered Jinji,Madurai,Vellore etc. and about 100 forts in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.