Mountstuart Elphinstone.

Selections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir online

. (page 20 of 41)
Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 20 of 41)
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his ease. He had therefore begun his administration
by plundering all the Ministers connected with his
enemj^ Nana Fadnavis had seized on the Jahagirs
of his principal opponents. When the treaty
of Bassein relieved him from all apprehension
of resistance, he gave a loose to his desire for depress-
ing the great and degrading his enemies.

Almost all those who had been connected with the
government of his predecessors were discarded ; the
great Sardars who held lands were either dispossessed
or kept at a distance, and obliged to yield implicit
obedience to his will. No attempt was made to restore
the old army ; the Chiefs who had commanded it were
left in want. The Court was almost entirely composed
of new men ; and the few troops tliat were retained
were commanded by upstarts, and paid from the treasury.

A severe fiimine that followed Baji Rav's restora-
tion, prevented the natural effect of his reduction of the
military force : many men perished, and more horses,


and the vacancies occasioned by the deaths of the
owners of land, afforded a provision for many who had
till then maintained themselves by the profession of
arms. Many more went to the camp of Scindia, who
was then exchanging his Mussulman retainers for
Mahrattas : others found employment with Holkar and
the Kajah of Berar.: and many probably joined the
hordes of Pindarics, which begun about this time to
be conspicuous.

The discontents of the Chiefs were kept under by
the presence of a British force, and great progress had
thus been made in reducing the country to the state
desired by Baji Rav, when other events occurred to
induce him to change his system. The progress that
has been made has, however, been favourable to us.
The number of Jahagirdars, though still very great, has
been lessened ; the pride of the nation has been humbled,
and its military strength reduced. The war and previous
years of intrigue and opposition, however, unsettled
men's minds; the reduction of the armies of Scindia, the
Bhosale and the Pindarics have increased the numbers
of the soldiery ; the destruction of the smaller Jahagir-
dars in Hindustan has thrown them and their retainers
back on their old country, and our having raised our
irregular horse and formed our civil establishments
before Baji Piav's adherents were sufficiently depressed
to come over to us, has left most of them out of cm-
ploj^ So that there are now two irregular armies — the
Mahratta one and our own ; and three civil establish-
ments — Nana Fadnavi's, Baji Pu'iv's, and ours — within
this one territory.




The principle I adopted for the civil administration
being to preserve unimpaired the practice which I
found established, this part of my report ought to con-
sist entirely of an account of the Mahratta system ; and
although more changes have been introduced than were
intended, that will in fact occupy a very considerable
portion of the statement which is to follow.

My information is derived, in a great measure, from
the Jamabandi reports of the local officers, on revenue
subjects ; and on judicial ones, from the answers of the
same gentlemen to a series of queries which I cir-
culated about the end of last j^ear. These answers are
forwarded, and I beg to recommend them to attention.
That of Mr. Chaplin is of particular value. Captain
Grant's contains much information, both on the points
immediately in question, and on the general character
of the people ; and those of Mr. Thackeray, Sub-
Collector of Rane Benore, have likewise considerable
merit. Besides this view of the former practice, I shall
point out the changes that have occurred ; and as local
opinions are always of use, I shall add such suggestions
as occur to me on the course to be pursued hereafter ;
though the want of general knowledge, as well as of
experience in the departments to which they refer, may
often make them crude or erroneous.

In whatever point of view we examine the native
government in the Deccan, the first and most important

Village feature is, the division into villages or town-
govcrnment. gj^^jpg^ Thcsc commuuitics coutaiu in minia-
ture all the materials of a state within themselves, and
are almost sufficient to protect their members, if all
other governments were withdrawn. Though probably
not compatible with a very good form of go^'erument,


they are an excellent remedy for the imperfections of a
bad one ; they prevent the bad effects of its negligence
and weakness ; and even present some barrier against
its tyranny and rapacity.

Each village has a portion of ground attached to it,
which is committed to the management of the in-
habitants. The boundaries are carefully marked, and
jealously guarded. They are divided into fields, the
limits of which are exactly known ; each field has a
name and is kept distinct, even when the cultivation of
it has long been abandoned. The villagers are almost
entirely cultivators of the ground, with the addition of
the few traders and artisans that are required to supply
their wants. The head of each village is the Patil,
who has under him an assistant, called a Ohaugulla,
and a clerk called a Kulkarni. There are, besides,
twelve village officers, well known by the name of the
Bara Baloti. These are the astrologer, the priest,
the carpenter, barber, etc., but the only ones who are
concerned in the administration of the government are
the Sonar, or Potadar, who is silver-smith and assayer
of money, and the Mliar, who, in addition to various
other important duties, acts as watchman to the villaf^e.
Each of these classes consists of one or more indi-
viduals, according as their original families have
branched out. The Mhars are seldom fewer Forafuuuc-
tlian four or five, and there are besides, constuution^of
where those tribes are numerous, very fre- cap;aiu1?iberT-
quently several Bhils or Eamoshis, employed ^'"•cii'-'thfisn'..
also as watchmen, but performing none of the other
duties of the Mhar.

The Patils are the most important functionaries in
the villages, and perhaps the most important Patu.
class in the country. They hold their office by a grant



from the Government (generally from that of the
Moguls), are entitled by virtue of it to lands and
fees, and have various little privileges and distinctions,
The functions of wliicli they are as tenacious as of their land.
of"^a Pam^lre Tliclr ojOfico aud emoluments are hereditary,
the Enclosed and salcablc with the consent of the Govern-

translation of a

deed of sale, j32ent, but aro seldom sold, except in cases of

traiisfening a ' * i

offiTe, whi^ch extreme necessity, though a partner is some-
bT cTIpt'^i'n times admitted, with a careful reservation of
his "letter of tlic supcriority of the old possessor. The

March9th,lSlS, -^^ ., . , i „ ,, t , /. ,1

^'o-6. Patil IS head oi the ponce, and oi the

administration of justice in his village, but he need
only be mentioned here as an officer of revenue. In
that capacity he performs on a small scale what a
Mamlatdar or a collector does on a large ; he allots the
lands to such cultivators as have no landed property
of their own, and fixes the rent which each has to pay:
he collects the revenue for Government from all the
rayats ; conducts all its arrangements with them, and
exerts himself to promote the cultivation and the
prosperity of the village. Though originally the agent
of the Government, he is now regarded as equally the
representative of the rayats, and is not less useful in
executing the orders of the Government than in
asserting the rights, or at least in making known the
wrongs, of the people.

The Kulkarni keeps the numerous records and

accounts of the village. The most important are: 1st,

Kuikaruis. the gcucral measurement and description of

Vide Captain all the vlllage lands : 2nd, the list of fields,

(Jrant's rcjjort, *-'

Aug. 17. ^ii;!;^ the name, size, and quality of each, the
terms by which it is held, the name of the tenant, the
rent for which he has agreed, and the highest rent ever
produced by the field; 3rd, the hst of all the in-


liabitants, wlictlier cultivators or otherwise, with a
statement of the dues from each to Government, and the
receipt and balance in the account of each ; 4th, the
general statement of the instalments of revenue
which have been realized ; and, 5th, the detailed
account where each branch of revenue is shown under
a different head, with the receipts and balance on each.
Besides the public records, he generally keeps the
accounts of all the cultivators with each other, and
with their creditors ; acts as a notary public in drawing
up all their agreements ; and even conducts any private
correspondence they may have to carry on. He has
lands, but oftener fees allotted to him by Government,
from which he hold his appointment.

The Chaugulla acts under the orders of the Patil,
and assists him in his duties ; he also has the
care of the Kulkarnis records.

The most important revenue duty of the Mliar is to
watch over the boundaries, both of the village lands
and of each individuars field ; to see that they

. 'Watchman.

are not encroached on, to give evidence m cases
where they are disputed ; he watches over crops, whethei
cut or growing, as long as they are in the fields. He is
also the public messenger and guide, and will be
mentioned again as a most important actor in the

The Potadar, besides being the village silver-smith,
assays all money paid, either to Government
or to individuals.

With the few exceptions already mentioned, all the
villagers are cultivators ; and these, as there are few
labourers, are distinguished by their tenures into two
classes, that of Mirasis or landed proprietors, and that
of Upris, or farmers.

As I was particularly directed to attend to the


tenures of land, I have called on the collectors to
Mirasis, or fumisli tlie rcqiusite information ; only two

landed proprie- ■, ^ • t i i i t it

tors. xo. 7 A. answers have been received, but the enclosed

Captain Robert- -_,, -\t rr c i

son, dated Mar. Jiixtracts, iNo. 7, Iroui Icttcrs written on other


Online LibraryMountstuart ElphinstoneSelections from the minutes and other official writings of the Honourable Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor of Bombay. With an introductory memoir → online text (page 20 of 41)