Mountstuart Elphinstone.

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

. (page 29 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 29 of 41)
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very ancient. They have been termed Jamindars by
Mohammedans, a name which the modern Deshmukhs
and Deshpandes are ambitious of retaining, but I have
seen nothing to prove their having ever been on the
footing of Moghul Jamindars. The only officers, whose
situation was nearly approaching the Jamindars of
Bengal, were the Mokasdars of the Bijapur State ; but
I have nothing very clear respecting them.

The claims of the hereditary officers, or Hakdars, in
this district, partake of the intricacy and confusion in
Avliich the whole accounts are involved.

The Deshmukh's Hak is very variable in Faltan
Desh ; it is one-fourth of the whole revenue ; in Karad
it is a twentieth part of the arable land, and 5 per cent,
on the land revenue. In Man perhaps nearly the
same, but with a claim to one half of all fines levied
within the district, which, however, has not been satis-
factorily established. In Nirthadi it is the assigned
Inam land, and a simple fixed money payment, which
is paid wholly or in part. The Deshmukh of AV;ii
was the same as Karad, but the Hak or Wattan, as the


right is termed, was for a time attached by Shahii, the
fourth Eajah ; the ready-money Hak was then raised to
10 per cent., and when it w^as restored to the Pisal
famil}^, the extra 5 per cent, was not given to them,
but it was continued on account of Government, under
the head of Panchoutra, literally 5 per cent.

To this exaction, and an extra assessment of 2^ per
cent, on the Sardeshmuki of Wai, may be ascribed
the permanent extra assessment of 7^ per cent, on
Kurve, which has been already noticed.

The Deshpande Hak is also not uniform ; it may be
reckoned at one half of that of the Deshmukh ; both
commonly have claims upon the customs.

The Nadgouda has also some claims upon the
customs ; he has his Hak in Inam land, and 2 per
cent, on the land revenue.

The Desh Chougla's pay is not general : where it is
acknowledged he has Inam land and a money payment
from the Sadiwar.

Deshmukhs and Deshpandes style themselves Ja-
mindars, whilst Patils and Kulkarnis come under the
general term of Wattandars. The Patil has Inam land,
Musluira, a ready-money payment on the Sadelwari,
an allowance for Sirpav and sometimes, though rarely,
a share in the customs ; he also receives a contribution
in kind from the Ptayats, termed Ghugari.

The Kulkarni has also Inam lands, an assignment
in money on the Sadelwar^ besides Sirpav allowance ;
the grain payment made to the Kulkarni is termed

The Chougula has a smaller share in a similar

The Balute have land and a Hak in kind from the

In the Mahratta country all inheritance goes by the


name of Wattan, and no one would willingly part with
his Wattan if much more than its intrinsic value
were offered for it. The most serious distress is that
of heing compelled to sell one's Wattan. The feeling
is singularly strong, and is not easily understood or
described. The attachment to a house, a field, or garden,
we can enter into ; but Wattan is sometimes merely the
right to a few blades of Baji from the vegetable-
sellers in the Bajar, which I have seen maintained with
an eagerness which did not proceed from its value, but
from its being Wattan. I have seen two women fight
and tear each other in the streets of Satara because the
one had removed a loose stone from near the house of
the other, which was part (said the aggrieved person)
of my Wattan. This feeling will be found universal,
but here it is peculiarly observable.

All the hereditary officers can sell their Wattan, but
some require to have the sanction of Government.
Consent, I am inclined to think, is always requisite to
be regular, but in some cases, such as Patils or other
executive and important officers, it is indispensably
necessar3\ In the sale of every species of inheritance
the next of kin has the first offer, and so down to the
nearest neighbour. This is a rule of right, even in the
disposal of a house, which may not have been acquired
as patrimony. If the house and street are east and
west, the neighbour on the east side has the preference.
If north and south, the one to the south has the first

The sale of any hereditary office is a very formal pro-
cedure ; an attested acknowledgment of the act being-
voluntary, and proceeding from circumstances which are
to be generally stated, is the preliminary adjustment.

I have examined papers of the sale of an hereditary
office, and found the amount above fifty years' purchase


of all known emolument, but beside the purchase -money
there are fees to Government and regular dues to be
paid to the other hereditary officers upon admitting
another person into the gate. The whole of the
hereditary officers bear witness to the deed of sale,
which list of signatures is taken in a public assembly
and is turned to the gate Muhzar. The share of Hak
upon customs shall hereafter form a separate report.

The hereditary officers are amenable to a tax called
the Deliak Patti, w^hich is the whole amount of their
Hak, exclusive of their Inam lands, and may be levied
every tenth year. This has never been regularly
levied, and is a very unpopular tax ; at first view it
seems only reasonable that those officers, wdien not
executive, should be required to contribute something
to the exigencies of the State, yet many poor women
and families who have small shares of Hak w^ould be
greatly distressed by it unless it could be levied on
individuals possessing above a certain income derivable
from this source ; but this would require a minuteness
of information which we cannot easily acquire.

As the extent and assignments of all rent-free lands
will be shown in the statements which I shall forward
next month, I shall at present pass on to the various
tenures of the farmers who pay a revenue to Govern-
ment, leaving the others at rest for the present.

All persons who possess hereditary right to any fields
come under the head of Wattandars of such and such
a village, though they may have actually resided all
their lives at Gwalior ; whereas all others who do not
possess this right, though present in the village, and
though they and their ancestors may have resided there
for a century, are termed, in common with the passing
Mahratta traveller who has slept a night in the Dliarm-
salc'i, Upri or stranger.


The common farmer holds his land upon a contract
or lease from the village authorities, which is called his
Kaiil ; it is generally renewed from j^ear to year, and
seldom exceeds three years ; he is obliged to conform
to the customs of the village, and commonly pays his
Sarkar dues in money ; he is said to hold his Khand
Makta, or Ukta.

A Warrenda Kari is a person who holds lands in a
similar manner, hut beyond the limits of his own village

A Share Kari is one who holds lands virtually the
property of Government. Shara is commonly a par-
ticular species of property, which may have reverted to
Government, cither by becoming forfeited, or by some
former purchase, for the purpose of planting trees. It
may also have been land which, from time immemorial,
has not been within the bounds of any village. A
Share Kari may be a person holding a few mangoes
for the season.

A person renting land under an agreement of paying
half the produce in kind is said to hold it in Batai.

The Eayat, however, whose situation merits most
particular attention, is the cultivator of lands in w^hicli
he has an hereditary and proprietary right, and who
holds his land in perpetuity on paying a fixed rent to
Government. To this tenure you have particularly
directed inquiries, and I shall endeavour to state all I
have been able to collect respecting these Miras lauds.

The Minisdar has, without doubt, a perfect property
in his field, as long as he continues to pa}^ the amount
with wdiich it may be burdened, together with the right
of disposing of it, even without the sanction of Govern-
ment. How he became originally possessed of this
right, it is difficult to account for ; there is no direct
evidence of the wdiole land having been all Miriisi in


ancient times, but there is a proof in the Thul Jhora, or
record of the fields in villages, that a vast quantity of
the land formerly registered Minis is now Khand Makta,
or held in common lease.

An opinion prevails that all land was originally
Miras, and that in the ancient Hindu Eaj the soil
became the acknowledged property of the person who
first cleared it of stones and jungle.

The usual manner of obtaining this right from
Government at a more recent period I have already
had the honour of explaining in my letter of the 29th
of January, on the subject of the Istawa lease; but
since I wrote that letter I have had more opportunity of
hearing opinions and judging of Mahratta feeling regard-
ing this tenure, and I now find it as generally considered
an overstretch of power on the part of Government to
resume any Miras field, merely because the Minisdar
has failed in paying his rent, or because he has retired
to some other part of the country to evade payment.

Simple insolvency on the part of the Mirasdar does
not appear to have given Government the power of
disposing of field in Miras to another. AVhen the
Mirjisdar cannot pay his rent, the amount of the dues
falls on the other Mirasdars should the insolvent
Mirasdjir remain present in the village ; but if he
should quit the district, the others are not called upon
to pay the rent : during his absence the Government
has a right to make the most of the field, and even to
let it on lease, but for a period usually not exceeding
three years, and till the expiration of which the
Mirasdar cannot claim restitution.

That numerous examples of a less forbearing conduct
on the part of the late Government can be adduced I
am well aware, but there is no species of property in
this country that it has so much respected as Miras


lanci ; and though this may have proceeded in a great
degree from the insignificancy of its vahie, and the loss,
rather than gain, which its seizure or aHenation must
have occasioned, and even in cases where immediate
advantage wouhl have resulted to the rapacity of
Government agents, or revenue contractors, there has
always heen great consideration shown to the Minisdjir.
Instances of declared forfeiture are accordingly very rare ;
but great crimes, such as treason, robbery, theft, and
murder, are always considered as destroying the right
to all Minis, and. indeed, to every species of property
whatever : but Miras land generally goes to the nearest
of kin. In all cases it seems to have been considered
right that a reasonable provision should be made to
relations, even wdien the ostensible head of a familj^
had committed an unpardonable offence. Had this not
been customarj^, many persons, owing to the divisibility
of property amongst heirs, would have been deprived of
their only means of livelihood for the commission of
crimes in which they had borne no participation. This
accounts in some manner for the portions of Hak, etc.,
which are so frequently credited to Government in the
annual village settlement.

Mirc4sdars, who are absentees, are termed by the
Mahrattas Pargana. It is so well understood that no
Mirasdar wilfully quits his land ; that it is considered
the duty of a good Patil, and of all superior Govern-
ment agents, to use every endeavour to discover and
remove the cause of his leaving his home and the field
of his forefathers. If poverty has been the cause, his
rent is remitted, and an advance of money granted ;
and if it has been occasioned by any unsettled dispute,
an investigation and adjustment are promised by
Government. Should every inducement fail, and the
Mirasdcir pertinaciously and unreasonably persist in


remaining abroad, he can be required to give in a
written renunciation of his Miras right, which, when
obtained, allows the Government a full power of dis-
posing of his lands ; but without this document there is
no authority that can dispose of such land in Miras to
another, until the death of the Mirasdar, and the
death or renunciation of his heirs. In case of its being
thought an object to ascertain this, the mode of doing
so is from the village ; should the villagers bear testi-
mony to the certain or supposed death of the Mirasdar
and his heirs. Government can then dispose of the land
to another person in Miras ; and should any heir after-
wards appear, he has no claim whatever, unless he can
clearl}^ prove that the evidence of the villagers was given,
knowing it to be false, or that he had been in such a
situation as had put it entirely out of his power to keep
the Patil and Wattaudar apprised of his being alive.
When such can be proved, he has a right to the field
upon the payment of all loss or other equitable charge,
either by the Government or the occupant ; but under
the circumstances just described, and in all others when
the field is merely held by an ordinary cultivator, in
case of the return of the rightful heir, the Miras must
be restored at the expiration of the lease, which usually
is done without requiring arrears of deficiency to be
made up, although it is admitted that Government has
a right to demand them. As to paying for improve-
ments, the ordinary cultivator had no security until the
issue of the late orders for any outlay, and consequently
would not incur an expense which was not likely to be
returned in crop during the existence of his lease.

Shilledars about to take the field, or any person in
immediate want of money, frequently mortgage their
Miri'is land, the value of which of course depends
entirely on circumstances.


To form a precise estimate of the number of years'
pm'chase of Miras land is by no means easy, and will
require more inquiry and much longer experience than
can be obtained in one season. My present notion is,
that when the established assessment only is levied, the
Rayat has, on a fair average, one-third of the gross
produce, the Government has a third, and a third goes
for seed, Hakdars, bullocks, implements, and subsis-
tence to the cattle ; the year's purchase would therefore
be found by a series of the years of rent, and in an
average of thirty deeds of sale from 1780 till 1810
which have been examined, the general rate is ten
years' purchase.

Industry and natural advantages may improve a field
so much as to yield the Mirasdar upwards of three-
fourths of the produce. The year's purchase in these
cases can only be ascertained by fair statements from
the occupant, which I cannot say I have been able
to obtain satisfactorily ; either from a want of intelli-
gence, or more probably of candour, the people cannot
yet be brought to understand the intention of such

Land held at will, I suppose, may have one-fourth
of the gross produce in the hands of the Rayats ; but
for the reason just stated I have no other means of
ascertaining the fact than the following observation :

The Kunbis, not Mir/isdar, prefer the tenure
called Batai вАФ that is, dividing the produce with
Government to the ordinary farm. The mode of this
division is first to set aside the dues of the Patils,
Kulkarnis, and Balute, the quantity required for
next year's seed; after which the division is made, and
the rest of the Hak dues fall on the Government share.
But after the first deductions, the subsequent division,
the wear and tear of implements, the purchase of


cattle aucl finding their subsistence, there will remain
little more than a fourth of the gross produce.

Minis hereafter appears to he a very desirable
tenure as long as the established fixed assessment, usual
in the country, continues to be equitably levied, as the
Miriisdar has not only much more personal consider-
ation shown to him by his townsmen, but he has all
the advantages which industry can give him in the way
of improvement. But when pretences were sought of
extorting extra payments it was worse than the ordinary
lease, as it placed the proprietor more in the power of
the revenue farmer. Thus Miras land latterly became
of no value, and had it been possible for such a system
of undefined exaction to have gone on without control
for any length of time, it is highly probable that the
Miriis tenure would have disappeared.

In estimating what falls to the Eayat of the gross
produce, a considerable portion is made up of the daity
subsistence he is deriving from his field. If hired
labourers are employed, I have with some precision
ascertained from Brahmins who farm in this way that
they derive a profit of one-eighth in an ordinary year,
but this is calculated on what they save by the produce
of the field for family consumption.

With regard to the tenures of land, there does not
seem to be any doubt that the Minis land was con-
sidered private property, in as far as it uniformly
descended from father to son or to the nearest heir, and
only reverted to Government on the failure of kin of
the former possessor or its not being claimed by them
for a long course of years. The Mirjisdar could sell
or give it away with the permission of Government, but
not otherwise, and as long as he finds his rents the
Government had no right to interfere Avith his lands ;
but whether the ground was cultivated or not, he was


obliged to make good the rent according to the Kamal
of the village. The word 'lludkand is synouyiiious
with Mirasdiir, though it is sometimes confined to a
person who himself cultivates his own Minis land, for
a Minisdar may let his land to any other person,
being himself answerable to Governi:nent for the rent.

The other lands of the village wdiicli belonged to
Government are called Upri or Gatkull, and of them
a portion, called Sherishet, was usually reserved by
Government and cultivated on its own account, and was
exempted from Gram Kharch, and some other Pattis.
The Upri land was entirely at the disposal of the
Patil and Kulkarnis, and was cultivated by Kun-
bis, called Sukwastu (tenants during pleasure) ; as
these were guided entirely by their own inclinations
in cultivating the Upri lands or not, the Patils ex-
erted themselves as much as possible to induce them
to do so by advancing them seed and money if requisite.
The Patils and Kulkarnis had nothing to do with the
Miras lands, except to report the absence of any Mi-

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 29 of 41)