Maratha Administration in Odisha

Throughout the Maratha and Mughal periods, Garjat states paid tribute to the Raja of Nagpur. The Marathas ruled the remainder of Odisha, namely the coastal plain areas from Suvarnarekha in the north to Chilika in the south, popularly known as Moghulbandi.

In Odisha, the Maratha administration was a carbon copy of the Mughal. They desired to preserve the fabric of Mughal design. However, the Maratha Governors’ massive exploitation made their rule unpopular in Odisha.

Division of the Maratha Empire in Odisha

In Odisha, the Maratha administration was a legacy of Mughal rule. The Maratha possessions in Odisha were bounded on the east by the sea, on the west by the Chhattisgarh province, on the south by the Chilka lake and the undivided Ganjam district, and on the north by Jaleswar, Midnapur, and Birbhum. Odisha was divided into two political divisions: the Garjat, which comprised twenty-four tributary chieftains, and Mughalbandi, which encompassed the coastal tract extending from Suvarnarekha in the north to the Chilka lake in the south.

Maratha Administration in Garjat states

The king of Khurda was the most powerful of the twenty-four feudatories, but the Rajas of Kanika, Dhenkanal, Ranapur, Baramba, Athagarh, Kujang, Aul (Ali), and Mayurbhanj retained their relative importance during the Marathas’ reign. The Maratha governors stayed out of those chiefs’ internal affairs. Additionally, the feudatories were not punctual with their payments to the Maratha Subenders.

Administration in Odisha’s Mughalbandi district

The Mughalbandi was subdivided into 150 Paraganas, each of which was administered by 32 Amils. Each Mahala or allotment was subdivided into two, three, four, or more Mahalas or allotments. The Amil or Revenue Commissioner was responsible for assessing revenue and charging different officers with the responsibility of collecting revenue. Chaudhuries, Kanungoes, or Talukdars were his hereditary revenue collectors, each in charge of a taluk or sub-division. These officers were provided with rent-free lands dubbed Nankar. They were tasked with the responsibility of not only collecting revenue from the subjects, but also keeping them happy and content. Hustabud was a well-known settlement. The government’s demand was based on the amount of land that was actually under cultivation.

The Marathas’ civil and military administration

The Subahdar was the ruler of this land’s civil and military administrations. The Kiladar worked for him when he was in charge of the Barabati fort in Cuttack. There were a few faujdars who were subordinate to the Subahdar and controlled a few chaukis (outposts). A thanadar was the head of a cneuk: the Amil was tasked with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting civil and criminal cases.

Paddy exports

As is the case today, paddy was grown in vast quantities and was a valuable export item to Bengal and Madras via the small ports of Golrah, Harishpur, Bishenpur, and Manikpatna. Along Odisha’s sea coast, salt was abundantly manufactured.

Trade ties with other regions of India

Odisha was well connected by road to Bengal, Madras, and Nagpur during the Maratha rule. From Cuttack, a well-known road connected Bengal to Bhadrak, Balasore, Jaleswar, and Midnapur via Bhadrak, Balasore, Jaleswar, and Midnapur. From Nagpur to Sambalpur, there were two roads. From Cuttack, a road connected Madras via Puri, Ganjam, Burgun, Tekkali, Kalingapatanam, Chicacole, and Visakhapatanam.

Policy towards Jagannath temple of Puri

The Marathas regenerated religion. The Maratha Subahdars’ primary responsibility was to worship God Jagannath and to maintain the grand temple at Puri. Puri, a deserted town during the Mughal era, was densely populated by pilgrims from all over India who came to pay homage to the God of Gods. The Marathas administered the temple effectively, and pilgrims encountered no difficulties in Puri. Without a doubt, the Marathas collected pilgrim taxes, but a sizable portion of that revenue was spent on temple festivals. Under Maratha patronage, God Jagannath’s fame spread throughout India. Ttie Marathas established Annachhatras (free food distribution centres) and granted Brahmins rent-free lands. They made financial contributions to monks and appropriate grants to mathas for the performance of various festivals.

To conclude,

Maratha rule in Odisha was largely a military one. The sole objective of the Nagpur Bhonsles was to treat this land as a milch cow and to extract significantly more revenue from the populace. The frequent change of governors jeopardised and unstable the administration of this land. Anarchy reigned, and people gradually lost interest in Maratha rule. The frequent marching of British troops through Odisha instilled in the populace a fear psychosis. Additionally, the Maratha governors’ increasing revenue collection enraged those who despised Maratha rule over this land. Perhaps this was one of the primary reasons the populace welcomed British hegemony over this land and desired to expel the Marathas. One feature that distinguished Maratha rule in Odisha was the preservation of the temple of God Jagannath in Puri, which had been ruthlessly ignored by the Mughals in the past.

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