Maratha Administration in Odisha

During the Maratha period, as in the Mughal period, there were Garjat states who paid tribute to the Raja of Nagpur. The rest of Odisha i.e. the coastal plain areas from Suvarnarekha in the North to Chilika in the South popularly known as Moghulbandi were ruled by the Marathas.

The Maratha administration in Odisha was a replica of the Mughal administration. They wanted to retain the fabric of Mughal pattern. However, massive exploitation by the Maratha Governors made their rule unpopular in Odisha.

Division of the Maratha Empire in Odisha

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

Maratha Administration in Garjat states

Among the twenty-four feudatories, the most powerful was. the king of Khurda, the Rajas of Kanika, Dhenkanal,Ranapur, Baramba, Athagarh, Kujang, Aul (Ali) and Mayurbhanj had also retained their relative importance during the regime of the Marathas. The Maratha governors did not poke their nose in the internal administration of those chiefs. The feudatories were also not regular in their payment to the Maratha Subenders.

Administration in Mughalbandi areas of Odisha

The Mughalbandi was divided into 150 Paraganas under the management of 32 Amils. Each Paragana was subdivided into two, three, four or more Mahalas or allotments. The Amil or Revenue Commissioner was responsible for the assessment of revenue and entrusting charge todifferent officers for the collection of revenue. The hereditary revenue collectors under him were termed as Chaudhuries, Kanungoes, or Talukdars each in charge of a taluk or sub-division. These officers were given rent-free lands known as Nankar. Their duty was not only to collect revenue from the subjects but to keep them happy andcontended. The settlement known as Hustabud was prevalent. The demand of the government was based on the amount of land actually under cultivation.

Civil and Millitary administration of the Marathas

The Subahdar was the head of both civil and military administration of this land. The Kiladar served under him who was in charge of the fort of Barabati at Cuttack. Under the control of the Subahdar, there were some faujdars who controlled some chaukis (outposts). A thanadar was the head of a cneuk: The Amil was empowered to investigate and try both civil and criminal cases.

Export of Paddy

Like the present day, paddy was produced in huge amount and was a great item of export to Bengal and Madras through small ports of Golrah, Harishpur, Bishenpur and Manikpatna. Salt was plentily manufactured along the sea coast of Odisha.

Trade connection with other parts of India

During the Maratha rule, Odisha was well connected through roads with Bengal, Madras and Nagpur. From Cuttack, a well-known road connected Bengal through Bhadrak, Balasore, Jaleswar and Midnapur. There were two roads from Nagpur to Sambalpur. Madras was connected through a road from Cuttack passing through Puri, Ganjam, Burgun, Tekkali, Kalingapatanam, Chicacole and Visakhapatanam.

Policy towards Jagannath temple of Puri

In the field of religion, the Marathas brought regeneration. The worship of God Jagannath and the maintenance of the grand temple at Puri was the prime duty of the Maratha Subahdars. Puri, a deserted place during the rule of the Mughals was studded with pilgrims from all over India who came to pay homage to the God of Gods. The Marathas managed the temple efficiently and the pilgrims faced no difficulty at Puri. No doubt, pilgrim tax was collected by the Marathas but a large’ slice of that income was spent in different festivals of the temple. Under Maratha patronage, the fame of God Jagannath spread in the nook and corner of India.Ttie Marathas opened Annachhatras (free food-distribution camps) and granted rent-free lands to the Brahmins.They offered money to monks and offered suitable grants to the mathas for the performance of various festivals.

Last Line to say

The Maratha rule in Odisha was, by and large, military in nature. The one and single aim of the Bhonsles of Nagpur was to treat this land as a milch cow and to extract much more revenue from the people. The frequent change of governors made the administration of this land precarious and ustable. Anarchy prevailed and people gradually became disinterested towards the Maratha rule. The frequent march of the British troops through Odisha germinated a fear psychosis in the minds of the people. Further, the extraction of more and more revenue by the Maratha governors enraged them who hated the Maratha rule over this land. That was perhaps, one of the chief reasons for which the people welcomed British hegemony over this land and wanted to expell the Marathas. One thing made the Maratha rule unique in Odisha and that was the maintenance of the temple of God Jagannath at Puri, which was so ruthlessly ignored by the Mughals in the past.