Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thanjavur Maratha kingdom

Thanjavur Marathas (Marathi: तंजावर मराठा साम्राज्य) were the rulers of Thanjavur principality of Tamil Nadu between the 17th to the 19th century C.E. Their native language was Marathi. Venkoji was the founder of the dynasty.

Maratha Conquest of Tanjavur
Following the demise of Chola rule in the 16th century, the Thanjavur country came under the rule of the Pandyas who ruled for about a century .Following the invasion of Malik Kafur , the Tanjore country fell into disorder. The rule of the Delhi Sultanate lasted for half a century before Pandya chieftains reasserted their independence. Soon afterwards, however, they were conquered by the Vijayanagar Empire. The supremacy of Vijayanagar was challenged by the Nayaks of Madurai who eventually conquered Thanjavur in 1646. The rule of the Thanjavur Nayaks lasted until 1673 when Chokkanatha Nayak the ruler of Madurai invaded Thanjavur and killed the ruler Vijayaraghava.

Chokkanatha placed his brother Alagiri on the throne of Thanjavur, but within a year the latter threw off his allegiance, and Chokkanatha was forced to recognise the independence of Thanjavur. A son of Vijaya Raghava induced the Bijapur Sultan to help him get back the Thanjavur throne. In 1675, the Sultan of Bijapur sent a force commanded by the Maratha general Venkoji (alias Ekoji) to recapture the kingdom from the new invader. Venkaji defeated Alagiri with ease, and occupied Thanjavur. He did not, however, place his protege on the throne as instructed by the Bijapur Sultan, but seized the kingdom and made himself king. Thus began the rule of the Marathas over Thanjavur.

Maratha Kings of Tanjavur

Shahuji I
Serfoji I 1712 to 1728
Tukkoji 1728 to 1736
Serfoji II

The Thanjavur Maratha Rajas favored Sanskrit and Telugu to such an extent that classical Tamil began to decline. Most of the plays were in Sanskrit. Venkoji, the first ruler of the Bhonsle dynasty composed a 'Dvipada' Ramayana in Telugu. His son Shahuji was a great patron of learning and of literature. Most of the Thanjavur Maratha literature is from his period. Most of them were versions of the Ramayana or plays and short stories of a historical nature. Sanskrit and Telugu were the languages used in most of these plays while there were some Tamil 'koothu' as well. Advaita Kirtana is one of the prominent works from this period. Later Thanjavur rulers like Serfoji II and Shivaji immersed themselves in learning and literary pursuits when they were dispossessed of their empire. Serfoji built the Saraswathi Mahal Library within the precincts of the palace to house his enormous book and manuscript collection. Apart from Indian languages, Serfoji II was proficient in English, French, Dutch, Greek and Latin as well.

The king was assisted in the administration of his country by a council of ministers. The supreme head of this council of ministers was a Mantri or Dalavoy. The Dalavoy was also the Commander-in-chief of the Army. Next in importance at the court was a Pradhani or Dewan also called Dabir Pandit. The country was divided into subahs, seemais and maganams in the decreasing order of size and importance. The five subahs of the country were Pattukkottai, Mayavaram, Kumbakonam, Mannargudi and Tiruvadi.

The ruler collected his taxes from the people through his mirasdars or puttackdars. They were collected right from the village level onwards and were based on the agricultural produce of the village. Rice was one of the primary crops in the region and the land used for cultivation was owned by big landlords. It was Anatharama Sashtry who proposed collecting taxes to improve conditions for the poor. No foreign trade was carried out. The only foreign trade in the country was carried out by European traders who paid a particular amount of money as rent to the Raja. The currency system used was that of a chakram or pon (1 chakram = one and three-fourths of a British East India Company rupee). Other systems of coinage used were that of pagoda (1 pagoda = three and a half Company rupees), a big panam (one-sixth of a Company rupee) and a small 'panam (one-thirteenth of a Company rupee).

Article Courtesy: Wikipedia

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