Friday, March 26, 2021

Chauth (1/4), the tax of power

 Chauth (1/4), the tax of Power

Chauth (one fourth) of the produce or revenue was levied as annual tax-lagan-tribute on the tillers by the landlords-Kings. When the crops were harvested, the daroga, faujdar, jamadar of the lords were coming to collect the share of the lords and were not leaving even the share from the fodder. 

In the Agroestate country of India, Land revenue was the major source of income. As agriculture was dependent on monsoon crop, the failure of crop was the major calamity over the kings and the people. Therefore, all the rituals and celebrations pre and post monsoon were performed regularly in India. One fourth of the quality was so much weaved in the life of the common man that even while worshipping and offerings to the deity, chauth was placed before the Gods and Goddesses.

As the tradition was chauth prevalent in India for centuries, when the smaller kings became vassals under the bigger king, they used to pay annual tribute like chauth. Aurangzeb gave rights to collect chauth and Sardeshmukhi to Shivaji and subsequent Maratha rulers for maintaining a contingent of troops for the emperor. The Suba-Governor posted were the revenue collectors. After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal Empire started diminishing and by 1757, their rule was nominal. Maratha under the Peshwas became powerful, extended their authority over northern and western India. However, there were princely states under the Vassals of Mughal, therefore, Maratha instead of taking over the throne of Delhi, preferred to sign Ahmedia Treaty with Mughal, took right to levy chauth on the lands which were under nominal Mughal rule. They levied additional 10% on the top of Chauth as Sardeshmukhi as extra tribute to the King. It was charged to provide armed security for the state. It had brought the Marathas under the direct conflict with the princely states, in turn they didn’t support Marathas, saw them falling in the third battle of Panipat against Ahmed Shah Abdalli. 

Najibabdawlah the robila pashtun was in service to the Mughal as Mir Bakshi but was deserted by the Mughal Emperor under the order of Peshwa was the major cause of the battle of Panipat. Najib then joined Abdali. Leaving the major Maratha Army behind at Pune, the major purpose of sending troops to counter Abdalli was mainly for providing armed security to the Mughal Emperor and to acquire control over Delhi as he was paying Chauth to the Maratha Peshva, it seems. Maratha didn’t dethrone the Emperor after winning Delhi. Maratha then moved to Kunjpura killed Najabat Khan Pathan and conquered. But behind them was Abdali, they could neither return to Delhi nor moving forward, and were sieged at Panipat’. 

It is a great surprise of the history that the Maratha Army headed by Sadashivrao travelled so long from Pune to Panipat via Delhi to take on Abdali at Panipat was carrying their families and children, as if it was a pilgrimage. They were blocked at Panipat and their food chain supply was also blocked. On the day of the battle, they had no food to eat and had started the day with a water made of jaggery. They fought bravely but lost. After winning the battle, Abdalli’s army slaughtered 40000 innocents Marathas women and children in the streets of Panipat and carried many of them as slaves. 

Ruling was mainly to acquire power over the area and to collect revenue to maintain power. Muslim Sultans and Emperors were appointing Governors, Suberdars, Jagirdars, Talukdar, etc, and assigning them the Jagirs of villages and land. The Jagirdars had to pay prescribed money tribute and had to maintain fixed number of troops and horses that to send for battles whenever asked for. The armies in India were formed through assembly of Jagir troops. Bigger the alliance, bigger the power. For an example Zainabad Jagir created during the Sultan rule in 15th century in Gujarat was maintaining 12000 troops and 12000 horses and had participated in many battles. 

Under the pressure of earning more revenue from the land, many uncultivated lands were brought under cultivation and many villages were established as Agro Estates. The revenue or the crop share (1/4th) collected from the people were spent on paying annual tribute, maintenance of the troops and horses, and paying salaries to the staff appointed for collection of revenue and maintenance of law and order in the jagir area. 

Marathas and their alliance fought so bravely at battle of Panipat that no Afghan of Turk thereafter tried to conquer India. It created a room for the rise of Shikhs as buffer wall of India. British settled in Bengal then started their spread over other parts of India. The rise of Shikhs and British were the major outcomes of the third battle of panipat. With smart diplomacy, British managed wining wars against the Marathas and Shikhs and finally established the rule of British Crown over India. 

The concept of Chauth (tax) charged to provide armed security was copied by Lord Wellesley and created a system of subsidiary alliance to bring princely states under the british control of the East India Company. When the states failed to pay the charges of the armed security provided by the EEC, it acquired the territorial rights, placed its administration to collect land revenue from the tillers and came in direct conflict with the people of India. 

Gaekvad in Gujarat smartly placed many jagirdars under the direct control of British so that the burden of collection of revenue and paying to British was shifted on the shoulders of the Jagirdar. One such Jagir in Zinzuwada of Gujarat was paying ₹11093/annum to the British residents. 

The British Laws that commanded India had opened the doors of freedom under the principles of natural justice and rule of law. Post independence, land reforms were implemented. First time in the history of India, Tillers became the owners of the land and were freed from the chauth they were paying to the rulers for centuries. 

Is Karva Chauth a tax similarly levied on wives (subject) by the Gods to save their husbands (masters)?


15 December 2019


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