Chauth and Sardeshmukhi

Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were two types of taxes collected in South India, particularly Maratha Empire during medieval times. These two taxes became important sources of revenue for Maratha administration. However, Chauth and Sardeshmukhi were neither introduced by Marathas nor were original sources of revenue for them.


In 1664 and 1670, Shivaji had organized two plundering raids on Surat, which was a part of Mughal territory. These plunders led to origin of an unconventional source of revenue called “Mulkgiri” for Marathas. Mulkgiri is an Arabic term made from Mulk (country) and griftan (take), signifying a plundering raid on foreign lands. The examples of Mulkgiri were first set in India by Muslim invaders such as Muhammad bin Qasim, Mahmud Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, Alauddin Khalji etc. For Marathas, this was the raid money from non-Maratha lands.

Shivaji was fully conscious that this practice of plunder was not suitable for his statecraft. In due course, he substituted these with two customary taxes called Chauth and Sardeshmukhi. However, Shivaji had not introduced these taxes also. The rulers of Deccan were already familiar with these terms well before Shivaji. In fact, Portuguese had also paid these taxes to the neighbouring kings of their territories to avoid conflicts with them.

Chauth and Sardeshmukhi under Shivaji

He had raided from Surat to Madras and had divided the entire area into two parts. The area within his own “Swarajya” or “Mulk-i-Qadim” was the area that belonged to the Marathas. The outside area whenever plundered was to be levied the two taxes.  Shivaji had demanded these taxes from hostile Muslim rulers of Deccan for the first time in 1665 and by 1667; he was strong enough to get his demands fulfilled. The states of Bijapur and Golconda had agreed to pay Rs. 3 Lakh and Rs. 5 Lakh respectively per annum to avoid Maratha incursions.

Chauth was comprised of 1/4 of the revenue assessment paid as a fee for non-molestation. Sardeshmukhi was an additional levy of 10% of revenue which Shivaji claimed on being the Sardeshmukh (overlord). Shivaji was highly successful in mobilizing the resources using these two taxes. The revenue was assessed as per the Mughal revenue or the Deccan kingdoms revenue.

Chauth and Sardeshmukhi under Later Marathas

In February 1719, the Mughal emperor Rafi-ud-Darajat had assigned the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi rights over the six Mughal subas of the Deccan to Raja Shahu. In return of Chauth, Raja Sahu would maintain a contingent of 15,000 Maratha soldiers for the service and protection of the emperor. In return for Sardeshmukhi, Marathas were made responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in these subas by preventing robbery and rebellions.


  • sunit biswas

    what was the purpose behind the sardeshmukhi tax, levied by the mughals ?