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Deshmukh (Marathi: देशमुख) or Dēśamukh is a title and surname native to the Indian state of Maharashtra and Karnataka.[1]


In Marathi, Desh means land, country and mukh means head or chief; thus, deshmukh means "the head" of a district.[2]

Deshmukh as a title[edit]

Local office[edit]

Deshmukh was a historical title given to a person who was granted a territory of land, in Maharashtra, Northern Karnataka, Telangana, Chhattisgarh. The granted territory was usually referred to as the Dēśamukhi. The deshmukh was in effect the ruler of the territory, as he was entitled to a portion of the collected taxes. It was also his duty to maintain the basic services in the territory, such as police and judicial duties. It was typically a hereditary system. The title of Deshmukh provided the titled family with revenues from the area and the responsibility to keep the order.[citation needed]

The Deshmukh system was abolished after the independence of India in 1947, when the government confiscated most of the land of the Deshmukhs. Some families however maintain their status as real estate barons, most notably in Mumbai, with h noold over properties that were not taken away.

It was similar in many respects to the Jamindar and Jagir systems in India, and can be considered as a feudal system. Typically taxes collected were to be distributed fairly and occasionally deshmukhs participated in Vedic rituals in which they redistributed all material possessions to the people. However, the title Deshmukh should not be associated to a particular religion or caste. Deshmukhis were granted by the Deccan sultanates, Mughal emperors, Nizams of Hyderabad and other Muslim rulers and by Maratha Kings (Chhatrapatis) to Deshastha Brahmins[3], Chitpavan Brahmins, Marathas, Lingayats, Reddys and CKPs.[citation needed] Although majority of them belongs to Marathas and Deshasthas especially in Maharashtra.[4][5]

Inukonda Thirumali of Telangana describes the role of Deshmukhs:[6]

They were primarily revenue collectors; and when (magisterial and judicial) responsibilities were added to their function they became deshmukhs, chiefs of the parganas. Gradually, each of these assignments tended to become a 'watan' i e, hereditary lease. Despite changes in the political authority at the top, this institution survived, since no ruler from above wished to risk disturbing local administration, headed by village officials. This institution was cleeply entrenched in the region with local support and structured in organised 'community' life. The deshmukhs presided over meetings of the pargana community known as 'got sahba' [sic]['got sabha'] which decided and confirmed claims over inheritance, purchase and transfer of watans. The deshmukhs by virtue of local sanction and consensus could not be easily displaced from above.

Barry Pavier describes Deshmukhs:[7]

These were, in the 1940s, the layer of the very large landowners in Telangana. They owned from 2,000-3,000 acres at the lower end to 160,000 acres (650 km2) at the upper as in the case of the Janareddy family of Nalgonda District. Their origin can be traced to the administrative reforms of Salar Jung I, prime minister of Hyderabad state in the 1860s and 1870s. The reforms abandoned the previous practice, of auctioning off the revenue collection in the government-administered areas to farmers, in favour of direct revenue collection by the State. The 'revenue farmers' were given land in compensation. Most of them availed of the opportunity to seize as much of the best land as they could. They also received a pension. The deshmukhs were thus given a dominant position in the rural economy which they proceeded resolutely to strengthen during the succeeding decades.

Writing in the nineteenth century, Major W. H. Skyes, the statistical reporter to the Government of Bombay, described the Desmukh:[8]

The Desmukhs were, no doubt, originally appointed by Government, and they possessed all the above advantages, on the tenure of collecting and being responsible for the revenue, for superintending the cultivation and police of their districts, and carrying into effect all orders of Government. They were, in fact, to a district what a Patil is to a village; in short, were charged with its whole Government.

Princely Deshmukhs[edit]

In three princely states (non of gun salute rank), Deshmukh became the (oddly modest) title of the ruling dynasty :

  • two in Deccan, from the same bloodline, constituting the colonial Bijapur Agency :
    • Daphlapur ((Daflepur), from its 1680 until its 1872 incorporation into Jath, see below
    • Jath (or Joth), from its 1686 foundation, see above; in 1936 its last ruler adopted the royal style Raja(h)
  • Surgana, from its 1800/- foundation (since 1818 under British protectorate, in the Baroda and Gujarat States Agency), until the 1947 accession to India, a branch of the Parmar (Rajput) dynasty
  • Pawar - belongs to upper maratha caste system , in century who lead of maratha kingdom economy

Famous people belonging to Deshmukh[edit]

Generally most of the Deshmukhs are from Maratha, Deshastha Brahmin, and Chitpavan Brahmin communities.[9][10][11]

Notable people with this surname include:


  1. ^ "Deshmukh Family History". Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  2. ^ J. G. Duff, A history of Mahratta Vol 1, p. 39
  3. ^ Gregory Naik (2000). Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims. Gujarat Sahitya Prakash. p. 66. ISBN 9788187886105. 
  4. ^ Syed Siraj ul Hassan. The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1. Asian Educational Services. p. 108. 
  5. ^ Francine R. Frankel, M. S. A. Rao (1989). Dominance and state power in modern India: decline of a social order. Oxford University Press. p. 135. 
  6. ^ Thirumali, pp top47
  7. ^ Pavier, pp1413
  8. ^ Report of Land Tenures of the Dekkan, by Major W. H. Skyes, Statistical Reporter to the Government of Bombay, Chapter VII pg9, Parliamentary Papers, Great Britain Parliament, House of Commons, HMSO 1866
  9. ^ Jayanth Lele. Hindutva: The Emergence of the Right. Earthworm Books. p. 76. 
  10. ^ Syed Siraj ul Hassan. The Castes and Tribes of H.E.H. the Nizam's Dominions, Volume 1. Asian Educational Services. p. 108. 
  11. ^ Francine R. Frankel, M. S. A. Rao (1989). Dominance and state power in modern India: decline of a social order. Oxford University Press. p. 135. 

See also[edit]