Deshmukh (Dēśamukh), (Marathi: देशमुख, Kannada: ದೇಶ್ಮುಖ್, Telugu: దేశముఖ్) is a historical title conferred to the rulers of a Dēśamukhi. It is used as a surname in certain regions of India, specifically in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh whose family received it as a title.[1]


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

Deshmukh as a titleEdit

Local officeEdit

Deshmukh was a historical title given to a person who was granted a territory of land, in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.[3][4][5] 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 responsibilities to keep the orders.[6][1]

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 holdover properties that were not taken away.

It was similar in many respects to the Zamindar 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 emperors (Chhatrapatis) to Deshastha Brahmins,[7][8] Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhus, Chitpavan Brahmins, Marathas, Lingayats, Reddys, Jains and Muslims.[9][10][11]

Inukonda Thirumali of Telangana describes the role of Deshmukhs:[17]

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 deeply entrenched in the region with local support and structured in organized 'community' life. The Deshmukh 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 waters. The Deshmukh by virtue of local sanction and consensus could not be easily displaced from above.

Barry Pavier describes Deshmukhs:[18]

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 scale. 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 Deshmukh:[19]

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.



  1. ^ a b Pranay Gupte (15 December 2013). Healer: Dr Prathap Chandra Reddy and the Transformation of India. Penguin UK. p. 578. ISBN 9789351185666. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  2. ^ J. G. Duff, A history of Mahratta Vol 1, p. 39
  3. ^ "Liberation of Hyderabad state".
  4. ^ Kurian, Alka (21 August 2012). "Hyderabad State Administration". ISBN 9781136466717.
  5. ^ Pranay Gupte (15 December 2013). Healer: Dr Prathap Chandra Reddy and the Transformation of India. Penguin UK. p. 578. ISBN 9789351185666. Deshmukh was a historical title given to a person who was granted a territory of land in certain regions of India, specifically Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
  6. ^ S.C.Dube (30 October 2017). Indian Village. Routledge Publications. p. contents. ISBN 9781351209212. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  7. ^ Gregory Naik (2000). Understanding Our Fellow Pilgrims. Gujarat Sahitya Prakash. p. 66. ISBN 9788187886105.
  8. ^ Stewart Gordon (1993). The Marathas 1600-1818, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521268837.
  9. ^ Gordon, Stewart (February 2007). The Marathas 1600-1818, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0521033169.
  10. ^ Kumar Suresh Singh (1998). India's Communities, Volume 5. Oxford University press. p. 2082. ISBN 9780195633542.
  11. ^ Naqvi, S.M. Raza. “APPOINTMENT AND CONFIRMATION OF DESHMUKHS IN THE MUGHAL EMPIRE.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, vol. 33, 1971, pp. 223–226., Accessed 28 July 2020.
  12. ^ Appasaheb Ganapatrao Pawar (1971). Maratha History Seminar, May 28-31, 1970: papers. Shivaji University. p. 31. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
  13. ^ Indo-British Review, Volume 10. Indo-British Historical Society. 1983. p. 44. Indeed, the official titles of the Zamindars of Guntur had been Desmukh ( Executive-Collector), Mannavar (Head of Police), and Despandi (Chief Accountant); moreover, two of the five zamindari families were Desastha.
  14. ^ Coenraad M. Brand (1973). State and Society: A Reader in Comparative Political Sociology. University of California Press. p. 116. ISBN 9780520024908.
  15. ^ Stewart Gordon (1993). The Marathas 1600-1818, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 50–53. ISBN 9780521268837.
  16. ^ Āruṭla Rāmacandrāreḍḍi (1984). Telangana struggle: memoirs. People's Publishing House. p. vi. The Deshmukh system of allocation of whole villages to some was introduced by the Nizam when Salarjung I was the prime minister on the advice of British after 1857
  17. ^ Thirumali, pp top47
  18. ^ Pavier, pp1413
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ Meera Kosambi (5 July 2017). Gender, Culture, and Performance: Marathi Theatre and Cinema before Independence. p. 341. ISBN 9781351565905.