RĀKHĪ SYSTEM, the arrangement whereby the Dal Khālsā during the mid-decades of the eighteenth century established their sway over territories not under their direct occupation. Rākhī , lit. ‘protection' or 'vigilance,' referred to the cess levied by the Dal Khālsā upon villages which sought their protection against aggression or molestation in those disturbed times. The establishment of Dal Khālsā in 1748 coincided with the first of a series of invasions by Ahmad Shāh Durrānī which further weakened the already crumbling administration of the Mughals. The result was an utter chaos and the populace was at the mercy of the roving bands of plunderers of various descriptions. Sikhs were then the only organized people who also followed high moral standards, but they were not yet in a position to establish their direct authority. They introduced a plan offering protection of the Dal Khālsā to a village or a group of villages on payment of rākhī or protection money. The rate varied from one-eighth to one-half, but usually it was one-fifth of the government revenue payable in two instalments corresponding to the two main harvests. The system gained currency, villages singly and in clusters opting for it. This ensured peace for the people and brought regular revenue to the Dal Khālsā without antagonizing the local population. In the Punjab the system lasted until 1764-65 after which the Sikh misls began occupying territories over which they established their regular rule under what is known as the misldārī system. But rākhī continued to be collected from territories in the Gangetic Doāb and the country between Delhi and Pānīpat right up to 1803 when the British East India Company established its power in that region.


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Harī Rām Gupta