In this article we will discuss about various administration systems in India during the medieval age:- 1. Mughal Administration 2. Administration in the Hindu States 3. Administration of Rajput States 4. Maratha Administration 5. Administration in the Muslim States of Deccan 6. Sultanate of Bengal 7. Judicial Administration Under Mughals 8. Judicial Administration Under Vijayanagar and Other Details.
- Mughal Administration
- Administration in the Hindu States
- Administration of Rajput States
- Maratha Administration
- Administration in the Muslim States of Deccan
- Sultanate of Bengal
- Judicial Administration under Mughals
- Judicial Administration under Vijayanagar
- Judicial Administration under the Marathas
1. Mughal Administration:
The Mughal administration combined the Indian and the non-Indian elements. It has been described by Dr. J.N. Sarkar as the “Perso Arabic system in Indian setting”. The Mughal rulers did not immediately deviate from the system of administration set up by the Sultan and continued to run the administration of the country on the same line.
The first two Mughal rulers i.e. Babur and Humayun were so much engrossed in their political struggle that they could not get any time to pay attention towards the improvement of administration machinery.
Sher Shah Suri who intervened between the first and second regime of Humayun for a short-while did introduce certain important administrative reforms, which continued to guide the future rulers of India. But the Mughal Emperors followed certain traditions and conventions which greatly endeared them to the Indian people.
They not only made themselves easily available to people but also took personal interest in minute details of the administration. They even undertook regular tours to the various parts of the Empire and projected the image of being benevolent rulers.
The Mughal administration was largely the creation of the Akbar and was followed by his two successors Jahangir and Shah Jahan without any modifications. However, Aurangzeb made many modifications in the administrative system and adopted reactionary policies. The Mughal system of administration continued till the English East India Company took over powers in its own hands.
The Mughal king or Badsha enjoyed unlimited powers. There was no check on his authority and the king was considered to be the agent of God on this earth. His command was supreme. Anybody who raised a voice against his authority was severely dealt with.
The entire administrative powers were concentrated with him. Apart from being the head of the State he was also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and the chief judicial authority. Though the king was assisted in the matter of administration by the Ministers but he was not bound by their advice and the final decision rested with him.
In short, we can say that the Governor during the Mughal period enjoyed absolute power and there was no check on his authority.
Although the king had absolute powers, it cannot be said that it was of a despotic nature. The Mughal rulers did not ignore the interests of the people nor did they resort to unnecessary torture. They gave sufficient respect to the wishes of the people and carried on the administration in a manner, which won them the admiration and respect of the common people.
The Mughal rulers from Akbar to Shah Jahan thought it their primary duty to carry on the administration for the good of the people. Hence, we can say that the Mughal rulers were benevolent despots. Under the Mughal system there were no room for the office of Prime Ministers and the king used to be his own Chief Ministers.
Abu Fazl quotes Akbar as saying, “If I could but find any one capable of governing the kingdom, I would at once place this burden upon his shoulders and withdraw there form…It was the effect of the grace of God that I found no capable minister, otherwise people would have considered that my measures had been derived by him.”
Thus we find that under the Mughal system of government the king personally performed all the functions.
He was responsible for conceiving plans as well as their execution. He was head of the civil as well as military administration and supervised all State correspondence. The king even interfered in the affairs of the Exchequer and often determined the amount of expenditure.
According to R.P. Khosla, “The Mughal officials were made delegates of the emperor, who could take away their powers at any time he pleased, though while in office they wielded extensive powers. They were appointed by the emperor, and by him they were dismissed. They were mere instruments of the royal policy. The emperor who was the fountain of honour and the asylum of the universe granted powers to his officials as a matter of grace”.
Though the king was absolutely free to make laws for the country and for this he had not to depend on the Council or consent of any one else, but the king’s personal command could not override Quranic law.
It may be noted that though theoretically the king was under the Quranic law but its violation could not easily read to any proceedings against the king, because the administrative machinery moved or came to a standstill only according to the wishes of the king.
1. Wazir (Diwan):
There was no regular Council of Ministers to assist Mughal rulers. There was only a Wazir or Diwan below the Sultan to assist him in the administration of the country. He also supervised the work of the other officials. The Wazir usually held the revenue Department and represented the king at ceremonial occasions.
Though the Wazir was purely a civilian officer, during the times of emergency he performed military duties as well. He was assisted by Diwan-i-Tan and Diwan i-Khalsn. According to Abul Fazl, the Diwan looked after the royal treasury and supervised the income and expenditure of the empire.
The entire revenue system was under his control. He fixed the revenues of the newly acquired territories and granted necessary remission during the times of scarcity. He also decided the cases regarding the compensation for the loss sustained due to the movement of army during the times of war.
Thus we find that almost all the important matters were in the hands of the Diwan. Some of the prominent Diwans of the Mughal period included persons like Raja Toder Mal, Raja Raghu Nath, Diwan Saddulah Khan and Zafar Khan.
As the chief administrative officer of the Empire he exercised control over the provinces and the provincial officials. The activities of all the provincial officials right from the Governor down to the Patwari were constantly watched by the Diwan. The provincial Governors sent the accounts regarding the revenue of their province, to the Diwan.
He also made available the necessary funds for the construction of roads, buildings, parks and other artistic works. He also made the necessary arrangement for the transfer of the treasury from one province to another. Thus we find that the Diwan had very extensive powers and was always consulted by the Emperors on important issues.
The importance of this office is further evident from the fact that very handsome salary was given to the holder of this office. It is on record that Saddullah Khan received a salary of 30, 00,000 per year.
2. Mir Bakshi:
The next important official was Mir Bakshi. He was entrusted with the responsibility of keeping accounts of the mansabdars. It may be noted that this office resembled the office of Ariz-I-Mumalik of the Sultanate period. As the Muslim rulers never appointed one Supreme Commander of the entire military force and their army worked under various Mansabdars, the Mir Bakshi was the Chief Adviser of the king on the military affairs.
In theory, he was the Chief Commander of the personal army of king but in reality he was the Commander of the entire military. All the records of the Mansabdars were kept by him. His chief functions included, the recruitment of the army, the maintenance of the troops in good order, holding of military tests, the inspection of horses, and the muster of troops at regular intervals, and equipping them for expeditions.
As the head of the Military Department he looked after recruitments and revenue matters connected with the army. All the plans regarding the war were prepared by the Mir Bakshi. In fact, Mir Bakshi enjoyed a position of great prestige and pride during the Mughal times.
However, as Prof. S.R. Sharma has observed, “The Mir Bakshi’s position was sometimes eclipsed on account of the emperor at the head of an expedition. Even then, the Mir Bakshi accompanied the king on the battlefield and served as one of his chief advisers.” In course of time the functions of Mir Bakshi increased so much that three other Bakshis were appointed to assist him. These Bakshis were known as second, third and the fourth Bakshis.
3. The Khan i-Saman (also know as Mir Saman):
The Khan-i-Saman or Lord high steward was the Minister of the royal family. He looked after the royal buildings, roads, parks, karkhanas etc. He was also responsible for the provision of the stores for military and household supplies.
He laid down rules for the proper working the karkhanas and ensured that those rules were observed. It was also for the Khan-i-Saman to decide as to how many persons were to work in a karkdana. He purchased all the goods on behalf of the State and carried on the trade in salt, elephants and diamonds. The responsibility for the export of goods to the foreign countries also rested with him. During the expeditions he accompanied the Emperor and made provisions for his stay.
The Khan-i-Saman was assisted by a senior official known as Diwan-i-Beulat who looked after the financial aspects of the Department and had a direct contact with the Finance Department. Another duty of the Khan-i-Saman was to prepare a list of the property on the death of Amir so that the State could claim necessary share out of the property and the rest could be transferred to his heir.
Sadar was the Chief Justice, in-charge of the ecclesiastical affairs, as well as the education. But when he performed the judicial functions he was more of a Qazi than the Sadar. According to Dr. S.R. Sharma, “The Sadar was the Chief Justice, Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, Minister for Education, Royal Almoner, all rolled into one. But the Judicial Department he functioned more as the Chief Qazi than as the Sadar.” Thus we find that the Sadar looked after two departments of justice and religion. As a Qazi he decided the cases in accordance with the Muslim law and enjoyed much prestige.
He exercised the power of justice on behalf of the king and heard the appeals against the decisions of the lower courts. It may be noted that during the Mughal period the Department of Justice was quite corrupt as Prof. J N. Sarkar has said, “All the Qazis of the Mughal period, with a few numerable exceptions were notorious for taking bribes.”
Sadar in addition to looking after the Department of Justice also looked after the religious and ecclesiastical affairs. In this regard he enjoyed unlimited powers. V.A. Smith has observed that the Sadar could award death sentence to the followers of the opponents of Islam and his office was of great profit. In view of the disrepute in which this office fell Akbar deprived the Sadar of all religious and ecclesiastical powers. Daring the time of Aurangzeb the two offices of Sadar and Chief Justice were separated.
Muhatsib combined both secular as well as religious duties. As a senior official he looked after the weight and measures and ensured that the things were available in the market at reasonable prices. He also looked after the cleanliness of the city and the proper regulation of the markets.
As regards his religious duties, he ensured that the interests of Islam were protected and all the tenets of faith carried out by the believers .The moral principles were advocated to the public through this official alone. Prof. A L. Srivastava says that the tried to prevent the use of wine, hemp and other intoxicants.
He also tried to prevent gambling and other types of evils. He also ensured that the Muslims carried out prayers (Nimaz) five times a day in accordance with the religious laws, and those who failed to abide by these principles were punished by the Muhatsib. During the times of Aurangzeb the Muhatsib was also assigned the duty of raising the Hindu temples to ground.
6. News Writer:
The News Writer was generally appointed on the recommendation of Mir Bakshi by the Sultan. This office was usually given for a period of five years. The News Writers were supposed to keep the Sultan informed about the various events taking place in the different parts of the Empire. However, if the information sent by the News Writer was incorrect he was severely punished.
It is on record that a News Writer was beheaded because he sent a false report against Jaswant Singh. The News Writers were expected to send only authentic reports based on reliable sources. The reports based on hearsay were discouraged, and the News Writers were rewarded with various titles for authentic reporting. Usually the News Writers were expected to submit a weekly report.
The Postal Department was under the charge of a Daroga-i-Dak-Chauki. It was his duty to ensure that the News from various parts were carried without any delay. For this purpose horses were kept ready to carry news in all directions. The Daroga i-Dak-Chauki was assisted by other officials like assistant and additional Darogas.
In addition to the above officials there were certain other minor officials which rendered valuable service in the administration of the country. Thus the Mughals provided a highly centralised administrative machinery to the country, the efficiency of which has been greatly admired by the foreign observers.
Provincial Administration Under the Mughals:
The whole kingdom was divided into provinces. However, the number of the provinces differed under different Mughal rulers. For example under Akbar, there were 15 provinces while under Jahangir and Aurangzeb their number rosed to 17 and 21 respectively.
Each province was under a Governor, also known as Nizam, Naib, Subedar or Wali. During the times of Akbar the designation Siphasalar was also used for this official. The Governor was a sort of mini king within his own province and was responsible for the maintenance of law and order, control of local army, realisation of State dues and provision of justice.
Usually members of the royal blood or confident nobles were appointed to this office.
The Governor received all their authority from the Sultan and stayed in office as long as they were in the good books of the king. There was no minimum age limit for appointment to this office, and the sole criteria for appointment to this office was the ability.
Certain people were appointed to this high office at a very young age in view of their ability. For example Aziz Koka and Abdul Rahim were made Subsdars while they were very young.
Another important office, which was only second to the Subedar was that of Diwan. The Diwan was also appointed by the Sultan and he assisted the Sipahsalar in running the administration of the provinces. During the initial period of the Mughal rule, this office was considered as important as that of the Subedar, but the holder of this office did not enjoy so many rights.
In fact, both these offices felt jealous of each other and kept a watch on each other’s activities. The Diwan looked after the income and expenditure part of the provincial administration and made provisions for its collection. He kept a check on the authority of the Sipahsalar.
In case there was any controversy between the two officials the matter was referred to the Central Government for advice. Though this division of power led to the weakening of administration, but in a way it also provided stability to the administration.
The Sadar was also appointed by the king and was completely free from the influence of Diwan or Subedar. He was generally a scholar and a religious person. The land and charity were distributed in accordance with his wishes. The Qazi and the Mir Adil also worked under him.
Amil was in fact a Revenue Collection Officer, although he performed certain other duties also. He looked after the agricultural land and made efforts to convert the barren land into cultivable land. He also assisted in maintenance of peace within the province, and supervised the work of Revenue Collectors.
He also supervised the work of Karkuns, Mukkadamas etc. He was also responsible for communicating the prevailing rates to the ruler.
The office of Bakshi was identical to that of Amil. He supervised the work of the Qanungoes and kept himself fully informed of the various customs prevailing within the district. He kept a record of the various contracts concluded by the Government.
He also kept a full record of the cultivatable and barren land as well as income and expenditure from those lands. He sent statement of annual income and expenditure to the king.
Potdar was mainly concerned with the collection of revenue from the peasants or farmers and to deposit the same with the Royal Treasury. He was authorised to issue necessary receipt for the revenue collected and kept a full record of the collections. However, he was not authorised to spend the money collected without the sanction of the Diwan. All the money was released by him only with the approval of the Diwan.
Fauzdar was in-charge of the provincial army. He assisted the Subedar in the administration of the provinces. He was responsible for the maintenance of law and order within the province and took necessary steps to suppress the possible revolts. Occasionally he arranged demonstration of army with a view to keep the people under check. He was also responsible for the arrests of the dacoits.
The Kotwal was primarily a Police official although he performed certain judicial functions as well. He was responsible for the preservations of law and order within the state.
9. Wak i Navis:
The Wak-i-Navis was responsible for the communication of all the news within the province to the ruler. He also sent information regarding the activities of the Subedar to the king. In fact, the king could exercise control over the provincial administration only on the basis of the information supplied by the Wak-i-Navis.
Therefore, it was expected that he would give only the authentic information to the Sultan. Whenever the Wak i- Navis tried to hide the truth be was severely punished by the Sultan. Aurangzcb used to call the Wak-i-Navis as the eyes and ears of the Emperor.
On the basis of the above description, we can say that the- provincial administration under the Mughals was quite efficient. The Emperor was able to exercise sufficient control over the Subedits. But there were certain practical difficulties before the Sultan.
In view of the heavy pressure of work and lack of time it was not always possible for the Emperor to devote sufficient time to the provincial administration. As a result, the provincial administrators were left free to act as they pleased and often resorted to corrupt practices. It was only when there was a strong check from the centre that they worked efficiently and honestly.
The various Mughal rulers devised different methods to keep the provincial administration under their control. The highest control over provincial administration was exercised by Akbar. But even he had to face various difficulties.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad says, “That even though Akbar made every possible effort to keep a check on the authority of the Subedar in the provincial administration but due to the distance and the bad means of communications and as well as his pre-occupation with the various wars, the Emperor could not keep adequate control over them. Corruption was rampant and the atrocities could not be checked.”
The successors of Akbar were not so alert and painstaking. As a result their control over the provincial administration went on dwindling. The European travellers have thrown a flood of light on the provincial administration prevailing during the times of Jahangir and Shah- Jahan. For example Peter Mundi has described the provincial Subedars as cruel and atrocious. They meted inhuman treatment to the public.
The main reason for this attitude was that there was no adequate control over them from the Central Government. Peter Mundi has given us a number of instances of the atrocities and highhandedness of provincial Subedars.
Similarly, Bernier has also testified that the provincial Governors were so autocratic that the people could not even complain against them to the Emperor. Dr. Ishwari Prasad says, “No doubt there were Wak- i-Navis who were duty bound to keep Emperor informed about the activities of the Subedar, but they often joined hands with the Subedar and the latter behaved in a despotic manner.”
District Administration Under Mughals:
Each province was divided into number of Sarkars (Districts.)
The administrative head of the Sarkar was Fauzdar who performed same duties as were performed by the Subedar at the provincial level. He was appointed by the Badsha but was under the Subedar. His main duties were maintenance of law and order, controlling the revolts of the local zimindars, to help the Amil in the realisation of revenue and looking after the roads.
He also performed the duties of a Amil at the district level. He worked under the direct supervision of the Diwan and was in-charge of the Revenue Department of the District.
He had direct contacts with the peasants and helped them in every possible way to increase their production. At the times of need he advanced loans to the peasants and realised the same in easy installments. He also sent a report regarding the measurements of land etc. made by the Amil, to the Diwan.
He kept the king informed about the economic conditions of the people, prices of food grains and the activities of the zamidar through an annual report. In fact he was the chief link between the people living in the cities and the centre.
Another prominent official at the district level was Kotwal. He was responsible for maintenance of law and order. He also heard the criminal cases, and took necessary steps to prevent hoarding with a view to keep a check on the prices of the food grains.
He also kept an eye on the people who went to see the king. He ensured that the weights and measures being used in the districts were in order and punished those who used false weights and measures.
As a judicial Head of the District Administration he performed certain judicial-duties. He led the Namaz of the Muslims on every Friday and arranged their marriages. During the times of Aurangzeb be also collected Jazia and Zakats on behalf of the non- Muslim population.
The District was further sub-divided into Parganas. In fact, the Pargana was the revenue collection unit under the control of Mukkadam. Mukkadam collected the revenue and deposited the same with the Treasury. The peasants were also permitted to deposit the revenue directly.
The other revenue officials at the Pargana level were Amil and Kanungo, who made a survey of the land revenue and collected the same. In certain Parganas Qazis decided the disputes.
The village was the lowest unit of administration. It enjoyed great amount of autonomy and most of the cases were decided by the people without any government interference. Each village had the Council or Panchayat.
The Panchyat was headed by Sarpanch elected by the people who acted as a link between the village and the government. He collected the revenue from the peasants and deposited the same with the Treasury. In case of any delay in depositing the revenue with the Treasury he could be held accountable by the government.
The Sarpanch received two and half per cent of the total collection as his fee. He was assisted by a Patwari and a village Accountant. These two officials kept an account of the fields under cultivation and the amount of revenue due from various peasants.
The Panchayat was also responsible for making necessary arrangements for irrigation, education etc. It also looked after the religious and moral development of the people of the village.
It made necessary arrangement for the celebration of various festivals and was responsible for the maintenance of law and order within its jurisdiction. The Panchayat also enjoyed certain judicial powers and decided minor disputes. Thus we find that the Panchayat had extensive powers and was comparatively free from the royal influence. The foreign travellers have described the Panchayat as a little Republic.
2. Administration in the Hindu States:
During the Sultanate period the major portion of India continued to be under the control of the Hindu rulers. No doubt some of the Sultans like Alaud-din Khilji jand Mohammad Tughlaq conquered the Hindu states of Rajputana and South under their control, but these states reasserted their independence as soon as they returned.
In fact one of the most important Hindu states of Vijayanagar was set up in 1346 following the disorder during the times of Mohammad Tughlaq.
This empire continued to flourish till the beginning of the 17th century A.D. Similarly, throughout the Sultanate period Hindu empires continues to flourish in Assam or Kamrup. During the Mughal times no doubt most of the Hindu empires were brought under the Mughal control, but the Marathas succeeded in carving out an independent empire under Shivaji.
Any account of the administration during the medieval times would be incomplete without a study of the administrative system found in these empires.
Vijayanagar empire, which was one of the most important Hindu empires during the medieval times had a well organised system of administration. At the head of the administration stood the King, who enjoyed absolutely autocratic power.
The king combined in him all legislative, executive, judicial and military powers. In fact his authority knew no bounds. Despite these absolute powers the king was not a tyrant. He cared much about the welfare of the people and carried on the administration in accordance with the tenets of dharma.
The system of government prevailing in Vijayanagar can easily be described as benevolent despotism. Krishna Deva, the most famous king of Vijayanagar empire himself writes ”A crowned king should always rule with an eye towards dharma.”
The king was assisted by a body of ministers in the discharge of his official duties. These ministers were appointed by the king and held office during his pleasure. The main job of the ministers was to render the necessary advice to the king, but the same was not binding on him.
Some of the prominent official who assisted the king in administration were the Prime Minister, chief treasurer the perfect of the police, officer in-charge of commerce, the master of horses etc.
The king used to hold his court periodically, which was attended by the nobles, priests, astrologers, musicians and scholars. The court of the Vijayanagar rulers was known for its grandeur.
Dr. V.A. Smith says that “the ceremonial of the court was extremely elaborate and everything was done with barbaric magnificence. The royal words, as at the Mughal court, were carefully noted down by the secretaries, whose record was the sole evidence of the commands, issued.”
Nuniz, a Portuguese traveller, who visited the Vijayanagar empire during Achyuta Ray’s times has recorded “No written orders are ever issued, nor any charters granted for the favours he (the king) bestows or the commands he gives; but when he confers a favour on any one it remains written in the registers of these secretaries. The King, however, gives to the recipient of a favour a seal impressed in wax from one of his rings, which his minister keeps, and these seals serve for letters patent.”
The empire was divided into a number of provinces. There is difference of opinion amongst scholars regarding the number of the provinces. While certain scholars hold that there were as many as 200 provinces, this view is not acceptable to other. The most common view is that the empire was divided into six provinces. Each province was under a governor, known as Naik.
The Naik was responsible for the administration of provinces and wielded civil, military as well as judicial powers. He was also responsible for the maintenance of the income and expenditure of the province and submitted them regularly to the central government.
According to Dr. Ishwari Prashad, the province was a replica of the empire and the governor or Naik performed the same duties which were performed by the emperor or the king at the Centre.
The village was the lowest unit of administration in the Vijayanagar empire. Each village had an Assembly consisting of hereditary officers known as Ayagars. The chief function of this Assembly was to decide the disputes amongst the villagers, maintain law and order within its jurisdiction, and collection of revenue. The Central government exercised control over the village through an officer known as Mahanayakacharya.
Land revenue was the chief source of income for the empire. According to the Portuguese travellers the king had given the land to the nobles, who gave them in turn to the cultivators. These nobles according to these writers collected 9/10th of the yield from the cultivators and deposited half of it with the king.
However, it is difficult to accept this view. Most probably the state got from 1/4 to 1/3 of the total produce. In addition to the land revenue the state imposed grazing tax, marriage tax, customs duties, tax on prostitutes etc. to supplement its income. The burden of taxation was not that heavy and the people willingly paid the taxes.
In the judicial sphere the king was the highest court of justice and decided most of the important case. In the provinces the judicial functions were performed by the governors, while in the village the Village Assembly was the highest judicial authority.
The laws were mainly based on customs and traditions. The punishments were rather severe. Even for crimes like theft, adultery and treason the culprits were punished with death or mutilation of limbs. The ordinary crimes were punished with fines. In fact the main purpose of the punishments was to set an example for others so that they may deter from committing an offence.
Like the Delhi Sultans the Vijayanagar rulers also maintained an espionage department through which they received information about the various events in the farthest parts of the empire. Even their police department was well organised and it kept eye on the activities of the roudie and unsocial elements.
The police patrolled the roads at night. The policemen were expected to recover the goods stolen, otherwise they had to make good the loss, from their own pocket.
3. Administration of Rajput States:
The administration of the Rajput states was based on caste system. Only the people of the higher caste was associated with the administration. Even the king belonged to this caste. The state was divided into a number of units, each under the control of a Mukhiya or leader of the dominant caste.
If the king acted contrary to the interests of that estate or caste-group the leaders could remove him from office and appoint someone else from the some caste-group in his place.
This system of administration underwent certain changes after the establishment of the Sultanate. The powers of the king enormously increased at the cost of caste-leaders. This was mainly due to two factors.
Firstly, whenever any Rajput state was conquered by the Sultans of Delhi, they would reinstate him as the ruler of the state after accepting the necessary gifts.
Secondly, it was realised that in view of the constant fear of war with the Sultans it was desirable to have a strong and permanent leader and to avoid all internal factions.
The military organisation of the Rajput state was also based on caste system. Each sub-leader of the caste maintained he own units of army, which fought under his own leadership during the war. With the establishment of the Sultanate, the military organisation of the Rajput states also underwent a change.
The King started maintaining an army of his own and became less dependent on his sardars. This army consisted ‘ of infantry as well as cavalry. In course of time most of the Rajput states came under the control of the Mughals and the local nobles were made mansabdars on hen dietary basis and granted the necessary jagirs.
These mansabdars had to contribute the necessary contingents of army to the Mughal ruler at the time of need.
4. Maratha Administration:
The Maratha Empire which was carried out by Shivaji in 1674, also possessed an excellent system of administration. The criticism levelled by the critics that Pax Marathica was based on plunder an followed the principle of demanding payment for not ruling, does not apply to the system of administration set up by Shivaji.
Scholars like Dr. Ishwari Prasad have admitted that “the institution which he (Shivaji.) established were an improvement upon the existing order and were well adopted to promote the well-being of his subjects.” The administration was not based on the discriminatory principles of religion and caste.
The central administration was headed by the king or Chhatrapati. Like the Mughal emperor he was an autocrat and wielded all sorts of powers. No doubt, he was assisted by a council of ministers known as Ashta Pradhan, but the main strings of administration were concentrated in the hand of the king.
The king was not bound to accept the advice of these ministers. In fact all these ministers and officials were appointee by the king and he issued them directions on every important matter. Though the king enjoyed autocratic powers, he was a benevolent despot and always tried to promote the welfare of his subjects.
The Ashta Pradhan:
The eight ministers of the Ashta Pradhan and their duties were as follows:
1. Peshwa or Prime Minister:
The Peshwa or Prime Minister was responsible for the general administration of the empire. He was not in-charge of any particular departments, rather exercised general supervision over all departments. He ensured necessary co-ordination and co-operation amongst various ministers. He appended his seal to all the government papers, just below the signatures of the king. He performed the duties of a king in his absence.
2. Amatya or Majumdar:
Amatya or Majumdar, was the finance minister. He checked the income and expenditure of the state and appended his signatures on all the public accounts.
3. Mantri or Chronicler:
Mantri or Chronicler, was the keeper of records. He kept a diary of the various activities of the king and recorded the important events of the court. He checked the list of the visitors invited to the various royal functions. He also checked the food meant for the king to ensure that it was not poisoned. He usually headed the espionage department and kept the king informed of the events in different parts of the empire.
Sachive or Home Secretary was in-charge of King’s correspondence. He supervised the drafting of the letters and sent them for King’s signatures. He affixed his seal on these letters and authenticated all official documents. The Sachive also checked the accounts of the market and Pargana.
Samant or Foreign Secretary advised the King in matters of war and peace. He kept a watch on state’s relationship with other powers and advised the king on matters of foreign relations. He also sent and received the ambassadors with the consent of the king. It was also his responsibility to keep the king informed of the important events in foreign countries.
6. Pandit Rao:
Pandit Rao was the minister of ecclesiastical affairs. As the royal priest he looked after the religious activities of the king and fixed dates for the various religious ceremonies. He looked after religious institutions in the state and rendered necessary assistance to Brahamans and other needy people. He decided the religious disputes and made grants to religious and learned men.
Senapati was the commander-in-chief of the forces. He was responsible for the recruitment, organisation and discipline in the army. During the times of war he collected the forces and led them.
Nyayyadbish or the Chief Justice was the in-charge of the judicial system of the state. He decided important civil-and criminal disputes. It may be noted that all the ministers, with the exception of Pandit Rao and Nyayadhish, were military officers. All such ministers had command of an army and lead them during the times of war.
For the sake of administrative efficiency, the whole administration was divided into eighteen department. The departments were looked after by the various ministers and they were responsible for their smooth and efficient working.
The Marathas under Shivaji had divided their state into number of provinces or prants. Each province was under the control of a Viceroy, who was an official of the central government. The Viceroy was assisted by eight officials. At the time of Shivaji’s death the whole of the state had been divided into four provinces.
The provinces were further sub-divided into parganas and Tarfs. These were headed by subedar and havildar. The lowest unit of administration was the village, which was under a Patel. The Patel was responsible for the collection of land revenue in the village and was assisted by Kulkarni in the matter of maintaining the accounts.
The village Panchayat continued to enjoy as usual administrative, judicial and welfare functions.
During the time of Shivaji the Jagir system was done away with and substituted by the system of cash payment of salaries to the state officials. The state officials were expected to collect the revenue from the peasants and deposit it with the state treasury.
A proper account of all the cultivatable land was maintained and the state 3hare in the produce was fixed after forming a fair estimate of the expected produce. Furthermore, the lands were classified into various categories on the basis of their productivity and the state’s share was fixed keeping in view the category of the land.
Initially the state collected 30 per cent of the gross produce, but later on it was raised to 40 per cent.
With a view to supplement the state income two other taxes— Chauth and Sardeshmukhi—were also levied. Chauth was a military contribution in lieu of protection against the invasion of a third, power. However, Prof. Sardesai is of the opinion that it was a sort of tribute extracted from the hostile or conquered territories.
Prof. Jadunath Sarkar is. however, of the opinion that Chauth was a military contribution paid to ward off any attack of the Marathas. The Sardeshmukhi was an additional tax of 10 per cent which the king claimed as the hereditary Sardeshmukh of the country.
5. Administration in the Muslim States of Deccan:
Any study of the administrative system in medieval India would be incomplete unless we have an insight into the administrative system prevailing in the Muslim states of Deccan.
The most important of the Muslim states of Deccan was Bahmini kingdom which was set up by Abdul Muzaffar Alauddin Bahrain Shah in 1347 A. D. This Empire survived till 1538 when it broke down and came to be divided into five states viz. Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar Bedar and Berar.
Though these states were constantly involved in struggle with the Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar, the administrative machinery continued to be in tact and there were no internal revolts.
Under the Bahmini system of administration the king was supreme. Though he acknowledged the suzerainty of the Abbasi Khalifa in theory and described himself as the right hand of the Khalifa on his coins, in practice he enjoyed absolute powers. He was the supreme administrator, the chief commander of the army and the chief judicial officer.
The Sultan was assisted by a Council of Ministers, but was not bound by their advice. In fact these ministers held office as long as the Sultan wished. The designations assigned to the various ministers in the Bahrain administration were quite different from those of the ministers under the Sultans.
For example the Chief Minister was known as Wakil-e-Sultanat and the Finance Minister was known as Amir-i-Jumla. Similarly the Foreign Minister was known as Wazir-i-Ashraf and the Peshwa was known as Wazir-i-Kul. The function of these ministers had been well defined.
The Chief Justice under the Bahmini state was designated as Sadr-i Jahan and was responsible both for the religious affairs as well as supervision of the charitable institutions.
The state was divided into four provinces, each under a Governor or Tarafdar. The four provinces of the Bahmini kingdom were Gulbarga, Daulatabad, Berar and Bedar. The Tarafder was responsible for the collection of revenue of the province.
He maintained an army under his command and was authorised to make all civil and military appointments in the province. The tarafdars could be transferred from one province to another by the Sultan. The Provinces were further sub-divided into Parganas. Each Paragana had a number of villages under it. Thus we find that the village was the lowest unit of administration.
6. Sultanate of Bengal:
The Sultanate of Bengal was set up during the time of Sher Shah and continued to flourish till 1576 when its last ruler Daud Firami was defeated by Khan Jahan (Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan), a lieutenant of Akbar. In the Afghani Sultanate of Bengal the king was the centre of administration.
The kingship was hereditary amongst the Sultans of Bengal but the Afghan nobles favoured the selection of the most appropriate successor as ruler. The king was assisted by a Prime Minister who was known as Wakil. Next to Wakil in importance was the Finance Minister.
The minister in-charge of the army was known as Ariz-i-Mumalik. In addition there were also a Commander-in-Chief of the army. The kingdom of Bengal was sub-divided into number of units, each headed by an Afghan noble. Usually these Afghan nobles were the leaders of various Afghan tribes and were known as Zamindar.
The State of Ahmednagar came into existence in 1538, as a result of the dismemberment of the Bahmini empire. In the State of Ahmednagar also the Sultan or Raja enjoyed absolute powers. The kingdom was hereditary but the Amirs also played an important part in his selection. Apart from this the qualities of the princes also counted a lot in the selection of the successor.
The Sultan was assisted by the Council of Ministers. But the tenure and the powers of the Council of Ministers depended on the sweet will of the Sultan. The Sultan was not bound to accept the advice of the Ministers. There was also a Prime Minister to assist the Sultan.
He was usually known as Peshwa and was responsible for the general administration of the country. He exercised supervision over other departments of administration as well.
The Finance Department was under a Wazir, who regulated the collection and expenditure out of the state revenue. The Wazir was assisted by a Diwan. It may be noted that under the Ahmednagar administration the Diwan did not occupy as important a position as was enjoyed by the Diwan under the Mughal administration.
The other important departments of administration were Law and Justice, Public Works, the Royal Mint etc.
The state of Brar also came into existence as a result of the dismemberment of Bahmini kingdom. In this state also the king was the sole repository of all powers and was assisted by a Council of Ministers. But as in other parts of the country, he was not bound by the Ministers.
The State of Brar was sub-divided into a number of provinces, each under a Governor. The functions of the Governor were identical to the functions performed by the Tarfaar in the Bahmini kingdom. He was the personal representative of the Sultan in the province and enjoyed executive, judicial and military powers.
The provinces were further sub-divided into number of sarkars or districts. Each district had a Fauzdar, a quazi, a kotwal, a treasurer and a tehsildar. The Districts were further sub-divided into Parganas which were also known as parant or desh. The revenues were collected in the hereditary officials known as Desh pandey.
They also assisted in the general administration of the area. The smallest unit of administration in Brar was also village, which was administered by the village Panchayat.
Judicial Administration Under Sultans:
The judicial administration under the Sultans was highly centralised. The King was the fountain head of justice and decided the most important cases personally. Even influential official and nobles were not permitted to go unpunished for their acts of high-handedness, and acts of crimes, by strong Sultans like Balban and Ala-ud-Dm Khilji.
Mohammad Tughlaq is said to have gone to the extent of presenting himself as a criminal, if he thought he had committed some illegality.
The Sultan was assisted in judicial administration by the Chief Sadr and the Chief Qazi. The former official assisted the king in deciding the religious cases in accordance with the Shara, while the latter assisted the king in deciding the cases of secular character.
In the provinces the Governor and the Qazi decided the cases, while in the village the panchayats exercised judicial functions. Appeals against the decisions of the lower courts could be taken to the court of the Chief Qazi, who supervised the judicial machinery.
After the creation of the office of Sadre Jahan in 1248 the Chief Qazi lost his pre-eminent position in the judicial system and this new official became the head of the judicial department.
The Qazi was expected to be a man of learning with fear of God. He was also expected to obtain from all evil things.
As Hedaya has observed, “It is incumbent on the Sultan to select for office of Qazi, a person who is capable of discharging the duties of it, and passing decrees ; and who is also in a superlative degrees just and virtuous for the prophet has said, whoever appoints a person to the discharge of any office, whilst there is another among his subjects more qualified for the same than the person so appointed, does surely commit an injury with respect to the rights of God, the Prophet and the Musalmans.”
The disputes were decided in accordance with the Quaranic law. Even in the cases between the Muslims and non-Muslims the Quaranic law was applied.
However, Wahed Hussain says in his book ‘Administration of Justice during Muslim Rule’ that “the purely personal law of Islam was applied to Muslims only, but secular portions of Civil Law relating to trade, sale, contract, etc. was made applicable to both Muslims and non-Muslims.”
The punishments throughout the Sultanate period were very severe. Even for an ordinary offence punishments of death and mutilation of limbs were inflicted. Balban and Ala-ud-Din Khilji particularly awarded very strict punishments to the criminal. Even for minor offences heavy fines were imposed.
Persons guilty of repeating the same offence were dealt with more severely. For offences like smuggling, wine, or drinking in public the offenders were thrown into abominable walls, wherefrom they rarely came out alive. During the times of Ala-ud-Din Khilji the offences of less weighing were also severely dealt with and the shopkeeper was deprived of an equivalent weight of flesh.
In short we can say that during the Sultanate period the punishment was used more as a deterrent than as a reformation.
7. Judicial Administration under Mughals:
During the Mughal period the judicial administration was carried on the pattern of the system adopted by the Sultans. Babur and Humayun considered it their sacred duty to do justice to all. Humayun even established a special drum of justice called Tabal-i-Adal.
The people would beat this drum once, twice, or thrice according to the gravity of the case, and the emperor promptly attended to their case and did everything possible to satisfy the complaints.
Akbar was also a great lover of justice. He used to say. “I am guilty of an unjust act, I must rise in judgement against myself.” Similarly Jahangir is known for his sense of justice. Soon after his accession to the throne he caused a golden chain with bells to be fastened between the Shahburj in the Agra fort and a stone pillar fixed on the bank of the Jamuna.
The aggrieved persons could obtain the redress of their grievances from the emperor by pulling the chain any time. Shah Jahan, the next ruler also attached great importance to his duty of dispensing of justice.
Though the Mughal rulers snowed great interest in the administration of justice the system prevailing under them was quite rough and rude. However, it cannot be denied that it was very simple and cheap. The complainant had not to incur any expenses on litigation and could get quick redress.
The European travellers had greatly praised the judicial system prevailing during the Mughal times. It shall be desirable to know about the chief features of the Mughal Judicial system in some details.
1. King as Fountain of Justice:
The king stood at the apex of the judicial machinery and was the fountain of all justice. The King held his court on the fixed day and personally decided all important cases. The cases involving high nobles and officials invariably came to the king for decision.
In addition he also heard the petitions and appeal of the ordinary subjects against the decisions of the lower courts. The right to award death punishment was exclusively reserved with the Emperor.
2. Courts of Sadr-us-Sadur and Qazi-ul-Qazat:
Next to the emperor there were courts of Sadr-us-Sadur and Qazi-ul Qazat. The former decided the religious cases, while the latter decided the cases of secular character. The Qazi-ul-Qazat or Chief Qazi was the highest judicial officer.
Often he also held the office of Sadr-us-Sadur. The office of Qazi was given only to learned persons and were well versed in theology. Under Akbar, however, only persons with liberal outlook were appointed as Chief Qazi.
The Qazi was over-all responsible for the administration of justice and decided the important cases. He also heard appeals against the decisions of the lower courts. The Qazis in the Sarkars and Parganas were appointed by the King on his recommendations.
In the provinces there were separate officials to decide civil and criminal cases. While the Governor or Sipah-Salar decided the criminal cases, the Diwan decided the civil cases. However, the chief judicial authority in the province was the Qazi. The Qazi was assisted by the Mufti and the Miradi. While the Qazi investigated the evidence, the Mufti and Miradi assisted him in expounding the law and delivering the judgements respectively.
The court of the Qazi had both civil and criminal jurisdiction. The cases of both the Hindus and the Muslims could be tried by this court. However, while deciding the cases of the Hindus the court was expected to apply the Hindu law. The Qazis were expected to be honest and impartial. In reality however most of the Qazis were corrupt and dishonest.
At the level of the Sarkar the Kotwal and the Qazi decided important cases. The other officials like Faujdars and Amal Guza also enjoyed some authority regarding trial of criminal and civil cases respectively. In the Parganas the Shiqdar acted as a magistrate. He held his own court and tried the criminal cases.
The civil cases pertaining to land disputes were however, decided by the Amil. At the village level panchayat decided most of the cases. The decision of the Village Panchayet was usually accepted by the people and there were no appeals against their decisions with the higher courts.
Source of Law:
Under the Mughals, there were no codified laws. The cases were decided by the Qazi in accordance with the Quranic injunctions, Hadis or sayings of the Prophet, Fatwas or decrees of eminent judges. When these laws could not be applied straight way the Qazi had to resort to commonsense to decide the cases.
Separate courts existed which applied religious, secular and political laws. In the interpretation of the religious laws the Qazis were assisted by Muftis, who were men of jurisprudence.
In the secular courts justice was administered by secular officers like Subedar, Fauzdar, Kotwal and Panchayats. The cases of political nature were tried by political courts presided by civil and military officers.
According to Will Durant, “Under the Muslims Law was merely the will of the Emperor or Sultan; under the Hindu kings it was a confused mixture of royal commands, village traditions and caste rules. Judgement was given by the head of the family, the head of the village, the headman of the caste, the court of the guide, the governor of the province, the ministers of the king, or the king himself. Litigation was brief, judgement swift; lawyers came only with British. Death was the penalty for any one of a great variety of crimes, such as house breaking, damages to royal property or theft on a scale that would now make a man a very pillar of society.”
J.N. Sarkar has also said that, “There was no system, no organisation of the law courts in a regular gradation from the highest to the lowest, nor any proper distribution of courts in proportion to the area to be served by them.” He further says, “Civil Law is merged in and subordinated to the Canon Law and the theologians are the only jurists.”
8. Judicial Administration under Vijayanagar:
In Vijayanagar the king was the fountain of justice and decided all important cases. At the provincial level similar powers were enjoyed by the Governors. In the villages the cases were decided by the village assembly. The laws applied were mainly based on customs and traditions.
The punishment were very severe. Even for crimes like theft, adultery and treason, the culprits were punished with death or mutilation of limbs. Even ordinary crimes were punished with heavy fines. In fact, the main purpose of the judicial administration was to ensure that the people developed a sense of fear and abstained from committing crimes
9. Judicial Administration under the Marathas:
The judicial administration under the Marathas was not that well organised and up-to-date. It was rather simple, crude and primitive. The highest court was the court of the king known as “Hazr Majlis“. Most of the important cases were decided by this court. The court also heard appeals against the decisions of the lower courts. Next to the Hazr Majlis was the court of the Nyayadhish or chief justice.
It decided both civil and criminal cases and heard appeals from the lower courts. But the day-to-day administration of justice was carried on by the village panchayats. The criminal cases in the village were decided by the patel. The minor offences were punished with fine, while the serious offences were very severely punished. Certain orders like touching the hot iron or throwing in boiling water are said to be in practice.