The second Afghan empire survived for less than two decades as a significant political entity.
With Sher Shah‘s reputation as an efficient administrator and as an effective executioner of his philosophy, the second Afghan empire did leave permanent footprints.
Undoubtedly, Sher Shah deserves comparison with the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, and a debate is still going on regarding the place of each in the history of India.
No doubt, Sher Shah is justified in being designated as the forerunner of Akbar, as Akbar followed the good and useful aspects of Sher Shah’s policies.
Even Sher Shah was not a real and true innovator, as he too borrowed from his predecessors what he thought to be good for his philosophy of administration. Any wise person will necessarily try to retain the universally applicable aspects of his predecessors and add or modify to the existing needs and demands of his times. This applies to all those enlightened rulers like Alauddin Khilji, Sher Shah and Akbar.
Sher Shah believed that the essence of royal protection consists in protecting the life and property of the subjects. They should use the principles of justice and equality in all their dealings with all classes of peoples, and instruct powerful officers so that they may try their best to prevent cruelty and oppression in their jurisdiction.
His administrative structure appears to be autocratic as power was entirely concentrated in the hands of the single individual for executing orders and implementing through his subordinates or bureaucracy responsible to him.
In practice the king was no autocrat but only an enlightened despot who took keen personal interest with alertness in the matters of administration and acted with vigour in discharging his duties. Sher Shah’s state was neither a police state nor a welfare state but an apparently autocratic state with the welfare of the subjects as its motto. Sher Shah took the help and assistance of a group of ministers in discharging his duties.
(3) Diwan-i-Ariz, and
Besides these four ministers, there also existed Diwan-i-Qaza and Diwan-i-Barid.
1. Diwan-i-Wazarat (or Wizarat):
The Wazir was the head of Diwan-i- Wazarat. Total income and expenditure of the state was controlled by him. He also exercised general supervision over the rest of the ministers.
Arizi-i-Mamlik was the head of the department. It was he, who recruited, organized and disciplined the army. Payment of salaries was his duty. Sher Shah intervened actively in the affairs of the army, as his stability as a ruler and importance as a conqueror depended on the strength of the army.
Diwan-i-Risalat was the minister of foreign affairs. It was the responsibility of Diwan-i-Risalat to effectively supervise and control the ambassadors, envoys and foreign correspondence. Besides, he had to look after charity and endowments.
Diwan-i-Insha was the minister of information and correspondence. It was his duty to draft the royal proclamations, preserve and despatch them and he was also the custodian of government records. It was he who maintained correspondence with the provincial and local administrative set-up.
Diwan-i-Qaza was under the headship of the chief Qazi. He supervised the administrative structure of judiciary.
Diwan-i-Barid was government’s intelligence department. It had a very vast effective network covering the whole of the territory acting as ears and eyes of the rulers. Besides the above known ministers, there also existed a minister controlling the royal household.
He appears to have exercised great influence because of his nearness to the kith and kin of the king. For administrative convenience, Sher Shah divided his empire into different territorial segments – the Sarkar, the Paragana and the village.
We are not very clear whether the sarkar or the province existed next to the imperial structure. Kanungo is of the view that the highest division during Sher Shah’s time was the sarkar and not the province and he further goes on to state that the province was the creation of Akbar. Saran contradicts this view stating that the provinces existed in the past and it is not right to think that sarkar was the highest division of the state.
Sarkar in Persian language means government and authority. Burton Stein suggests that it was at the sarkar level that the Lodi Sultan’s military and civil officers encountered and sought to dominate the countryside and town. Realizing the administrative and economic importance of this unit, Sher Shah appointed two officers: Shiqdar-i-Shiqdarin and Munsif-i-Musifon over each sarkar. While Shiqdar-i-Shiqdarin maintained law and order Munisf-i-Munsifon acted as the judge of civil cases and supervised over armies.
Appointment of two officers with specific responsibilities and jurisdiction was only to avoid concentration of authority in one single individual and also to see that one acts as a check over the other. Sarkars were further subdivided as paraganas. In each paragana a Shiqdar, an Amin, a Fotehdar, a Munsif, a Hindi writer and a Persian writer were appointed besides the Patwari, Chaudari and the Muqaddam who acted as the intermediaries between the government and the people.
The duty of the Shiqdar was to maintain law and order, to collect the revenue and also decide the legal matters. The Amin was in charge of collection of the land revenue and he too tried civil and revenue cases. The Amin and the Shiqdar were of the same rank. The treasurer was Fotehdar and the entire amount collected was kept in his custody. He also maintained account of the income and expenditure of the paragana.
Clerks or Karkuns were appointed to maintain duplicate accounts in Hindi and Persian. Shershah introduced the practice of transferring the Shiqdar and the Amin of the paraganas for every two years as a precaution to see that they do not become too familiar with the locality and people and indulge in rebellions.
Burton Stein writing on the role of sarkars and paraganas observes, “On the frontiers of the realm, Sarkars were joined together under the supervisory responsibility of an Afghan noble, who was a deputy of the sultan”. Burton Stein further observes, “In this way, attempts were made to contain the two levels of political authority that is, on the one hand, provided the regime’s principal income in tribute and was controlled by the Afghan nobles, and on the other hand, consisted of the core tracts of traditional political and economic integration – the paraganas – which were overseen by non-Afghans of various kinds.
In paraganas, local dominance continued and it is estimated that there existed nearly a lakh paraganas with particular local tradition and authority. The administrative apparatus of the levels of sarkars and paraganas provided the foundation for Akbar’s times also”.
Satish Chandra thinks that a number of sarkars were grouped into provinces, but authentic evidence is lacking to know about the pattern of the provincial administration in Shershah’s time. The role of the governors varied depending on their individual capacities.
1. Revenue Administration:
As land revenue was the main source of income to the State, Shershah introduced certain improvements in the method of collection and assessment of land revenue, keeping in mind the interests of the cultivators. Shershah had the belief that “the cultivators are blameless, they submit to those in power, and if I oppress them they will abandon their villages, and the country will be ruined and deserted, and it will be a long time before it again becomes prosperous”.
Shershah demanded the cultivator to pay one-third of the expected crop in kind as tax. For that purpose, the land was measured and recorded against the cultivator by name. He employed the yard of Sikandar Lodi, 32 digits long as the unit of measurement. By taking into consideration the fertility of the soil, an average was reached of the best, the middling and the worst land for every crop. Shershah’s revenue officials prepared a per bigha schedule in kind.
On the basis of this he asked the cultivator to pay the land revenue as per the crops sown in the area recorded against his name. The collection of land revenue was assigned to the village headman and for the labour involved in this work, he charged 5 per cent addition as his labour.
The village headman also collected 5 per cent more to take care of visiting public servants. Shershah introduced the system of remitting land tax in case of damage of the crop by the army. Shershah introduced measures to bring more land under cultivation by these measures, i.e., by providing loans without interest, by encouraging to cultivate valuable crops, by asking the officials to be lenient at the time of assessment, and to be very strict at the time of collection by instructing the army not to destroy the crops of the cultivators on their march and by paying compensation to the cultivator, if crop was destroyed by the army.
In spite of the best intentions to be friendly with the cultivators, in reality in operation we notice certain defects in the land revenue system. As the land revenue was fixed at one-third of the gross produce, the cultivator cultivating the bad land was overtaxed compared to the cultivator of the best land. Besides this defect, the corruption among the officials created problems to the cultivators.
While R.P. Tripathi was critical of the revenue administrative measures, Moreland observes that Shershah’s land reforms “formed the starting point of the series of experiments in administration which marked the first half of Akbar’s reign”.
Satish Chandra rightly observes, “Since there was plenty of land available for cultivation in those days, the desertion of the villages by the peasants in case of oppression was a real threat and it helped in putting a limit on the exploitation of peasants by the rulers”.
Justice and Police:
Shershah showed no discrimination in the policy of administering justice on any ground. Shershah believed, “justice is the most excellent of religious rites, and it is approved alike by the king of infidels and of the faithful”. The courts were presided over by the Qazi and Mir Adil, who administered civil justice. Village panchayats and Zamindars also disposed petty civil cases in the villages and rural areas. Punishments appear to be severe, so that in future no one would dare to repeat the same mistake. Shershah’s son, Islam Shah, took a big leap in the dispensation of justice by codifying the laws, so that they became standardized.
It appears that what the police did today was carried on by the army in the days of Shershah. We are already aware in the Sarkar and paragana that the Shiqdar-i-Shiqdarin and the Shiqdar respectively were in charge of the police duty of maintaining law and order with the help of army.
Shershah’s innovation was the introduction of local responsibility and it worked for the advantage of the people. Shershah’s police policy won the accolades of one and all. Abbas Khan Sarwani, a contemporary historian of the time of Shershah records that Shershah gave top priority for the maintenance of law and order and fear of Shershah made the Zamindars not to raise the banner of revolt against him or to molest the innocent travellers passing through their territories.
Realizing that the prosperity of the state and society depends on the growth of commerce and trade and in turn it depends on proper communication system of linking of roads, Shershah took measures in that direction.
First, he took measures to restore the old imperial road later called the Grand Trunk road, from the river Indus in the West to Sonargaon in Bengal. In order to have direct communication link with the Gujarat sea port, he built a road from Agra to Jodhpur and Chithod or Chithore and another road from Lahore to Multan.
Shershah not only built roads but also took steps for the safe stay of travellers and merchants by constructing sarais at every 2 kms. Sarai or rest house was a fortified place where provision was made for the safe custody of merchandise and provision was also made for horses and grain for horses. Separate rest places were provided for the Hindus and the Muslims.
Each sarai had a Shadna or custodian under whose watchful eyes many watchmen worked day and night taking due care of the travellers. It is estimated that there existed seventeen hundred sarais. It is no exaggeration to state that the roads and the sarais are called the arteries of the empire.
In course of time each sarai developed into a market town or Quasbas to which peasants gathered to sell their goods. These sarais also served as Dak Chowki stages. By means of Dak Chowkis, Shershah used to gather information about the developments in the state.
In order the give fillip to the growth of trade and commerce, Shershah took measures to abolish the vexatious duties collected at various points of entry and the state imposed only two duties, i.e., at the time of entry into the country and at the time of sale. Shershah removed by a stroke of pen all internal customs and thereby goods had become cheaper comparatively.
Shershah reorganized the currency system by abolishing the old mixed metal currency and introducing a new coin called Dam. The coins bore the name of the coin in the Devanagari script. He also introduced gold coins.
Satish Chandra states that Shershah’s attempt to introduce standard weights and measures all over the empire along with currency reforms helped in the growth of trade and commerce. He struck fine coins of gold, silver and copper of uniform standard and his silver Rupee was so carefully executed that it remained a model standard coin for centuries to come. The ratio of exchange between the Dam and the Rupee was fixed at 64 to 1.
As all the states of medieval times were ‘war ready’ and readiness of war required a strong and efficient army with necessary arms and equipment, Shershah took measures to reorganize the army under the strict discipline of the ruler. Shershah gave up dependence on feudal levies or tribal levies whose loyalty is always doubtful and instead recruited soldiers directly into the army, after scrupulous verification of their character. He continued the practice of recruiting and maintaining of the descriptive role of every soldier and horses given to soldiers are branded with imperial sign to avoid substitution of inferior horses by certain unscrupulous elements.
Shershah’s army is estimated to consist of 1, 50,000 cavalry and 25,000 infantry armed with matchlocks or bows, 5,000 elephants and a pack of artillery. Shershah also set up cantonments in different parts of the empire and a strong garrison in each of them.
Shershah followed a religious policy suited to the needs and demands of a plural state with multiple beliefs and faiths practised by different segments. Shershah is very conscious of his role in such a state and preferred to be liberal rather than dogmatic in his approach to religious and social spheres of life. Satish Chandra argues that he was not a bigot but did not initiate any new liberal policy.
He continued the practice of collectingjijiya from the Hindus and also continued the clanish mentality of the Afghans by drawing nobility from the Afghans alone. We may conclude by agreeing with Satish Chandra that the state under Shershah remained an Afghan institution based on race and tribe and Shershah was a statusquoist at the core rather than an innovator or a prochanger.
Shershah was also a great builder of monuments of significance. His tomb constructed at Sasram is considered to be a masterpiece of architecture by art critics. Shershah also built a new city on the banks of the Yamuna near Delhi, and Puranaquila and the fine mosque within it are the two living legacies of old fort area built by Shershah.
Shershah also patronized arts and letters. Sur buildings laid the ground work for the Mughal architectural splendour and glory. The architectural legacy of the Surs can be studied under two heads. The first phase belongs to Sasram in Bihar between 1530-1540. And the second phase is attributable to 1540-45 when Shershah wrested power from the Mughal Humayun.
Art critics suggest that several architectural innovations were adopted which later matured in the Mughal times. The architectural phase of Sasram in Bihar is represented by a group of tombs, three of the ruling family and one of the architects, Aliwal Khan. These tombs reflect the ambition of Shershah that these monuments should be more glorious than those in Delhi.
Among these the first one is that of Hasan Khan, the father of Shershah and it was conceived and executed in the conventional Lodi design. Shershah’s tomb is of a beautiful pyramidical structure in five distinct stages and it was constructed of the finest chunar sandstone. It stands on a stepped square plinth on a terrace.
The main building comprises an octagonal chamber surrounded by an arcade with domed canopies in each corner of the platform. This tomb, which is acclaimed as a masterpiece, reflects the capabilities of the Indian architects in achieving harmonious transition from square to octagon and to sphere.
The second phase of the architectural splendour is reflected in the existing buildings of the old city of Delhi. Here in 1542, Shershah built Qilai Kuhna Masjid inside the Purana Qila citadel. The facade of the prayer hall is divided into five arched bays, the central one longer than the others and the facade is richly carved in black and white marble and red sand stone and the central arch is flanked by narrow, fluted pilasters. One notable feature of this building is the use of the four-centred Tudor arch of the Mughals.
In the first half of the 16th century, though we notice serious effort on the part of Shershah to improve the living standards of the people by reorganizing the administrative structure and system, the developments in the sphere of science and technology are not too significant as those of the later centuries of 17th and 18th.
No breakthrough was made in scientific studies and at that time only the early Indian and Greeco-Arabic views on science were predominant. The age old-agricultural technology and textile technology continued. In the military sphere also, use of guns and canons developed.
The guns were actually matchlocks. Ship-building was also known in those days. Glass technology had not taken deep roots on the Indian soil. Time reckoning devices were also in vogue. The time was ripe for a new threshold of vibrant economy and society into the impacts of Western scientific values in the next two centuries in the field of technology and science.
Shershah by his foresight, political wisdom, statesmanship and shrewd understanding of human nature carved out a second Afghan empire in India single-handedly and by anticipating Akbar, created an image that, if destiny had favoured Shershah, the great Mughals would not have found a place on the stage of history. Can there be a better tribute to him than the above one?
2. Mughal Administration:
The nature and structure and functioning of the Mughal administration can be comprehended by the study of the following sources: Ain-i-Akbari of Abul Fazl, Dastur-ul-Amals or official handbooks of the period of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb, Iqbal-nama Jahangiri by Muhamad Khan, Padshahnamah of Abdul Hamid Lahori, the Tuzuki Jahangir, and Tabazat-i-Akbari of Nizamuddin provide valuable and useful information. Besides the above books, the writings of foreigners – Sir Thomas Roe, Bemier, Hawkins, Manucci, Terry and the Factory records of the European trading companies also provide necessary information.
Political Ideas and Institutions:
It is an established fact that every human settlement creates certain basic laws and code of conduct based on rules to sustain peace and order. Human experience recorded tells us that the laws and rules so framed from generation to generation undergo changes as needed by the societal needs and demands.
The Mughal polity was no exception and was the result of a mixture or blend of Indian, Turkish, Persian and Mongol political ideas and institutions. The important political institution of the later medieval times was the monarchy represented by royalty or the sovereign. Jadunath Sarkar, who made a pioneering study of the Mughal administrative nature and structure comes to the conclusion that “the Mughal administration presented a combination of Indian and extra-Indian elements, or, more correctly it was the Persio-Arabic system in Indian setting”.
Though the Mughals imported principles of administration, and designation of officials, they modified the imported system as per the local needs and experiences and saw to it that it effectively worked at all levels. It is accepted by Irfan Habib and Athar Ali that the Mughal polity was highly centralized and absolute.
It is suggested that this process is visible in the efficient working of the systems of land revenue, Mansabdari and Jagidari and uniform coinage. Contradicting the above view, Stephen P. Plake and J.F. Richards, while accepting the centralized tendencies point out that the Mughal state was ‘patriomonial bureaucratic’, i.e., everything revolves around the imperial household and the bureaucratic set-up.
Strewsand discovers that the periphery was less centralized and Chetan Singh also echoes the same and argues that the local elements of the periphery could influence the policies at the centre. At this juncture, we can only say that theoretically, the Mughal administrative structure was highly centralized and bureaucratic but in practice it is a debatable issue as total centralization of the administrative structure appears to be doubtful.
3. Central Administration:
Monarchy was the prevalent political institution with supreme authority vested in the head of the state. As such, the emperor was the head of the administrative structure. Both Babur and Humayun followed the Islamic theory of kingship but Akbar differed from them in his concept of royalty. Akbamama states that a king “cannot be fit for the lofty office, if he does not inaugurate universal peace, and if he does not regard all classes of men and all sets of religions with a single eye for favour”.
We also notice divine element in the concept of royalty. While Babur adopted Zil-ul-atlah Filarz or ‘Shadow of God on earth’, Akbar changed it as Farri-i-Zidi or ‘The height of the God’; Akbar’s concept of sovereignty makes him linked to God directly. Abul Fazl states that “royalty is a light emanating from God, a ray from the sun and the illuminator of the universe.
The receptacle of all virtues” Abul Fazl further states: “No dignity is higher in the eyes of God than royalty. Royalty is a remedy for the spirit of rebellion”. And thereby an emperor becomes “the origin of stability and possession.” From the above statements of Abul Fazl and Akbar, we may conclude that king was appointed, guided and protected by God. Akbar differed from his father and grandfather’s concept of Quaranic royalty and decided to be the ruler of all and not of Muslims alone. Jahangir too was motivated like his father but his son Shahjahan and Aurangzeb were influenced by the Islamic theory of sovereignty.
It is to be accepted that no Mughal emperor craved or cared for the recognition of Khalifa and this indicates that they exercised real sovereign power internally and externally too. Except Jahangir, the rest of the emperors took keen interest in the matters of administration and toiled for a number of hours to attend to the administrative work as the entire system was emperor-centric and the emperor was the highest authority in the state, who combined in himself the supreme executive, legislative and Judicial authority. The emperor’s prestige and glory was heightened by the Mughal court.
The Mughal court was full of splendor and pomp with the emperor enjoying great respect from the courtiers. The emperor lived magnificently in the midst of his courtiers wearing gorgeous dress and valuable ornaments of gold and precious stones.
The Mughals did not practise the law of primogeniture and as such wars of succession had become a common feature. Appointments, promotions, transfer and termination of officers was the prerogative of the emperor. We come across the designations Wakil and Wazir, Diivani Khul, Mir Bakshi, Mir Saman, Sadir-us-Sudur, Qazi-ul-Quzzat, Miradi and Mahtasib but we are not certain whether they are ministers or high officials. J.N. Sarkar states: “the Mughal emperor had no regular council of ministers”. We may say that all the above designations indicate offices of highest officers but not ministers in the sense known to us now.
The office of the Wazir was revived by the early Mughals. Both Babur and Humayun appointed Wazirs. In the regency of Bairam Khan, we notice the rising Mughal Period of Wakil-Wazir with unlimited powers but in 1564-65, the financial powers were given to the Diwani Khul, and the office of Wakil continued as the highest office in the Mughal bureaucratic set up.
Diwani Khul was the head of the department of finance and revenue. His important duty was to supervise the imperial treasury and have an eye on all accounts. The revenue matters were divided under different sectors like Diwani Khalisa, Diwani Tan or payment of cash as salary, Diwani Jagir, etc. Each wing had a hierarchy of officers and clerks made responsible to his superiors in the order of hierarchy. Mir Bakshi was in charge of the appointments of Mansabdars. Salary papers of the Mansabdars were endorsed and passed by him. He was also responsible for the branding of horses (dagh) and checked the rolls of soldiers. Mir Bakshi was directly responsible to the emperor.
He controlled the provincial Bakshis and Waqai Navis. He was assisted by other Bakshis at the centre. Mir Saman or Khan Saman was the officer in charge of the royal Karkhanas and he had a number of subordinate officers working under him. The Sadir-us-Sudur was the head of the ecclesiastical duties like protecting the laws of Shariat and distribution of charities in cash or in kind. Before the time of Shahjahan, the post of Qazi-ul-Quzzat and Sadir-us-Sudur was combined and held by one individual but from the time of Aurangzeb the two posts were separated.
The head of the judiciary was Quzi-ul-Quzzat and he appointed Quazi to the suba, sarkar, paragana and towns. Mir Adil executed the orders of the court. The Muhtasib acted as censor officer of the public morals and was also in charge of proper functioning of weights and measures and enforcing fair prices too. There also existed some other important officials: Mir Bahri or revenue secretary, Mir Barr or Superintendant of forests, Qur Bergi or lord Standard Bearer, Akht Bagi or superintendant of the Royal stud and Mir Aij or officer who presented petitions to the emperor.
4. Provincial Administration:
It was Akbar the Great, who divided the empire into provinces or Subas in 1580. There existed twelve Subas. They were Kabul, Punjab, Multan, Delhi, Agra, Avadh, Allahabad, Bihar, Bengal, Malva, Ajmer and Gujarat. Later three more – Berar, Khandesh and Ahmadnagar were added after their conquest by Akbar. Jahangir separated Orissa from Bengal and created a separate province. During the rule of Shahjahan Kashmir, Sindh and Bidar provinces were carved out. Aurangzeb added the provinces of Bijapur and Golkonda.
Each Suba was further subdivided into a number of sarkars and these were sub-divided into paraganas and Mahals. A cluster or number of paraganas was called Chakla unit by Shahjahan. The governor of Suba, the Subedar was directly appointed by the ruler. He was also called Sahib-i-Subah or Nain. In running the day-to-day administration, he was assisted by the Diwan, Bakshi, Faujdar, Kotwal, Qazi, Sadar, Amir, Bitkchi, Potdar or Khizamdar, Waqa-i-Navis, Kanungo and Patwari. The tenure of Subedar was for a period of 2 or 3 years and was liable for transfers.
The most important duty of Subedar was to look after the welfare of the people and army. It was his duty to maintain law and order in the Suba. It is also the duty of Subedar to encourage agriculture, trade and commerce besides undertaking welfare activities like construction of Sarais, gardens, wells, water reservoirs, etc.
He should be in the look out to improve the revenue of the state. The head of the revenue department was called Diwan and was appointed by the emperor. He is responsible to the centre. He is an independent officer.
He maintained a Razanama or a daily register of the entries of amounts deposited in the royal treasury by revenue Collectors and Zamindars. He was assisted by a number of clerks. The Bakshi was a military officer of the Suba appointed with the recommendation of Mir Bakshi. He controlled the Mansabdars in the Suba and the soldiers.
He also checked the horses used by the Mansabdars. The Faujadar was the commander of the troops of the Suba. He appears to have helped the Subedar and the Amir in their duties. Sadur was appointed by the central government to supervise Sayarghal or rent-free lands granted for charitable and religious purposes.
The Amir was a revenue collector. He had to see that the Zamindars do not rebel. Bitkchi acted as a check on the Amir. Thus, the duties of every officer in the Suba were fixed and the centre maintained effective control over the Subas by a system of communication network of Darogha-l-dak, who were helped by runners or Mewras. The emperor appointed Waqai Nauis and Waqai Nugars to report to the emperor directly. Thus, every effort was made by the Mughals to effectively control and have a check over the activities of the officials of the Subas.
5. Local Administration:
The workings of administration at the level of Sarkar, Paragana and Manuja or village constitute the aspect of local administration. In Sarkar, the most important functionaries are the Faujdar and the Amalgujar. The duty of the Faujdar was to maintain law and order and thereby protect life and property of the people under his jurisdiction. He helped Amalgujar in revenue collection.
Amir or Amalgujar was the revenue collector of the Sarkar. He maintained all the accounts of revenue and he is to send daily reports of income and expenditure to the Diwan. In those days army was kept at certain locations to maintain peace and order and such places are called Thanas. The incharge of the Thana is called Thanedar and he was generally placed under Faujadar.
In each Paragana an executive head known as Shiqdar was appointed. He also assisted the Amir in revenue collection. A Quanungo was kept in charge of the records of the Paragana. He had to record the crops grown and the extent of land under cultivation was also to be recorded by him. The lowest unit of administration was the village and in each village was appointed a Muqaddam and a Patwari.
The Mughals did not meddle with village administrative set-up introduced by Sher Shah. The Mughals took care to see that the administration of the cities and forts was carried on properly. A Kotwal was appointed by the centre in each city to maintain law and order. For every fort, they appointed a Qiladar and generally Mansabdars of high rank were appointed to forts located at strategic places. The Mughals also appointed officers in port towns known as Mutasaddi and he was empowered to collect taxes on merchandise and maintained a customs house.
He was assisted by a subordinate Shah Bandar. Thus, the Mughals took keen interest in the administration of their territory by dividing it into administrative units and by keeping them under different offices and by strict vigilance and watch over their activities they made the officers responsible and responsive to the needs and demands of the time.
6. Land Revenue:
Land revenue was the main source of income to the state, as agriculture was the main occupation of the majority of population of India since times immemorial. Coming to the Mughal period, the author of the land revenue system was Akbar. We notice evolution in the land revenue administration initiated and implemented by Akbar. In the beginning, Akbar followed the land revenue system of Sher Shah but as he found this system defective, he modified it. The Persian term for land revenue during the Mughal age was Mai and Malwajib.
The process of land revenue collection had two stages:
(a) Assessment or Tashkhis/Jama, and
(b) Actual collection or Hasil.
After the fixation of state demand in the process of assessment, the actual collection was undertaken separately for Kharif and Rabi seasons. The revenue officials issued a Patta or Qual or Qual Parar to the cultivator indicating the amount to be paid by him to the state. In return to the above mentioned demand notice or patta, the cultivator had to give Qabuliyat or acceptance of the obligation imposed by the state informing when and how he should pay it.
During the Mughal period, the state commonly used the methods of:
(b) Kankut or Danabandi, and
In certain areas Gallabakshi was also known as Bhaoli and Batai. Gallabakshi was nothing but crop sharing.
Ain-i-Akbari mentions three types of crop sharing:
(a) Division of the crop at the threshing floor as per the agreement in the presence of both the parties,
(b) Division of the crop when the crop was not cut in the field by marking a division of the field, and
(c) Division of the crop by both the parties when the crop was cut and stacked in heaps.
In practice, this system of sharing the crop proved to be too costly for the state when it was implemented by Aurangzeb. In the method of Kankut or Danabandi, grain yield or grain produced in a bigah was estimated.
First, the land was measured by a rope or by pacing and later, on the basis of the productivity of the soil (good, medium and bad) the grain yield was estimated and then the revenue was fixed. Zabti or Dahsala was the most commonly used method for assessment of land revenue.
In 1580, Akbar introduced this system. In this system, the average produce of different crops as well as the average prices prevailing over the last ten years was calculated. The state fixed one-third of the average produce as the share of the state and this was collected in cash.As the prices varied from region to region, the money to be paid was collected and decided on the basis of local prices.
Thus, the main features of this system are:
(a) Measurement of land was essential,
(b) Fixed cash revenue rates known as Dastur-ul-Amal or Dastur for each crop, and
(c) The entire amount was to be collected in cash.
This system was introduced in Delhi, Allahabad, Awadh, Agra, Lahore and Multan. Besides Zabti or Dahsal, Nasqi method was also in vogue. It is said to be a rough calculation of the amount payable by the peasant on the basis of past payment.
Revenue farming or Izara was another system in vogue. Though the Mughals disfavoured it, in some places it was in vogue, where land owners were not in a position to undertake cultivation. Jagirdars appear to come under this category. By the 18th century, Izara system had become a common form of revenue assessment and collection.
On the basis of the continuity of cultivation, the lands were divided as Polaj, Parauti, Chachar and Banjar. The land cuhivated every year was called Polaj and when the same land was uncultivated, it was called Parauti. The land that was uncultivated for 2 or 3 years continuously was called Chachar and if it is beyond 3 or 4 years it was called ‘banjar’.
Further, on the basis of productivity of the soil the land was known as good, middling and bad. Generally, one-third was the state demand, but it varied according to the productivity of the land and the method of assessment.
The Mughals showed keen interest in the promotion of agricultural operations on a large scale and instructed officials to act like a parent to the peasants, to advance loans for seeds, implements, and animals in times of need and to encourage agriculturists to bring more land under cultivation. There is a view that rate of tax on land varied from region to region. Further, it is reported that revenue rates varied according to the class or caste of the revenue paying groups. For example, the Brahmins and Banias paid revenue in concessional rates in a certain paraganas of eastern Rajasthan.
We come across a number of revenue officials like Karori, which post was created in 1574—75, amin, qanungo, chaudari, shiqdar, muqaddam and patwari, fotdar, bitkchi, diwan, faujdar, waqari navis and sawanih nigar.
The Mughals granted a large portion of the land of the empire to beneficiaries like the Jagirdars, and Muslim religious leaders. The Jagirs were temporary assignments. Jahangir introduced system of nullifying grants by the emperor himself personally.
There existed Khalisa lands which were under the direct control of the imperial revenue department. The extent of Khalisa lands varied from region to region and time to time. While Jahangir decreased the extent of Khalisa lands, Shahjahan increased it.
We notice the transfer of Khalisa lands to Jagir type and reverse also. Ain-i-Akbari provides a list of food and non-food crops produced in Rabi and Kharif and tobacco and maize were introduced into India during the 17th century. Sericulture and horticulture also made rapid strides during this period.
The peasant group during this period was highly stratified. There was also considerable difference in the size of holdings, produce and resources of the peasants. Commercial crops were produced on large scale by the landed gentry. We also notice exploitation of the small peasants by rich peasants.