In this article we will discuss about administration of India under the Mughul emperors.
The Central Administration:
Mughul emperors brought about certain fundamental changes in the administrative structure in India. Babur, the founder of the Mughul empire, assumed the title of Padshah (emperor) which was continued by his successors. It meant that the Mughul emperors did not accept the Khalifa even as their nominal overlord.
Thus, the Mughul emperors were completely free from even the nominal authority of any foreign power or individual. Akbar enhanced further the power and prestige of the emperor. He declared himself the arbiter in case of difference of opinions regarding Islamic laws. The Mughul rule was also not theocratic. Except Aurangzeb no other Mughul emperor attempted to carry his administration on principles of Islam.
The Mughul rule was not a police state as well. The emperors accepted two primary duties for themselves—Jahanbani (protection of the state) and Jahangiri (extension of the empire). Besides, they tried to create those conditions which were conducive to economic and cultural progress of their subjects. Another novelty of the Mughuls was that they began the policy of religious toleration.
Babur and Humayun were no bigots while Akbar pursued the policy of equal respect to all religions. Jahangir and Shah Jahan followed Akbar’s policy in principle. Only Aurangzeb reversed the policy of Akbar. All these were new innovations in polity and therefore, the Mughul administration differed from the administration of the Sultans of Delhi in many respects.
Akbar raised the structure of Mughul administration. It persisted till the reign of Aurangzeb with minor changes. The weak successors of Aurangzeb, however, could not maintain it. It cracked and the result was virtual anarchy in the eighteenth century
It has also been expressed that the Mughul administration had imprint of foreign influence. Certainly, the influence of Arab and Persian administration is quite visible on their division of administrative departments, assignment of ranks to the officers and naming them, administrative rules etc. Yet, there is no doubt that the Mughuls did not copy any foreign administration and carried out what suited them best in India.
1. The Emperor:
The emperor was the head of the state. He was the law-maker, the chief executive, the commander-in-chief of the army and the final dispenser of justice. Akbar enhanced further the powers of the emperor when he himself took over the power of deciding Islamic laws in cases of dispute. Thus, the emperor enjoyed highest power in the state. His ministers and nobles, of course, could advise him but he was the final arbiter in everything.
From the time of Akbar, the emperor was regarded as the God’s representative on earth. Abul Fazl defined this theory of kingship which regarded kingship as the gift of God and ranked the king above all his subjects.
That is why Akbar started practices like Jharokha Darshan and Tula Dan. In this way the theory of kingship of the Mughuls was near to the Hindu theory of kingship. Thus, concentrating all powers in their hands and believing that the king was the representative of God on earth, the Mughul emperors were perfect despots. But, they were not cruel or selfish despots.
They believed that the foremost duty of a king was to look after the welfare of his subjects. Akbar observed- “Divine worship in monarchs consists in their justice and good administration.” Even Aurangzeb who was a religious fanatic was fully conscious of this duty towards his subjects.
Therefore, the Mughuls were enlightened despots who attempted to look after the welfare of their subjects. Every Mughul emperor worked very hard to attain this object. Even ease-loving Jahangir looked after the affairs of the state for nearly seven to eight hours every day and regarded dispensation of justice as his foremost duty while Aurangzeb could hardly get three to four hours rest in a day.
Though there was no legal limit to the powers of the emperor, yet, there were certain limitations from the practical point of view. The emperor certainly gave due consideration to the advice given by his ministers to him and recognised the influence wielded by his powerful nobles.
Dr Tara Chand described the rule of the Mughul emperors as ‘the Rule by Aristocracy.’ The nobles, among whom many were Rajputs, held high mansabs in the state and their offices had virtually become hereditary. The Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate established their despotic rule after destroying the power of their nobles, while the Mughul emperors based their despotism on the power and loyalty of their nobles.
Certainly such nobles gained much influence in the administration. Aurangzeb who was one among the mighty Mughul emperors dared to impose Jizya on the Hindus only when Raja Jaswant Singh died.
2. The Ministers:
There were several ministers to assist the Emperor. They advised the emperor collectively as well as individually. Each of them looked after the working of some department of which he was the head. Each of them was assisted by a number of their junior officers and assistants.
During the reign of Akbar, there were only four ministers, viz.. vakil, diwan or vazir, mir bakhsi and sadr-us-sadur. Later on the posts of khan-i-saman,chief qazi and muhtasih were also promoted to the rank of ministers.
The posts of vakil and diwan or vazir were combined together afterwards and the holder of the post was called vakil-i-mutlaq (vazir). Besides, the posts of mir-i-atish, daroga-i-dak chauki and mir- i-saman were also very much important though the holders of these posts were not ranked as ministers.
(i) The Prime Minister (Vakil-i-Mutlaq; Vazir; Diwan):
Akbar gave this post to Bairam Khan. By virtue of this office, he was the protector of the state and over and above all other ministers with the right of even appointing and dismissing them. But no other man was given these powers after the fall of Bairam Khan. The Prime Minister was given the work of the diwan and, later on, the diwan was titled as the vazir or the prime minister.
Primarily, the diwan looked after the income and expenditure of the state. Besides, he looked after the administration in the absence of the emperor from the capital and commanded the army on occasions. Thus, vakil or vazir or prime minister was the person next to the emperor in administration.
The prime minister supervised the working of other departments, collected news of provinces, despatched orders of the emperor to governors and looked after the correspondence of the state.
Besides many other officers and subordinates, his important subordinate officers were five, viz., diwan-i-khalisa (officer who looked after the land of the emperor), diwan-i-tan (officer who looked after the salaries of the officers and their Jagirs), mustaufi (auditor- general), vakia-i-navis (officer incharge of correspondence and records) and Musrif (office superintendent).
(ii) The Mir Bakhshi:
He was incharge of the military department. He could be asked to command an army but that was not his primary duty. In no way, he was commander-in-chief of the army. He managed the recruitment of the soldiers, maintained their huliya, looked after the branding of horses and elephants, looked after all sorts of supplies to the army and training of the soldiers. He also deputed mansabdars for the security of the palace and changed them every day.
(iii) Sadr-us-Sadur (Chief Sadar):
He advised the emperor on religious matters. He looked after the charity, religious education, distribution of Jagirs to scholars and observance of the laws of the Islam by the Muslims. Sometimes the posts of sadr-us-sadur and chief qazi were combined though during the reign of Akbar mostly these offices were kept separate.
He advised the emperor in appointing sadrs in provinces and looked after their working. This office did not enjoy much respect and power during the reign of Akbar as he did not consult sadr-us-sadur in religious affairs and himself distributed Jagirs and presents to scholars and religious people of eminence.
(iv) The Chief Qazi:
Though the emperor was the highest judicial authority in the state, yet, he was assisted by chief qazi at the capital. While the muftis interpreted Islamic laws, the chief qazi declared the judgement. He also appointed qazis in provinces, districts, etc.
(v) The Muhtasib:
He looked after the moral development of the subjects particularly it was his job that the Muslims observed Muslim laws. He also checked drinking of liquor, gambling and illegal relations between men and women.
He also kept control over weights and measures and observed that articles were sold in the market at proper prices. During the reign of Aurangzeb, he was assigned the responsibility of destroying the schools and temples of the Hindus. He was assisted by provincial muhtasibs.
He was not a minister during the reign of Akbar but was ranked as one of the ministers after him. He looked after the personal necessities of the emperor and his family and also that of the palace. One of his important duties was to manage the Karkhanas of the emperor which produced different articles and provided good income to the emperor. Thus, he held an important office.
(vii) Mir-i-Atish or Daroga-i-Topkhana:
He was the incharge of the artillery of the emperor. It was an important office and was mostly assigned to a Turk or a Persian.
He was the head of the spy-department of the state. He collected news from various vaqia-i-navises and khufia-navises who were appointed by him in provinces and elsewhere. He had to keep the emperor informed about every important affair within the empire.
Provincial and Local Administration:
The empire was divided into several provinces. There were fifteen provinces during the reign of Akbar but the number increased to twenty during the reign of Aurangzeb. The head of the provincial administration was called nizam, sipahsalar or only suba (subedar). Every province had its provincial capital. The provincial administration was the duplicate copy of the centre.
Dr J.N. Sarkar writes:
“The administrative agency in the provinces of the Mughul Empire was an exact miniature of that of the Central Government.” The subedar, the diwan, the bakhshi, the sadr, the qazi, the kotwal and the waqaya- navis were important officers in every province. In some provinces, the mir bahr and the daroga-i-dak-chauki were also appointed.
Akbar had given wide powers to his diwan and all provincial diwans were kept under the supervision of the diwan or the vazir at the centre. Akbar kept a balance of power between the subedar and the diwan by clearly defining their duties so that none of them had the power to revolt.
The later Mughuls, however, could not keep those offices in separate hands and the office of the subedar and the diwan was given to the same person. During the reign of Bahadur Shah, Murshid Quli Khan combined these offices in his person and therefore, could make himself independent in Bengal.
He was the head of the provincial administration. He was like a miniature king in his province. He enjoyed a high mansab in the state and was assigned a big Jagir within the province. He had to maintain an efficient and big army with him.
He maintained peace within his province, looked after the welfare of the people, suppressed the revolts, decided criminal cases, constructed roads, bridges and other public utility works, extracted tribute from feudatory chiefs whose territories were within his province and collected revenue and other taxes.
All officers of the province were under him and were appointed, promoted or dismissed by the emperor on his advice. His powers were limited only by the financial powers of the diwan. Otherwise, he enjoyed all powers regarding his province.
He was the financial officer of the province. He was appointed by the emperor on the advice of the diwan (vazir) at the centre. He was next only to the subedar in rank and respect within the province. He was not subordinated to the subedar but was directly under the vazir at the centre.
Yet, he worked in coordination with the subedar who also enjoyed higher respect. He collected revenue and other taxes and for that had to depend on the subedar as he had no soldiers with him. He looked after agriculture, supervised the income and expenditure of the province, informed the central government regarding economic condition of the province and decided civil cases.
3. The Bakhshi:
His primary responsibility was to look after the organisation of the army of the province. He managed the recruitment, discipline, training and supplies for the provincial army. Sometimes, duties of waqaya-navis were also handed over to him. In that case he sent news of the province to the centre. This enhanced duty also meant additional prestige to him.
He was the head of the spy-department of the province. He sent reports of all affairs and also functioning of all officers including that of the subedar and the diwan to the central government. He appointed his subordinates in the province.
In every provincial capital and every city there was a Kotwal who maintained peace and looked after the cleanliness, public services, visitors, etc. in the city. He was a military officer and maintained sufficient soldiers with him.
6. The Sadr and the Qazi:
In provinces, mostly these two offices were given to the same person. He was subordinated to the chief sadr and the chief qazi at the centre. As the sadr he supervised that the Muslims practised Islamic laws and the subjects, in general, observed morality and as the qazi he dispensed justice. He supervised the working of his subordinate qazis and recommended scholars and religious persons to the chief sadr for rewards.
Besides these officers, in some provinces daroga-i-dak-chauki was appointed and at ports and trade centres at several river-points Mir Bahr was appointed to collect the taxes.
The Sarkar (District):
Every province or Suba was divided into a number of districts called Sarkars for the convenience of administration.
The following were important officers in a district:
The faujdar was the military officer of the district. His primary duty was to maintain peace in the district, provide security to the subjects and enforce the laws of the state. He was appointed by the emperor though lie was subordinated to the subedar. He helped the amal guzar in collection of taxes. He was the foremost officer in a Sarkar.
He was the finance officer of the district and was subordinated to the provincial diwan. He collected the revenue and other taxes, protected agriculture and punished the guilty ones. He protected treasury as well.
He worked under amal-guzar. He prepared all papers concerning lands of the peasants with the help of the qanungo. He kept the record of the quality and quantum of the land in possession of every cultivator. He also gave the receipt of payment of the revenue to the cultivators.
He worked under the amal-guzar and was the treasurer of the district. Besides these officers, kotwal and qazi were other important officers who were appointed in cities.
Every district (Sarkar) was divided into several Parganas.
The important officers of a Pargana were as follows:
He was military officer and head of the administration of the Pargana. He maintained peace and order and helped in the collection of the revenue.
He was the finance officer of the Pargana. His primary duty was to collect the revenue and therefore, he was in direct contact with the cultivators.
He was the treasurer of the Pargana and protection of the treasury was his primary duty.
He was the head of village Patwaris. He prepared all papers concerning agriculture and collection of revenue.
They were the clerks who helped different officers in preparing records and all papers concerning administration.
The administration of a city was in the hands of a kotwal. He managed all affairs in the city which are done by the police and municipalities in modern times. He kept quite a large number of soldiers with him and also appointed his subordinates.
The Mughuls did not take the responsibility of administering village. Therefore, the administration of villages was left in the hands of local village Panchayats. The Panchayats looked after the security, sanitation, education etc. in the village. The Panchayats also dispensed justice. There was a village chaukidar in every village.
Normally, the state-officers did not interfere in the affairs of the village but, in case of need, they interfered and even forced the village officials to perform their duties well.
The Military Administration (The Mansabdari System):
The Mughul emperors maintained a large and efficient army till the reign of Aurangzeb. Babur began the use of artillery of gun-powder in India while the credit for organising the Mughul army systematically went to Akbar.
The Mughul soldiers and officers were mainly divided into three following categories:
1. Mansabdars and their Soldiers:
Every military officer was given a mansab (rank). Even the feudatory chiefs were given mansabs. Every mansabdar maintained his own army, looked after the recruitment, training, discipline, arms, dress etc. of his soldiers. Mansabdars mostly recruited soldiers of their own class in their armies. Every mansabdar was paid salary or Jagir according to his mansab by the emperor.
2. The Ahadi Soldiers:
These were the soldiers of the emperor. They were looked after by the diwan and the bakhshi. They were recruited, trained, disciplined and maintained on behalf of the emperor. They were well paid.
It has been referred that while an ordinary horseman received only rupees twelve to fifteen, an Ahadi horseman received up to rupees five hundred as his salary. Their number was not fixed. During the reign of Akbar, they numbered twelve thousand. They were soldiers of the emperor and their loyalty was to him alone.
3. Dakhili Soldiers:
These were those soldiers who were recruited on behalf of the emperor but were put under the charge of his mansabdars.
The permanent army of the Mughuls was quite large. Blochmann fixed the number of the standing army of Akbar as twenty-five thousand. But it does not seem to be a correct estimate. The army of the Mughuls numbered nearly three lakhs during the reign of Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Therefore, it seems to be more logical that Akbar’s army was also not less than that number. It is supposed that if the army of the emperor was combined with the armies of his mansabdars, governors and the feudatory kings, it numbered nearly forty-four lakhs.
This army was divided into following units:
(a) The Cavalry:
The cavalry was the best part of the army of the Mughuls.
It was divided into following important parts:
(i) Bargir (those soldiers who received horses, arms, dress etc. from the state), and
(ii) Siledar (those soldiers who brought their own horses and arms).
The soldiers were distinguished on the basis of the quality of their horses. There were mostly Turki and Tazi horses in the Mughul cavalry. Besides, there were Arabi, Farsi, Muzanna, Yabu and Jangla quality of horses.
The soldiers were further distinguished on the basis of the number of their horses. Those soldiers who had two horses with them were called Du-Aspa and those who had only one horse were called Ek-Aspa. There was another category of soldiers who shared one horse between two soldiers. They were called Nim-Aspa soldiers.
(b) The Infantry:
Akbar had organised an efficient infantry. Primarily, foot- soldiers were divided into two parts, viz., bandukchi (Rifle-men) and samshirbaz (Swords-men). They also used bows and arrows, javelin etc. Besides the soldiers, slaves, water-carriers, etc. were also included in them.
(c) The War-Elephants:
Akbar had kept a large number of war-elephants. These numbered nearly one thousand. But the total number of war-elephants within the empire was nearly fifty thousand. The elephants were used for fighting as well as to earn the load.
(d) The Artillery:
Babur came to India with a good park of gun-powder artillery. Akbar strengthened it further. Big guns were prepared during his reign. However, his novelty was the preparation of small guns which could be carried on backs of elephants or camels. These small guns were very much effective because their position and direction could be changed easily.
The artillery of the Mughuls had certainly improved much during the reign of Akbar. Dr R.P. Tripathi has commented- “Excepting the Turkish artillery, Akbar’s was second to none in Asia, for in Akbar’s time it had reached the high point of efficiency possible.”
(e) The Navy:
By the time Akbar conquered Gujarat, the Portuguese had acquired the mastery over Indian waters and they were not prepared to permit any Indian ruler to organise strong navy. Besides, Akbar’s empire was primarily an empire on the land. Therefore, Akbar could not organise a strong navy. His successors also failed to establish a strong navy. Therefore, the navy of the Mughuls could never match the navy of the Europeans.
The novelty of the army organisation of the Mughuls was, however, the mansabdari system. Akbar introduced it and it was kept as it was with minor changes up to the reign of Aurangzeb. The later Mughuls failed to maintain it. The system was not an innovation of Akbar. He took it from the system introduced by Khalifa Abba Said and accepted by Cenghiz Khan and Timur.
The rulers of the Delhi Sultanate too had adopted it to a certain extent. Balban organized his army more or less on this system while Sher Shah and Islam Shah practised it in a much better form. Thus, the mansabdari system which primarily meant the ranking of officers on decimal system was not new to India. But, the system was certainly perfected by Akbar.
The mansab meant rank. Different numbers which could be divided by ten were used for ranking officers. It was also meant for fixing the salaries and allowances of officers. During the reign of Akbar, the lowest rank was that of number ten and the highest was that of twelve thousand. The mansab above 5,000 and, later on, that of 7,000 was given only to princes of royal blood.
Abul Fazl has mentioned only thirty-three categories of officers but they were, in fact, divided into sixty-six categories. Jahangir and Shah Jahan awarded mansab to their officers up to the number of only 8,000 while royal princes were given mansabs up to the number of 40,000. The later Mughuls gave mansab up to the number of 50,000.
All officers below the rank of the mansab of five hundred were called mansabdars; the officers enjoying the mansab from 500 to 2,500 were called amirs, and those who were ranked over 2,500 were called amir-i-azam. The officer called khan-i-jahan was still higher in rank while the highest rank in the army was that of khan-i-khana.
Some historians described that the mansabdars were required to maintain soldiers equivalent to the number of rank awarded to them. But the majority of the historians do not accept it. The number of soldiers of mansabdars was certainly less than the number of their ranks.
It has been referred in Padshahnama that Shah Jahan had ordered that officers who remained in their Jagirs had to keep soldiers 1/3rd in number of their rank of zat; the officers who were posted outside their Jagirs but within the frontiers of India had to maintain 1 /4th number of soldiers of their zat rank while those who were posted outside India had to keep only l/5th of the number of their zat rank.
The duties of mansabdar were in no way connected with the number of his rank. It was also not necessary that an officer enjoying a higher mansab should also enjoy a higher post in the state. Raja Man Singh enjoyed higher mansab than Abul Fazl during the reign of Akbar, yet Abul Fazl was a minister while Raja Man Singh was not. The emperor decided the duties of a mansabdar.
There were also no fixed rules regarding appointment and promotion of the mansabdars. It all depended on the sweet-will of the emperor. The mansabdars were paid their salary in cash and, whenever they were assigned Jagirs, the right of collecting revenue from their Jagirs was that of the officers of the central government.
The revenue which was collected from Jagirs was handed over to the concerned mansabdars but the same amount was deducted from their salaries. The mansabdars were paid for complete twelve months. Every mansabdar paid salaries to his soldiers out of his own salary. But the salaries of mansabdars were so high that even after payment to their soldiers much remained with them.
During later years of his reign, Akbar introduced the rank of zat and sawar in the mansabdari system. Every mansabdar was given the rank of sawar as well as that of zat. According to Blochmann, every mansabdar had to maintain as many soldiers as were indicated by his rank of zat while the rank of sawar indicated the number of horsemen among them.
Irvine expressed the view that zat indicated the actual number of cavalry under a mansabdar beside other soldiers while sawar was an additional honour. According to Dr R.P. Tripathi, the rank of sawar was given to mansabdars to fix up their additional allowances. A mansabdar was paid rupees two per horse.
Therefore, if a mansabdar received the rank of 500 sawar he was given rupees one thousand additional allowance. Abdul Aziz is of the opinion that while the rank of zat fixed the number of other soldiers under a mansabdar, the rank of sawar fixed the number of his horsemen.
Dr A.L Srivastava has opined that while the rank of zat indicated the total number of soldiers under a mansabdar, the rank of sawar indicated the number of horsemen under him. During the reign of Akbar, the mansabdars were asked to keep as many horsemen as were indicated by numbers of their ranks of sawar. But, the practice could not be maintained by other Mughul emperors.
Akbar also divided every grade of his mansabdars holding the rank of 5,000 or below into three categories. If a mansabdar had equal ranks of zat and sawar, he was of the first category among his grade of mansabdar i.e., if a mansabdar enjoyed the rank of 5,000 zat and 5,000 sawar then he was of the first category among the mansabdars of 5,000.
If a mansabdar had the rank of sawar lower than the rank of zat but not lower than half of it then he belonged to the second category, i.e., if a mansabdar enjoyed the rank of 5,000 zat and 3,000 or 2,500 sawar then he belonged to the second category, among the mansabdars of 5,000.
And, if a mansabdar enjoyed the rank of sawar which was less than half of his rank of zat then he belonged to the third category among his grade of mansabdars, i.e., if a mansabdar had the rank of 5,000 zat and 2,000 or even less rank of sawar then he was of the third category among the rank of 5,000 mansabdars.
Jahangir introduced one rank more in the system. It was called Do-aspa-Sih. The officer getting this rank was asked to keep a fixed number of cavalry under his command. The first person to get this rank was Mahabat Khan.
Akbar started the practice of keeping huliya of his soldiers and also the practice of branding horses and elephants. A separate department called Dagh- Mahali was organised for the purpose of branding horses and elephants. The army of every mansabdar was inspected by the emperor every year or once in three years.
The one novelty of the military organisation of the Mughuls was their camp- management. The camps of the Mughuls were of a huge size. When the army camped itself, it occupied an area of five to twenty miles in circumference.
The camping site used to become a city in itself where one to two lakhs of people could rest. There was absolute security and peace within the area of the camp. The novelty of it was that all arrangements for camping were completed within four hours.
The military administration of the Mughuls suffered from many defects. The practice of recruitment of their soldiers by mansabdars and the privilege of paying them themselves was harmful because the soldiers felt more loyal to their mansabdars as compared to the Emperor by these practices.
There could not be any uniformity in arms, training, discipline etc., among soldiers who were not dependent for all these on any one central organisation but on their separate mansabdars. The Mughul emperors did not arrange for the training of their soldiers. Every soldier was expected to improve his fighting skill himself. The Mughuls did not attempt much to increase the efficiency of their infantry.
They also failed to organise a strong navy and bring about improvement in their artillery as compared to other rulers of the west. The failure to conquer Kandhar was one example of this weakness of the Mughuls. Akbar, no doubt, organised a strong army and brought about improvement in his artillery. But no ruler after him could bring about any improvement in the army-organisation.
On the contrary, there was definite deterioration during their rule. The emperors and so also their mansabdars started taking their wives and concubines with them on battlefields. Prostitutes and slaves, both male and female, followed them.
This adversely affected the mobility of the Mughul army and also resulted in moral degradation of both officers and soldiers. After Aurangzeb, the Mughul army was no more that invincible army which was organised by Akbar.
Akbar, of course, deserved credit for improving the army-organisation of the Mughuls. His mansabdari system was also successful. Therefore, the army of the Mughuls became invincible during his rule.
Dr. R.P. Tripathi has commented:
“It was even superior to that of Babar which had been pronounced as ‘efficient and successful’ and hardly inferior to the Ottoman army of Sulaiman, the magnificent, which was admittedly one of the best of its kind in Europe.”
The Mughul emperors after him till Aurangzeb succeeded in maintaining status quo but failed to bring about any improvement in it. That is why Aurangzeb failed against the Marathas. The later Mughuls failed to maintain even that which they inherited. The army became weak during their rule and its weakness contributed to the downfall of the Mughul empire.
Finance: The Revenue Administration:
The primary sources of the income of the Mughul emperors were 1/5th part of the loot in the war, trade-tax, mint, unclaimed property, salt-tax, income from industries run by the state, annual tribute and presents from feudatory kings and mansabdars and land-revenue.
The local taxes were called Abwabs, the income from which was spent on local administration. Babur and Humayun levied Jizya on the Hindus and Zakat on the Muslims. Akbar abolished these religious taxes. Aurangzeb revived them during his reign. After him these taxes were charged from the subjects except when Sayyid brothers were in command of the state affairs.
Revenue from land was the largest source of income of the state. Babur distributed all land as Jagirs to his nobles. Humayun took no step to bring about any change. Sher Shah, certainly, established a sound revenue administration but it cracked down after the death of his son, Islam Shah. Humayun, when he recaptured his empire, revived the old Jagirdari system.
Akbar was, therefore, the first Mughul emperor who established a sound revenue administration. During early period of his rule, he made several experiments in this field but did not get much success. Ultimately, the system which he introduced with the help of Raja Todar Mal succeeded. That system has been called Dahsala system (Zabta).
In 1560 A.D., Akbar appointed Abdul Mazid Asaf Khan as the Diwan (Finance Minister). He brought about no change. He was replaced by Aitmad Khan in 1563 A.D. He separated the Khalisa lands (the lands of the emperor) from the Jagirdari lands.
The Khalisa lands were measured and the state demand was converted into cash on the basis of the prices of various kinds of crops fixed by the emperor. But the system fundamentally remained as before.
In 1564 A.D., Aitmad Khan was removed from the post of finance and in his place, Muzaffar Khan was appointed. He appoined ten senior qanungos and got prepared an estimate of the total revenue which was called Hal-i-Hasil.
The estimate was not entirely correct and brought about no useful result. However, Muzaffar Khan did one useful change. So far, the prices of cereals were fixed uniformly for their conversion into cash to be paid as revenue.
It was decided by him that the state demand would henceforth be commuted into cash on the basis of current prices in different localities. In 1568 A.D., Sihab-ud-din Ahmad Khan replaced him as the diwan. He felt that it was difficult and defective to assess production and prices of cereals every year.
He, therefore, resorted to Nasq and Kankut systems by which a rough estimate of the produce was prepared and the revenue was collected through landlords and other middlemen. But, this system could not continue for long.
In 1570 A.D., Muzaffar Khan was again appointed the diwan. He restored back the system based on Hal-i-Hasil and improved it further. Arrangements were made for the measurement of lands, assessment of produce and fixing of prices of different cereals in different localities.
Besides, Jagirdari lands were also brought under this system. The records of quality of land, its produce, the revenue fixed and the prices fixed in different localities under this system provided the base on which the Dahsala system was introduced.
In 1580, the Dahsala system was introduced and it was declared as permanent. Raja Todar Mal was the diwan at that time and his deputy was Khwaja Shah Mansur. Historians have expressed different opinions regarding this system.
However, the majority of them agree on the following features of this system:
1. Instead of a hempen rope, the land was measured by bamboos which were joined together by iron rings.
2. One unit of land was called higha which was 60×60 yds. i.e., 3600 sq. yds.
3. In the beginning Gaz-i-Sikandari was used for measurement but, later on, Gaz-i-Ilahi was introduced.
4. The land was divided into four categories, i.e., the Polaj-land which was cultivated every year; the Parauti-land which sometimes was left uncultivated for a year or two; the Chachar-land was left uncultivated for three or four years; and the Banjar-land was left uncultivated for five years or more. Besides, each of the first three kinds of land was divided into three grades, namely best, middling, and bad.
5. The average yield per bigha of each kind of land in respect of every crop was ascertained separately in every Pargana on the basis of past ten years’ produce. That average was regarded as the standard produce of that land and on its basis revenue was fixed with the cultivator for the next ten years.
6. The state demand was 1/3rd of the average produce of the land.
7. The cultivators were asked to pay the revenue in cash. For this purpose, the prices of every cereal were fixed in different localities on the basis of local prices.
Dr A.L. Srivastava writes:
“Akbar divided his entire empire into many dasturs. All the places in a dastur were supposed to have uniform prices for each kind of crop. An average of last ten years’ prices in respect of each kind of crop was ascertained separately for each dastur. The average was considered as the current price of the crop. There were separate schedules of prices of different kinds of crops and the schedules differed from dastur to dastur.”
8. The government officers, of course, maintained annual account of the area and quality of land in possession of a cultivator, its produce, kind of produce and the prevailing prices of all cereals in every dastur because that was necessary to fix up revenue in future but, the revenue was not fixed up every year nor the prices of cereals were fixed up every year as both were fixed up for ten years.
9. The Jagirdari land was also brought under this system. It was managed by the officers of the state though its income went to the concerned jagirdars.
10. All those who possessed land, given to them in charity, of an area of 500 Bighas or more were asked to present themselves before the emperor. Those who did not obey the orders were devoided of their lands. For future, the emperor himself took the responsibility of granting land to the people in charity. He did it with the help of provincial sadrs.
11. Akbar’s system was Ryotwari. He accepted the cultivators as owners of their lands and the state kept direct contact with them for all purposes.
12. The cultivators were given clear Pattas by the state on which their quality and quantity of land and the revenue which they had to pay was recorded. Its acceptance was also taken from them (Qabuliyat Patra).
13. The cultivators were given all possible encouragement for better production and were helped in case of emergencies.
14. The Dahsala system was not introduced in the entire empire. Other systems also continued in different parts of the empire, i.e., the Bantai system remained in force in Kandhar, Kashmir and part of Sindh and Multan. The Nasq or Kankut system was continued in Bengal, Gujarat and Kathiawar. The Dahsala system remained in the provinces of Bihar, Allahabad, Malwa, Avadh, Agra, Delhi, Lahore and part of Multan.
15. Patwaris and muqaddams were not state officers but the state recognised their services, assessed and collected revenue and also maintained records with their help. In return, they were paid a part of revenue. During later period of Akbar, qanungos were accepted as state employees and were paid salaries by the state.
Above them were amils; over amils were amalgujars who were certainly state officials and worked under provincial diwans who themselves worked under the central diwan (vazir). Akbar had appointed a class of district officers called the karori.
16. Akbar abolished Jizya and Zakat. He also abolished taxes from the sale and purchase of animals, salt, sale and purchase of houses, house-tax, leather, blankets etc. for lessening the burden of the cultivators. Akbar tried to abolish some local taxes called the Abwabs and checked employees of the state from taking bribes and presents.
This was the arrangement of land-system during the reign of Akbar. However, the historians differ regarding the Dahsala system of Akbar. W.H. Moreland has not mentioned anything about the average produce. He has mentioned the existence of only average prices which were meant for the conversion of cereals into cash.
V.A. Smith does not mention of average prices but mention of average produce which formed the basis of fixation of revenue for the next ten years. Dr S.R. Sharma mentions neither average prices nor average produce. He says that the only change which Akbar brought about in the system of Sher Shah was the arrangement of payment of revenue in cash.
Dr R.P. Tripathi agrees that arrangements were made for the calculation of average produce and average prices but he does not accept that the revenue was fixed for ten years or was made permanent. Dr A.L. Srivastava says that there was provision for average produce and average prices and the settlement was made after every tenth year.
Some historians have pointed out two basic defects of this Dahsala system of Akbar. First, the revenue officers were corrupt and Akbar could not save the cultivators from their oppression. Secondly, the revenue was quite heavy. But these defects have been pointed out mostly by British historians who do not wish that the revenue system under the British be lowered down in efficiency when compared with the system of Akbar.
The majority of historians do not accept these defects but praise the system of Akbar. Some sort of corruption always remains among the members of bureaucracy. So, if Akbar failed to root it out, it was not a serious defect. The charge of excess burden on the peasantry is entirely baseless.
In no case 1/3rd of the produce can be regarded as excess revenue. Even Sher Shah who has been universally praised for his revenue system charged not only 1/3rd of the produce as revenue but also charged additional taxes like Zaribana and Mahasilana from the cultivators. Thus, the peasants were not burdened in any way during the reign of Akbar.
On the contrary, the peasants were prosperous and happy. They had to pay fixed revenue for ten years and if they could produce more by their efforts they were free to draw its advantages. The state also helped them freely in cases of natural calamities affecting their cultivation adversely. Besides, all Jagirdari land was also under control of state officials.
Therefore, there were no middlemen like jagirdars or landlords to exploit the peasants. Therefore, the revenue system of Akbar was a grand success. It led to increased production and that helped in the growth of trade and industry. That is why, though Akbar engaged himself constantly in aggressive warfare, his treasury remained full.
V.A. Smith praised his system and so also says Lane-Poole- “There is no name in medieval history more renowned in India to the present day than that of Todar Mal, and the reason is that nothing in Akbar’s reforms more nearly touched the welfare of the people than the great financier’s reconstruction of the revenue system.”
The system was continued by Jahangir as it existed during the reign of his father. However, there was laxity in its execution. During his reign, Jagirdars claimed more rights. Though it did not affect the peasants adversely, the income of the state was reduced. The system deteriorated further during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Dr Saxena says that 70 per cent of the land of the state was handed over to Jagirdars and there remained no direct contact of the state with cultivators. Shah Jahan increased the state-demand. The peasants were asked to pay between 33 per cent to 50 per cent of their produce as revenue. The cultivators were required to pay revenue on the entire land under their possession whether it was cultivated or partly cultivated.
Besides, Shah Jahan gave the right of collecting the revenue to contractors. It certainly reduced the expenditure of the state but left the peasants at the mercy of the contractors who dealt unfairly with the peasants and collected more than what was required in order to gain maximum profit to themselves.
Of course, Shah Jahan paid personal attention towards the revenue department but his measures adversely affected the condition of the peasants. Aurangzeb continued the practices of the reign of Shah Jahan. Jagirdari system persisted; lands were given to contractors; revenue was fixed between 1/2 to 2/3rd of the produce and the rest of the defects remained as before. The net result was that the cultivators suffered badly.
The system broke down during the period of the later Mughuls. There remained nothing except that the lands were given to the contractors for the purpose of collection of revenue. The state increased its demand to the contractors and, in turn, the contractors, who in most of the cases enjoyed hereditary rights, taxed the cultivators heavily.
It resulted in the poverty of the cultivators which, ultimately, broke down the economy of the state. The later Mughuls failed to pay salaries to their soldiers, improve their administration and also the lot of their peasants.
Babur and Humayun brought about no changes in the prevalent currency system except that they issued coins in their own names. Akbar brought about changes in this system. He issued coins of gold, silver and copper of different weights and denominations and fixed their ratio with each other.
All these coins were of standard weight and metal. Most of them were round in shape though some of them were rectangular. Akbar did not inscribe his figure on coins. Instead, the name of the emperor, the name of the mint, the year of issue and in certain cases, references from the Koran were inscribed on them. The coins issued by Akbar were beautiful and of fine shape.
The highest denominator gold-coin issued by Akbar was called Sansab or Sahansah which weighed a little over 101 tolas. It must have been used only in high business transactions. But, the most popular gold-coin was Ilahi which was equal to ten rupees in value. The total gold-coins numbered twenty-six. The silver-coin was called rupee which weighed 172 grains. The square rupee was called Jalai but it was not so popular.
The rupee had its one-half, one-fourth, one-eights, one-sixteenth and one- twentieth pieces. The copper coin was called Dam (paisa) which was 1 /40th part of a rupee. The lowest copper coin was called Jital and it was 1/25th part of Dam (paisa).
The mint and currency system of Akbar has been regarded most remarkable. It provided a firm base for the currency system of the British. All historians have praised his system and V.A. Smith described it the best when compared with contemporary rulers of Europe.
Jahangir inscribed his figure on certain coins and on certain other coins inscribed his name as well as the name of Nur Jahan. On some other coins, his figure was inscribed with a cup of wine in hand. The system, however, remained the same. Shah Jahan also continued the same system. Aurangzeb increased the value of the rupee but it was a minor change. No change was brought about by the Later Mughuls in the currency system.
Law and Justice:
Though the Mughul emperors regarded dispensation of justice as their foremost duty, their judicial system was the weakest. The emperor was the highest judicial authority in the empire and used to dispense justice in the open court on the evening of every Friday. Original cases were put up in the court of the emperor but appeal could also be made from the lower courts.
All Mughul emperors tried to be just but except Akbar all were biased against the majority of his subjects i.e., the Hindus. Next to the emperor was the court of chief qazi in the capital. Qazis were appointed in all provincial capitals, cities and even parganas.
The court of qazis mostly decided cases concerning property and religious affairs. Sometimes, muftis (people who interpreted Islamic laws) were appointed to assist the qazis. Besides, subedars, faujdars, shiqdars, kotwals, etc. decided criminal cases and diwan, amalgujar, amil, etc. decided revenue cases.
Akbar had appointed Hindu-pandits as well to decide cases of the Hindus. The village-panchayats decided cases in their respective villages. Thus, there were different types of courts during the period of the rule of the Mughuls. But the area of their jurisdiction and their relations with each other were neither clear nor definite.
Except Akbar, all other Mughul emperors accepted the Islamic theory of justice in dispensing justice. Akbar alone tried that while deciding the cases of the Hindus their traditions should also be cared for. The basis of interpreting Islamic laws was the Koran. But as there could be difference of opinion regarding its interpretations, it did not provide a sound base for dispensation of justice.
Besides, no attempt was made for codification of even Islamic laws. Only Aurangzeb attempted it and got compiled Islamic laws in a treatise called Fatwa-i-Alamgiri. This judicial system which was primarily based on Islamic laws, certainly, could not be fair to non-Muslim subjects of the Mughuls.
The theory of punishment of the Mughuls was severe. Generally the principle which was followed was ‘tooth for tooth’ and ‘an eye for an eye.’ Death penalty, mutilation of limbs, flogging, confiscation of property, fines, etc. were usual punishments awarded to guilty ones.
An Estimate of the Mughul Administration:
The Mughul administration suffered from several defects. Yet, it has been regarded fairly successful. The credit of organising this system goes to Akbar. He has been regarded great not only because of his conquests, statesmanship and tolerant religious policy but also because he provided his empire an efficient administration.
He accepted many good things of other rulers prior to him but also carried on certain innovations in administration. While his practice of keeping the huliya of soldiers and that of branding horses and elephants were not novelties, his mansabdari system was certainly a much reformed system of the decimal systems practised by some other rulers prior to him.
The same way, the revenue administration of Sher Shah provided him a sound base for his system but, his Dahsala system was certainly a much improved system than the revenue system of Sher Shah. Akbar, thus, brought about improvement in every part of administration or added novelties to it. He also succeeded in bringing about success in every part of it.
Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb were benefited by the success of Akbar. Jahangir though did not bring about any change in the administrative system, yet, succeeded in maintaining it as he had inherited it from his father. During the reigns of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, some defects crept up in the system but the main structure remained the same.
The system cracked down during the rule of the Later Mughuls and the result was nearly anarchy in the eighteenth century. Yet, the Mughul administration succeeded in providing peace, security and prosperity to Indian people for a long time and provided a good foundation for the British administration also.