Write a Note on Mughal Mansabdari System

Write a Note on Mughal Mansabdari System

The mansabdari system, introduced by Akbar, is a standout feature of the Mughal administration. Under this system, every officer of the Mughal empire was given a rank or ‘mansab’. The lowest rank in the system was 10 whereas the highest was 5000 for the nobles. It was a grading system used by the Mughals to decide rank, salary and military responsibilities. The ranks were divided into two, namely zat and sawar. Zat fixed the personal status of a person and the salary due to him. The sawar rank implied the number of cavalrymen or sawar a man Sardar was required to maintain. For every ten cavalrymen, the man Sardar had to maintain twenty horses.

The mansabdars got their salaries in terms of revenue assignments called jagirs. It was not a resident assignment and the revenue was often collected by the mansabdar’s servants on his behalf while he himself served in some other part of the country.

Mansabdari System – Origins

Mansabdari was the administrative system implemented by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571. Akbar institutionalized and reformed it on the basis of military and civil administration. 

The officers who joined the Mughal Administration were known as Mansabdars. Mansabdars could be transferred from one section of the administration to another section, for example from military to civil or vice versa. 

Mughal Rule – Number of Mansabdars

  • During Akbar’s rule, there were approximately 1,800 Mansabdars.
  • During the rule of Aurangazeb, there were approximately 14,500 Mansabdars.

Mansabdars – Recruitment

The power to recruit and promote Mansabdars was in the hands of the Mughal Emperor. Usually, Mansabdars were also recruited on the basis of suggestions given by ‘Mirbakshi.

Mansabdar – Ranking/Hierarchy of Administrative Officers

The word ‘Mansab’ originates from the Arabic Language. It means position or rank. The hierarchy of the Mansabdars is mentioned below.

Amir of Amirs – These Mansabdars were given the title of Amir-al-Umara, translated as Amir of Amirs. They were Mansabdaris whose rank was above 5000.

Amir-al-Kabir (Great Amir) – These were Mansabdars whose ranks were above 1000.

Amir – These were administrative officials whose rank was 1000 or below.

The below table provides the details on the Highest Ranked Mansab and Lowest Ranked Mansab during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s rule.

Mansabdari System – Structure

There was a dual representation of Mansab:

Zat – This indicated the Rank in the administration as well as the salary of the Mansabdar.

Sawar – This represented the Cavalry Rank. It denotes the number of horses and cavalrymen maintained by Sawar. 

The position of Mansabdar in the hierarchy depended on the Zat. On the basis of Zat and Sawar, Mansabdars were classified as:

Third Class Mansabdar – Mansabdars were put in this classification when the number of sawar was less than half the number of Zat.

Second Class Mansabdar – Under this classification, the number of Sawar is equal to half the number of Zat.

First Class Mansabdar – Mansabdars who were classified as First Class had an equal number of Sawar and Zat.

Mansabdars – Salary (Cash & Land)

The salary of Mansabdars was commensurate with their ranks.

Mansabdars who received payments through the land was known as Jagirdars. Basically, Jagirdars were given the right to collect revenue from a piece of land.

Mansabdars who received payments through cash was known as Naqdi.

The post of Mansabdar was not hereditary.

Mansabdars – Military Responsibilities

The Mansabdars had to bring their cavalrymen for review and get them registered.

The Mansabdars were responsible for maintaining a specified number of horses and cavalrymen.

Who Introduced Mansabdari in India?

The Mansabdar appears to be a Central Asian institution. There is a view that this institution came to India with Babur. However, during Babur’s time, instead of the term of Mansabdar, the term Wajahdar was used.

It was under the regime of Akbar when the Mansabdari system became the basis of military and civil administration.

Did Mansabdars reside in their Jagirs (land allotted to them)?

All mansabdars did not reside in their own jagirs but used servants to collect revenues there while they themselves served in another part of the empire.

Note: The Delhi Sultanate (The Khalji and the Tughlaq monarchs) too appointed military commanders as governers of territories. These land were called the Iqta and the landholders were called Iqtadars or the muqti. Most of the Muqti stayed in their Iqta unlike Jagirdars.

Iqtadari vs Mansabdari (Jagirdari)

The Iqtadari system was used by the Delhi Sultans, while Mansabdari was used by Mughal rulers.

While Iqtedari system was in force, the whole land of the Empire was divided into two parts – one which belonged to Iqtedars and the other which belonged to the emperor. But in Jagirdari, the whole land belonged to the Emperor.

Itqadar was the officer in charge of the revenue collection and distribution. Jagirdar had law and order responsibility in addition to the revenue collection.

Most of the Muqti stayed in their Iqta, unlike Jagirdars.

Initially, ‘Iqta’ was a revenue-yielding piece of land which was assigned in lieu of salary – just like ‘Jagir’. However, Iqtadari system became hereditary in its later days whereas the Mansabdari system was never hereditary.

Mansabdar was a royal officer in charge of revenue collection and law and order duties – who was paid salary either as cash or as land. He used to deduct his own cut before sending the remaining share to the emperor.

The number of Mansabdars during Mugal Rule

Akbar maintained 1,803 Mansabdars, by the end of the reign of Aurangzeb, their number rose to 14,499.

In Akbar’s reign, there were 29 mansabdars with a rank of 5,000 zat; by Aurangzeb’s reign the number of mansabdars with a zat of 5000 had increased to 79.

The increase of the number of Mansabdars during the reign of Aurangzeb led to the Jagirdari and agrarian crisis which led to the collapse of the Mansabdari system.

The fall of the Manasabdari System

In Akbar’s reign, the system worked near perfect. The revenue collected by the Mansabdar from his jagirs (and transferred to the Emperor) was enough to pay his assigned salary as well.

These jagirs, in the initial days, were carefully assessed so that their revenues were roughly equal to the salary of the mansabdar.

However, in the later stage, there was a shortage of jagirs. Also the size of the jagirs started to shrink.

In the Aurengazeb era, the revenue collected by Mansabdars for the government was not enough to pay the salary assigned to them.

Mansabdari System: Terms which you should understand

Mashrut = conditional rank = which means an increase of sawar rank for a short period.

Tajwiz: Tajwiz was a petition presented by a nobleman to the emperor, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar.

Du-aspah and Sih-aspah: These were features added later to the Mansabdari system by Jahangir. This is a system whereby the selected nobles could be allowed to maintain a larger quota of troopers, without raising their Zat rank. The system was popular as ‘du-aspah’ (a trooper with two horses) or ‘sih-aspah’ (a trooper with three horses) system. As you can understand, this was related to the sawar rank.

Mansabdari System: Summary

Mansab system was a grading system used by the Mughal rulers to fix the rank and salary of a Mansabdar, who were basically royal officers.

The mansabdari were nobles who acted as military commanders, high civil and military officers, and provincial governors.

There was no distinction between the civil and military departments. Both civil and military officers held man stabs and were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration to another.

The rank of a Mansabdar was determined by the number of horses and cavalrymen he maintained.

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