Everything About Mansabdari System in Mughal Empire

Image Courtesy: Raj RAS

Who was Mansabdars?

Officers in Mughal administration were called Mansabdars and nobles who joined Mughal service were enrolled as mansabdars. The term mansabdar refers to an individual who holds a mansab (rank).

All civil and military posts were filled up by the mansabdars. The transfer from one branch of the administration (civil) to another (military) were liable for them as they needed to be flexible enough to accept.

How were Mansabdars recruited?

People of all races and religions were enrolled by the Mughals into government jobs. A person wishing to join the royal service had to petition through a tajwiz which was a petition presented to the emperor by a noble, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar.

The applicant would be granted a mansab(rank) if they would be suitable enough. Princes and Rajput rulers who accepted the suzerainty of the emperor were given higher mansabs.

What does the term ‘Mansab’ denote?

The rank (position) of a Mughal military officer is denoted by the term 'Mansab.' Higher the Mansab, higher the salary, status, and position of the officer. In practice there were only around 33 mansabs though in administrative records there were 66 grades of mansabdars.

Sub-divisions of each Mansab (Rank):

The salary of a Mansabdar was based on his Zat which fixed the rank in the army. The ‘Sawar’ referred to cavalry men Mansabdar had to maintain. Mansabdar also had to keep horses ready.

For example, a mansabdar of 4000 Zat and 3000 Sawar would be in lower position than a mansabdar with 5000 Zat and 2000 Sawar.

However, there were exceptions to this rule particularly when the mansabdar was serving in a difficult terrain.

Military responsibilities of Mansabdars:

A specified number of cavalrymen was maintained by the mansabdars. They also required to maintain a specified number of horses.

Their cavalrymen needed to be brought out for review and registered. The mansabdar had also got their horses branded.

Hierarchy within the Mansabdars:

Amir: Those mansabdars having rank 1000 or below were called Amir.

Great Amir: Above 1,000 ranked mansabdars were called Amir-al Kabir (Great Amir).

Amir of Amirs: Some great Amirs having rank above 5,000 were also given the title of Amir-al Umara (Amir of Amirs).

Salary of Mansabdars:

The Mansabdars were paid a good amount of money according to their ranks.There were two types of mansabdars, first type was Naqdi, they were paid in cash. On the other hand there was Jagirdars who were paid through lend(Jagir).

No mansabdar could hold on to the said Jagir for a long term as they were liable for transfer. So it is to be remembered that it is not land that was assigned but only the right to collect revenue or income from the piece of land.

Accumulating salaries and wealth were not supposed to happen with mansabdars. All his jagirs and wealth was confiscated after the death of a mansabdar.

As a result, Mansabdars had no option but to spoil their earning as they were used to spend lavishly.

Who introduced Mansabdari in India?

There is a view that the Mansabdar institution came to India with Babur which is appeared to be extremely in Central Asia. However, during Babur’s time, the term Wajahdar was used instead of the term of Mansabdar.

It was under the regime of Akbar when 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. They themselves served in another part of the empire while using servants to collect revenues from their jagirs.

Mansabdari (Jagirdari) vs Iqtadari:

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

In Jagirdari, the whole land belonged to the Emperor. While in contrary Iqtadari system was in force where the whole land of the Empire was divided into two parts – one which belonged to Iqtadars and the other which belonged to the emperor.

Jagirdar had law and order responsibility in addition to the revenue collection. While Iqtadar was the officer in charge of the revenue collection and distribution. Most of the Muqti stayed in their Iqta, unlike Jagirdars.

Initially, just like ‘Jagir’, ‘Iqta’ was also a revenue-yielding piece of land which was assigned in lieu of salary.

However, Iqtadari system became hereditary in its later days whereas the Mansabdari system was never hereditary.

The number of Mansabdars during Mughal Rule:

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

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

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

The fall of Mansabdari System:

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

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

However, there was a shortage of jagirs in the later stage. Also the size of the jagirs started to shrink. The revenue collected by Mansabdars for the government was not enough to pay the salary assigned to them during the Aurangzeb era.

Mansabdari System: Terms which you should understand:

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

Tajwiz: The emperor would be presented a petition by a noblemen, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar. This petition was known as Tajwiz.

Du-aspah and Sih-aspah: The Mansabdars were introduced to more added features by Jahangir. This is a system whereby the selected nobles without raising their Zat rank would be allowed to maintain a larger quota of troopers.

The system was popular as ‘du-aspah’ (a trooper with two horses) or ‘sih-aspah’ (a trooper with three horses) system. As understandable, this was related to the sawar rank.

Mansabdari System: Summary

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

The mansabdars were referred to as nobles as they acted as military commanders, high civil and military officers, and provincial governors.

The civil and military departments had no distinctions between them as officers from both departments held mansabs and were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration to another.

The number of horses and cavalrymen decided the rank of a Mansabdar.

Written by: Gourav Chowdhury

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