Administration under the Mughals
The Mughals ruled in India for around 200 years, built a vast empire and laid the foundations of administration system upon which the British built further.
Sher Shah, who ruled for a short while from 1540 to 1545, is remembered for providing “an administrative blueprint from which Akbar and his ministers later profited”.
Akbar repaired, improved, organized and perfected every single department of the state with admirable skill and expedition. He bequeathed to his successors the legacy of a well-organized administrative structure and traditions of a just and tolerant policy as the essential conditions of a durable and good government.
Policy-making was retained with the Mughal emperor. Provincial governments were allowed initiative and decision-making in matters of local interest. The Mughal Emperors maintained contact with all parts of their kingdom through systematic touring.
The Central Government
The Mughal Emperor who can lay claim to having attempted and established systems in the executive, judicial and religious spheres, in a conscious and deliberate manner, is Akbar. The long duration of his reign, from 1556 to 1605, contributed to achieving this.
The Emperor had a majestic and imperial approach in all that he did. He was strict yet generous. He was well-informed on almost every aspect of thel Administration System. He chose men of learning and culture as his diwans but changed them often to ensure that no one became too powerful.
The diwan, often called the Wazir (the chief minister), was mainly concerned with revenue and finance, but as he had a say in all matters where any expenditure was involved, the work of other departments also came under his control. All the imperial orders were first recorded in his office before being issued, and the provincial governors, district faujdars, and leaders of expeditions came to him for instructions before assuming their duties.
All the earning departments were under his direct control, and could spend only what was allotted to them by the diwan. The diwan, who can perhaps be called the finance minister, had under him two principal officers, called diwan-i-tan and diwan-i-khalsa, who were in charge of salaries and state lands respectively.
The most famous diwan under Akbar was Raja Todar Mal, who for a time acted as the chief minister of the realm. It is interesting that all the assistants of the diwan-i-khalsa under Shah Jahan’s reign were Hindus, and five out of the seven under the diwan-i-tan belonged to the same community.
The Mir Bakhshi performed those duties which had been the responsibility of the ariz-i-mamalik during the earlier period.
Owing to the organization of the civil services on military lines, his power extended far beyond the war office, and some foreign travelers called him the lieutenant-general or the captain-general of the realm.
The main departure from the sultanate was in respect to work relating to state karkhanas, stores, ordinance, and communications, now so important that the dignitary dealing with it, called the mir saman, ranked as an important minister often senior in rank to the sadr. The sadr was, as in the earlier period, director of the religious matters, charities, and endowments.
Wazir and Wakil
Occasionally a higher dignitary, superior to the wazir and other ministers was also appointed. He was called the vakil, and functioned like the naib (deputy) of the sultanate period.
This appointment, as under the sultanate, was sporadic, depending on the wish of the monarch and the requirements of the situation.
During the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan, a period of ninety-seven years (1560–1657), there were ten vakils whose terms of service totaled about thirty-nine years. Normally the vakil was less effective than the wazir, who controlled the purse, but theoretically the vakil was the king’s deputy and even the wazir referred to him whatever was “beyond his own ability.”
Abul Fazl calls him “the emperor’s lieutenant in all matters connected with the realm and the household,” adding that “although the financial offices are not under his immediate superintendence, yet he receives the returns from heads of all financial offices and wisely keeps abstracts of their return.”
He was the official in charge of the imperial household stores, the workshops for producing goods for the palaces, and the arsenals.
The Sadr-us Sudur had his chief duty to protect the laws of the shariat. He was also connected with the distribution of charities – both cash (wazifa) and land grants. Initially as the head of the judicial department, he supervised the appointment of qazis and muftis.
Before Shah Jahan’s reign, the posts of the Chief Qazi and Sadr-us Sudur were combined and the same person held the charge of both the departments. However, under Aurangzeb, the posts got separated. This led to sharp curtailment of the sadr’s power.
Now in the capacity of sadr, he supervised assignment of allowances and looked after the charitable grants. He also looked into whether the grants were given to the right persons and utilized properly. He scrutinized applications for all such grants, both fresh and renewals, and presented before the Emperor for sanction. Alms were also distributed through him.
The provincial administration was greatly improved under Akbar, and in this respect the Mughal period differs substantially from the sultanate. The boundaries of the provincial units were more definitely fixed; and a uniform administrative pattern, with minor modifications to suit local conditions, was developed for all parts of the empire.
Further, drawing upon the experiments introduced by Sher Shah, the provincial administration was strengthened, and each province was provided with a set of officials representing all branches of state activity. By the introduction of a cadre of mansabdars, the control over the provinces was made more effective.
The principal officer was the governor, called Sipah Salar under Akbar and Nazim under his successors, but popularly known as subahdar and later only as subah. Next to him in official rank, but not in any way under his control, was the provincial diwan, who was in independent charge of the revenues of the province. He was usually a mansabdar of much lower status than the governor, but he was independent of the governor’s control and was directly under the imperial diwan.
The next provincial functionary was the bakhshi. He performed a number of duties, including, occasionally, the functions of the provincial newswriter. The diwan-i-buyutat was the provincial representative of the khan-i-saman, and looked after roads and government buildings, supervised imperial stores, and ran state workshops. The sadr and the qazi were entrusted with religious, educational, and judicial duties.
The faujdar, who was the administrative head of the sarkar (district), was appointed by the emperor but was under the supervision and guidance of the governor. The kotwals were not provincial officers, but were appointed by the central government in the provincial capitals and other important cities.
At the next level of administration, that is the sarkar, there was an executive head called faujdar to look after the defense of the territory and to help other officers to collect taxes.
The amil was expected by the government to establish direct relations with the agriculturists and eliminate chances of oppression by the officials. He was also entrusted with the task of encouraging cultivation and improving the quality of produce. He had to prepare monthly reports of daily receipts and remit money to the central treasury as soon as a stipulated amount was collected. He had to report on market prices, rate of tenements, the jagirdars, and the condition of the people. He was in charge of supervision of the work of lower revenue officials.
The sadr and the qazi administered the funds for religious purposes. While the qazi had judicial duties, including solemnizing the marriage of Muslims, the sadr looked after the collection of other taxes and administration of public mosques.
The kotwal had magisterial duties of punishing miscreants and redressing grievances, and was also responsible for policing the town. He had to keep himself informed about the people entering and leaving the town, and had to prevent hoarding. He also had to ensure observance of rules in social matters like sati, age of boys’ circumcision, infanticide and the slaughter of animals.
The next level of administration was the pargana, headed by a person called the shiqdar, who combined in him the duties of revenue, justice and magistracy. He supervised the amil and qanungo who attended to the survey, assessment and collection of revenue.
Several villages made up a pargana. The village during the Mughal Peirod was recognized as a self-governing unit with rights and responsibilities. It had its council that is the panchayat which settled disputes, performed relief work and collected revenue.
The village headman maintained records relating to holdings, types of crops and so on. Those who did ‘watch and ward’ duties for the village were also under the control of the village headman.
The weakest part of Mughal administration was the military organization, precisely the area where one might have expected the most efficient centralized control.
Instead of a large standing army, the Emperors depended upon four different classes of troops for the maintenance of order and the defense of the empire’s borders.
There were, first of all, the soldiers supplied by the mansabdars; the number a mansabdar was expected to provide upon the demand of the emperor were specified in his warrant of appointment or were indicated by his rank. Another class of troops under the command of a mansabdar was known as dakhili, whose services were paid for by the state.
A third class were the ahadis, or “gentlemen troopers,” drawing higher pay than those in the ordinary service; according to the Ain-i-Akbari, they might have received as much as five hundred rupees a month, in contrast to the seven or eight rupees of the regular troopers.
Finally, the chiefs who had been permitted to retain a degree of autonomy were required to provide contingents under their own command.
The artillery was paid wholly out of the imperial treasury. Recognizing its importance, Akbar had given it his special attention, but his efforts to secure from the Portuguese some of their better pieces were unsuccessful. European gunners were employed later on in appreciable numbers, but no permanent improvement was effected.
During the eighteenth century the Mughal army shared in the decline of the other imperial institutions, and little advantage was taken of technical improvements in weaponry. When Nadir Shah invaded India in 1739 the jazair or swivel guns employed by his troops were superior to anything the Mughals could bring against them.
There are no existing statistical records of the strength of the Mughal army. The best estimate is probably concluded from evidence from the reign of Shah Jahan that in 1648 the army consisted of 440,000 infantry, musketeers, and artillery men, and 185,000 cavalry commanded by princes and nobles.
The army could still count on the personal valor of the commander of an individual contingent, but pitted against disciplined European soldiers, or hardy, resourceful Maratha horsemen, it did not prove effective.
The loose organization of the army, the paucity of officers, the failure to build up a well-knit and active pyramidical organization, reduced the efficiency of the army. There were no uniforms, and discipline was poor, particularly in lower ranks.
The cavalry was the only branch which was considered respectable and fit for a gentleman to join, while the ordinary “Indian foot soldier was little more than a night watchman and guardian over baggage.” The Mughal practiceof taking along a great number of camp followers, including occasionally [] the families of the soldiers and the royal harem, made the army a very cumbersome, slow-moving organization.
Descendants of a people who knew nothing of the sea, the Mughals had little success in creating a navy. They had no large fighting vessels, and the ships that they maintained were primarily for the furtherance of the commercial operations of the state.
After the conquest of Gujarat, the Mughal army reached the shores of the Indian Ocean, but Akbar failed to build a navy. He tacitly acquiesced in the Portuguese supremacy by making no effort to challenge their authority, and by taking out licenses from them for the ships which he sent to the Red Sea.
To deal with the pirates in the Bay of Bengal, and also for the purpose of communication over the vast river system of Bengal, a river flotilla was maintained at Dacca. Under Akbar it consisted of 768 small armed vessels and boats, estimated to cost about 29,000 rupees a month. It was not effective against the Magh and Portuguese pirates, but it was reorganized under the efficient administration of Mir Jumla and Shayista Khan, and in 1664 the latter was able to inflict a decisive blow against the pirates.
A few years later Aurangzeb had an opportunity to make at least tentative arrangements for the defense of the seas along the west coast of India. A coastal chieftain known as the Sidi of Janjira had provided protection for the ships and ports of the sultan of Bijapur. When the Sidi’s territories were attacked by Shivaji, however, the sultan did not come to his assistance, and in 1670 the Sidi offered his services to Aurangzeb.
Since Aurangzeb needed all the help he could get in the Deccan, he took the Sidi into his service, placing him under the Mughal governor of Surat, and subsidizing his fleet. The Sidi was assisted by another fleet based on Surat, and in every way treated as an official of the empire, but the Mughal command of the sea was too slight to make supervision of so independent a force possible.
The Jagir system during Mughal Empire was considered as an institution that was mainly used to reserve the surplus from the class of peasants. Further, it was also used in order to distribute the income resources among the dominating classes.
The jagir system during Mughal rule became all-pervasive and was the institution of month-scales or ratios. This seems to have arisen out of the discrepancy between the official assessment of jagir (jama) and the actual revenue collection (basil).
A Jagir is basically a small territory which a ruler grants to an army chieftain as recognition of his military service. When a man obtained a jagir whose jama (sum of saved money) equalled his annual salary-claim (talab) on paper, he might in actual fact find it yielding him only one-half or one-fourth of his claim. In such cases, the jagir was supposedly known as shash maha (six monthly) or sib maha (three monthly) respectively.
During the Mughal rule, the entire territory was largely divided into khalisa and jagir. The revenue earned from khalisa went to the royal treasury and the revenue earned from the jagirs was assigned to jagirdars as per their ranks in place of their salary in cash or naqad. Some of them were given both cash as well as jagir. During the later years of Shah Jahan the actual basil of the Mughal Deccan amounted to approximately one quarter of the jama. Conditions however appeared to have been better in northern parts of India.
One of the main features of the Jagir system during the Mughal era was the changing of jagir holders for administrative reasons from one to another. In the case of the basil realised from his jagir by an assignee, the proportion it bore to the jama would, of course, only correspond with the exact proportion of month-scale. Jagirdars were permitted to collect only authorised revenue as per the royal regulations.