Mansabdari System: Origin, Features, Structure and More

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Mansabdari system

The Mansabdari system is also known as the “rank assignment system,” was a unique administrative and military system. The system of Mansabdari was introduced by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571 AD in the Indian Subcontinent. Mansabdars were the nobles who served in the Mughal administration in various roles. It played a crucial role in maintaining control over a vast and diverse empire. This article delves into the origin, features, structure, and reason for the fall of the Mansabdari system.

Origin of the Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari system has its roots in Central Asian traditions of administration and military organization. Emperor Akbar recognized the need for an efficient administrative system and borrowed ideas from the practices of Mongols, Turks, and Persians. He modified these systems according to the requirements of his empire, giving birth to the Mansabdari system. Under this system, the officers were assigned the mansabs (ranks) which were based on their administrative capabilities and military skills and abilities.

Also Read – Jagirdari System: Origin, Features, Impact and More

What was the Mansab?

The word “Mansab” is an Arabic word that means “rank” or “position”. The officers were allotted mansabs (rank) and thus were called Mansabdars. The rank determined the amount of their pay and the number of troops they were to administer under them.

Mansabdars under Akbar, Image Source – Her Zindagi

Who were Mansabdars?

The term Mansabdars comes from a Persian word meaning” Holder of a Mansab” Mansabdars were the main point of contact between the government and the people. They were responsible for maintaining both civil and military administration. Instead of salaries, they were paid as land grants known as Jagirs.

Recruitment of Mansabdars

The recruitment of mansabdars was all determined by the sole authority of the Emperor.

  • The Emperor held the power to appoint and dismiss a Mansabdar. They were also promoted or demoted on the basis of their performance. 
  • Mughals recruited them on the advice and recommendation of Mirbakshi, nobles and provincial governors.
  • There was no barrier to societal background in the recruitment process. However, they mostly belonged to the military, nobility and the merchant class. 
  • Various factors came into force when it came to their appointment. Some of them are – 
  1. Loyalty towards the empire.
  2. Administrative experience and
  3. Individual military skills

Also Read – What was thе Pеrmanеnt Sеttlеmеnt or Zamindari Systеm?

Features of the Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari system had several distinct features that set it apart from traditional administrative systems. These features were instrumental in ensuring stability and loyalty within the empire. Some of the key features of the Mansabdari system are:

  1. Rank-based Assignment: The Mansabdari system was based on the concept of ranks or “mansabs.” Each individual was assigned a specific rank known as a mansab, which determined their status, salary, and military responsibilities.
  2. Dual Role: One of the unique aspects of the Mansabdari system was its dual role. Mansabdars, the holders of rank, served both as military commanders and administrators. They were responsible for maintaining law and order as well as leading military campaigns.
  3. Zat and Sawar: The system utilized a classification based on two important factors: “zat” and “sawar.” 

Zat referred to the personal status or social standing of an individual

Sawar denoted the number of cavalrymen under their command.

4. Centralized Authority: The Mansabdari system helped centralize the authority of the Mughal Emperor. The emperor had complete control over the appointment, promotion, and dismissal of mansabdars, ensuring their loyalty and obedience.

5. Hierarchy: The Mansabdari system consisted of a hierarchical structure with various levels of mansabs. The highest ranks were reserved for nobles and trusted allies of the emperor, while lower ranks were assigned to individuals based on their abilities and loyalty.

6. Salaries: A Mansabdar was usually granted Jagirs(plots of land), but sometimes they were also paid in cash. 

In the Mansabdari System, there were 33 categories of Mansabdars. The lowest rank of Mansabdar commanded ten soldiers while the highest rank mansabdar commanded ten thousand soldiers at once. The ranks also did not pass down to the families. In the cavalry of the Mughal Empire, there were sub-categories, the horses were divided into six categories and the elephants were divided into five. A special troop was also maintained by the Emperor known as Dakhili. Dakhili were not commanded by the Mansabdars and were also not paid directly by the states. 

Also Read – Mahalwari System of Land Revenue: History, Features, Impacts

Structure of the Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari system had a well-defined structure that allowed for efficient administration and military organization. The hierarchy of the system can be divided into different levels, each with its own distinct features. There was a dual representation of Mansab:

  • Zat indicated the rank and salary of Mansabdar
  • Sawar represented their cavalry rank and the number of horses and cavalrymen they maintained. 

A Mansabdar’s position in the hierarchy was determined by their Zat. Based on their Zat and Sawar, Mansabdars were grouped into three categories by Abul Fazl –

  • Those with less than half the number of Sawar as compared to their Zat were classified as third-class Mansabdars. 
  • Second-class Mansabdars had the same number of Sawar as half of their Zat.
  • First-class Mansabdars were those who had an equal number of Sawar and Zat.
  • Each mansabdar had both zats and sawars and was paid two rupees for each horse.
  • An additional allowance of a thousand rupees was granted if the rank handled more than five hundred Sawars.
  • In exceptional situations, a Mashrut mansab was recruited for wars but the position was temporary.
  • During the tenure of Akbar, a Dahbisti was established where each mansabdar received twenty horses for every ten sawars in the team. It helped in maintaining a strong cavalry position in the Mughal military.

Also Read – Ryotwari System: About India’s Agricultural Past

Fall of Mansabdari System

During Akbar’s reign, he maintained 1,803 Mansabdars which increased to 14,499 by the end of Aurangzeb’s reign. 

  • Additionally, the number of Mansabdars with a rank of 5,000 zat, increased from 29 to 79 during Aurangzeb’s reign. 
  • However, the increase in the number of Mansabdars led to a Jagirdari and agrarian crisis which caused the collapse of the Mansabdari system. 
  • The Mansabdari system worked nearly perfectly during Akbar’s reign as the revenue generated from the jagirs collected by the Mansabdar was enough to pay their assigned salary as well. 
  • These jagirs were analyzed properly so that their revenues were roughly equal to the salary of the Mansabdar. 
  • Unfortunately, in the later stage, there was a shortage of jagirs and the size of the jagirs started to shrink. 
  • As a result, the revenue collected by Mansabdars for the government was not enough to pay the salary assigned to them during Aurangzeb’s era, leading to the end of this system.
Credits – Pinterest

Mughal Emperor JahangirBabur
Shah JahanNavratnas of Akbar
HumayunInvasion of Nadir Shah

That’s all about the Mansabdari system! If you want to read more articles like this, you can get Study notes on the Modern History of India here. Also, you can visit our general knowledge page on Indian History!

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