Mughal Administration System in India

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Mughal Administration System in India

The Mughals ruled in India for around 200 years. The Mughal Emperors built an empire and laid the foundations of administration system upon which the British built further.

The Mughal period is reckoned with reference to the invasion and conquest of India by Babur in 1526 till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, even though the last of the Mughals was Bahadur Shah who was emperor during the early British years in India. He ended up as an exile in Burma.

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. Mughal Emperors maintained contact with all parts of his kingdom, through systematic touring.

However, the 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.

Akbar 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 Mughal Administration System. The magic of his magnetic leadership and imagination motivated his lieutenants to give of their best. He chose men of learning and culture as his diwans but changed them often to ensure that no one became too powerful.

Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari System was yet another achievement of Mughal Administration System. During the rule of the Mughals, every activity of the state administration was centred round the emperor. The Mughals developed ‘nobility’ (mansabdars) to look after administration, but took steps to ensure that there was always an element of insecurity in their position, so that the monarch could control them. The emperor alone could confer, decrease, increase and resume the mansabs. Mansab was the grant to every official, of the rights to enjoy a jagir. The term jagir meant revenue assignments (not land itself) for services rendered (instead of a cash salary). The jagirdari system did not affect the land rights of the cultivators or the hereditary rights of the middlemen or zamindars. The mansabdar collected rev­enue from his jagir through zamindars who collected dues from the cultivators. Frequent transfers of jagirs were made. When a mansabdar died, his entire personal property was taken over by the State and after deducting what he owed to the State, the balance would be returned to his heirs. There could be no hereditary claim over the mansabs. Nobles received salaries in cash also. The nobles had to place their entire time and service at the disposal of the emperor.

Graded from a commander of 10 to a commander of 5000, the mansabdars were the emperor’s eyes and ears. They were called upon to render duties of various kinds both in the military and civil spheres, and were required to serve in any part of the empire. They held all the important posts of the State and played a significant role in the economic, social and cultural life around them. Akbar tried to blend all the heterogeneous (ethnic, national and religious) groups of the nobility into a harmonious whole, so that he did not have to depend on any one group. By making each noble feel the burden of gratitude to, and dependence on, the emperor for his career, the monarch tried to ensure loyalty. The nobles lived a life of grandeur and luxury at the expense of those below them. The system tended to promote selfishness, intrigue, corruption and exploitation of the cultivators by the mansabdars.

Territorial Divisions

Akbar divided the empire into convenient units for collection of revenue, and for the administration of justice. The Mughal Revenue Administration is also praiseworthy. There were 12 provinces or subahs (subsequently raised to 18 and finally to 20 in Aurangzeb’s time). These were further divided into sarkars (districts) and parganas (sub-districts). Several villages made up a pargana.


The provincial government was designed on the lines of the central government. The subahdar was the governor of the province appointed by the emperor for overall supervision in all matters: executive, defense, law and order, criminal justice and economic improvement. Along with the imperial farman appointing him, were a set of instructions detailing his responsibilities, methods of work and code of conduct. A manual of instructions was prepared in 1715 called Hidayat-ul-qawaid. This contained guidelines for the subahdar, on ap­pointment of mediators and the giving of gifts and so on.

To assist the subahdar, a provincial diwan was appointed to look after revenue and civil justice, and supervision of the sadr. He reported to the Centre twice a month with a cash balance statement.

He was the recruiting authority for officers responsible for collection of revenue. He was head of the sarkar level administration and lower revenue officers. He was the revenue and financial man at the provincial level, functionally equal to the subahdar but lower in status.

Other officials appointed at the provincial level to help the governor were the sadr (in charge of religious interests), the qazi (on the judicial side), mirbakshi (to act as link between the Centre and the province in regard to army matters), kotwal (for municipal matters), mir bahr (admiral) and waqia nawis (recorder). The subahdar had a peshkar (something like a personal assistant), an office superintendent (daroga), a head clerk who was to inspect lower-level officers (munsiff) and a treasurer (tavildar).


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 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.

Village Administration:

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 controlled the village pat wan who 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.

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