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Early Modern India

The Mughals: Addendum

by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha, 1 June 2009

Mughal administration

The emperor was the supreme head of state, and below him was his group of ministers. In Akbar's time there were mainly three ministers: the vazir, vakil or diwan, the prime minister; mir bakshi, in charge of army recruitment and the assignment of duties to the army's officers; and sadr us sadr, who looked after the state's religious matters and its charity.

The qazi, or law minister, was the same as the sadr us sadr during Akbar's reign. The muftis interpreted Islamic laws, while the qazi passed judgement. The muhtasib, who had a prominent role during Aurangzeb's reign, saw to it that Islamic laws were being strictly adhered to. He was assisted by provincial muhtasibs.

The khan i saman was the personal secretary to the emperor, looking after his personal necessities. He was also in charge of the industries run by the state. The mir i aatish or daroga e topkhana was in charge of the artillery. The daroga i dak chauki was the head of the intelligence department. He kept the emperor informed about the happenings in the country and any affairs of state. The state was divided into provinces or subas.

The nizam or subedar was in charge of the province. Under him were the kotwal or head policeman, and provincial qazis, the diwaan or financial officer and/or revenue collector, the bakshi, sadr, and the waqaya navis or head of the local spy department. The provinces were further divided into districts or sarkars.

The faujdar was the chief military officer for the district. He assisted the amal guzar or finance officer in collecting local taxes. The bitikchi was in charge of maintaining the land records. The khazaandar was the treasurer. There were also the local kotwals and the qazis. Each sarkar was sub-divided into parganas.

The shiqdar was the military and administrative head of the pargana. The amil was the finance and revenue officer for the pargana. The fotadar was treasurer for the pargana. The qanungo kept the village land records. Karkuns were the clerks in every department. Each pargana had a village, with its own panchayat or elected group of representatives who looked after village needs such as laws, security, education and sanitation. The village had a local policeman or chaukidar.

The military administration was in charge of the mansabdars or ranked nobles who had their own sawars (cavalry) and zats (foot soldiers). The dakhili soldiers were put in charge of the mansabdars, while the ahadi soldiers owed direct allegiance to the emperor.

The cavalry comprised of the bargirs who were provided arms and horses by the state, whereas the shiledars bought their own arms and horses.

The infantry was primarily divided into bandookchis, the riflemen, and the shamshirbaz, or swordsmen. Each wielded swords, spears or bow and arrows.

There were also a number of war elephants serving the Mughal army.

The officers enjoying the mansab (ranked level of nobility) from 500 to 2500 were called amirs and those above 2500 were called amir e azam.

To counter threats from the sea, the Mughals also maintained a navy.

Revenue administration

One unit of land was called a bigha, ie. 60 x 60 square metres. The owners of the land were called the jagirdars. The patwaris or muqaddams collected the local revenue from the individual landowners.


Main Sources

Prasad, L - Studies in Indian History, Cosmos Bookhive, Gurgaon, 2000

Spear, Percival - The History of India, Penguin, 1990



Text copyright © Abhijit Rajadhyaksha. An original feature for the History Files.