Administration

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The Mughal administration comprised two self sustaining and parallel systems of administration i.e. central and provincial administration. Though the Mughal emperors kept the ultimate authority in their hands, the actual business of state was entrusted to various officers who were directly accountable to the emperor. They were consulted individually and sometimes collectively on all-important civil and military matters. Deliberations and discussions on political matters were free but the final decision always rested with the emperor. The Wakil was the head of entire administration. In reality it was a high honor without any actual addition to the authority. Biram Khan was the wakil-i-mutlaq of Akbar’s early reign (for five years) who took all the control of civil and military administration. Naturally with the assumption of over-all authority by the emperor himself the officer of the wakil declined in importance. The administration at the central level was divided into four main departments. These related to (i) the imperial household, (ii) finance, (iii) the recruitment of organization of the services and (iv) religious affairs and education.

Wakil was the nominal head of the household but the actual work was performed by mir saman. He was in charge of all government property and responsible for the arrangements of festive occasions and weddings of the members of royal family in addition to the general supervision of buyutat or karkahnah in addition to payment of salaries to the officials.

The department of finance was headed by diwan. He was helped by four officers of high status including the naib wazir and the heads of the three important divisions into which the department of finance was divided. These officers were (i) diwan-i-khalsah who dealt with land that had not been assigned as jagirs, and took care of the officials’ salaries (ii) diwan-i-Tan who dealt with the assignment of jagirs, and (iii) mustaufi, the auditor general. All the Assistants in Shah Jahan’s reign were Hindus, and five out of the seven heads of Diwan-i-Tan belonged to the same community. Raja Raghunath Rai who had been diwan-i-khalsah for some years became Diwan in the 31st year of Shah Jahan’s reign and maintained this position until his death, during Aurangzeb’s reign.

Administration of the Services: The bakhshi corresponded to the ariz-i-mamalik of the Sultans in the matter of the recruitment and maintenance of the armed forces as well as payment of their salaries. It was bakhshi’s duty to see capable men for appointment of mansabdars, because of the mansabdari system he owed more responsibilities than those of ariz. He was kept duly informed about whatever happened in the empire.

Religious affairs and Education: The religious department was under sadr-us-sudur or the chief sadr. He was responsible for the maintenance of mosques and the stipends and grants to the scholars and educational institutions. He also looked after public charities and granted help to the poor and the needy. His department made it possible for the learned men to devote themselves to the pursuit of knowledge. Education was free for the students and they didn’t need to buy the books. The state did not exercise particular control over education.

Justice, Hisbah and Police: The chief sadr was also qazi-ul-quzat or the chief judge of the empire. Throughout the Muslim period the organization of justice followed the classical division of siyasah, mazalim and qaza. The muhtasib who was subordinate to the qazi ensured decency, prevented public breaches of law and also removed causes of public nuisance. The mir adl ensured that service rules were duly obeyed and the qazi’s orders properly executed. The kotwals were appointed by the central government in the provincial capitals and important cities to perform a number of executive and ministerial duties.

Provincial and Local Administration: The provincial government was a replica of the central government. Every central department had its counterpart in the province. The provincial departments were directly controlled by the corresponding departments at the centre. Provincial Government was under a governor who was called sipahsalar or commander of the armed forces in the beginning but as he was also in charge of the civil affairs. Later on Sipahsalar came to be called as subadar or nazim. The provinces were divided into sarkars, which were under faujdars. Every sarkar was divided into parganahs which were centers of rural administration headed by amil. His staff consisted of bitikchi (chief accountant and registrar), fotahdar or khazanadar (treasury officer) and amin (assessment officer)

Finance and Agrarian Administration: As the Mughals had to maintain a large army and administer the vast territories, they primarily taxed on land. All agricultural landowners had to pay a proportion of its produce. This proportion varied from area to area but in the greater part of the empire it was 1/3 to ½ depending on local tradition. In certain areas it was even 1/7. If a land was ushri, i.e., it belonged to the Muslims of earliest age, only 1/10th of the produce had to be paid. The peasant was the rightful owner of his holdings. The state helped him in times of difficulties with loans and remission of revenue. Revenue was also remitted in case of calamity and disasters. The peasant was able to have direct dealings with the government.

Mansabdari System: Akbar organized the government servants into a monolithic system called mansabdari system. In the beginning the theoretical divisions were 66, beginning with a command of 10 to command of 10,000. Later much greater ranks were given to the princes. For example, Shah Jahan was given the rank of 30,000 by Jahangir. During Sher Shah Suri’s reign and thereafter, Mansabdars were liable to be transferred anywhere by the central government. Mansabdars were highly paid and their monthly salaries ranged from Rs.12,000 to Rs.30,000. It only denoted a rank which was zat rank. All appointments were made strictly on merit and promotions were also on merit. Consideration was shown to the sons of mansabdars but they had to start form the lowest rung of the ladder. Some times the sons of good families who lacked capability were not given any mansab. Some of those were appointed as ahadis meaning gentlemen troopers. The mansabdari system was so constituted as to prevent the growth of a hereditary feudal class of European type with vested proprietary rights in lands assigned to them. The mansabdars with ample means patronized arts and crafts, learning and education and set standard of good taste and polite manners.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006