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Mansabdari System

The Word “Mansab” is an Arabic word which means rank, position, status or an office and hence, Mansabdar an officer or holder of the rank. Mansab was not a term confined solely to military service but every man in state employed above the position of a common soldiers or messenger whatever the nature of his job civil or military received a Mansab. The mansabdars were generally administrative officers engaged in civil work but each of them had to furnish the number of troopers of which he held the Mansab. The Mansabdari implies that civil officers were bound to render military services when they were called upon to do so. Akbar  was  the  architect  of  the Mansabdari  system,  an  institution  of  political  and  economic significance  that  plays  a  critical role  in  the  consolidation  of  the  Mughal  Empire. The lowest rank (Mansab) during the reign of Akbar being a Command of ten (10) (Dahibashi) the highest Mansab being a command of 10,000 (ten Thousand) (Dahazari). At first there was only one rank i,e mansab. But later on, the ranks were divided into two –Zat and Sawar.


Zat and Sawar Rank:

By 1591AD the member of the mansab came to be adopted in the form of pair. The first value of the pair was the Zat and the second value of the pair was Sawar. Zat indicated the personal pay and status of noble, and the Sawar ranked the actual number of horsemen he was expected to entertain. According to Abul Fazl, the mansabdars were grouped into three categories:

  1. a) If the Zat and Sawar mansab were equal then he belonged to the first category of mansabdar.
  2. b) If the Sawar mansab was half of Zat mansab then the mansabdar belonged to the second
  3. c) If the Sawar mansab was less than half of the Zat mansab then it belonged to the third

Only under special circumstances the number of Sawar mansab would be more than the Zat mansab for example during the war or foreign aggression. This additional increasement of Sawar was known as Mashrut mansab and after the fulfillment of the necessity the system was abolished. Mansabdars were appointed only by the ruler. However, only at the recommendation of Mir-Bakshi the mansabdar were appointed. Each Mansabdar was given dual responsibility of both civil and military obligations. Akbar started the rule of Dahbisti.

Changes made by Jahangir: He introduced Dwa-aspa-sih-aspa system in Mansabdari system. The advantage of this was he was facilitated with keeping a greater number of soldiers without bearing the financial burden of this.

Changes made by Shah Jahan: During the time of Shah Jahan another reform took place in Mansabdari system. The number of Mansabdars increased but there was shortage of land because of Jagirdari crisis. During Shah Jahan’s reign an order was passed to reduce the number of sawar under a particular Mansabdar. Now mansabdars were to be paid on a monthly scale. If a mansabdar did not get the total salary of 12 months the he could reduce the number of sawars under them. He was now not in position to pay the total salary of Mansabdar. If a mansabdar was not able to get the salary of six months then he was allowed to bring a huge reduction in the number of sawars but his rank was not reduced and classification remains the same. This was the period which witnessed jagirdari crisis.

Author Name- Bhawana Singh

Department- History

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