Mansabdari System - A Brief Overview

The Mansabdari system was a grading system used by the Mughal rulers to fix the rank and salary of a Mansabdar. They were nobles who occupied various positions in the administration of the Mughal Empire. They were appointed and dismissed by the Mughal Emperor.

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Mansabdari System – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Who was Mansabdars?

  1. Mansabdars were officers in Mughal administration.
  2. Those nobles who joined Mughal service were enrolled as mansabdars.
  3. The term mansabdar refers to an individual who holds a mansab (rank).
  4. The Mansabdars were appointed to all civil and military posts.
  5. They were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration (civil) to another (military).

Mansabdari System – Origins

  1. The Mansabdar appears to be a Central Asian institution. There is a view that this institution came to India with Babur. However, during Babur’s time, instead of the term of Mansabdar, the term Wajahdar was used.
  2. Mansabdari was the administrative system implemented by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571. Akbar institutionalized and reformed it on the basis of military and civil administration. 
  3. The officers who joined the Mughal Administration were known as Mansabdars. Mansabdars could be transferred from one section of the administration to another section, for example from military to civil or vice versa. 

Mughal Rule – Number of Mansabdars

  1. During Akbar’s rule, there were approximately 1,800 Mansabdars
  2. During the rule of Aurangazeb, there were approximately 14,500 Mansabdars.

Mansabdars – Recruitment

The power to recruit and promote Mansabdars was in the hands of the Mughal Emperor. Usually, Mansabdars were also recruited on the basis of suggestions given by ‘Mirbakshi.

  • The Mughals enrolled people of all races and religions into government jobs.
  • A person wishing to join the royal service had to petition through a noble, who presented a tajwiz to the emperor.
  • Tajwiz was a petition presented by a nobleman to the emperor, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar.

Mansabdar – Ranking/Hierarchy of Administrative Officers

The word ‘Mansab’ originates from the Arabic Language. It means position or rank. The hierarchy of the Mansabdars is mentioned below.

  1. Amir of Amirs – These Mansabdars were given the title of Amir-al-Umara, translated as Amir of Amirs. They were Mansabdaris whose rank was above 5000.
  2. Amir-al-Kabir (Great Amir) – These were Mansabdars whose ranks were above 1000.
  3. Amir – These were administrative officials whose rank was 1000 or below.

The below table provides the details on the Highest Ranked Mansab and Lowest Ranked Mansab during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s rule.

Highest Ranked Mansab 10,000
Lowest Ranked Mansab 10

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Mansabdari System – Structure

There was a dual representation of Mansab:

  1. Zat – This indicated the Rank in the administration as well as the salary of the Mansabdar.
  2. Sawar – This represented the Cavalry Rank. It denotes the number of horses and cavalrymen maintained by Sawar. 

The position of Mansabdar in the hierarchy depended on the Zat. On the basis of Zat and Sawar, Mansabdars were classified as:

  1. Third Class Mansabdar – Mansabdars were put in this classification when the number of sawar was less than half the number of Zat.
  2. Second Class Mansabdar – Under this classification, the number of Sawar is equal to half the number of Zat.
  3. First Class Mansabdar – Mansabdars who were classified as First Class had an equal number of Sawar and Zat.

Mansabdars – Salary (Cash & Land)

  1. The salary of Mansabdars was commensurate with their ranks.
  2. Mansabdars who received payments through the land was known as Jagirdars. Basically, Jagirdars were given the right to collect revenue from a piece of land.
  3. Mansabdars who received payments through cash was known as Naqdi.
  4. The post of Mansabdar was not hereditary.

Mansabdars – Military Responsibilities

  1. The Mansabdars had to bring their cavalrymen for review and get them registered.
  2. The Mansabdars were responsible for maintaining a specified number of horses and cavalrymen.

Fall of Mansabdari System

  1. Akbar maintained 1,803 Mansabdars, by the end of the reign of Aurangzeb, their number rose to 14,499.
  2. In Akbar’s reign, there were 29 mansabdars with a rank of 5,000 zat; by Aurangzeb’s reign the number of mansabdars with a zat of 5000 had increased to 79.
  3. The increase of the number of Mansabdars during the reign of Aurangzeb led to the Jagirdari and agrarian crisis which led to the collapse of the Mansabdari system.
  4. In Akbar’s reign, the system worked near perfect. The revenue collected by the Mansabdar from his jagirs (and transferred to the Emperor) was enough to pay his assigned salary as well.
  5. These jagirs, in the initial days, were carefully assessed so that their revenues were roughly equal to the salary of the mansabdar.
  6. However, in the later stage, there was a shortage of jagirs. Also, the size of the jagirs started to shrink.
  7. In the Aurengazeb era, the revenue collected by Mansabdars for the government was not enough to pay the salary assigned to them, thus leading to an end of this system.

Mansabdari System – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions about Mansabdari System

What is the Mansabdari System?

The Mansabdari system was the administrative system introduced by Akbar in Mughal Empire during 1571. The word ‘Mansab’ is of Arabic origin meaning rank or position. Hence, Mansabdari was a system of ranking the government officials and determined their civil & military duties, along with their renumerations.

Under whose reign did the Mansabdari system collapse?

The increase of the number of Mansabdars during the reign of Aurangzeb led to the Jagirdari and agrarian crisis which led to the collapse of the Mansabdari system.

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