Mansabdari System – Notes & Key Points | Medieval Indian history

mansabdariMansabdari System was the Bureaucracy system of Mughal India, Like today, we have IAS, IPS, IFS to maintain the order in various District, state, Mughals had Mansabdars to maintain the Region allotted to them by the Mughal Ruler
What does the term ‘Mansab’ mean?

Those nobles who joined Mughal service were enrolled as mansabdars. so we can say that Mansabdar = Mughal Bureaucrat

IAS Officer of the Modern Era vs Mansabdar of the Mughal Era

You know about the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers. They are in charge of revenue administration at the district level.

You can compare the collectors of the modern era with the Mansabdars of the Mughal era.

Both IAS officers and Mansabdars are government officials – part of administration  However, the functions of Mansabdars not only include civil work but also military work.

Who was Mansabdars?
  • Mansabdars were officers in Mughal administration.
  • Those nobles who joined Mughal service were enrolled as mansabdars.
  • The term mansabdar refers to an individual who holds a mansab (rank).
  • The Mansabdars were appointed to all civil and military posts.
  • They were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration (civil) to another (military).
How were Mansabdars recruited?
  • 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 (application) presented by a nobleman to the emperor, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar.
  • If the applicant was found suitable a mansab (rank) was granted to him.
  • Higher mansabs were given to princes and Rajput rulers who accepted the suzerainty of the emperor.
What does the term ‘Mansab’ denote?
  • The term ‘Mansab’ denotes the rank (position) of a Mughal military officer.
  • Higher the Mansab, higher the salary, status, and position of the officer.
  • Though in administrative records there were 66 grades of mansabdars, but in practice there were only around 33 mansabs.
Mansab: Understand the Zat and Sawar

Initially, a single number represented the rank, salary, and the size of the contingent of the mansabdar.

However later, the rank of mansabdar came to be denoted by two numbers – Zat and Sawar.


Sub-divisions of each Mansab (Rank)

Zat vs Sawar
  • Zat — Denote the rank in the administration
  • Zat — Denote the Salary of the Mansabdar
  • Sawar — Denote the number of cavalry men Mansabdar had to maintain.

Note: Even if the Sawar rank was higher, the mansabdar’s position in the official hierarchy would not be affected. It will be decided only by the Zat rank.

For example, a mansabdar with 5000 Zat and 2000 Sawar was higher in rank than a Mansabdar of 4000 Zat and 3000 Sawar.
However, there were exceptions to this rule particularly when the mansabdar was serving in a difficult terrain.

Military responsibilities of Mansabdars
  • The Mansabdar was required to maintain a specified number of cavalrymen.
  • The Mansabdar was required to maintain a specified number of horses.
  • The mansabdar had to bring his cavalrymen for review and get them registered.
  • The mansabdar had also get their horses branded.
Hierarchy within the Mansabdars
  • Amir: Those mansabdars whose rank was 1000 or below were called Amir.
  • Great Amir: Those mansabdars above 1,000 were called Amir-al Kabir (Great Amir).
  • Amir of Amirs: Some great Amirs whose ranks were above 5,000 were also given the title of Amir-al Umara (Amir of Amirs).
Salary of Mansabdars: In cash and land

The Mansabdars were paid according to their ranks. They were paid a good amount of money.

  • Those Mansabdars, who were paid in cash, were called Naqdi.
  • Those Mansabdars who were paid through land (Jagirs) were called Jagirdars.

  • It is to be remembered that it is not land that was assigned but only the right to collect revenue or income from the piece of land.

No mansabdar could hold on to the said Jagir for a long term as they were liable for transfer. Mansabdars were not supposed to accumulate their salaries and wealth. After the death of a mansabdar, all his jagirs and wealth was confiscated (taken back). As a result, Mansabders used to spend lavishly. In short, they had no option but to spoil their earning.

The Mansabdars’ (Jagirdar’s) lands were not hereditary!

The Mansab’s post or honour or dignity was not hereditary and it lapsed after the death or dismissal of the Mansabdar. Mansabdar’s property returned to the state after his demise.

Who introduced Mansabdari in India?

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.

It was under the regime of Akbar when Mansabdari system became the basis of military and civil administration.

Did Mansabdars reside in their Jagirs (land allotted to them)?

All mansabdars did not reside in their own jagirs but used servants to collect revenues there while they themselves served in another part of the empire.


Note: The Delhi Sultanate (The Khilji and the Tughlaq monarchs) too appointed military commanders as governers of territories. These lands were called the Iqta and the landholders were called Iqtadars or the muqti. Most of the Muqti stayed in their Iqta unlike Jagirdars.

Iqtadari vs Mansabdari (Jagirdari)
  • The Iqtadari system was used by the Delhi Sultans, while Mansabdari was used by Mughal rulers.
  • While Iqtedari system was in force, the whole land of the Empire was divided into two parts – one which belonged to Iqtedars and the other which belonged to the emperor. But in Jagirdari, the whole land belonged to the Emperor.
  • Itqadar was the officer in charge of the revenue collection and distribution. Jagirdar had law and order responsibility in addition to the revenue collection.
  • Most of the Muqti stayed in their Iqta, unlike Jagirdars.
  • Initially, ‘Iqta’ was a revenue-yielding piece of land which was assigned in lieu of salary – just like ‘Jagir’. However, Iqtadari system became hereditary in its later days whereas the Mansabdari system was never hereditary.
  • Mansabdar was a royal officer in charge of revenue collection and law and order duties – who was paid salary either as cash or as land. He used to deduct his own cut before sending the remaining share to the emperor.
The number of Mansabdars during Mugal Rule

Akbar maintained 1,803 Mansabdars, by the end of the reign of Aurangzeb, their number rose to 14,499.

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.

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.

The fall of Manasabdari System

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.

These jagirs, in the initial days, were carefully assessed so that their revenues were roughly equal to the salary of the mansabdar.

However, in the later stage, there was a shortage of jagirs. Also the size of the jagirs started to shrink.

In the Aurengazeb era, the revenue collected by Mansabdars for the government was not enough to pay the salary assigned to them.

Mansabdari System: Terms which you should understand
  1. Mashrut = conditional rank = which means an increase of sawar rank for a short period.
  2. Tajwiz: Tajwiz was a petition presented by a nobleman to the emperor, recommending that an applicant be recruited as mansabdar.
  3. Du-aspah and Sih-aspah: These were features added later to the Mansabdari system by Jahangir. This is a system whereby the selected nobles could be allowed to maintain a larger quota of troopers, without raising their Zat rank. The system was popular as ‘du-aspah’ (a trooper with two horses) or ‘sih-aspah’ (a trooper with three horses) system. As you can understand, this was related to the sawar rank.
Mansabdari System: Summary

Mansab system was a grading system used by the Mughal rulers to fix the rank and salary of a Mansabdar, who were basically royal officers.

The mansabdars were nobles who acted as military commanders, high civil and military officers, and provincial governors.

There was no distinction between the civil and military departments. Both civil and military officers held mansabs and were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration to another.

The rank of a Mansabdar was determined by the number of horses and cavalrymen he maintained.

About Rohit Chaudhary

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