Mahalwari System - Mahalwari Settlement in India by Holt Mackenzie | UPSC Notes

By Durga Prashanna Mishra|Updated : November 24th, 2022

Mahalwari System was one of India's three major land tenure systems before Independence. The other two systems were the Zamindari System and Ryotwari System. The difference between these three systems was only the land revenue and mode of payment. The Mahalwari settlement included features of both the Zamindari and the Ryotwari system. 

Holt Mackenzie introduced the Mahalwari system in 1822, which was reviewed under Lord William Bentinck in 1833. It was first introduced in Agra, North-West Frontier, Punjab, Central Province and Gangetic Valley. 

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What is the Mahalwari System?

The Mahalwari System was introduced by the Englishman Holt Mackenzie in the year 1822 in the North-Western Provinces of Bengal. Later it was popularized by Lord William Bentick in Agra and Awadg and, with time, extended to Central Province, Agra, Punjab, Gangetic Valley, North-West Frontier, etc of British India. Mahalwari System was a little modified version of the Zamindari System. It had provisions of both the Ryotwari System and the Zamindari System. Under this system, the revenue was collected from farmers by the village leader on the behalf of the whole village.

Mahalwari System UPSC PDF

Under the Mahalwari settlement, the entire land was transformed into a single, larger unit called a "Mahal, which often consisted of a few villages. The revenue was to be adjusted occasionally rather than being set in stone. Eventually, the Mahalwari System failed. 

Features of Mahalwari System

  • Under the Mahalwari System, the land was segmented into Mahals and accounted for one of more villages.
  • The revenue was fixed for the Mahal as per the crop production assessment. So the Mahalwari system was periodically revised.
  • Every individual farmer had their share in that fixed revenue, and the revenue collection was operated by the village leader or village head under the Mahalwari system.
  • The state had a 66% share of the rental value, and the Mahalwari settlement was done for a period of 30 years. After the implementation of this system, the income of the government increased.

Drawbacks of Mahalwari System

Mahalwari System was the revised system of the earlier two systems and had the following drawbacks.

  • According to the Mahalwari system, the farmers had to pay revenue even during drought.
  • The survey was based on faulty assumptions that opened a space for corruption and manipulations.
  • At times the company spent more on the collection than the collected revenue.
  • If the farmers failed to pay revenue, then the money leaders seized the land.
  • Mahalwari System failed later due to its incomplete policies.

Mahalwari System’s Impact on the Socio-Economic Condition of Peasant

Near the end of the colonial period, the burden on the peasant of interest payments was high, and the rent and debt were around 14,200 million due to the flawed Mahalwari system.

  • The zamindars gave loans to the laborers or farmers and asked for free labor in return. Due to this, the farmers or the laborers could as for wages.
  • The upper cast had control of the land. The rich farmers could invest in seeds, fertilizers, and other farming resources. While the lower cast people suffered a lot as they didn’t get agricultural support.
  • Due to all these reasons, agriculture started to show signs of decline during the last declaration of colonialism.
  • Most of the farmers were hardly left with money to invest again in agriculture. Most of their income went into paying taxes.

Mahalwari System UPSC

Mahalwari System is an important topic of modern history, and questions from this topic are asked in both UPSC Prelims and Mains. Candidates must focus on Mahalwari System UPSC to fetch optimum marks from the Modern History section. Candidates can cover the topic from UPSC Books or NCERT Books for UPSC. After completing the topic, applicants can also solve UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to revise and analyze. To make things easier we have provided a direct link to download the above-mentioned notes on Mahalwari System for UPSC below.

>> Download Mahalwari System UPSC Notes PDF

Mahalwari Mahalwari UPSC Questions

Here are some sample questions from Mahalwari System in both Prelims and Mains exams.

With reference to Mahalwari System, consider the following statements.

  • Peasants were directly responsible for the payment of land revenue. Zamindars were not involved.
  • The peasant might sell or mortgage their land at any time.
  • The system was established in the United Provinces' western region, Punjab, and parts of the Central Provinces.

A- 1 and 2

B- 1 and 3

C- 2 and 3

D- All

Correct - C , Zamindar was a revenue-collecting intermediary between peasants and the government.

Mains- What were the Land revenue settlements by the Britishers in India? Discuss its impact on Indian Peasants


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FAQ's on Mahalwari System

  • The Mahalwari System was introduced by the Englishman Holt Mackenzie in the year 1822. This system was introduced in the North-west Provinces. Later this system was popularized by Lord William Bentick in Agra and Awadh and reached Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.

  • The aim of the Mahalwari System was to collect the land revenue from the farmers. The village leader used to collect the land revenue on the behalf of the whole village. In this system, the entire village was converted into a big unit. However, the revenue system under this system was revised periodically.

  • In the permanent settlement system the revenue collection was fixed but in the case of the Mahalwari system, the revenue was not fixed permanently. The land revenue was revised periodically.

  • Under Mahalwari System, the collectors went to measured lands, fields, and each village, and recorded their customs. Estimated revenue was added up and known as revenue that a village had to pay. However, the revenue was not fixed and it was collected by the village leader so the role of the zamindar was removed.

  • Under the Ryotwari system, the land revenue was paid directly by the farmers to the state but in the case of the Mahalwari System, the revenue was collected from farmers by the village leader on the behalf of the whole village.

  • There are some drawbacks of the Mahalwari settlement such as the farmers being exploited, and they were forced to pay even in drought. If the farmers were unable to pay the money then their lands were seized by the moneylender.

  • The stable revenue dream of the government was not fulfilled. Only some big families could take the rights of the land and not all the villagers and eventually the Mahalwari System failed.

  • The fee for the land in the Mahalwari settlement was too high and the Government accepted tax in cash only. Due to this, the villagers were uncertain as the changes are too high and they couldn’t afford to pay.

  • Under this Mahalwari System, the land was segmented into different Mahal and each Mahal was comprised of one or more villages. The Mahal was accounted for in the payment of revenues. Here the village leader was responsible for collecting taxes.

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