Mahalwari System – Impact, Features, Drawbacks of Mahalwari Settlement

By Balaji

Updated on: February 24th, 2023

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 systems.

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.

Table of content

  • 1. What is Mahalwari System? (more)
  • 2. Who introduced Mahalwari System? (more)
  • 3. Mahalwari Settlement – History (more)
  • 4. Features of the Mahalwari System (more)
  • 5. Drawbacks of the Mahalwari System (more)
  • 6. Importance of the Mahalwari System (more)
  • 7. Mahalwari System in Hindi (more)
  • 8. Mahalwari System’s Impact on Socio-Economic Condition of Peasants (more)
  • 9. Mahalwari System UPSC (more)
  • 10. Difference between Mahalwari System and Permanent Settlement (more)
  • 11. Difference between Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System (more)
  • 12. Ryotwari vs Mahalwari Settlement (more)
  • 13. Mahalwari System Questions (more)

What is Mahalwari System?

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

Who introduced Mahalwari System?

Holt Mackenzie introduced the Mahalwari System to colonized India in 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.

Holt Mackenzie was a British Colonial Administrator in India. He was influential in setting up India’s Mahalwari System of land revenue. He rose steadily during his tenure and retired to England in 1831.

Mahalwari Settlement – History

The British established control over India during the 1800s. The Land Revenue System was a prime income source for the British. Their main motive was to control land and the entire revenue system, strengthening their economic status in India.

The village head was responsible for all land surveys, records of land rights, settlement of land revenues, demand in the Mahals, etc. In the Mahalwari system, demand was fixed at 95% of the rental. However, the Mahalwari system failed as the state demand was enormous and rigid. The amount overdue by the cultivators was more than what they could afford.

Features of the Mahalwari System

Mahalwari System was one of the three fundamental land revenue systems in British India. It was a changed rendition of the Zamindari settlement, also known as the Permanent settlement. The key features of the Mahalwari System are facilitated below:

  • Under the Mahalwari System, the land was segmented into Mahals and accounted for one or 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 the Mahalwari System

Mahalwari System was the revised system of the earlier two systems and had the following drawbacks. These significant drawbacks lead Mahalwari System to its failure.

  • 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, the money leaders seized the land.
  • The Mahalwari System failed later due to its defective policies.

Importance of the Mahalwari System

Mahalwari System was one of the three land revenue systems introduced in colonized India. It was an improvised version of Permanent settlement. The village was converted into one large unit known as the ‘Mahal.’ Peasants were exploited a lot due to no fixed amount of revenue. Mahalwari System was the first in which land was treated as an asset. Due to the constant rise in revenue, peasants were forced to turn to moneylenders.

The Mahalwari System was essential in the land revenue system, leading to social unrest and discrimination. Food shortage and hunger were the results of the Mahalwari Settlement in India. Ryotwari System was based on the Mahalwari System framework, which was introduced after its failure. The only difference was that in the ryotwari system, there were no middlemen, as peasants owned the lands.

Mahalwari System in Hindi

महालवाड़ी व्यवस्था, ईस्ट इंडिया कंपनी द्वारा सन १८२२ में उत्तर प्रदेश, पंजाब, मध्य प्रदेश में लागू की गयी भू-राजस्व की प्रणाली थी। यह भू राजस्व भारत के 30% भूभाग पर लागू किया गया। इसके पहले कम्पनी बंगाल में स्थायी बन्दोबस्त (सन १७९३ ई में) तथा बम्बई, मद्रास आदि में रैयतवाड़ी (सन १८२० में ) लागू कर चुकी थी। गांव को महाल कहे जाने के कारण इस व्यवस्था का नाम महालवाड़ी व्यवस्था पड़ा इस व्यवस्था की अवधारणा सर्वप्रथम होल्ड मैकेन्जी ने 1819 ईसवी में दिया। 1822 के रेग्यूलेशन के अनुसार कुल भूभाग का 95% निश्चित किया गया था तथा इसे वसूलने के अत्यधिक कठोरता बनाई गई थी। अतः यह व्यवस्था असफल रही।

Check:UPSC syllabus in Hindi

Mahalwari System’s Impact on Socio-Economic Condition of Peasants

Near the end of the colonial period, the burden on the peasant for 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 laborers could serve as wages.
  • The upper cast had control of the land. The rich farmers could invest in seeds, fertilizers, and other farming resources. While the lower caste 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 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 simplify things, we have provided a direct link to download the above-mentioned notes on Mahalwari System for UPSC below.

Mahalwari System UPSC Notes

Difference between Mahalwari System and Permanent Settlement

Permanent Settlement, also known as Zamindari System, was introduced in 1793 by Lord Cornwallis. Zamindars acted as middlemen between peasants and British authorities for revenue collection. The revenue amount was fixed, and Zamindars and taluqdars owned the land.

Whereas in the Mahalwari System revenue amount was not fixed, and the revenue was collected by lambardar (village headmen). The main difference between mahalwari system and permanent settlement is the fixation of revenue collection as it was not fixed in mahalwari system and was revised periodically as per the worth of the land.

Difference between Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System

Mahalwari System and Ryotwari System are both types of Land Revenue System. The main goal of both the revenue system was to exploit peasants, but they varied based on ownership and areas it was applicable. Check out the difference between the mahalwari system and the ryotwari system in the table facilitated below:

Ryotwari vs Mahalwari Settlement

Mahalwari System Ryotwari System
The land revenue was collected by village lambardar (headman) on behalf of the whole village. The land revenue was paid by peasants directly to the state.
Land was owned by Village Lambardar Land was owned by the Peasants
Revenue was revised on a regular period of time. Revenue was revised on a regular period of time.
Introduced by Holt Mackenzie in 1822 Introduced by Thomas Munro in 1820
The Mahalwari System was first started in the North-West Frontier, Agra, Central Province, Gangetic Valley, Punjab, etc. Ryotwari System was first started in Madras, Bombay, Assam, and Coorg provinces

Mahalwari System Questions

Here are some sample questions from the Mahalwari System in both Prelims and Mains of UPSC exam.

UPSC Prelims: With reference to Mahalwari System, consider the following statements.

  1. Peasants were directly responsible for the payment of land revenue. Zamindars were not involved.
  2. The peasants might sell or mortgage their land at any time.
  3. 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 Answer: 3, Zamindar was a revenue-collecting intermediary between peasants and the government.

UPSC Prelims: Mahalwari System was first introduced in? Choose the correct option

  1. Assam
  2. Parts of Central India
  3. Gangetic Valley
  4. North West Frontier Provinces (NWFP)

A – II and III, B- II, III and IV, C- III and IV, D- I, II, III, and IV

Answer: Option 2

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

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