Mansabdari System – Introduction, Significance, Mansabdari System of Akbar

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Mansabdari System was a Mughal grading system used to fix a Mansabdar’s rank and salary. Akbar introduced it to administer the machinery and revenue system in India. However, the Mansabdari system had to face an end during Aurangzeb’s rule. Nobles occupied different positions in the Mansabdari System’s hierarchy under the Mughal Empire’s administration.

In the Mansabdari System of Akbar, officers of different ranks were appointed and dismissed by the Mughal ruler, and their salaries were commensurate based on their respective ranks. Below you will learn more about Akbar’s Mansabdari System, its origin, the ranking of individuals, and the reasons for the fall of the system.

What was Mansabdari System?

Mansabdari System was an administrative system in the Mughal empire, introduced by Akbar in 1571 to decide the rank and salary of the Mansabdars (nobles) serving the Mughals. The Mansabdari System of Akbar was based on the military and civil administration of the state.

Mansabdari System PDF

Mansabdars were the nobles and Rajput rulers appointed by the Mughal emperors for administrative and military posts. The Rajput rulers and princes who chose partial Mughal control were appointed to higher ranks. The mansabdars had the right to hold a revenue assignment or jagir for their services.

Mansabdari System of Akbar

The origins of the Mansabdari System date back to when Changez Khan organised his army based on units. He had 10,000 highest and 10 lower divisions, and all these units’ commanders were called Khans. But, the Mansabdari System in North India was introduced by Babur.

However, Akbar was the first Mughal ruler to institutionalize the Mansabdari System in the civil administration and military set up in 1571. He introduced the concept of Zat and Sawar. Instead of using the term Mansabdar, he used the word Wajahdar which could be transferred between civil and military sections per the Emperor’s orders. During Akbar’s rule, there were 1800 Mansabdars which was tremendously increased to 14500 during Aurangzeb’s rule.

Who were Mansabdars?

Mansabdars were the Rajput rulers and nobles appointed by the Mughal emperors to military and civil posts like provincial governors, military and civil officers, military commanders, etc. The term Mansab has an Arabic origin which means rank, status, or position.

  • Every officer under this system was given a mansab. The mansabdars were the criteria to determine the salary and allowances for that particular officer.
  • Though mansabdars were recruited and promoted by the Mughal Emperors, Akbar appointed the Mansabdars based on Mirbakshi’s suggestion.
  • There was no discrimination based on religion or race for their enrollment in government jobs.
  • The individual wishing to join the Mansabdar system had to file a petition through a noble.
  • The particular noble, then, presents Emperor with a tajwid.
  • According to the records, there were 66 mansabdars’ grades during Akbar’s rule. Perhaps only 33 mansabs out of them were working in practice.

Mansabdari Under Mughals

The Masabdari system, under the Mughal emperors, was a hierarchical system based on the rank or grade of the individual, called Mansabdar that was presented by Akbar.

Furthermore, the Mansabdari system was an important feature under the reign of Shah Jahan and other Mughal emperors. Shah Jahan continued the policies of his father, Jahangir, and grandfather, Akbar, by relying heavily on the Mansabdari system for the administration and military of the empire. However, the Mansabdari system faced challenges during the reign of Aurangzeb.

Structure of Mansabdar System

Akbar introduced two terms during the later years of his region. These were Zat and Sawar.

  • Sawar – Sawar represents the Cavalry Rank. It symbolizes the horse and cavalrymen maintained by the mansabdar, i.e., the number of cavalrymen with a mansabdar.
  • Zat – Zat was a numerical value that described the rank and salary of the Mansabdar in the administrative system. The higher the value of Zat, the higher the rank.

Based on the value of Zat and Sawar, there were three categories of Mansabdars-

  • First Class Mansabdar: The first class mansabdars had an equal number of Zat and Sawar.
  • Second Class Mansabdar: In this class, the number of Zat is double the number of Sawar.
  • Third Class Mansabdar: When the number of Sawar is less than half of Zat, the officer was considered third class mansabdar.

Mansab – Ranking in Mansabdari System

During Akbar’s reign, there were 10 lowest-ranked Mansab and 10,000 highest-ranked Mansab. The ranking/ hierarchy of the Administrative officers in the Mansabdari System based on their mansab is as follows-

  • Amir: The officials with a rank of 1000 or below were called Amir.
  • Great Amir (Amir-al-Kabir): The officials with a rank between 1000 and 5000.
  • Amir of Amirs: The title of Amir-al-Umara was given to the mansabdars having a rank above 5000.

Mansabdars – Salary (Cash & Land)

Their respective rank determined Mansabdar’s salary in the Mansabdari System. Jagirdars receive the payments through the land as they can collect land revenue. On the other hand, Naqdi receives compensation through cash. The mansabdars post was not subjected to any hereditary rule.

  • The higher the Mansab, the higher the salary of the Mansabdar. For instance, a rank of 5,000 was equivalent to a salary of 30,000 rupees per month. Whereas the rank of 3,000 meant a salary of 17,000 rupees. 
  • Besides, it is worth noting that the salary of Mansabdars varied over time and depended on factors such as the economic conditions of the empire and the policies of the ruling emperor.
  • Overall, the Mansabdari system was designed to provide Mansabdars with a stable and comfortable income and promotions based on merit.

Mansabdars – Military Responsibilities

The military responsibilities of Mansabdars are as follows-

  • The Mansabdars brought cavalrymen for their review and registration.
  • The maintenance of the specific number of Cavalrymen and horses was the responsibility of Mansabdars.

Mansabdari and Jagirdari System

Jagirdari System was introduced by Akbar. It was an integral part of the Mansabdari system. Under the Mughal rule, the areas assigned for collecting the revenue of a particular territory were called Jagir, while the term Jagirdars was generally used for its holders. The main features of the Jagirdari System were as follows-

  • The jagirs were of four types. These were Altamgha, Watan, Mashrut, and Tankha.
  • The Tankha were transferable every 3 to 4 years. However, the Watan Jagirs were hereditary and non-transferable.
  • The Mansabdars were responsible for collecting the land revenue as the assignment of jagirs from the jagirdars.
  • The Rajput officials were given more extensive residence rights within the Rajputana territory.
  • The Rajput official receives Watan (Watan is a Mughal term meaning patrimonial land) as jagirs.

Significance of Mansabdari System

The major objective of the Mansabdari system was to distribute salaries in an equal and just way. The significance of the Mansabdari system is as follows-

  • Qualification Based on Ranks: The officials were selected for different posts based on their capabilities without discrimination. The emperor chose the nobles and Rajput kings for the posts based on their skills.
  • Good on Revolts: There was a system in which the mansabdars contacted the rulers before distributing the salary. They do not rebel against the king like jagirdars.
  • No Corruption: There was no means of corruption for the mansabadars.
  • Convenience in Administration: With the introduction of the Mansabdari System, a set network helped ease administration.

Merits and Demerits of Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari System was a military and administrative system introduced by Emperor Akbar during the Mughal Empire in India.

Merits of Mansabdari System

The Mansabdari System helped Akbar organize the army efficiently. It ensured that the army was well-trained and well-equipped with weapons and resources.

  • The system ensured that the promotion of soldiers was based on merit and loyalty rather than birth or religion.
  • This allowed talented individuals from different backgrounds to rise in the ranks within the Mughal administration.

Demerits of Mansabdari System

The system was prone to corruption, as the mansabdars were allowed to collect revenue from the regions under their control.

  • This led to the exploitation of the common people and the misuse of resources.
  • The Mansabdari System relied heavily on the military for revenue collection and maintenance of law and order, leading to an over-dependence on the army.

Fall of Mansabdari System

There were 29 mansabdars with the rank of Amir of Amirs during Akbar’s rule, and this number got a tremendous boost during Aurangazeb’s rule. There were 79 such mansabdars. However, this increase in number created a fire for the crisis between Jagirdari and the agrarian crisis. This crisis became a significant reason for the fall of the Mansabdari System.

It was during Akbar’s rule that Mansabdari System worked perfectly. The revenues collected from the Jagirs could fill the Emperor’s treasures and the salary of mansabdars. In the later stage, there was a shortage of Jagirs. As a result, their size in the system shrank during the Aurangazeb’s reign. Thus, resulting in the falling of the system.

Difference between Mansabdari and Jagirdari System

The Mansabdari system was basically a system of Mughals that was based on a hierarchical order differentiating an individual as per his rank or Mansab.

Mansabdari System Jagirdari System
It was a ranking system during Akbar’s rule based on each of the Mansabs(ranks). This system was a part of the Mansabdari system based on the amount of land one owned as a revenue collection.
Mansabdars (ones with the ranks) were rewarded in the form of both land and money. Jagirdars were those who were only rewarded in the form of land.
The money they collected as revenue was called Naqdi. The land collected as revenue under the Jagirdari system was known as Jagir.

Relationship Between Mansabdar and Emperor

The relationship between Mansabdar and the Emperor was direct. The Mansabdari system was introduced by Emperor Akbar during the Mughal reign. The Mansabdars were people who held various ranks in the kingdom. The Mansabdari system was invented to fairly decide the salaries and ranks of the Mansabdars. They were both designated and released by the Emperor.

Emperor Akbar was the one who transformed the already existing Mansabdari System by merging the civil and military administration. The Mansabdars could be transferred from the civil administration section to the military and vice-versa.

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