Mansabdari System

Mansabdari was a system first introduced by Akbar for military administration with the objective of sustaining his army. It was a system originally borrowed from Central Asia but in the Indian context Akbar included Indian Muslims, Rajputs and Afghans as well. The system served as the basis for maintaining Mughal military and civil administration. In this system every man in the Mughal State who was employed above the position of a common soldier (or messenger) became a mansab.

A Mansab belonged to both civil and military administration and could be transferred from one department to another. In other words it is a position, rank or status within the army.

The mansabdari system was not hereditary. The Mughal officers, whether Hindus or Muslims were granted territorial commands in return for their military service. Each of them had to bring some number of men at arms, horses or elephants to the army and were rated as per the numbers they brought with then.

The highest mansab that could be held by a subject, not of the royal house, was that of commander of 7000 men. In the later years though, we find instances of promotion to 8000 or even 9000. The mansab of a prince ranged from 7000 up to 50000, and even higher. In the Ain-i-Akbari, sixty-six grades are stated, beginning at commanders of 10000, and ending at those set over 10 men.

In addition to the simple division by mansab alone, there was also a grouping of officers into three classes. They are:

  1. from 20 to 400 were "officers with rank" (mansabdar)
  2. from 500 to 2500 were Nobles (Amir, pl. Umara)
  3. from 3000 to 7000 were Great Nobles (Amir-i-Azam)

All mansabdars were kept on either of two lists:

  1. Hazir-i-rikab, present at Court
  2. Tainat, on duty elsewhere

Pay (tankhwah) might be either given in cash (naqd); or an assignment of the land revenue (jagir) of a certain number of villages or of a sub-division. Fines were of various types, such as for

  • deficiency in horses (tafawat-i-asp)
  • deficiency in equipment (tafawat-i-silah)
  • deficiency of troopers (tafawat-i-tabinan)

Other incidents of military service that affected pay and allowances were:

  • Absence without leave (ghair-haziri)
  • Illness (bimari)
  • Leave & furlough (rukhsat)
  • Desertion (farari)
  • Discharge or resignation (bartarfi)
  • Pension
  • Death (fauti)

The Mughals also devised method of honouring with distinctions. They were:

  • Titles
  • Robes of Honour
  • Gifts of Money or other articles
  • Kettledrums
  • Standards & Ensigns