Mughal Government

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6 Mughal Mobility THE ORIGIN OF Mughal Nobility as an institution can be traced

fromthe organisation of Chingiz Khan. Prior to him the tribes

of the Mongols as a body exercised control over individual

members, but with the coming of Chingiz Khan to power only his personality was hallowed with divinity, but the power of the tribe was also transferred bodily to him. The yasayas (Decrees) of Chingiz Khan became the highest decrees of the land and were made binding on all. Chingiz Khan created and organised the nobilityin such a manner as to make them stand between himself on the one side and the masses on the other. On the person and property of the nobles thus created, the Control of the Great Khan (Chingiz Khan) was absolute and

unquestionable. The Decrees of the Great Khan forbade the nobles or their men to depart from the nomadic way of life, nd were required to have only tents as their habitations.

The nobles, therefore, could never become landed aristocracy,

they could extract tribute from their assigned territories and live upon them. These assignments too were never permanent 181


Mughal Government

and transfers from onc territory to another upto the highest thelife-time of the Great Khan and During rule. level was the after him the nobility was recruited sometime even for from the Mongol race, but gradually non-Mongol exclusively ranks of the nobility. When Amir the cnter elements began to man of the time)rose to poues (Great Sahab-i-Qiran Timur he retained the Great Khan'sTurke organisaempire that and created an modification with the tion of the nobility the nobility. ThusAmir Timur one included in the ranksof persons other than Mongols. Ry to the ranks of the nobility master of Kabul his nobility included time Babur became the Uzbeks, Iranis and even Afgans. As Turanis. Mirzas, Mongols, mother's side and of Timur his from Chingiz adescendant of the ideas of the tA combined Babur from his father's side, retained the Decrees of the Great to0 great conquerors. He mentions in his memoirs. He claimed Khan, which he often control over his nobles as much as exercised at Kabul-and Thus when Babur founded Khan. Chingiz any descendant of the institution him with brought he the Mughal rule in India, Chaghtais, and ieft the among developed of nobility as it had his successor Humayun. to legacy a as kingdom it along with the such a nobility with that assert to However, it is difficult loyalty to the Timurid of sense any had heterogeneous character some common tradition them with carried dynasty or that they credit of evolving a homo The purpose. or a sense of common multi-racial and religiously the of out geneous nobility heterogeneous elements goes to Akbar.generosity, high sense of and Akbar with his humanism with his unfailing coupled magnetism, purpose and personal the devotion and won gradually battle success in the field of definite tradition.

created a loyalty of the nobility, and various heterogencou: the together He aimed at welding that thË so whole, elements into an organised and harmoneous dependable instrumen and efficient variou nobility could become an the the that desired shouldb of the royal will. Akbar seems tohave nobility ethnic, national and religious groupS in the dependent on an so balanced that the king did not become freedom of action. one section and enjoyedthe maximum



To achieve these aims Akbar organised the Mansabdari em. The organisational and working aspects of the Mansystem. sabdari system we have already examined in the

the present chapter we will be mostly confined to the study of such aspccts as the formation of the nobility, the method through which they received their remuneration, the rules that governed the nobility (promotion and escheat etc.)

chapter. In

and their role in the Socio-economic life of the Mughal Empire.

AWhile discussing the Mansabdari system we have observed that Akbar made it a rule to grant mansabs to every oficial

af the state. irrespective of the nature of his work. It was. Jike introducinga form through which the officials of the state were brought under a uniform rule of discipline. The Mughal

nobility was constituted out of the Mansabdars i.e. to be a noble and bea member of ruling class it was necessary to hold mansab. Since the Emperor alone could confer, increase, iminish or resume the mansab, the mansabdars were s creation. There was_nothing like hereditary claim over mansabs. The Mughal nobility too therefore, at least in theotz was not hereditary, though in actual practice heredity or famic prestige plàyed an important role in the enrolement. The SC of a nobleman always found it easier to enter the service of i King than an outsider. The Mughal Emperors no doubt gave

due consideration to nobility of birth, but they did not over look ability, learning, and merit of a person with the resuit

that men of humble origin also rose to high positions and became members of the Mughal nobility. It was because of the Tecognition of ability and merit that foreign adventurers were attracted to seek Imperial service. They knew that, if entrance Was difficult promotion was not, provided they were capable of

displaying their ability in the discharge of duties assigned to them. Such a step had one great advantage that the poor Emperor for improvethe on entirely depending adventurers were

ment of their fortunes remained loyal at least so long they

hopeful of receiving more.

Mughal Government


The nobility that came with Babur was character. It included persons of different ethnic groups. old groups Humayun returned some from the also

heterogeneousWhenin returned. facing

But Akbar realised their arrogance quite early and after fa certain difficulties created by ther rebellious attitude and I of loyalty he decided to place the nobility in such a positi ties they could never form that on ethnic grounds and family The mansab svster

one united block to oppose the Emperor.mansabdarsand. there was a great step in this direction. The on the Emperor fore, the nobles became one class depending Afghans, Indian

while inclusion of Iranians, Turanis, Uzbeks,

within Muslims, Rajputs and Hindus created perpetual groups thec lass of the nobitity. mansabdars, but all According to the system all nobles weremansabdars from the mansabdars were not nobles. Though

as belonging to rank of 500 and above were at times regarded general rule mansabdars from a as but Amir, of category the amirs. Sir Jadu Nath Sarkar as classified were upwards 1000 expresses the view that while classifying the mansabdars the general

igorously that ythe tale immediately at his deccased noble was taken over death The reasonWas that the nobtes white tischarging theirT dutics heavy funds of the state, besides, they werc generally incontrolled debt to the havingtaken moncy in advance ot enjoycd thc government revenue of thcir iagir jagir without clearing their accounts with the state. Thus at ihe death of a noble his cntire properly was cscheatcd (zabt) and the statement of the amount duc from him (nutalba) nrepared, and balanced witlh the eschcatcd moveable The land i.e. the jagir was not his property and so its property. tion among the children was outof question. After the distribu mutalba. the balance was distributed among the children of the deceased noble. It was done at the discretion of the Emperor and not

necessarily according to the canon law of either the Muslims or

the Hindus.

About Aurangzeb it is said that being particular in the observation of the Islamic law, he waived all clainms to the

property of his nobles beyond claiming the mutalba. Two of his farmans, one issued in 1666 and the other in 1691 have clear instruction on these lines. The farman stipulates that if he had left heirs and there was a claim of the government on him, his property should be confiscated to the government three days after his death. If his property was more than the govern ment due, the amnount of the claim should be recovered, and

the remainder should be given to the heirs after affirmation of their being the heirs. If the government claim was more than

the worth of his property the whole property was to be seized

for realisation of the dues. If there were no dues of the govern

ment his (whole) property was to be given to his heirs after identification.! Aurangzeb seems to have made further modifications in the rules. We are told that on the death of Shaikh Muhiyuddin, the Sadr of Gujarat, his property was not confiscated because

his son Shaikh Akramuddin took upon himself the payment of his father's debt. In 1691, Aurangzeb further modified the application of escheat when he directed the officers not to attach


Mughal Governnient

the property of a noble at his death whose heirs were in government service ; the mutalba of the deceased noble was to

he iranstered as a liability to the heirs. Notwithstanding these

regulations Aurangzeb continued to enforce escheat to the property of deceased nobles. Manucci very clearly states that

He (Aurargzeb) seizes every thing left by his generals, oficers

and other oficials at their death, inspite of having declared that he makes, no claims on the goods of defunct persons.

Nevertheless, under the pretext that they are his officers and

are in debt to the Crown, he lays hold of everything."2 Accord

ing to Athar Ali, the law of escheat as applied by Aurangzeb

was based on two principles:(a) that the state-dues should be the first claim on the estate of a deceased officer and (b) that

in disposing of the rest of hisproperty, the King and not the Shariat, should have the decisive voice. EFFECTS OF THE SYSTEM OF ESCHEAT

According to Jadunath Sarkar the political effect of the escheat system was most disastrous. It prevented India from

having one of the strongest safeguards of public liberty and

checks on royal autocracy, namely an independent hereditary peerage, whose position and wealth did not depend on the

King's favour /n every generation and who could, therefore afford to be bold in their criticism, of the royal caprice and

their opposition to the royal tyranny."4 Without going into the

merits of the above statement, to-day one may very well doubt if an independent aristocracy beyond the control of the Emperor would have been in any way helpful to the masses or the protectors of the rights of the people. The escheat system, however indirectly effected the mode of life of the nobles who started leading a life of extravagent squandering of wealth on maintaining a large harem, and incuring expenditure on luxury. Athar Ali, however, does not agree that system of escheat was applied to the degree depicted by the European travellers. He concludes that in fact every

ghalNobiliny 195

nble felt felt contident confident that that his wealth, after meeting the mutalba his with remain heirs, weuld onc son the another possibly son who was his or the cldest but King's favourite) would get more than others. This was why they amassed wealth and accumulated richcs. The


had. therefore,




ccumulated theoretical


escheat system

and legal than



Kohility apart from office and public services did not exist in Mughal state and thherefore a noble had to place his entire Sice at the disposal of the Emperor. His duties did not end hy supplying the contingent according to the rank held by him at other obligations associated with the mansabdari He uld be called upon to perform any duty, and system. could be transfered and posted to any part of the empire. He could be asked to perform duties entirely civil and then suddenly called upon to undertake a military expedition. The position and

rank of the noble was determined not by the type of his service but by his zat rank. Thus the position of a noble was not an easy one, he had to possess a ready wit and prepossessing address, combined with capacity for honest work. He must be orave and courageous, and clever at intrigue as well as

checkmating intrigues. The nobles played a vital role in the administration of the Empire. All the important offices, whether in the centre or in the provinces, were held by the nobles. In the provinces their Tole was very important, and to a greater measure the prosperity of the Empire depended on their efficiency. Away from the personal supervision of the Emperor, the working and the maintenance of the spirit of the administration depended on the Dility and persona!ity of the nobles holding offices in the provinces. In the frontier provinces they were to look after

the border defence and to keep then1selves informed of the

events taking place in the adjacent kingdoms.2

Mughal nobility, as already pointed out, was a legacy left

Babur by his ancestors, and came to India with him. Akbar

Mughal Governnent


reorganised and moulded the


as an


particular pattern, which brought together the heterogene elements constituting the nobility and made them look body. Because of service conditions they

the monarch, but for personal gains

like one. became dependent and advancenents On

formed groups based on their racial or ethnic af

Thus oroupism became an ethos of the Mughal nobilityafinities. and intrigue their modus operandi. It would not be technically correct to say that their actions were politically motivated. The term party would imply a number of persons united in maintaining

a cause, policy or opinion or the system of taking sides on

public questions ; similarly political motivation implies actions based on principles evolving out of the art of government and

administration. A Mughal noble was an individual, and was loyal to the Emperor because he was conscious that his career depended on the pleasure of the Emnperor. If he formed a group or sided with a particular group at any period, he didso principles but purely on the basis of his judgement as.

to the extent of benefit he would derive cular course of action. Having no roots developed a sense of patriotism. They tools in the hands of the Emperor so

by adopting the parti in the soil he never remained as efficient long the Emperor was

capable of wielding them. At the first sight of physical weakn ess the Emperor, the nobles started looking for the next possible

successor and according to their judgement sided with the groups supporting one or the other Scion of the royal family. Mughal history is full of such incidents and reveal how the nobles

changed sides at every turn of events. The rebellions of Salim, Khusrav, Shahjahan supply cases of one type, enthronements of Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb cases of another type.

Nobles like Raja Man Singh, Raja Todar Mal, Itimadud Daula, Asaf Khan (Itiqad Khan) Sadulla Khan, Mir Jumla, Raja Jaswant Singh and Mirza Raja Jai Singh, are only a few to mention from amongst the whole host of Mughal nobility, a study of whose life will amply borne out the hypothetical statement made above.

Thus we find that Mughal nobility as an institution provided a source of strength to Mughal government only for some timi, but with the passage of time the inherent weakness of the system began to manifest itself. Instead of looking to the



änterest of the state their sole interest became self aggrandisesuffer from mutual jealosy and always beganto suffer ment. They

tried to bring disgrace on any one who displayed ability and

energy either in administration or in military operation so as to receive approbation frrom the Emperor. The prolonged military operation in the Deccan for over a century is a glaring example of the underhand activities of nobles which would not permit

any noble to conclude the task. The Mughal nobility therefore, icht from its inception did not possess the qualities that could make it a source of strength to the empire when the crown was

weak. It depended for its prosperity on the prosperity of the Emperor and with the decline in the fortunes of the empire multitude. thev too were lost into the The nobles however played a conspicuous part in sTcial and cultural 1life of the country. As individuals they were gifted persons and possessed many virtues. They conducted themselves with great dignity. The virtues of sensibility benevolence and acuteness were not rare among the nobility. Their manners be

came almost standars of sophestication. The example of magni ficience and court ettiquet set up by the Emperor was eagerly followed by the nobles who vied with each other in the display

of their munificience. Spending and not hoarding was the dominant note ofa nobles life.

The nobles were great patrons of art and their sophesticated of

consumers taste for things beautiful at once made them costly items. This was a source of encouragement to the of the artisans, poets and scholars. Bernier who was very critical

Mughal nobles could not help but appreciate this aspect of the nobility. The arts of Indies,"" writes Bernier, "would long and the have lost their beauty and delicacy, if the Monarch of principal Omrahs (Umra) did not keep in their pay a number and are artists who work in their houses, teach the children, The protection Slimulated to exertion by the hope of reward lorded by powerful patrons to rich merchants and tradesmen

wages, tends also to o pay the workmen rather higher preserve the arts.1

and the Tne Mughal nobles were in the habit of spending life and huge establishments led to heavy expenditure,


Mughal Governmenr


which more than often excecded their income. If one looks: one would be surprised to find nobles, the of tables salary of such handsome income they often had to take into that inspite

recourse to borrowing money either from the money lenders or can from the government. There



denying the fact

((jagirs) the that most of them received revenue assignments would be revenue income of which they could get only after collected. One method adopted by them was to let out the jagir on ijara and take a portion of the sum in advance. But the more common method was to take loan against the jagir. But

it was not only due to the jagir system that they had to take

loan. It was their habit of extravagent expenditure that was.

mainly responsible for such a condition. Occasionally of

course, sudden transfer, or sudden orders to join an expedition, added to their financial difficulties. As a result the


always prefered to have at least a portion of their salary in

jagir, because against jagir they could always get something by way of loan.

Interest on the loans was pretty high, and the money lenders. were particular about the interest. The English Factors noted in 1645 that the Shroffs at Agra were tempted for lucre' to dispose of great sums to persons of quality at great rates. The money lender's care for the interest is also revealed in an inci dent recorded in the Akhbarat of 46th R.Y. of Aurangzeb,

when they represented to Emperor against the Imperial demand for interest free loan, that if the Imperial court takes such a loan the news will reach the proinces, and then governors too will extort such loans which would all sahus.2 That money lending had result in the extinction of become almost a business, and even the prosperous nobles did loans on interest is illustrated from the not hesitate from giving case of Shaista Khan, the governor of Bengal, who a loan of Rs. at an interest of 25% per annum to gave 300,000/the Faujdar of Hugli. who was his subordinate officer. It that while Islam prohibitsS may incidentalybe mentioned here usury, it received full Mughal state in of India and the to its officers on interest.




itself granted loans



who Tohelp the nobles who

borrowed money at a

interest Akbarinstituted a kind of government loan high paid rate out ofof The motive for Imperial Treasury called Musadat according to Abdul Fazl was two fold; onc to help the oficers who were in difficulty, and two, to set an example to the



interest augmenting money lenders, because, as a D of the regulation the unprinciped usurers were brought the proper path. Regarding the rate of interest charged on Vusadat, Abul Fazl intorms us that for the first year. nothing is charged ; in the second, the loan increased by a iteenth part of it ; in the third year, by one-cighth : in fourth vear. by one-fourth; from the fifth to the seventh, by one half: from the eighth to the tenth year by from the tenth year and longer, double the original three-fourths; loan is charged, after which there is no further increase. 1 We have noticed above the financial difficulties and ness among the nobility. But all the nobles were not indebted in such a plight. The Mughal nobility and bureaucracy was combined into one and the nobles who held important administrative charges were always in a position to put pressure the merchants and traders. The Emperor had the first upon right of unjust and

purchase and the governors were authorised to purchase in the name of the King any novelty or any fine stufi that came into Lne country or was put on the market. This



opportunity to the governors to indulge in trade. Such a con duct on the part of the nobles did not get an approbation of the

Emperor, but they were seldom punished or their activities taken notice of. unless someone sent apetition or some protest

Was manifested by the Trading Community. This attitude of

the Emperor becomes understandable if we remember that the

Emperors themselves participated in the trade. Father Mon

serrate mentions that Akbar engaged in trading on his own account through which he increased his wealth to no small degree, for he exploited every possible source of profit. On the trading activity of Jahangir, William Hawkins observes, Like

wise he (Jahangir) cannot abide that any man should have any

precious stone of value, for it is death, if he knew it not at the

Mughal (Government prosent time... By the mcans the King hath cnprosee.l

fair stones that to man can buy from 55 caratcs upwards with-

out his lcave, for he hath the refusal of all and giveth not the third part, so much as their valuc."! The trading activities of Shahjahan even aftcr his accessi. can be judged from the complaint of English factors in l642 that unless the King's junk was loaded and despatched, very litle freight could be obtained. Aurangzeb too was not averSe to commere. His own ships at least once, went up to Borneo

for trade. In 1694 Ganj-i-Sawai the largest boat of Aurangzeh when returning trom Mecca with 52 lakhs of rupees and Hai passengers was looted by the pirates.

With the Emperors personally trading, the royal princes and nobles also felt encouraged to indulge in trading activity. The

example of the Emperor was followed by the princes and

nobles, who did not hesitate to participate in trade to augment

their income. Both as a prince and as a King, Shahjahan traded

in cloth. indigo, salt-petre and stones and thereby earned large profits. In 1618 the English swept the markets bare of calicoes

with the result that the officials concerned for loading Prince's junk for the Red Sea were forced to fill them with tabacco.

Nurjahan's interest in her personal trade can be seen in com munications with Sir Thomas Roe, Prince Dara and Prince Shuja substantially added to their wealth by means of private trade. Princess Jahanara often made investments in commercial enterprises. Thus we find the entire royal family in one form or the other acted as traders on grand scale and utilized wealth and position for enhancing their personal financial resources.

Among the nobles Asaf Khan, during the reigns of Jahangir Tand Shahjahan, had vast commercial interests and traded on

his own account through which he succeeded in amassing fabul

ous wealth. Occasionally he joined with Nurjahan in commer

cial undertakings. Shahjahan's minister Saadulla Khan had

also established his private trade. But among nobles Shaista Khan and Mir Jumla indulged in commercial enterprize



scale that they can be easily called as a large such on Shaista Khan was interested in internal prince of merchants. trade, may be because he considered it a more safe investment than oversea trade


was full of risk.


governor of

Bengal he monopolised almost the entire trade of the province. He sold at his own terms salt, betelnuts and other articles which he would get from oother places. The merchants of Dacca had

to purchase these two commodities from him as they could not

be purchased in the open market.

Mir Jumla invested his money in more lucrative business. He had been a businessman before entering Imperial service and with the business accumen, he was able to speculate, often

advanced money and even the English factors often borrowed money from him. Mir Jumla also had a number of ships which carried on his trade between Arrakan, Southern India and Persia.!

Nobles with lesser fortunes also indulged in trade, and con tributed substantially to the capital that was needed by the merchants to carry on sea-borne trade. It is mentioned that even Mirza Raja Jai Singh once attempted to profit by manu facturing salt in his jagir which soon became a rival to the Imperial salt factory at Sambhar, and had to be given up because of Imperial orders. The nobles also had karkhans on small scale, but these karkhans according to the testimoney of Bernier, worked on the basis of forced labour and not on

sound economic principles.

Thus to conclude we may say that the nobles participated in

nobility the economic activity of the country, but when the do bureaucracy, and royalty participate in trade they do not

to themselves as merchants but use their ofticial positions establish

doing advance their mercantile interests. They by so economic monopolies, and hinder a free and full growth of

political activity of the country. Thus with change in theircould not fortunes these nobles along with their emperors industrialists. remain as merchants or develop themselves into