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history - Administration under Akbar


Like other Muslim monarchs, Akbar was, at least in theory, subordinate to the wishes of entire Muslim population (millat), which, in turn, was guided by the Muslim learned divines called the Ulema. Akbar sought to remove this check to his will and became the supreme authority over his Muslim subjects by promulgating the Infallibility Decree (Mahzar) in September 1579.

Akbar believed that the king must be absolutely tolerant to every creed and must establish universal peace in his dominion.

As per Abul Fazal’s Akbarnama, Akbar appeared three times every day for State business. Early at sunrise he used to be ready at jhroka-i-darshan to show himself to his subjects. Here he was accessible to the common people and listened to their complaints. Next, he used to hold an open court which generally lasted for four and a half hours. Peo-ple from both sexes were allowed to submit their petitions and the emperor used to decide the cases on the spot.

In the afternoon Akbar used to hold a full durbar in the Diwan-i-Aam. Here he attended to daily routine busi-ness, particularly relating to forces, workshops and to the appointment and promotion of mansabdars and granting of jagirs.

In the evening and often during night Akbar used to meet his ministers and advisers in the private audience hall called Diwan-i-Khas, where special business relating to for-eign relations and internal administration was attended to.

Late in the night, Akbar used to discuss confidential matters related to war, foreign policy and internal adminis-tration in a room called Daulat Khana, which became known in the times of Jehangir as Gusal Khana, owing to its proximity to the royal bathroom.

The Central government under Akbar consisted of four departments, each presided over by a minister. These ministers were: Vakil (Prime Minister), Diwan or Wazir (Finance Minister), Mir Bakhshi (Pay-Master General), and Sadar-us-Sadur (Chief Sadar).

The Mughal ministers did not constitute a Cabinet in the modern sense of term. They were basically secretaries. The initiation of the policies was in the hands of the emperor.

The first finance minister of Akbar was Muzaffar Khan.

Todar Mal, Muzaffar Khan and Shah Mansur were the three most notable finance ministers of Akbar and all the three were skilled financiers and first-rate administrators.

The Diwan or finance minister was assisted by Diwan-i-Khalsa, who was incharge of Khalsa (crown or reserved) lands; Diwan-i-Jagirs, who was incharge of the lands that were given in lieu of service or as free grants (sayurghal); Sahib-i-Taujih, who was incharge of military accounts; and Diwan-i-Bayutut, whose duty was to super-vise the accounts of various workshops attached to the court.

The Mir Bakhshi or Pay-Master General ranked next to the imperial Diwan. His office corresponded to the Diwan-i-Ariz of the Sultanate period.

The Mir Bakhshi was required to maintain a regis-ter in which names, ranks and salaries of mansabdars were recorded. All orders of appointment to mansabs of all ranks were passed through his office. One of his most important duties was to prepare a list of guards who had to keep watch around the royal palace.

The Chief Sadar or Sadar-us-Sadur discharged three-fold duties, namely, to act as the religious adviser to the emperor, to disburse the royal charity, and to function as the chief justice of the empire.

After Akbar reorganized his administration and rejected the Islamic theory of government, the Chief Sadar ceased to be the supreme religious adviser.

Akbar divided his empire into well-defined provinces or subas, and established uniform administration in them. In 1602, the provinces numbered 15.

The three provinces of South (Dakhin), namely, Khandesh, Berar and Ahmadnagar, were constituted into a single viceroyalty and were placed under Prince Daniyal.

In each suba, there was a governor, styled as Sipah Salar, a diwan, a bakhshi, a sadar, a qazi, a kotwal, a mir bahar and a waqaya navis.

The Sipah Salar (governor) was the head of the province. He was popularly called subahadar and some-times only ‘suba’.He was appointed by the emperor and was responsible for the welfare of the people of his province, as also administer even-handed justice. He was also entrusted with the work of realizing tribute from the vassal States situated within the boundaries of his suba.

The provincial Diwan was the second most important officer of the suba. He was appointed on the recommendation of the Imperial Diwan.

There were two parallel and mutually independent authorities in every province. The Sipah Sadar was the head of the military, police and executive services, while the Diwan was the head of the civil and revenue branch—he reported directly to the Imperial Diwan and was not subordinate to the governor.

Generally one officer was appointed to discharge the functions of both the Sadar and the Qazi.
Waqaya Navis was incharge of posting news-writers and spies in all important places in the province. Generally a separate officer was given this job, but at times the provinical Bakhshi was given the dual charge.

The Kotwal was incharge of internal defence, sani-tation and peace in the provincial capital. He was the supreme administrator of all thanasof the province.

The Mir Bahar was incharge of customs and boats and ferry taxes, and port duties in coastal towns.

Each province or suba was divided into a num-ber of districts or Sarkars. Every district had a faujdar, an amalguzar, a qazi, a kotwal, a bitikchi and a khazandar.

The head of the district was faujdar. He had three principal duties to perform: First, to maintain peace and tranquility in his jurisdiction, to keep the roads free from robbers and thieves, and to enforce imperial regulations; Secondly, being a military officer, he was incharge of a small force or local militia. It was his duty to keep this army ready for service; Thirdly, he was required to assist the amalguzar (the collector) in the work of revenue collection.

Amalguzar or the revenue collector was the second most important official of a district. He was also required to punish robbers and other miscreants in order to protect the peasantry.

The Bitikchi was an important assistant of amal-guzar. His duty was to prepare necessary papers and records regarding the nature of land and its produce and it was on the basis of these records that the assessment was made by amalguzar.

Each sarkar (district) was divided into a number of parganas or mahals. The pargana was the lowest fiscal and administrative unit of administration.

There were four principal officers in every pargana. They were: the shiqdar, the amil, the fotadar and the karkun. Besides, as in the times of Sher Shah Suri, there were two other semi-official functionaries: the qanungo and the chaudhri.

The Shiqdar was the executive officer of the par-gana and was responsible for its general administration.

The amil (sometimes called the Munsif) had to discharge the same duties in the pargana as the amalguzar in the sarkar.

The Fotadar was the treasurer of the pargana. The karkuns were the writers and kept land record.

The Qanungo was the head of the patwaris of the pargana and kept records of the crops, the revenue demands, actual payments, arrears, etc.

The Mughals had no navy, but as their eastern and western frontiers touched seas, they had large num-ber of sea-ports in their possession. All sea-ports were treated as independent administrative units. For exam-ple, Surat was classed as a sarkar and comprised several parganas.

Every town of considerable importance had an independent kotwal appointed to take charge of municipal duties, besides police work. In small towns, these duties were looked after by amalguzar.

The uniforms of the kotwal and the city police were of red colour.

Akbar recognised the village panchayats as a legally established court of justice and upheld its decisions.

Akbar introduced the mansabdari system to organ-ise his armed forces more effectively.

All imperial officers, except the qazis and the sadars, were enrolled as members of the mansabdari sys-tem and were required to maintain some troops propor-tionate to their ranks. All the vassal chiefs, who were rulers of semi-independent States, were also enlisted as mansabdars.
Some mansabdars commanded troops that were recruited directly by the State and not by the mansabdar concerned. Such troops were called dakhilli or supplemen-tary troops.
Ahadis were the gentlemen troopers who were recruited individually and were under the command of a separate mansabdar or officer, and had a diwan and a bakhshi of their own. Ahadis were considered very efficient and loyal troops and were paid high salaries.
An officer was incharge of each branch of the army and was known as Mir Atish.
Many elephants were trained to catch enemy soldiers and dash them against the ground. Such elephants carried two soldiers and two guns called gajnals.

Akbar’s army consisted of officers and troops of several nationalities, over two-thirds of whom were foreign-ers. Thus, it was not a national army, and was not bound by common interests and common sentiment of love for the country.

The fiscal sources of Mughal empire under Akbar were divided into two main divisions—central and local.

The central revenue was derived from Commerce, Mint, Presents, Inheritance, Salt, Customs and Land. Of these the land revenue was the most lucrative and important.

Akbar abolished the religious taxes charged from Hindus, such as the pilgrims’ tax and the jaziya. Zakat, which was of two kinds, namely, first a religious tax from the Muslims only, and second, on cattle and some other articles, lapsed gradually.

Akbar undertook a series of experiments to improve the revenue collection and management. The first of the experiments was undertaken in 1563, when Akbar appointed Aitmad Khan to look after the affairs of the Khalisa lands which comprised the provinces of Agra, Del-hi and a part of Lahore.

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