Mughal Administration

Mughal Administration

  • Objective:
    • To exercise control over the different parts of the Empire so that recalcitrant elements challenging the Mughal sovereignty could be checked.
    • It was difficult because each part of the Mughal Empire was inhabited by diverse set of people over whom their respective rulers or dominant chieftains exerted considerable influence.
  • Ingenuity of the Mughal polity:
    • It not only incorporated these refractory rulers and chieftains into its administrative setup but also enrolled them into military service.
  • The logical corollary of sustaining the huge administration was to appropriate maximum rural surplus in the form of land revenue for which the Mughal polity was geared to.

Central Administration

  • The Mughal Empire had pan-Indian character.
  • Babur and Humayun for reasons of their brief reign and that of being busy in military matters could not concentrate on establishing a definite system or pattern in administration.
  • By the end of Akbar’s reign. there established elaborate offices with assigned functions to the heads of offices. The rules and regulations guiding both their public and private conduct had all been fixed so that the officers were converted into what can be termed the Apparatus of the Empire.

The Emperor:

  • The ancient Indian traditions had always supported a strong ruler. The Muslim jurists and writers also held the same view. Thus, the concept of divine origin of monarchy could easily find credence among the Indian peopie.
  • Jharokha darshan:
    • It was publicised with great deal of pomp and show in which the Emperor appeared at an appointed hour before the general public.
    • The myth was that a mere look of his majesty would redress their grievances.
  • With such popular perception of the ruler, it is obvious that all officers in Mughal administration owed their position and power to the Emperor. Their appointment promotion, demotion, and’termination were subject to the ruler’s personal preference and whims.

Wakil and Wazir:

  • The institution of wizarat (or wikalat since both were used interchangeably) generally traced back to the Abbasi Caliphs.
  • Under the Delhi Sultans,the wazir enjoyed both civil and military powers. But under Balban his power were reduced when the Sultan bifrcated the military powers under diwan’arz. As for Sher Shah, this office remained almost in abeyance under the Afghans.
  • Under early mughals, position of the wazir revived.
    • Babur’s wazir Nizamuddin Muhammad Khalifa enjoyed both the civil and military powers.
    • Humayun’s wazir Hindu Beg also virtually enjoyed great powers.
    • The period of Bairam Khan’s regency (1556-60) saw the rise of the wakil-wazir with unlimited powers under Bairam Khan.
  • Akbar:
    • Took away the financial powers of the wakil and entrusted it into the hands of the diwan kul (Finance Minister).
    • Separation of finance gave a jolt to the wakil’s power. However, this office continued to enjoy the highest place in the Mughal bureaucratic hierarchy despite reduction in his powers.

Diwani Kul:

  • Akbar strengthened the office of the diwan by entrusting the revenue powers to the diwan.
  • The chief diwan (diwani kul) was made responsible for revenue and finances. His primary duty was to supervise the imperial treasury and check all accounts.
  • He personally inspected all transactions and payments in all departments. He maintained direct contact with the provincial diwans and their functioning was put under his vigil.
  • His seal and signatures were necessary for the validation of all official papers involving revenue.
    • The entire revenue collection and expenditure machinery of the Empire was under his charge.
    • No fresh order of appointment or promotion could be affected without his seal.
  • To check the diwan’s power, the Mughal Emperor asked the diwan to submit the report on state finances daily.
  • The central revenue ministry was divided into many departments to look after the specific needs of the Empire. For example: diwani khalisa, diwani tan (for cash salary), diwani jagir, diwani buyutat (royal household), etc.
    • Each branch was further subdivided into several sections ‘manned by a secretary, superintendents and clerks. The mustaufi was the auditor, and the mushrif was the chief accountant.
  • The khazanadar looked after the Imperial treasury.

Mir Bakhshi:

  • The mir’arz of Delhi Sultante changed its nomenclature to mir bakhshi under the Mughals.
  • Duty:
    • All orders of appointments of mansabdars and their salary papers were endorsed and passed by him.
    • He personally supervised the branding of the horses (dagh) and checked the muster-roll (chehra) of the soldiers.
      • On the basis of his verification, the amount of the salary was certified.
      • Only then the diwan made entry in his records and placed it before the king.
    • Mir bakhshi placed all matters pertaining to the military department before the Emperor.
    • The new entrants, seeking service, were presented before ‘the Emperor by the mir bakhshi.
    • He dealt directly with provincial bakhshis and waqainavis. He accompanied the Emperor on tours, pleasure trips, hunting expeditions, battlefield, etc.
    • His duty was to check whether proper places were allotted to the mansabdars according to their rank at the court.
    • His darbar duties considerably added to his prestige and influence.
  • The mir bakhshi was assisted by other bakhshis at central level. The first three were known as 1st, 2nd and 3rd bakhshi. Besides, there were separate bakhshis for the ahadis (special imperial troopers) and domestic servants of the royal household (bakhshi-i shagird pesha).

Mir Saman:

  • The mir saman was the officer incharge of the royal karkhanas. He was also known as khan saman.
  • Duty:
    • He was the chief executive officer responsible for the purchase of all kinds of articles and their storage for the royal household.
    • to supervise the manufacture of different articles, be it weapons of war or articles of luxury.
    • He was directly under the Emperor but for sanction of money and auditing of accounts he was to contact the diwan.
  • Under the mir saman there were several officers, including the diwani buyutat and tahvildar (cash keeper).

Sadr-us Sudur:

  • The head of the ecclesiastical department.
  • Duty:
    • To protect the laws of the shari’ at.
    • He was also connected with the distribution of charities – both cash (wazifa) and land grants (suyurghal, in’am, madad-i ma’ash).
    • Initially as the head of the judicial department, he supervised the appointment of qazis and muftis.
    • Before Shah Jahan’s reign, the posts of the chief qazi and sadr-us sudur were combined and the same person held the charge of both the departments.
      • However, under Aurangzeb, the post of the chief qazi (qazi-ul quzzat) and the sadr-us sudur got separated.
      • It led to sharp curtailment of sadr’s power. Now in the capacity of sadr, he supervised assignment of allowances and looked after the charitable grants.
    • He also looked into whether the grants were given to the right persons and utilized properly.
    • He scrutinized applications for all such grants, both fresh and renewals, and presented before the Emperor for sanction.
    • Alms were also distributed through him.

Qazi-ul quzzat:

  • The chief qazi was known as qazi-ul quzzat. He was the head of the judiciary. (prior to Aurangzeb’s reign his powers were combined in sadr-us sudur.).
  • Duty:
    • To administer the shariat law both in civil and criminal cases.
    • In the capacity of the chief qazi, he looked into the appointment of the qazis in the suba, sarkar, pargana and town levels. There was a separate qazi for army also.
  • Besides the qazi-ul quzzat, another important judicial officer was mir ‘adl.
    • Abul Fazl emphasized the need to have a mir ‘adl in addition to qazi, for the qazi was to hear the case and decide while rnir ‘adl was to execute the orders of the court.
  • The muhtasibs (censor of public’morals) was ensure the general observance of the rules of morality.
    • His job was to keep in check the forbidden practices- wine drinking,use of bhang and other intoxicants, gambling, etc.
    • In addition, he also performed some secular duties – examining weights and measures, enforcing fair prices, etc.

Provincial Administration

  • Akbar:
    • In 1580, Akbar divided the Empire into twelve subas (later on, three more were added).
    • Suba > Sarkar > Parganas > Mahal.
  • Shah Jahan:
    • Another administrative unit chakla came into existence. It was a cluster of a number of pargana. ie: Pargana < Chakla < Mahal.

Provincial Governor: 

  • The governor of a suba (subadar) was directly appointed by the Emperor.
  • Usually the tenure of a subadar was around three years.
  • The duties of the subadar:
    • The most important one was to look after the welfare of the people and the army.
    • He was responsible for the general law and order problem in the suba.
    • A successful subadar was one who would encourage agriculture, trade and commerce.
    • He was supposed to take up welfare activities like construction of sarais, gardens, wells, water reservoirs, etc.
    • He was to take steps to enhance the revenue of the state.


  • The provincial diwan was appointed by the Emperor.
  • He was an independent officer answerable to the Centre. He was the head of the revenue department in the suba.
  • Duty:
    • Supervised the revenue collection in the suba and maintained accounts of all expenditure incurred in the form of salaries of the officials and subordinates in the suba.
    • He was also to take steps to increase the area under cultivation. In many cases advance loans (taqavi) were given to the peasants through his office.
    • A roznamcha ( daily register) was maintained by the diwan which carried entries of amount that was deposited in the royal treasury by the revenue officials and zamindars. A large number of clerks worked under him.
  • Thus , by making the diwan independent of the subadar and by putting financial matters under the former, the Mughals were successful in checking the subadar from becoming independent.


  • The bakhshi was appointed by the imperial court at the recommendation of the mir bakhshi.
  • Duty:
    • He performed exactly the same military functions as were performed by his counterpart at the Centre.
    • He was responsible for checking and inspecting the horses and soldiers maintained by the mansabdars in the suba.
    • He issued the paybills of both the mansabdars and the soldiers.
    • It was his duty to prepare a list of deceased mausabdars, but often news reporters (waqai navis) of the parganas directly sent infomation to the provincial diwan.
    • Often his office was combined with waqa’inigar: In this capacity his duty was to inform the Center the happenings in his provinces.
  • To facilitate his work, he posted his agents in the parganas and various important offices.

Darogha-i Dak and the Secret Services:

  • Developing a communication network was very essential to govern a vast Empire. A separate department was assigned this important task.
  • The imperial postal system was established for sending instructions to the far-flung areas of the Empire. The same channel was used for receiving information.
    • At every suba headquarters, darogha-i dak was appointed for this purpose.
    • His duty was to pass on letters through the postal runners (mewras) to the court. For this purpose, a number of dak chowkis were maintained throughout the Empire where runners were stationed who carried he post to the next chowki. Horses and boats were also used to help in speedy delivery.
  • Waqai navis and waqai nigars : were appointed to supply the reports directly to the Emperor.
  • sawanih nigar: to provide confidential reports to the Emperor.
    • Many reports of these secret service agents are available to us. They are very important sources of the history of the period.

Thus, the Mughals kept a watch over their officials in the provinces through offices and institutions independent of each other. Besides, the Mughal Emperors’ frequent visits to every suba and the system of frequent transfers of the officials after a period of three years on average, helped the Mughals in checking the officials. But the possibility of rebellion always existed and, therefore, constant vigil through an organised system of intelligence network was established.

Local Administration

Local administration can be discussed at Sarkars, pargana and mauza (village) levels.

Sarkars: At the sarkar level, there were two important functionaries, the faujdar and the amalguzar.

  • Faujdar:
    • The executive head of the sarkar. But his area of influence seems more complex.
    • He was not only appointed at the sarkar level, but sometimes within a sarkar a number of faujdars existed. At times their jurisdiction spread over two full sarkars. Some times different faujdar appointed to chaklas as well. His jurisdiction was decided according to the needs of the region.
    • Duty:
      • to take care of rebellions, and law and order problems.
      • To safeguard the life and property of the residents of the area under his jurisdiction.
      • He was to ensure safe passage to traders within his jurisdiction.
      • To keep vigil over the recalcitrant zamindars.
      • In special circumstances, he was to help the amalguzar in matters of revenue collection.
    • Amalguzar (aka amil):
      • The most important revenue collector was the amil or amalguzar.
      • Duty:
        • To assess and supervise the revenue collection through other subordinate officials.
        • A good amil was supposed to increase the land tinder cultivation and induce the peasants to pay revenue willingly without coercion.
        • All accounts were to be maintained by him.
        • Daily receipts and expenditure reports were sent by him to the provincial diwan.
      • Thanedar:
        • The thana (Head = Thanedar) was a place where army was stationed for the preservation of law and order. Generally established specifically in disturbed areas and around the cities.
        • They were to arrange provisions for the army as well.
        • Thanedar was appointed at the recommendation of the subadar and diwan. He was
        • Generally placed under the faujdar of the area (i.e Thanedar < Faujdar).

Pargana Administration:

  • Pargana < Sarkar.
  • The shiqqdar was the executive officer of the pargana and assisted the amils in revenue collection.
  • The amil looked after the revenue collection at the pargana level also. His duties were similar to those of the amalguzar at the sarkar level.
  • The qanungos kept all the records pertaining to the land in his area. He was to take note of different crops in the pargana.

Village Administration:

  • The lowest administrative unit.
  • The muqaddam was the village- headman.
  • The patwari took care of the village revenue records.
  • Under the Mughals, the pattern of village administration remained almost on the same lines as it was under Sher Shah.

Town, fort and port administration

To administer the cities and ports, the Mughals maintained separate administrative machinery.


  • For urban centres, the imperial court appointed kotwals.
  • Duty:
    • To safeguard the life and property of townsmen.
    • To maintain a register for keeping records of people coming and going out of the town. Every outsider had to take a permit from him before entering or leaving the town.
    • To ensure that no illicit liquor was manufactured in his area.
    • He also acted as superintendent of weights and measures used by the merchants and shopkeepers.


  • The Mughal Empire had a large number of qilas (forts) situated in various parts of the country. Many of these were located at strategically important places. Each fortress was lie a mini township with a large garrison.
  • Each fort was under an officer called qil’adar.
    • generally mansabdars with high ranks were appointed.
    • He was incharge of the general administration of fort and the areas assigned in jagir to the qiladar.
    • Sometimes, the qiladars were asked to perform the duties of the faujdar in that region.

Port Administration:

  • The Mughals were aware of the economic importance of the sea-ports as these were the centres of brisk commercial activities.
  • The port adminiseation was independent of the provincial authority.
  • The governor of the ports was called mutasaddi, who was directly appointed by the Emperor.
  • Sometimes the office of the mutasaddi was auctioned and given to the highest bidder. The mutasaddi collected taxes on merchandise and maintained a custom-house.
  • He also supervised the minthouse at the port.
  • The shahbandar was his subordinate who was mainly concerned with the custom-house.

The Army

  • The Mughal army consisted of
    • cavalry,
    • infantry,
    • artillery,
    • elephants,
    • camels.
  • There was no navy but there was a flotilla of boats which was under an amir-ul-bahr (Lord of the sea or Admiral).
  • Cavalry:
    • The dagh system to maintain an efficient and well equipped force of cavalry.
    • Apart from employing choice horses from Iraq, Iran and Arabia, the cavalrymen were protected by iron-helmets and other defensive armours, and their horses had their necks, chests and backs fully covered.
    • The sawars were armed with swords, lances and bows.
  • The trooper had to purchase his own horse, and bring it to the muster before he was granted his pay.
    • This understandably caused  a lot of harassment and was the basis of corruption.
    • Hence, a rule was made that on appointment, a mansabdar was granted an ad hoc pay which was called barawardi for his contingent.
      • This was adjusted when the full pay was granted to the sawars after the muster.
    • But this also became a means of corruption: nobles delayed the muster, and continued to keep a nominal force, and drew the barawardi salaries for the full contingent.
  • Dakhili:
    • In some cases, the state directly employed soldiers and sent them to high mansabdars. Such troopers were called dakhili.
  • Ahadi:
    • There was a separate category of people who were called ahadi or gentlemen troopers.
    • These were individuals who were allowed five horses or more and were paid handsomely.
    • They had a separate muster-master or diwan.
    • The ahadis could be appointed anywhere in the army, or served as messengers.
    • On some occasions, they could even be appointed with a mansabdar.
  • Artillery:
    • The artillery had developed rapidly in India after the advent of Babur.
    • Apart from siege guns there were heavy guns mounted on forts.
    • These siege guns were not easily manoeuvrable, and sometimes elephants and thousands of bullocks were used to transport them.
      • Though often considered symbols of prestige they could hardly be used in battles being slow in firing.
    • Their efficacy against forts was also doubtful, as the siege of Chittor showed. Mining under the fort-walls by use of gun-powder was, therefore, resorted to.
    • Light artillery:
      • In addition to the heavy artillery, there were several types of light artillery.
        • If carried on the back of a man, they were called narnal;
        • If carried on backs of elephants gajanal,
        • If carried on backs of camels shutrnal.
    • Guns on wheeled-carriages (arraba) were used at Panipat and Khanua.
    • Akbar made great efforts to improve the casting and easy transportability of guns.
      • He invented a gun which could be taken to pieces and put together again when required.
      • An invention whereby 17 guns could be joined together in such a way that they could be fired with one match.
      • Akbar had great interest in the manufacture of hand-muskets also which he improved.
      • A devise was invented whereby the barrels of the hand-guns could be bored and cleaned by means of a machine drawn by an ox.
  • Elephant:
    • Under Akbar, thousands of elephants were used for war purposes. They were carefully graded and armed.
    • Apart from carrying materials of war, and for carrying royalty and important nobles, the elephants, combined with cavalry, formed a kind of a battering ram or a protective shield.
    • But they tended to be helpless when surrounded by hostile cavalry.
  • Infantry:
    • The infantry consisted of both fighting and non-fighting classes.
    • Fighting men:
      • mainly matchlock-men, called banduqchis.
      • These had a separate organization, with clerks, a treasurer and a darogha.
      • Dakhili soldiers:
        • They were foot-soldiers, and matchlock-men and were recruited and directly paid for by the central government and handed over to high mansabdars.
    • A quarter of the fighting force consisted of bearers of match-locks, carpenters, black-smiths, water-carriers and pioneers who cleared the way.
    • There were also runners for carrying messages, palki-bearers, wrestlers, slaves etc.
  • Strength of Akbar’s army:
    • According to Monserrate (1581):
      • “There are 45000 cavalry, 5000 elephants, and many thousands infantry, paid directly from the royal treasury.
    • The strength of the cavalry maintained by the mansabdars cannot be assessed because in the early part, a mansab did not indicate the number of sawars actually maintained and later the sawar ranks of only a few have been given.
    • We can say is that the number of sawars maintained by the mansabdars would not have been less than those maintained centrally.

Nature of Mughal Administration

  • Some historians (Irfan Habib, Athar Ali) hold that Mughal administrative structure was highly centralised.
    • This centralization is manifested in the efficient working of land revenue system, mansab and jagir, uniform coinage, etc.
  • Stephen P. Blake and J.F. Richards:
    • accept the centralising tendencies but point out that the Mughal Empire was ‘patrimonial bureaucratics. For them, everything centred around the imperial household and the vast bureaucracy.
  • For Streusand and Chetan Singh:
    • Despite being centralised, the Mughal structure was less centralised at its periphery.
    • In Chetan’s opinion, even in the 17th century the Mughal Empire was not very centralised. Centralized structure controlled through the efficient working of jagirdari seems to hold little ground. According to him, jagir transfers were not as frequent as they appear, and the local elements at the periphery were quite successful in influencing the policies at the centre.
  • Thus, the extent to which the Mughal Empire was centralised in practice can be a matter of debate.  However, theoretically the Mughal administrative structure seems to be highly ‘centralised and bureaucratic’ in nature.
  • The Emperor was the fountainhead of all powers, and bureaucracy was mere banda-i dargah (slaves of the court).
  • In spite of the vast range of powers enjoyed by the central ministers, they were not allowed to usurp and interfere in each others’ jurisdiction nor to assume autocratic powers. The Mughals through a system of checks and balances prevented any minister or officer from gaining unlimited powers.
  • (Nature of Mughal State is given in detail in separate topic)

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