Back to Course

History (Optional) Notes, Mindmaps & Related Current Affairs

0% Complete
0/0 Steps

    How to use
  2. FREE Samples
    4 Submodules
    1. Sources
    9 Submodules
  4. 2. Pre-history and Proto-history
    3 Submodules
  5. 3. Indus Valley Civilization
    8 Submodules
  6. 4. Megalithic Cultures
    3 Submodules
  7. 5. Aryans and Vedic Period
    8 Submodules
  8. 6. Period of Mahajanapadas
    10 Submodules
  9. 7. Mauryan Empire
    7 Submodules
  10. 8. Post – Mauryan Period
    7 Submodules
  11. 9. Early State and Society in Eastern India, Deccan and South India
    9 Submodules
  12. 10. Guptas, Vakatakas and Vardhanas
    14 Submodules
  13. 11. The Regional States during the Gupta Era
    18 Submodules
  14. 12. Themes in Early Indian Cultural History
    9 Submodules
    13. Early Medieval India (750-1200)
    9 Submodules
  16. 14. Cultural Traditions in India (750-1200)
    11 Submodules
  17. 15. The Thirteenth Century
    2 Submodules
  18. 16. The Fourteenth Century
    6 Submodules
  19. 17. Administration, Society, Culture, Economy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries
    13 Submodules
  20. 18. The Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Century – Political Developments and Economy
    14 Submodules
  21. 19. The Fifteenth and early Sixteenth Century – Society and Culture
    3 Submodules
  22. 20. Akbar
    8 Submodules
  23. 21. Mughal Empire in the Seventeenth Century
    7 Submodules
  24. 22. Economy and Society in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
    11 Submodules
  25. 23. Culture in the Mughal Empire
    8 Submodules
  26. 24. The Eighteenth Century
    7 Submodules
    1. European Penetration into India
    6 Submodules
  28. 2. British Expansion in India
    4 Submodules
  29. 3. Early Structure of the British Raj
    8 Submodules
  30. 4. Economic Impact of British Colonial Rule
    12 Submodules
  31. 5. Social and Cultural Developments
    7 Submodules
  32. 6. Social and Religious Reform movements in Bengal and Other Areas
    8 Submodules
  33. 7. Indian Response to British Rule
    8 Submodules
  34. 8. Indian Nationalism - Part I
    11 Submodules
  35. 9. Indian Nationalism - Part II
    8 Submodules
  36. 10. Constitutional Developments in Colonial India between 1858 and 1935
  37. 11. Other strands in the National Movement (Revolutionaries & the Left)
  38. 12. Politics of Separatism
  39. 13. Consolidation as a Nation
  40. 14. Caste and Ethnicity after 1947
  41. 15. Economic development and political change
    16. Enlightenment and Modern ideas
  43. 17. Origins of Modern Politics
  44. 18. Industrialization
  45. 19. Nation-State System
  46. 20. Imperialism and Colonialism
  47. 21. Revolution and Counter-Revolution
  48. 22. World Wars
  49. 23. The World after World War II
  50. 24. Liberation from Colonial Rule
  51. 25. Decolonization and Underdevelopment
  52. 26. Unification of Europe
  53. 27. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Rise of the Unipolar World
Module Progress
0% Complete


In this comprehensive module, we will delve into the topic of zamindars in the Mughal Empire and their significant role in the agrarian structure of Mughal India. The zamindars were a powerful class that held control over revenue and judicial administration in their respective areas. We will explore the origins of the term “zamindar” and its usage, the rights and privileges of zamindars, their relationship with the central authority, and their interactions with other agrarian classes. Join us as we uncover the intricate details of the zamindar system in the Mughal Empire.

I. The Origin and Usage of the Term “Zamindar”

  • The term “zamindar” emerged in the 14th century and gained widespread usage during the 17th century in the Mughal Empire.
  • Previously, various local terms such as khot, muqaddam, satarahi, biswi, bhoml, banth, or vanth were used interchangeably with zamindar.
  • Zamindars were found throughout the empire under different names like deshmukh, patil, nayak, etc.
  • The absence of central security allowed the zamindars to emerge as protectors of the local people, ruling over revenue and judicial administration in their respective areas.
  • The zamindars’ authority and rights were acquired through historical tradition and were recognized by medieval rulers who relied on them for revenue collection.

II. The Role and Importance of Zamindars

  • Zamindars played a crucial role in revenue collection, acting as intermediaries between the peasants and the central authority.
  • They were granted mansabs and jagirs by Emperor Akbar, which added to their ancestral domains and further solidified their status.
  • Zamindars were categorized into primary zamindars, secondary zamindars, and autonomous chiefs based on their rights and relationship with the imperial power.
  • Primary zamindars had proprietary rights over the land, while secondary zamindars held intermediary rights and assisted in revenue collection.
  • Autonomous chiefs, such as rajas, raos, ranas, and rawatas, had autonomous control over their territories without interference from the imperial administration.
  • The relationship between the zamindars and the imperial power determined the extent of their autonomy and privileges.

III. The Zamindari Rights

  • The zamindari right did not signify proprietary ownership of land but rather a claim on the produce of the soil alongside the state’s land revenue demand.
  • Zamindari rights were freely bought and sold, with no restrictions based on caste or religion.
  • These rights were inheritable and divisible, allowing heirs to divide the fiscal claims and perquisites of their inherited zamindaris.
  • Zamindars had close ties with the peasants settled in their zamindaris, providing them with capital, organization, and knowledge about land and its productivity.
  • The government aimed to maximize land revenue collection by utilizing the zamindars’ knowledge while establishing direct contact with the cultivators, especially owner-cultivators.
  • The zamindari right encompassed financial income and social prestige, with fixed shares, such as nankar and malikhana, being granted to zamindars based on revenue collection.

IV. The Fiscal Claims and Perquisites of Zamindars

  • In addition to their principal fiscal claim, zamindars extracted various perquisites from the peasantry, including taxes, tolls, and imposts.
  • These perquisites, such as dastar shumari (turban tax), khana shumari (house tax), and taxes on forest and water produce, were additional sources of income for the zamindars.
  • The charges and cesses varied across regions, but they contributed to the zamindars’ overall revenue and power.
  • While the zamindars’ principal fiscal claim was relatively moderate, local officials were tasked with controlling their actual income.
  • Illegal exactions, such as forced labor (begar), were prevalent, and the zamindars’ actions were often subject to scrutiny and control by the state.

V. Military Strength and Living Standards of Zamindars

  • Zamindars formed the apex of rural life and were characterized by their military strength and status symbols.
  • They maintained their own armed forces, including footmen and cavalry, to assist in revenue collection and subjugation of the peasantry.
  • According to the Ain-i Akbari, in Akbar’s reign, zamindars commanded a significant number of soldiers, elephants, and cannons.
  • However, the zamindars’ forces were dispersed and couldn’t be fielded in large numbers at any given time or place.
  • The income and living standards of zamindars varied, with smaller zamindars resembling affluent peasants, while larger zamindars approached the lifestyle of petty rajas or nobles.
  • Most zamindars lived in the countryside and formed a loosely connected local gentry.

VI. Chaudhuris and Other Intermediaries

  • Chaudhuris were designated zamindars responsible for revenue collection within a pargana (administrative division).
  • These chaudhuris collected revenue from other zamindars in the pargana and were entitled to a share of the land revenue collected, known as chaudhurai.
  • The position of chaudhuri also involved additional responsibilities such as acting as surety for lesser zamindars, distributing and ensuring the repayment of taqavi loans, and serving as a countercheck on qanungos (revenue officials).
  • Unlike zamindars, chaudhuris were appointed by the state and could be removed for improper functioning.
  • Other important intermediaries in the revenue collection process included the village headman (muqaddam in Northern India and patel in the Deccan) and the village accountant (patwari in Northern India and kulkarni in the Deccan).
  • The village headman was responsible for maintaining law and order in the village and collecting land revenue, while the village accountant kept records of revenue collection from individual peasants.
  • Both the muqaddam and patwari received remuneration through revenue-free land or a fixed commission from the total revenue collected.

VII. Relations Between Agrarian Classes

  • The relations between the zamindars, jagirdars, and peasants formed a tripolar relationship that served as the base of the Mughal Jagirdari system.
  • Both the zamindars and jagirdars relied on the surplus produce of the peasantry, acting as collaborators in the exploitation of the peasants.
  • The zamindar-peasant relationship was based on a balance that allowed the zamindar to exploit the surplus produce without driving away the peasants or disrupting agricultural operations.
  • On the other hand, the jagirdars, due to frequent transfers of jagirs, prioritized maximum exploitation of the peasantry, even at the cost of their desertion and unattended fields.
  • The relationship between the jagirdars and peasants often involved coercion and serf-like practices, where peasants were detained or brought back if they tried to escape.
  • Conflict and tension arose between the zamindars and jagirdars, leading to law and order issues and weakening the authority of the state.

VIII. The Mughal Decline and Peasant Revolts

  • Peasant revolts occurred under two main circumstances: when the revenue demand exceeded the surplus produce, endangering the peasants’ subsistence, and when the zamindars revolted against the state or jagirdars, and the peasants supported their overlords.
  • Peasant revolts primarily aimed for a reduction in revenue demands and were often led by zamindars, with peasants serving the interests of their zamindar overlords.
  • Although the zamindars, as a class, remained loyal to the state, conflicts and worsening agrarian conditions led to disunity and weakened their ability to confront despotic rulers.
  • The decline of the Mughal Empire can be attributed, in part, to the breakdown of the equilibrium between the zamindars, jagirdars, and peasants, as well as conflicts within the peasantry itself.

IX. Menial Workers and Other Considerations

  • A significant portion of the rural population consisted of menial workers, including chamars, balahars, thoris, and dhanuks, who were exploited by both the zamindars and peasants.
  • Menial workers provided cheap labor for agricultural production, reducing production costs and increasing the surplus produce available for exploitation.
  • The state, zamindars, and peasants collaborated in suppressing and exploiting menial workers, further solidifying the hierarchical structure of agrarian society.
  • Other intermediaries, such as village headmen and accountants, played essential roles in revenue collection and maintaining administrative order in the villages.

X. Mansabdari/Jagirdari System and Zamindars

  • The mansabdari system played a crucial role in the Mughal Empire’s administrative and military structure.
  • Many mansabdars, including chieftains and zamindars, were recruited from the ranks of the zamindars.
  • Out of the 575 mansabdars in 1707, 81 were zamindars, highlighting their significant presence in the imperial administration.
  • Zamindars who became mansabdars were often granted jagirs outside their homelands, known as watan jagirs.
  • In some cases, when the salary of their rank exceeded the income from their watan jagirs, they were given additional jagirs elsewhere.
  • The ability of mansabdars to collect land revenue from zamindars and keep the peasantry engaged in agricultural production was vital for the successful functioning of the jagir system.
  • Maintaining a strong military force was crucial for mansabdars, requiring them to generate sufficient revenue and resources from their jagirs.
  • The decline of the Mughal Empire can be linked, in part, to the inability to maintain a balance between the various agrarian classes, including the zamindars, jagirdars, and peasantry.

XI. Madad-i Ma’ash and Zamindars

  • The Madad-i Ma’ash holdings were revenue-free land grants scattered throughout the zamindaris.
  • These grants aimed to establish pockets of influence for the empire in rural areas and to keep the power of recalcitrant zamindars in check.
  • The Madad-i Ma’ash grantees, often men of learning, helped balance the social and political groups that constituted the foundation of the empire.
  • Maintaining a policy of checks and balances between zamindars, jagirdars, Madad-i Ma’ash holders, and local indigenous elements was crucial for the empire’s stability.
  • The decline of the Mughal Empire in the early 18th century can be attributed, in part, to the breakdown of this delicate equilibrium.

XII. Zamindars and Menial Workers

  • The zamindars, along with the state and peasants, played a role in the suppression and exploitation of menial workers, such as chamars, balahars, thoris, and dhanuks.
  • Menial workers were a cheap source of labor for the zamindars and peasants, helping to lower the cost of production and increase the surplus produce.
  • The exploitation of menial workers contributed to the hierarchical structure of agrarian society, further consolidating the power of the zamindars and perpetuating social inequalities.


In this in-depth exploration of the zamindars in the Mughal Empire, we have examined their origins, rights, privileges, and relationships with other agrarian classes. The zamindars held significant power in the agrarian structure, ruling over revenue collection and judicial administration in their respective areas. They played a crucial role in the revenue system of the empire and had military strength and social prestige. However, tensions and conflicts within the agrarian classes, as well as the exploitation of menial workers, contributed to the decline of the empire. Understanding the complexities of the zamindar system provides valuable insights into the socio-economic dynamics of the Mughal Empire.

  1. Analyze the relationship between the zamindars and the peasantry in the Mughal Empire. How did this relationship contribute to the stability of the agrarian structure, and what factors led to conflicts and tensions between the two groups? (250 words)
  2. Evaluate the impact of the mansabdari/jagirdari system on the zamindars in the Mughal Empire. Discuss the role of zamindars within this administrative and military structure, the benefits they derived from the system, and the challenges they faced. (250 words)


Home Courses Plans Account