“Mansab” is an Arabic word which means a post, an officer a rank, or status. Therefore, Mansabdar means an officer or the holder of the rank, status, and post. Before Akbar, there was no division of civil and military functions of the state. The soldiers had to fight in war and also perform duty of police in the state. They were required to perform civil and military services / duties at the same time.
Akbar introduced a new system for regulating imperial services which was called Mansabdari system. It was introduced in 1570 A. D. All the gazette imperial officers of the state were styled as Mansabdars. They were classified into (66) grades, from the rank of (10) to ten thousands (10,000) constituted. The (10) was the lowest rank and the ten thousand (10,000) was the highest. The Mansabdars belonged to both Civil and Military department. Officers were Liable to transfer. They were rather, transferred from the civil to military service and vice versa. The soldiers recruited by centre were called Dakhili and by Mansabdass were called Ahadi.
Working of the Mansabdari System
1) Maintenance of Troops:-
The Mansabdars were required to to maintain a fix number of troops and other equipments such as; horses, elephants, camels, mules, carfts, etc. Thus the ‘zat’ and ‘sawar’ ranks were introduced. ‘zat’ indicate the number of the troops which a mansabdar was expected to maintain, while sawar indicate the actual number of horses under the command of a mansabdar. For example; A mansabdar holding (1000, zat(troops)) and (500,sawar) used to be hold the rank of ‘1000’ or ‘yak hazari’ (morah). There were 3 classes of mansabdars:
i) Ist Class: those who had equal zat (soldiess) and sawar.
ii) 2nd Class: those who had full zat but haf sawar.
iii) 3rd class: those who had full zat but less than haf sawar.
Apart from their salary, the Mansabdars were paid the cost of their establishment of the elephants, horses and camels. The Mansabdars were allowed to recruit their own troops from their races. At the time of enlisting the descriptive rolls of the troops were recorded & the horses were branded. In this regard the practice of Dag & Hulia was introduced. Each horse bore two marks; one of govt. mark on the right high. Every year or sometimes after 3 years inspection of troops was carried out.
2) No Distinction between civil and Military Services was accepted. The revenue personnel or a judicial officer was recruited as Mansabdar. All imperial officers, except the ‘Qazis’ and the ‘sardas’ were enrolled as member of the mansabdari system.
3. Organization of Ranks of the Mansabdass :- The lowest of the Mansabdar was(10) and the highest was(1000). The ranks above (5,000) were reserved for imperial princes. Mansabs of (8000) and above were reserved for the members of the Royal family. The Mansabdars were sub-divided into the following three grades:
i) From 20 to 400, called, mansabdars
ii) From 500 to 2500 called umra
iii) From 3,000 & above called umra-i-Akbar
4. Appointments, Dismissals and promotions of Mansabdars: There were no such rules to regulate appointments, promotions and dismissals of the mansabdar. The Emperor was authorized to appoint anyone as Mansabdar and at any rank. The promotion depends upon the pleasure of the Emperor. Thus it represents that it was a highly centralized system. The King was all in all.
5. Salaries of Mansabdars:
The Mansabdars were paid according to their ranks. They were paid a good amount of money. Sometimes, they were also paid in jagirs. They were not supposed to accumulate their salaries and wealth. After the death of a mansabdar, all his jagirs and wealth was confiscated. As a result, Mansabders used to spend lavishly in badings like girls, drinks, parties’ .In short, they had no option but to spoil their earning.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The mansabdari system was an improvement over the systems of tribal chieftainship and feudalism; it was a progressive and systematic method adopted by Akbar to re-organize his army within the fold of despotic monarchy. Although many mansabdars were allowed to recruit soldiers on tribal or religious considerations, they were also made to know that they owed unconditional allegiance to the central government.
Single men approaching the court in the hope of obtaining employment in the army, were obliged first to seek a patron. These men generally attached themselves to chiefs from their own race; Mughals became the followers of Mughals, Persians of Persians, and so on. This led to a certain homogeneity of military traits and the development of tactics particularly suited to the military prowess of individual groups. Certain groups began to be identified with certain qualities-Rajput and Pathan soldiers were considered most valuable for their martial prowess and fidelity, for instance.
As a result of the mansabdari system, the emperor had no longer to depend exclusively on the mercenaries of the feudal chieftains. The mansabdari system put an end to the jagirdari system within the territories under the direct control of the imperial government. No portion of a mansab was hereditary, and a mansabdar’s children had to begin afresh. All appointments, promotions, suspensions and dismissal of the mansabdars rested entirely with the emperor. Every mansabdar was thus held personally responsible to the monarch; this factor eliminated chances of disaffection and revolts by the military officers and may be said to be a major achievement of mansabdari system. Nevertheless, the mansabdari system suffered from many disadvantages as well. The -system did not give birth to an army of national character since two-thirds of the mansabdars were either foreigners or descendants of foreign immigrants.
In spite of Akbar’s rather secular policy in the matter of recruitment, Hindus formed barely nine per cent of the aggregate strength of the imperial cadre. The state’s failure to recruit all the soldiers under the supervision of a central or imperial agency was to cost it dearly. Since mansabdars were free to recruit their soldiers as they pleased, they preferred to enroll men of their own tribe, race, religion or region. While this led to homogenization of military tactics, it also divided the imperial army into many heterogeneous units. There were no uniform rules for the systematic training of the soldiers, nor for the conduct of regular drill or physical exercise to keep them fit. No uniform standard was fixed for arming the soldiers; as a result, there was considerable variation in the weapons borne by them. The standard of efficiency also varied from contingent to contingent.
Furthermore, as soldiers were recruited by a mansabdar for his own contingent, they regarded him as the real employer and patron, and tended to display more loyalty to their immediate military commander than the emperor. A mansabdar always ommanded the same troops for life and transfers f the soldiers from one contingent to another were not known. As the soldiers received their salaries and allowances from the mansabdars, the latter could cheat the state if they wanted to. A dishonest mansabdar could, for instance, recruit less than the specified number of troops as indicated by his swar rank and get the salaries paid to the fictitious men, or alternatively, get fictitious payrolls prepared in the name of non-existent person, in collaboration with the corrupt staff of the army establishment or the finance department.
The high-ranking mansabdars, like the amirs and amir-ul-umara, were the most highly paid officers of the state. As the Mughal Empire was in a formative stage, it was involved in a process of continuous conquests and annexations. Thus the military officers were often in a position to appropriate for them a substantial part of the booty. Even if Akbar did come to know of the misconduct of his senior officers in this regard, he could not take action against each one of them.