THE JAGIR SYSTEM
The Jagir System
- Jagir was a unit of land, whose revenues were assigned to a Mansabdar in lieu of his salary. The Jagirs assigned in lieu of salary were known as tankhwah Jagirs.
- Besides, there were the watan Jagirs (hereditary possessions) of the autonomous chiefs, who, if in Mughal service, were also granted the former type of Jagirs in the imperial territory.
- Under the Mughals, apart from the Jagir lands, whose revenues went to pay the salaries of the Mansabdars for their services to the state, there were also the Khalisa lands, whose revenues were earmarked for the maintenance of the imperial court and the personal expenditure of the emperor.
- Hence the Jagir of the Mughal times was similar to the iqta of the Delhi sultanate.
- Like the iqta, the assignment of a Jagir to a Mansabdar did not confer any hereditary rights to that Jagir on the Mansabdar. He could enjoy the revenues of the Jagir as long as he held the Mansab or official rank and rendered services to the state.
- In other words, the Jagirdars owed their position to the Mughal emperor, there being no practical difference between the state and the emperor in Mughal times.
- The Mughal emperors jealously guarded their privileged position against any hereditary claims to the Jagirs by the Jagirdars by following the policy of frequent transfer of Jagirs of the Jagirdars.
- Thus, the Jagir system was closely related to the mansab system. In fact it was a subsidiary system of the all-in-one mansab system.
- We should note here that all Jagirdars were Mansabdars, but not all Mansabdars were Jagirdars, because some Mansabdars were paid in cash and not through the assignment of Jagirs.
In a narrow sense, Jagirdari crisis meant crisis in the Jagir system resulting in the attempt of the nobles to corner the most profitable Jagirs for themselves.
But in a broader sense it meant a crisis in the economic and social relations of medieval Mughal India, more specifically in the agrarian relations and the administrative superstructure reared upon these relations.
The following were the causes for this crisis:
- The nature of medieval Indian society, which limited agricultural growth and whose delicate balance was liable to be upset on a number of counts, such as serious struggle for power at the centre, disaffection in the nobility, etc was the main cause of this crisis.
- Further, the breakdown of the Mughal administrative system, and the weaknesses of the later Mughals also led to this crisis.
- Another cause was the growth in the size and demands of the ruling class, viz. the nobility and their dependents, both of whom subsisted on the revenue resources of the empire. The number of Mansabdars increased from around 2000 in 1605 to almost 12,000 by 1675.
- The expansion of the Khalisa lands by both Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb in order to meet the growing administrative expenses as also the cost of the wars which were a continuous feature of Aurangzeb’s reign also initiated this crisis.
- Finally, opposition and revolts of the Zamindars and the peasants against the illegal exactions of the nobles aggravated this crisis.
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