Zoya Ansari talks about the administrative apparatus of the Mughal Administration And the Empire
Mughal administration and rule and its practices are rated as the prototype of the modern governance pattern and many chronicles portray the empire as an agency resting almost solely with the emperor while the rest of the kingdom was shown as following his commands but this impression may be far away from the actual situation existing on the ground.
In actual fact, the Mughal state was a two-way traffic in which the matters of the state continually moved from up to down and then up again till the emperor finally agreed with the advice tendered and confirmed it into a policy. The emperor was made to listen to different points of view and he tended to act after soliciting their advice.
To assist the emperor in managing the empire was the Mughal officialdom representing vast and well-oiled machinery that controlled the imperial state with remarkable efficiency and dedication. The officialdom was controlled through stringent supervision exercised by the emperor who as the chief executive ran a very tight ship.
The administrative acumen of the first six emperors was exemplary which held this gigantic structure in harness and made it perform feats that appear exceptional to the modern perception. Mughal Administration officialdom was managed through a clear chain of command and contained a designated hierarchical ladder that was finally answerable to the sovereign.
It was therefore imperative that the sovereign contained a keen sense of adjudging the capability of his officials and place them accordingly. The Mughal Empire was an entity that heavily relied on personnel migrating from adjoining countries to serve it. The nobility was recruited from diverse ethnic and religious groups. This ensured that no faction was large enough to challenge the authority of the state.
Mughal Administration Officers
The officer corps of the Mughals was held together by loyalty to the emperor. In Akbar’s imperial service, Turani and Iranian nobles were present from the earliest phase of carving out a political dominion. Most of the different groups and classes of people from all societies sought refuge in the imperial court but many came down voluntarily.
The different groups from India, men with knowledge and skills as well as warriors comprised of various groups gained prominence and were known as Bukhari’s and Bhakkaris, Saiyyads of genuine lineage, Shaikhzadas with noble ancestry, Afghan tribes such as the Lodis, Rohillas, Yusufzai, and castes of Rajputs, who were to be addressed as Rana, raja, Rao, and Rayan with surnames known as Rathore, Sisodia, Kachhwaha, Chauhan, Solanki, Bundela, Shekhawat, and all the other Indian tribes, such as Ghakkar, Khokar, and Baluchi.
Different ethnic groups gained prominence in the Empire, particularly the Iranians who gained high offices under Jahangir, whose politically influential queen, Nur Jahan was an Iranian and whose father and brother remained the top-most officers of the realm. Aurangzeb appointed Rajputs to high positions, and under him, the Marathas accounted for a sizeable number within the body of officers.
All holders of government offices held ranks (mansabs) comprising two numerical designations: zat which was an indicator of position in the imperial hierarchy and the salary of the official (mansabdar), and sawar which indicated the number of horsemen he was required to maintain in service.
The nobles participated in military campaigns with their armies and also served as officers of the empire in the provinces. Each military commander recruited, equipped, and trained the main striking arm of the Mughal Administration army, the cavalry. The troopers maintained superior horses branded on the flank by the imperial mark.
Mughal Emperor Responsibility
The emperor personally reviewed changes in rank, titles, and official postings for all except the lowest-ranked officers. Akbar, who designed the mansab system, was mindful that for members of the nobility, imperial service was a way of acquiring power, wealth, and the highest possible reputation.
In such a closed-end system the initial point and mode of entry played a cardinal part. The emperor was the final deciding authority but he worked in collaboration with his staff in selecting and employing members of his hierarchy. In this respect, a heavy responsibility was placed on the nobility that dictated that a candidate wishing to join the service petitioned through a noble, who presented a proposal to the emperor.
In order to prevent the great nobles from becoming insolent through the unchallenged enjoyment of power, the emperor summoned them to court and gave them imperious commands, as though they were his slaves. The obedience to these commands ill-suited their exalted rank and dignity.
The nobles were required to satisfy themselves with the credentials of the application before approaching the emperor. The system placed heavy reliance on the credibility of the nobility as it was the mainstay of the administrative structure. The nobility preferred getting the appointments of their candidates for increasing their influence in the hierarchy.
Once employed, the appointee had to undergo the ritualistic process of becoming part of the imperialist hierarchy. The emperor would rarely comment upon the performance of new entrants and once his presence was acknowledged then he was assured that he will keep on working and eventually progress in imperial service.
After consulting his secretariat the emperor granted the successful candidate a Mansab. Appointment to all mansabs was the exclusive preserve of the emperor whose approval was mandatory.
Mughal Important Ministers
The only chance for accelerated promotion was bravery shown on a battlefield that was mostly noted by the emperor. The emperor also valued the assessment of his field generals and accepted their recommendations for promotion. The Mughal administrative system was quite rigid and many serving officers took a long time to climb the ladder it was not unusual to gain promotion even after decades in the ranks.
After the confirmation of the appointment, the successful new entrant had to go through a long rigmarole of official procedures to obtain his appointment orders. After obtaining the orders he had to be registered with the office of the Mir Bakshi for the fixation and release of his official emoluments.
Usually, the laid-down grades were not regularly adhered to and bargaining for salary and emoluments was commonplace. After the completion of these formalities, the mir bakhshi (paymaster general) stood in open court on the right of the emperor and presented all candidates for appointment or promotion, while his office prepared orders bearing his seal and signature as well as those of the emperor.
There were two other important ministers at the center: the diwan-i-ala and sadr-us-sudur (minister of grants or madad-i mash, and in charge of appointing local judges or qazis). The three ministers occasionally came together as an advisory body but were independent of each other. Akbar with these and other advisers shaped the administrative, fiscal, and monetary institutions of the empire.
Nobles stationed at the court (tainat-i rakab) were a reserve force to be deputed to a province or military campaign. They were duty-bound to appear twice daily, morning and evening, to express submission to the emperor in the public audience hall. They shared the responsibility for guarding the emperor and his household round the clock. The Weekender