PEAsANts, ZAmINDARs AND thE StAtE        During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries about 85 per cent of the population of India lived in its villages. Both peasants and landed elites were involved in agricultural production and claimed rights to a share of the produce. This created relationships of cooperation, competition and conflict among them. The sum of these agrarian relationships made up rural society. At the same time agencies from outside also entered into the rural world. Most important among these was the Mughal state, which derived the bulk of its income from agricultural production. Agents of the state – revenue assessors, collectors, record keepers – sought to control rural society so as to ensure that cultivation took place and the state got its regular share of taxes from the produce. Since many crops were grown for sale, trade, money and markets entered the villages and linked the agricultural areas with the towns. 1. PEAsANts AND AGRIcultuRAl PRoDuctIoN The basic unit of agricultural society was the village, inhabited by peasants who performed the manifold seasonal tasks that made up agricultural production throughout the year – tilling the soil, sowing seeds, harvesting the crop when it was ripe. Further, they contributed their labour to the production of agro-based goods such as sugar and oil. But rural India was not characterised by settled peasant production alone. Several kinds of areas such as large tracts of dry land or hilly regions were not cultivable in the same way as the more fertile Fig. 8.1 A rural scene Detail from a seventeenth-century Mughal painting PEAsANts, ZAmINDARs AND thE StAtE AGRARIAN SocIE IAN SocIE IAN SocIEt AND thE MuGhAl EM hE MuGhAl EM hE MuGhAl EMPIRE (c. sIxtEENt . sIxtEENt . sIxtEENth sEvENtEENth cENtuRIEs) THEME EIGHT 2015-16(20/01/2015)  expanses of land. In addition, forest areas made up a substantial proportion of territory. We need to keep this varied topography in mind when discussing agrarian society. 1.1 Looking for sources Our understanding of the workings of rural society does not come from those who worked the land, as peasants did not write about themselves. Our major source for the agrarian history of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries are chronicles and documents from the Mughal court (see also Chapter 9). One of the most important chronicles was the Ain-i Akbari (in short the Ain, see also Section 8) authored by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl. This text meticulously recorded the arrangements made by the state to ensure cultivation, to enable the collection of revenue by the agencies of the state and to regulate the relationship between the state and rural magnates, the zamindars. The central purpose of the Ain was to present a vision of Akbar’s empire where social harmony was provided by a strong ruling class. Any revolt or assertion of autonomous power against the Mughal state was, in the eyes of the author of the Ain , predestined to fail. In other words, whatever we learn from the Ain about peasants remains a view from the top. Fortunately, however, the account of the Ain can be supplemented by descriptions contained in sources emanating from regions away from the Mughal capital. These include detailed revenue records from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Further, the extensive records of the East India Company (see also Chapter 10) provide us with useful descriptions of agrarian relations in eastern India. All these sources record instances of conflicts between peasants, zamindars and the state. In the process they give us an insight into peasants’ perception of and their expectations of fairness from the state. 1.2 Peasants and their lands The term which Indo-Persian sources of the Mughal period most frequently used to denote a peasant was raiyat (plural, riaya ) or muzarian . In addition, we also encounter the terms kisan or asami. Sources of the seventeenth century refer to two kinds of peasants – khud-kashta and pahi-kashta . The former      2015-16(20/01/2015)        were residents of the village in which they held their lands. The latter were non-resident cultivators who belonged to some other village, but cultivated lands elsewhere on a contractual basis. People became pahi-kashta either out of choice – for example, when terms of revenue in a distant village were more favourable – or out of compulsion – for example, forced by economic distress after a famine. Seldom did the average peasant of north India possess more than a pair of bullocks and two ploughs; most possessed even less. In Gujarat peasants possessing about six acres of land were considered to be affluent; in Bengal, on the other hand, five acres was the upper limit of an average peasant farm ; 10 acres would make one a rich asami. Cultivation was based on the principle of individual ownership. Peasant lands were bought and sold in the same way as the lands of other property owners. This nineteenth-century description of peasant holdings in the Delhi-Agra region would apply equally to the seventeenth century: The cultivating peasants (asamis ), who plough up the fields, mark the limits of each field, for identification and demarcation, with borders of (raised) earth, brick and thorn so that thousands of such fields may be counted in a village. 1.3 Irrigation and technology The abundance of land, available labour and the mobility of peasants were three factors that accounted for the constant expansion of agriculture. Since the primary purpose of agriculture is to feed people, basic staples such as rice, wheat or millets were the most frequently cultivated crops. Areas which received 40 inches or more of rainfall a year were generally rice-producing zones, followed by wheat and millets, corresponding to a descending scale of precipitation. Monsoons remained the backbone of Indian agriculture, as they are even today. But there were crops which required additional water. Artificial systems of irrigation had to be devised for this.                                                               Source 1 О Describe the aspects of agricultural life that struck Babur as particular to regions in northern India. 2015-16(20/01/2015)                                     О Compare the irrigation devices observed by Babur with what you have learnt about irrigation in Vijayanagara (Chapter 7). What kind of resources would each of these systems require? Which systems could ensure the participation of peasants in improving agricultural technology? Fig. 8.2 A reconstructed Persian wheel, described here Source 2      2015-16(20/01/2015)        Irrigation projects received state support as well. For example, in northern India the state undertook digging of new canals (nahr , nala ) and also repaired old ones like the shahnahr in the Punjab during Shah Jahan’s reign. Though agriculture was labour intensive, peasants did use technologies that often harnessed cattle energy. One example was the wooden plough, which was light and easily assembled with an iron tip or coulter. It therefore did not make deep furrows, which preserved the moisture better during the intensely hot months. A drill, pulled by a pair of giant oxen, was used to plant seeds, but broadcasting of seed was the most prevalent method. Hoeing and weeding were done simultaneously using a narrow iron blade with a small wooden handle. 1.4 An abundance of crops Agriculture was organised around two major seasonal cycles, the kharif (autumn) and the rabi (spring). This would mean that most regions, except those terrains that were the most arid or inhospitable, produced a minimum of two crops a year (do-fasla ), whereas some, where rainfall or irrigation assured a continuous supply of water, even gave three crops. This ensured an enormous variety of produce. For instance, we are told in the Ain that the Mughal provinces of Agra produced 39 varieties of crops and Delhi produced 43 over the two seasons. Bengal produced 50 varieties of rice alone. However, the focus on the cultivation of basic staples did not mean that agriculture in medieval India was only for subsistence. We often come across the term jins-i kamil (literally, perfect crops) in our sources. The Mughal state also encouraged peasants to cultivate such crops as they brought in more revenue. Crops such as cotton and sugarcane were jins-i kamil par excellence. Cotton was grown over a great swathe of territory spread over central India and the Deccan plateau, whereas Bengal was famous for its sugar. Such cash crops would also include various sorts of oilseeds (for example, mustard) and lentils. This shows how subsistence and commercial production were closely intertwined in an average peasant’s holding. During the seventeenth century several new crops from different parts of the world reached the Indian                                                                                  2015-16(20/01/2015)  subcontinent. Maize (makka ), for example, was introduced into India via Africa and Spain and by the seventeenth century it was being listed as one of the major crops of western India. Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and chillies were introduced from the New World at this time, as were fruits like the pineapple and the papaya. 2. ThE IllAGE CommuNIt The above account makes it clear that agricultural production involved the intensive participation and initiative of the peasantry. How did this affect the structure of agrarian relations in Mughal society? To find out, let us look at the social groups involved in agricultural expansion, and at their relationships and conflicts. We have seen that peasants held their lands in individual ownership. At the same time they belonged to a collective village community as far as many aspects of their social existence were concerned. There were three constituents of this community – the cultivators, the panchayat, and the village headman (muqaddam or mandal). 2.1 Caste and the rural milieu Deep inequities on the basis of caste and other caste- like distinctions meant that the cultivators were a highly heterogeneous group. Among those who tilled the land, there was a sizeable number who worked as menials or agricultural labourers (majur ). Despite the abundance of cultivable land, certain caste groups were assigned menial tasks and thus relegated to poverty. Though there was no census at that time, the little data that we have suggest that such groups comprised a large section of the village population, had the least resources and were constrained by their position in the caste hierarchy, much like the Dalits of modern India. Such distinctions had begun permeating into other О Discuss... Identify the technologies and agricultural practices described in this section that appear similar to or different from those described in Chapter 2.      Fig. 8.3 An early nineteenth-century painting depicting a village in the Punjab О Describe what women and men are shown doing in the illustration as well as the architecture of the village. 2015-16(20/01/2015)        communities too. In Muslim communities menials like the halalkhoran (scavengers) were housed outside the boundaries of the village; similarly the mallahzadas (literally, sons of boatmen) in Bihar were comparable to slaves. There was a direct correlation between caste, poverty and social status at the lower strata of society. Such correlations were not so marked at intermediate levels. In a manual from seventeenth- century Marwar, Rajputs are mentioned as peasants, sharing the same space with Jats, who were accorded a lower status in the caste hierarchy. The Gauravas, who cultivated land around Vrindavan (Uttar Pradesh), sought Rajput status in the seventeenth century. Castes such as the Ahirs, Gujars and Malis rose in the hierarchy because of the profitability of cattle rearing and horticulture. In the eastern regions, intermediate pastoral and fishing castes like the Sadgops and Kaivartas acquired the status of peasants. 2.2 Panchayats and headmen The village panchayat was an assembly of elders, usually important people of the village with hereditary rights over their property. In mixed-caste villages, the panchayat was usually a heterogeneous body. An oligarchy, the panchayat represented various castes and communities in the village, though the village menial-cum-agricultural worker was unlikely to be represented there. The decisions made by these panchayats were binding on the members. The panchayat was headed by a headman known as muqaddam or mandal. Some sources suggest that the headman was chosen through the consensus of the village elders, and that this choice had to be ratified by the zamindar. Headmen held office as long as they enjoyed the confidence of the village elders, failing which they could be dismissed by them. The chief function of the headman was to supervise the preparation of village accounts, assisted by the accountant or patwari of the panchayat. The panchayat derived its funds from contributions made by individuals to a common financial pool. These funds were used for defraying the costs of entertaining revenue officials who visited the village from time to time. Expenses for community welfare activities such as tiding over                   2015-16(20/01/2015)  Fig. 8.4 An early nineteenth-century painting depicting a meeting of village elders and tax collectors natural calamities (like floods), were also met from these funds. Often these funds were also deployed in construction of a bund or digging a canal which peasants usually could not afford to do on their own. One important function of the panchayat was to ensure that caste boundaries among the various communities inhabiting the village were upheld. In eastern India all marriages were held in the presence of the mandal . In other words one of the duties of the village headman was to oversee the conduct of the members of the village community “chiefly to prevent any offence against their caste”. Panchayats also had the authority to levy fines and inflict more serious forms of punishment like expulsion from the community. The latter was a drastic step and was in most cases meted out for a limited period. It meant that a person forced to leave the village became an outcaste and lost his right to practise his profession. Such a measure was intended as a deterrent to violation of caste norms. In addition to the village panchayat each caste or jati in the village had its own jati panchayat. These panchayats wielded considerable power in rural society. In Rajasthan jati panchayats arbitrated civil disputes between members of different castes. They mediated in contested claims on land, decided whether marriages were performed according to the norms laid down by a particular caste group, determined who had ritual precedence in village functions, and so on. In most cases, except in matters of criminal justice, the state respected the decisions of jati panchayats. Archival records from western India – notably Rajasthan and Maharashtra – contain petitions presented to the panchayat complaining about extortionate taxation or the demand for unpaid labour (begar ) imposed by the “superior” castes or officials of the state. These petitions were usually made by villagers, from the lowest rungs of rural society. Often petitions were made collectively as      О How has the artist differentiated between the village elders and the tax collectors? 2015-16(20/01/2015)        well, by a caste group or a community protesting against what they considered were morally illegitimate demands on the part of elite groups. These included excessive tax demands which, especially in times of drought or other disasters, endangered the peasants’ subsistence. In the eyes of the petitioners the right to the basic minimum for survival was sanctioned by custom. They regarded the village panchayat as the court of appeal that would ensure that the state carried out its moral obligations and guaranteed justice. The decision of the panchayat in conflicts between “lower-caste” peasants and state officials or the local zamindar could vary from case to case. In cases of excessive revenue demands, the panchayat often suggested compromise. In cases where reconciliation failed, peasants took recourse to more drastic forms of resistance, such as deserting the village. The relatively easy availability of uncultivated land and the competition over labour resources made this an effective weapon in the hands of cultivators. 2.3 Village artisans Another interesting aspect of the village was the elaborate relationship of exchange between different producers. Marathi documents and village surveys made in the early years of British rule have revealed the existence of substantial numbers of artisans, sometimes as high as 25 per cent of the total households in the villages. At times, however, the distinction between artisans and peasants in village society was a fluid one, as many groups performed the tasks of both. Cultivators and their families would also participate in craft production – such as dyeing, textile printing, baking and firing of pottery, making and repairing Fig. 8.5 A seventeenth-century painting depicting textile production ОDescribe the activities that are shown in the illustration. 2015-16(20/01/2015)  agricultural implements. Phases in the agricultural calendar when there was a relative lull in activity, as between sowing and weeding or between weeding and harvesting, were a time when cultivators could engage in artisanal production. Village artisans – potters, blacksmiths, carpenters, barbers, even goldsmiths – provided specialised services in return for which they were compensated by villagers by a variety of means. The most common way of doing so was by giving them a share of the harvest, or an allotment of land, perhaps cultivable wastes, which was likely to be decided by the panchayat. In Maharashtra such lands became the artisans’ miras or watan – their hereditary holding. Another variant of this was a system where artisans and individual peasant households entered into a mutually negotiated system of remuneration, most of the time goods for services. For example, eighteenth-century records tell us of zamindars in Bengal who remunerated blacksmiths, carpenters, even goldsmiths for their work by paying them “a small daily allowance and diet money”. This later came to be described as the jajmani system, though the term was not in vogue in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Such evidence is interesting because it indicates the intricate ways in which exchange networks operated at the micro-level of the village. Cash remuneration was not entirely unknown either. 2.4 A “little republic”? How does one understand the significance of the village community? Some British officials in the nineteenth century saw the village as a “little republic” made up of fraternal partners sharing resources and labour in a collective. However, this was not a sign of rural egalitarianism. There was individual ownership of assets and deep inequities based on caste and gender distinctions. A group of powerful individuals decided the affairs of the village, exploited the weaker sections and had the authority to dispense justice. More importantly, a cash nexus had already developed through trade between villages and towns. In the Mughal heartland too, revenue was assessed and collected in cash. Artisans producing for the export market (for example, weavers) received their      2015-16(20/01/2015)        advances or wages in cash, as did producers of commercial products like cotton, silk or indigo. О Discuss... In what ways do you think the panchayats described in this section were similar to or different from present-day gram panchayats? 3. omEN IN AGRARIAN SocIEt As you may have observed in many different societies, the production process often involves men and women performing certain specified roles. In the contexts that we are exploring, women and men had to work shoulder to shoulder in the fields. Men tilled and ploughed, while women sowed, weeded, threshed and winnowed the harvest. With the growth of nucleated villages and expansion in individuated peasant farming, which characterised medieval Indian agriculture, the basis of production was the labour and resources of the entire household. Naturally, a gendered segregation between the home (for women) and the world (for men) was not possible in this context. Nonetheless biases related to women’s biological functions did continue. Menstruating women, for instance, were not allowed to touch the plough or the potter’s wheel in western India, or enter the groves where betel-leaves (paan ) were grown in Bengal. Artisanal tasks such as spinning yarn, sifting and kneading clay for pottery, and embroidery were among the many aspects of production dependent on female labour. The more commercialised the product, the greater the demand on women’s labour to produce it. In fact, peasant and artisan women worked not only in the fields, but even went to the houses of their employers or to the markets if necessary. Women were considered an important resource in agrarian society also because they were child bearers in a society dependent on labour. At the same time, high mortality rates among women – owing to malnutrition, frequent pregnancies, death during childbirth – often meant a shortage of wives. This led to the emergence of social customs in peasant and artisan communities that were distinct from                                        Fig. 8.7 A woman spinning thread Fig. 8.6 A shroff at work 2015-16(20/01/2015)  those prevalent among elite groups. Marriages in many rural communities required the payment of bride-price rather than dowry to the bride’s family. Remarriage was considered legitimate both among divorced and widowed women. The importance attached to women as a reproductive force also meant that the fear of losing control over them was great. According to established social norms, the household was headed by a male. Thus women were kept under strict control by the male members of the family and the community. They could inflict draconian punishments if they suspected infidelity on the part of women. Documents from Western India – Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra – record petitions sent by women to the village panchayat, seeking redress and justice. Wives protested against the infidelity of their husbands or the neglect of the wife and children by the male head of the household, the grihasthi . While male infidelity was not always punished, the state and “superior” caste groups did intervene when it came to ensuring that the family was adequately provided for. In most cases when women petitioned to the panchayat, their names were excluded from the record: the petitioner was referred to as the mother, sister or wife of the male head of the household. Amongst the landed gentry, women had the right to inherit property. Instances from the Punjab show that women, including widows, actively participated in the rural land market as sellers of property inherited by them. Hindu and Muslim women inherited zamindaris which they were free to sell or mortgage. Women zamindars were known in eighteenth-century Bengal. In fact, one of the biggest and most famous of the eighteenth-century zamindaris, that of Rajshahi, had a woman at the helm. Fig. 8.8 b Women carrying loads Migrant women from neighbouring villages often worked at such construction sites.      Fig. 8.8 a The construction of Fatehpur Sikri – women crushing stones О Discuss... Are there any differences in the access men and women have to agricultural land in your state? 2015-16(20/01/2015)        4. FoREsts AND TRIbEs 4.1 Beyond settled villages There was more to rural India than sedentary agriculture. Apart from the intensively cultivated provinces in northern and north-western India, huge swathes of forests – dense forest (jangal ) or scrubland (kharbandi ) – existed all over eastern India, central India, northern India (including the Terai on the Indo-Nepal border), Jharkhand, and in peninsular India down the Western Ghats and the Deccan plateau. Though it is nearly impossible to set an all-India average of the forest cover for this period, informed conjectures based on contemporary sources suggest an average of 40 per cent. Forest dwellers were termed jangli in contemporary texts. Being jangli, however, did not mean an absence of “civilisation”, as popular usage of the term today seems to connote. Rather, the term described those whose livelihood came from the gathering of forest produce, hunting and shifting agriculture. These activities were largely season specific. Among the Bhils, for example, spring was reserved for collecting forest produce, summer for fishing, the monsoon months for cultivation, and autumn and winter for hunting. Such a sequence presumed and perpetuated mobility, which was a distinctive feature of tribes inhabiting these forests. For the state, the forest was a subversive place – a place of refuge (mawas ) for troublemakers. Once again, we turn to Babur who says that jungles provided a good defence “behind which the people of the pargana become stubbornly rebellious and pay no taxes”. 4.2 Inroads into forests External forces entered the forest in different ways. For instance, the state required elephants for the army. So the peshkash levied from forest people often included a supply of elephants. Fig. 8.9 Painting of Shah Jahan hunting nilgais (from the Badshah Nama) О Describe what you see in this painting. What is the symbolic element that helps establish the connection between the hunt and ideal justice? 2015-16(20/01/2015)  In the Mughal political ideology, the hunt symbolised the overwhelming concern of the state to ensure justice to all its subjects, rich and poor. Regular hunting expeditions, so court historians tell us, enabled the emperor to travel across the extensive territories of his empire and personally attend to the grievances of its inhabitants. The hunt was a subject frequently painted by court artists. The painter resorted to the device of inserting a small scene somewhere in the picture that functioned as a symbol of a harmonious reign.                             Pargana was an administrative subdivision of a Mughal province. Source 3 О What forms of intrusion into the forest does the text evoke? Compare its message with that of the miniature painting in Fig. 8.9. Who are the people identified as “foreigners” from the perspective of the forest dwellers?      Peshkash was a form of tribute collected by the Mughal state. 2015-16(20/01/2015)                                 The spread of commercial agriculture was an important external factor that impinged on the lives of those who lived in the forests. Forest products – like honey, beeswax and gum lac – were in great demand. Some, such as gum lac, became major items of overseas export from India in the seventeenth century. Elephants were also captured and sold. Trade involved an exchange of commodities through barter as well. Some tribes, like the Lohanis in the Punjab, were engaged in overland trade, between India and Afghanistan, and in the town-country trade in the Punjab itself. Social factors too wrought changes in the lives of forest dwellers. Like the “big men” of the village community, tribes also had their chieftains. Many tribal chiefs had become zamindars, some even became kings. For this they required to build up an army. They recruited people from their lineage groups or demanded that their fraternity provide military service. Tribes in the Sind region had armies comprising 6,000 cavalry and 7,000 infantry. In Assam, the Ahom kings had their paiks , people who were obliged to render military service in exchange for land. The capture of wild elephants was declared a royal monopoly by the Ahom kings. Fig. 8.10 A peasant and a hunter listening to a sufi singer Source 4 О What are the modes of transport described in this passage? Why do you think they were used? Explain what each of the articles brought from the plains to the hills may have been used for. 2015-16(20/01/2015)  Though the transition from a tribal to a monarchical system had started much earlier, the process seems to have become fully developed only by the sixteenth century. This can be seen from the Ain’s observations on the existence of tribal kingdoms in the north-east. War was a common occurrence. For instance, the Koch kings fought and subjugated a number of neighbouring tribes in a long sequence of wars through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. New cultural influences also began to penetrate into forested zones. Some historians have indeed suggested that sufi saints (pirs ) played a major role in the slow acceptance of Islam among agricultural communities emerging in newly colonised places (see also Chapter 6). 5. ThE ZAmINDARs Our story of agrarian relations in Mughal India will not be complete without referring to a class of people in the countryside that lived off agriculture but did not participate directly in the processes of agricultural production. These were the zamindars who were landed proprietors who also enjoyed certain social and economic privileges by virtue of their superior status in rural society. Caste was one factor that accounted for the elevated status of zamindars; another factor was that they performed certain services (khidmat ) for the state. The zamindars held extensive personal lands termed milkiyat, meaning property. Milkiyat lands were cultivated for the private use of zamindars, often with the help of hired or servile labour. The zamindars could sell, bequeath or mortgage these lands at will. Zamindars also derived their power from the fact that they could often collect revenue on behalf of the state, a service for which they were compensated financially. Control over military resources was another source of power. Most zamindars had fortresses (qilachas ) as well as an armed contingent comprising units of cavalry, artillery and infantry. Thus if we visualise social relations in the Mughal countryside as a pyramid, zamindars clearly constituted its very narrow apex. Abu’l Fazl’s account indicates that an “upper-caste”, Brahmana-Rajput О Discuss... Find out which areas are currently identified as forest zones in your state. Is life in these areas changing today? Are the factors responsible for these changes different from or identical to those mentioned in this section?      2015-16(20/01/2015)        combine had already established firm control over rural society. It also reflects a fairly large representation from the so-called intermediate castes, as we saw earlier, as well as a liberal sprinkling of Muslim zamindaris. Contemporary documents give an impression that conquest may have been the source of the origin of some zamindaris. The dispossession of weaker people by a powerful military chieftain was quite often a way of expanding a zamindari. It is, however, unlikely that the state would have allowed such a show of aggression by a zamindar unless he had been confirmed by an imperial order (sanad ). More important were the slow processes of zamindari consolidation, which are also documented in sources. These involved colonisation of new lands, by transfer of rights, by order of the state and by purchase. These were the processes which perhaps permitted people belonging to the relatively “lower” castes to enter the rank of zamindars as zamindaris were bought and sold quite briskly in this period. A combination of factors also allowed the consolidation of clan- or lineage-based zamindaris. For example, the Rajputs and Jats adopted these strategies to consolidate their control over vast swathes of territory in northern India. Likewise, peasant-pastoralists (like the Sadgops) carved out powerful zamindaris in areas of central and south- western Bengal. Zamindars spearheaded the colonisation of agricultural land, and helped in settling cultivators by providing them with the means of cultivation, including cash loans. The buying and selling of zamindaris accelerated the process of monetisation in the countryside. In addition, zamindars sold the produce from their milkiyat lands. There is evidence to show that zamindars often established markets (haats ) to which peasants also came to sell their produce. Although there can be little doubt that zamindars were an exploitative class, their relationship with the peasantry had an element of reciprocity, paternalism and patronage. Two aspects reinforce this view. First, the bhakti saints, who eloquently condemned caste-based and other forms of oppression (see also Chapter 6), did not portray the zamindars (or, interestingly, the moneylender) as exploiters or oppressors of the peasantry. Usually it was the               2015-16(20/01/2015)  revenue official of the state who was the object of their ire. Second, in a large number of agrarian uprisings which erupted in north India in the seventeenth century, zamindars often received the support of the peasantry in their struggle against the state. 6. LAND REENuE SstEm Revenue from the land was the economic mainstay of the Mughal Empire. It was therefore vital for the state to create an administrative apparatus to ensure control over agricultural production, and to fix and collect revenue from across the length and breadth of the rapidly expanding empire. This apparatus included the office (daftar ) of the diwan who was responsible for supervising the fiscal system of the empire. Thus revenue officials and record keepers penetrated the agricultural domain and became a decisive agent in shaping agrarian relations. The Mughal state tried to first acquire specific information about the extent of the agricultural lands in the empire and what these lands produced before fixing the burden of taxes on people. The land revenue arrangements consisted of two stages – first, assessment and then actual collection. The jama was the amount assessed, as opposed to hasil , the amount collected. In his list of duties of the amil-guzar or revenue collector, Akbar decreed that while he should strive to make cultivators pay in cash, the option of payment in kind was also to be kept open. While fixing revenue, the attempt of the state was to maximise its claims. The scope of actually realising these claims was, however, sometimes thwarted by local conditions. Both cultivated and cultivable lands were measured in each province. The Ain compiled the aggregates of such lands during Akbar’s rule. Efforts to measure lands continued under subsequent emperors. For instance, in 1665, Aurangzeb expressly instructed his revenue officials to prepare annual records of the number of cultivators in each village (Source 7). Yet not all areas were measured successfully. As we have seen, forests covered huge areas of the subcontinent and thus remained unmeasured. О Discuss... The zamindari system was abolished in India after Independence. Read through this section and identify reasons why this was done.      2015-16(20/01/2015)        Amin was an official responsible for ensuring that imperial regulations were carried out in the provinces.                                                     Source 5 О What principles did the Mughal state follow while classifying lands in its territories? How was revenue assessed? Map 1 The expansion of the Mughal Empire О What impact do you think the expansion of the empire would have had on land revenue collection? Samarqand Balkh Kabul Qandahar Lahore Panipat Delhi Agra Amber Ajmer Patna Rohtas Goa Babur’s reign, 1530 Akbar’s reign, 1605 Aurangzeb’s reign, 1707 Arabian Sea Bay of Bengal Sketch map not to scale 2015-16(20/01/2015)                                 Source 6                                   О Discuss... Would you consider the land revenue system of the Mughals as a flexible one? 7. ThE Flo oF SIlER The Mughal Empire was among the large territorial empires in Asia that had managed to consolidate power and resources during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These empires were the Ming (China), Safavid (Iran) and Ottoman (Turkey). The political stability achieved by all these empires helped create vibrant networks of overland trade from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Voyages of discovery and the opening up of the New World resulted in a massive expansion of Asia’s (particularly India’s) trade with Europe. This resulted in a greater geographical diversity of India’s overseas trade as well as an О What difference would each of the systems of assessment and collection of revenue have made to the cultivator? Source 7 О Why do you think the emperor insisted on a detailed survey?       Fig. 8.11 A silver rupya issued by Akbar (obverse and reverse) 2015-16(20/01/2015)        expansion in the commodity composition of this trade. An expanding trade brought in huge amounts of silver bullion into Asia to pay for goods procured from India, and a large part of that bullion gravitated towards India. This was good for India as it did not have natural resources of silver. As a result, the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries was also marked by a remarkable stability in the availability of metal currency, particularly the silver rupya in India. This facilitated an unprecedented expansion of minting of coins and the circulation of money in the economy as well as the ability of the Mughal state to extract taxes and revenue in cash. The testimony of an Italian traveller, Giovanni Careri, who passed through India c. 1690, provides a graphic account about the way silver travelled across the globe to reach India. It also gives us an idea of the phenomenal amounts of cash and commodity transactions in seventeenth-century India. О Discuss... Find out whether there are any taxes on agricultural production at present in your state. Explain the similarities and differences between Mughal fiscal policies and those adopted by present-day state governments. Fig. 8.12 A silver rupya issued by Aurangzeb Fig. 8.13 An example of textiles produced in the subcontinent to meet the demands of European markets 2015-16(20/01/2015)                      Source 8 8. ThE AINI AKBARI oF ABuL FAzL ALLAMI The Ain-i Akbari was the culmination of a large historical, administrative project of classification undertaken by Abu’l Fazl at the order of Emperor Akbar. It was completed in 1598, the forty-second regnal year of the emperor, after having gone through five revisions. The Ain was part of a larger project of history writing commissioned by Akbar. This history, known as the Akbar Nama, comprised three books. The first two provided a historical narrative. We will look at these parts more closely in Chapter 9. The Ain-i Akbari , the third book, was organised as a compendium of imperial regulations and a gazetteer of the empire. The Ain gives detailed accounts of the organisation of the court, administration and army, the sources of revenue and the physical layout of the provinces of Akbar’s empire and the literary, cultural and religious traditions of the people. Along with a description of the various departments of Akbar’s government and elaborate descriptions of the      2015-16(20/01/2015)        various provinces (subas ) of the empire, the Ain gives us intricate quantitative information of those provinces. Collecting and compiling this information systematically was an important imperial exercise. It informed the emperor about the varied and diverse customs and practices prevailing across his extensive territories. The Ain is therefore a mine of information for us about the Mughal Empire during Akbar’s reign. It is important, however, to keep in mind that this is a view of the regions from the centre, a view of society from its apex. The Ain is made up of five books (daftars ), of which the first three books describe the administration. The first book, called manzil-abadi , concerns the imperial household and its maintenance. The second book, sipah-abadi , covers the military and civil administration and the establishment of servants. This book includes notices and short biographical sketches of imperial officials (mansabdars ), learned men, poets and artists. The third book, mulk-abadi , is the one which deals with the fiscal side of the empire and provides rich quantitative information on revenue rates, followed by the “Account of the Twelve Provinces”. This section has detailed statistical information, which includes the geographic, topographic and economic profile of all subas and their administrative and fiscal divisions (sarkars , parganas and mahals ), total measured area, and assessed revenue (jama ). After setting out details at the suba level, the Ain goes on to give a detailed picture of the sarkars below the suba . This it does in the form of tables, which have eight columns giving the following information: (1) parganat /mahal ; (2) qila (forts); (3) arazi and zamin-i paimuda (measured area); (4) naqdi, revenue assessed in cash; (5) suyurghal , grants of revenue in charity; (6) zamindars; columns 7 and 8 contain details of the castes of these zamindars, and their troops including their horsemen (sawar ), foot-soldiers (piyada ) and elephants (fil ). The mulk-abadi gives a fascinating, detailed and highly complex view of agrarian society in northern India. The fourth and fifth books (daftars ) deal with the religious, literary and cultural traditions of the people of India and also contain a collection of Akbar’s “auspicious sayings”. Fig. 8.14 Abu’l Fazl presenting the manuscript of the completed Akbar Nama to his patron 2015-16(20/01/2015)  Source 9                                                                                О List all the sources that Abu’l Fazl used to compile his work. Which of these sources would have been most useful for arriving at an understanding of agrarian relations? To what extent do you think his work would have been influenced by his relationship with Akbar?      2015-16(20/01/2015)        Although the Ain was officially sponsored to record detailed information to facilitate Emperor Akbar govern his empire, it was much more than a reproduction of official papers. That the manuscript was revised five times by the author would suggest a high degree of caution on the part of Abu’l Fazl and a search for authenticity. For instance, oral testimonies were cross-checked and verified before being incorporated as “facts” in the chronicle. In the quantitative sections, all numeric data were reproduced in words so as to minimise the chances of subsequent transcriptional errors. Historians who have carefully studied the Ain point out that it is not without its problems. Numerous errors in totalling have been detected. These are ascribed to simple slips of arithmetic or of transcription by Abu’l Fazl’s assistants. These are generally minor and do not detract from the overall quantitative veracity of the manuals. Another limitation of the Ain is the somewhat skewed nature of the quantitative data. Data were not collected uniformly from all provinces. For instance, while for many subas detailed information was compiled about the caste composition of the zamindars, such information is not available for Bengal and Orissa. Further, while the fiscal data from the subas is remarkable for its richness, some equally vital parameters such as prices and wages from these same areas are not as well documented. The detailed list of prices and wages that the Ain does provide is mainly derived from data pertaining to areas in or around the imperial capital of Agra, and is therefore of limited relevance for the rest of the country. These limitations notwithstanding, the Ain remains an extraordinary document of its times. By providing fascinating glimpses into the structure and organisation of the Mughal Empire and by giving us quantitative information about its products and people, Abu’l Fazl achieved a major breakthrough in the tradition of medieval chroniclers who wrote mostly about remarkable political events – wars, conquests, political machinations, and dynastic turmoil. Information about the country, its people                                2015-16(20/01/2015)  and its products was mentioned only incidentally and as embellishments to the essentially political thrust of the narrative. The Ain completely departed from this tradition as it recorded information about the empire and the people of India, and thus constitutes a benchmark for studying India at the turn of the seventeenth century. The value of the Ain’s quantitative evidence is uncontested where the study of agrarian relations is concerned. But it is the information it contains on people, their professions and trades and on the imperial establishment and the grandees of the empire which enables historians to reconstruct the social fabric of India at that time.      TIMELINE LANDMARKs IN thE HIstoR oF thE MuGhAL EMPIRE 1526 Babur defeats Ibrahim Lodi, the Delhi Sultan, at Panipat, becomes the first Mughal emperor 1530-40 First phase of Humayun’s reign 1540-55 Humayun defeated by Sher Shah, in exile at the Safavid court 1555-56 Humayun regains lost territories 1556-1605 Reign of Akbar 1605-27 Reign of Jahangir 1628-58 Reign of Shah Jahan 1658-1707 Reign of Aurangzeb 1739 Nadir Shah invades India and sacks Delhi 1761 Ahmad Shah Abdali defeats the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat 1765 The diwani of Bengal transferred to the East India Company 1857 Last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah II, deposed by the British and exiled to Rangoon (present day Yangon, Myanmar) 2015-16(20/01/2015)        ANsER IN100150 oRDs 1. What are the problems in using the Ain as a source for reconstructing agrarian history? How do historians deal with this situation? 2. To what extent is it possible to characterise agricultural production in the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries as subsistence agriculture? Give reasons for your answer. 3. Describe the role played by women in agricultural production. 4. Discuss, with examples, the significance of monetary transactions during the period under consideration. 5. Examine the evidence that suggests that land revenue was important for the Mughal fiscal system. RItE A shoRt EssA (ABout 250300 oRDs) oN thE FoLLoING: 6. To what extent do you think caste was a factor in influencing social and economic relations in agrarian society? 7. How were the lives of forest dwellers transformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? 8. Examine the role played by zamindars in Mughal India. 9. Discuss the ways in which panchayats and village headmen regulated rural society. Fig. 8.15 A seventeenth-century painting depicting jewellers 2015-16(20/01/2015)                               10. On an outline map of the world, mark the areas which had economic links with the Mughal Empire, and trace out possible routes of communication.  11. Visit a neighbouring village. Find out how many people live there, which crops are grown, which animals are raised, which artisanal groups reside there, whether women own land, how the local panchayat functions. Compare this information with what you have learnt about the sixteenth- seventeenth centuries, noting similarities and differences. Explain both the changes and the continuities that you find. 12. Select a small section of the Ain (10-12 pages, available online at the website indicated below). Read it carefully and prepare a report on how it can be used by a historian.             Fig. 8.16 A painting depicting a woman selling sweets 2015-16(20/01/2015)

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