Monday 31 October 2022

Peasants, zamindars and the State class 12 History Notes



Landmarks in the History 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

 • 1555-56 Humayun regains lost territories

 • 1556-1605 Reign of Akbar

 • 1605-27 Reign of Jahangir

 • 1628-58 Reign of ShahJahan

 • 1658-1707 Reign of Aurangzeb

 • 1739 Nadir Shah invades India and sacks Delhi

 • 1761 AhmadShah 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)


➔ About 85 per cent of the population of India lived in its villages.

➔ Both peasants and landed elites were involved in agricultural production 

Agencies from outside entered into the rural agrarian world.

➔ The Mughal state

➔ Agents of the state

➔ Record keepers 

Peasants and Agricultural Production

➔ The basic unit of agricultural society was the village, inhabited by peasants

➔ Peasants contributed their labour to the production of agro-based goods such as sugar and oil.

➔ Rural India include 

1 Cultivable fertile land

2 Uncultivable large tracts of dry land

3 Hilly regions

4 Forest land


Sources record instances of conflicts between Peasants, zamindars and the state

➔ Chronicles and documents from the Mughal court ( the Ain-i Akbari by Akbar’s court historian Abu’l Fazl.) 

➔ Revenue records from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

➔ Records of the East India Company

Peasants and their lands

 Indo-Persian sourses denote a peasant Raiyat (plural, riaya)Muzarian, Kisan, Asami.

 Average peasant of north India possessed a pair of bullocks and two ploughs

Two kinds of peasants 

1) Khud-kashta (residents of the village )

2) Pahi-kashta. (were non-resident- contractual basis cultivators) 

Features of Agrarian society described in the Babur Nama(Memoirs of Babar)

➔ “Peasants on the move” was a feature of agrarian society 

➔ In Hindustan hamlets and villages, towns indeed, are depopulated and set up in a moment

➔ People flee from town with leaving no trace or sign

➔ People will set up new villages or town easly because -

* Crops are rain grown

* Wood is unlimited,

* They can make hut

* They can make tank or well

Expansion of agriculture 3 factors

1) The abundance of land

2) Available labour 

3) The mobility of peasants 


 The state undertook digging of new canals (nahr, nala) 

 The state repaired old canal like the shahnahr in the Punjab during Shah Jahan’s reign

Agricultural technology

➔ Watering by means of wheel (Referred by Babur Nama)In Lahore and Dipalpur(Now Pakistan) 

➔ Watering by bucket (Reffered by Babur Nama)In Agra,Chandwar, Bayana (all in UP) 

➔ The wooden plough with an iron tip or coulter(for ploughing)

➔ A drill, pulled by a pair of giant oxen (to plant seeds)

➔ A narrow iron blade with a small wooden handle. (for hoeing and weeding)

The Spread of Tobacco

✔ Tobacco plant first appeared in Deccan (brought by Portuguese)

✔ Spread in to North India in early 17th century

✔ Akbar and his nobles come across tobacco for the first time in 1604

✔ Jahangir banned tobacco

Agricultural prosperity and population growth

✔ Indias population increased by about 50 million between 1600-1800

(33%increase in 200 years) due to agricultural prosperity

An abundance of crops

 Agriculture was organised around two major seasonal cycles,

a) The kharif (autumn) 

b) The rabi (spring). 

 A minimum of two crops a year (do-fasla)

 Ain i Akbari tells 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.

Jins-i kamil

 Jins-i kamil (literally, perfect crops)-means cash crops eg: cotton and sugarcane,oilseeds (like mustard) and lentils. 

Cotton -Central India and the Deccan plateau


New Crops from new world

(from American continents)

 Maize (makka), introduced into India via Africa and Spain (17th century)

 Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and chillies 

 Fruits like the pineapple and the papaya

The village Community

➔ The village community included 

1 The cultivators

2 The panchayats

3 The village headman(known as muqaddam or mandal)

➔ Deep inequities based on caste existed

➔ Direct correlation between caste, poverty, and social status

➔ Certain caste groupes were assigned menial or agricultural labourers(majur) which made them poor

➔ Halalkhoran(scavengers)were menials in Muslim community

➔ Mallahzadas of Bihar (sons of boatmen) were treated as slaves

➔ Rajputs,Jats were peasants but in the lower status of caste hierarchy.

➔ Gauravas-peasants in Vrindavan (UP)

➔ Ahirs,Gujars,Malis -caste involved cattle rearing and horticulture rose in the caste heirarchy because of profitability

➔ Sadgops,Kaivartas-pastoral and fishing castes in the eastern region acquired status of peasants

Village panchayats 

➔ Village panchayat-assebly of elders

➔ Represented various castes(except menials and agricultural workers)

➔ Head man is called Muqaddam or Mandal (chosen unanimously by village elders and ratified by Zamindar

➔ Patwari-accountant

➔ Funds from contributions from individuals

➔ Funds used for welfare activities and for entertaining revenue officials

➔ Archival records 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

➔ The Mandals were corrupt and often misused their positions

Functions of village panchayats

➔ Protect caste rules

➔ Observing marriages

➔ Expel anyone from community

➔ Levy fines

Jati Panchayats

➔ Every caste in the village had its own jati panchayat

➔ Archival records contain petitions presented to jati panchayat

Functions of Jati panchayat

✔ Settled civil disputes between members of different castes

✔ Mediated in claims of land

✔ Executing caste rules in marriages

Village artisans and craftmen

✔ Village artisans: blacksmiths, carpenters, barbers, goldsmiths

✔ Craft production:dyeing,textile printing, baking and firing of pottery,making and repairing agricultural implements

Remunaration for village artisans

1. A share of the harvest

2. A portion of land (Miras or Watan:-hereditary holding of land by artisans in Maharashtra (which was recieved in return for their services)

3. Negotiated remuneration -goods for services(Jajmani system-.A small daily allowance and diet money to artisans in Bengal)

4. Cash remuneration

A little republic

● Some British officials in the nineteenth century saw the village as a “littler republic” made up of fraternal partners sharing resources and labour in a collective. 

● However, this was not a sign of rural egalitarianism.

System of payment in cash

➔ A cash nexus had already developed through trade between villages and towns

➔ In the Mughal heartland revenue was collected in cash.

➔ Artisans producing for the export market(eg:weavers) and producers of cotton, silk or indigo received their advances or wages in cash.

➔ Sharof-money changer of a village (French traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernierr effered)

Women in Agrarian Society

1. Women and men had to work shoulder to shoulder in the fields.

2. Men tilled and ploughed, while women sowed, weeded, threshed and winnowed the harvest.

3. A gendered segregation between the home (for women) and the world (for men) was not possible in this context. 

4. Biases related to women’s biological functions did continue. (Menstruating women, 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)

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Women were considered an important resource in agrarian society also because they were child bearers in a society dependent on labour.

8. High mortality rates among women – owing to malnutrition, frequent pregnancies, death during childbirth

9. Shortage of wives caused emergence of bride-price in rural communities(the payment to the bride’s family.)

10. Remarriage was considered legitimate

11. Women were kept under strict control by the male members of the family and the community.

12. They could inflict draconian punishments if they suspected infidelity on the part of women.

13. Women sent petitions to the village panchayat, seeking redress and justice.

14. The petitioner was referred to as the mother, sister or wife of the male head of the household.

15. Amongst the landed gentry, women had the right to inherit property.

16. In Panjab Women, including widows, actively participated in the rural

land market as sellers of property inherited by them. 

17. Hindu and Muslim women inherited zamindaris which they were free to sell or mortgage.

18. Women zamindars were known in eighteenth-century Bengal.Rajshahi -one of the biggest and most famous zamindari, (18th century) controlled by a woman.

Forests and Tribes

➔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.

➔An all-India average of the forest cover for this period-40 %

➔Forest dwellers were termed jangli in contemporary texts. (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

➔For the state, the forest was a subversive place – a place of refuge (Mawa) for troublemakers. 

➔Babur says that jungles provided a good defence “behind which the people of the pargana become stubbornly rebellious and pay no taxes”.

➔Abul fazal describes the transactions between hill tribes and the plains in the suba of Avadh (see text)

Inroads into forests

➔ The state levied the peshkash from forest people often included a supply of elephants

➔ Regular hunting expeditions, enabled the emperor to travel across the extensive territories of his empire

➔ The spread of commercial agriculture :

Forest products – like honey, beeswax and gum lac – were in great demand. Some, such as gum lac, exported from India in the seventeenth century.

➔ Elephants were also captured and sold.

➔ 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.

Changes in the lives of forest dwellers. 

 (The transition from a tribal to a monarchical system)

➔ Tribes in the forest also had their chieftains.

➔ Many tribal chiefs had become zamindars, some even became kings. 

➔ 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 king

➔ Ain i Akbari refers the existence of tribal kingdoms in the north-east. 

➔ Kalaketu, hero of the poem ‘Chandimangala’ composed by Mukundaram Chakrabarti set up a kingdom by clearing forest 

➔ 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.-sufi saints (pirs) -slow acceptance of Islam among agricultural communities.

The Zamindars

➢ The zamindars were proprietors of land

➢ Enjoyed supreme status in the rural society

➢ Belonged to higher caste

➢ Performed certain services (Khidmat)for the state

➢ Had right to collect revenue on behalf of state

➢ Possessed army comprising cavalry,artillery and infantry

➢ Had strong fortresses (qilachas)

➢ Zamindars personal land -milkiyat

Social Structure in the Mughal countryside 

1. Zamindars

2. Brahmana-Rajput combine

3. Intermediate castes,Muslim zamindars

4. Peasants,Lower castes

The process of zamindari consolidation

How did zamindars get land?

1. Colonisation of new lands 

2. Transfer of rights

3. By order of state

4. By purchase

Relationship between zamindar and peasantry

a) Reciprocity

b) Paternalism

c) Patronage

Facts related to relationship between Zamindar and peasantry

1. Zamindars exploited the cultivatars

2. Bhakti saints condemned oppressesion but did not portray the zamindars as oppressers

3. Most of agrarian uprisings directed against the state not against zamindars

Land Revenue system

➔ Diwan-supervising the fiscal system of the empire.

➔ The office of the Diwan -daftar 

➔ The amil-guzar - revenue collector (see text source 6-Ain on land revenue collection)

➔ Amin was an official responsible for ensuring imperial regulations were carried out in the provinces (see text source 7 Aurangazebes order to revenue officials)

➔ Revenue officials and record keepers penetrated the agricultural domain

➔ The land revenue arrangements consisted of two stages – first, assessment(The jama -the amount assessed)

➔ Second -actual collection.(Hasil, -the amount collected.)

➔ Cultivators can pay in cash and kind

➔ Both cultivated and cultivable lands were measured in each province by Mughal emperors. 

Classification of Lands under Akbar

Polaj :Land annualy cultivated never allowed fallow

Parouti :Land left out of cultivation for a time that it may recover its strength

Chachar :-Land that has lain fallow for three or four years

Banjar :Land uncultivated for five years and more

The Mansabdari system

➔Military cum bureaucratic system in Mughal India

➔Mansabdars looking after civil and military affairs of the state

➔Mansabdars were paid through jagir (assignments of revenue in different regions of the empire)

➔Some Mansabdars were paid in cash (naqdi)

Flow of Silver

✔ The large territorial empires in Asia in the 16th 17th centuries. 

a)The Ming (China)

b)Safavid (Iran) 

c)Ottoman (Turkey). 

✔ Networks of overland trade from China to the Mediterranean Sea. 

✔ Voyages of discovery and the opening up of the New World resulted in a expansion of India’s trade with Europe. 

✔ Flow of silver bullion into Asia to pay for goods procured from India.

✔ 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.(see text how silver came to India)

Result of silver flow (16-18th centuries)

a) Metal currency became available(silver rupya) in India

b) Expansion of minting of coins 

c) The circulation of money in the economy

d) Mughal state started to extract taxes and revenue in cash.

The Ain i Akbari of Abul Fazl Allami

✔ Abul Fazl Allami was court historian of Akbar.

✔ ‘Akbar Namah’ was historical project work written by Abul Fazal by the order of Akbar

✔ Akbar Namah comprised 3 books

✔ First two books are historical narratives

✔ The third book is called ‘Ain i Akbari’

✔ Ain i Akbari is made up of 5 books

✔ Ain i Akbari is a compendium of imperial regulations and a gazette of the empire

The content of Ain i Akbari

 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 various provinces (subas) of the empire, the Ain gives us intricate quantitative information of those provinces

Ain I Akbari -Five books

➔ The Ain is made up of five books (daftars)

First Book (called manzil-abadi)

➔ The first three books describe the administration.

➔ The first book, concerns the imperial household and its maintenance. 

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 (mansarovar), learned men, poets and artists.

Third Book (Mulk-abadi)

➔ Deals with the fiscal matters , revenue rates, “Account of the Twelve Provinces”,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 ).

➔ Detailed picture of the sarkars below the suba,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;

(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 fourth and fifth books 

• Deal with the religious, literary and cultural traditions of the people of India and also

➔ contain a collection of Akbar’s “auspicious sayings

Limitations/Errors in Ain i Akbari

➔ Numerous errors in totalling have been detected.

➔ Data were not collected uniformly from all provinces. (Caste information is not available for Bengal and Orissa )

➔ 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.

Translating of Ain i Akbari

✔ Asiatic society of Bengal published Ain i Akabari in its Biblical Indica series 

(Edited by Henry Blochmann )

✔ Translated to English in 3 volumes by

volume 1- Henry Blochmann

volume 2,3- H S Jarrett

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