Mansabdari system was the system of taking back the ranks to the officials of the Mughal Empire. It was introduced in 1595-96 CE. The mansabdars governed the empire and commanded its armies in the emperor's name. Though they were usually aristocrats, they did feudal aristocracy, for neither the offices nor the estates that supported them were hereditary. There were 33 categories of mansabdars If the mansabdars made a mistake, their rank would be lowered and if the rank was very low, they would be ousted of service.
The term is derived from Mansab, meaning 'rank'. Hence, Mansabdar literally means rank-holder.
Instituted by the Mughal emperor Akbar, mansabdari was a system common to both the military and the Civil department. Basically the Mansabdari system was borrowed from Mangolia. It was prevalent during the reign of Babur and Humayun. Akbar made some important changes to the system and made it more efficient. Mansabdar was referred to as the official, rank, or the dignity.
Two grades delineated the mansabdars. Those mansabdars whose rank was one thousand (hazari) or below were called the Amir. Those mansabdars whose rank was above 1000, were called the Amiral Kabir(Great Amir). Some Great Amirs whose rank were above 5000 were also given the title of Amir-al Umara (Amir of Amirs)
ZAT & SAWAR
The Mansabdars were differentiated by the Zat and the Sawar Rank. The Zat referred to rank maintained by the mansabdar and the Sawar referred to the number of horseman maintained by the mansabdar. It was dependent on whether the king ordered the mansabdar to maintain more horses than his rank. The categories are shown below:
-No. of Sawar = No. of Zat => 1st Class Mansabdar
-No. of Sawar = 1/2 the No. of Zat => 2nd Class Mansabdar
-No. of Sawar < 1/2 the No. of Zat => 3rd Class Mansabdar
A Mansabdar was in the service of the state and was bound to render service when asked. If a mansabdar refused to render service he would be punished. Additionally, they were graded on the number of armed cavalrymen, or sowars, which each had to maintain for service in the imperial army. Thus all mansabdars had a zat, or personal ranking, and a sowar, or a troop ranking. All servants of the empire, whether in the civil or military departments were graded in this system. There were thirty-three grades of mansabdars ranging from 'commanders of 10' to 'commanders of 10,000'. Till the middle of Akbar's reign, the highest rank an ordinary officer could hold was that of a commander of 5000; the more exalted grades between commanders of 7000 and 10,000 were reserved for the royal princes. During the period following the reign of Akbar, the grades were increased up to 20,000 or even more generally rs.20-25 per horse were paid to a mansabdar.
Appointment, promotion, suspension or dismissal of mansabdars rested entirely with the emperor. No portion of a mansabdar's property was hereditary, a mansabdar's children had to begin life anew. A mansabdar did not always begin at the lowest grade. The emperor, if satisfied, could and did grant higher or even the highest grade to any person. There was no distinction between civil and military departments. Both civil and military officers held mansabs and were liable to be transferred from one branch of the administration to another. Each mansabdar was expected to maintain prescribed number of horses, elephants, equipment, etc., according to his rank and dignity. These rules, though initially strictly enforced, were later slackened.