Brief notes on the Land Revenue Systems of Akbar



Akbar was the founder of the Mughal revenue system, which he evolved through experiments that continued till 1585. In the beginning, he adopted Sher Shah's system in which the cultivated area was measured and a central schedule was drawn up fixing the dues of peasant's crop wise on the basis of the productivity of the land.

The state's share was one-third of the produce; the produce under the schedule being valued at prices fixed by the emperor. In fixing the prices, the rates current in the vicinity of Delhi were probably taken as the basis.

This arrange­ment created difficulties, because one uniform schedule of prices of crops could not reasonably be applied to the whole empire. Prices were lower in rural areas which were far away from the urban centres and the cultivators found it difficult lo pay in cash at the official rate.

In the tenth year of his (Akbar's) reign, prices of crops prevailing in dif­ferent regions were substituted for the uniform schedule and the emperor reverted to a system of annual assessment.

In 1573, the annual assessment was given up and karoris were appointed all over North India to collect a crore of dams as revenue and to check the facts and figures supplied by the qanungos regarding the actual produce, state of cultivation, local prices etc.

These karoris were also known as amiIs or amalguzars. On the basis of the above facts and figures, a new system was developed in 1580 called the dahsala system. This system was an improved version of the zabti system which was the standard system of revenue assessment during the greater part of the Mughal empire. The credit for developing this system goes to Todarmal who became the head of the wizarat or revenue ministry.

During the reign of Akbar and his successors four main systems of revenue assessment were prevalent: (a) zabti or dahsala system; (b) batai, ghallabakshi or bhaoli; (c) kankut and (d) nasaq. (a) Zabti or dahsala system.

As stated earlier the dahsala was an improvement on the zabti system. For the purpose of assessment the land was classified in Akbar's reign in four categories: polaj (land which was cultivated every year and never left fallow);parati orparauti (land which had to be left fallow for a time to enable it to recover fertility); chachar (land which had to be left fallow for three or four years); and banjar (land which remained uncultivated for five years or more) Polaj and parauti lands were classified into three categories-good, middling and bad-and the average produce per biglia of these three categories was taken as the normal produce of a bigha. Parauti land, when cultivated, paid the same revenue as polaj land.

The chachar and banjar lands were charged a concessional rate which was progressively increased to full or polaj rate (i.e. one- third of the produce) by the fifth or the eighth year. Under the dahsala system an attempt was made to work out the revenue rates. The state demand was given in maunds\ but for the conversion of the state demand from kind to cash, a separate schedule of cash revenue rates (dasturu'l amals) for various crops was fixed.

For a period of the past ten years, 1570-71 to 1579-80, information on yields, prices, and area cultivated was collected for each locality. On the basis of the average prices of different crops in each locality over the past ten years the state demand was fixed in rupees per bigha.

Each revenue circle had a separate schedule of cash revenue rates (dasturu'l amal) for various crops. Thus the peasant was required to pay on the basis of local produce as well as local prices. The dahsala was neither a ten-year nor a permanent settlement, and the state had the right to modify it.

Since this system was associated with Raja Todarmal, it is also known as Todarmal's bandabust or settlement. This system prevailed from Lahore to Allahabad and in the provinces of Malwa and Gujarat. A major exten­sion of it occurred in the later years of Shah Jahan's reign, when it was introduced in the Dec- can by Murshid Quli Khan.

This system greatly simplified the process of assessment. The cash rates (dasturu'lamals) were not fixed by a "rule of thumb", but were based on enquiries into the yields and prices of each crop in different localities.

(b) Batai, ghalla-bakhshi or bhaoli. This was a very old system which continued during the Mughal period. This was a simple method of crop- sharing in which the produce was arranged into heaps and divided into three shares, one of which was taken by the state. Under this system the peasant had the choice to pay in cash or kind, but in the case of cash crops the state demand was mostly in cash.

(c) Kankut. This system was already in use in the fourteenth century. Under this method, in­stead of actually dividing the grain (kan), an es­timate {kut) was made on the basis of an actual inspection on the spot.

One-third of the estimated produce was fixed as the state demand. In simple terms, it was a rough estimate of produce on the basis of actual inspection and past experience.

(d) Nasaq. This was widely prevalent in the Mughal Empire, particularly in Bengal. In this system a rough calculation was made on the basis of the past revenue receipts of the peasants. It required no actual measurement, but the area was ascertained from the records.

The zabti system was the standard systerri, but other methods of assessment were prevalent in different parts of the empire. In the subahs of Ajmer, Kashmir and southern Sind, crop-sharing and in Bengal nasaq were prevalent. There was, however, a contradiction in the Mughal revenue system.

Although the assessment was made by the state of the individual cultivator, the collection of revenue was made through intermediaries like zamindars, talluqdars, muqaddams, patils etc.