The Mughals established an imperial state in the true sense free from even shadowy allegiance to an external authority like the Caliphate, and exercised unrivalled power over vast territories. The Mughal Padshah and the Turko-Afghan Sultan belonged to entirely different categories of monarchy.
Theory of Kingship
Humayun entertained exalted ideas about royal power. He considered himself entitled to do within his sphere as God did in relation to His creation. Akbar's theory of kingship is thus stated by Abul Fazl: "Kingship is a gift of God and is not bestowed till many thousand grand requisites have been gathered together in an individual." Loyalty is a light emanating from God and a ray from the Sun, the illuminator of the universe."
The obligations imposed upon the monarch by his position were many. "Divine worship in monarchs consists" in Akbar's opinion, "in their justice and good administration". 'Tyranny' he holds as 'unlawful' in everyone, especially in a "sovereign who is the guardian of the world." The monarch was the well-wisher and guardian of his subject. The idea that 'Kingship is a gift of God' was thus linked with the concept of paternal government.
Aurangzeb's conception of monarchy was radically different from Akbar's in one very important respect. While Akbar placed the monarchy above religious and sectarian considerations, Aurangzeb made it the handmaid of Islam.
Nature of Mughal Administration
The Mughal Empire was a centralized disposition based on military power. It rested on two pillars: the absolute authority of the emperor and the strength of the army. The emperor was the supreme commander of the armed forces, and all other commanders were appointed and - if necessary-removed by him.
He determined the rank of every mansabdar and allotted jagirs for the maintenance of the mansabdar. He was the fountain of justice as also the supreme judge. He made laws and issued administrative ordinances which had the force of laws, although the principles of the shariat (Islamic law) were generally adhered to.
Yet the Mughal system of centralization was universally effective under Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb.
Like other medieval states, the Mughal empire followed "the policy of the individualistic minimum of interference" i.e. it contented itself with discharging only the police duties and the collection of revenue.
The Mughal administration presented a combination of Indian and extra-Indian elements, or more correctly, it was the "Perso-Arabic system in Indian setting". The bifurcation of authority in the provinces - the division of power between the sub- ahdar and the diwan - was based on the system prevailing under the Arab rulers in Egypt.
The revenue system was a resultant of two forces-the time-honoured Hindu practice, and the abstract Arabian theory. The mansabdari system was of Central Asian origin.
In the days of Babur and Humayun there was a prime minister, known as vakil, who was entrusted with large powers in civil and military affairs. During the early years of Akbar's reign, Bairam Khan, as vakil, virtually served as regent for the minor sovereign.
After Bairam Khan's fall the office of vakil was not abolished, it was gradually shorn of all powers because it was not considered prudent to allow concentration of authority in a single person. At the end of Akbar's reign the office became 'more or less honorific' and continued till the reign of Shah Jahan.
The all-important department of finance, taken away from the vakil, was placed in charge of the wazir (or diwan). After the virtual disappearance of the vakil, the wazir became the emperor's 'minister par excellence' i.e. prime minister. He was the intermediary between the emperor and the rest of the official world. Among the wazirs who have left their impress on the Mughal history are Raja Todarmal, Raja Raghunath, Sadullah Khan and Jalar Khan.
The emperor was the commander-in-chief of the entire army. The minister who looked after the administration of the army was called mir bakshi. He was in charge of recruitment, equipment and discipline of the troops. The salary bill of all mansabdars had to be calculated and passed by his office.
Towards the end of Aurangzeb's reign the expansion of the empire necessitated the appointment of four bakhshis: the chief or first bakhsi, and the second, third and fourth bakhshis.
The khan-i-saman held independent charge of the household department and the karkhanas.
The sadr-us-sudur had three important functions. He acted as the emperor's chief adviser in ecclesiastical matters. He was in charge of the disbursement of imperial grants for religious educational and charitable purposes. He was the chief justice of the empire, and his judicial authority was subordinate to that of the emperor only.
The muhatasib (censor of public morals) was primarily an ecclesiastical officer whose duty it was to regulate the lives of the people. He also performed certain secular duties, such as the examination of weights and measures, enforcement of fair prices in the market, recovery of debts and restoration of fugitive slaves to their owners.
There was a diwan of the khalisa in-charge of the crown lands. The diwan-i-tan looked after matters relating to the jagirs.
Apart from military and judicial officers, mention should be made of the mustaufi or the auditor-general, the daroga-i dak chauki who was in charge of the imperial post, the mir-i-arz who was in charge of petitions, the mir-i-mal or the officer in charge of the Privy Purse and the mir tuzuk or the master of ceremonies.
The central government kept itself informed of the occurrences in all parts of the country by means of public news-reporters and secret spies. There were four classes of such agents: waqianavis (news-writer), swanith-nigar (news-writers), khufia-navis (secret letter-writer), harkarah (spy and courier).