Essay on the Significance of Zat and Swar in the Mughal Empire

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The threefold gradation of mansabdars caused much confusion in the army ranks. The central government found it impossible to ascertain the exact or even an approximate number of regular soldiers con­trolled by all the imperial mansabdars. The difficulty was solved by the introduction of two ranks, zflt and swar for each mansabdar. Historians are divided over the interpretation and significance of these ranks. Some like Dr A.L. Srivastava say that while the rank of zat indicated the total number of soldiers under a mansabdar, the rank of swar indicated the number of horsemen under him. Others like Dr R.P. Tripathi hold the view that the rank of swar was given to mansabdars to fix their additional allowances. A mansabdar was paid rupees two per horse.

There­fore, if a mansabdar received the rank of 500 swar he was given rupees one thousand as additional allowance. According to Dr J.L. Mehta, the Zflt rank was not a new introduction; it simply referred to the original mansab enjoyed by an officer earlier, and it determined both his status and standing in the administrative hierarchy as well as his position in the court. The swar rank referred to the actual number of soldiers under the command of an officer. The swar was essentially a military rank that showed the distinction between the civil and military char­acters of the mansabdars.

The introduction of the double rank, however, made the threefold classification of the mansabdars more intelligible and precise. Thus a mansabdar whose zat and swar ranks were equal, was of the first category among his grade of mansabdars i.e. if a mansabdar enjoyed the rank of 5,000 zflt and 5,000 swar then he was of the first category among the mansabdars of 5,000.

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The one whose swar rank was less than his zat rank but more than half of the latter, belonged to the second class, i.e. if a mansabdar enjoyed the rank of 5,000 zat and 3,000 swar then he belonged to the second category among the mansabdars of 5,000.

A mansabdar whose swar rank was less than half of the zflt rank was a third class mansabdar, i.e. if a mansabdar had the rank of 5,000 Zflt and 2,000 or even less swar, then he was of the third category among the rank of 5,000 mansabdars. On the basis of the swar ranks, the approximate strength of the imperial army under the effective control of the mansabdars could be readily calcu­lated. Besides soldiers, the military generals main­tained horses, camels, bullock-carts and beasts of burden as specified by their swar as a part of their establishment.

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