Brief notes on the Military structure of Mughal Empire

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The Mughal government was military in its origin and though in time it became rooted to the soil it retained its military character to the last. Every government official holding a military or civil post was enrolled in the army list and treated as the commander – real or nominal -of a specified number of horsemen.

The emperor was the head of the army and its commander-in-chief. Each field army was placed under a general. The troops available for purposes of war and internal defence were divided into four categories:

(a) Forces of the tributary chiefs;

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(b) The mansabdari contingents-chiefly cavalry-in accordance with the grade of the – mansabdars in the official hierarchy;

(c) dakhili troops directly managed by the state and paid from the imperial treasury; and

(d) The ahadis, the gentlemen- troopers who were young men of position and good family recruited by the emperor and owed allegiance to him directly. They were placed under the command of an amir and had a separate bakhshi (paymaster). They were employed on a variety of duties, including civil duties.

The fighting forces of the great Mughals were composed of cavalry, infantry, artillery and sea and river flotillas. The cavalry was the most impor­tant of these four branches and was regarded as the ‘flower of the army”.

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The infantry was the largest branch of the army. The artillery-men were paid by the state and administered as a Depart­ment of the Household. The officer-in-charge of artillery was called mir-i-atish or daroga-i- topkhanah. The department which maintained sea and river flotillas was under mir-i-bahri.

The Mughal army was never an integrated force, but a heterogeneous force of different races. The great Mughals also did not create an adequate and self-sufficient standing army, recruited and paid directly by the state. A serious organizational defect was the very low proportion of officers to men on active service.

Though the army was numerically strong, the infantry was vir­tually useless and there was no naval wing. There was no commissariat service and each man had to make his own transport arrangement. The Mughal army on the march looked like ‘an unwieldy moving city. The weakening of military power rendered the decline and fall of the Mughal Em­pire inevitable.

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