The nobility along with the zamindars formed the ruling class of the Mughal Empire. Mansabdars formed the bulk of the Mughal nobility. They were not only public servants but also the richest class in the empire and a closed aristocracy.
Heredity was the most important factor in the appointment of the nobles. The khanazadas or sons and descen-dants of mansabdars had the best claim of all, and all constituted a little less than half of the nobility during the period.
The other portion of the nobility comprised persons who already had both distinction and power through hold over land. To this group belonged the zamindars or chiefs. Akbar gave great importance to them by granting mansabs to a large number of zamindars. Their ancestral domains were treated as watan-jagirs.
Then there were nobles and high officers of other states who were given a place in the Mughal nobility on account of their experience, status and influence or the contingents they commanded and the territories they controlled.
A very small pi I don of the Mughal nobility was recruited from those who had no claims to high birth but were pure administrators or accountants. Finally, man-sabdari ranks were also awarded to scholars, religious divines, men of letters etc.
The Mughal nobility during the early years of Akbar came to consist of certain well-organized racial groups. These were the Turanis, Iranis, Afghans, Shaikhzadas, the Rajputs etc. Later on, in the seventeenth century, with the expansion of the Mughal power in the Deccan, there was an influx of the Deccanis -the Bijapuris, the Hyderabadis and the Marathas – into the Mughal nobility.
There, was, therefore, great diversity in the Mughal nobility and there existed a certain amount of jealousy among various sections of the nobility. The Mughal nobles received very high salaries but their expenses were also extravagant and they lived a life of great pomp and luxury.
Consequently, spending, not saving was the chief characteristic of the ruling class. Still there were a large number of nobles who invested their money on interest and owned a fleet of mercantile ships and took part in trade and commerce, particularly foreign trade which was very profitable. But income from land, rather than trade and commerce, was the chief occupation and concern of the nobles.