What is the condition of Bengal and Awadh under the Mughals?

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The emergence of Awadh and Bengal as autonomous independent states in the eighteenth century was not an isolated development. The rise of independent states in Awadh, Bengal, Hyderabad, and Mysore and in other regions was one of the predominant characteristics of the eighteenth century Indian polity.

The on-going research on the decline of the Mughal Empire has shown that various factors like administrative crisis, agrarian crisis, social crisis etc. combining together established the Mughal imperial system. The debate is still on among historians about the nature and relative importance of these various factors.

Bengal and Awadh were integral parts of the Mughal imperial system. In both the provinces higher officials like the Nazim and the Diwan were directly recruited by the Mughal emperors. The provincial officials were as follows. In the Suba or province the head of revenue administration was the Diwan and the executive head controlling other matters of civil and military administration was the Nazim.

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These were aided by the Baksi who was the military pay-master of the Suba, the Kotwal who headed the police department, the Qazi who dispended Justice and the Waqai Navis responsible for collecting and reporting news which had a bearing on political affairs.

A Suba or Provinces was divided into Sarkars and these units were controlled by Faujdars. The Sarkars were further subdivided into Parganas. At the local level within the province it was the Zamindars who had maximum control over the local people and administration.

The imperial control over the provinces was mainly through the control over appointment of the Nazim and the Diwan. They were men in whom the emperor had confidence. It was a system of checks and balances, the Diwan was separately appointed by the emperor in order to keep control over the Nazim. Besides these two high officials, in provinces many other officials like Amils, Faujdars etc. were dependent on the emperor who appointed them. Political integration of the empire was a product of the coordination and balancing of the various forces ranging from the Zamindars and a large number of lower- level officials to the highest provincial officials.

This system acted well till the imperial authority was able to enforce policy and secure obedience from the provincial administration. But from the late 17th and early 18th century, gradually the relationship of the central authority with the provincial administration was virtually reduced to getting tribute from the provincial governor.

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While making this token submission to the imperial authority, the provincial governors gradually tried to identify themselves as local powers and to establish their independent authority at the provincial level. The flow of tribute to the imperial treasury became irregular.

There was also a tendency among the governors to establish their dynastic rule in the provinces and to appoint their own men in the administration. All these point to the process of weakening of imperial control in the provinces and the making of independent authority at a regional level. As a result Awadh and Bengal emerged as autonomous independent states in course of the 18th century.

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