Brief notes on the Mahalwari System in India 1757-1857


A modified version of the zamindari settlement, introduced in the Ganga valley, the North-West Provinces, parts of central India, and he Punjab, was known as the Mahalwari System.

The revenue settlement was to be made village by village or estate (mahal) by estate with landlords or heads of families who collectively claimed to be the landlords of the village or the estate. In the Punjab a modified Mahalwari System known as the village system was introduced. In Mahalwari areas also, the land revenue was periodically revised.

Both the Zamindari and the Rotary systems departed fundamentally from the traditional land systems of the country. The British created a new form of private property in land in such a way that the benefit of the innovation did not go to the cultivators. All over the country, land was now made saleable, mortgage able, and alienable.


This vase done primarily to protect the government’s revenue. If land had not been made transferable or saleable, the government would find it very difficult to realise revenue from a cultivator who had no savings or possessions out of which to pay it.

Now he could borrow money on the security of this land or even sell part of it and pay his land revenue. If he refused to do so, the government could and often did auction his land and realise the amount.

Another reason for introducing private ownership of land was provided by the belief that only right of ownership would make the landlord or the riot exert him in making improvements.

The British by making land a commodity which could be freely bought and sold introduced a fundamental change in the existing land systems of the country.


The stability and the continuity of the Indian villages were shaken. In fact, the entire structure of rural society began to break up.

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