During his reign Mughal Emperor Akbar realised that most of the existing land revenue system of his time were old and  plagued by inefficiency and incompetency. He felt the need of reforms in the existing revenue system. The reforms thus introduced had three main objectives.

  • Correct measurement of the land under cultivation.
  • Ascertainment of the produce per Bigha of land.
  • Fixation of state's share with respect to per Bigha of land.
Akbar's land reforms
Akbar on inspection

He first focussed on devising a settlement based on accurate measurement which required standardized unit of measurement.

  • Akbar made Ilahi guz which consisted of 41 fingers i.e 29-32 inches as a standard unit of measurement.
  • This standardization of ghuz gave a definite unit of measurement and removed all the vagueness about the measurements of land.
  • For measurement of large land holdings the Mughal officers used long ropes called Tenab(1 Tenab=60 Ilahi ghuz) that was subjected to shrink due to weather conditions and gave faulty measurements. Instead of normal ropes a rope was created out of  bamboo pieces joined with iron rings thus accuracy was improved.
  • In addition a definite measurement was given to 1 Bigha of land which was calculated as 60*60 Ilahi Ghuz square. Now with fix Bigha it was easy to calculate state's share which was calculated on each Bigha of land.
  • Based on this accurate measurement of Bighas, whole empire of Akbar was divided his empire into 3367 Mahals, 187 Sarkars and 15 Subas. Due to this it was now quite easy for revenue department to calculate the exact amount of revenue from whole of Akbar's Empire.
The second thing on which Akbar focussed to improve the land revenue system was ascertainment of the amount of produce per Bigha and the state's share in it.
  • Settlement could not be fixed simply based on the size of the land.
  • The real thing was production i.e amount of crop cultivated per Bigha of land.
  • Good Quantity of land had better productivity per Bigha of land.
  • To make it easier Akbar divided produce of lands into four kinds and fixed a different revenue for each of them. These were 
  • Polej- ideal best sort of land throughout the empire. It was always under cultivation and never lied fallow.
  • Parauti- kept out of cultivation for a short period in order to recoup it's lost vigour.
  • Chechar- kind of land allowed to lie fallow for 3-4 years and then resumed under cultivation.
  • Bunjer- worst kind of land that was left out of cultivation for 5 years or upwards.
  • Even Polej and parauti lands were divided into three types Good, Middling and Bad .
  • Produce of each sort was collected and the average of the aggregate produce of three kinds of land was calculated and was deemed as the average produce(Mehsul) of a Bigha of land.
  • State's share was claimed 1/3rd of this average.
  • Peasants were given option to pay in cash or kind which was comfortable for him.
The thirds thing on which Akbar focussed was fixing of rate of assessment . This is also referred as Ain-i-dahshala in Ain-i-Akbari. 
  • The farmers used to complain about the annual settlements to be of exorbitant nature which were revised every year based on the amount of produce calculated each year.
  • Even for the revenue department it was an inconvenient method to set settlement amount each year.
  • On the advise of his finance minister Raja Todarmal, Akbar ordered a new settlement that should have concluded for the past 10 years.
  • Aggregate of revenues from 1570-1579 was made and the decennial average was fixed as the state demand of revenue. This was called Ain-i-dahshala or (law of 10 years average as settlement).
  • Now the collection could be made with certainity and people were also satisfied.
  • Dahshala system fixed the revenue for Akbar that flowed continuously in his treasury each year.
  • Peasants were also happy as they could separate the required amount and focus more on production this motivated them to put efforts to improve their cultivation.
Akbar charbagh garden
Akbar in conversation with a farmer of Crown land

Different methods of realizing the state's proportion of the produce

During Akbar's reign there were basically three kind of system of assessment ,namely
  • Gallahbaksh
  • Zabt
  • Nasq
Gallahbaksh System
  • Under this system a share of each crop was taken by the ruler. Methods by which this crop division was done had two types called as Kankut or Batai.
  • It involved determination of share by estimation instead of actual weight and the exchange of its value for cash.
  • Kankut- valuation of a crop done by actual measurement of the land i.e by real inspection. This was an accurate method.
  • Batai- other method for division of crop. when crop is cut and stacked they are divided by mutual agreement of the parties concerned(state and farmer) in tge presence of witness. Batai further had two types.
  • Khat Batai- Fields are allowed to be measured after the sowing  of seeds.
  • Lang Batai- After reaping is finished grain is formed into heaps and then it is divided.
Zabt System
  • Alternate revenue Collection system in order to eliminate the uncertainities and difficulties inherent in the system of crop division. 
  • It had fixed rate of assessment this was realised according to the nature of crop and the payments of assessment of previous years . 
  • Definiteness of dues to state's treasury from a cultivator and simultaneously provided ease and scope of improvement for a cultivator. 
Nasaq System
  • This system existed well before Mughals came to India. 
  • Applied to far away provinces like Bengal, Bihar and Gujarat. 
  • It was more of an agreement rather than a detailed settlement
  • Agreement was made sometimes with reference to grains, sometimes to cash. 
  • Collector of revenue had to directly deal with cultivator and not with village heaadman or any other intermediary. 
Apart from these reforms Akbar also reformed the bureaucratic system of Land revenue department by creating new responsible offices to improve its efficiency. 
The officers that dealt with land revenue system included
  • Sipah-i-salar or Subahdar Supreme head of millitary & revenue affairs of Suba. 
  • Fauzdar- Millitary affair of districts helped amalguzar in revenue Collection. 
  • Amalguzar chief officer of revenue in Sarcars.
  • Amil-revenue collector at Pargana level. 
  • Patwari- He used to keep receipts and disbursements of farmers in villages. 
  • Qanungo- he used to maintain Records of farmers according to law st pargana level. 
  • Karori- he was the officer of an area that fetched revenue worth Rs 1 crore. 
  • Tepukchi/Bitikchis- Accountants. 
Thus Akbar tried hard to reform the land revenue system though he did not invented anything new all of these things were already existing during the times of Sher shah sur and Sultanate rulers. For eg Ilahi guz was nothing but a copy of Gaz-i-sikandari of sikandar lodi. 

The thing he focussed on was the implementation part where archaeic practices of revenue collection were discarded and inefficient officers were  strictly dealt with. 

The state demanded 1/3rd of total produce as revenue which was more than prescribed under hindu laws i.e 1/6th . But this was compensated by abolishing 29 other taxes that relieve farmers from financial troubles. 

Though this was also not the fullproof system and many farmers still suffered under the Zabt system. This system however gave a surity of revenue to the Mughal state on the basis of which Akbar further expanded his empire and a strong foundation was laid which held the empire for several coming years.

This topic is important for UPSC History optional and other state PSC exams in fact  recently there was a Question on Ain-i-dahshala in UPPSC mains History optional exam 2019 . 

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