The mansab and jagir systems under the Mughals in India did not develop suddenly; they evolved steadily through the time. These institutions were borrowed in some form from Western Asia and modified to suit the needs of the time in India.

The mansabdars were an integral part of the Mughal bureaucracy and formed an elite within elite. They were appointed in all government departments except the judiciary. They held the important offices of wazir, bakshi, faujdar and the subadar, etc.


The word mansab means a place or position and therefore it means a rank in the mansab system under the Mughals . During Babur’s time, the term mansabdar was not used; instead, another term wajhdar was employed.

Mansab denoted three things:
i) It determined the status of its holder (the mansabdar) in the official hierarchy.
ii) It fixed the pay of the holder.
iii) It also laid upon the holder the obligation of maintaining a specified number of  contingent with horses and equipment.

Akbar gave mansabs to both military and civil officers on the basis of their merit or service to the state. To fix the grades of officers and classify his soldiers, he was broadly inspired by the principles adopted by Chingiz Khan.


Initially a single number represented the rank, personal pay and the size of contingent of mansabdar. In such a situation if a person held a mansab of 500, he was to maintain a contingent of 500 and receive allowances to maintain it.In addition, he was to receive
personal  pay according to a schedule and undertake other obligations specified for that rank.

After some time, the rank of mansabdar instead of one number, came to be denoted by two numbers – zat and sawar. This innovation most probably occurred in 1595-96.

The first number (zat) determined the mansabdar’s personal pay (talab-khassa) and his rank in the organisation. The second number (sawar) fixed the number of horses and horsemen to be maintained by the mansabdar and, accordingly, the amount he would receive for his contingent (tabinan).


The mansabdars were classified into three groups :
a) those with horsemen (sawar) equal to the number of the zat
b) those with horsemen half or more than half of the number of the zat
c) those whose sawar rank was less than half of their zat rank.

The sawar rank was either equal or less than the zat. Even if the former was higher,the mansabdar’s position in the official hierarchy would not be affected. For example, a mansabdar with 4000 zat and 2000 sawar  was higher in rank than a mansabdar of 3000 zat and   3000 sawar, although the latter had a higher number of horsemen under him.


But there are exceptions to this rule particularly when the mansabdar was serving in a difficult terrain amidst the rebels. In such cases, the state often increased the sawar rank without altering the zat rank. Obviously the system was not a static one. It changed to meet the circumstances. Thus reforms were undertaken without modifying the basic structure. One such reform was the use of conditional rank (mashrut), which meant an  increase of sawar rank for a temporary period. This was an emergency measure adopted in the time of crisis, that is, the permission to recruit more horsemen at the expense of the state.


Another development that took place was the introduction of do aspa sih aspa under Jahangir. Mahabat Khan was the first to get it in the 10th year of Jahangir’s reign. According to this. a part or full sawar rank of mansabdar was made do aspa sih aspa.

For example, if a mansabdar held a mansab of 4000 zat/4000 sawar, he may be granted  do aspa sih aspa. In this case the original sawar rank would be ignored, and the mansabdar will maintain double the number of do aspa sih aspa (here 4000 + 4000 = 8000). Again, if the rank was 4000 zat/4000 sawar of which 2000 was do aspa sih aspa, then it would mean that out of the original sawar rank of 4000, the ordinary troopers will be only 2000 and the additional rank of 2000 do aspa sih aspa will double itself to 4000 ordinary troopers. Thus the total number of horsemen would be 6000.


Jahangir, after becoming emperor, wanted to promote nobles of his confidence and strengthen them militarily, but there were some practical problems. Generally the sawar rank could not be higher than zat rank. In such a situation, any increase in sawar rank would have meant an increase in zat rank also. The increase in the latter would have led to additional payment as personal pay thereby increasing the burden on treasury. Moreover, there would have been an upward mobility of the noble in the official hierarchy which was likely to give rise to jealousy among the nobles.

In fact do aspa sih aspa was a way out to grant additional sawar rank without disturbing the zat rank or mansab hierarchy. It also meant a saving for the state by not increasing the zat rank.


The mir bakshi generally presented the candidates to the Emperor who recruited them,directly.Granting of mansab was a prerogative of the Emperor. He could appoint anybody as mansabdar.The most favoured category were the sons and close kinsmen of persons who were already in service. This group was called khanazad.

Promotions were generally given on the basis of performance and lineage.Racial considerations played important role in promotions. Unflinching loyalty was yet another consideration.


Mansabdars were asked to present their contingents for regular inspection and physical verification.  It was done by a special procedure. It was called dagh and chehra. All the horses presented
for inspection by a particular noble were branded with a specific pattern to distinguish these from those of other nobles through a seal (dagh). The physical description of troops (chehra) was also recorded. This way the possibility of presenting the same horse
or troop for inspection was greatly reduced.


The practice whereby the Emperor took possession of the wealth of the nobles after their death was known as escheat (zabt). The reason was that the nobles often took loan from the state which remained unpaid till their death.