Bakufu Han Jagirdari

The Japanese during the Tokugawa period developed a very durable and highly efficient method to administer her people, and it lasted well over two centuries. The Baku-han system in Japan was the bedrock of relationships between the Shogun and Daimyos as well as among the Daimyos. The system was meant to decentralise the administration while maintaining the overall control within the centre. After the Battle of Sekigahara, the supremacy of the Tokugawa family over the rest of the daimyo was established. Tokugawa Ieyasu utilized his political acumen and delegated the daimyo to rule in Shogun’s stead. That is, these daimyos no longer had full autonomy as regional barons that they enjoyed during the Age of the Warring States (Sengoku Jedai). They became vassals of the shōgun and owed him loyalty and prescribed obligations.

In the administration and control of the land, a division of power between the Bakufu and the daimyō, who retained authority in their han (domains), was affected. Thus the Tokugawa system of rule is referred to as the Baku-han system. (Hane 2015, 309)

Similarly, in around the same couple of centuries, Akbar of the Mughal Dynasty in India streamlined the administrative set-up in India. Akbar modified the pre-existing Iqta system and was able to create a system of revenue and administration by which the regional delegates (Jagirdars) were responsible for revenue collection and it also worked as a source for that official’s salary as per the rank and the size of his Mansab. As per Indian Historian Irfan Habib, Jagir was land revenue assignment in lieu of cash salaries according to the rank of Jagirdar and his Mansab.

If one considers the impact of the developments under the Mughal Emperor, then we can say that Jagirdari system had a similar impact on India under Mughal Empire as did the Baku-Han system on Japan under the Tokugawa Bakufu, or did it? This observation is a question and it is the same question, which we will try to answer by explaining and comparing the two systems, in this paper.

 Let us first take the Jagirdari system.

Jagirdari System

Image source- The custodians

To understand the Jagirdari system, one must understand the Mansabs and Mansabdars. Mansabdar was a rank holding military official of the highest ranks. The Jagirdari & Mansabdari system developed during the heydays of the Mughal rule. Akbar refined and perfected the system by giving two numbers to the Mansabdars – i) Zat which defined his positioning court and ii) Sawar which indicated the cavalry at his command. The salaries of these officials were mostly paid from the revenue they could gather from the land assigned to them. This revenue

was a part payment from the total revenue collection from the defined region known as ‘Jagir’. Jagirdari System and the Mansabdari System compliment each other, one cannot function without the other. Both were instruments of mobilizing resources of the country and distributing among the nobles and officials. Jagirdari System was the assignment of the revenue of the produce of the land that was under the administrative jurisdiction of the concerned Jagirdar. The land was never given, it was the produce of the land that was allotted for the noble to take from this revenue, the salary that was due to him. After his conquest, Babur instituted a different system called ‘Wajh’ and the person who got this wajh was called ‘wajhdar’. He had distributed one-third of the conquered areas to the new master. Among them, the Afghans got a major share and it is stated that under Babur, Afghans consumed one-fifth of the total revenue of the Mughal Empire at that time.

It was after Babur that the Jagirdari System was introduced. There was a fundamental difference between the Wajhdar system and the Jagirdari System. In the Wajhdar System, there was no difference between the executive and the financial office. Under this system, an officer was given territory with a fixed salary. He administered the area both financially and from the executive point of view. However, in the Jagirdari System, there was no fixed salary and the executive and the financial powers were in the hands of different persons. It was from the time of Akbar that the situation changed drastically and fundamentally. The Jagirdar had some very serious problems and some of these problems had never been resolved.

Problems of the Jagirdari System

The first problem was that the Jagirdar has to conform to the central rules and regulations i.e. he must collect the revenue as per the sanctioned rate. The second problem was that there was a difference between the estimation of revenue and the collection of revenue. The ministry made the estimates of revenue (Jamadami). The jamadami was therefore the estimate of the revenue to be collected from a particular jagir. And what Jagirdar collected was called Harly Hasil or simply Hasil. The problem was that the estimate (Jamadami) was different from the actual collection (Hasil) and the actual collection was often much less than the real collection, thus he was not able to maintain a fiscally prudent balance sheet. The third problem was, the yield from the Rabi crop and from the Kharif crop was considered to be equal everywhere except in Bengal, but that was a wrong supposition since there were vast differences between the two crops and their yield not only in Bengal but elsewhere in the country too affected the revenue collection.

Problems of Jagirdars:

  1. Collect revenues at a sanctioned rate.
  2. Difference between an estimated and actual revenue.
  3. Yields from Rabi and Kharif crops were considered the same.
  4. Mid-season transfers.
Kinds of Jagirs and its Characteristics

There were 4 different kinds of Jagirs: Jagir-i-Tankwa, Mashrut Jagir, Inam Jagir & Watan Jagir. Each had a different type of function and revenue structure.

Characteristics of the types of Jagirs

  1. Jagir-i-Tankwa or the Rupee Jagir – this jagir is granted to the Mansabdar in lieu of salary to collect from the revenue of the produce of the jagir. In India the tax or the revenue is never on the land during the Mughal Period (It was the British who started it); if there is no product there is no tax. Jagir-i-Tankwa is, therefore, the normal jagir which is given to the Mansabdars in lieu of the salary.
  2. Mashrut Jagir – it is a temporary jagir given to a particular person for a temporary period. When a Mansabdar is appointed to a high post with high obligations, he has to maintain a large number of cavalry in that case the Mansabdar gets what is known as the Mashrut jagir (a temporary jagir for a temporary period). Once he is transferred from that post he does not get the jagir at all.
  3. Inam Jagir – it is generally given to the religious people for charity and it is for life for the person concerned. He has no ‘zat’ rank or ‘sawar’ rank and no military obligation at all. In most of the cases it is free of tax. Jahangir in his memoir had given a large number of cases, which he had granted as Inam Jagirs. Some officials of the villages were also given the Inam Jagirs but it was generally given to the religious people.
  4. Watan Jagir – when a zamindar or a raja is absorbed into the Mansabdari System, he is given a tankwa jagir and his zamindari is considered watan jagir. The watan jagir is a hereditary one, it requires the imperial sanat for succession and it continues in the family for a very long time except in one or two cases.

In 1679 Aurangzeb did not give the succession to Jodhpur and converted Jodhpur into a Khalsa (Crown Land). There was a violent demonstration in Jodhpur. The watan jagir is therefore the jagir given for life and the successor provided there is an imperial sanat, thus, not transferable. Man Singh under Akbar, when he was a Mansabdar had two jagirs – Jagir-i-tankwa in Hissar near Punjab and Watan jagir in Amber near Jaipur.

The Jagirdar has certain rights and these rights were embodied in the rights of the wazir given at the time of the assignment. It is very clearly written that his principal functions were two:

  1. Collection of revenue in lieu of his salary. This is the most important function.
  2. Administration of his jagir.

If there is a problem in the jagir, if there is a revolt he can call upon the faujdar to help him suppress or contain the revolt. When a new jagirdar comes there are problems for him. First he does not know the area, the locality and then he does not know the tradition and customs.

Unfortunately the Jagirdari records are not available. Nothing has been found so far excepting in one or two cases. But the Khalsa records (i.e. the land managed by the state officials for the state) are available. It is accepted now that the Jagirdari model follows the model of the

Khalsa. Jagirdar gets revenue from Jagirs or revenue is assigned to him. This revenue is divided into various kinds of units called ‘mahal’. The ‘mahal’ is a unit of revenue. These ‘mahals’ differ from one place to another. So a Jagirdar may get 30 mahals in one place, in another place with the same salary he may get 10 mahals. Along with that, there were certain other taxes which were considered as separate mahals and separate jagirs. A tax was charged in the ports on most of the goods and was called custom duty. The revenue from the custom duty was considered to be a separate mahal for the jagir. Some examples of these kinds of mahals: Port of Surat – the custom duty in the port of Surat was given by Shah Jahan first to his son Parwez. But Parwez died soon after and this was then given to Jahanara Begum, daughter of Shah Jahan. It was stated that this was given for her betel/ paan expenses. So these duties are considered as separate units.

Similarly excise or other taxes which in Mughal terminology from the 17th century were called ‘aboab’ were not always considered as separate units and jagirs. Aurangzeb’s ‘farman’ very clearly says that the Jagirdar has all the rights but he cannot collect more than 50% of the land revenue; it must be less than 50%. Also the ‘farman’ says that the Jagirdar should not and would not be allowed to collect taxes which are not permitted by the Central government. The later historian Kafi Khan who wrote after the death of Aurangzeb stated that the jagirdars did not follow the second order and no punishment was given to them. One of the reasons for this kind of oppression is that the jagirdar faces plenty of difficulty to solve this problem. Administrative Setup of the Jagirs under the Mughal Empire: the jagirs had a very elaborate administrative setup. Basically it consisted of a three-tier contingent of officials posted at the jagir itself.

They are: a) Staff of the jagirdar b) Local staff c) Imperial staff. The Imperial staff contingent was further subdivided into Subedars, Faujdars and so on. In the case of the Jagirdari administration we divide the Jagirdars into two types: big jagirdar and small jagirdar. The reason for this division is because the system of administration of the jagir depends on the size of the jagir. A big jagirdar has a large number of officials on the staff pattern of the Khalsa. Naturally they are more efficient and could collect the revenue also. In case of small jagirdars, they did not have the resources to appoint a large number of officials. His officials are mainly two – Amil

(in-charge of the jagir revenue) and Fotedar / treasurer (in-charge of the finances). Akbar

refined and perfected the system by giving two numbers to the Mansabdars – i) Zat which defined his positioning court and ii) Sawar which indicated the cavalry at his command. The salaries of these officials were mostly paid from the revenue they could gather from the land assigned to them. This revenue came to be known as ‘Jagir’. Jagirdari System and the Mansabdari System compliment each other. One cannot function without the other. Both are instruments of mobilizing the resources of the country and distributing among the nobles.


Image source- epic world history

The Baku-Han system can be well picturized as the Center and Periphery: Bakufu-Han Relations. The real test of statehood for early modern Japan thus lay in the relations between the bakufu and the daimyo (Han) domains. In the seventeenth century, land assessed at

thirteen million koku—more than one-third of the country—was reassigned. Tozama daimyo decreased in number and new fudai daimyo were created. The accompanying chart indicates the scale of these changes. It thus becomes evident that daimyo held their domains in trust and not as private possessions. The shogun invested each daimyo at the time of his majority, and on the accession of each new shogun all the daimyo swore private oaths of obedience and service (Jansen 2002, 46). As the Edo period went on and reassignments and confiscations diminished, however, tenure became more secure.

It is customary to focus on the fact that hundreds of daimyo were moved in the first century and a half, but closer examination shows that with the exception of postwar settlements approximately half of those moved received domains larger than those they lost, that almost half experienced no change in assessed productivity, and that in many cases of confiscation or attainder the action was taken because of issues of succession. By late Tokugawa wiser leadership had restored the Matsudaira house honor, with the result that its daimyo was able to play an important role in the politics of late Tokugawa bakufu reform. The early shoguns also saw to it that daimyo military prowess was kept under control. In 1649, regulations tried to spell this out (Jansen 2002, 56). A domain of 100,000 koku, for instance, was to have 2,155 men under arms; of these 170 were to be mounted, 350 armed with guns, 30 with bows, and 150 with spears, while 20 were to be trained in signal flags. Further down the scale, a samurai with the rating of 200 koku was supposed to maintain 5 men: himself with his horse, a horse leader, spear bearer, armor bearer, and a porter.

The centerpiece of bakufu control over daimyo was its codification of rules for deportment. In 1615, shortly after the fall of Osaka, the daimyo were summoned to receive the Code for the Military Houses (Buke shohatto). As Harold Bolitho has put it, these laws “served notice to all han that they were to surrender their independence in certain vital areas.” (Jansen 2002, 56-7)

Daimyo were not to admit “criminals” or “traitors” within their borders, they were prohibited from adding fortifications, or repairing old ones—“crenelated walls and deep moats are the causes of anarchy,” one clause read— and they were to request official permission before arranging marriages for family members. Suspicious activities in a neighboring domain were to be reported without delay; but on the other hand, “since the customs of the various domains are all different,” there should be no unnecessary contact between neighboring jurisdictions. In its concluding admonition, the bakufu ordered the daimyo to select men of ability for office. “If there are capable men in the administration the domain is sure to flourish; if there are not it will surely go to ruin.” Thus the bakufu was claiming for itself the right to define and enforce standards of proper rule by which its vassal daimyo could be judged. (Jansen 2002, 57)

Comparison between Jagirdari & Baku-Han systems.

Based on different geographies, addressing different societies. If we want to look at the convergences between the two systems, we need to look at the objectives of their existence. Both the systems were placed by the respective governments, to create a basic structure for the overall administration of the Tokugawa and the Mughals. Just like the Jagirdars, Daimyos in their respective Han were the overlords, but not the Barons. This is because both of them were taking care of the land in the name of the King and the Shogun. Both of them exercise administrative and other authorities based on the fact that they are ruling in lieu of the central authority.

The Jagirdars were holders of the Jagir, which were the lands indirectly controlled by the Mughals, as the directly controlled land was called ‘Khalsa’. Thus, just like the Bakufu held land (Baku) and the Daimyo held land (Han) were divided and systematized for better administrative purposes, Jargirs and Khalsa land were differentiated too. These are really start similarities for two systems established in approximate isolation of one another.

However, the very obvious difference between the two systems is that, while the Daimyos in Han had absolute administrative and military power at their behest, the powers were a little more distributed in Mughal India. In case the Jagirdar was to collect the taxes, and he needed support for collection, he had to contact the Faujdar and other authorities to be communicated at different times in different capacities. Whereas, in the Baku-han system, the overall control lies with and functioning depending upon the Daimyo, till the time he remains filial and loyal to the Shogun.

Thus, while the Jagirdari system was a system of checks and balances at the periphery level with the centre maintaining its supremacy via the division of responsibilities in Jagirs; the Baku-han system was based on the clear cut division of responsibility of overall administration

in the Bakufu held land and the Daimyo held land. And the Bakufu utilized different methods to control the activities of the Daimyos and maintain its supremacy, one of which was the Sankin Kotai or ‘alternate attendance’ system.


Habib, Irfan. 1997. Essays in Indian History. N.p.: Tulika.

Hane, Mikiso. 2015. Premodern Japan: A Historical Survey. Second ed. USA: Westview Press. Jansen,

Marius B. 2002. The MAKING of MODERN JAPAN. Third ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Team Eastern Interest.

By Abhyoday Sisodia

Author is a journalist specializing in international relations with extensive experience working with online media. He has a keen interest in all things geopolitics and thence enjoys writing on issues pertaining to Foreign Policy, International Relations, Strategic and Security Affairs of Indo-Pacific Region.

One thought on “Jagirdari & Baku-han | A comparative Analysis”
  1. Great article, I just passed this onto a co-worker who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I discovered it for him. :). So let me rephrase that: Thanks for the treat! But yeah Thanks for taking the time to talk about this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is very helpful for me. Two thumb up for this blog post!

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