(Last Updated on : 01/10/2010)
Agrarian society in Mughal era can be determined by the position of the peasants in Mughal India in relation to land. Interestingly, the position of the cultivator class in Mughal era thus offers a sharp contrast to that of his descendant living under modern landlordism that has been created under the British rule. The great weapons used by the landlords had been the threat of expelling his tenantry. The desertion of his land by any of his tenants came to hold no terrors for him. However, gradually the situation changed as a result of two parallel processes. Firstly, the zamindars turned into the main rent-expropriator as the share of the colonial state in the agricultural surplus directly claimed in tax rejected during the latter half of the 19th century. Second, the pressure on land changed as livelihood sources outside agriculture almost stagnated or disappeared. These two significant changes handed over larger numbers of peasants, bound hand and foot as tenants-at-will, to the landlord.
Several detailed surveys of southern and eastern India during the Mughal rule revealed individual farming to be the dominant mode, together with landlord estate farming here and there. But it did not show any trace of communal cultivation anywhere. However, under the Mughal administration individual peasant farming was not considered as egalitarian. Moreover, the relative abundance of land was thought to have been a factor inhibiting the increase of wealth in the hands of a few by their dominance of the land. Another significant aspect about the agrarian society of Mughal India was the retrogressive nature of the land tax. This feature most probably assisted the process of differentiation or the official classification of the rural population.
Several archaeological evidences regarding the stratum of peasants have been discovered from eastern region of Rajasthan
. They bore the designation of holders of khud-kasht or gharu-hala (of home-plough), and employed hired labourers (majurs) for cultivation or sometimes gave their lands out on a share-cropping basis. Moreover, the analysis of a khasra of kharif of a village in pargana Jaipur
reveals that out of around 42 cultivators, one raised near about nine crops in the kharif harvest. Thus, the peasants who raised the larger number of crops usually cultivated larger areas of land. Further, the existence of cultivation by zamindars and rich peasants implied the use of hired labour. Agrarian societies in Mughal India displayed very limited use of slaves in agriculture in eastern region as confirmed by various detailed surveys. Actual status of many of them was considered to be servile, meaning some kind of bondage, including the obligation to render forced labour to zamindars.
Like for instance, a large amount of the production of the villages had to be marketed outside for meeting tax claims; and thus a part at least of its economy was dominated by the requirements and variations of commodity production. At the same time, since the village had few claims upon anyone outside its limits, the needs of its own inhabitants were met largely from within itself, and thus it functioned as a self-sufficient unit. Hence, these twin conditions dictated that a system of individual peasant production with resultant differentiation coexisted with the organisation of the village as a self sufficient community.