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Land Rights, Landed Hierarchy and Village Community During the Mughal Age

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Item Code: HAI766
Author: Amrita Grover,Anju Grover Chaudhary & J C Dua
Publisher: Originals, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2005
ISBN: 9788188629268
Pages: 361
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 610 gm
Book Description
About the Book

Mughal history is a field that has fascinated scholars and students of history for at least four hundred years. In particular, the study of the agrarian set up has attracted many a scholar.

This is not just another book on Mughal history providing anecdotes or description about the land revenue/agrarian system of the Mughal age. Rather, it is a critical analysis of the topics contained in this volume based on an in-depth study of original Persian and Urdu documents and manuscripts of the Mughal period. A wealth of information and analysis on the topics is being presented in The Collected Works of Professor B. R. Grover, of which this is the first volume.

His writings are all based on original sources and documents relating to the agrarian structure of the medieval Indian society in coordination with the chronicles and various other categories of contemporary sources.

In analysing the land rights of various classes in the Mughal age, the concept of village community, land revenue administration, the nature of zamindari and evolution of Taaluqdari system during the Mughal age, among other things, Prof. Grover examined the original contemporary source material in Persian, Urdu, Ottoman Turkish, regional languages and English.

The articles in this volume were (earlier) presented by Prof. Grover at various national and international conferences/ seminars dealing with Mughal history. Some of these papers were also published in journals and proceedings of conferences/seminars. Most of the articles published in this present volume have also been frequently quoted by the leading historians for the last four decades.

About the Author

Professor B.R. Grover, former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, with an academic and administrative career spanning more than 55 years, has left an indelible mark as one of India's most eminent and dedicated historians. He has left behind a massive wealth of historical research based on original Persian, Urdu, Ottoman Turkish and English sources. Known for doing intensive research in the archives and libraries of India, several European countries and the United States of America, Professor Grover had carved out a distinct position for himself as a moving encyclopaedia of source material on agrarian history of the Mughals, especially the land revenue administration.

Upon his death on May 10, 2001, the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee paid him a rich tribute, stating: "He would always be remembered for his formidable legacy of excellence, erudition, and dedication to historical research and academic administration." Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, then Minister of Human Resources and Scientific Research, paid him a personal homage and called him a real "Karma Yogi". He said, "He lived like a Yogi and died like a Yogi." Former Vice President of India, Justice Hidayatullah, had also applauded him for his research. His colleagues described him as "a man of sterling qualities of head and heart"; and "a dynamic and objective head of country's premier historical Institute who has left a rich legacy of his outstanding achievements in the world of historical research," among other things. Born on February 10, 1923, Professor Grover started his career in teaching in 1946 in Lahore and later taught at the University of Punjab and various universities in Delhi until 1974, including Delhi University, Jawahar Lal Nehru University and Jamia Milia Islamia, where he also served as head of the Department of Indian History and Culture. In 1974, he was called upon to join as Director cum Member-Secretary of the newly established Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), a premier historical research Institute, where he served from 1974 to 1985 as Director and was later appointed as Chairman in 1999. For his long association with ICHR, his colleague, Prof. A.R. Khan, wrote in his obituary: "On account of his long association with the Council and the services rendered by him to it, Professor Grover became an institution by himself and he and the Council became a synonymy, as the latter came to be identified, both in India and abroad, with Professor Grover, even when he was not holding any office in the Council."

Initially having received training at Paris under the auspices of UNESCO for the promotion of history as a means of international understanding, Professor Grover wrote and published books in British history. Later, because of his deep interest in the study of original sources and his proficiency in Persian language, his research interests shifted to the medieval period of Indian history. His interest later widened to the study and research in regard to the social, cultural and economic impact of the Indian immigrants in West Asia and East European countries. As an avid researcher, Professor Grover wrote and published copiously on various aspects of the Mughal Agrarian System, Patterns of Rural Trade, The Concept of Village Community and a host of other topics. His writings, mostly published in prestigious journals, like the journals of the Delhi School of Economics and the proceedings of various conferences, became nodal points for the scholars of his generation. His published writings in The Indian Economic and Social History Review, Proceedings of the Indian Historical Records Commission, Indian Archives, Proceedings of the Punjab History Conference, Punjab Past and Present and The Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, among others, brought him national and international recognition. At an early stage of Professor Grover's career, Prof. M.M. Pearson of Pennsylvania University, U.S.A., wrote about his Mughal Agrarian writings as "...an impressive start...brilliant, which makes fundamental contribution in this area." Prof. C.A. Bailey of Cambridge University, complimented him for "comprehensive listing of materials" and "excellent bibliographies."


Mughal history is a field that has fascinated scholars and students of history for at least four hundred years. In particular, the study of the agrarian set up has attracted many a scholar. Numerous books and articles have been and continue to be written by several scholars about the nature of land rights, land revenue administration, agrarian system, classification of land and the concept of village community, etc. during the Mughal period.

This is not just another book on Mughal history providing anecdotes or description about the land revenue/agrarian system of the Mughal age. Rather, it is a critical analysis of the said topics, subjects based on an in-depth study of original Persian and Urdu documents and manuscripts of the Mughal period. Professor Grover has left behind a very large number of writings on the above subjects. Some of them were published in the national and international journals while many have remained unpublished. A wealth of information and analysis on the said topics is being presented in The Collected Works of Professor B. R. Grover, of which this is the first volume.

Professor B. R. Grover, a distinguished scholar of Mughal history, was well-versed in Persian, Urdu, Punjabi and English. His writings are all based on original sources and documents relating to the agrarian structure of the medieval Indian society in coordination with the chronicles and various other categories of contemporary sources. At the time Professor Grover wrote these articles, many of these documents and terminologies were not fully deciphered. Moreover, he believed that "in order to appreciate the rights of the land owners and other classes of the agriculturalists during the Mughal age, it is imperative to understand the contemporary concept of ownership and varying rights, privileges and interests in land." In early 1960s, Professor Grover was the first scholar to break new grounds on the study of land rights and the concept of village community, etc. His writings thus reflected an in-depth understanding of various aspects of agrarian life during the medieval age.

Some of the most important articles being published in this Volume include (i) Nature of Land Rights in Mughal India; (ii) The Concept of Village Community in North India during Mughal age and the pre-British Era; (iii) An Integrated Pattern of Commercial Life in the Rural Society of North India during the 17th-18th Centuries; (iv) Nature of Dehat-i-Ta'aluga (Zamindari Villages) and the Evolution of Ta'aluqdari System during the Mughal Age; (v) The Evolution of the Zamindars and Ta'aluqdari System in Bengal (1576-1765 A.D.); (vi) Extension and Administration of the Irrigation System under Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb; (vii) Classification of Agrarian Land under Akbar; (viii) Agrarian Problems of the 18th Century Eastern India-a Reappraisal; (ix) Raqba-Bandi Document of Akbar's reign and (x) Some Rare Persian Manuscripts and Documents on India (16th- 18th centuries) in the German Libraries.

In this analytical and conceptual book on various aspects of land revenue administration and agrarian life in North India during the medieval age and early British period, Professor Grover has challenged the concepts of most of the 19th century British and Indian writers which have traditionally been acclaimed until recently. For example, Professor Grover observed, among other things, that the view held by the European visitors to India in the 16th and 17th centuries that all land was owned by the State was due to their gross ignorance of the working of the jagir system. Upon an examination of the comparative land rights of each class in different categories of land system in vogue during the Mughal Age, Professor Grover noticed, among other things, that the question of the ownership of agricultural land in Mughal India had been "oversimplified by ascribing the ownership to one exclusive category of owners-the State or the zamindars". His conclusion was that in the Mughal Age, "The State never claimed the absolute and exclusive ownership of the agrarian land and definitely recognised the existence of private property in it." He also observed that the 19th century British writers exaggerated the role of the panchayat or the Village Council. According to Professor Grover, the village community stood for the landed interests of the malikana (land owner) and it was "the community of land owners (co-sharing zamindari families) that decided if they had to admit new cultivators in the village."


Professor B.R. Grover was an indefatigable researcher who based his work on original sources, mainly Persian. The quantity and quality of his published work, and his devotion to learning has been admired immensily by academicians and his friends.

During the period that Professor Grover was working, there was a deep interest in the land revenue system and the rights of various sections-the state, the jagirdars, the zamindars, and different categories of cultivators. Part of the problem had been created by the early British administrators due to their failure to understand the meaning of various Indian revenue terms and expressions, and the nature of the society these terms reflected. There was also an attempt on the part of the British rulers to arrogate to the colonial state many of the rights and privileges traditionally enjoyed by different sections. Much of the debate revolved around the nature of zamindari rights and the position of the cultivators, including what came to be called "the village community" It has needed the work of a whole generation of Indian historians to try to overcome some of the confusion, and to arrive at a better understanding of the revenue system and its working during medieval times. Professor Grover was an active participant in this quest. Many of the papers brought together in this volume are a testimony to his contribution to it.

History is a developing science, and the research work of one generation becomes the basis for the research work of another generation. Such a process has to be seen both in a critical and a positive manner-critical about some of the assumptions or notions of the earlier generation of historians, and positive in recognizing their contribution. Historical debate in India has now shifted from understanding terms, procedures and forms of administration in pre-British times to the question: How did they affect different sections of society? Did they permit any growth, and if so, what was the nature and extent of the growth, and who benefited from it? A lot of work, using documentary sources, and adopting new methodologies would be needed to answer some of these questions. An understanding of the nature of the Indian village community was a key factor in this debate. As long as the Indian village was seen as a closed unit-economically self-sufficient and administering itself through a panchayat which claimed to own or control land-a paradigm which had been put forward by the early British administrative historians, and uncritically accepted by the early Indian historians and nationalist leaders, the question of growth in such a closed society hardly arose. The writings of Professor Grover on the nature of village society and its functioning, the nature of the panchayats, and their relationship with land-holding in the village, and in the assessment and collection of land-revenue, as also putting forward evidence which questioned the economic isolation or self-sufficiency of the Indian village played a crucial role in arriving at a new understanding. That the Indian village was not economically isolated but participated actively in the developmental problematic affairs is now being loudly proclaimed by a section of western historians, as if this was their "discovery". Thus, they are not prepared to comprehend or acknowledge the contribution of earlier Indian historians. Unfortunately, it has also become fashionable among a section of young Indian historians to refer to the works of western scholars in preference to those of Indian historians, both because the works of the former are more easily available and because it is somehow considered more prestigious to do so. The publication of Professor Grover's papers will, I hope, play a role in correcting this distortion or bias.

At the end, I would like to commend the efforts of Amrita Grover, Anju Grover Chaudhary and J.C. Dua in bringing together the widely scattered papers of Professor B.R. Grover on medieval revenue-administration, village revenue documents, the nature of zamindari and taluqdari rights, etc. This will be of benefit to both scholars and young historians.

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