Administration Under Babur: The Wajh and the Khalisa

The revenue assignments made by Babur to his nobles are generally referred to as wajh. There are some other terms which we hear about: wajh-i istiqamat, wajh wa istiqamat, wajh-i ulufa and wajh wa ulufa which were inter-changeable. The holders of these revenue assignments were known as wajhdars.

The earliest mention of the term wajh in a fiscal context is found in the Tarikh-i Firuzshahi of Shams Siraj Afif. Under the Lodis this term was probably an equivalent of iqta.

Under Babur, however, the term wajh had a different connotation, as compared to iqta: the iqta could be sub-assigned. Under Babur, wajh appears to have been fixed sums out of the total jama of a territory. The rest amount (out of the territory assigned) was to be treated as khalisa. Thus Babur’s wajhdars were not granted specified lands but specified sums of money out of the revenue of the territories. These territories were, unlike the jagirs, assigned by the Mughals later on.

In the wajhdari system, various territories were put in overall charge of various nobles, who were assigned a fixed sum out of the revenues of their respective charge for their maintenance. This was known as the wajh.

A wajhdar, therefore, was an overall in-charge, both fiscal and administrative, of a territory assigned to him by the emperor and could claim only a fixed sum for his maintenance as specified by the emperor.

But then, there being no check on the authority of the wajhdar, there was every possibility that he could misappropriate the state dues.

We also find cases that sometimes individual parganas, with their total jama could also be assigned as wajh to a person.

Thirdly, sometimes the wajh of the assignee in the pargana could also exceed in amount the wajh of the assignee of the whole territory. Thus a territory might be held by a noble in wajh, but inside the same territory, a pargana could be assigned to another noble as wajh. But this assignment was directly by the emperor; and a wajhdar was not empowered to sub-assign his territory to any one else as was the case in iqta.

Further, we also encounter cases where there were nobles whose wajh had been fixed but who were not given any pargana or wilayat (territory). These were obviously paid their istiqamat or ulufa from the Imperial territory.

It appears that the wajh / wajh-i istiqamat was an administrative charge and not of revenues. This is highlighted from the example of Alwar. We are informed that Alwar was offered to Khusrau with his ‘wajh wa istiqamat’ fixed at 50 lakhs. When he declined, it was offered to Tardika, who had his wajh fixed as 15 lakhs. Thus this assignment could never have been against, or in lieu of, his wajh. The wajh kept varying while the jama of Alwar remained static. The wajh would thus vary as per the status of the noble and was not in relation to the jama of the territory bestowed on him.

From the above it appears that

a) The terms wajh, wajh-wa istiqamat and wajh-i istiqamat were inter changeable.

b) Assignment of a territory (pargana or wilayat) generally followed the fixation of wajh.

One can say that in the wajhdari system of Babur, the emperor fixed the wajh or salary in terms of cash. The wajh so fixed was generally granted in the form of revenue assignment of a territory or pargana. In case the wajh or salary of the noble was less than the jama of the territory, the wajhdar would collect his amount of wajh as well as the other amount which was for khalisa. In case his wajh and jama were equal, the wajhdar was simply an assignee of the total revenues against his wajh.

Thus we can say that there were three types of wajhdars under Babur:

1) Those entrusted with additional responsibility (e.g., wajhdars of Sirhind, Alwar, Tijara, Bayana, Qannauj)

2) Those who were assigned parganas specifically against their wajh

3) Those who were not assigned any territory but were paid in cash.

The amount sanctioned as wajh was probably sanctioned for both personal maintenance as well as maintenance of military contingents (which consisted of naukaran and biradaran wa khweshan. Failure to render service could result in the resumption of the status and confiscation of pargana or wilayat sanctioned against their wajh.

Another salient feature of the wajhdari system was that the wajhdars were not normally subjected to transfers. However, one should remember the time span of Babur’s rule.

Finally, on the death of a wajhdar, it was the privilege of the emperor to dispose of the retainers of the wajhdar.

Thus it was a system which had its roots in the iqta system on the one hand and on the other, it contained the seeds of the mansabdari and jagirdari system as developed by Akbar.


In the administration of Babur we find that the whole empire was divided into two



There are instances, in fact two, where Babur reserved parganas for khalisa. For example, Bahlolpur in trans-Sutluj area, and Dholpur near Agra.

The revenues of Lahore, Delhi & Agra were also earmarked for khalisa and were not given out as wajh. We hear of two officers appointed at Lahore: Abdul Aziz mir akhur as darogha and Khwaja Husain as diwan-i khalisat-i Lahore. The posts of diwan and shiqdar were associated with the administration of the khalisa.

Further, there is a reference in Baburnāma that when dak-chaukis were prepared to be established between Agra & Kabul, it was specified that they would be maintained from the expenses borne by amirs if they were in the parganas held by them, but if it lay within the jurisdiction of khalisa, the expenses would be borne through the income from the khalisa.  This suggests that parganas of khalisa were spread over between Agra & Kabul.

In addition to the normal ordinary share of the khalisa, which used to stand around 10-15 % of the revenues, Babur says that in 1528 he made a general reduction from the assignments of the nobles to the extent of 1/3rd of their value. If, keeping in mind these figures, a calculation is made, it is possible to establish, that, under Babur, after 1528, the revenues of the khalisa came upto 38.6% ~ which was something unprecedented.

In Baburnāma is given a list of sarkars and the expected revenues from them. The total revenues are calculated as Rs. 52 crores. Out of this, Babur says, 8 to 9 crores used to come as peshkash, while the rest was from Imperial revenues.

We know on the authority of the sources of the Sultanate as well as the 17th C, that in the normal course, khalisa revenues would be up to 15% of the total revenues.

Thus to begin with, it was 8 crores. But then 30% of the revenues, which were given out to nobles as wajh, was transferred to khalisa in 1528. Then, additional 5% revenue was reserved from grants (wajh-i ma’ash), as was the case under Sultanate.

Now if we calculate: 5% of 52 crores would be in the range of 3 crores. Thus 8 crores + 3 crores = 11 crores. Thus the revenues passed out as wajh to the nobles would be in the range of 40 crores. 30% of this 40 crore would be 12 crores. And this in 1528 was transferred to khalisa.

Add 12 to 8 crores, and we get 20 crores! This 20 crores was reserved in khalisa after 1528. And this is a very high share reserved for khalisa under Babur. This continued down to the time of Akbar. According to Irfan Habib, under Akbar the revenues from khalisa stood at 25%.

In this way, Babur tried to bring centralization. In 1528-29, or perhaps still later date, Babur appears to have made an attempt to further augment the khalisa revenues by imposing ushr, i.e., 1/10th of the produce of the land, on the madad-i ma’ash holders. Ordinarily, these grants were revenue-free grants to ulama, intellectuals, relations of soldiers killed in action, officers, ladies of distinguished families and Saiyids. But throughout there was a debate amongst the ulama regarding the nature of these rights as far as this grant was concerned. Whether this land would be milkiyat (property) or just held it at the pleasure of the king. Ulema held that they were milkiyat as these lands were taken from the non-Muslims. Whether ushr should be imposed or not depends on the position of the land. If the land belonged to the state, then there could be no ushr. But as soon as state accepts it as property of men, then ushr is applicable.

This whole theoretical debate is given by Shaikh Jalaluddin Thanesari in his Tahqiq-i Arazi-i Hind.

Thus when Babur applied ushr on madad-i ma’ash, he was giving concession to the ulema. On the other hand, he was also wanting to increase the income of the state exchequer. Evidence on which we can make this deduction is actually a letter written by Shaikh Abdul Quddus Gangohi to Babur in a harsh resentful language. One specific demand made in this letter is to immediately withdraw the ushr. He taunts Babur by saying “Begging from a needy person is not wise, how you can justify taking something from a faqir?”

This gets significance by another evidence, which is an early farman of Babur confirming a grant established by the Lodi kings in the Punjab region. In this farman Babur prohibits his administration from realizing ushr from the grantees.

If we put these two evidences together, what we get is that Babur introduced this and nobles were resentful. In the beginning, Babur did not impose ushr and went out of his way in prohibiting it in the early period. But sometime later, he decided to impose the tax on the grantees. We don’t know whether ushr was again abolished or not. But what Babur was trying was to centralize the state finances.

• Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi