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An Eighteenth Century Agrarian Manual (Yasin’s Dastur-i Malguzari)

An Eighteenth Century Agrarian Manual (Yasin’s Dastur-i Malguzari)
Item Code: NAJ308
Author: S. Hasan Mahmud
Publisher: Kitab Bhavan
Language: Persian Text with English Translation
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 817151300X
Pages: 525
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch

About the Book


An Eighteenth Century Agrarian Manual, The Dastur-i Malguzari, generally known as ‘Yasin’s Glossary of Revenue Terms’ has been used by the historians of Mughal agrarian system as well as by the scholars of is" century India. They have however generally used the British Museum Manuscript of this work. The editor has consolidated this manuscript with the larger K.P. Jaiswal Institute Manuscript of the work. The Text so established has been edited and presented in this book. The work has been translated into English with annotations to make the information comprehensible to scholars. It also contains an Introduction by the editor and translator in which the information in the work has been critically evaluated.


The Dastur-i Malguzari is one of the many works prepared under the aegis of the English officials after the acquisition of the Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa by the English from the Mughal Empror Shah Alam II in 1765. This work was compiled in Bengal at the instance of James Grant in 1785. Though the work is arranged in the form of a glossary in which terms are arranged in sections or chapters (ba-bs) according to the Persian alphabets, it deals with concepts as well as definitions that enable us to understand the administrative practices, customary rights and obligations, and to catch a glimpse of the value system peculiar to the production relationships prevailing at the time.


About the Author


Dr. S. Hasan Mahmud obtained his master’s degree in History from the Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University, and also master’s degree in Persian language and literature from the same University. He was a Research Officer in the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi and has taught History at the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, and the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is currently a Professor of medieval Indian history in the UGC Special Assistance Department of History, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Baroda.


Proffessor Hasan Mahmud has contributed research articles in various academic journals of India. He has also written an Introduction to the Persian text of the Ta ri’ kh-i Mahmu - d Sha "hi edited by S.C. Misra. The Persian text of the Zami ma-i ma’a - sir-i Mahmu d


Sha hi, dealing with the Sultanate of Gujarat that he has edited is under process for publication. He is presently engaged in the study of Baroda town in the 18th century.


Proffessor Hasan Mahmud has visited Russia and Central Asian countries under the Academic Exchange Programme of the UGC. He also visited France as a Visiting Professor at the Maison des Sciences De L’Homme, Paris.




This book is a revised version of a doctoral thesis titled ‘Khwaja Yasin’s Glossary of Revenue Terms:


Edition, English Translation, Annotations and Analysis’ submitted at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in 1984. The work has been substantially revised both in its structure and presentation in the present volume.


Scholars generally know this work as Yasin’n Glossary of Revenue Terms. The real title of the work, however, is not known as the last page of the British Museum manuscript, which may have contained a reference to its title, is missing. The colophon of the Purnea manuscript is mutilated, and only the words ‘ Kitab-i Dastu ... ‘ are legible. Yasin in his Preface has referred to his work as farhang or glossary at one place and Kitab at another. It is true that revenue terms are arranged in the Persian alphabetical sections in the work as in a glossary, but the thrust of the work is on malguzari or revenue collection and other matters related with it. I have, for these reasons, ventured to read the title of the work in the colophon of the Purnea manuscript as Kitab-i Dastur-i Malguzari, and therefore I have called the work by that title.


Kitdb-i Dastur-i Malguzari of Kwaja Yasin was compiled in Bengal in 1785 at the instance of lames Grant. The work mainly describes revenue terms of Bengal and Bihar, but the author sometimes also mentions their connotations in Delhi. This makes the work quite valuable as it points out to the regional variations in the connotations of revenue terminology. A careful analysis of the information contained in the Dastur-i Malguzari can be very helpful in understanding the working of the land revenue system at the level of zamindaris.


The Persian text of the work has been edited on the basis of the two extant manuscripts of the work: the British Museum Manuscript Add. 6603, folios 40-84, and the Purnea Manuscript, folios 1-113, whose photocopy is available at the K.P. Jaiswal Institute, Patna. It was observed that the two manuscripts were two different drafts of the same work. Differences lay not only in expressions of definitions, but the Purnea manuscript contains more entries than in the British Museum manuscript. Also, sometimes some definitions are given in one manuscript but are missing in the other. It was therefore deemed desirable to consolidate the two manuscripts to present Yasin’s work in its totality. Repetitions in the two works have been avoided by choosing the more explicit definition of a term to form the text. However, where there were variations in the content of a definition, such variations have been shown in the footnote. Similarly, additional information in a definition found in the other manuscript is shown in square brackets with reference to the folio number.


The Persian text so established has been translated into English. It may be confessed here that the translation of the Dastur-i malguzdri was a challenging exercise because the explanation of one revenue term very often contained a few more of such terms. Therefore, the translator had to fully understand the connotations of each of such terms before translating his understanding in the English language. The difficulty was sometimes compounded by the linguistic expressions of the author. He appears to have formulated his thoughts in Hindustani while writing in Persian, a trait not so uncommon with the munshis of medieval India. The technique of first translating such expressions into Hindustani has proved very helpful in understanding them, Cross referencing to relevant information has also been done so that the reader may be able to take note of relevant information that may otherwise be found scattered in the work.


I wish to thank a number of people who have helped me at various stages in the preparation of this volume. First and foremost, I am grateful to the memory of my late guru Professor S. Nurrul Hasan, who not only suggested me this study but also took a consistent interest in my work. A great advocate of the use of documentary source material for the study of History, Professor Hasan gave me his expert suggestions from time to time on the handling of information in such a type of source material. I am equally grateful to Professor Satish Chandra for offering me advice and suggestions in the course of my study and also for his continuing interest in my academic carrier. My thanks are also due to Professor B.R. Grover for the long sessions of illuminating discussions on medieval Indian agrarian issues in the ICHR where I worked as a Research Officer, with him as its Director. I wish to express my grateful thanks to my research supervisor, Professor S.N. Sinha (or his help and cooperation in my doctoral thesis. A number of friends have offered their generous help to me, both moral and intellectual, which I greatly value. I particularly wish to mention the names of Professor Muzaffar Alam and Dr. K.K. Trivedi of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr. Madhu Trivedi of Delhi University, and Dr. Afzal Husain of the Aligarh Muslim University for their help and suggestions in the preparation of this volume. My friends and well-wishers Dr. Ishtiaq Haider and Professor Mansura Haider of the Aligarh Muslim University had been my hosts in my innumerable visits to Aligarh when I was collecting my data and even afterwards. I wish to thank them for their lavish hospitality. I am extremely grateful to Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad, Or. Shama Mahmood and Mrs. Vibhuti Parikh, my colleagues in the Department of History, The M.S. University of Baroda, for giving me their valuable assistance in the preparation of this volume. Or. Wajeehuddin of the Department of Persian, The M.S. University of Baroda, helped me in various ways in the course of the preparation of this volume, for which I am very grateful to him. I must also thank my wife Zahra for her understanding and cooperation and for giving me the moral support that I so often needed at Baroda. My children Nadeem and Deeba spared their PC for my use for long hours. I am grateful to them for this consideration.


I also wish to thank the authorities of the following Libraries for their help and assistance: the Seminar Library, Department of History, Centre of Advanced Study, Aligarh Muslim University; the Oriental Section of the Maulana Azad Library, Aligarh Muslim University; the Khuda Bux Oriental Library, Patna; the National Library, Calcutta; the Bibliotheque Naionale, Paris; the Library of the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi; and the Hansa Mehta Library, Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Baroda.


I wish to thank Mr. Abdul Tawwab for English composition of this book and to Mr. Alimuddin and Mr. Mohammad Zaki for computer typing and composition of the Persian text and its supervision respectively.


Lastly, my thanks are also due to Mr. Nusrat Ali Nasri and Mr. Ishrat Ali Nasri of Kitab Bhavan for taking a personal interest and care in the publication of this volume. I would also like to thank them for their hospitality, quite in keeping with the traditional Dilliwalas.




During the last four decades or so a number of scholars have attempted to make in depth studies of land relations during the Mughal period. The present study is an important link in that chain.


A few decades ago the principal sources available for such studies comprised the medieval chronicles, a few administrative manuals, an occasional original document and the studies left behind by the early British administrators. With the discovery of a mass of evidence such as revenue papers of the pargana and even the village levels, particularly those available in the state archives of Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, such studies have been taken to a qualitatively higher level. At the same time, interest in administrative manuals received a new impetus because the manuals and the documents tended to supplement each other and make the study of the problem more precise and meaningful.


A large number of documents and noting written by knowledgeable Indians in reply to basic questions on land rights asked by the early British administrators have also come to light. Most of these works were prepared at the instance of the British officials as they wanted to understand the Indian revenue system, after the acquisition of Diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa by the East India Company from the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II in 1765.However, the information contained in such works is not necessarily true of the whole country and the entire Mughal period. It has been adequately proved that land rights were constantly undergoing a change, a change that was more noticeable in some areas than in others. Nevertheless, the evidence provided during the last quarter of the eighteenth century, usually in response to British queries, does provide us with a valuable insight into the essential features of this system.


Khwaja Yasin’s Dastur-i malguzari in Persian is an interesting example of this type of source material. The author was fully familiar with the system prevailing in Delhi and its neighbourhood where the impact of British administration was hardly felt. He was equally familiar with the system as it existed in Bihar and Bengal that he could see for himself with practically two decades of British influence.


Although the Dastur is in the form of a glossary in which terms are arranged in sections or chapters (bab) in Persian alphabetical order, it deals with concepts as well as definitions that enable us to reconstruct the picture of land rights and agrarian system of the period. It also enables us to understand administrative practices, customary rights and. obligations, and to catch a glimpse of the value system peculiar to the production relationships prevailing at the time. It is due to this reason that I have called it dastur (manual), and not simply a glossary (far hang), even though so far it has been known as a glossary.


No details are known about the author from any other source than his Dastur. We learn that his name was Khwaja Yasin and he was also a poet with ‘Ajiz as his poetic surname or takhallus. He mentions somewhere in his work that he had been an imperial servant at Delhi with a mansab of five hundred, an agent (matayyana) of the muhtasib of Delhi, and held a jagir of four lakh dams annually. He appears to have compiled the work in Bengal, which is evident from his references to Delhi in the past tense, and to Bengal in the present tense. This is confirmed by the fact that in the foreword to one of the manuscripts he states that the work was compiled at the instance of lames Grant, the Sarrishta-ddr of Bengal and an expert on land revenue.


This work appears to have been compiled in 1785 as is evident from statements of the author made in the context of various calendars that he describes in the work. Thus, Yasin states that the work was compiled in 1199 AH. (1184-85 AD.), which was 2th Regnal Year of Emperor Shah Alam (1185-86 AD), 1707 Shaka Year (1785 A.D.) 5, and 1842 Vikram Sanbat (1785 A.D.). Thus, all these dates indicate that the work was compiled in 1785. There appears to be, however a discrepancy in the English date given by the author. In the Purnea manuscript it is mentioned as 1780, and in the London manuscript it is stated as 1781. All other calendar dates in both the manuscripts, as we have seen, correspond to 1785 and thus, it is likely, that either the author was not well conversant with the English dates, or the copyist was not clear about them. While the last page of the British Museum manuscript containing the colophon is missing, the scribe mentions the date of transcription of the Purnea manuscript in its colophon as 1204 A.H., with its equivalent English date as 1790.


The exact title of the work cannot be ascertained because in the British Museum manuscript the last page containing the colophon is missing. While in the Purnea manuscript the inscription about the title of the work is not clearly discernable due to mutilation; only the words Kitdb- i Dast ... are legible. Given the contents of the work it is likely that the work was called Kitdb-i Dastur-i Malguzari. The thrust of the work very clearly is on the mode and manner of revenue collection and the customs and practices associated with it. It is the zamindar that looms large on the work and the dealings of similar malguzars with the agents of the state. Due to these reasons I have called this work as Kitab-i Dastur-i Malguzari.


Only two manuscripts of this work are so far known to exist. The British Museum, London manuscript, Add 6603 appears to be in the nature of a draft of the author, and was prepared earlier than the other manuscript. Irfan Habib has used this manuscript in his Agrarian System of Mughal India, and he has also been the first to use this work for a study of Mughal agrarian system. The other manuscript that is in a private custody in village Mahingaon, District Pumea, Bihar, and whose photocopy is in the K.P. Jaiswal Institute, Patna, appears to be its later, or possibly its final draft. This is apparent not only from an increase in the number of entries in the Purnea manuscript, but also by the fact that sometimes a term defined in the British Museum manuscript is sought to be clarified in the Purnea manuscript. Also, while in the Foreword to the British Museum manuscript it is simply stated that the book (kitab) was compiled on the instructions of English officials (Sahiban-i Angrez), in the Pumea manuscript the name of James Grant is mentioned at whose instance the book was written. This manuscript also bears the seal of lames Grant.


On comparison of the two manuscripts we notice that definitions of some terms are clearer in one manuscript than in the other, and vice versa. Also, some terms that are given in one manuscript are found missing in the other. Keeping these characteristics in view, and also recognizing that both these are versions of the same work, while editing the text I have not made anyone manuscript as a base for collation with the other. Instead, I have adopted the criterion of clarity of definition of a term given in either of the two manuscripts as the basis for selecting it to form the text of the author’s work. In doing so, I have not taken cognisance of the differences in expression and language in the two manuscripts as long as they conveyed the same sense. At the same time, where there are differences in the content of a definition, or an information given in one manuscript is missing in the other, I have given the same in square brackets with due reference to the manuscript. Also, where the expression of a term in one manuscript clarifies its definition given in the other, I have given such a text in the footnote with reference to the manuscript and the folio numbers.


The Persian text so edited has been translated into English. Cross-referencing has been done to help the reader to take cognisance of relevant information that may otherwise be found scattered in Yasin’s Dastur. Only occasional references in the footnotes have been made to information in other contemporary works that were deemed necessary in clarifying the information in a definition. This caution has been followed so that the reader may not be guided by the data of the editor and translator, and he may use his own scholarly judgment in evaluating the information.


In the following pages an attempt is made to critically assess the information contained in the Dastiir, on the revenue structure of Bengal and Bihar in the decades immediately preceding the Permanent Settlement, the rights and privileges of various agrarian classes, the customary agrarian practices, and the working of revenue administration. The information contained in the work, therefore, has been assessed both in relation to the sources dealing with the Mughal system, as well as the contemporary writings on the subject. This has been done to see whether there was any change in the system from the Mughal times, and if there was any, to seek the possible answers for this change. While reliance has been made principally on the dasturu ‘1- ‘amals of the Mughal period for understanding the Mughal system, various reports, memoranda, and questionnaires in Persian, prepared by Indian revenue officials during the early years of British rule have been analysed in order to understand the contemporary view point on the subject. The latter category of literature is very interesting though voluminous, and provides such details on the subject that are not found in the dasturu’l- ‘amals. For a systematic analysis of the work, its information has been discussed under various sections in the following pages.






Note on Transliteration




Author’s Preface


List of Terms




English Translation




Index of Terms


Persian Text



Sample Page

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