Share This Post With Friens

 Land tax system in India from Mauryan period to British period

       Land system has been a subject that has played an important role in the governance system from ancient times to medieval and British period. Land revenue has been an important source of income of the government whether monarchy or democracy. In every time and circumstance, the land revenue has undergone changes according to its convenience and demand. The form of land revenue has been different till Maurya period, Gupta period, Sultanate period, Mughal period and British period. In this article, we will study the land revenue system from ancient times to the British period. In this article, an attempt will be made to provide complete reliable information to the competitive students. History is one such subject which plays an important role in every exam.


Land tax system in India from Mauryan period to British period

Mauryan land and revenue system

  In the Maurya period, both the state and the farmer had rights over the land. The chief officer who arranged the state land was ‘Sitadhyaksha’, who used to get the farming done with the help of slaves, workers and prisoners (prisoners).

  • The main source of income of the state was land-tax.
  • The land-tax was generally 1/6 of the produce. Which was also increased as needed.
  • From the farmers cultivating state land, 1/4 to 1/2 of the produce had to be given as revenue. It was similar to today’s distribution system.
  • The land tax was called ‘Bhag’.
  • The income received from the state land was called ‘Sita’.
  • An officer named Samaharta used to collect taxes and keep accounts of income and expenditure.
  • The officials named ‘sthikas’ and ‘gopas’ used to collect taxes from the provinces.
  • It is to be known that for the first time in the Maurya period, a detailed outline of the tax-system was presented.
  • A part of the government income was used for the maintenance of the emperor and his family.
  • The second part was for the salaries of the chief officers.
  • The third part in military works.
  • The fourth part was spent in the works of public welfare.

Gupta land and revenue system

  • Unlike the Maurya period, only the emperor had the right over the land in the Gupta period.
  • The land which was donated to temples and Brahmins was called ‘Agrahara’.
  • The ‘Agrahara’ land was free from all kinds of taxes.
  • R S. Sharma considers ‘Agrahara’ (land donation) as the main reason for the rise of feudalism.
  • In the Gupta period, officials named ‘Dhruvadhikarana’ were appointed to collect land tax and ‘Mahakshapatalik’ and ‘Karanik’ were appointed to secure the land-inscriptions.
  • Officers called ‘Tribunals’ used to solve land-related disputes.
  • The dam of Sudarshan Lake was rebuilt by Chakrapalit, son of Emperor Skandagupta’s Junagadh governor Parnadatta.
  • In Gupta inscriptions, Bhumikar has been called ‘Udrag’ and ‘Bhagkar’.
  • In the Smriti texts, the tax has been called the ‘Vritti’ of the king.
  • The rate of tax in the Gupta period was 1/6 i.e. one-sixth of the produce.

sultanate land system

There were four types of land in the Sultanate–1-Khalis territories, 2-land divided into iqtas which were held by the Mukti people for a few years or for the whole life, 3-the land areas of those Hindu chieftains who had no association with the Sultan. and 4- Finally, land gifted to Muslim saints or scholars.

  • Khalis land was directly under the central government, but the revenue was not related to the individual farmers but to the local land revenue officials.
  • To collect land revenue, there was an amil or land revenue clerk in each tehsil who used to collect land revenue from the Choudhary and Muqaddam people as they used to collect it from the cultivators.
  • Waqf land and land given in inam were free from land tax.
  • In the Sultanate, the land tax was 1/5, although Alauddin Khilji increased the tax rate to 1/2.
  • Sher Shah Suri’s Land System
  • Sher Shah has been called the pioneer of Akbar in land reform or revenue reform. He laid down the basic principles of the land tax system, which later Akbar followed and earned fame.

Before Sher Shah, the measurement of land was not done, only by forecasting the land tax was determined.
Sher Shah got all the land measured and fixed the tax accordingly.
One-third of the produce was fixed by the government as revenue.
The rent was taken either in cash or by way of grain.
Three systems of land revenue were prevalent during Sher Shah’s time.

       (1) Galla-Bakshi or Bantai
       (2) Nask or Mukttai or Kankut
       (3) Cash or Jabti or Jamai.
There were three types of sharing – Khet sharing, Lank sharing and Rasi sharing.

Mughal land tax system

  •  Akbar adopted Sher Shah’s land system by making necessary amendments.
  • Under the supervision of Khwaja Abdul Majid Khan and Muzaffar Turbati, initial efforts were made to improve the revenue system.
  • Turbati appointed 10 kanungas to collect land tax data and other material.
  • The Jagirdari system was abolished in 1575.
  • Akbar divided his empire into 182 parganas and entrusted each pargana with the responsibility of collecting revenue-tax by giving one ‘crore’ to each. Although these crores proved to be very greedy and corrupt.
  • In 1582, Raja Todarmal became Deewane-Ashraf, that is, the Chief Minister.
  • Todarmal took 1/3rd of the sum as the base number for the recovery of rent by adding the rates of rent received in 10 years from 1570 to 1580.
  • Tormal stopped the popular method of measuring the land (measuring with flax ropes) because the rope could shrink and stretch, making the measurement unreliable.
  • Todarmal made arrangements for measuring the land with ‘jaribs’ attached to iron rings of bamboo.
  • The land was divided into four categories–
  • Polaj – the land in which cultivation was done annually, and the revenue was also collected annually.
  • ‘Padoti – The land which was left empty from time to time so that it would get re-fertile power.
  • Chhachhar – This would have been the land which was not cultivated for three or four years.
  •  Barren – This land was not cultivated for more than five years.
  • The Polaj and Padoti types of lands were divided into three categories: good, medium and poor.
  • The rent was fixed on a proportionate basis, such as
  •       1-Best List – 50 mand per bigha
  •       2-Medium List – 40 mand per bigha
  •       3-Worst – 30 mand per bigha
  •                               ,
  •           Yoga – 120 Minds
  •          Average – 40 minds
  •          State share – 13/1/3 mind
  • Taxes were collected in the form of cash and produce.
  • The state used to lend money to the farmers on easy installments.
  • Bitakchi measured each type of cultivation in each village, charged rent at a fixed rate and collected it from the farmer.
  • Seizure System – This was the system of collecting land tax in which the tax officer used to collect tax from the farmer and send it to the royal treasury. This system was prevalent in Bihar, Allahabad, Lahore, Multan, Delhi, Agra, Oudh, Malwa, and some parts of Gujarat.
  • Galla-Bakhsa System – Ancient Indian system of taxation on the basis of division of cultivation. This system was prevalent in Kabul, Kashmir, and Thatta.
  • Nasuk system– According to this there was no intermediary between the state and the farmer.


British land revenue system

The imperialist British made extensive changes in the Indian agricultural system. New land revenue methods, ownership, perceptions, change in rent and demand for more and more land revenue brought about changes in the rural economy, which caused panic in the agricultural world of the whole country and came from a distorted modernity.

    Nature of land tax system in India before British

       Indian villages have been functioning as a unit of local self-government and land tax since Vedic times. Some people are of the opinion that in the pre-capitalist economy, that is, in the Mughal period, no one had full ownership of the land. All land-related classes had rights over the land. The cultivator had the protection of tenancy so long as he continued to pay a mutually fixed share to the owner. The Patil or the head of the village, appointed on behalf of the Mamlatdar or the Nawab, acted as a collector. He was also the local magistrate. Patil used to complete all the work related to a particular land belonging to a particular people, etc., irrigation facilities, levying and collecting land tax on individual farmers, etc., according to local customs with the help of Gram Panchayat.

   Initially the British came to India for the purpose of trade and their sole aim was to earn maximum profit. After taking over India, the greed of the British increased even more. The British rulers saw the land tax system as the main economic source to pacify their money glut.
    In the eyes of the British, India was their jagir and tried to collect economic rent to get maximum income from that jagir. Due to the change in the land system every year, Indian farmers were forced to leave agriculture, as a result of which agricultural land remained vacant. and production began to decline. In such a situation, the governments of India and England seriously considered the land tax system and arranged for a solid land system. 

 The British government adopted different types of land tenure system in India. The word tenure is derived from the Latin language tenco meaning ‘to hold’ and is used for the terms on which the farmer takes land from the state or from the landowner. Mainly the British adopted three types of land tenure systems in India i.e. Zamindari, Mahalwari and Ryotwari. Permanent Zamindari System, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, U.P. It was adopted in the Banaras section of North Karnataka and almost 19% of the land of all British India came under it. The Mahalwari land tenure system was introduced (with some changes) in UP, Central Provinces, Punjab, which covered 30% of the land. 

        The Ryotwari system was implemented in most parts of Bombay and Madras in Assam and other parts and covered about 51% of the land. The Permanent Zamindari Settlement The 10 zamindari system deposited in India is mainly due to the British, in which many of their personal objectives were vested. This system is also known by the names of Jagirdari, Malgujari, Bisvedari, etc. 

        Under this, the demands of the states were fixed forever. In other systems, changes were made in land tax after 10 years to 40 years. According to the Zamindari system, the landlord (who was usually the collector of land tax) was accepted as the owner of the land. He was selling, living or donating the land. The state considered only the landlord responsible for paying the land tax and his land could be confiscated if he did not pay the tax. The demand for land tax was fixed very high. You can understand from this example that in Bengal it was fixed at 89 percent of the rent, that is, 11 percent was left with the landlord. John Shore described the four years of 1762-63 as follows:




       Actual Rtorage

Administration of Mir Qasim


          £ 6.46 Million

Administration of Mir Jafar


          £ 7.62 Million

Administration of Mir Jafar


          £  8.17 Million

First year of Company civil


           £  14.70 Million

Before Permanent Arrangement


           £26.80  Million                                                                     


 It is clear from these figures that in the first year of the Company’s Diwani, about 80% more land tax was collected than in the previous year, by 1790–91 this amount was £ 26.8 million, which was almost double from 1765–66.

     The most disgusting aspect of this permanent settlement system was that the demand of the government was stable, but the rent which the landlord used to take from the farmer was variable, so the rent was increased over time. The farmer was evicted for not paying the rent. Through the Bengal Rent Act passed in 1859, 1885, the farmers did get some benefit but not much. Some historians believe that this law was passed to keep the villagers calm. 

The Mahalwari System

      According to this system the unit of land tax was not the farmer’s field but the village or the palace (a part of the jagir). The land was jointly owned by the entire Gram Sabha, which was called the body of co.shares. That is, the whole village together paid the prescribed tax, although there was also individual responsibility. If a person gave up his land, the village society used to take over the land. This village society was the owner of the combined land (shamlat) and other land.

      Land tax system in North Western Province or Oudh (U.P.) — North Western Province and Oudh, which is now called Uttar Pradesh, came under the British at different times. In 1801, the Nawab of Awadh gave Allahabad and its surrounding territories known as ‘ceded districts’ to the Company. After the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the Company conquered the region between the Yamuna and the Ganges. These districts were called conquered provinces. After the last Anglo-Maratha War (1817–18), Lord Hastings gained more territories in northern India.
    Henry Wellesley, who was the first lieutenant governor of the surrendered territory, fixed the land tax directly from the zamindars and farmers and this demand was 20 lakh rupees more than the demand of the Nawabs in the first year itself. At the end of three years, 10 lakh rupees were increased annually. It should also be remembered that the demand of the Nawab fluctuated according to the actual yield in the short years, but the demand of the Company was determined with such firmness as had never happened before in the history of India.

Regulations of 1822 – Holt Mackenzie, Secretary of the Board of Commissioners, in his letter of 1819 drew attention to village societies in northern India and suggested that land be surveyed, land To prepare an account of the rights of the people, how much land tax should be taken from each village or palace, it should be decided and arrangements should be made to collect the land tax from each village by the head or lambardar.
   This suggestion was given legal form by Regulation VII of 1822. Land tax was fixed at 30% of the land rent which the landlords had to pay. In those regions where there were no zamindars and the land was jointly owned by the village society, the land tax was fixed at 95% of the land rent. Due to excessive demand of the government and due to extreme rigidity in tax collection, this system got disintegrated.

  Regulation 9 of 1833 and Martin Bird’s Land Tax Regime – The government of William Bentinck reviewed the plan of 1822 thoroughly and came to the conclusion that this scheme caused great hardship to the people and it was broken due to its rigidity. . After much deliberation, the Regulations of 1833 were passed, by which the method of estimating the yield and land rent of the land was simplified. Different average rents were fixed for different types of land. For the first time, field maps and registers were used.

    This new plan was implemented under the supervision of Martin Bird. Martin Bird is remembered as the father of land-settlements in Northern India in northern India. According to this, a part of the land was surveyed in which the boundaries of the fields were fixed and the barren and fertile land was clarified. After this, the land tax of the entire part and then of the whole village was fixed. The officials of each village or palace had the right to make adjustments according to the local requirement. The state government’s share of 66% of the rent was fixed and this arrangement was done for 30 years.

    Under this scheme, the work of land arrangement was started in 1833. James Thomson served as lieutenant-governor from 1843 to 1853.

   But getting the rent 66% as land tax was too high and could not work. Therefore Lord Dalhousie revised it and suggested 50% share according to Saharanpur rule in 1855.
     Unfortunately, the land administration authorities tried to postpone this rule. In place of the ‘actual rent’ of the rent of this 50%, he took ‘prospective and potential’ rent, due to which the condition of the farmer became more pathetic, due to which many of these people died in 1857. joined the rebellion.

The Ryotwari System

     According to the Ryotwari system, every registered bhumidar was considered to be the owner of the land. He was directly responsible for paying the land tax to the state government. He was allowed to mortgage and sell his land. He cannot be deprived of his land as long as he pays the land tax on time.
    Land tax system of Madras- The first land system in Madras Presidency was done in 1792 after getting Baramahal district. Captain Reid, with the help of Thomas Munro, fixed half of the farm’s estimated income as land tax. This was more than the entire economic rent. The same system was implemented in other parts as well.

Thomas Manroe and Madras Land System- 

    Thomas Manro, who was the Governor of Madras from 1820-1827, considered the old tax system to be unfair. Taking the third part of the total produce as the basis of land tax, he implemented the Ryotwari system in the rest of the province except the territories of permanent land system. Unfortunately this too was almost the same as the entire economic rent. Secondly, because the land tax had to be paid in the form of money (cash) and it had no relation with the actual produce or the prices prevailing in the market, therefore the farmer was heavily burdened.
   The land tax system of Manro continued for about 30 years and this led to widespread oppression and difficulties for the farmers. The peasants were caught in the clutches of chettis (money moneylenders) to pay the land tax.
    Land tax system in Bombay- Ryotwari system was implemented here so that the zamindars or gram sabhas could grab their profits by themselves.

Elphinstone and Chaplin’s Report- Elphinstone was the Governor of Bombay from 1818-27. He presented a detailed report on the territories conquered by the Peshwa in 1819. He drew attention to two main points of the Maratha administration. (1) Existence of Gram Sabhas as units of local administration (2) Existence of Miras land tenure system (Mirasdars were hereditary landholder cultivators who tilled their own land and paid fixed land tax to the state government). Chaplin, who was the commissioner at that time, submitted his reports in 1821 and 1822, in which he described the old system of land tax and made some valuable suggestions.
    Pringle did a thorough survey of the land till 1824-28 and fixed the share of the state at 55% of the net produce. Unfortunately most of the surveys were faulty and the yield estimates were not correct. As a result, the land tax was fixed more and the farmers suffered a lot. Many farmers stopped plowing the land and many areas became barren.
Survey of Vignettes and Ryotwari Landscaping in Bombay– In 1835 Lieutenant Wingate, who was an officer of the Engineering Corps, was appointed Superintendent of Land Survey. He submitted his report in 1847 which was signed by E. Goldsmith, Captain Davidson and Captain Vignette.
    The work of re-settlment was done after 30 years in 1868. The American Civil War (1861-65) caused the price of cotton to rise greatly. This temporary addition gave an opportunity to the survey officers to increase the land tax from 66% to 100%. The agriculturists did not have the right to appeal in the court.
      Due to this rigidity, there were agricultural disturbances in the Deccan in 1875, due to which the government passed the Deccan Relief Act in 1879, which provided protection to the farmers against moneylenders, but something about the root of all the troubles i.e. the government’s demand for more land tax. has not been.
    The Rajat Bari system in Mumbai had two major friends–the high land tax and its uncertainty. It did not allow appeal to the court for higher land tax. The collector had the right to tell the farmer the rate of land tax for the future and also to say that if he does not accept this new rate, then he should leave the land.


      Various methods were adopted in relation to the land tax system in India from the Maurya period to the British period, but in no other period did the farmers suffer as much as during the British period. Be it the Maurya period, the Gupta period or the Sultanate period or the Mughal period. It was the British who ruined the Indian rural economy, forcing the Indian farmer to leave agriculture and flee to the forests. The tax rate was so high and yet the harsh method of growing it, which was followed, terrified the Indian farmers. The peasants were forced to leave agriculture and eventually became rebellious.
    The land tax system of the East India Company, especially excessive taxes and the new administrative and judicial system resulted in the disarray of the Indian economy. The main functions of village panchayats, land administration and judicial functions were over and Patil was now only a collector of land tax on behalf of the government. In this way the ancient social, economic and political system of the villages was disintegrated. The Indian cottage industries were almost extinct and the importance of land in the villages increased. With this new system, both the land and the cultivators became movable, as a result of which moneylenders and absentee landlords were born in the villages.
     The zamindars and moneylenders, whom the village residents now needed more and more, became very important persons in the society. Now the number of the rural working class, which included small farmers, muzaras and landless farmers, increased in number. In place of co-operation, mutual rivalry and individualism were encouraged and the prerequisite elements of capitalism were born. Now new means of production which required money, money economy, commercialization of agriculture, improved communication system and contact with the world markets, all these elements gave a new form to the rural economy and Indian agriculture.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *