(A) Traces of the lord of a thousand villages are found in different parts of the country, where particular families retain the name and part of the emoluments of their stations, but seldom or never exercise any of the powers734.
The next division is still universally recognised throughout India under the name of perganneh, although in many places the officers employed in it are only known by their enjoyment of hereditary lands or fees; or, at most, by their being the depositaries of all registers and records connected with land. These districts are no longer uniformly composed of one hundred villages, if they ever were so in practice; but, for the most part, are rather under that number, although in rare cases they depart from it very widely both in deficiency and excess.
The duties of a chief of a perganneh, even in pure Hindu times, were probably confined to the management of the police and revenue. He had under him an accountant or registrar, whose office, as well as his own, was hereditary, and who has retained his functions more extensively than his principal735.
Next below the perganneh is a division now only subsisting in name, and corresponding to Menu’s lordship of ten or twenty towns736; and the chain ends in individual villages737.
(B) Called patel in the Deckan and in the west and centre of Hindostan; mandel in Bengal; and mokaddam in many other places, especially where there are or have lately been hereditary village landholders.
(C) Patwari in Hindostan; culcarni and carnam in the Deckan and south of India; tallati in Guzerat.
(D) Pasban, gorayet, peik, douraha, &c. in Hindostan; mbar in the Deckan; tillari in the south of India; paggi in Guzerat.
(E) Village landholders are distinctly recognised throughout the whole of the Bengal presidency, except in Bengal proper, and perhaps Rohilcand738. They appear to subsist in part of Rajputana; and perhaps did so, at no remote period, over the whole of it739. They are very numerous in Guzerat, include more than half the cultivators of the Maratta country, and a very large portion of those of the Tamil country. There is good reason to think they were once general in those countries where they are now only partially in existence, and perhaps in others where they are not now to be found. They are almost extinct in the
country south of the Nerbadda, except in the parts just mentioned. In all the Madras presidency north of Madras itself; in the Nizam’s country, and most of that of Nagpur; in great part of Candesh and the east of the Maratta country, there is no class resembling them. This tract comprehends the greater part of the old divisions of Telingana, Orissa, and Canara; but does not so closely coincide with their boundaries, as to give much reason for ascribing the absence of village landholders to any peculiarity in the ancient system of those countries. In Malwa, though so close to countries where the village landholders are common, they do not seem now to be known. They are not mentioned in Sir John Malcolm’s “Central India.”
(F) In Hindostan they are most commonly called village zemindars or biswadars; in Behar, maliks; in Guzerat, patois; and in the Deckan and south of India, mirassis or mi rasdars.
“The right of property in the land is unequivocally recognised in the present agricultural inhabitants by descent, purchase, or gift740.”
The right of the village landholders, to the extent stated in the text, is repeatedly alluded to in the published records of the Bengal government relating to the western provinces. Sir C. Metcalfe, though he contests the opinion that the right of property is full and absolute as in England, has no doubt about the persons in whom that right is vested. “The only proprietors, generally speaking, are the village zemindars or biswandars. The pretensions of all others are prima facie doubtful741.” For portions of the territory under the Madras presidency see the Proceedings
of the Board of Revenue742, and Mr. Ellis743. Sir T. Munro744, though he considers the advantages of mirasdars to have been greatly exaggerated and their land to be of little value, admits it to be saleable745. For the Maratta country see Mr. Chaplin and the Reports of the Collectors746. Captain Robertson, one of the collectors, among other deeds of sale, gives one from some private villagers transferring their mirassi rights to the Peshwa himself. He also gives a grant from a village community conferring the lands of an extinct family on the same prince for a sum of money, and guaranteeing him against the claims of the former proprietors. A very complete account of all the different tenures in the Maratta country, as well as of the district and village officers, with illustrations from personal inquiries, is given by Lieutenant Colonel Sykes in the “Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society747.”
Care must be taken to distinguish miras in the sense now adverted to from lands held on other tenures; for the word means hereditary property, and is, therefore, applied to rights of all descriptions which come under that denomination.
(G) Mr. Fortescue (Selections, vol. iii. pp. 403. 405. 408.); Captain Robertson (Ibid. vol. iv. p. 153.); Madras Board of Revenue (Report of Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, vol. iii. p. 393.); Governor of Bombay’s Minute (Ibid. vol. iii. p. 637.).
(H) The following are the rights possessed in the intermediate stages between a fixed rent and an honorary
acknowledgment. The landholders are entitled to a deduction from the gross produce of the fields before dividing it with the government, and to fees on all the produce raised by persons not of their own class. This is called tunduwarum or swamibhogam (owner’s share) in the Tamil country; and malikana or zemindari rasfun in Hindostan. In the latter country it usually forms part of a consolidated payment of 10 per cent. to the zemindars, which seems intended as a compensation for all general demands; but not interfering with the rent of a landholder’s lands where any such could be obtained. In some places748 they have also fees from the non-agricultural inhabitants; and, as they are every where proprietors of the site of the village, they can levy rent in money or service from any person who lives within their bounds.
Where they have lost some of these rights by the encroachments of the government, they frequently have some consideration shown them in assessing their payment to the state, so as in some cases to admit of their getting rent for their land. In some places they are left their fees749; and, where they are at the lowest, they have an exemption from certain taxes which are paid by all the rest of the inhabitants. The rights and immunities of the village landholders, as such, must not be confounded with those allowed to mokaddams and other officers for the performance of certain duties. Though the same persons may hold both, they are in their nature quite distinct; one being a proprietary right arising from an interest in the
soil, and the other a mere remuneration for service, transferable along with the service from one person to another, at the pleasure of the employer.
In some villages the rights of the landholders are held in common, the whole working for the community, and sharing the net produce, after satisfying the claims of the government. In some they divide the cultivated lands, but still with mutual responsibility for the dues of government, and sometimes with periodical interchanges of their portions; and in others they make the separation between the portions of cultivated land complete, retaining only the waste land and some other rights in common; but, at times, they divide the waste land also. In dividing their lands they do not in general give one compact portion to each landholder, but assign to him a share of every description of soil; so that he has a patch of fertile land in one place, one of sterile in another, one of grazing ground in a third, and so on, according to the variety of qualities to be found within the village.
In making a partition of the land the landholders are taken by families, as has been explained of the village government; but in the case of land the principal family divisions are subdivided, and the subdivisions divided again, until they are brought to such a number of individuals as is thought most convenient for management750. The lands of
the village and other profits of the community are likewise formed into shares, sometimes corresponding exactly to the divisions, subdivisions, &c. of the families; but more frequently reduced to small fractions, a proportionate number of which is assigned to each division, &c., so as ultimately to be distributed in due proportion to each individual751.
The public burdens are partitioned exactly in the same manner, so that each division, subdivision, and individual knows its quota; each, therefore, might manage its own agricultural and pecuniary affairs independently of the rest, and such is not unfrequently the case752.
(I) The Arabic word ryot (pronounced reiat) means a subject, and is so employed in all Mahometan countries; but in some of them it is also used in a more restricted sense. In India its secondary senses are,– 1. A person paying revenue. 2. A cultivator in general. 3. A tenant as explained in the text. In reference to the person of whom they hold their lands, ryots are called his assamis.
(K) This class is called in the territory under Bengal khudkasht ryots, which name (as “khud” means “own,” and “klishtan” to “cultivate”) has been considered a proof that they are proprietors of the land. Ram Mohan Rai, however, (an unexceptionable authority,) explains it to mean “cultivators of the lands of their own village753,” which seems the correct interpretation, as the term is always used in contradistinction to plikasht, or cultivators of another village.
(L) It is in the Tamil country and in Guzerat that their rights seem best established.
In the Tamil country they have a hereditary right of occupancy, subject to the payment of the demand of government and of the usual fees to the village landholder, which are fixed, and sometimes at no more than a peppercorn; but the tenant cannot sell, give away, or mortgage his rights, although in the circumstances described they must be nearly as valuable as those of the landholder himself754. In Guzerat their tenure is nearly similar, except that it is clearly understood that their rent is to be raised in proportion to any increase to the government demand on the village landholder755. In Hindostan there appears to be a feeling that they are entitled to hereditary occupancy, and that their rents ought not to be raised above those usual in the neighbourhood: but the following summary will show how imperfect this right is thought to be.
In 1818, a call was made by the Bengal government
on the collectors of all its provinces not under the permanent settlement, for information respecting the rights of the permanent ryots. Of fourteen collectors, eleven considered the landholder to be entitled to raise his rent at pleasure, and to oust his tenant whenever he could get better terms elsewhere; two collectors (those of Etawa and Seharunpur) seem to have thought that the landlord’s rent should not be raised unless there was an increase in the demand of government: the collector of Bundelcund alone declared the khudkasht ryot’s right to be as good as his of whom he bolds. The members of the Revenue Commission, in forwarding these reports, gave their opinion that landholders conceive themselves to possess the power of ousting their tenants, although from the demand for ryots it is not frequently exercised.
The government at that time doubted the correctness of these opinions, and called for further information; which, although it threw much light on the question, did not materially alter the above conclusion.
Mr. Fortescue, reporting on Delhi, (where the rights of the permanent tenant seem better preserved than in any place under Bengal except Bundelcand,) says, that the ancient and hereditary occupants cannot be dispossessed “as long as they discharge their portion of the public assessment.”
The minute reports on various villages in different collectorships, abstracted by Mr. Holt Mackenzie756, do not lead to a belief that the rents cannot be raised. Mr. Colebrooke states in a minute, which seems to have been written in 1812757, “that no rule of adjustment could be described (query, discovered ?) after the most patient inquiry by a
very intelligent public officer; and that the proceedings of the courts of justice in numerous other cases led to the same conclusion respecting the relative situation of ryots and zemindars.”
Mr. Ross, a judge of the Chief Court, likewise, in a very judicious minute of 22d March, 1827758, states that a fixed rate never was claimed by mere ryots, whether resident or non-resident, in the upper provinces; inquires when such a fixed rent was in force? and whether it was intended to remain fixed, however the value of the land might alter ? and concludes as follows: – “As to the custom of the country, it has always been opposed to such a privilege, it being notorious that the zemindars and other superior landholders have at all times been in the practice of extorting from their ryots as much as the latter can afford to pay.”
(M) Called in Hindostan paikasht; in Guzerat, ganwatti (leaseholder); in the Maratta country, upri; and under Madras, paikari and paracudi.
(N) They are called ashraf (well-born) in Hindostan, and pander pesha in some parts of the Deckan.
(0) There is an acknowledged restriction on all permanent tenants, which prevents their cultivating any land within the village that does not belong to the landlord of whom they rent their fixed portion and their house; but not only permanent tenants, but village landholders themselves, occasionally hold land as temporary tenants in other villages. In some parts of India the government levies a tax on the permanent tenants of land paying revenue who farm other lands from persons exempt from payment; and
in some, the government officer endeavours to prevent their withdrawing from their assessed lands in any circumstances. This last, however, is reckoned mere violence and oppression.
(P) This system may be illustrated by the example of the petty state of Cach, which being of recent formation retains its original form unimpaired. “The whole revenue of this territory is under fifty lacs of cones (about sixteen lacs of rupees), and of this less than thirty lacs of cones belongs to the Rao; the country which yields the remaining twenty lacs being assigned to the collateral branches of his highness’s family, each of whom received a certain appanage on the death of the Rao from whom it is immediately descended.
“The family of these chiefs is derived at a recent period from Tatta in Sind, and they are all sprung from a common ancestor, Humeerjee, whose son, Rao Khengar, acquired the sovereignty of Cutch before the middle of the sixteenth century of our era.
“The number of these chiefs is at present about 200, and the whole number of their tribe in Cutch is guessed at 10,000 or 12,000 persons. This tribe is called Jhareja. It is a branch of the Rajputs. The Rao’s ordinary jurisdiction is confined to his own demesne, each Jhareja chief exercising unlimited authority within his lands. The Rao can call on the Jharejas to serve him in war; but must furnish them with pay at a fixed rate while they are with his army. He is the guardian of the public peace, and as such chastises all robbers and other general enemies. It would seem that he ought likewise to repress private war, and to decide all disputes between chiefs; but this prerogative, though constantly exerted, is not admitted without dispute. Each chief has a similar body of kinsmen,
who possess shares of the original appanage of the family, and stand in the same relation of nominal dependence to him that he bears to the Rio. These kinsmen form what is called the bhyaud or brotherhood of the chiefs, and the chiefs themselves compose the bhyaud of the Rao759.”
The same practice, with some modifications, prevails through the whole of the Rajput country.
The territories allotted to feudatories in Mewar (the first in rank of these states) was at one time more than three fourths of the whole760, and was increased by the improvidence of a more recent prince.
(Q) It must have been some check on this spirit of independence, that until within less than two centuries of the present time it was usual for all the chiefs, in Mewar at least, periodically to interchange their lands; a practice which must have tended to prevent their strengthening themselves in their possessions, either by forming connections or erecting fortifications761.
The rapid increase of these appanages appears to have suggested to the governments the necessity of putting a limit to their encroachments on the remaining demesne. In Marwatr, a few generations after the conquest, so little land was left for partition that some of the raja’s sons were obliged to look to foreign conquest for an establishment762; and in Mewar, one set of descendants of early rams seem to have been superseded, and probably in part dispossessed, by a more recent progeny763.
(R) The following remarks apply to both descriptions of military jagirs.
Lands held for military service are subject to reliefs in the event of hereditary succession, and to still heavier fines when the heir is adoptive. They are subject to occasional contributions in cases of emergency. They cannot be sold or mortgaged for a longer period than that for which the assignment is made. Sub-infeudations are uncommon except among the Rajputs, where they are universal.
There was no limitation of service, and no extra payments for service, in the original scheme of these grants.
Pecuniary payments at fixed rates in lieu of service, or rather on failure of service when called on, were common among the Marattas; and arbitrary fines were levied on similar occasions by the Rajputs.
734. These are called sirdesmuks in the Deckan, in which and other southern parts of India the territorial division of Menu is most entire. Their districts are called sircars or prants, and these are constantly recognised, even when the office is quite extinct. Their hereditary registrar, also, is still to be found under the name of sir despandi.
735. The head perganneh officer was called desmuk or desai in the Deckan, and the registrar, despandi. In the north of India they are called choudri and canonge.
736. Called naikwari, tarref, &c. &c.
737. For the accounts of these divisions and officers, see Malcolm’s Malwa (vol. ii. p. 4.); Stirling’s Orissa (Asiatic Researches, vol. xv. p. 226.); Report from the Commissioner in the Deckan and its inclosures (Selections, vol. iv. p. 161.).
738. Sir E. Colebrooke’s Minute (Selections, vol. iii. p. 165.).
739. Colonel Tod, vol. i. p. 495., and vol. ii. p. 540.
740. Fortescue, Selections, vol. viii. p. 403.
741. Minute of Sir C. Metcalfe, in the Report of the Select Committee of August, 1832, vol. iii. p. 335.
742. Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, vol. iii. p. 392.
743. Ibid. p. 382.
744. Minute of Dec. 31. 1824.
745. Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, p. 457.
746. Selections, vol. iv. p. 474.
747. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 205., and vol. iii. p. 350.
748. In Guzerat and in Hindostan. Also, see an account of the village of Burleh, by Mr. Cavendish (Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, vol. iii. p. 246.).
749. In part of Tamil, and in Hindostan, when not superseded by the allowance of 10 per cent. (See Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, vol. iii. p. 247.).
750. To explain the divisions of a village and inheritable shares of it, suppose the ancient first proprietor or incumbent to have left, on his death, four sons; each would inherit equally, and four panes would thus be erected; on the demise of each of those persons with four sons also, each would be entitled to a quarter of his father’s pane, which would give rise to four tholas in each pane, and so on.” (Mr. Fortescue, Selections, vol. iii. p. 405.) About Delhi, the great division seems to be called pane, as above; but the commonest name in Hindostan is patti, subdivided into thocks, and they again into bheris. There are many other names, and even these vary in the application; a great division being in some places called a thock, and a subdivision a Patti. In Guzerat the great divisions are called high, and the subdivisions patti: another, and the commonest subdivision there, is into annas, again subdivided into chawils. In the Deckan the great divisions are called jattas, and there are no subdivisions.
751. See Table by Sir Edward Colebrooke, Selections, vol. p. 166.
752. In the Maratta country, for instance, although there are divisions with a joint responsibility among the members, yet they have no longer heads; each individual manages his own concerns, and the headman of the village does all the rest. I do not advert to changes made in other parts of India which are departures from the Hindu practice.
753. Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, October 11. 1831, p. 716.
754. Mr. Ellis, Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, August 10. 1832, vol. iii. p. 377.; Board of Revenue Minute of January 5. 1818, p. 421.
755. It is probable that this understanding prevails in the Tamil country also, though not mentioned in the printed reports.
756. Report of Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832, vol. iii. p. 243.
757. See vol. i. p. 262.
758. Appendix to Report of 1882, p. 125.
759. Minute on Cach, by the Governor of Bombay, dated January 26th, 1821.
760. Colonel Tod’s Rajasthan, vol. i. p. 141.
761. Ibid. vol. i. p. 164., and note on 165.
762. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 20.
763. Ibid. vol. i. p. 168.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage