member of the imperial bureaucracy of the Mughal Empire in India. The mansabdars governed the empire and commanded its armies in the emperor's name. Though they were usually aristocrats, they did not form a feudal aristocracy, for neither the offices nor the estates that supported them were hereditary. The system was organized by the emperor Akbar (reigned 1556-1605), who with its help turned a loose military confederation of Muslim nobles into a multiracial bureaucratic empire integrating Muslims and Hindus. The word is of Arabic origin, dar indicating the holder of an office or dignity and mansab being a rank determined by the command of a specified number of men. There were 33 grades ranging from 10 to 5,000 (the highest for a subject) in a complicated system. For the maintenance of the men, the mansabdars received a salary, which Akbar paid in cash but which later emperors met by means of assignments on the revenues. The lands thus assigned were liable to transfer during a mansabdar's lifetime and were taken back at his death. To pay his way the mansabdar was allowed advances from the treasury, which at death were recoverable in what amounted to a death duty of 100 percent.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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