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(2) There was the right of an "overlord," who might be (without intermediary) the Rājā himself, or might be some vassal chief, some grantee or later transferee; or, again, he might be any local chief settled by conquest or adventure by force of his own right hand, and not connected with any larger kingdom.* The overlord right consisted essentially in a right to take a share in the produce of all cultivated land-a share at first fixed by custom, and not liable to alter at will. It included various other well-understood privileges, such as the right to keep a certain portion of land as a special holding (sir, gharkhed, etc.), the right to "improve" the waste, to take tolls and transit dues on merchandise, and often to have (unpaid) labour or service for so many days (begār).
This "overlord" right, in the course of time, was granted or assigned; was taken from a local chief, and claimed by a conqueror or suzerain, in which case its exercise was often retransferred to the old chief in a new capacity, or was farmed out.
How did such a direct possessor come to be regarded as a "tenant"-by no means always of a privileged class? and how did the overlord become an "actual proprietor" of the land? How did he come to grow and change, so that most provinces have had to recognise him. as a "landlord "—not, indeed, with all the features of an English freeholder, but still with a kind of title not traceable in old law or custom?
The interest or practical value to the student of India, which such a question possesses, consists in the variety of answers which will be given in different places, according to their geographical, racial, and historic peculiarities; and that variety will nevertheless include a certain uniformity of result. In each different case some train of incidents happened, which developed and modified the overlord right,
* For politeness' sake, we will avoid adding, otherwise than in a note, that he might often be a captain of banditti, or a robber tribe on the frontier.
and reduced the position of the original cultivators, so as to turn the one into "landlord," the other into "tenant."
Here we will think of the landlord side: sometimes the process of growth was more or less obscure, sometimes it was rapid and, indeed, arbitrarily effected. The policy of Government (for example, that of Lord Cornwallis in 1793) had determined that a landlord (with certain legal duties and privileges) must be found for each group of lands; and then if there was no native magnate or chief, or contractor claiming a definite interest, the position of local landlord was conferred on almost anyone-a district officer of the native régime, a local head of a colonist group, etc. -who seemed to be capable of acting as landlord, and being responsible for the revenue.
But in many more cases the steps of the process are quite evident. Take an example (also from Bengal) :* We find a certain territory known as an old native "rāj." The local chronicles have preserved a story of how, a thousand years ago, two noble parents made a pilgrimage from some distant home with an infant child. Misfortune overtook them, they perished, and the child was found in the forest by a Brahmin hermit and brought up. He became a noble Rājā, and was raised to the possession of the territory in question. Then fiction passes into real fact: the "rāj" (never of any great extent) and its Ruler are existent, and the genealogy of a long line of Rājās is preserved. About the fourteenth century (say) the Moslem Governor asserts his dominion, and the Rājā pays an occasional tribute, but remains in a somewhat doubtful position. But the Bengal Moslem kingdom was never secure from revolts, and the annals tell us how, one propitious day, the Rājā arose with his bowmen, and his long-maned horses, and his black elephants; how the earth trembled and the skies resounded. The Moslems are attacked, and the result is loss on both sides. After a time, however, peace is made, and the Rājā has accepted a "treaty" or a "grant (as
*The reality of the story will at once be recognised.
either party respectively views it), and a regular tribute is agreed to. But then come the days of the more irresistible Mughal rule, and the Rājā has to make further submission. His political "rule" is at an end. His "title" is a matter of the Emperor's favour; he is left in possession. He still administers justice to his Hindu subjects; he still takes toll and transit dues. But the resources of his territory from a revenue point of view have been gauged by the Imperial officers, and he has to accept a regular appointment as "Zamindar," holding a "charge" on behalf of the Empire. Perhaps his dignity is flattered by the grant of titles and insignia; in any case, he accepts the inevitable, rather glad of the peace and security in which he now lives. He is obliged, no doubt, to attend (or his agents for him) pretty closely to land management; he must extend the tillage, locate new tenants, buy this plot and sell that, as he never would have done while a territorial ruler. But time passes, and (say) about 1780 a British Collector is now in power, and renews the "Zamindāri warrant; and now the payment is frankly an assessed revenue, and the "raj" is a landed estate liable to sale if default is made. Alas! such default soon occurs, and part of the territory is cut off, sold, and (as a separate Zamindāri) passes into other hands. At last comes the Permanent Settlement, and the Rājā is confirmed as the "actual proprietor" of what lands he has retained. The Government manages the police; it has taken over the administration. of justice, it has abolished the transit dues and most of the tolls. The Rājā has become a "landlord," and his assessment is fixed in perpetuity; moreover, his relations with the "tenants" before long come into discussion, and are regulated by law.
I will not stop to point out that the Mughal conquest and the "Zamindari" charge were the critical steps in the change.
Many similar pictures, but with much varied detail, could be drawn. The point for immediate notice is that in this
(Bengal) illustration the process of change has been absolute and complete.
But we are not only able to trace such processes by aid of local history in other parts, but to find cases where the transition has only partly been accomplished; or, on the other hand, where the necessary preliminaries, of one kind or another, have never been completed, and the would-be superior has failed to command recognition as "landlord."
I have long been engaged in collecting illustrations of these processes from various parts of India. During the year 1899 I was permitted to publish (in sections) in this Review, one of these essays on the development of landlord and analogous tenures; and I chose one that seemed particularly curious, and relating to an interesting corner of Western India. There were local chiefships, but all of them were more or less reduced, shaped, and altered under the successive rule of the Sultans, the Emperor, the Mahrathas, and finally under the Bombay Government.*
But Gujarat is a very peculiar country. Its geographical position at once attracted, and made possible, the invasion and settlement of a series of foreign dynasties and tribes. Its historical materials are (for an Indian country) singularly perfect. Inscriptions, copper-plate records, Jaina chronicles, the annals of the bards, besides the narratives of more than one Moslem historian, and many later reports and books,t enable us to trace a number of curious and often romantic particulars about the native "baronies" and chieftaincies-how they were managed and how they were
* On this essay Mr. A. Rogers has commented in a paper published in this Review (April, 1900), pp. 391-394. Of course I did not include the Khot tenures of the South Konkan; they are not connected in any way with Gujarat. Nor did I mention the Gujarat coparcenary tenure known as bhagdāri and narwadārī, because these are essentially village tenures, or of a class not included in my survey. They are fully described in my book on "The Indian Village Community."
+ To which Mr. A. Rogers' "History of the Land Revenue in Bombay" (two volumes) is a valuable addition.
Now, one of the results of history is that the whole country (as far as it was occupied at all) is found to have been rapidly, in medieval and still later times, covered over by a network of chiefships or domains of one class or another.* These are easily called "Rajput"; but they are almost all of clans quite unknown in any other part of India.
And different races sometimes affected different parts. The Koli, for instance, seem always to have preferred the less accessible "jungly" tracts. We find Koli chiefs' estates in the north-east corner of Ahmadābād and in the south-east part of Kaira (to keep the popular spelling) along the Mahi River.
Another very important result is that neither the Sultans nor the Mughal Emperors (and their deputies) nor the Mahrathas were ever able to thoroughly conquer, administer, and assimilate the whole country-right across, I mean, from (say) Kachh to Dohad and the Rewakantha. They conquered partially, fitfully, and no more. The consequence is interesting. Oudh, too, was (to a large extent) covered by a network of Rajput estates and Rājās' demesnes; but in time all were completely reduced by the Mughal Empire, whatever disturbances afterwards occurred in days of decline and weakness. And so all the Rājās, etc., uniformly became subject Talukdārs, and subsequently "landlords." All are on the same footing, with the same law and the same legal designation. In Gujarāt, the conquest being imperfect, the result was far otherwise. Moslem authority was concentrated on the rich plain country around Ahmadābād (the capital) and Kaira, and some other parts of the plain country, including the sea-board districts (Broach and Surat). In the regularly administered territory the "chiefs," of whatever kind, if they were not annihilated outright, were not only steadily subjected and reduced-all
* It will be enough to say in a note that there were sometimes rulerships of Rājās and Thakurs; sometimes vassal baronies; sometimes estates granted to cadets and others.