In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors

In this episode covering Jahangir's appalling regime, Pelsaert gives vivid details of the shocking manner in which ordinary citizens were pushed to starvation, and how the entire administration was filled with corrupt Kazis and pleasure-loving governors.
In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors

In this Series

In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
Muslim Marriages in Jahangir’s Agra: An Eyewitness Account
In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
The Superstitions of Moslems in Jahangir's Era and Jahangir's Demolition of his Son's Tomb
In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
No Hindu Could Venture into the Streets during Muharram in Jahangir's Agra!
In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
Wine, Opium, Hunting, Debauchery and Nur Jahan: A Glimpse of Jahangir’s Administration

Jahangir’s territories, cities, and villages, with the annual yield of each, are all entered in a register which is in charge of the Diwan, at present Khwaja Abdul Hasan. Everyone, whether prince, amir, or mansabdar, is granted, in accordance with his rank, the appropriate income, to be derived from the administration of certain chief places. Some of the grantees, who are in attendance on the King, send some of their employees to represent them, or else hand over their grants to farmers, or karoris [sub-collectors]. These karoris have to take the risk of good or bad harvests; but the provinces are so impoverished that a jagir which is reckoned to be worth 50,000 rupees, may sometimes not yield even 25,000, although so much is wrung from the peasants, that even dry bread is scarcely left to fill their stomachs.

For that reason, many of the lords who hold the a high rank, do not keep even 1000 people in their employ, but they spend great sums on an extravagant display of elephants, horses, and servants, so that they ride out more like kings than subjects, everyone shouting Phoos! – “Out of the way!” People who do not make way are beaten, and the servants pay very little regard to whom they hit.

The most astonishing thing is that the avarice of the nobles has no solid basis, though they devote themselves entirely to gathering their treasures, without a thought of the cruelty or injustice involved. Immediately on the death of a lord who has enjoyed the King's jagir, great or small, without any exception, even before the breath is out of his body, the King's officers are ready on the spot, and make an inventory of the entire estate, recording everything down to the value of a single paisa, even to the dresses and jewels of the ladies, provided they have not concealed them. The King takes back the whole estate absolutely for himself, except in a case where the deceased has done good service in his lifetime, when the women and children are given enough to live on, but no more. It might be supposed that wife, or children, or friends, could conceal during the lord's lifetime enough for the family to live on, but this would be very difficult. As a rule all the possessions of the lords, and their transactions, are not secret, but perfectly well-known, for each lord has his diwan, through whose hands everything passes. He has many subordinates, and for work that could be done by one man they have ten; and each of them has some definite cost, for which he must account.

It is the practice of the King, or rather of his wife, to give rapid advancement and promotion to any soldier, however low his rank, who has carried out orders with credit, or has displayed courage in the field. On the other hand, a very small fault, or a trifling mistake, may bring a man to the depths of misery or to the scaffold, and consequently everything in the kingdom is uncertain.

In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
Whitewashing the Forced Conversions of Hindus to Islam in Medieval India: Here's What the Primary Records Say

As regards the laws, they are scarcely observed at all, for the administration is absolutely autocratic, but there are books of law, which are in charge of their lawyers, the Kazis. Their laws contain such provisions as hand for hand, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; but who will excommunicate the Pope?

And who would dare to ask a Governor 'Why do you rule this way? Our (Hindu) Law orders differently.' The facts are very different, although in every city there is a Kacheri, or royal court of justice, where the Governor, the Diwan, the Bakhshi, the Kotwal, the Kazi, and other officers sit together daily, or four days in the week. Here all disputes are disposed of, but not until avarice has had its share.

All capital cases, such as thefts, murders, or crimes are finally disposed of by the Governor. If the criminals are poor and unable to pay, the sweepers drag them out to execution with very little ceremony. In the case of other offences, the criminals are seldom or never executed; their property is merely confiscated for the Governor and Kotwal. Ordinary questions of divorce, quarrels, fights, threats, and the like, are in the hands of the Kotwal and the Kazi. One must indeed be sorry for the man who has to come to judgment before these godless 'un-judges.' Their eyes are bleared with greed, their mouths gape like wolves for covetousness, and their bellies hunger for the bread of the poor; everyone stands with hands open to receive, for no mercy or compassion can be had except on payment of cash.

This fault should not be attributed to judges or officers alone, for the evil is a universal plague; from the least to the greatest, right up to the King himself, everyone is infected with insatiable greed, so that if one has any business to transact with Governors or in palaces, he must not set about it without 'the vision of angels,' for without presents he need expect very little answer to his petitions. Our honourable employers need not deign to be surprised at this, for it is the custom of the country.

In Jahangir's Regime, Avarice Dominated Manly Honour: Corrupt Kazis, Debauched Governors
The Qualifications of a Medieval Muslim Chronicler and the Nature of Muslim Histories

The King Jahangir possesses the largest area of all the kingdoms of the world. The length of it from Surat northwards to Kashmir is 800 Holland miles. Towards the North-West, the distance from Lahore, by Multan, to Kandahar is 435 miles. On the East, it is 727 miles from Agra to the sea coast through Purop, Bengal, and Orissa. In the West, Kabul is 220 miles from Lahore; and in the South West, the kingdom extends to Sind and Bakkar.

If all these countries were justly or rationally governed, they would not only yield an incalculable income, but would enable Jahangir to conquer all the neighbouring kingdoms. But it is important to recognise also that he is regarded as King of the plains or the open roads only; for in many places you can travel only with a strong body of men, or on payment of heavy tolls to rebels. The whole country is enclosed and broken up by many mountains, and the people who live in, on, or beyond, the mountains have not even heard of Jahangir. They recognise only their Rajas, who are very numerous, and to whom the country is apportioned in many small fragments by old Hindu tradition.

Jahangir, whose name implies that he grasps the whole world, must therefore be regarded as ruling no more than half the dominions which he claims, since there are nearly as many rebels as subjects. Among the chief cities, for example, at Surat, the forces of Raja Piepel [name is untraceable] come pillaging up to, or inside, the city, murdering the people, and burning the villages. In the same way, near Ahmadabad, Burhanpur, Agra, Delhi, Lahore, and many other cities, thieves, and robbers come in force by night or day like open enemies. The Governors are usually bribed by the thieves to remain inactive, for avarice dominates manly honour, and, instead of maintaining troops, they fill and adorn their mahals with beautiful women, and seem to have the pleasure-house of the whole world within their walls.

To be continued

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