The mughal social structure
The dynamics of the Mughal Empire’s social structure fell in between that of a feudal system and a centralized system. It can be broken down in to four distinct groups that, just like most cultures, seemed to depend on wealth as the deciding factor of social class. Members of the Mughal population could move to a higher social class; however, this was extremely difficult, especially for those at the lowest echelons of society.
At the top of the social ladder was the royal family. This was headed by the Emperor with and his sons immediately below him. The Emperor typically kept a large harem, which made allowed for a large number of princes. As the head of the empire, the royal family lived in supreme luxury. The resources of the entire empire were available to them. They all lived in lavish homes in which they hosted frequent parties. The women of the Emperor’s harem set the trends in fashion and other cultural aspects among the women of the lower classes.
The next group in the social structure was comprised of the noble class. Many of these were members of the Emperor’s extended family and of his Council. It also included important heads of the empire’s clans and people that had found favor with the Emperor. People from all social classes and nationalities could gain noble status should the Emperor desire to bestow it. This class also included high ranking mansabdars. These were men served as commanders in the empire’s army and aided the Emperor in governing matters. Many of them were assigned tracts of land called jagirs from which they would collect revenue for the empire. They were permitted to keep a portion of this revenue for themselves. Mansabdars who owned jagirs were known as Jagirdars. All members of the noble class lived extravagantly just as the Emperor and his princes, though on a smaller scale. The nobles owned elaborate houses and many kept small harems.
Below the nobles came the middle class. This group was made up of wealthy traders, lower ranking mansabdars, successful merchants, farmers and other professionals. This class of people was able to live a comfortable life, though nowhere near as lavish as that of the noble class. They typically had jobs that paid well and a majority of them owned their own land. These factors allowed them to enjoy some luxuries, though not nearly the level of the nobles.
The majority of the Mughal Empire’s population belonged to the lower class. These were the poor, slaves and others who barely could get by. Those fortunate enough to hold menial jobs such as cleaning worked long hours for meager pay. Some worked basically as volunteer slaves in the hopes that they would be shown mercy from their higher-classed masters. They fought for the basic necessities, often owning very few pieces of clothing. They owned no land and lived in houses made of mud. During tough times such as famine, this class struggled to survive.