society, commanding armies financed with taxes from imperial territories.
The emperor had the biggest army under his private command, but he could
not defeat a substantial alliance of great nobles.
Warriors with independent means initially became nobles (amirs) by being
assigned a rank (mansab), with assignments of salary or income from lands.
Gradually, Akbar revised the system to remunerate nobles in proportion to
the number of men and horses under their command.
This linked imperial rank explicitly to noble military assets. The plan was to
create an elite corps of military commanders who maintained the dignity of
their aristocratic warrior status through service and loyalty to the emperor.
Assignments of all mansabs to mansabdars officially came at the emperor’s
discretion, as did appointments of provincial governors, subahdars. Such
officers were meant to (and routinely did) circulate bureaucratically among
provinces; this in theory prevented them from establishing independent
regional bases of political support.
In practice, however, all assignments and appointments were political
decisions that took into account a noble’s independent power. The risk of
collusion against the emperor always remained, because an amir’s troops
were loyal to him personally. Troops came from their commander’s ethnic
group and formed kinship and patronage ties with him.
Provincial zamindars, bankers and other resourceful people could also be
expected to side with amirs or subahdars, who were both typically
mansabdars with their own armies.
Politics of Alliance-Building Keeping the empire together required a
Mughal emperor to use his own personal power to engage in the politics of
alliance-building and opposition-breaking to keep his own nobility under his
supreme authority. Each Mughal war of succession ended with wars that
demonstrated which one of Akbar’s aspiring descendants had bested his
rivals in attracting allies among the nobility.
Akbar’s strategically crucial alliance was with Rajput rajas whom he invited
to join his nobility and with whom he cemented alliances formally by
marrying their daughters. Ultimately, almost all, except one major Rajput
clan, married into the Mughal dynasty.
Family disputes inside the dynasty generated wars of succession that hinged
on the shifting loyalties of the