400-Year-Old Diary of Emperor Akbar's Era to Shed Light on India's Historic Revenue System

© Photo : Mahinder Pal Singh, Director of Bihar State ArchivesDiary
Diary - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.10.2021
Most parts of India were ruled by Mughal emperors from 1526, with Emperor Akbar's reign the longest, stretching over five decades. Famous for his "Navrattan" (nine gems), or nine counsels, Akbar introduced sweeping changes in how the land controlled by him was controlled, bringing uniformity in systems across the country.
A meticulously kept diary of the Mughal emperor’s finance minister, nearly 400 years old, is expected to offer a precious insight into the land records system prevalent in India in the 16th century.
Written in 1594, the diary of Raja Todarmal, the "minister" of finance during Emperor Akbar’s reign (1556-1605) ), is at present being translated by Bihar government authorities.
The diary forms a comprehensive record of land owned by the state at the time.

“The English translation of the diary, expected to be published shortly, promises to provide a fascinating read of the kind of habitations and farming patterns that prevailed in ancient times,” experts say.

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Translating the diary - known as the Raqababandi Todarmali of Pargana Bhagalpur - from Persian to English has been a Herculean task.

“For years, we have wanted to understand the secrets of Raja Todarmal’s land and revenue system that is famed for its efficiency and accuracy. Since most of the units of measurement have changed over a period of time, translating it is not an easy job,” said Mahinder Pal Singh, director of Bihar’s State Archives Department, in conversation with Sputnik.

“The diary has been in the state archives for years but none could read it because we lacked the language.”
“There are lots of units and numbers in the diary which were in use at the time but have different names now,” said Singh.
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Raja Todarmal was known to have done a careful survey of crop yields cultivated over a decade along with their prices. The tax was fixed on each crop in cash with varying rates for crops and the records throw light upon a carefully kept accounting system.

“The details of land in Bihar are written on an extremely lightweight handmade paper which is of such superior quality, that time has not taken a toll on it as yet,” the director of the archives told Sputnik.

Officials said that the diary can be considered the most authentic piece of information about land records, parts of which were adopted by the British, who once ruled India, and some concepts are still in use.
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