Who were Zamindars?

Zamindars are people from the Muslim Rajput castes who settled in rural areas of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, from Pakistan to Bangladesh.

A Zamindar is a holder or occupier (dār) of land (zamīn). The root words are Persian, and the resulting name, ‘landowners’ was widely used wherever Persian influence was spread by the Mughals or other Indian Muslim dynasties.

In Bengal, the word Zamindar denoted a hereditary tax collector who could retain 10 percent of the revenue he collected. In parts of North India like Uttar Pradesh, a Zamindar denoted a large landowner with full proprietary rights. More generally in North India, Zamindar denoted the cultivator of the soil or joint proprietors holding village lands in common as joint heirs. In Maratha territories the name was generally applied to all local hereditary revenue officers.

In return for their effort a share of the produce was taken by them. The right of ownership of the land was through descent within the same family. Division of land was never marked specifically, therefore, land was jointly held and the income shared. Under the British, landownership was formalized for the organization of tax revenues.

The Zamindars’ contribution in shaping the modern Indian society is unquestionable. They patronised education, literature, music, arts and religion. Some were torch bearers of the Indian freedom struggle.

To reflect upon

What led to the abolishment of the Zamindari system?

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