02 October 2009

Postal Systems in Mughal Period - Under the reigns of Babar and Humayun

MEDIEVAL INDIA (1030 - 1757 A.D.)
Part 8


Babur further developed the speed and efficiency of the horse courier system along the north-western route of Kabul-Agra to serve the postal and army link with his capital at Agra, in 1527. This was used for both military purpose and the traders that abounded on that route.

Babur’s contribution to road management can be established with his construction of Char-dwaris, which served more like watch-towers, ensuring safety along the routes. We also find mention herein, how he appointed officers to measure the road from Agra to Kabul to erect a tower 12 qaris (yards) high with “a Char-dari on top”, at every 9th Kuroh. At distances of 18th Kuroh, a yamb, a Dak Chauki and 6 post-horses were kept fastened, and arrangement was made for payment of post-masters and grooms, as well as for the horse-corn. The order was that “If the place where the horses are fastened up, be near a crown-domain, let those there provide for the matters mentioned, if not, let the cost be charged in the beg in whose pargana the post-house may be”.¹

Babar seemed to have continued with the postal reforms started by Sher Shah, albeit, integrating the Departments of Post and Intelligence, under the aegis of Darogah-i-Dak Chawki. This postal system followed throughout the empire, with a large number of postal officers under the Darogah-i-Dak-Chawki, was called Diwan-i-Insa. The chief Darogah, or postmaster juggled his duties, acting as overseer of postal conduit points, ensuring steady supply of dak runners, couriers and jasus, coordinating the news gathering from far-flung provinces and the functions of the two post-house clerks called tariq-navis.

Intelligence gathering played an important role in the military administration of the Mughals. So it is obvious that news reporters were treated as officers, complying with the same rules as that of military officers. These news couriers too, were each given the military rank of mansab, and assigned a horse, for optimum performance

Though the Mansabdar system may have been started by the founder of Mughal rule, Babur, the same was further developed into an efficient multi-level functional system by Akbar. Herein, the ruler would confer portion of land to a Mansabdar, on condition that he would supply soldiers as required or additional forces of men during war-time, against the revenue earned by him from the said land. Greater the size of the land granted, greater was the number of soldiers committed by the Mansabdar.

Mail of the Mughal ruler and those of the military, administration and commerce, were carried by runners and mounted couriers. During times of emergency, the messages were borne by carriages drawn by fast stallions. These were however used specially for conveying express news of the State. In deserts, camels were used, where they were trained to run at great speeds.

The obsession of the Mughals for speed, is evident from the fact that these couriers, mostly Mewras, depended upon opium to help them complete their journey on time. Reward or remuneration was payable only upon delivery of the letter

A postal runner began his journey with a written permit, (signed and sealed) by the Darogah-I-Dak-Chawki, which made it obligatory for the respective Darogah and Faujdar, to provide safe journey through their areas of supervision. The return journey permit was sanctioned by the Sawanih-navis. All of these men, serving the postal and news-gathering needs of the emperor’s domain, were on the State payroll even though many were stationed at the roadside serais

The letters handled by the Department included the farmans or royal orders, with the Mir Munshi serving as the Secretary for processing the same. It maybe noted that during the period of Sher Shah’s administration, the role of the Mir Munshi, was more of a Head Clerk, whereas herein assumed more powers as of a Chief Secretary

Royal mail was transported to the districts, wherefrom the reports and local news were in return communicated to the centre. At the seat of the postal administration in the capital of the kingdom, the Darogah-i-Dak-Chawki conveyed the royal mail received from various provinces to the Mir Bakshi (secretary) for the knowledge of the emperor. The Mir Bakshi dealt with all mail except for those personally addressed, and summarized them for perusal and comments of the emperor


The same postal system continued in the time of Humayun, with no significant changes.

Kuroh – 1 ½ - 2 MILES
Yamb – Post-House of the ‘Yamb’ messenger system
Jasus / Khufia Navis – spy
Tariq Navis – Clerk, posted at the post-house or saras, who coordinated the receipt and despatch of post and movement of the postal couriers
Faujdar – In the early period, the word was applied to a military officer, but under the Mughals, it meant the head of a district. Later it was used for a police official.
Sawanih Navis – Person entrusted with collation of news
Farman – A Mughal constitutional term meaning an irrevocable royal decree issued by the emperor. Some established processes were always followed while issuing an imperial farman. It was promulgated either in response to an application made by a subject to the emperor or as a royal policy decision.
Mir Munshi – Secretary, issuing the royal decree, upon completion of the formalities
Mir Bakshi – Head of the military department, holding rank of imperial minister.

by Abbas Khan Sherwani,translated in vol.4 of Elliot & Dawson’s History of India as told by its own Historians
Mughal Administration
by JaduNath Sarkar

¹Babar-Nama, translated by A. S. Beveridge, pg 629

The entire series is part of an ongoing research project and can be accessed as a work in progress. Readers are requested to comment, share any resources, materials (maps, covers, books) or information that they feel is pertinent to the research. The same will be duly acknowledged as desired by the reader, collector or dealer.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ms Geogawanker
    I am interested in locating extant dak chowkis in Madya Pradesh. I will be visiting Jhansi/Jabalpur, Bhopal and Agra, for a research project I am working on, relating to India's history of the horse. Might you know where I can find material relating exact locations? I am having no luck on line so far. I will also be in Kolkata briefly - are there any existing dak chowkis there?
    Thank you so much.
    Alison Warner