Everything you need to know about Mahalwari system

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The Zamindari system, the Ryotwari system and the Mahalwari system were the three types of land revenue systems introduced by the Britishers before Independence. The British East India company looted India off its precious resources during their rule. The land revenue systems were introduced by the Britishers to extract money from Indians in the form of taxes.

During the rule of the kings, land was divided into Jagirs which were allotted to Jagirdars. Jagirdars split their lands among their subordinates, the Zamindars. 

The peasants cultivated the lands and the Zamindars collected taxes from them.

The Land Revenue Systems in British India

Zamindari System (Permanent land revenue settlement)

zamindari system

The Zamindari system or the Permanent Settlement System was introduced by British general Charles Cornwallis in the provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and Varanasi in the year 1793.

In the system, Zamindars were recognized as the owners of the lands and had rights to collect rents from peasants/tenants. The tax was to be paid strictly in cash, even at the time of poor yields.

Ryotwari System


The Ryotwari system was the most popular land revenue system in South India. It was introduced in 1820 by Thomas Munro. It was primarily implemented in Madras, Bombay, Assam and Coorg provinces of British India. 

In this case, the land ownership rights were given to the peasants and the British government directly collected taxes from them.However the tax rates were frequently increased, making the lives of the peasants miserable.

Mahalwari System


Mahalwari system was introduced in the year 1822 by Holt Mackenzie, predominantly in the north western provinces of Bengal. 

The system was reformed during the tenure of William Bentick and extended to regions of Agra, Awadh, Punjab, and the Gangetic valley. 

The Mahalwari system had the influences of both Zamindari and Ryotwari systems. In this case, the revenue was collected by the village leader from the farmers on behalf of the whole village.


  • The land was divided into ‘Mahals’ in the Mahalwari system.
  • It was periodically revised and the revenue was decided only after accessing the production of crops.
  • Every farmer had to contribute to the revenue and the village head was in-charge of the collection of taxes.
  • The Mahalwari system helped the government increase its income. Under the system, the state had a 66 percent share of the rental value. And, the settlement was done for a period of 30 years. 


  • Farmers were forced to pay the taxes even in extreme conditions such as droughts and famines.
  • Rampant corruption and manipulations.
  • Sometimes the company even ended up spending more on collection than the collected revenue. 
  • The officials were merciless. In case the farmers failed to pay the taxes, their lands were seized.

The Mahalwari system deeply impacted the socio-economic conditions of the peasants. The official calculations were mostly inaccurate, and were often based on guesswork.

The high interest rates and debts made life difficult for the peasants. Because of their inability to pay the taxes, large tracts of lands were often sold to moneylenders and merchants. 

Post Independence, the Zamindari Abolition Act was passed by several states including UP, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.

Later on, the Land Ceilings Act was also passed in several parts of the country, fixing an upper limit for private landholdings

Read more : Historic Mathematicians of India

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The Zamindari system, the Ryotwari system and the Mahalwari system were the three types of land revenue systems introduced by the Britishers before Independence.

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