“The village panchayat during the Mughal period regulated rural society”.
The village panchayat was an assembly of the elder members in a village whose decision was binding. The elders were selected by the villagers and they elected a “Muqaddam” also called the “Mandal”, who supervised the activities in a village. He aided the patwari to build the village account.
The Panchayat was a heterogeneous body in mixed caste villages as they represented different castes and communities.
The panchayat also collected funds from the villagers to form a common financial pool which was then utilized for various purposes like
• Entertainment costs of visiting revenue officials.
• Necessary funds during calamities.
• For the construction of bunds and digging of canals.
The panchayat held the authority to levy fines and taxes and was also able to give punishments like expulsion from the community for serious crimes like breaking of caste norms.
The decisions of the village panchayats could vary from case to case specifically in conflicts between lower castes and state officials or the local zamindars. In such cases, the Jati Panchayats could step in and aim towards a more amicable solution. These Jati panchayats formed during the 16th and 17th centuries for each ‘Jati’ or caste present in the village.
The functions and authority of Jati Panchayats were as follows –
• The Jati Panchayats resolved civil disputes between members of different castes in Rajasthan.
• Land dispute cases were also mediated by them.
• They also decided on whether marriages were being performed as per the norms of the involved caste group.
• The ritual precedence of people during village functions were also determined by them.
• Except for criminal cases, the state respected the decisions of the Jati panchayats.
Thus, from the above discourse, we can conclude that the village panchayats regulated the rural society in every manner during the Mughal era.