Last updated

A Subah was the term for a province (State) in the Mughal Empire. The word is derived from Arabic and Persian. The governor/ruler of a Subah was known as a subahdar (sometimes also referred to as a "Subeh" [1] ), which later became subedar to refer to an officer in the Indian Army. The subahs were established by badshah (emperor) Akbar during his administrative reforms of years 1572–1580; initially they numbered to 12, but his conquests expanded the number of subahs to 15 by the end of his reign. Subahs were divided into Sarkars , or districts. Sarkars were further divided into Parganas or Mahals . His successors, most notably Aurangzeb, expanded the number of subahs further through their conquests. As the empire began to dissolve in the early 18th century, many subahs became effectively independent, or were conquered by the Marathas or the British.


In modern context subah (Urdu : صوبہ) is a word used for province in Urdu language.


Initially, after the administrative reforms of Akbar, the Mughal empire was divided into 12 subahs : Kabul, Lahore, Multan, Delhi, Agra, Avadh, Illahabad, Bihar, Bangalah, Malwa, Ajmer and Gujarat. After the conquest of Deccan, he created three more subahs there : Berar, Khandesh (initially renamed Dandesh in 1601) and Ahmadnagar (in 1636 renamed as Daulatabad and subsequently as Aurangabad). At the end of Akbar's reign, the number of subahs was thus 15. It was increased to 17 during the reign of Jahangir. Orissa was created as a separate subah, carved out of Bangalah in 1607. The number of subahs increased to 22 under Shah Jahan. [2] In his 8th regnal year, Shah Jahan separated the sarkar of Telangana from Berar and made it into a separate Subah. In 1657, it was merged with Zafarabad Bidar subah. Agra was renamed Akbarabad 1629 and Delhi became Shahjahanbad in 1648. [3] Kashmir was carved out of Kabul, Thatta (Sindh) out of Multan and Bidar out of Ahmadnagar. For some time Qandahar was a separate subah under the Mughal Empire but it was lost to Persia in 1648. Aurangzeb added Bijapur (1686), Sira (1687) [4] and Golkonda (1687) as new subahs. There were 22 subahs during his reign. [2] These were Kabul, Kashmir, Lahore, Multan, Delhi, Agra, Avadh, Illahabad, Bihar, Bangalah, Orissa, Malwa, Ajmer, Gujarat, Berar, Khandesh, Aurangabad, Bidar, Thatta, Bijapur, Sira [4] and Haidarabad (Golkonda). [5] During the reign of Bahadur Shah, Arcot became a Mughal subah in 1710.

Current usage

In modern usage in Urdu language, the term is used as a word for province, while the word riyasat (Urdu : ریاست) ("princely state" in English) is used for (federated) state. The terminologies are based on administrative structure of British India which was partially derived from the Mughal administrative structure. In modern times, the term subah is mainly used in Pakistan, where its four provinces are called "Subah" in Urdu language.

List of Subahs of the Mughal Empire

Akbar's original twelve subahs

The twelve subahs created as a result of the administrative reform by Akbar the Great:

1 Kabul Subah (Kashmir added in 1586) Kabul
2 Lahore Subah Lahore
3 Multan Subah Multan
4 Ajmer Subah Ajmer
5 Gujarat Subah Ahmedabad
6 Delhi Subah Delhi
7 Agra Subah Agra
8 Malwa Subah Ujjain
9 Awadh Subah Faizabad, later Lucknow
10 Illahabad Subah Illahabad
11 Bihar Subah Patna
12 Bengal Subah Tanda (1574–95)
Rajmahal (1595–1610, 1639–59)
Dhaka (1610–1639, 1660–1703)
Murshidabad (1703–57)

Subahs added after 1595

The subahs which added later were (with dates established):

#SubahCapitalYear of establishmentEmperor
13 Berar Subah Ellichpur 1596 Akbar
14 Khandesh Subah Burhanpur 1601
15 Ahmadnagar Subah
(renamed Daulatabad in 1636)
(further renamed Aurangabad)
Ahmadnagar (1601–1636)
(conquest completed in 1636)
16 Orissa Subah Cuttack Shah Jahan
17 Kashmir Subah Srinagar
18 Thatta Subah Thatta
Qandahar Subah Qandahar 1638 (lost in 1648)
Telangana Subah Nanded 1636 (merged into Bidar in 1657)
Balkh Subah Balkh 1646 (lost in 1647)
Badakhshan Subah Qunduz 1646 (lost in 1647)
19 Bidar Subah Bidar 1656
20 Bijapur Subah Bijapur 1684 Aurangzeb
21 Golkonda Subah (later Haidarabad) Haidarabad 1687
22 Sira Subah Sira 1687


  1. George Clifford Whitworth. Subah. An Anglo-Indian Dictionary: A Glossary of Indian Terms Used in English, and of Such English Or Other Non-Indian Terms as Have Obtained Special Meanings in India. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. 1885. p. 301.
  2. 1 2 Mahajan, V.D. (1991, reprint 2007). History of Medieval India, Part II, New Delhi: S. Chand, ISBN   81-219-0364-5, p.236n
  3. Habib, I (2003). The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN   0-19-565595-8, pp.8n, 451
  4. 1 2 Imperial Gazetteer of India: Provincial Series 1908 , pp. 175176
  5. Habib, I (2003). The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN   0-19-565595-8, p.4

Related Research Articles

Muhammad Azam Shah Seventh Mughal emperor

Qutb-ud-Din Muhammad Azam, commonly known as Azam Shah, was briefly the Mughal emperor, who reigned from 14 March 1707 to 8 June 1707. He was the eldest son of the sixth Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and his chief consort Dilras Banu Begum.

Deccan sultanates Former states in India

The Deccan sultanates were five late-medieval Indian kingdoms—on the Deccan Plateau between the Krishna River and the Vindhya Range—that were ruled by Muslim dynasties: namely Ahmadnagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur, and Golconda. The sultanates had become independent during the break-up of the Bahmani Sultanate. In 1490, Ahmadnagar declared independence, followed by Bijapur and Berar in the same year. Golconda became independent in 1518, and Bidar in 1528.

Berar Province British Indian province under the nominal sovereignty of Hyderabad State

Berar Province, also known as the Hyderabad Assigned Districts, was a province in British India, ruled by the Nizam of Hyderabad. After 1853 it was administered by the British, although the Nizam retained formal sovereignty over the province. Azam Jah, the eldest son of the 7th Nizam, held the title of Mirza-Baig ("Prince") of Berar.

Burhanpur City in Madhya Pradesh, India

Burhanpur is a city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative seat of Burhanpur District. It is situated on the north bank of the Tapti River and 340 kilometres (211 mi) southwest of the state's capital city of Bhopal. The city is a Municipal Corporation.

Jai Singh II Mughal-era Indian ruler of the Kingdom of Amber

Jai Singh II was the ruler of the Kingdom of Amber, who later founded the fortified city of Jaipur and made it his capital. He was born at Amber, the capital of the Kachwahas. He became ruler of Amber at the age of 11 after his father Raja Bishan Singh died on 31 December 1699.

Farooqui dynasty Ruling dynasty of the Khandesh sultanate

The Farooqi dynasty' was the ruling dynasty of the Khandesh sultanate from its inception in 1382 till its annexation by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1601. The founder of the dynasty, Malik Ahmad participated in a rebellion against the Bahmani ruler Muhmmad Shah I in his early years. When he was compelled to flee from Deccan, he established in Thalner on the Tapti River. After receiving the grant of the fiefdoms of Thalner and Karanda from Firuz Shah Tughluq in 1370, he conquered the region around Thalner, which later became known as Khandesh. By 1382, he started ruling independently.

The Berar Subah was one of the Subahs of the Mughal Empire, the first to be added to the original twelve, in Dakhin from 1596 to 1724. It bordered Golconda, Ahmandagar, Kandesh and Malwa subahs as well as the independent and tributary chiefdoms to the east.

The Malwa Subah was one of the original twelve Subahs of the Mughal Empire, including Gondwana, from 1568-1743. Its seat was Ujjain. It bordered Berar, Kandesh, Ahmadnagar (Deccan), Gujarat, Ajmer, Agra and Allahabad subahs as well as the independent and tributary chiefdoms in the east.

Turk (caste)

The Turk Jamat are a Muslim community found in India. Many members of Turk Jamat Muslim community migrated to Pakistan after the independence in 1947 and settled in Karachi.

Daniyal Mirza Shahzada of the Mughal Empire

Daniyal Mirza was an Imperial Prince of the Mughal Empire who served as the Viceroy of the Deccan. He was the third son of Emperor Akbar the Great and the brother of the Emperor Jahangir.

Bidar Bakht Shahzada of the Mughal Empire

Muhammad Bidar Bakht was a Mughal prince and the eldest son of Muhammad Azam Shah, who briefly became Mughal emperor in 1707. He was noted for being a gallant, skilful and successful general and was regarded as the most able Mughal prince of his time. He was the favourite grandson of Emperor Aurangzeb.

The Battle of Shakoor Kheda took place on 11 October 1724 at Shakoor Kheda in Berar, 80 miles from Aurangabad between Nizam-ul-Mulk and Mubariz Khan, Subedar of Deccan.

The Mughal war of succession took place in 1707, after the death of Padishah (Emperor) Aurangzeb.

Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh is a Persian language chronicle written by Sujan Rai in the Mughal Empire of present-day India. It deals with the history of Hindustan, and also contains details about the contemporary Mughal Empire. The author completed the work in 1695 CE, during the reign of Aurangzeb. An insertion about Aurangzeb's death was later added to the original copy by a transcriber.

Chahar Gulshan is an 18th-century Persian language book about the history of India. It was written by Rai Chatar Man Kayath of Mughal empire in 1759 CE. It is also known as Akhbar-un Nawadir or Akhbaru-l-Nawadir.

Yadgar-i-Bahaduri is an Indian Persian language encyclopaedia of history, geography, science and art. Edited by Bahadur Singh, it was completed in 1834 CE in Lucknow.

The Agra Subah was a subah of the Mughal Empire, established in the reign of Akbar and one of the empire's core territories until it was eclipsed by the rapidly expanding Maratha Empire. To the north it bordered Delhi and Awadh, to the east Ilahabad, and to the south and west Malwa and Ajmer. Its capital was at Agra, an important administrative center of the empire which was expanded under Mughal rule.

The Ajmer Subah was one of the original 12 subahs that comprised the Mughal Empire after the administrative reform by Akbar. Its borders roughly corresponded to modern-day Rajasthan, and the capital was the city of Ajmer. It bordered the subahs of Agra, Delhi, Gujarat, Thatta, Multan, and Malwa.

The Subah of Lahore was a subdivision of the Mughal Empire encompassing the central Punjab region, parts of which now fall in Pakistan and India.


Further reading