Key terms and their meaning in History

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Ancient and Medieval history have multiple peculiar terms and their meaning is hard to decode. This page is an attempt to consolidate them under one roof.

Ancient India

Gupta Period

Terms Meaning
Mahabaladhikrita Commander in Chief
Mahadandnayaka Chief Justice
Mahapratihar Maintenance of Royal Palaces
Mahasandhivigrahika or Sandhivigrahaka Minister of War and Peace
Dandpashika Head of Police department
Bhadagaradhikreta Head of Royal Treasury
Vinaysthitisansthapaka Head of Education Department
Sarvadhyaksha Inspector of all central departments
Mahashwapati Commander of the Cavalary
Mahamahipalapati Commander of the Elephants (Control & Executor of elephantry)
Vinayapura One who represented guests to King’s court
Yuktapurusha Officer to keep accounts of war booty
Khadyapakika Inspector of Royal Kitchen
Ranbhandagarika Officer in charge of Arms and ammunition stores
Mahanarpati Commander of the Infantry
Samanta A neighbouring subsidiary ruler who was a friendly tributary of the Gupta overlords
Bhukti or Desa Provinces (Provincial Councils headed by Kumaraamatyas)
Pradesha/Adhisthana/Pattana Districts (Each province (bhukti or desa) was divided into districts)
Kutumbis and Mahattaras Village level officers
Nagarashreshthin Chairman of the city corporations in the towns
Sarthavaha Represented trading communities
Prathamakulika Represented the crafting communities (artisans)
Prathamakayastha Represented Government official community
Pustapala Junior (district level) record officers
Brahmadeya The religious grants to brahmans, individually or collectively
Devagrahara or Devadana The grants to institutions such as temples and monasteries
Nishka, Pala Gold coins
Rupaka, Satmana, Panna Silver coins
Kakini, Kasharpan Copper coins
Kshetra Fertile land
Khil Unfertile land
Aprabata Forested land
Vastu Habitable land
Kulika Chief Architect
Kanchuki Head of Queen’s Haram

Gupta period's taxes

Type Meaning
Kalpita/ Upkilpta Sales Tax and Purchase Tax
Halivakar/ Halidanda Tax on Ploughing
Bali Payment Tax
Prataya Toll Tax
Bhog King’s share of produce
Bhoga General Tribute (the tax in kind of gifts, flowers, woods, fruits etc.)
Bhag Bhagkar Combination of Bhog and Bhaga
Bhatta Police Tax
Chat Security Tax
Charasana Grazing Tax
Hiranya Tax on special produce taken in cash
Udakabhag Water Tax
Uparikar Tax collected from everyone
Taradaya Tax on navigation
Rajju Tax for measurement of land
Sarvarishti Forced Tax
Bedakbhog Irrigation Tax
Uparnik Tax taken from border area

Jainism and Buddhism

Term Meaning
Ajivika A heterodox sect closer to Jainism that prospered at the time of the Buddha
Bodhisattva An individual who attains nirvana by working for the welfare of the world
Chaitya A Buddhist place of worship
Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana Turning of the wheel of the law
Hinayana Literally means The Lesser vehicle or The Abandoned Vehicle or Defective vehicle. It believes in the original teaching of Buddha or Doctrine of elders.
Stupa Domical structure containing relics of the Buddha.
Upasikas Lay worshippers (disciples of Buddha)
Theravada A Buddhist sect is the most commonly accepted name of Buddhism's oldest existing school tends to be conservative in nature.
Mahavira, Jina, Jitendriya One who conquered his senses according to Jainism
Nigrantha Free from all bonds in Jainism
Kaivalya Highest spiritual knowledge in Jainism
Digambara A Jain sect believes that to attain Moksha, one must give up the luxury of clothes also
Swetambara A Jain sect believes that does not believe that to attain Moksha, one must give up the luxury of clothes. They wear white clothes.

Mauryan Empire

Terms Meaning
Akshapataladhyaksha Accountant General who was in charge of two offices of currency and accounts.
Bhagadhuk Collector of royal share of revenue both in cash and kind.
Sannidhata Treasurer and keeper of the stores. He was in charge of collection of revenue from various parts of the kingdom and looked after the income and expenditure by supervising the works of the akshapataladhyaksha aka The Accountant General.
Samharta To collect Revenue both in cash and kind; helped by Bhagadhuk aka collector of royal share
  • Administrative personnel or civil servants who filled the highest administrative and judicial appointments.
  • Amatyas kept in touch with all sections of the society and made a highly skilled secretariat divided into several departments.
Rajuka Ashoka appointed a class of offi cers known as the rajukas, who were vested with authority of not only rewarding people but also punishing them whenever necessary.
  • Looked after various departments kind of like a generalist officer
  • Kautilya in the 2 nd book of his Arthasastra, Adhyakshaprachara, gives an account of the working of nearly 27 adhyakshas.
Sitadhyaksha Superintendent of Agriculture
Akaradhyaksha Superintendent of Mining
Navadhyaksha Superintendent of Ports
Panyadhyaksha Supervisor of Commerce
Samshadhyaksha Supervisor of Markets
Sulkadhyaksha Collector of customs and tolls
Suradhyaksha Superin tendent of Excise who controlled the manufacture and sale of liquor
Pautavadhyaksha Superintendent of weights and measures.
Lakshanadhyaksha Superintendent of the mint
Lavananyadhyaksha Salt superintendent, as the manufacture of salt was a government monopoly.
Pradesika They were the principal police offi cers, whose duty was to investigate the crimes committed in the region within their jurisdiction
Gopa Accountant to the unit of 5-10 villages which was an intermediate level of administration between district level and that of village.
Sthanika The tax was collected by the sthanika who worked directly under the Pradesika.
Rajukas Responsible for surveying and assessing land
Yuktas Subordinate revenue officer
Ayukta Title of an officer often used in the Mauryan period
Dharmasthiyas Courts dealing with civil matters
Kantakasodhanas Courts dealing with criminal cases
Sanghas and Srenis Merchants and Guilds
Mantriparishad Adhyaksha Head of Council of Ministers
Prashasti Prison head
Senapati Commander in Chief
Padadhyaksha Army Chief (Infantry)
Asvadhyaksha Commander of Cavalry
Hastyadhyaksha Commander of Elephant Force (War Elephants)
Bhritakas Hired troops
Atavivala Troops supplied by forest tribes
Maula Hereditary Troops
Guddhapurushas The espionage department was manned by guddhapurushas (secret agents) under the control of mahamatyapasarpa, both stationary (Samsthan) and wandering (Sanchari).

Satavahana Empire

Terms Meaning
Raja, Mahabhoja and Maharathi or Senapat Three grades of feudatories
Ahara Districts
Amatya Ruler of each ahara
Gandhika The traders of perfume
Uparakshita Person charged with the duty of building caves for monks
Kataka and Skandhavaras Military camps and settlements
Gaulmika Administrator of rural areas who was the head of a military regiment of 9 chariots, 9 elephants, 25 horses and 45 foot soldiers

Sangam Age

Terms Meaning
Sangam A college/assembly of literacy figures
Devalayam Temple
Ko, Mohnam, Iraivan, Korravan, Vendan King
Vari Tax
Variyar Tax Collector
Korai Land tax
Puhar Harbour area
Maharum Supreme Court
Irabu Offerings to the King
Avai Imperial Court
Yupas Sacrificial ports
Panchvaram Ministerial Council
Padai Army
Enadi Senapati
Duttar Messenger
Orar Spies
Amaichar Minister
Kalbhu Marriage without permission of parent and without any customary.
Karpu Marriage with permission of parents
Pinch Tinnal Love marriage
Kardhsiyar The title for low caste women.
Perur Big Village
Sirur Small village
Murdur Old village
Salai Highway
Muhir Cocktail (Wine)
Kanigaichar Prostitutes
Aniars Hunters
Bellalar Agriculturist (Rich & Poor)
Pullain Rope Makers
Malvar Thieves

Vedic Period

Terms Meaning
Rajan (GopatiJanasya or Janasyagopa) King
Gramini Head of the Village
Kula The clan or extended family
Kulapa also called Dampati Head of the family
Senani Commander
Vrajapati Officer in Charge of Pastoral Lands
Jivagribha and Ugra Police Officers
Spasa Spy
Vidhatha An assembly meant for secular, religious and military purpose
Sabha Assembly that performed judicial functions
Sabhavati Women who attended the assembly
Samiti Folk assembly in which people of the tribe gathered for transacting tribal business.
Madhyamasi Mediator in Disputes
Bhagadugha Tax Collector
Sangrahitri Treasurer
Mahishi Chief Queen
Suta Charioteer
Palagala Messenger
Akshvapa Accountant
Kshata Keeper of the King’s household
Aranyakas These are Vedic texts composed by hermits
Upanishads The philosophical texts included in Vedic literature
Varna Four-fold division of Hindu society
Brahmanas A collection of ancient Indian texts with annotations on the hymns of the four Vedas

Medieval India

Chola Empire

Terms Meaning
Vellala Agriculturists
Udankuttam Higher officers
Jivitas Land
Upper Perundanam and Lower Sirudanam The officers, who tended to form a separate class in the society, were organized in two ranks.
Variyam Committee
Alunganattar Executive Committee
Salabhoga Tenures meant for educational purpose
Manigramam Great Nagaram
Nanadesis Merchant guild having wide network
Valanjiyar Merchant guild
Anjuvanam Foreign merchant organization
Taniyur A very large village, administrated as a Single unit
Mandalam Province
Valandu District
Nadu/Kurram/Kottam Group of villages
Tankurrams Autonomous administration for town and townships
Puravuvaritinaikalam Department of land revenue
Nattam The residential part of the village
Kummanachcheri Artisans’ quarters
Paracheri The outcastes hamlet
Sudugadu The burning ground
Kaikkolar Royal troops receiving regular pay from the treasury (comprised infantry, cavalry, elephant corps and navy.)
Nattuppadai The militia men employed only for local defence
Velaikkarars The most dependable troops in the royal service ready to defend the king and his cause with their lives.
Kadagams Cantonments
Ur General assembly of the village
Shashak Gana or Ganam The members of the executive committee of Ur
Mahasabha Gathering of the adult men in the Brahmana villages which were called agraharas.
Variyar Reporters appointed by the sabha

Vijaynagar Empire

Terms Meaning
Mandalams or rajyas Provinces
Nadus Districts
Sthalas Sub-Districts
Gramas Village
Gauda Village Headman
Viprulu Brahmins followed the traditional profession of teachers and priests.
Rajulu or rachavaru Generally associated with the ruling dynasty, assisting them in matters of state and warfare. The rulers as well as generals were actually Sudras, but called rachavaru on account of their position.
Matikaratalu or Vaishyas Merchants who carried on trade and commerce.
Nalavajativaru or Sudras Mainly agriculturists, but some of them carried on several other professions.
Naik Governor who administered each Province.
Mahanayakacharya An officer and the contact point between the villages and the Central administration.
Sist Land Tax
Varahas Gold coins issued by Vijyanagara rulers, of 56 grains, issued in their half and quarter denominations

Delhi Sultanate

Central Level Officers

Officer Function
Wazir Chief Minister; in charge of Revenue &Finances.
Ariz-i-Mumalik Head of Military Department
Qazi Legal Officer; dispensing Sharia law
Wakil-i-dar Controller of Royal household
Barid-i-Mumalik Head of state news agency
Amir-i-majlis Officer in charge of Royal feasts & festivals
Majlis-i-am Council of friends and officers consulted on important affairs of the state
Dahir-i-mumalik Head of Royal correspondence
Sadr-us-sudur Dealt with religious matters and endowments
Sadr-i-jahan Officers in charge of religious matters and endowments
Amir-i-dad Public Prosecutor
Naibwazir Deputy Minister
Mushrif-i-mumalik Accountant General
Amir-i-hazib Officer in charge of the Royal court
Qazi-i-mumalik Chief Justice
Qazi-ul-kazat Head of Chief Judicial Department
Amir-i-Akhur Officer commanding Royal Horses
Shahna-i-pil Superintendent of Royal Elephants
Amir-i-bahr Officer in charge of police & transport naval port

Provincial Level Officials

Officer Function
Amir Governor
Mukti/ Wali Responsible for law & order and collection of taxes in their iqtas
Nazir/ Wakuf Revenue Collectors
Sahib-i-diwan Maintained accounts of the provinces and sent them to central administration
Shiqdar Offi cer in charge of land measuring a shiq

State Level Officers

Officer Function
Amil Revenue officer
Chihalgani A select body of Turkish nobility originally slaves of Iltumish which came into existence during the period of Iltumish to be destroyed by Balban later
Iqtadar Governor, a person in whose charge an Iqta has been placed.
Khwaja Keeping accounts and sending information to sultan, the office was created by by Balban
Kotwal Head of city administration.
Muftis Expounder of law
Muhatasib An officer appointed to maintain law and order in a municipality
Muqti/Wali Provincial governor/ holder of Iqta

Departments and Functions

Central Departments
Department Function
Diwan-i-Risalat Department of Appeals
Diwan-i-Arz Department of Military
Diwan-i-Bandagan Department of Slaves
Diwan-i-Qaza-i-Mamalik Department of Justice
Diwan-i-Ishtiaq Department of Pensions
Diwan-i-Mustakhraj Department of Arrears
Diwan-i-Khairat Department of Charity
Diwan-i-Kohi Department of Agriculture
Diwan-i-Insha Department of Correspondence
Diwan-i-Wazriyat Department of Finance

Economics Terms

Terms Meaning
Fawazil Excess amount of surplus of revenue appropriated from Iqta after detraying salary (of the Iqta holder) and meeting expenditure of troops. This amount was to be deposited with the state exchequer. However this trend ceased to exist from the time of Firoz Shah Tughlaq.
Ushr A land tax, charged on the land held by a Muslim and wantered by natural means.
Khams Booty captured in war
Zakat A religious tax, paid by Muslims as a charity for the welfare of their co-religionists.
Jizya A tax levied on non-Muslims in their capacity as protected subjected.
Ghari House Tax
Charaj Cattle tax levied on grazing.
Kharaj Land revenue, realized form non-Muslims, such lands were known as Kharaji. Also known as Kharaj-I-Jiziya or mal.
Masahat Measurement of land
Biswa A common measure of area in northern India, equivalent to 1/20 of a bigha.
Khalisha The area whose revenue was reserved for the Sultan’s treasury. It was not given in Iqtas..
Sondhar Loan given to the Peasants.

Mughal Empire

Central Level Officers

Officers Functions
Wazir Head of Revenue Department
Diwan Responsible for all income and expenditure; control over Khalisa & Jagir
Mir Bakshi Headed Military Department, nobility, information and intelligence agencies
Mir Saman In charge of Imperial Households (Karkhanas)
Diwan-i-Bayutat Maintained Roads, Government buildings
Mir Manshi Royal Correspondence
Sadr-us-Sadr In charge of charitable & religious endowments
Qazi-ul-Quzat Head of Judicial Department
Muhtasib Censor of Public Morals
Mushrif-i-Mumalik Accountant General
Mustauf-i-Mumalik Auditor General
Daroga-i-dak-Chauki Officer in Charge of Imperial Post
Mir-i-arz Officer in Charge of Petition
Waqia Navis News Reporters

Provincial Level Officers

Officers Function
Sipahsalar The Head Executive
Diwan In charge of Revenue Department
Bakshi In charge of Military Department
Sadr In charge of Judicial Department

District Level Officers

Officers Function
Fauzdar Administrative Head
Amal/Amalguzar Revenue Collection
Kotwal Maintenance of Law &Order

Paragana and Village Level Officers

Officer Function
Shiqdar Administrative Head
Amin, Quanungo Revenue Officials
Muqaddam Headman
Patwari Accountant

Departments and Functions

Department Function
Diwan-i-Wazarat Department of Revenue &Finances
Diwan-i-Arz Military Department
Diwan-i-Rasalatmuhtasib Foreign Affairs Department
Diwan-i-insha Custodian of Govt. Papers
Diwan-i-quza Justice Department
Diwan-i-Barid Intelligence Department
Diwan-i-Saman Department in charge of royal household

Maratha Empire

Officer Function
Ashta Pradhan Mandal Council of Ministers
Mamlatdar or Viceroy Head of Provinces
Deshpande or Patil Chief of Village
Sar-i- ‘Karkun’ or the ‘Prantpati’ Head of Province
Chauth The tax levied by Shivaji on those regions which were alien to his kingdom. It was one fourth of the tax that was given by the people to the Deccan or the Mughal kingdoms.
Sardeshmukhi Sardeshmukhi means claim to one-tenth of standard land revenue imposed on entire population of the villages or town as a mark of their recognition of Maratha king as their Sardeshmukh (Chief Headman).
Peshwa Prime Minister
Sar-i-nabuat In-charge of Army Affairs
Nayayadhish Judicial officer
Amatya/ Mazumdar Finance Minister
Waqia-Navis Home Minister
Samant or Dabir Dealing with outsiders
Sachiv The Official Correspondence
Pandit Rao The official religious officer
HazarMajils Highest Court or Court of the King
Bargis Category of Horsemen which were paid from the State Exchange
Silhadars They were casual soldiers
Karkhani Commissary
Chitnis Correspondence Clerk.
Fadnis Deputy Auditor
Mazumdar Auditor
Jamdar Treasurer
Potnis Cash Keeper
Daftardar Chief Officer of Records Department