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A pargana is a former administrative unit of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, used primarily, but not exclusively, by the Muslim kingdoms.

Parganas were introduced by the Delhi Sultanate
Delhi Sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived, Delhi based kingdoms or sultanates, of Turkic origin in medieval India. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty...

, and the word is of Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 origin. As a revenue unit, a pargana consists of several mouzas, which are the smallest revenue units, consisting of one or more villages and the surrounding countryside. Larger subdivisions of parganas were called tarafs (quarters, districts).

Under the reign of Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri
Sher Shah Suri , birth name Farid Khan, also known as Sher Khan , was the founder of the short-lived Sur Empire in northern India, with its capital at Delhi, before its demise in the hands of the resurgent Mughal Empire...

, administration of parganas was strengthened by the addition of other officers, including a shiqdar (police chief), an amin or munsif (a civil arbitrator and revenue official who assessed and collected revenue) and a karkun (record keeper).

Mughal era

In the 16th century the Mughal
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire ,‎ or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...

 emperor Akbar organised the empire into subah
A Subah was a province of the Mughal Empire in South Asia. The governor of a subah was known as a subahdar, which later became subedar to refer to an officer in the Indian Army...

, which were further subdivided into sarkars, roughly the equivalent of districts, which were themselves organised into parganas. In the Mughal system, parganas served as the local administrative units of a sarkar. The chief administrator of a pargana was a parganait or parganadar; other pargana officials were the shiqdar (magistrate), amil (assessor and collector of revenue), bitikchi (chief accountant and registrar), qanungo (keeper of revenue records), and the fotahdar or khazinadhar (treasurer). Individual parganas observed common customs regarding land rights and responsibilities, which were known as the pargana dastur, and each pargana had its own customs regarding rent, fees, wages, and weights and measures, known as the pargana nirikh.

British Raj

As the British expanded into former Mughal provinces, starting with Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

, they at first retained the pargana administration, but, under the Governorship of Charles Cornwallis, enacted the Permanent Settlement
Permanent Settlement
The Permanent Settlement — also known as the Permanent Settlement of Bengal — was an agreement between the East India Company and Bengali landlords to fix revenues to be raised from land, with far-reaching consequences for both agricultural methods and productivity in the entire Empire and the...

 of 1793, which abolished the pargana system in favour of the zamindar
A Zamindar or zemindar , was an aristocrat, typically hereditary, who held enormous tracts of land and ruled over and taxed the bhikaaris who lived on batavaslam. Over time, they took princely and royal titles such as Maharaja , Raja , Nawab , and Mirza , Chowdhury , among others...

system, in which zamindars were made the absolute owners of rural lands, and abolished the pargana dastur and pargana nirikh. British administration consisted of districts
Districts of India
A district is an administrative division of an Indian state or territory. Districts are further subdivided, in some cases into Sub-Divisions, and otherwise directly into tehsils or talukas.District officials include:...

, which were divided into tehsil
A Tehsil or Tahsil/Tahasil , also known as Taluk and Mandal, is an administrative division of some country/countries of South Asia....

s or taluks. Parganas remained important as a geographical term, persisting in land surveys, village identification, court decrees, etc.

Post independence

The pargana system persisted in several princely states, including Tonk
Tonk, India
Tonk is a town in Rajasthan state, India. The town of Tonk is situated by road south from Jaipur, near the right bank of the Banas River. It is the administrative headquarters of Tonk District. Tonk was also the capital of the eponymous princely state of British India from 1817 to...

 and Gwalior
Gwalior state
Gwalior State was an Indian kingdom and princely state ruled by the Maratha dynasty. The state took its name from the old town of Gwalior, which, although never the actual capital, was an important place because of its strategic location and the strength of its fort. The state was founded in the...

. Parganas disappeared almost completely after the independence of India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 in 1947, although the term lives on in place names, like the districts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas in India's West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...