A Subah was the term for a province (state) in the Mughal Empire. The term was also used by other polities of the Indian subcontinent. 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 and Pakistan 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 mainly in Pakistan.


Map of Mughal Subahs in 1560

Initially, after the administrative reforms of Akbar, the Mughal empire was divided into 12 subahs : Kabul, Lahore, Multan, Delhi, Agra, Avadh, Illahabad, Bihar, Bangal, 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).

Jahangir increased to the number of subahs to 17 during the reign; Orissa being carved out of Bangal 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] Aurangzeb made Arcot a Mughal subah in 1692.

The Sikh Empire (1799–1849), originating in the Punjab region, also used the term Suba for the provinces it administered under its territorial delineation, of which there were five.[6]

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(Mughal Emperor):

# Subah Capital(s)
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 (1703–72)

Subahs added after 1595

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

# Subah Capital Year of establishment Emperor
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 1638
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
23 Arcot Subah Gingee 1692


Subahs of the Mughal Empire (North India)
Subahs of the Mughal Empire (South India)


  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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India: Provincial Series 1908, pp. 175–176
  5. ^ Habib, I (2003). The Agrarian System of Mughal India 1556-1707, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-565595-8, p.4
  6. ^ Herrli, Hans (1993). The Coins of the Sikhs. p. 10.


Further reading