MISLDĀRĪ or MISALDĀRĪ, a system of political relationship as well as of land tenure which came into being with the rise of Sikh power in the eighteenth-century Punjab. The Sikh warriors who, since the execution of Bandā Siṅgh Bahādur in 1716, had lived precariously as small guerrilla bands, had by the middle of the century grouped themselves into eleven main divisions and started acquiring territory as misls. This was the origin of the Sikh misls which established their sway in the Punjab. Under the misldārī- system of land tenure which now prevailed, the chief or sardār of each misl could allot land to a member of his own misl, or even to an outsider, not as a grant or jāgīr, but as a share of the territory in the conquest of which the latter was an equal partner. Sometimes the subordinate misldārs or commanders occupied territory on their own, but continued to accept the sardār of the misl as their chief. The misldārs were independent in the management of their respective territories. They could alienate it to a member of the parent misl, but not to an outsider. Their relationship with the sardār of the parent misl remained that of subordinates, but only for the purpose of the offence and defence against outsiders. Again, occupation of territory only entitled them to a share in the produce. The misldārs, like the jāgīrdārs, could not interfere with the traditional proprietary or occupancy rights of the tillers of the land.
Misldārī was a transient phenomenon. With the emergence of the Sikh kingdom under Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in the early decades of the nineteenth century absorbing most of the misls, the system became redundant. Many of the misldārs, however, joined service under, the Mahārājā who allowed them to keep the whole or part of their past holdings as jāgīrs but not as permanent or independent freeholds.
Harī Rām Gupta