In official usage the term is applied to any person, whether owner of a large estate or cultivating member of a village community, who is recognized as possessing some property in the soil, as opposed to the ryot, who is regarded as having only a right of occupancy, subject in both cases to payment of the land revenue assessed on his holding.
The zamindar was conspicuous and useful; the village community and the cultivating ryot did not force themselves into notice.
The same English prejudice which made a landlord of the zamindar could recognize nothing but a tenantat-will in the ryot.
Such matters are discussed and decided by the collector at the jamabandi or court held every year for definitely ascertaining the amount of revenue to be paid by each ryot for the current season.
This annual inquiry has sometimes been mistaken by careless passers-by for an annual reassessment of each ryot's holding.