Token status of the Mughal throne

Token status of the Mughal throne

The Mughal power began to decline after death of Aurangzeb.

Within 30 years of his death, Mughals lost most of their South Indian possesions. New states were established by 3 prime nobles, Sadat Ali Khan, Murshid ul Kuli Khan and Qamar ud Din Khan, even when the throne saw 8 rulers in 12 years. But all pronounced themselves, to be allegiant to the Mughal throne, though, each individually was stronger than the throne in Delhi.

Shahuji's Army under treaty with Sayyid brothers, simply walked into Mughal capital, and deposed Farrukhsiyar, the ruling emperor. But the Treaty was not about sharing spoils. Shahuji, in the treaty, agreed to accept rule of Mughal throne in Deccan, and in return was guaranteed Swaraj, self rule, and rights to revenue, in the same Mughal Deccan.

The Marathas had the effective control of more than 70 % of the Indian subcontinent by 1758. The had sacked Delhi several times. The Mughal empire, was not a stakeholder, in the power dynamics at all.

Then why were they held on throne as puppet rulers? Even after the Third Battle of Panipat, Ahmed Durrani after victory, before leaving back for Afghanistan, installed Shah Alam II as Mughal emperor, and issued firman to all indian chiefs, to recognise him as the ruler.

In 1772, Mahadji escorted the then deposed , and even blind Shah Alam II, from Allahabad to Delhi to crown him as king again. And then, he got royal titles in court, and ruled the state, in Emperor's name.

And many more instances. In 1857, sepoys of the mutiny, stormed into Delhi, and the Emperor was nearly forced to accept being the leader of mutiny, and from there, sepoys again proclaimed him Emperor of India. The question I have, is, why was the Mughal throne, used as a token to rule in India. Why wasn't it simply abolished, and ended. Why did powers not rule in their own name? Why wasn't the Mughal throne, simply abolished long ago and fade into oblivion?

I found something interesting This is Benoît de Boigne. In 1783 he had audience, with the Emperor in Delhi proposing discovery of new trade routes. But the Emperor put off any decision. The day after the audience, an imperial edict gave Mahadji Sindhia the government of the provinces of Delhi and Agra. In other words, Sindhia became the imperial regent and the real power, while Emperor Shah Alam, without being deposed, was now only a figurehead. In 1790, de Boigne summarized Indian politics of the time:

"The respect toward the house of Timur [the Moghul dynasty] is so strong that even though the whole subcontinent has been withdrawn from its authority, no prince of India has taken the title of sovereign. Sindhia shared this respect, and Shah Alam [Shah Alam II] was still seated on the Moghul throne, and everything done in his name."

I am keeping the post open

In a word - prestige; and thus legitimacy.

Its a similar sentiment that revived the Roman Empire after its dissolution, first by Charlemagne in 800 AD and then an aborted attempt by Hitler (The third Reich) in the early 20th Century.

In contemporary politics one can view attempts to establish the Islamic caliphate in a similar light.

I'm currently reading Indian history from 800AD to 1500AD. What I found is whenever someone declared themselves a ruler, other will unite in attacking them and bringing downfall on the said rulers family. Its easier to rule in name of some distant puppet ruler and collect revenue and not bother about the atrocities as those were committed in name of emperor.

Its my own thoughts and I don't have any articles to back this.

Decline of the Mughal Empire in India

The history of India, as well as of the world, has been divided into three periods: ancient, medieval and modern.

The death of Aurangzeb is believed to have marked the beginning of the modern period. This history is seen to conclude with the achievement of independence in 1947.

Is ‘modern’ an adequate and acceptable term to describe this period of history?

Even if we can refer to different historical periods, in which changes occurred and distinguishing characteristics emerged, we cannot fix precise dates for any specific period. Each period was born out of the previous one. But gradually each one developed its own distinctive characteristics.

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The idea of the ‘modern’ has come from the West. It is associated with the development of science, reason, liberty, equality and democracy. If we use the term ‘modern’ for the period of British rule in India, we accept that these principles were introduced in India by the British.

An alternate way, then, is to characterise this period as the ‘colonial’. The establishment and spread of British rule, and the accompanying transformation in the political, economic, social and cultural worlds, are all part of this colonial rule.

Decline of the Mughals:

The period of the Great Mughals, which began in 1526 with Babur’s accession to the throne, ended with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707. Aurangzeb’s death marked the end of an era in Indian history. When Aurangzeb died, the empire of the Mughals was the largest in India. Yet, within about fifty years of his death, the Mughal Empire disintegrated.

Aurangzeb’s death was followed by a war of succession among his three sons. It ended in the victory of the eldest brother, Prince Muazzam. The sixty five-year-old prince ascended the throne under the name of Bahadur Shah.

Bahadur Shah (1707 A.D.-1712 A.D.):

Bahadur Shah followed a policy of compromise and conciliation and tried to conciliate the Rajputs, the Marathas, the Bundelas, the Jats and the Sikhs. During his reign the Marathas and the Sikhs became more powerful. He had also to face revolt from the Sikhs. Bahadur Shah died in 1712.

Wars of Succession, which had been a regular feature among the Mughals, had become more acute after the death of Bahadur Shah. This was specially so because the nobles had become very powerful. Different factions of nobles supported rival claimants to the throne in order to occupy high posts.

Jahandar Shah (1712 A.D.-1713 A.D.):

Jahandar Shah who succeeded Bahadur Shah was weak and incompetent. He was controlled by nobles and could manage to rule only for one year.

Farrukhsiyar (1713 A.D.-1719 A.D.):

Farrukhsiyar ascended the throne with the help of the Sayyid brothers who were popularly called the ‘king makers’. He was controlled by the Sayyid brothers who were the real authority behind Mughal power. When he tried to free himself from their control, he was killed by them.

Mohammad Shah (1719 A.D.-1748 A.D.):

The Sayyids helped Mohammad Shah, ascend the 18-year-old grandson of Bahadur Shah, to the throne. Taking advantage of the weak rule of Mohammad Shah and the constant rivalry among the various factions of the nobility, some powerful and ambitious nobles established virtually independent states. Hyderabad, Bengal, Awadh and Rohilkhand offered but nominal loyalty to the Mughal Emperor. The Mughal Empire practically broke up.

Mohammad Shah’s long reign of nearly 30 years (1719-1748 A.D.) was the last chance of saving the empire. When his reign began, Mughal prestige among the people was still an important political force. A strong ruler could have saved the dynasty. But Mohammad Shah was not equal to the task. He neglected the affairs of the state and never gave full support to able wazirs.

Nadir Shah’s Invasion:

The condition of India with its incompetent rulers, weak administration and poor military strength attracted foreign invaders. Nadir Shah, the ruler of Persia, attacked Punjab in 1739. Mohammad Shah was easily defeated and imprisoned. Nadir Shah marched towards Delhi. Nadir Shah was a ferocious invader.

He massacred thousands of people in Delhi. Delhi looked deserted for days. Mohammad Shah, however, was reinstated on the throne. Nadir Shah carried with him the Kohinoor diamond and the Peacock throne of Shah Jahan. By plundering a big city like Delhi, he got enormous wealth.

Nadir Shah’s invasion gave a crushing blow to the already tottering Mughal Empire and hastened the process of its disintegration. Mohammad Shah’s kingdom was practically confined to Delhi and its neighbourhood. He died in 1748.

Mohammad Shah was succeeded by a number of inefficient rulers Ahmad Shah (1748-1754), Alamgir II (1754-1759), Shah Alam II (1759-1806), Akbar II (1806-1837) and Bahadur Shah II (1837-1857). During the rule of Alamgir II, the East India Company fought the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal. They thus got a foothold in Bengal.

In 1761, during the reign of Shah Alam II, Ahmad Shah Abdali, the independent ruler of Afghanistan, invaded India. He conquered Punjab and marched towards Delhi. By this time, the Mara­thas had extended their influence up to Delhi. Hence a war between the Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdali was inevitable.

In the Third Battle of Panipat the Marathas were completely defeated. They lost thousands of soldiers along with their very good generals. They were forced to retreat to the Deccan. Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasion further weakened the Mughal Empire.

Shah Alam II granted the Dewani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company in 1765. This allowed the Company to collect revenue from these areas. It also showed that Mughal authority was recognised by the Indian rulers.Mughal rule formally came to an end when Bahadur Shah was deposed and deported to Rangoon by the East India Company (1757).

Causes of the decline of the Mughal Empire:

1. Wars of Succession:

The Mughals did not follow any law of succession like the law of primogeniture. Consequently, each time a ruler died, a war of succession between the brothers for the throne started. This weakened the Mughal Empire, especially after Aurangzeb. The nobles, by siding with one contender or the other, increased their own power.

2. Aurangzeb’s Policies:

Aurangzeb failed to realise that the vast Mughal Empire depended on the willing support of the people. He lost the support of the Rajputs who had contributed greatly to the strength of the Empire. They had acted as pillars of support, but Aurangzeb’s policy turned them to bitter foes. The wars with the Sikhs, the Marathas, the Jats and the Rajputs had drained the resources of the Mughal Empire.

3. Weak Successors of Aurangzeb:

The successors of Aurangzeb were weak and became victims of the intrigues and conspiracies of the faction-ridden nobles. They were inefficient generals and incapable of suppressing revolts. The absence of a strong ruler, an efficient bureaucracy and a capable army had made the Mughal Empire weak.

4. Empty Treasury:

Shah Jahan’s zeal for construction had depleted the treasury. Aurangzeb’s long wars in the south had further drained the exchequer.

5. Invasions:

Foreign invasions sapped the remaining strength of the Mughals and hastened the process of disintegration. The invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali resulted in further drainage of wealth. These invasions shook the very stability of the empire.

6. Size of the Empire and Challenge from Regional Powers:

The Mughal Empire had become too large to be controlled by any ruler from one centre i.e. Delhi. The Great Mughals were efficient and exercised control over ministers and army, but the later Mughals were poor administrators. As a result, the distant provinces became independent. The rise of independent states led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.

The Later Mughal Rulers (1707 A.D.-1857 A.D.):

Rise of independent states in the 18th century:

With the decline of the Mughal Empire a number of provinces seceded from the empire and several independent states came into existence.


The State of Hyderabad was founded by Qamar-ud-din Siddiqi, who was appointed Viceroy of the Deccan, with the title of Nizam-ul- Mulk, by Emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1712. He established a virtually independent state but returned to Delhi during the reign of Emperor Mohammad Shah. In 1724, he was reappointed Viceroy of the Deccan with the title of Asaf Jah. He founded the Asaf Jah dynasty. His successors were known as the Nizams of Hyderabad.

Asaf Jah ruled the Deccan with a firm hand, crushed the rebellious and powerful zamindars and established a strong administration. He put his nominee, Anwar-ud-din, on the throne of Arcot. After his death in 1748, Hyderabad became an easy prey to powerful neighbours. European trading companies started interfering in the domestic politics of Hyderabad for their own selfish gains.

The Carnatic:

The Carnatic was one of the provinces of the Mughals in the Deccan and was under the authority of the Nizam of Hyderabad. However, in practice, the Carnatic was virtually independent under its nawab.


Bengal in the 18th century comprised Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Murshid Quli Khan was the Diwan of Bengal under Aurangzeb. Farrukhsiyar appointed him Subedar (governor) of Bengal in 1717.

Taking advantage of the growing weakness of the central authority, Murshid Quli Khan became practically independent. Murshid Quli Khan (1717-27) and his successors Shuja-ud-Daula (1727-39) and Alivardi Khan (1739-1756) gave Bengal a long period of peace and stable administration.

All these three rulers gave encouragement to trade but maintained strict control over the foreign trading companies. Alivardi Khan did not permit English and French trading companies to fortify their possessions in Bengal.

However, the Nawabs of Bengal failed to build up a strong army and navy. They also failed to prevent corruption among the officials. Nor did they firmly destroy the tendency of the East India Company to use force. Their ignorance of the situation in Europe proved costly. Bengal was the first province to be conquered by the East India Company.


The subah of Awadh comprised Benaras and some districts near Allahabad. Saadat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk was appointed Governor of Awadh by the Mughal Emperor. But he soon became independent. He established a strong administration, crushed the power of the big zamindars and brought about law and order in the country.

His successor Safdar Jang gave Awadh a long period of peace and prosperity. The authority of the Awadh rulers extended up to Rohil-khand, a territory to the east of Delhi.


Early in the 18th century, Mysore was ruled by a Hindu king. After the death of the king, Hyder Ali captured the throne. Though illiterate, Hyder Ali was an efficient administrator. He became the ruler of Mysore when Hyder Ali it was a weak and divided state.

But within a short span of time he made Mysore one of the leading Indian powers. He modernized the army and expanded his kingdom through conquests. He was strong enough to emerge as a rival of the British.

The Rajput Kingdoms:

Taking advantage of the growing weakness of Mughal power, the Rajput states became virtually independent. But the Rajput chiefs continued to be divided as before. Most of the Rajput states were involved in petty quarrels and civil wars.

Raja Sawai Jai Singh of Amber (1681-1743) was a renowned Rajput ruler. He founded the city of Jaipur. He also erected observatories with accurate and advanced instruments at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura. With the rise of the Marathas, Rajput influence began to decrease.

The Punjab:

It was under the leadership of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs that the community became a political and military force. The invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali and the consequent decline of Mughal power gave the Sikhs the opportunity to rise. Between 1765 and 1800 they brought the Punjab and Jammu under their control. At the end of the 18th century Ranjit Singh, chief of the Sukercharia misl brought all the Sikh chiefs west of the river Sutlej under his control and established a powerful Sikh empire in the Punjab.

After Ranjit Singh’s death, there was confusion in the Sikh state. The English, who were on the lookout for an opportunity to expand their territories, conquered the Sikh kingdom (1839-40).

The Marathas:

Shahuji, the grandson of Shivaji, who had been imprisoned by Aurangzeb, was released by Bahadur Shah in 1707. The Maratha state at that time was ruled by Tara Bai, the queen regent. A civil war broke out between the two Shahu was victorious.

Shahuji appointed Balaji Vishwanath as his Peshwa or Prime Minister in 1713. Balaji Vishwanath concentrated all power in his own hands and became the real ruler of the Marathas. The king was relegated to the background. Balaji Vishwanath assigned separate areas to the Maratha sardars (chiefs) for the collection of levies of chauth and sardeshmukhi.

Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761) further extended the empire in different directions. Maratha power reached its height under him. The Marathas soon reached Delhi and offered their support to the Mughal emperor. The expulsion of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s agent from Punjab brought the Marathas into an open conflict with Ahmad Shah Abdali.

The battle between the two forces was fought in Panipat in January 1761. The Marathas were completely defeated. Nearly 28,000 soldiers were killed. The Peshwa died in June 1761.The Battle of Panipat destroyed the possibility of the Marathas emerging as the strongest power in India. For the British, this battle was of immense significance. The Maratha defeat cleared the way for the rise of British power in India.

It should be noted that the Indian powers were strong enough to destroy unite it or to the Mughal Empire but not strong enough to unite it or to create anything new in its place. Possibly the Marathas alone possessed the strength to fill the political vacuum created by the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. But they lacked political vision and succumbed to British power.


The Mughal Empire was founded by Babur, a Central Asian ruler who was descended from the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur (the founder of the Timurid Empire) on his father’s side and from Chagatai, the second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother’s side. [33] Ousted from his ancestral domains in Central Asia, Babur turned to India to satisfy his ambitions. He established himself in Kabul and then pushed steadily southward into India from Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. [33] Babur’s forces occupied much of northern India after his victory at Panipat in 1526. [33] The preoccupation with wars and military campaigns, however, did not allow the new emperor to consolidate the gains he had made in India. [33] The instability of the empire became evident under his son, Humayun, who was driven out of India and into Persia by rebels. [33] Humayun’s exile in Persia established diplomatic ties between the Safavid and Mughal Courts, and led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the Mughal Empire. The restoration of Mughal rule began after Humayun’s triumphant return from Persia in 1555, but he died from a fatal accident shortly afterwards. [33] Humayun’s son, Akbar, succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who helped consolidate the Mughal Empire in India. [33]

Through warfare and diplomacy, Akbar was able to extend the empire in all directions and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent north of the Godavari river. He created a new class of nobility loyal to him from the military aristocracy of India’s social groups, implemented a modern government, and supported cultural developments. [33] At the same time, Akbar intensified trade with European trading companies. India developed a strong and stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and economic development. Akbar allowed free expression of religion, and attempted to resolve socio-political and cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion, Din-i-Ilahi, with strong characteristics of a ruler cult. [33] He left his successors an internally stable state, which was in the midst of its golden age, but before long signs of political weakness would emerge. [33] Akbar’s son, Jahangir, ruled the empire at its peak, but he was addicted to opium, neglected the affairs of the state, and came under the influence of rival court cliques. [33] During the reign of Jahangir’s son, Shah Jahan, the culture and splendour of the luxurious Mughal court reached its zenith as exemplified by the Taj Mahal. [33] The maintenance of the court, at this time, began to cost more than the revenue. [33]

Shah Jahan’s eldest son, the liberal Dara Shikoh, became regent in 1658, as a result of his father’s illness. However, a younger son, Aurangzeb, allied with the Islamic orthodoxy against his brother, who championed a syncretistic Hindu-Muslim culture, and ascended to the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara in 1659 and had him executed. [33] Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule and had him imprisoned. During Aurangzeb’s reign, the empire gained political strength once more, but his religious conservatism and intolerance undermined the stability of Mughal society. [33] Aurangzeb expanded the empire to include almost the whole of South Asia, but at his death in 1707, many parts of the empire were in open revolt. [33] Aurangzeb’s son, Shah Alam, repealed the religious policies of his father, and attempted to reform the administration. However, after his death in 1712, the Mughal dynasty sank into chaos and violent feuds. In 1719 alone, four emperors successively ascended the throne. [33]

During the reign of Muhammad Shah, the empire began to break up, and vast tracts of central India passed from Mughal to Maratha hands. The far-off Indian campaign of Nadir Shah, who had priorly reestablished Iranian suzerainty over most of West Asia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, culminated with the Sack of Delhi and shattered the remnants of Mughal power and prestige. [33] Many of the empire’s elites now sought to control their own affairs, and broke away to form independent kingdoms. [33] But, according to Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, the Mughal Emperor, however, continued to be the highest manifestation of sovereignty. Not only the Muslim gentry, but the Maratha, Hindu, and Sikh leaders took part in ceremonial acknowledgements of the emperor as the sovereign of India. [34] The British company rule effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858, starting the effective British colonial era over the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II made futile attempts to reverse the Mughal decline, and ultimately had to seek the protection of outside powers i.e. from the Emir of Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, which led to the Third Battle of Panipat between the Maratha Empire and the Afghans led by Abdali in 1761. In 1771, the Marathas recaptured Delhi from Afghan control and in 1784 they officially became the protectors of the emperor in Delhi, [35] a state of affairs that continued further until after the Third Anglo-Maratha War. Thereafter, the British East India Company became the protectors of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi. [34] After a crushing defeat in the war of 1857–1858 which he nominally led, the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was deposed by the British East India Company and exiled in 1858. Through the Government of India Act 1858 the British Crown assumed direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj. In 1876 the British Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India.


Historians have offered numerous explanations for the rapid collapse of the Mughal Empire between 1707 and 1720, after a century of growth and prosperity. In fiscal terms the throne lost the revenues needed to pay its chief officers, the emirs (nobles) and their entourages. The emperor lost authority, as the widely scattered imperial officers lost confidence in the central authorities, and made their own deals with local men of influence. The imperial army, bogged down in long, futile wars against the more aggressive Marathas, lost its fighting spirit. Finally came a series of violent political feuds over control of the throne. After the execution of emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1719, local Mughal successor states took power in region after region. [36]

Contemporary chroniclers bewailed the decay they witnessed, a theme picked up by the first British historians who wanted to underscore the need for a British-led rejuvenation. [37]

Since the 1970s historians have taken multiple approaches to the decline, with little consensus on which factor was dominant. The psychological interpretations emphasize depravity in high places, excessive luxury, and increasingly narrow views that left the rulers unprepared for an external challenge. A Marxist school (led by Irfan Habib and based at Aligarh Muslim University) emphasizes excessive exploitation of the peasantry by the rich, which stripped away the will and the means to support the regime. [38] Karen Leonard has focused on the failure of the regime to work with Hindu bankers, whose financial support was increasingly needed the bankers then helped the Maratha and the British. [39] In a religious interpretation, some scholars argue that the Hindu Rajputs revolted against Muslim rule. [40] Finally other scholars argue that the very prosperity of the Empire inspired the provinces to achieve a high degree of independence, thus weakening the imperial court. [41]


Aurangzeb was born on 3 November 1618, in Dahod, Gujarat. He was the third son and sixth child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. [35] In June 1626, after an unsuccessful rebellion by his father, Aurangzeb and his brother Dara Shukoh were kept as hostages under their grandparents' (Nur Jahan and Jahangir) Lahore court. On 26 February 1628, Shah Jahan was officially declared the Mughal Emperor, and Aurangzeb returned to live with his parents at Agra Fort, where Aurangzeb received his formal education in Arabic and Persian. His daily allowance was fixed at Rs. 500, which he spent on religious education and the study of history.

On 28 May 1633, Aurangzeb escaped death when a powerful war elephant stampeded through the Mughal Imperial encampment. He rode against the elephant and struck its trunk with a lance, [36] and successfully defended himself from being crushed. Aurangzeb's valour was appreciated by his father who conferred him the title of Bahadur (Brave) and had him weighed in gold and presented gifts worth Rs. 200,000. This event was celebrated in Persian and Urdu verses, and Aurangzeb said: [37] [ clarification needed ]

If the (elephant) fight had ended fatally for me, it would not have been a matter of shame. Death drops the curtain even on Emperors it is no dishonor. The shame lay in what my brothers did!

Bundela War

Aurangzeb was nominally in charge of the force sent to Bundelkhand with the intent of subduing the rebellious ruler of Orchha, Jhujhar Singh, who had attacked another territory in defiance of Shah Jahan's policy and was refusing to atone for his actions. By arrangement, Aurangzeb stayed in the rear, away from the fighting, and took the advice of his generals as the Mughal Army gathered and commenced the Siege of Orchha in 1635. The campaign was successful and Singh was removed from power. [38]

Viceroy of the Deccan

Aurangzeb was appointed viceroy of the Deccan in 1636. [40] After Shah Jahan's vassals had been devastated by the alarming expansion of Ahmednagar during the reign of the Nizam Shahi boy-prince Murtaza Shah III, the emperor dispatched Aurangzeb, who in 1636 brought the Nizam Shahi dynasty to an end. [41] In 1637, Aurangzeb married the Safavid princess Dilras Banu Begum, posthumously known as Rabia-ud-Daurani. She was his first wife and chief consort as well as his favourite. [42] [43] [44] He also had an infatuation with a slave girl, Hira Bai, whose death at a young age greatly affected him. In his old age, he was under the charms of his concubine, Udaipuri Bai. The latter had formerly been a companion to Dara Shukoh. [45] In the same year, 1637, Aurangzeb was placed in charge of annexing the small Rajput kingdom of Baglana, which he did with ease. [19]

In 1644, Aurangzeb's sister, Jahanara, was burned when the chemicals in her perfume were ignited by a nearby lamp while in Agra. This event precipitated a family crisis with political consequences. Aurangzeb suffered his father's displeasure by not returning to Agra immediately but rather three weeks later. Shah Jahan had been nursing Jahanara back to health in that time and thousands of vassals had arrived in Agra to pay their respects. [ citation needed ] Shah Jahan was outraged to see Aurangzeb enter the interior palace compound in military attire and immediately dismissed him from his position of viceroy of the Deccan Aurangzeb was also no longer allowed to use red tents or to associate himself with the official military standard of the Mughal emperor. [ citation needed ] Other sources tell us that Aurangzeb was dismissed from his position because Aurangzeb left the life of luxury and became a Faqir. [46]

In 1645, he was barred from the court for seven months and mentioned his grief to fellow Mughal commanders. Thereafter, Shah Jahan appointed him governor of Gujarat where he served well and was rewarded for bringing stability. [ citation needed ]

In 1647, Shah Jahan moved Aurangzeb from Gujarat to be governor of Balkh, replacing a younger son, Murad Baksh, who had proved ineffective there. The area was under attack from Uzbek and Turkmen tribes. While the Mughal artillery and muskets were a formidable force, so too were the skirmishing skills of their opponents. The two sides were in stalemate and Aurangzeb discovered that his army could not live off the land, which was devastated by war. With the onset of winter, he and his father had to make a largely unsatisfactory deal with the Uzbeks, giving away territory in exchange for nominal recognition of Mughal sovereignty. The Mughal force suffered still further with attacks by Uzbeks and other tribesmen as it retreated through the snow to Kabul. By the end of this two-year campaign, into which Aurangzeb had been plunged at a late stage, a vast sum of money had been expended for little gain. [47]

Further inauspicious military involvements followed, as Aurangzeb was appointed governor of Multan and Sindh. His efforts in 1649 and 1652 to dislodge the Safavids at Kandahar, which they had recently retaken after a decade of Mughal control, both ended in failure as winter approached. The logistical problems of supplying an army at the extremity of the empire, combined with the poor quality of armaments and the intransigence of the opposition have been cited by John Richards as the reasons for failure, and a third attempt in 1653, led by Dara Shikoh, met with the same outcome. [48]

Aurangzeb became viceroy of the Deccan again after he was replaced by Dara Shukoh in the attempt to recapture Kandahar. Aurangzeb regretted this and harboured feelings that Shikoh had manipulated the situation to serve his own ends. Aurangbad's two jagirs (land grants) were moved there as a consequence of his return and, because the Deccan was a relatively impoverished area, this caused him to lose out financially. So poor was the area that grants were required from Malwa and Gujarat in order to maintain the administration and the situation caused ill-feeling between father and son. Shah Jahan insisted that things could be improved if Aurangzeb made efforts to develop cultivation. [49] Aurangzeb appointed Murshid Quli Khan [ citation needed ] to extend to the Deccan the zabt revenue system used in northern India. Murshid Quli Khan organised a survey of agricultural land and a tax assessment on what it produced. To increase revenue, Murshid Quli Khan granted loans for seed, livestock, and irrigation infrastructure. The Deccan returned to prosperity, [40] [50]

Aurangzeb proposed to resolve the situation by attacking the dynastic occupants of Golconda (the Qutb Shahis) and Bijapur (the Adil Shahis). As an adjunct to resolving the financial difficulties, the proposal would also extend Mughal influence by accruing more lands. [49] Aurangzeb advanced against the Sultan of Bijapur and besieged Bidar. The Kiladar (governor or captain) of the fortified city, Sidi Marjan, was mortally wounded when a gunpowder magazine exploded. After twenty-seven days of hard fighting, Bidar was captured by the Mughals and Aurangzeb continued his advance. [51] Again, he was to feel that Dara had exerted influence on his father: believing that he was on the verge of victory in both instances, Aurangzeb was frustrated that Shah Jahan chose then to settle for negotiations with the opposing forces rather than pushing for complete victory. [49]

War of Succession

The four sons of Shah Jahan all held governorships during their father's reign. The emperor favoured the eldest, Dara Shukoh. [52] This had caused resentment among the younger three, who sought at various times to strengthen alliances between themselves and against Dara. There was no Mughal tradition of primogeniture, the systematic passing of rule, upon an emperor's death, to his eldest son. [49] Instead it was customary for sons to overthrow their father and for brothers to war to the death among themselves. [53] Historian Satish Chandra says that "In the ultimate resort, connections among the powerful military leaders, and military strength and capacity [were] the real arbiters". [49] The contest for power was primarily between Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb because, although all four sons had demonstrated competence in their official roles, it was around these two that the supporting cast of officials and other influential people mostly circulated. [54] There were ideological differences — Dara was an intellectual and a religious liberal in the mould of Akbar, while Aurangzeb was much more conservative — but, as historians Barbara D. Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf say, "To focus on divergent philosophies neglects the fact that Dara was a poor general and leader. It also ignores the fact that factional lines in the succession dispute were not, by and large, shaped by ideology." [55] Marc Gaborieau, professor of Indian studies at l'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, [56] explains that "The loyalties of [officials and their armed contingents] seem to have been motivated more by their own interests, the closeness of the family relation and above all the charisma of the pretenders than by ideological divides." [53] Muslims and Hindus did not divide along religious lines in their support for one pretender or the other nor, according to Chandra, is there much evidence to support the belief that Jahanara and other members of the royal family were split in their support. Jahanara, certainly, interceded at various times on behalf of all of the princes and was well-regarded by Aurangzeb even though she shared the religious outlook of Dara. [57]

In 1656, a general under Qutb Shahi dynasty named Musa Khan led an army of 12,000 musketeers to attack Aurangzeb, [ where? ] and later on the same campaign Aurangzeb, in turn, rode against an army consisting 8,000 horsemen and 20,000 Karnataka musketeers. [58]

Having made clear that he wanted Dara to succeed him, Shah Jahan became ill with stranguary in 1657 and was closeted under the care of his favourite son in the newly built city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). Rumours of the death of Shah Jahan abounded and the younger sons were concerned that Dara might be hiding it for Machiavellian reasons. Thus, they took action: Shah Shuja In Bengal, where he had been governor since 1637, Prince Muhammad Shuja crowned himself King at RajMahal, and brought his cavalry, artillery and river flotilla upriver towards Agra. Near Varanasi his forces confronted a defending army sent from Delhi under the command of Prince Sulaiman Shukoh, son of Dara Shukoh, and Raja Jai Singh [59] while Murad did the same in his governorship of Gujarat and Aurangzeb did so in the Deccan. It is not known whether these preparations were made in the mistaken belief that the rumours of death were true or whether the challengers were just taking advantage of the situation. [49]

After regaining some of his health, Shah Jahan moved to Agra and Dara urged him to send forces to challenge Shah Shuja and Murad, who had declared themselves rulers in their respective territories. While Shah Shuja was defeated at Banares in February 1658, the army sent to deal with Murad discovered to their surprise that he and Aurangzeb had combined their forces, [57] the two brothers having agreed to partition the empire once they had gained control of it. [60] The two armies clashed at Dharmat in April 1658, with Aurangzeb being the victor. Shuja was being chased through Bihar and the victory of Aurangzeb proved this to be a poor decision by Dara Shikoh, who now had a defeated force on one front and a successful force unnecessarily pre-occupied on another. Realising that his recalled Bihar forces would not arrive at Agra in time to resist the emboldened Aurangzeb's advance, Dara scrambled to form alliances in order but found that Aurangzeb had already courted key potential candidates. When Dara's disparate, hastily concocted army clashed with Aurangzeb's well-disciplined, battle-hardened force at the Battle of Samugarh in late May, neither Dara's men nor his generalship were any match for Aurangzeb. Dara had also become over-confident in his own abilities and, by ignoring advice not to lead in battle while his father was alive, he cemented the idea that he had usurped the throne. [57] "After the defeat of Dara, Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the fort of Agra where he spent eight long years under the care of his favourite daughter Jahanara." [61]

Aurangzeb then broke his arrangement with Murad Baksh, which probably had been his intention all along. [60] Instead of looking to partition the empire between himself and Murad, he had his brother arrested and imprisoned at Gwalior Fort. Murad was executed on 4 December 1661, ostensibly for the murder of the diwan of Gujarat sometime earlier. The allegation was encouraged by Aurangzeb, who caused the diwan's son to seek retribution for the death under the principles of Sharia law. [62] Meanwhile, Dara gathered his forces, and moved to the Punjab. The army sent against Shuja was trapped in the east, its generals Jai Singh and Dilir Khan submitted to Aurangzeb, but Dara's son, Suleiman Shikoh, escaped. Aurangzeb offered Shah Shuja the governorship of Bengal. This move had the effect of isolating Dara Shikoh and causing more troops to defect to Aurangzeb. Shah Shuja, who had declared himself emperor in Bengal began to annex more territory and this prompted Aurangzeb to march from Punjab with a new and large army that fought during the Battle of Khajwa, where Shah Shuja and his chain-mail armoured war elephants were routed by the forces loyal to Aurangzeb. Shah Shuja then fled to Arakan (in present-day Burma), where he was executed by the local rulers. [63]

With Shuja and Murad disposed of, and with his father immured in Agra, Aurangzeb pursued Dara Shikoh, chasing him across the north-western bounds of the empire. Aurangzeb claimed that Dara was no longer a Muslim [ citation needed ] and accused him of poisoning the Mughal Grand Vizier Saadullah Khan. After a series of battles, defeats and retreats, Dara was betrayed by one of his generals, who arrested and bound him. In 1658, Aurangzeb arranged his formal coronation in Delhi.

On 10 August 1659, Dara was executed on grounds of apostasy and his head was sent to Shahjahan. [61] Having secured his position, Aurangzeb confined his frail father at the Agra Fort but did not mistreat him. Shah Jahan was cared for by Jahanara and died in 1666. [60]

In India, the Mughal Empire was one of the greatest empires ever. The Mughal Empire ruled hundreds of millions of people. India became united under one rule, and had very prosperous cultural and political years during the Mughal rule. There were many Muslim and Hindu kingdoms split all throughout India until the founders of the Mughal Empire came. There were some men such as Babar, grandson to the Great Asian conqueror Tamerlane and the conqueror Genghis Khan from the northern region of Ganges, river valley, who decided to take over Khyber, and eventually, all of India.

Babar (1526-1530):
the great grandson of Tamerlane and Genghis Khan, was the first Mughal emperor in India. He confronted and defeated Lodhi in 1526 at the first battle of Panipat, and so came to establish the Mughal Empire in India. Babar ruled until 1530, and was succeeded by his son Humayun.

Humayun (1530-1540 and 1555-1556):
the eldest son of Babar, succeeded his father and became the second emperor of the Mughal Empire. He ruled India for nearly a decade but was ousted by Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan ruler. Humayun wandered for about 15 years after his defeat. Meanwhile, Sher Shah Suri died and Humayun was able to defeat his successor, Sikandar Suri and regain his crown of the Hindustan. However, soon after, he died in 1556 at a young age of 48 years.

Sher Shah Suri (1540-1545):
was an Afghan leader who took over the Mughal Empire after defeating Humayun in 1540. Sher Shah occupied the throne of Delhi for not more than five years, but his reign proved to be a landmark in the Sub-continent. As a king, he has several achievements in his credit. He established an efficient public administration. He set up a revenue collection system based on the measurement of land. Justice was provided to the common man. Numerous civil works were carried out during his short reign planting of trees, wells and building of Sarai (inns) for travellers was done. Roads were laid it was under his rule that the Grand Trunk road from Delhi to Kabul was built. The currency was also changed to finely minted silver coins called Dam. However, Sher Shah did not survive long after his accession on the throne and died in 1545 after a short reign of five years.

Akbar (1556-1605):
Humayun's heir, Akbar, was born in exile and was only 13 years old when his father died. Akbar's reign holds a certain prominence in history he was the ruler who actually fortified the foundations of the Mughal Empire. After a series of conquests, he managed to subdue most of India. Areas not under the empire were designated as tributaries. He also adopted a conciliatory policy towards the Rajputs, hence reducing any threat from them. Akbar was not only a great conqueror, but a capable organizer and a great administrator as well. He set up a host of institutions that proved to be the foundation of an administrative system that operated even in British India. Akbar's rule also stands out due to his liberal policies towards the non-Muslims, his religious innovations, the land revenue system and his famous Mansabdari system. Akbar's Mansabdari system became the basis of Mughal military organization and civil administration.

Akbar died in 1605, nearly 50 years after his ascension to the throne, and was buried outside of Agra at Sikandra. His son Jehangir then assumed the throne.

Akbar was succeeded by his son, Salim, who took the title of Jehangir, meaning "Conqueror of the World". He married Mehr-un-Nisa whom he gave the title of Nur Jahan (light of the world). He loved her with blind passion and handed over the complete reins of administration to her. He expanded the empire through the addition of Kangra and Kistwar and consolidated the Mughal rule in Bengal. Jehangir lacked the political enterprise of his father Akbar. But he was an honest man and a tolerant ruler. He strived to reform society and was tolerant towards Hindus, Christians and Jews. However, relations with Sikhs were strained, and the fifth of the ten Sikh gurus, Arjun Dev, was executed at Jehangir's orders for giving aid and comfort to Khusrau, Jehangir's rebellious son. Art, literature, and architecture prospered under Jehangir's rule, and the Mughal gardens in Srinagar remain an enduring testimony to his artistic taste. He died in 1627.

Shah Jahan:
Jehangir was succeeded by his second son Khurram in 1628. Khurram took the name of Shah Jahan, i.e. the Emperor of the World. He further expanded his Empire to Kandhar in the north and conquered most of Southern India. The Mughal Empire was at its zenith during Shah Jahan's rule. This was due to almost 100 years of unparalleled prosperity and peace. As a result, during this reign, the world witnessed the unique development of arts and culture of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan has been called the "architect king". The Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, both in Delhi, stand out as towering achievements of both civil engineering and art. Yet above all else, Shah Jahan is remembered today for the Taj Mahal, the massive white marble mausoleum constructed for his wife Mumtaz Mahal along the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra.

Aurangzeb ascended the throne in 1658 and ruled supreme till 1707. Thus Aurangzeb ruled for 50 years, matching Akbar's reign in longevity. But unfortunately he kept his five sons away from the royal court with the result that none of them was trained in the art of government. This proved to be very damaging for the Mughals later on. During his 50 years of rule, Aurangzeb tried to fulfill his ambition of bringing the entire Sub-continent under one rule. It was under him that the Mughal Empire reached its peak in matter of area. He worked hard for years but his health broke down in the end. He left behind no personal wealth when he died in 1707, at the age of 90 years. With his death, the forces of disintegration set in and the mighty Mughal empire started collapsing.

A history of Mughal-Rajput relations between the 16th and early 17th centuries

To understand the history of Mughal-Rajput relations we must understand the history of three dynasties who would come to dominate the Northern part of the Indian subcontinent between the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries. To begin with we must take a look at the Mughals.

At the time when Babur first contemplated the idea of invading India he had already conquered Kabul. Zahir-ud-din Mohammed Babur, was the eldest of Umar Sheikh Mirza, who was governor of Ferghana, which is a region in eastern Uzbekistan. Babur was by lineage the great-great grandson of Timur. Babur's early military career was full of frustrations. Born in 1483, he had assumed the Throne of his father at age 12, in the year 1494. He conquered Samarkand two years later, only to lose Fergana soon after. In his attempts to reconquer Fergana, he lost control of Samarkand. In 1501, his attempt to recapture both the regions failed when Muhammad Shaybani Khan the founder of the Shaybanid dynasty, defeated him. He conquered Kabul, in 1504, after having being driven away from his patrimony and homeland. He formed an alliance with the Safavid Shah Ismail I, to take parts of Turkestan as well as Samarkand itself only to lose them again to the Shaybanids.

Hence, he had decided to give up on the dreams of taking back Ferghana and Samarkand and set his eyes on North India. At the time he had only thought of conquering the Punjab region. A task he accomplished in his second campaign in 1525, after a short campaign in 1519. Thus, at this juncture, we the political situation in North India was ripe for conflict and power changes. In Punjab, Babur prepared for a march towards Delhi to take it and all the realms under the rule of the Lodi Dynasty from Ibrahim Lodi who was currently the sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, whose own relatives, Daulat Khan Lodi and Alauddin had invited Babur to invade the Delhi Sultanate. Under the Lodi Dynasty the Sultanate had lost most of its eastern and southern as well as western territories and Ibrahim ruled over merely the Upper Gangetic plains. Meanwhile, a third contender for power and perhaps bigger threat to Babur's rise was looming in the Rajputana, in the form of the Rajput Confederacy, which was the first of its kind since the reign of Prithviraj Chauhan. This Confederacy was formed under the auspicious leadership of Rana Sangram Singh, of House Sisodiya of Mewar which had risen in prestige and power at the cost of neighbouring Malwa and Gujurati Sultanates during the reign of Rana Sangram other wise known as Rana Sanga.

The following events are well known, Babur defeated the Lodis at Panipat and then faced the Rajputs at Khanwa in 1527. However after his victories at Chanderi and at Ghaghra, he soon died leaving the Empire to his son Humayun whose reign was turbulent and prospects uncertain until his son Akbar assumed the Throne.

Now let us look at the Sisodias of Mewar. This house of Rajputs traces it's origins from the legendary Suryavnshi lineage. But while records to back up such claims are obviously questionable, the historical foundation of this dynasty lies in the rise of Rana Hammir Singh, the founder of the Sisodiya Cadet Branch of the Guhila dynasty. The Guhila dynasty was extinguished by Alauddin Khalji after he besieged and conquered Chittor in 1303, their capital. But Rana Hammir Singh had taken back Chittor and since then reclaimed control of the region and re-established the dynasty under its cadet branch of the Sisodias by 1326. Owing to the legendary exploits of their kings and being one of the few Hindu noble houses that had remained independent during the successive reigns of various dynasties at the helm of the Delhi Sultanate, the House of Mewar carried weight amongst Rajput nobility.

Apart from Rana Hammir Singh, two rulers in particular, Rana Kumbharna Singh (1433-1468) and his great grandson Rana Sangram Singh (1508-1528), had raised the prestige of the House of Mewar to astronomical heights by not only defeating neighbouring Sultanates in Gujurat, Nagaur, Delhi and Malwa, but infact under the reign of Rana Sangram, actually conquering Gujurat and Malwa. Therefore, by 1526, most Rajput states had formed a Confederacy under the leadership of Rana Sanga. Ofcourse, following his defeat the Confederacy fell apart and while the house of Mewar still held a high place on the Rajput and indeed the Indian sociopolitical stage, there would never again be such a untied political front offered by the Rajputs.

In terms of the motivations and objectives of the Confederacy, it could be said that the Confederacy was buoyed together towards the political wills of the Rana of Mewar. Rana Sanga had made a policy to attack and acquire the territories of his kingdom's old enemies such as the Sultanates of Delhi, Gujurat, Nagaur and Malwa, and at the same time remove any traces of Turkic or Afghan dominion in North India. Therefore, it would be safe to say that had Babur not invaded Delhi and taken the Upper Ganga Valley, the Rana would have quite soon. Among the many noble houses that had joined the Rajput Confederacy was the next dynasty which will complete the puzzle to understanding the key players in North India and Mughal-Rajput history.

This was the Kachwahas of Amber. This dynasty claimed it's descent from the son Kush of the legendary King Rama of Ayodhya. Their ancestors allegedly migrated from Rama's kingdom of Kosala and established a new dynasty at Gwalior. After 31 generations, they moved to Rajputana and created a kingdom at Dhundhar. Dullah Rai, one of the ancestors of the Kachwaha rulers, defeated the Meenas of Manchi and Amber and later completed the conquest of Dhundhar by defeating the Bargurjars of Dausa and Deoti. However, in the early 16th century, they were conquered and vassalised by the Rathore ruler Maldeo of the kingdom of Marwar.

In 1527, the ruler of Amber who had joined the Rajput Confederacy was Prithviraj Singh I. Prithviraj had fought at Khanwa and like Rana Sanga, died soon afterwards, being succeeded by his son Puranmal. After Puranmal's succession, which was quite controversial, the Kachwaha domain became unstable over disputes regarding the succession of Puranmal to the Throne. This problem was only further exacerbated by neighbouring Rajput kingdoms that sought to capitalise on the situation. While accounts about Puranmal seeking the aid of Humayun are varying and quite contradictory we know for sure that after Puranmal, his brother Bhim Singh assumed the Throne. Bhim only reigned three and a half years before dying on 22 July 1537. He was succeeded in quick succession by two sons, Ratan Singh and Askaran, before the throne eventually passed to his younger brother Bharmal in 1548.

It is here that we arrive at a crucial juncture in Mughal-Rajput relations. In Mewar, the reigns were assumed by the 4th son of Rana Sanga, Maharana Udai Singh II, under whose reign the capital of Chittor was lost to Akbar in 1568 and the capital was shifted to Udaipur. Here his son, Maharana Pratap assumed the Throne after Udai died in 1572. Meanwhile, Akbar had overthrown his guardian Bairam Khan who had grown too ambitious and controlling and at the age of 18, the young Baadshaah of the Mughal Empire removed Bairam from service and continued his expeditions by directly controlling all affairs from 1560 onwards. Meanwhile, in 1562, the situation became critical for the Kachwahas of Amber when Mirza Muhammad Sharaf-ud-din Hussain was appointed Mughal governor of Mewat. Mirza led a large army to Amber which Bharmal could not resist. Mirza forced the Kachwahas to leave Amber and live in forests and hills. Bharmal promised a fixed tribute to Mirza and handed over his own son, Jagannath, and his nephews, Raj Singh and Khangar Singh, as hostages for its due payment. When Sharaf-ud-din was preparing to invade Amber again, Bharmal met Akbar's courtier, Chaghtai Khan. Fortunately, for Bharmal, Akbar was at Karavali (a village near Agra) on his way from Agra to Ajmer (on a pilgrimage to the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti). Bharmal himself met Akbar at his camp at Sanganer on 20 January 1562. Here, Bharmal proposed a marriage between Akbar and his eldest daughter Hira Kunwari. Therefore, when Akbar agreed, the Kachwahas were now relatives of Akbar, Bharmal was his father-in-law and was on par with the highest Muslim nobles of the Empire. Hence, Sharaf-ud-din Mirza, returned to Bharmal his lands and relatives and in the following years, the Kachwahas rendered unwavering service to the Mughals while they themselves enjoyed the highest salaries, status and prestige the Empire had to offer.

Hence, The House of Mewar, still held in the highest esteem by all Rajput nobility was in a period of decline and The House of Amber had united with the Mughals. Raja Bharmal was succeeded by his son Raja Bhagwant Das in 1574. He served as Akbar's General and was awarded a rank or mansab of 5000 along with the title of Amir-ul-Umra. He fought battles in Punjab, Kashmir where he decisively defeated the Kashmiri King Yousuf Shah Chak and Afghanistan as well and he held the governorship of Kabul. His daughter Manbhawati Bai was married off to the Mughal Prince and future Emperor Jehangir. He died in 1589 being succeeded by his son Raja Man Singh.

Raja Man Singh, assumed the Throne of Amber in 1589, but he had served with distinction at the Battle of Haldighati 1576 against the Maharana of Mewar, Maharana Pratap in a legendary battle, and in other campaigns as well. The reason why Akbar wanted to conquer Rajputana and especially Mewar was because with Mewar and the Rajputs at his flanks, his empire would never be secure, a fact he had learned by learning about the experiences of the Delhi Sultanate and their fruitless tussle with the Sisodiya dynasty. Yet, in his lifetime, Akbar could not conquer Mewar. Even after being defeated at Haldighati, where his army of 3000-4000 Rajputs and allied Bhils (400 men approx.), was defeated by Man Singh who commanded the Imperial Mughal Army roughly 8000-10,000 in numbers, Pratap Singh endured and by the end of his reign, he scored a decisive victory against the Mughals at Dewair in 1582 and took back Western Mewar including Kumbhalgarh, Udaipur and Gogunda through guerilla warfare and even destroyed newly built mosques in these regions in retaliation. He died in 1597.

After his death, his son Maharana Amar Singh I (r. 1597-1620) assumed the Throne and followed his father's policy of resisting Mughal overlordship. Amar Singh continued to resist the Mughals and it was clear that he could not be taken in a battle, so Mewar was devastated financially and in manpower due to the policy of Shah Jahan (son of Jahangir, Jahangir had become Emperor in 1605 after Akbar's death) , to scorch the lands of Mewar and make it incapable of supporting the efforts of Amar Singh. Finally, in 1615, Amar Singh submitted to the Mughals. Mewar including Chittor was assigned to him as Watan Jagir or hereditary patrimony. He secured a favourable peace treaty and it was ensured that Mewar would never bend his knee to the Mughal Emperors or serve at his court personally nor would the House of Mewar enter into matrimonial relations with the Mughals.

Hence, we see a clear policy emerging from the Mughals towards the Rajputs since the reign of Akbar. The first, religious tolerance and engagement at a political level, treating them as warriors and nobles on par with the Iranis or Turks in the Imperial service. The second, realising that the prestige of Mewar and the potential of the Rajputs uniting once again was an ever present threat and therefore it was better to assuage them. Third, following a policy of providing high posts and port folios to Rajput nobles who allied or accepted Mughal suzerainty. Fourth, matrimonial relations were never the prerequisite for such alliances as many Rajputs had previously simply accepted Mughal suzerainty and had acquired high posts for themselves.

Now in terms of contemporary social perceptions of such events,the attitudes in Rajputana and in general accross North India were shaped by the actions and decisions of the Rajput houses of Mewar and Amber. While Mewar only grew in prestige as the last stronghold and symbol of strength and resistance for the more conservative elements in Hindu society, the House of Amber was universally recognised as a house which produced some of the finest administrators and generals the Empire would ever know. And yet, the more conservative elements in Hindu society saw the House of Amber as traitors, ofcourse such opinions were never discussed in front of the Amber Rajas.

Until the reign of Aurangzeb, the Rajputs were more or less, united under the Mughal cause. The Kings Of Amber, fought and led expeditions as far west and Afghanistan and Qandahar and as east as Bengal and Odissa. Here are a few examples of their exploits :

In 1585, Man Singh I was sent to conquer Afghanistan and silence the rebels there. Man Singh decisively defeated five major tribes of the Afghans including Yusufzai and "Mandar" tribes. The flag of Amber was changed from "Katchanar" (green climber in white base) to "Pachranga" (five colored) to commemorate this victory. This flag continued in use until accession of Jaipur state in India. This permanently crushed the revolt and the area remained peaceful thereafter.

In 1586 CE, Akbar sent another army under Raja Bhagwant Das, father of Prince Man Singh I to win Kashmir. Kashmir was included in the Mughal Empire and made a Sarkar (district) of Kabul province.

Man Singh I also conquered Bihar in similar fashion. Abul Fazl has described Man Singhs campaign in Bihar in the following words. "The Raja united ability with courage and genius with strenuous action".

Man Singh after conquering Bihar was ordered to defeat the Afghan Sultan Qatlu Khan Lohani of Orissa, Man Singh set out for Orissa on April 1590. By 1592, Odissa was also conquered by him.

His grandson Jai Singh I (r. 1621 - 1667), was another great General of the Mughal Empire. He was the second Raja to receive the title Mirza Raja, the first being his grandfather Man Singh I who received it from Akbar. During his career he served first in the Deccan, subduing the Gonds and then in Central Asia, fighting at Kandahar in the Mughal-Safavid wars and at Balkh.

Jai Singh, who had begun his own military career in the Deccan, was then appointed to lead a 14,000 strong army against Shivaji. And in 1665, he forced Shivaji to sign the Treaty of Purandar being the only noble in the Empire to subdue the Maratha King. Although the opportunity his victories provided were made meaningless thanks to Aurangzeb's inability to compromise on his orthodox beliefs and accept Shivaji into his court with proper honours.

In conclusion, until the reign of Aurangzeb, whose interference into the succession matters of Rajput states, a matter which was left to the Rajputs by Akbar himself, the Rajputs, especially the house of Amber, continued to serve the Empire with loyalty and distinction. Both to serve the interests of the Empire and the interests of their own houses and kingdoms as well.

"A History of Jaipur" by Sir Jadunath Sarkar

"Shivaji and His Times" By Jadunath Sarkar

" Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals (1206–1526) Part 2" by Satish Chandra

"Akbarnama" by Abu'l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, Henry Beveridge (Trans.)

"A Military History of India" by Sir Jadunath Sarkar

"History and Culture of the Indian People Volume VII : The Mughal Empire" by R.C Majumdar

Islamic Calligraphy & Textiles

The textile industry thrived during Aurangzeb’s reign. It employed hundreds of artisans across South Asia, who created intricate works of silk and brocade. Turbans, carpets, shawls, and other finely embroidered textiles were highly valued. Some were even exported to Europe through trading channels. Aurangzeb also patronized Islamic calligraphy and was himself an accomplished calligraphist.

The Decline of Mughal Arts under Aurangzeb: Floor spread, ca. 18th century, Mughal Empire (India) © LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

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Token status of the Mughal throne - History

In South Asia today, we see Muslim and Hindu cultures as worlds apart, but this was not always the case in the history of the Subcontinent.

Recently, I read a section of the Akbarnama (Tale of Akbar) where both Hindu and Muslim astrologers were asked to cast the Emperor Akbar’s horoscope. Though I did not bat an eyelid at such an occurrence, I was reminded of a comment made by a student in Pakistan five years ago that has stayed with me ever since: “Mughal badshah asal mein mussalmaan nahin thhe, is liay unko Hinduon say koi masla nahin tha.” [The Mughals had no problem with Hindus since they were not really Muslims.]

Neither at the time nor now do I fault my student for this comment. My student was merely echoing a pervasive viewpoint from his social context far removed from my own intellectual world.

Collaboration and intimacy between Hindus and Muslims is a settled issue amongst Mughal historians, even as communalist politics continues to unsettle South Asia today. However, research findings by Mughal historians are often inaccessible to the public, especially in Pakistan, due to limited resources and avenues for history, education and public discourse. To bridge this gap, here is a viewpoint based on evidence and conclusions from decades of research by Mughal historians in North America, Europe and India.

The Mughals were Muslim rulers who saw no contradiction but sought peace and prosperity in collaboration and intimacy with Hindus and other faith communities. The Mughal state was neither secular nor was Islam its sole state religion. The temptation of imposing the categories of modern South Asian states on the pre-modern past should be avoided.

Decades of research by Mughal historians have established collaboration and intimacy between Hindus and Muslims, even as communalist politics unsettles South Asia today

The Mughals identified as Muslims alongside employing, marrying, and engaging those from other faith communities. They sponsored and participated in rituals and festivals we today associate with Hindus, Zoroastrians and other faiths. This political philosophy was called sulh-i kull (peace with all).

As Muslim rulers, why did the Mughals have no problem with Hindus? There are at least three explanations offered across research in Mughal history:

1) The Mughals became Indian. The first Mughal, Babur, was curious about India’s society and environment, yet nostalgic for his home in Central Asia. Babur particularly longed for Ferghana Valley’s famous peaches, as illustrated by Stephen F. Dale in The Garden of the Eight Paradises. Two generations later, his grandson Akbar was at home in India. He married Hindu Rajput women and made India his emotional world. Akbar requested his court poet Faizi specifically for a story about love in India, leading to the first Persian translation of the Nal Daman, according to historian Muzaffar Alam.

Akbar’s grandson Shah Jahan was three-quarter Rajput by blood. Less than two hundred years later, the last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah Zafar II, lamented the loss of his homeland, India, while in exile in Burma in his famous verse: lagta nahin hai dil mera ujrray dayaar mein/Kis ki bani hai ‘aalam-i-na-payedaar mein (My heart has no repose in this isolated valley/ Who has gotten by in a futile world).

Alongside becoming Indian, the Mughals saw no conflict in being of Central Asian origin and also located themselves within broader Persianate and Islamic realms. Azfar Moin has shown in his 2012 work, The Millennial Sovereign, that Mongol descent was key for Mughal claims to divine kingship at the turn of the Islamic millenium. In a recent book, Persianate Selves, Mana Kia illustrates that scholars at the Mughal court saw themselves as part of a shared Persianate geography, transcending the modern national constructions of Iran, India, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Trade, pilgrimage and knowledge provided continued links between the Mughals, their successor states and the larger Islamic world, as several works by Nile Green attest and the forthcoming works of Rishad Choudhury and Usman Hamid will demonstrate. All four identities — Indian, Central Asian, Persianate and Islamic — were hence claimed by the Mughals, without the contestations we would encounter today.

2) Religious difference with Hindus was not a political faultline for the Mughals or preceding Muslim rulers. The Mughals did not view Hindus as their political rivals by virtue of their religion. Mughal rule was characterised by long-lasting curiosity and respect for Indian knowledge systems, alongside collaborative governance with Hindus and other faith communities. On many occasions, the lines of difference were even blurred, as we shall see below. Books in recent years by Audrey Truschke and Rajeev Kinra convincingly show that both Sanskrit knowledge and Brahmin bureaucrats had a high status at the Mughal court. Akbar’s finance minister, Raja Todar Mal, was valued for bringing the best practices of the Rajputs to shape Mughal economic policies.

Aurangzeb’s conflict with Rajput nobles was not religiously motivated, as M. Athar Ali successfully demonstrates in his 1966 book The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb. Rather, Aurangzeb redistributed administrative assignments from the Rajputs to a rising local nobility in the Deccan in order to consolidate his political power. Munis D. Faruqui shows in his 2012 book The Princes of the Mughal Empire 1504–1719 that, for Mughal princes, strengthening local alliances through collaboration and marriage proved to be a make-or-break factor as they contended for the Mughal throne.

Historians have also successfully challenged the notion that mediaeval Muslim conquests of India occurred to wipe out infidels. In A Book of Conquest, Mannan Ahmed Asif argues that the arrival of Muhammad bin Qasim did not obliterate local practices but rather Islamic and Indic political ethics converged in mediaeval Sindh. Earlier, Romila Thapar demonstrates that the looting of Hindu temples was a financially-motivated practice of mediaeval warfare amongst Hindus and Muslims, often to pay mercenary soldiers from temple treasuries. The looting of the Somnath temple by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026 was, by no means, an exceptional act of violence by a Muslim invader.

3) Islam in Mughal and mediaeval India took many shapes in conversation and contact with a range of local beliefs and practices. Several historians have written about inter-religious and inter-sectarian exchange under the Mughals and in earlier periods. Historian Supriya Gandhi has shown in The Emperor Who Never Was that Dara Shikoh’s political philosophy and personal spirituality were constituted by both Sufi and Vedantic ideas. This was part of a longer tradition of dialogue on philosophical and ethical concerns, between different faith communities at the Mughal court as the work of Corinne Lefevre on the Majalis-i Jahangiri illustrates.

Similarly, there is emerging evidence of Shia and Sunni intellectual collaboration alongside theological debate in Mughal India, as well as interconnections between Sufism and Islamic law. In An Indian Economic & Social History Review, Ali Anooshahr has recently shown that a steady stream of Shia and Sunni scholars from Iran and Central Asia arrived at Mughal and regional courts. A notable example is Mir Fathullah Shirazi, who developed military cannons and contributed to astronomy, law and financial administration. In his forthcoming work, Daniel Jacobius Morgan shows the interconnection between Shariah-minded legalism and Sufi mysticism, through the works of Shah Waliullah’s family.

Moving beyond the Mughal context, in Monsoon Islam, Sebastian Prange illuminates how mediaeval Muslim communities on the Malabar Coast forged varying traditions from other regions in South Asia, based on trade and the environment. In a study from an even earlier period, Finbarr B. Flood illustrates, through changes in architecture, objects and coins, that mediaeval Muslim cultures in South Asia assumed distinct forms based on encounters with regional Hindu and Buddhist practices.

Decades of research on Mughal and mediaeval history disprove an increasingly pervasive viewpoint of cultural incompatibility and religious difference amongst Muslims and Hindus. This misperception was initially perpetuated by colonial policies and solidified by South Asia’s many partitions.

Unfortunately, this misperception has been further strengthened by anti-Muslim sentiments and policies across the border in Modi’s India. Perhaps, the next time nationalists attempt to halt the construction of a Hindu temple in Pakistan or Muslims are maligned and killed for beef consumption and temples are constructed on razed mosque sites in India, we can turn to our shared Mughal past as an alternative model for Muslim-Hindu relations.

Mariam Sabri is a PhD Candidate at the University of California Berkeley, specialising in Mughal history and the history of science

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