Mughal Empire

Mughal dynasty was founded by Babur who was invited by Aalam Khan Lodi, a discontented uncle of Ibrahim Lodi, to Invade India.  He was a descendent of Timur through his father and Changez Khan through his mother, thus had blood of Mongols and Turks in his veins.

Babur (1526-1530)

The first attack of Babur in India was on Bajaur in 1519 in which he used Gun Powder for the first time in a war in India. Gun powder was invented in China and was introduced from there to many parts of the world. The Ottomans had built one of the greatest empires mainly by harnessing the power of the gunpowder weapons. In India, use of Gun powder was already in vogue to blow the walls of forts etc. but it was used in Canons for the first time by Babur in Bajaur.

The forces of Babur and Ibrahim Lodi met in first battle of Panipat in November 1525. Ibrahim Lodi was killed in battlefield on 21 April 1526, which marked the commencement of Mughal rule in India. After winning Delhi, he moved to Agra but his forces wanted to move back. His moral suasion held them back. He fought the battle of Khanwa in 1527 and won it solely because of use of Mughal artillery. Ruthless massacre of Rajputs followed this battle. In 1529, Babur defeated Muhammad Lodi, the last Lodi claimant of Delhi throne in battle of Ghaghra.

Babur died in 1530 of an unknown disease. His autobiography Baburnama or Tuzk-e Babri has vividly discussed the contemporary life in India, his use of gun powder and canons in Indian battles, his anger with Rana Sanga and other details. It was written in Chagatai Turkic, Babur’s mother tongue.

Humayun (1530-1540 and 1555-1556)

Babur was succeeded by Humayun (1530-1540 and 1555-1556), a man of polished and charming manners. But his easy going nature brought him difficulties.  As soon as Babur died, Gujarat’s Bahadur Shah raised the banner of revolt and campaigned to win Chittor and Delhi. During seize of Chittor, Rani Karnavati had sent a Rakhi to Humayun for help but Humayun lost the opportunity to win Rajput friendship. Karnavati burnt herself in Jauhar and Chittor fell. But as soon as this happened, the forces of Humayun cut the supply of the soldiers of Bahadur Shah. The soldiers started starving. In dead of a night, Bahadur Shah fled the battlefield and his army dispersed in all sides. Thus, both Chittor and Gujarat fell into the hands of Humayun like ripe mango. Bahadur shah was chased but was neither arrested nor killed.

Meanwhile, his other adversary Shershah Suri was able to drive him off India and crown himself as the emperor. After this, Humayun wandered for about 15 years. He was able to recover back only when Shershah died in an accident and was succeeded by his son Sikandar Suri. However, he could not enjoy the empire and died soon at young age of 48 in 1556.

Akbar (1556-1605)

At the time of death of Humayun, Akbar, along with his tutor and guardian Bairam Khan, was at Kalanaur in Punjab. There itself, he was coroneted in a simple ceremony by Bairam Khan, who became his regent. Meanwhile, in the turmoil of Humayun’s death, Hemu, the Hindu general of Muhammad Adil Shah captured Delhi and Agra and ascended to throne as Vikramaditya.

He was challenged and defeated by Akbar in Second battle of Panipat in 1556 and was killed while unconscious in battlefield.

Akbar proved to be a capable administrator and a cultured and refined leader with political foresight. His goodwill towards all and tolerant religious policy won him most faithful race of Rajputs in crucial time. His abolition of Jajiya, his new religion Din-i-Ilahi, his land revenue policy, administrative policy etc. were such that his half century rule proved to be one of the brightest chapters in Indian History.

Jahangir 1605-1627

Jahangir aka Salim was an indolent, self indulgent and indifferent personality. When he ascended the throne, he was a man of 37 years and had become “mature”. He should be noted for:

  • Regulations such as forbidding sale of wine and even tobacco.
  • Restoration of Mohammaden Faith. Used Hijra Chronology on coins, something his father had abandoned. But he was equally tolerant towards the Christians and Hindus.

He was active in redressing the grievance of the people and had a Justice chain and bell attached to the gate of his palace in Agra, so that all who wished to appeal to him could ring him up. However, it is not clear, who was eligible to ring the emperor up.

Jahangir is known for his pompous display of the Justice. He enacted 12 regulations that show his liberalism and judiciousness. He is known for prohibition of some extortion type of cesses such as Tamga and controlling the merchants by an enactment which forbade them not to open bales without permission from the government.

Shah Jahan 1627-1658

Shahjahan aka Khurram became the most “celebrated” among the Mughal emperors but not popular among the Hindus. He was a perfect orthodox Muslim who was more intolerant than his father.  With Arjumand Bano Beghum, Khurram married at the age of 15 years and gave her the title Mumtaj Mahal. Mumtaj Mahal was a mother of his 14 children and died on the death of their 14th child. The exquisite monument Taj Mahal is a witness to her husband’s devotion.

Throughout his tenure, Shah Jahan kept struggling with revolts. The first big revolt was in Bundelkhand in 1636 under Jujhar Singh. The revolt was suppressed and Jujhar Singh was eliminated. Another was under the Lodi remnant Khan Jahan Lodi. This revolt was also suppressed. During Shahjahan’s times, the Portuguese had established a factory at Hugli in Bengal. Portuguese had a very constringe religious policy. It was learnt that the Portuguese often lifted the orphaned children and converted them to Christianity. This was something objectionable under the rule of a Mughal, who was a devout Muslim. During the reign of Jahangir the Portuguese lifted two slave girls that belong to Mumtaj Mahal and they were not released even after it was known to the Portuguese. In 1631, Qasim Khan was appointed as Governor of Bengal and was given authority to teach a lesson to the Portuguese.

The Portuguese were attacked, massacred and Hugli was in siege for 3 months. The Portuguese surrendered only after a huge loss of ten thousand lives. Four thousand were made prisoners, who were given an option to either convert to Islam or face lifelong imprisonment. Thus, Shah Jahan gave the Portuguese a death blow in Bengal. Later life of Shah Jahan was marred by the war of succession. He was imprisoned by Aurangzeb and later died in obscurity.

Aurangzeb 1658-1707

Aurangzeb was a bigot who created a lot of troubles for himself and lost both energy and resources in dealing with the rebellions of Jats, Satnamis, Bundelas, Sikhs and finally the formidable Marathas.

He stopped engraving Kalma on coins. Forbade the Parsis to celebrate their festival Navaroz. Released an order to ban the music everywhere and arrest those who listen to the music. His drink was plain water and he used to sleep on ground, something that made him a Zinda Fakir.

Aurangzeb had claimed the throne as the Champion of the Orthodox Islam against the heretical practices of his brother Dara. When he was told that in Banaras, the Brahmins have got habitual of teaching their “wicked science” to the Muslims, he ordered to demolish all the temples. The orders were carried out and the temple of Vishnu at Banaras and a splendid shrine at Mathura were broken to make room for a mosque. The idols were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the Mosque.

His Rajput policy was also filled with the religious fanaticism, when he asked Raja Jaswant Singh to send his sons to Delhi so that they can be taught under his “supervision”, leading their conversion. All the Rajputs except Raja of Amber were in a state of rebellion.

He ended the Mughal pomp of Jharokha Darshan, use of almanacs, the Mughal custom of weighing the emperor in gems -distributing the wealth to the poors, on coronation anniversaries. He reintroduced Jazia. In summary he did all that was never done by his great grandfather, grandfather and father. This was enough to shake the foundation of the Mughal Empire which was based upon religious tolerance. Aurangzeb was the last important Mughal ruler and after him the Mughal empire rapidly decayed and was finally put to an end by the British.

This King reigned for half a century and died in 1707 leaving behind a war of succession.

Bahadur Shah I ( 1707-1712)

Aurangzeb was succeeded by his son Muazzam, who ascended the throne as Bahadur Shah I in 1707. His reign was just 5 years till 1712, and during this time he tried to get rid of the strict edicts of his father. He was not able to eliminate Jazia but supported music, now people could hear the songs again. He tried to establish peace with the Sikhs and Marathas. He died in 1712, when he was overseeing the repair works at Shalimar Gardens at Lahore. He was followed by his son Jahandar Shah.

Jahandar Shah 1712-1713

After his father Bahadur Shah I died, he ascended the throne after eliminating his brother Azim-us-Shan. He had married to a dancing girl who became the queen consort. His nephew Farrukhsiyar attacked him and defeated him. He was arrested and Jailed by Farrukhsiyar, who later executed him.

Farrukhsiyar 1713-1719

Farrukhsiyar was a despicable poltroon who suffered similar fate six years later in 1719. He sat the throne with the help of two Vazirs of the Mughals Syed Hassan Ali Khan Barha and Syed Hussain Ali Khan Barha known as Sayyid Brothers.

In 1717, the British East India Company purchased duty free trade rights in all of Bengal for peanuts worth Rupees 3000 per year from this so called emperor. He lolled the throne as a puppet in the hands of the Sayyid Brothers, and when there was an enmity with these two King makers, they deposed him, imprisoned him, starved him, blinded him and finally finished him.  The Sayyid brothers placed his cousin Rafi ud-Darajat on the throne in 1719.

Rafi ud-Darajat 1719

Rafi ud-Darajat, the 11th Mughal emperor was proclaimed by the Sayyid Brothers in 1719, and he could survive only for four months and died of some mysterious disease. He was succeeded by Muhammad Shah Rangile or Rangila.

Muhammad Shah Rangile 1719-1748

Mohammad Shah Rangila was able to keep the throne for around 29 years partially because the first thing he did was to eliminate the Sayyid Brothers.  During his time Nadir Shah attacked and looted Delhi and took the Peacock Throne. The invasion of Nadir Shah fastened the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. During his time, the states of Hyderabad, Bengal, Awadh were established as independent Kingdoms. In due course of time, Mughal empire was confined to only Red Fort of Delhi. The last Mughal remnant Bahadurshah Zafar was not lucky enough to die in the land which his forefathers had ruled for centuries.

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