Clarify how mid-eighteenth Century India was beset with the spectre of a fragmented polity.
Aurangzeb died in 1707 and almost instantly the Mughal empire started breaking up. This break up was followed by establishment of large number of independent and semi-independent or autonomous states of three types as follows:
- Warrior States: These were formed by the Sikhs, Jats and Marathas in course of their rebellion against the Mughals.
- Local Kingdoms: Such as Rajput states, Mysore, Travancore etc.
- Semi-independent or autonomous states: These were established by the Mughal nobles during the reign of Mohammad Shah (1720-1748). Such as Awadh founded by Saadat khan and Bengal founded by Murshid Quli Khan.
After Aurangzeb’s death a war of succession broke out among his sons and Muazzam emerged as victorious. He assumed the royal authority under the title of bahadur shah I (1707-1717). He was the last Mughal emperor about whom anything considerable can be said. He followed a conciliatory and liberal policy towards Jats, Satnamis, Bundelas, Sikhs and Rajputs. When he died in 1712 a war of succession broke out among his four sons and Jahandar shah emerged victorious. He became the emperor with the help of an Iranian courtier named Zulfikar khan who was appointed as the wazir of the Mughal empire. Soon, he was murdered by his nephew Farrukhsiyar who became the emperor with the help of the Syed brothers from Meerut including the elder brother Abdullah khan and younger Hussain Ali. In 1719 Farrukhsiyar was murdered by the Syed brothers when he refused to be like a puppet ruler. In a quick succession Syed brothers raised Rafiuddarzat and Rafiddaula to the throne (1719) but soon they passed away. Now the king makers Syed brothers appointed Mohammad Shah as the king (1720-1748).
Therefore, it can be seen that the mid-eighteenth century was characterized by weak rulers and rise of autonomous regional states who pledged only namesake loyalty to the emperor. The frequent wars of succession, invasion by foreign and neighboring rulers like nadir shah who sacked Delhi and went off with Kohinoor Diamond, the peacock throne and three year worth of revenue resulted in destabilization of the country.