The Mughals 4


Emperor Jahangir strengthened the Mughal Empire in India after his father Akbar. Jahangir was born on 31st August, 1569 and was named Nuruddin Salim Jahangir. Nuruddin has been derived from Arabic which means “light of faith”. Jahangir is a Persian word which means “world conqueror”. Jahangir was an able administrator who had a penchant for the finer things in life. He was not a brutal warrior but a learned politician. Read this short biography to know the life history of Mughal Emperor Jehangir. 

Jahangir received the best education that was available at that time. His father Akbar was very particular that his son received the best education that was available in the kingdom. At the age of four he was taught Turkish, Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Sciences, etc. At a very young age, he was given the rank of a Mansabdar of ten thousand, which is the highest rank in military after the Emperor. At the mere age of twelve, he commanded a regiment independently in the Kabul campaign. 

Emperor Jahangir married many times and the girls were from very high-class noble families of the Mughals and Rajputs. A Rajput princess known as Jagat Gosain was his favorite and she gave birth to Shah Jahan, Jahangir’s successor. He also married the famous Noor Jahan, who was the widow of Sher Afghan. Noor Jahan was supposed to be unparalleled in beauty and intelligence. This was the reason why Jahangir was attracted towards her. She proved to be the driving force behind Jahangir and made him strengthen the empire. 

Jahangir loved fine arts and encouraged the growth the poetry, paintings, dance, music, etc. He was also a good writer and loved nature. He penned down his life and his experiences in the form of an autobiography named Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. He was a collector of paintings and many of them are still preserved in a museum. He was famous for his “Chain of Justice”, which was a golden chain attached to some bells outside his palace. Anyone in despair could pull the chain and go in for a personal hearing from the emperor himself. Jahangir died in the year 1627 and was buried in a magnificent tomb at a place called Shahdra, located in present day Pakistan.



Shah Jahan


Shah Jahan was a man of greater mark, though less attractive than Jahangir, in spite of his obvious faults. Shah Jahan was a man of great executive ability, to which he added a love for the magnificent and a refined artistic sense, specially for architecture. Shah Jahan (1592-1666) was the fifth ruler of the Mughal Empire in India. He became ruler in 1628. At his succession he executed all the male Mughal collterals , the descendants of his brothers and uncles, although at that time they had little political significance. During his reign, the Mughals reached their golden age, with vaults crammed with treasures and with architecture in magnificent style. He was in a special sense the architectural director of the day and there seems to be little doubt that the great buildings of his reign, the Taj Mahal, the Delhi Fort, and Jama Masjid, and the reconstruction of the Agra Fort, would not have been what they are without his personal inspiration and direction. 

Shah Jahan is best remembered for the perfectly proportioned Taj Mahal, an immense tomb of white marble built for his wife in Agra, India. These and other buildings still stand as examples of Mughal glory. His romantic love for Mumtaz Mahal (his wife) did not hesitate to expose Mumtaz to the rigours of travel in all states of health so that she died at the age of 39 after giving birth to her fourteenth child. The dynasty began its decline because too much money was spent on luxuries and too much effort was wasted in war. Shah Jahan’s reign was a troubled one, and one of his sons took his throne by force. 

Taj Mahal 

Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs in the world. The Indian ruler Shah Jahan ordered it built in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1629. The tomb stands near the city of Agra, in northern India, on the south bank of the Jumna River. About 20,000 workers were employed in its construction, completed after some 20 years by about 1650. 

According to tradition, the Taj Mahal was designed by a Turkish architect. It is made of white marble and rests on a platform of red sandstone. At each corner of the platform stands a slender minaret (prayer tower). Each tower is 40.5 metres high. The building itself is almost 57 metres square. A dome covers the centre of the building. 

It is over 21 metres in diameter and 36.5 metres high. Passages from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, decorate the outside along with inlaid floral patterns. A central room contains two cenotaphs (monuments). Visitors can see the monuments through a carved alabaster screen. The bodies of Shah Jahan and his wife lie in a vault below. The tomb stands in a garden.





Aurangzeb (1618-1707), was an emperor who ruled what is now India and Pakistan from 1658 until his death. During his reign as monarch of the Mughal Empire, he conquered several states in southern India. 

Aurangzeb, a devout Muslim, tried to make all his people follow the doctrines of Islam, the Muslim religion. He differed from Akbar in consciously tolerating Hindus rather than treating them as equals. He placed special taxes on Hindus and destroyed Hindu temples and images, such as the destruction of Kashi Vishwanath temple and erection of a mosque in its place. Aurangzeb also destroyed many works of art because he feared that they might be worshipped as idols. 

Aurangzeb was born in Dohad, near Ahmadabad. In a struggle for the throne, Aurangzeb murdered his three other brothers, including the crown prince Dara Shukoh, and deposed Shah Jahan, the reigning emperor, to seize the throne for himself. Shah Jahan died a prisoner in the fortress of Agra. Aurangzeb’s reign was one of the longest in the history of the Mughal dynasty. His rebellion and acts of cruelty toward his family at first aroused public horror and dislike. Yet there was no law recognized in Islamic states to nominate a legal successor to the king. The succession was often settled by wars and by murders. 

The new emperor, Aurangzeb, was a strict Muslim. To begin with, he followed the policy of making peace with the non-Muslim peoples he conquered and bringing them into the imperial service. But the policy broke down, and in the latter part of his reign, Aurangzeb imposed a much stricter form of Islamic rule. In 1679, he reintroduced the jiziya, a poll tax on non-Muslims. Militarily, Aurangzeb set out to protect his northern borders and subdue the independent Muslim kingdoms in the Deccan and south India. By 1690, the whole of the Indian subcontinent lay within the Mughal Empire. 

Aurangzeb won swift political and military success, through his abilities as a soldier and politician. But his conquests brought him great trouble toward the end of his reign. The wars were expensive and the military officers were rewarded for their service by the grant of new jagirs. The jagir-holders taxed the peasants mercilessly, causing many to flee from the villages. Much land was left uncultivated as a result. 

Aurangzeb’s reign was troubled by developments in west and south India. As early as the 1660’s, Shivaji, a Hindu chief of western India, had built up a strong private army and begun to raid Mughal towns and cities. He captured and sacked the great port of Surat. Shivaji’s followers, known as the Marathas, were very good cavalry fighters. They took all the strong fortresses from the Mughal governors. Aurangzeb had to fight the Marathas, and many other local chiefs in the south, who were constantly rebelling against Mughal rule and trying to reestablish their independence.


The Last Mughals

The visible decline of the empire can be dated from 1712, the year of the death of Bahadur Shah 1. But it remained an apparently imposing institution until the I750s, and few thought its doom inevitable before then. The first stage in the process was succession wars which left a puppet in the hands of kingmakers. The kingmakers overreached themselves when the third choice proved a clever youth who disposed of them in the course of two Years.

This youth was Muhammad Shah, who reigned for twenty-nine years until 1748. The twenties saw the next stage when the empire was virtually divided into two. Asaf Jah, Nizam-ul-mulk, baulked in his reforming intentions as chief minister in Delhi, went back to his Deccan provinces and became the virtually independent ruler of the southern half of the Mughal empire with Hyderabad as its capital.

The empire bad crushed the Sikhs in 1716, but it found itself helpless against the Marathas. In 1738 the Marathas plundered the suburbs of Delhi and dictated a peace which divided the two halves of the empire by the cession of the province of Malwa. In 1739 came the humiliation of the Persian King Nadir Shah’s invasion. Neglect, ineptitude, divided counsels, and treachery led to military debacle at Karnal, the occupation of Delhi, massacre, and wholesale plunder. Nevertheless, when Nadir Shah’s back was turned, with the Peacock Throne in his train, the empire seemed to recover and even repelled the first of the Afghan incursions in 1748. With Muhammad Shah’s death the collapse began. A civil war between rival ministers left a headlong and ruthless youth in power, who murdered two emperors and called in the Marathas before vanishing into obscurity. The south was already the Nizam’s domain. Kabul was lost to Nadir Shah in 1739. Sindh and fertile Gujarat with Surat went in 1750, prosperous Oudh in 1754, and the martial Punjab to the Afghans in the same year. Bengal still sent tribute but was virtually independent.

The cause of this collapse is usually put down to the effeteness of the emperors. This was certainly one cause since personality was one of the main imperial pillars. But it was not the only cause or necessarily the vital one. Another important reason was Aurangzeb’s policy of treating the empire as a Muslim state instead of an Indian state with Islam as the state religion. Which alienated Hindus to such an extent that they had no desire of allowing Mughal empire to continue. Martial groups like the Sikhs and the Jats were encouraged to open revolt. And the Marathas with their invincibility and Guerrilla warfare had all the capabilities to ruin the Mughals and form another empire. 


Nadir Shah

Aurangzeb’s death had created a void in the Mughal empire which none of his successors were able to fill. Frequent struggles for throne and betrayal of ministers had resulted in the weakening of the empire. Nadir Shah, who from being a chief of dacoits had become the king of Persia, saw the weak empire as an opportunity. 

In 1738, Nadir Shah proceeded to invade India. The excuse for the invasion being that the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah had insulted the Persian envoy at the royal court of Delhi. He overran the western frontiers of Mughal empire capturing Ghazni, Kabul and Lahore in 1739. When Nadir Shah crossed Khyber pass the Governor of Punjab requested the Mughal empire to reinforce the defences in Punjab, but the then Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah turned a deaf ear towards his genuine request.

Soon Nadir Shah stormed Punjab, Muhammad Shah realizing the danger asked Khan Dauran and Nizam-ul-Mulk to lead the Mughal forces against Nadir Shah. But the two declined, so ultimately Muhammad Shah decided to lead the forces himself. The two forces met at Karnal, but soon the Mughal forces were encircled and defeated. The Nawab of Awadh Saadat Khan was taken prisoner and Khan Dauran was seriously wounded.

The defeat of the Mughal army created confusion in their ranks. The Nizam played the role of mediator and persuaded Nadir Shah to return to Persia on receiving 20 million rupees. Mughal emperor pleased with Nizam conferred him the title of ‘Amir-Ul-Umra’ and also appointed him the Prime Minister. Jealous Saadat Khan approached Nadir Khan and told him that he should not get satisfied with such a paltry sum which even a provincial governor can give him. This had an electrifying effect on the Persian ruler and the grandeur of Delhi flashed before his eyes.

Triumphant Nadir Shah entered Delhi along with the humbled Mughal Emperor. The keys of the Delhi fort and treasure had already been surrendered. An amount was also settled with Nadir Shah as a condition for his return. But a rumour spread that Nadir Shah has been killed. Riots were sparked off in Delhi in which few Persian soldiers were killed. As Nadir Shah heard of this he straightaway rode into the city, in the city he saw the corpses of Persian soldiers lying on the streets. Near the Sunhari masjid of Roshnuddola, some people hurled stones at him also a stray bullet killed a Persian soldier. He was enraged, he ordered a general massacre at all those localities where the bodies of Persian soldiers were found. Consequently on 11th of march 1739 citizens of Delhi were plundered and slaughtered, some historians say that nearly 0.2 million people were killed.

Nadir Shah on his return after plundering and slaughtering Delhites for 57 days, took with him the famous ‘Peacock throne’ built by Shahjahan and the legendary ‘Koh-i-noor’ along with 600 million rupees worth of jewellery, gold worth 10 million rupees and coins worth 6 million rupees. His total collection of booty was worth 700 million rupees and also took care to include in his train 100 elephants, 7000 craftsmen, 100 stone-cutters and 200 carpenters.

Nadir Shah’s invasion did a irreparable damage to the Mughal empire. Mughal provinces across the Indus were seceded to the Persians. Later on inspired by the antics of Nadir Shah his successor Ahmad Shah Abdali too invaded India several times between 1748 and 1767 and plundered Delhi.


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