- In the fourteenth century, the disintegration of the Mongol empire led Timur to unite Iran and Turan under one rule. Timur’s empire was spread from the lower Volga to the river Indus, including Iran,
- Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Trans-Oxiana, Afghanistan, and some part of Punjab.
- In 1404, Timur died and Shahrukh Mirza, his grandson, succeeded his empire.
- Timur gave patronage to arts and letters and he promoted Samarqand and Herat as the cultural centers of West Asia.
- During the second half of the fifteenth century, the power of Timurids declined, largely because of the Timurid practice of partitioning of the empire.
- The various Timund territories that developed during his time, were kept fighting and backbiting to each other. Their conflicting acts gave an opportunity to two new powers to come to the forefront:
- a) The Uzbeks: In the north, the Uzbeks thrust into Trans-Oxiana. Though the Uzbeks had become Muslims, but Timurids looked them down because they (Timurids) considered them to be uncultured barbarians.
- b) Safavid Dynasty: In the west (i.e. Iran), the Safavid dynasty appeared. They were descended from an order of saints who traced their ancestry to the Prophet.
- Safavids dynasty promoted the Shi’ite sect among the Muslims, and persecuted to all those who were not ready to accept the Shia views.
- The Uzbeks, on the other hand, were Sunnis. Thus, the political conflict between these two elements was estranged on the basis of sectarian views.
- The power of the Ottoman Turks had escalated in the west of Iran and they wanted to rule Eastern Europe as well as Iran and Iraq.
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur
- Babur born on 14 February 1483 at Andijan in Mughalistan (present day Uzbekistan).
- Babur had the prestige of being a descendant of two of the most legendary warriors of Asia namely Changez, and Timur.
- Babur groomed himself to his begs by his personal qualities. He was always prepared to share the hardships with his soldiers.
- Babur was fond of wine and good company and was a good and cheerful companion. At the same time, he was a strict disciplinarian and a hard taskmaster.
- Babur took good care of his army and other employees, and was prepared to excuse many of their faults as long as they were not disloyal.
- Though Babur was an orthodox Sunni, but he was not prejudiced or led by the religious divines. Once, there was a bitter sectarian conflict between the Shias and the Sunnis in Iran and Turan; however, in such a condition, Babur’s court was free from theological and sectarian conflicts.
- Though Babur declared the battle against Rana Sanga a jihad and assumed the title of ‘ghazi’ after the victory, but the reasons were noticeably political.
- Babur was master of Persian and Arabic languages, and is regarded as one of the most famous writers in the Turkish language (which was his mother tongue).
- Babur’s famous memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Baburi is considered as one of the classics of world literature. His other popular works are masnavi and the Turkish translation of a well-known Sufi work.
- Babur was a keen naturalist, as he described the flora and fauna of India in considerable details.
- Babur introduced a new concept of the state, which was to be based on:
- a) The strength and prestige of the Crown;
- b) The absence of religious and sectarian bigotry; and
- c) The careful fostering of culture and the fine arts.
- Babur, with all these three features provided a precedent and a direction for his successors
- In 1494, Babur, at the young age of merely 14, succeeded to Farghana. Farghana was a small state in Trans-Oxiana.
- Shaibani Khan, the Uzbek chief, defeated Babur and conquered Samarqand.
- In 1504, Babur conquered Kabul; at that time, Kabul was under the rule of the infant heir of Ulugh Begh.
- Almost 15 years, Babur struggled hard and kept attempting to re-conquest his homeland from the Uzbeks. He approached the ruler of Herat (who was also his uncle) for the help, but he did not receive any positive response.
- Shaibani Khan defeated Herat, which led to a direct conflict between the Uzbeks and the Safavids because Safavids was also claiming Herat and its surrounding area, namely Khorasan.
- In the battle of 1510, Shaibani Khan defeated and killed by Kasim Khan.
- By taking the help of Iranian power, Babur attempted to recover Samarqand. As a result of this, the Iranian generals wanted to treat Babur as the governor of an Iran rather than as an independent ruler.
- After the massive defeat, the Uzbeks swiftly recovered; resultantly, Babur had been overthrown again from Samarqand and he had to return back to Kabul.
- Shah Ismail (Shah of Iran) was defeated in a battle by the Ottoman sultan; the changes in geo-political scenario forced Babur to move towards India.
- Once Babur said that from the time he won Kabul (i.e. in 1504) to his victory of Panipat, he had never ceased to think of the conquest of Hindustan.
- Timur, the ancestor of Babur, had carried away a vast treasure along with many skilful artisans from India. The artisans helped Timur to consolidate his Asian empire and beautify the capital. They (the artisans) also helped Timur to annex some areas of Punjab.
Reasons of India Conquest
- Abul Fazl, the contemporary historian said that “Babur ruled over Badakhshan, Qandhar, and Kabul which did not yield sufficient income for the requirements of his army; in fact, in some of the border territories, the expense on controlling the armies and administration was greater than the income”.
- Babur was also always remained apprehensive about an Uzbek attack on his territory Kabul, and hence, considered India to be a safe place of refuge, as well as a suitable base for operations against the Uzbeks.
- By the time, the political scenario of north-west India was much suitable for Babur’s entry (into India).
- In 1517, Sikandar Lodi had died and Ibrahim Lodi (his son) had succeeded him.
- Ibrahim Lodi was an ambitious emperor whose efforts to build a large centralized empire had alarmed the Afghan chief as well as the Rajputs.
- Daulat Khan Lodi was one of the most powerful chiefs of his time. Though, he was the governor of Punjab, but he was almost an Independent ruler.
- Daulat Khan wanted to conciliate with Ibrahim Lodi; therefore, he sent his son to his (Ibrahim’s) court to pay homage. However, he was also intended to strengthen his power by annexing the frontier tracts of Bhira.
- In 1518-19, Babur seized the powerful fort of Bhira and sent letters as well as verbal messages to Ibrahim Lodi and Daulat Khan. Babur asked them for the cession of all those areas, which had belonged to the Turks.
- Daulat Khan detained Babur’s envoy at Lahore, neither granted him audience nor allowed him to go and meet Ibrahim Lodi. Daulat Khan expelled Babur’s agent from Bhira.
- Once again in 1520-21, Babur crossed the Indus, and easily clutched Bhira and Sialkot (popular as the twin gateways to Hindustan) and then, Lahore was also surrendered to him.
- After capturing Bhira and Sialkot, Babur planned to proceed further, but because of the revolt in Qandhar, he returned back.
- Babur recaptured Qandhar after almost one and half years. His political stability again encouraged him to move towards India.
- Daulat Khan sent Dilawar Khan (his son) to Babur’s court and invited Babur to come India. Daulat Khan suggested Babur to replace Ibrahim Lodi, as he (Ibrahim Lodi) was a tyrant ruler.
- Rana Sanga (Rana of Mewar), most likely at the same time, also sent a message to Babur inviting him to attack India. Two embassies from the powerful kingdom convinced Babur to conquest India again.
- In 1525, when Babur was in Peshawar, he received a message that Daulat Khan Lodi had changed the sides.
- Daulat Khan had collected an army of 30,000-40,000 men and ousted Babur’s soldiers from Sialkot, and tried to advance towards Lahore. However, as Babur came, Daulat Khan’s army ran away; resultantly, Daulat Khan got surrendered and was pardoned. Babur became the ruler of Punjab.
First Battle of Panipat
- On 20th April 1526, the First Battle of Panipat, was fought between Babur and the Ibrahim Lodi Empire (ruler of Delhi). The battle took place in north India (Panipat) and marked as the beginning of the Mughal Empire.
- The first battle of Panipat was one of the earliest battles in which gunpowder firearms and field artillery were used. However, Babur said that he used it for the first time in his attack on the Bhira fortress.
- Ibrahim Lodi met Babur at Panipat with the force estimated at 100,000 men and 1,000 elephants.
- Babur had crossed the Indus with a force of merely 12,000; however, in India, a large number of Hindustani nobles and soldiers joined Babur in Punjab. In spite of Indian army support, Babur’s army was numerically inferior.
- Babur made a master plan and strengthened his position. He ordered one of his army wings to rest in the city of Panipat, which had a large number of houses. Further, he protected another wing by means of a ditch filled with branches of trees.
- On the front side, Babur lashed with a large number of cans, to act as a defending wall. Between two carts, breastworks were erected so that soldiers could rest their guns and fire.
- Babur used the Ottoman (Rumi) device technique, which had been used by the Ottomans in their well-known battle against Shah Ismail of Iran.
- Babur had also invited two Ottoman master-gunners namely Ustad Ali and Mustafa.
- Ibrahim Lodi, however, with huge army men, could not assume the strongly defended position of Babur.
- Ibrahim Lodi had apparently expected Babur to fight a mobile mode of warfare, which was common with the Central Asians.
- Babur’s gunners used their guns strategically with good effect from the front; however, Babur gave a large part of the credit of his victory to his bowmen.
- After the seven or eight days fight, Ibrahim Lodi realized Babur’s strong position. Further, Lodi’s forces were also hesitant to fight with Babur’s modern technological warfare.
- Ibrahim Lodi battled to the last with a group of 5,000 to 6,000 forces, but he (Lodi) had been killed in the battle field.
- It is estimated that more than 15,000 men (of Lodi kingdom) were killed in the first battle of Panipat.
Battle of Khanwa
- On March 17, 1527, the Battle of Khanwa was fought near the village of Khanwa (about 60 km west of Agra). It was fought between the first Mughal Emperor Babur and Rajput ruler Rana Sanga.
- The Rajput ruler, Rana Sanga, was the great threat for Babur to establish a strong Mughal empire in the Indo-Gangetic Valley, as Sanga planned to expel Babur from India or else confined him at Punjab.
- Babur had an authentic reason to accuse Rana Sanga i.e. of breach of an agreement. In fact, Sanga invited him (Babur) to India with a promise to fight with him against Ibrahim Lodi, but he (Rana) refused.
- The battle of Khanwa was aggressively fought. As Babur reported, Sanga had more than 200,000 men including 10,000 Afghan cavalrymen, supported with an equal force fielded by Hasan Khan Mewati.
- Babur’s strategy, in the battle ground, was highly technical; he ordered his soldiers (who had been sheltering behind their tripods) to attack in the center. Thus Sanga’s forces were hemmed in, and finally defeated.
- Rana Sanga escaped from the battle field. Later he (Rana) wanted to renew the conflict with Babur, but he was poisoned by his own nobles.
- The battle of Khanwa strengthened Babur’s position in the Delhi-Agra region. Later, Babur conquered the chain of forts including Gwalior, Dholpur, east of Agra, etc.
- Babur also conquered Alwar from Hasan Khan Mewati and Chanderi (Malwa) from Medini Rai. Chanderi was captured after killing almost all the Rajput defenders men and their women performed jauhar (it was the custom of self-immolation of queens and royal female of the Rajput kingdoms).
- Eastern Uttar Pradesh, which was under the domination of the Afghan chiefs had submitted their allegiance to Babur, but internally planned to throw it off at any time.
- Nusrat Shah, the ruler of Bengal, who had married a daughter of Ibrahim Lodi, had supported the Afghan sardars.
- The Afghans had ousted the Mughal officials in eastern Uttar Pradesh and reached up to Kanauj many times, but their major weakness was the lack of a competent leader.
- Afghan leaders invited Mahmud Lodi. He (Mahmud Lodi) was a brother of Ibrahim Lodi and also had fought against Babur at Khanwa. The Afghan leaders welcomed him as their ruler, and congregated strength under his leadership.
- The Afghans, under Mahmud Lodi’s leadership, was a great threat for Babur, which he (Babur) could not ignore. At the beginning of 1529, Babur left Agra for the east and he faced the combined forces of the Afghans and Nusrat Shah of Bengal at the crossing of the Ghagra River.
- While Babur was fighting with the Afghans (in the east), he received a message i.e. crisis situation in Central Asia. Thus Babur decided to conclude the war with an agreement with the Afghans. He made a vague claim for the suzerainty over Bihar, and left the large parts in the Afghan’s hands.
- On 26 December, 1530, when Babur was returning to Kabul (Afghanistan) died near Lahore.
Throughout the reign period (1530-1556), Humayun had faced many adverse conditions; however, he did not lose his patience rather fought with courage.
Born on 17 March 1508, Humayun succeeded Babur (his father) in December 1530 at the young age of 23.
Babur, because of his pre-matured death, could not consolidate his empire; therefore, Humayun, when became the ruler, he had to struggle with various problems.
Major problems (left behind by Babur) were:
o The administration systems of Mughal Empire were weak and the finances were unjustifiable.
o The Afghans had not been subdued entirely; hence, they were cultivating the hope of expelling the Mughals from India.
o When Humayun ascended the throne at Agra, the Mughal Empire included Kabul and Qandhar; however, there was loose control over Badakhshan (beyond the Hindukush Mountains).
o Kabul and Qandhar were under the charge of Kamran, Humayun’s younger brother. Kamran was not satisfied with these poverty-stricken areas therefore, he marched towards Lahore and Multan, and occupied them.
Humayun, who was busy elsewhere, reluctantly accepted his brother’s autocratic act, as he was not interested in starting a civil war. However, Kamran accepted the suzerainty of Humayun, and promised to help him whenever it required.
The swiftly growing powers of Afghans in the east and Bahadur Shah (ruler of Gujarat) in the west were becoming problems that Humayun had to suppress.
The Afghans had conquered Bihar and overrun Jaunpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, but in 1532, Humayun had defeated the Afghan forces.
After defeating the Afghans, Humayun besieged Chunar (from the Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri).
Chunar was the powerful fort that commanded the land and the river route resting between Agra and the east; Chunar was popular as the gateway of eastern India.
After losing Chunar fort, Sher Shah Suri (also known as Sher Khan) persuaded Humayun to get permission to retain possession of the fort and he promised to be loyal to the Mughals. Sher Shah also sent one of his sons to Humayun court as a hostage. Humayun was in haste to return back to Agra; therefore, he accepted Sher Shah’s offer.
Bahadur Shah of Gujarat who was of the same age of Humayun had strengthened himself enough to threaten him (Humayun) in the north.
Ascending the throne in 1526, Bahadur Shah had overrun and conquered Malwa and then moved towards Rajasthan and besieged Chittor and soon abridged the Rajput defenders to sore straits.
According to some legends, Rani Karnavati (the widow of Rana Sanga), sent a rakhi (a thread that normally sister gives her brother and in return brother promises to protect her) to Humayun seeking his help and Humayun courteously responded.
Because of the fear of Mughal intervention, Bahadur Shah made an agreement with the Rana Sanga and left the fort in his (Rana Sanga’s) hands; however, he (Bahadur Shah) extracted a large indemnity in cash and kind.
Humayun spent one and half years of his time in building a new city nearby Delhi, and he named it as Dinpanah.
The buildings of Dinpanah were built to impress friends and foes alike. Another intention was, Dinpanah could also serve as a second capital, in case, Agra was threatened by the Gujarat ruler Bahadur Shah (who already had conquered Ajmer and overrun eastern Rajasthan.
Bahadur Shah invested Chittoor and simultaneously, he supplied arms and men to Tatar Khan (Tatar Khan was a cousin of Ibrahim Lodi), to invade Agra with a force of 40,000 men.
Humayun easily defeated Tatar Khan. The Afghan forces run away, as the Mughal forces arrived. Tatar Khan was defeated, and he was killed.
After defeating Tatar Khan, Humayun now invaded Malwa. He advanced forward slowly and cautiously, and covered a position midway between Chittoor and Mandu. Likewise, Humayun cut off Bahadur Shah from Malwa.
Bahadur Shah swiftly compelled Chittoor to surrender. It became possible because Bahadur Shah had fine artillery, which was commanded by Rumi Khan, an Ottoman master gunner.
Bahadur Shah did not dare to fight with the Mughals and he left his fortified camp and escaped to Mandu to Champaner, then to Ahmadabad and finally to Kathiawar. Thus the rich provinces of Malwa and Gujarat, as well as the huge treasure boarded by the Gujarat rulers at Mandu and Champaner, came into the hands of Humayun.
The fear of Bahadur Shah’s attack (on Mughal Empire) was gone with his death, as he died while fighting with the Portuguese.
Sher Shah’s Upsurge
Humayun’s absence from Agra (between February 1535 and February 1537), gave an opportunity to Sher Shah to strengthened his power and position.
Though superficially, Sher Khan continued to acknowledge loyalty to the Mughals, but steadily he planned to expel the Mughals from India.
Sher Khan was in close touch with Bahadur Shah, as he (Bahadur Shah) had helped him with heavy subsidies, which enabled him to recruit and maintain a large and competent army including 1,200 elephants.
After equipping a new army, Humayun attacked Sher Khan and captured Chunar and then he invaded Bengal for the second time, and seized Gaur (the capital of Bengal).
After the victory of Gaur, Sher Khan sent a proposal to Humayun that he would surrender Bihar and pay an annual tribute of ten lakhs of dinars if he was allowed to retain Bengal. However, Humayun was not in a mood to leave Bengal to Sher Khan.
Bengal was the land of gold, rich in manufactures, and a center for foreign trade. Secondly, the ruler of Bengal who had reached Humayun’s camp in a wounded condition, informed that resistance to Sher Khan was still continued.
By observing underneath suspicious intention of Sher Shah, Humayun rejected Sher Khan’s proposal and decided a campaign to Bengal. Soon after, the Bengal ruler submitted to his wounds; therefore, Humayun had to undertake the Bengal campaign all alone.
Bengal campaign of Humayun was not much beneficial, but rather was the prelude to the disaster, which overtook his army at Chausa after a year.
Sher Shah had left Bengal and went south Bihar. With a master plan, he let Humayun campaign Bengal so that he might disrupt Humayun’s communications with Agra and bottle him up in Bengal.
Arriving at Gaur, Humayun swiftly took steps to establish law and order. But this did not solve any of his problems. On the other hand, Humayun’s situation was further made worse by his younger brother, Handal, as he attempted to crown himself of Agra. However, because of Sher Khan’s master plans, Humayun was totally cut off from all news and supplies from Agra.
After a stay of three to four months at Gaur, Humayun planned back to Agra, leaving a small garrison behind. In spite of having a series of problems such as the rainy season, discontent in the nobility, and the constant harrying attacks of the Afghans, Humayun managed to get his army back to Chausa near Buxar, without any serious loss.
As Kamran heard about Hindal’s act, he left Lahore to suppress Hindal’s rebellion at Agra. But Kamran, though not disloyal, made no attempt to send any help to Humayun.
Deceived by an offer of peace from Sher Shah, Humayun crossed to the eastern bank of the Karmnasa River and gave full opportunity to the Afghan horsemen encamped there. It was the great mistake of Humayun that reflected not only a bad political sense, but also a bad generalship as well.
Sher Shah’s forces attacked on Humayun surreptitiously; however, Humayun, somehow managed to escape from the battle field. He swam across the river with the help of a water-carrier. Sher Shah robbed Humayun’s treasures. In this war, about 7,000 Mughal soldiers and many prominent nobles were killed.
After the defeat at Chausa in March 1539, only the fullest unity among the Timurid princes and the nobles could have saved Humayun.
Kamran had a battle-hardened force of 10,000 Mughals under his command at Agra. But he had not come forward to help Humayun, probably, he had lost confidence in Humayun’s leadership. On the other hand, Humayun was not ready to assign the command of the armies to Kamran, as he could misuse it to store power for himself. The confusions between the two brothers grew till Kamran decided to return back to Lahore with his army.
The army hastily assembled by Humayun at Agra was no match against Sher Shah. However, in May 1540, the battle of Kanauj was bitterly contested. Both the younger brothers of Humayun namely Askari and Hindal, fought courageously, but to no avail.
The battle of Kanauj taken away Humayun’s empire and he became a prince without a kingdom; Kabul and Qandhar remaining under Kamran. Sher Shah, now became the sole powerful ruler of north India.
Humayun kept wandering in Sindh and its neighboring countries for the next two and a half years, planning various schemes to regain his kingdom. But hardly anyone was ready to help him. Surprisingly, his own brothers were against him, and even had tried to kill or imprison him. Nevertheless, Humayun faced all these trials and tribulations with great fortitude and courage. The downfall period of Humayun reflected the best part of his character.
While wondering in search of shelter, Humayun reached at the court of the Iranian king. In 1545, with the help of Iranian king, Humayun recaptured Qandhar and Kabul.
Reasons of Humayun’s Downfall
The major reasons for Humayun’s failure were:
o Humayun’s inability to understand the nature of the Afghan power and Sher Shah’s deceptive trick.
o The presence of large numbers of Afghan tribes across the north India and their nature of getting united under a capable leader (like Sher Shah).
o Without getting the support of the local rulers and zamindars, the Mughals were bound to remain numerically inferior.
o The differences of Humayun with his brothers, and his alleged faults of character.
o Though Humayun was a competent general and politician, his two mistakes i.e. ill-conceived Bengal campaign and wrong interpretation of Sher Shah’s proposal made him lose.
Humayun’s life was a romantic one, as he experienced from rich to rag and again from rag to rich.
In 1555, after the break-up of the Sher Shah’s empire, Humayun again recovered Delhi; however, he did not live long to enjoy his victory.
Humayun died because of fall from the first floor of the library building in his fort at Delhi.
The tomb of Humayun was built by the orders of Akbar (son of Humayun) and Humayun’s first wife (Bega Begum). And, the tomb was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect appointed by Bega Begum.
Building of the tomb was started in 1565 (nine years after the death of Humayun) and completed in 1572. The total cost spent in the building (of tomb) was 1.5 million rupees (at the time).
Sher Shah Suri ascended the throne of Delhi at the age of 67. His original name was Farid and his father was a jagirdar at Jaunpur.
Sher Shah spent his childhood with his father and remained actively involved in the affairs of his father’s jagir. Because of this, he learned rich administrative knowledge and experience.
Sher Shah was very intelligent, as he never let any opportunity to go in vain. The defeat and death of Ibrahim Lodi and the misunderstanding in Afghan affairs let Sher Shah emerge as the most important Afghan sardars (of that time).
Because of his smart skill set and administrative quality, Sher Shah became as the right hand of the ruler of Bihar.
After killing a tiger, the patron of Sher Shah adorned him the title of ‘Sher Khan.’
As a ruler, Sher Shah ruled the mightiest empire, which had come into existence (in north India) since the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
Sher Shah’s empire was extended from Bengal to the Indus River (excluding Kashmir). In the west, he conquered Malwa, and almost the entire Rajasthan.
Maldeo, the ruler of Marwar, ascended the gaddi (kingdom) in 1532, and in a short span of time, took the control of whole of western and northern Rajasthan. He further expanded his territories during Humayun’s conflict with Sher Shah.
In the course of the conflict, the Maldeo was killed after a courageous resistance. His sons, Kalyan Das and Bhim, took shelter at the court of Sher Shah.
In 1544, the Rajput and Afghan forces clashed at Samel (located between Ajmer and Jodhpur). While invading different jagirs of Rajasthan, Sher Shah had taken the great precautions; at every step, he would throw up entrenchments to guard against a surprise attack.
After the battle of Samel, Sher Shah besieged and conquered Ajmer and Jodhpur, forced Maldeo into the desert.
Merely in 10 months of ruling period, Sher Shah overran almost the entire Rajasthan. His last campaign was against Kalmjar; it was a strong fort and the key to Bundelkhand.
During the Kalmjar campaign (1545), a gun burst and severely injured Sher Shah; the incident took, Sher Shah’s life.
Sher Shah was succeeded by Islam Shah (his second son), who ruled till 1553.
Islam Shah was a competent ruler and general, but most of his energies were lost in controlling the rebels raised by his brothers. Besides, rebels of tribal feuds also pulled Islam Shah’s attention.
Islam Shah’s death (November 1554) led to a civil war among his successors. The civil war created a vacuum that ultimately provided an opportunity to Humayun to recover empire of India.
In 1555, Humayun defeated the Afghans, and recovered Delhi and Agra.
Sher Shah’s Work
Sher Shah was one of the most distinguished rulers of north India who had done a number of developmental works (along with well-planned administrative works). His works can be studied under the following heads:
Sher Shah re-established law and order across the length and breadth of his empire.
Sher Shah placed considerable emphasis on justice, as he used to say, “Justice is the most excellent of religious rites, and it is approved alike by the king of infidels and of the faithful“.
Sher Shah did not spare oppressors whether they were high nobles, men of his own tribe or near relations.
Qazis were appointed at different places for justice, but as before, the village panchayats and zamindars also dealt with civil and criminal cases at the local level.
Sher Shah dealt strictly with robbers and dacoits.
Sher Shah was very strict with zamindars who refused to pay land revenue or disobeyed the orders of the government.
Economic & Development Works
Sher Shah paid great attention for the promotion of trade and commerce and also the improvement of communications in his kingdom.
He reinstated the old imperial road known as the Grand Trunk Road, from the river Indus in the west to Sonargaon in Bengal.
He also built a road from Agra to Jodhpur and Chittoor, noticeably linking up with the road to the Gujarat seaports.
Sher Shah built about 1,700 sarai; some of them are still existing, which reflect how strong these sarai were.
Over a period of time, many of the sarai developed into qasbas (market-towns) where peasants flocked to sell their produce.
Sher Shah’s roads and sarai have been called as “the arteries of the empire.” These development works strengthened and fasten the trade and commerce in the country.
In Sher Shah’s entire empire, customs duty was paid only at two places: the goods produced in Bengal or imported from outside paid customs duty at the border of Bengal and Bihar at Sikrigali and goods coming, from West and Central Asia paid custom duty at the Indus. No one was allowed to levy custom duty at roads, ferries, or town. The duty was paid a second time at the time of sale.
Sher Shah instructed his governors to compel the people to treat merchants and travelers well and not to harm them in any way.
If a merchant died, no one to seize his goods.
Sher Shah enjoined the dictum of Shaikh Nizami i.e. “If a merchant should die in your country it is a perfidy to lay hands on his property.”
Depending on the territoriality, Sher Shah made the local village headmen and zamindars responsible for any loss that the merchant suffered on the roads.
If the goods of a merchant were stolen, the headmen and/or the zamindars had to produce them, or to trace the haunts of the thieves or highway robbers, failing which they had to undergo the punishment meant for the thieves and robbers.
Though it sounds barbarous (to make innocent responsible), but the same law (discussed in the immediate above point) was applied in cases of murders on the roads.
Abbas Sarwani explained Sher Shah’s law and order in the picturesque language i.e. “a decrepit old woman might place a basketful of gold ornaments on her head and go on a journey, and no thief or robber would come near her for fear of the punishment which Sher Shah inflicted.”
Sher Shah’s currency reforms also promoted the growth of commerce and handicrafts.
For the trade and commerce purpose, Sher Shah made an attempt to fix standard weights and measures across his empire.
He built a separate road from Lahore to Multan. At that time, Multan was one of the central points for the caravans going to West and Central Asia.
For the convenience of travelers, Sher Shah built a number of sarai at a distance of every two kos (about eight km) on all the major roads.
The sarai was a fortified lodging or inn where travelers could pass the night and also keep their goods in safe custody.
Facility of separate lodgings for Hindus and Muslims were provided in the sarai. Brahmanas were appointed for providing bed and food to the Hindu travelers, and grains for their horses.
Abbas Khan Sarwani (who had written ‘Tarikh-i-Sher Shahi’ or history of Sher Shah) says, “It was a rule in the sarai that whoever entered there, received provision suitable to his rank, and food and litter for his cattle, from the government.”
Sher Shah also made efforts to settle down villages around the sarai, and the land was set apart in these villages for the expenses of the sarai.
A number of villages comprised a pargana. The pargana was under the charge of the shiqdar, who looked after law and order and general administration, and the munsif or amil looked after the collection of Land revenue.
Above the pargana, there was the shiq or sarkar under the charge of the shiqdar-i-shiqdran and a munsif-i-munsifan.
Accounts were maintained both in the Persian and the local languages (Hindavi).
Sher Shah apparently continued the central machinery of administration, which had been developed during the Sultanate period. Most likely, Sher Shah did not favor leaving too much authority in the hands of ministers.
Sher Shah worked exceptionally hard, devoting himself to the affairs of the state from early morning to late at night. He also toured the country regularly to know the condition of the people.
Sher Shah’s excessive centralization of authority, in his hands, has later become a source of weakness, and its harmful effects became apparent when a masterful sovereign (like him) ceased to sit on the throne.
The produce of land was no longer to be based on the guess work, or by dividing the crops in the fields, or on the threshing floor rather Sher Shah insisted on measurement of the sown land.
Schedule of rates (called ray) was drawn up, laying down the state’s share of the different types of crops. This could then be converted into cash on the basis of the prevailing market rates in different areas. Normally, the share of the state was one-third of the produce.
Sher Shah’s measurement system let peasants to know how much they had to pay to the state only after sowing the crops.
The extent of area sown, the type of crops cultivated, and the amount each peasant had to pay was written down on a paper called patta and each peasant was informed of it.
No one was permitted to charge from the peasants anything extra. The rates which the members of the measuring party were to get for their work were laid down.
In order to guard against famine and other natural calamities, a cess at the rate of two and half seers per bigha was also levied.
Sher Shah was very solicitous for the welfare of the peasantry, as he used to say, “The cultivators are blameless, they submit to those in power, and if I oppress them they will abandon their villages, and the country will be ruined and deserted, and it will be a long time before it again becomes prosperous“.
Sher Shah developed a strong army in order to administer his vast empire. He dispensed with tribal levies under tribal chiefs, and recruited soldiers directly after verifying their character.
The strength of Sher Shah’s personal army was recorded as:
o 150,000 cavalry;
o 25,000 infantry armed with matchlocks or bows;
o 5,000 elephants; and
o A park of artillery.
Sher Shah set up cantonments in different parts of his empire; besides, a strong garrison was posted in each of them.
Sher Shah also developed a new city on the bank of the Yamuna River near Delhi. The sole survivor of this city is the Old Fort (Purana Qila) and the fine mosque within it.
One of the finest nobles, Malik Muhammad Jaisi (who had written Padmavat in Hindi) was the patron of Sher Shah’s reign.
Sher Shah did not, however, initiate any new liberal policies. Jizyah continued to be collected from the Hindus.
Sher Shah’s nobility was drawn exclusively from the Afghans.
Akbar the Great
In 1542, Akbar, the greatest of the Mughal rulers, was born at Amarkot.
When Humayun fled to Iran, Kamran (brother of Humayun) captured young Akbar. Kamran treated the child well; however, Akbar was re-united with his parents after the capture of Qandhar.
When Humayun died, Akbar was in Punjab, commanding operations against the Afghan rebels.
In 1556, Akbar was crowned at Kalanaur at the age of merely thirteen years and four months.
When Akbar succeeded, the Afghans were still strong beyond Agra, and were reorganizing their forces under the leadership of Hemu.
Kabul had been attacked and besieged. Sikandar Sur, the defeated Afghan ruler, was forced to loiter in the Siwalik Hills.
Bairam Khan, the tutor of the prince Akbar and a loyal and favorite officer of Humayun, became the wakil (advocate) of the kingdom and received the title of ‘khan.i.khanan;’ . He united the Mughal forces.
The threat from Hemu was considered the most serious for Akbar. Further, the area from Chunar to the border of Bengal was under the domination of Adil Shah, a nephew of Sher Shah.
During Islam Shah’s reign, Hemu had started his career as a superintendent of the market, but soon promoted under Adil Shah. Surprisingly, Hemu had not lost a single one of the twenty-two battles in which he had fought.
Adil Shah had appointed Hemu as wazir, gave the title of ‘Vikramajit,’ and entrusted him with the task to expel the Mughals.
Second Battle of Panipat
Hemu first seized Agra, and with an army of 50,000 cavalry, 500 elephants and a strong park of artillery marched towards Delhi.
In a well-contested battle, Hemu defeated the Mughals near Delhi and captured the city. But Bairam Khan took an energetic and smart step to meet the critical situation. Bairam Khan strengthened his army marched towards Delhi before Hemu could have time to consolidate his position again.
On 5 November, 1556, the battle between the Mughals (led by Bairam Khan) and the Afghan forces (led by Hemu), took place once again at Panipat.
Though Hemu’s artillery had been captured by a Mughal force, the tide of battle was in favor of Hemu. Meanwhile, an arrow hit in the eye of Hemu and he fainted. Hemu was arrested and executed. Akbar had virtually reconquered his empire.
Since Akbar held the throne at his teen age; he had been supported by a group of nobles.
Bairam Khan’s Conquest
Bairam Khan remained at the helm of affairs of the Mughal Empire for almost next four years and during this period, he kept the nobility fully under control.
The territories of the Mughal Empire were extended from Kabul (in the north) to Jaunpur (in the east) and Ajmer (in the west).
Mughal forces captured Gwalior and vigorous efforts were made to conquer Ranthambhor and Malwa.
Bairam Khan’s Downfall
Over a period of time, Akbar was approaching the age of maturity. On the other hand, Bairam Khan became arrogant and had offended many powerful persons and nobles of Mughal court (as he held supreme power). Many of the nobles complained to Akbar that Bairam Khan was a Shia, and that he was appointing his own supporters and Shias to high offices, while neglecting the old nobles.
The charges against Bairam Khan were not much serious in themselves, but he (Bairam Khan) became egoistical, and hence failed to realize that Akbar was growing up. In fact, there was friction on a petty matter, which made Akbar realize that he could not leave the state affairs in someone else’s hands for any more.
To control Bairam Khan, Akbar played his cards cleverly. He left Agra on the pretext of hunting, and came Delhi. From Delhi, Akbar issued a farman (summon) dismissed Bairam Khan from his office, and ordered all the nobles to come and submit to him personally.
The farman made Bairam Khan realize that Akbar wanted to take power in his own hands; so, he was prepared to submit, but his opponents were keen to ruin him. They heaped humiliation upon him until he was goaded to rebel.
The rebellion distracted the empire for almost six months. Finally, Bairam Khan was forced to submit in Akbar’s court; Akbar received him cordially, and gave him the option of serving at the court (anywhere), or retiring to Mecca.
Bairam Khan chose to retire to Mecca. On his way to Mecca, he was assassinated at Patan near Ahmadabad by an Afghan who bore him a personal grudge.
Bairam Khan’s wife and a young child were brought to Akbar at Agra. Akbar married Bairam Khan’s widow (who was also his cousin), and brought up the child as his own son.
Bairam Khan’s child later became popular as Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan and held some of the most significant offices and commands in the Mughal Empire.
During Bairam Khan’s rebellion, some groups and individuals in the nobility became politically active. The group included Akbar’s foster-mother, Maham Anaga, and her relatives. However, Maham Anaga soon withdrew from politics.
Maham Anaga’s son, Adham Khan, was an impetuous young man. He assumed independent airs when he had been sent to command an expedition against Malwa. He claimed the post of the wazir, and when this was not accepted, he stabbed the acting wazir in his office. His tyrannical act enraged Akbar. In 1561, Adham Khan had been thrown down from the parapet of the fort and he died.
Much before Akbar’s maturity and establishing his full authority, the Uzbeks formed a powerful group. They held important positions in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Malwa.
Between the period of 1561 and 1567, the Uzbeks rebelled many times, forced Akbar to take the field against them. Every time Akbar was induced to pardon them. However, 1565 rebel exasperated Akbar at such a level that he vowed to make Jaunpur his capital till he had rooted them out.
Encouraged by Uzbeks’ rebellions, Akbar’s half-brother, Mirza Hakim, who had seized control of Kabul, advanced into Punjab, and besieged Lahore. As a result of this, the Uzbek rebels formally proclaimed him as their ruler.
Mirza Hamim’s attack was the most serious crisis Akbar had to face since Hemu’s capture of Delhi. However, Akbar’s bravery and a certain amount of luck enabled him to triumph.
From Jaunpur, Akbar directly moved to Lahore, forced Mirza Hakim to retire. Meanwhile, the rebellion of the Mirza’s was crushed, the Mirzas fled to Malwa and thence to Gujarat.
In 1567, Akbar returned back to Jaunpur from Lahore. Crossing the river Yamuna nearby Allahabad (at the peak of the rainy season), Akbar surprised the rebels led by the Uzbek nobles and completely routed them out.
The Uzbek leaders were killed in the battle; likewise, their protracted rebellion came to an end.
Expansion of Mughal Empire
During Akbar’s initial period, Malwa was being ruled by a young prince, Baz Bahadur. Baz Bahadur’s accomplishments were a mastery of music and poetry. Besides, the romantic story of Baz Bahadur and Rani Rupmati is also very famous. Rani Rupmati is known in history because of her beauty.
Because of Baz Bahadur’s interest in music and poetry, Mandu (Baz Bahadur’s capital) had become a celebrated center for music. The army, however, had been neglected by Baz Bahadur.
In March 1561, the expedition against Malwa was led by Adham Khan, son of Akbar’s foster-mother, Maham Anaga. Baz Bahadur was badly defeated (in the battle of Sarangpur) and the Mughals took valuable assets, including Rupmati. However, she refused to go with Adham Khan and preferred to commit suicide.
After defeating Malwa, Adham Khan ruled with cruelties, because of this, there was a reaction against the Mughals, which supported Baz Bahadur to recover Malwa.
In 1562, Akbar sent another expedition to Malwa (led by Abdullah Khan). Baz Bahadur defeated again and he had to flee west. He took shelter with the Rana of Mewar.
After wandering about from one area to another, Baz Bahadur, finally approached to Akbar’s court and was enrolled as a Mughal mansabdar. Likewise, the extensive territory of Malwa came under Mughal rule.
Kingdom of Garh-Katanga
In 1564, Mughal arms (led by Asaf Khan) overran the kingdom of Garh-Katanga. The kingdom of Garh-Katanga included the Narmada valley and the northern portions of present Madhya Pradesh.
The kingdom of Garh-Katanga consisted of a number of Gond and Rajput principalities.
In 1542, Aman Das (also known as Sangram Shah), ruler of Garh-Katanga married his eldest son Dalpati Shah with Rani Durgawati (daughter of famous Rajput Chandel Emperor Keerat Rai of Mahoba) and strengthened his position.
Dalpati Shah died soon after his marriage and the princess Durgavati became a widow. But she made her minor son king and ruled with great courage.
Princess Durgavati was a good markswoman with both guns and bow & arrow. She fought many successful battles against her neighbors, including Baz Bahadur of Malwa.
Asaf Khan, the Mughal governor of Allahabad moved towards Garh-Katanga with 10,000 cavalries. Some of the semi-independent rulers of Garha-Katanga found it an opportune moment to throw off the Gond supremacy.
The Rani Durgavati was not supported by her nobles rather left with a small force. She fought bravely but defeated. Once finding that she lost the battle and was in danger of being captured, she stabbed herself to death.
Over a period of time, Asaf Khan also became despotic; however, when Akbar had dealt with the rebellion of the Uzbek nobles, he forced Asaf Khan to expel his illegal games.
Akbar restored the kingdom of Garh-Katanga to Chandra Shah, the younger son of Sangram Shah and took ten forts to round off the kingdom of Malwa.
In 1572, after defeating Rajputs (namely Chittoor, Ranthambhor, Jodhpur, etc.), Akbar advanced towards Ahmadabad via Ajmer; however, Ahmadabad surrendered without a fight.
After Rajasthan expedition, Akbar turned his attention towards the Mirzas who held Broach, Baroda, and Surat (regions of Gujarat).
During the Gujarat expedition, Akbar saw the sea for the first time at Cambay, he rode on it in a boat.
In 1573, when Akbar returned back, after defeating Gujarat, a fresh rebel broke out all over Gujarat. Immediately after hearing the news, Akbar moved out of Agra and traversed across Rajasthan in merely nine days.
On the eleventh day, Akbar reached Ahmadabad. In this journey, which normally took six weeks, only 3,000 soldiers were accompanied with Akbar. But with only 3,000 soldiers, Akbar overcame the 20,000 rebellions.
In 1576, Akbar defeated Daud Khan (the Afghan ruler) in Bihar and executed him on the spot. Likewise, ended the last Afghan kingdom from northern India.
Akbar’s Administrative System
Though Akbar adopted Sher Shah’s administrative system, he did not find it that much beneficial hence he had started his own administrative system.
In 1573, just after returning from Gujarat expedition, Akbar paid personal attention to the land revenue system. Officials called as ‘karoris’ were appointed throughout the north India. Karoris were responsible for the collection of a crore of dams (i.e. Rs. 250,000).
In 1580, Akbar instituted a new system called the dahsala; under this system, the average produce of different crops along with the average prices prevailing over the last ten (dah) years were calculated. However, the state demand was stated in cash. This was done by converting the state share into money on the basis of a schedule of average prices over the past ten years.
Akbar introduced a new land measurement system (known as the zabti system) covering from Lahore to Allahabad, including Malwa and Gujarat.
Under the zabti system, the shown area was measured by means of the bamboos attached with iron rings.
The zabti system, originally, is associated with Raja Todar Mal (one of the nobles of Akbar), therefore, sometimes, it is called as Todar Mal’s bandobast.
Todar Mal was a brilliant revenue officer of his time. He first served on Sher Shah’s court, but later joined Akbar.
Besides zabti system, a number of other systems of assessment were also introduced by Akbar. The most common and, perhaps the oldest one was ‘batai’ or ‘ghalla-bakshi.’
Under batai system, the produce was divided between the peasants and the state in a fixed proportion.
The peasants were allowed to choose between zabti and batai under certain conditions. However, such a choice was given when the crops had been ruined by natural calamity.
Under batai system, the peasants were given the choice of paying in cash or in kind, though the state preferred cash.
In the case of crops such as cotton, indigo, oil-seeds, sugarcane, etc., the state demand was customarily in cash. Therefore, these crops were called as cash-crops.
The third type of system, which was widely used (particularly in Bengal) in Akbar’s time was nasaq.
Most likely (but not confirmed), under the nasaq system, a rough calculation was made on the basis of the past revenue receipts paid by the peasants. This system required no actual measurement, however, the area was ascertained from the records.
The land which remained under cultivation almost every year was called ‘polaj.’
When the land left uncultivated, it was called ‘parati’ (fallow). Cess on Parati land was at the full (polaj) rate when it was cultivated.
The land which had been fallow for two to three years was called ‘chachar,’ and if longer than that, it was known as ‘banjar.’
The land was also classified as good, middling, and bad. Though one-third of the average produce was the state demand, it varied according to the productivity of the land, the method of assessment, etc.
Akbar was deeply interested in the development and extension of cultivation; therefore, he offered taccavi (loans) to the peasants for seeds, equipment, animals, etc. Akbar made policy to recover the loans in easy installments.
Akbar organized and strengthened his army and encouraged the mansabdari system. “Mansab” is an Arabic word, which means ‘rank’ or ‘position.’
Under the mansabdari system, every officer was assigned a rank (mansab). The lowest rank was 10, and the highest was 5,000 for the nobles; however, towards the end of the reign, it was raised to 7,000. Princes of the blood received higher mansabs.
The mansabs (ranks) were categorized as:
The word ‘zat’ means personal. It fixed the personal status of a person, and also his salary.
The ‘sawar’ rank indicated the number of cavalrymen (sawars) a person was required to maintain.
Out of his personal pay, the mansabdar was expected to maintain a corps of elephants, camels, mules, and carts, which were necessary for the transport of the army.
The Mughal mansabdars were paid very handsomely; in fact, their salaries were probably the highest in the world at the time.
A mansabdar, holding the rank of:
o 100 zat, received a monthly salary of Rs. 500/month;
o 1,000 zat received Rs. 4,400/month;
o 5,000 zat received Rs. 30,000/month.
During the Mughal period, there was as such no income tax.
Apart from cavalrymen, bowmen, musketeers (bandukchi), sappers, and miners were also recruited in the contingents.
Akbar followed the system of the Subhah, the pargana, and the sarkar as his major administrative units.
Subhah was the top most administrative unit, which was further sub-divided into Sarkar. Sarkar (equivalent to district) was constituted of certain number of parganas and pargana was the collective administrative unit of a few villages.
The chief officer of subhah was subedar.
The chief officers of the sarkar were the faujdar and the amalguzar.
The faujdar was in-charge of law and order, and the amalguzar was responsible for the assessment and collection of the land revenue.
The territories of the empire were classified into jagir, khalsa and inam. Income from khalsa villages went directly to the royal exchequer.
The Inam lands were those property, which were given to learned and religious men.
The Jagir lands were allotted to the nobles and members of the Royal family including the queens.
The Amalguzar was assigned to exercise a general supervision over all types of lands for the purpose of imperial rules and regulations and the assessment and collection of land revenue uniformly.
Akbar reorganized the central machinery of administration on the basis of the division of power among various departments.
During the Sultanate period, the role of wazir, the chief adviser of the ruler, was very important, but Akbar reduced the responsibilities of wazir by creating separate departments.
Akbar assigned wazir as head of the revenue department. Thus, he was no longer the principal adviser to the ruler, but an expert in revenue affairs (only). However, to emphasize on wazir’s importance, Akbar generally used the title of diwan or diwan-i-ala (in preference to the title wazir).
The diwan was held responsible for all income and expenditure, and held control over khalisa, jagir and inam lands.
The head of the military department was known as the mir bakhshi. It was the mir bakhshi (and not the diwan) who was considered as the head of the nobility.
Recommendations for the appointments to mansabs or for the promotions, etc., were made to the emperor through the mir bakhshi.
The mir bakhshi was also the head of the intelligence and information agencies of the empire. Intelligence officers and news reporters (waqia-navis) were posted in all regions of the empire and their reports were presented to the emperor’s court through the mir bakhshi.
The mir saman was the third important officer of Mughal Empire. He was in-charge of the imperial household, including the supply of all the provisions and articles for the use of the inmates of the harem or the female apartments.
The judicial department was headed by the chief qazi. This post was sometimes clubbed with that of the chief sadr who was responsible for all charitable and religious endowments.
To make himself accessible to the people as well as to the ministers, Akbar judiciously divided his time. The day started with the emperor’s appearance at the jharoka of the palace where large numbers of people used to assemble daily to have a glimpse of the ruler, and to present petitions to him if required so.
In 1580, Akbar classified his empire into twelve subas (provinces) namely:
o Malwa and
Each of these subah consisted of a governor (subadar), a diwan, a bakhshi, a sadr, a qazi, and a waqia-navis.
Integration of States
By adopting a liberal policy of religious toleration and, in some cases, by giving important jobs, including service at the court and in the army, to the Hindus, Akbar successfully attempted to integrate all religious people.
The contemporary popular saints, such as Chaitanya, Kabir, and Nanak, (resided in different parts of the country) emphasized on the essential unity of Islam and Hinduism.
One of the first actions, which Akbar took, after coming into power, was to abolish the jizyah (tax), which the non-Muslims were required to pay in a Muslim state.
Akbar also abolished the pilgrim-tax on bathing at holy places such as Prayag, Banaras, etc. Further, Akbar abolished the practice of forcibly converting prisoners of war to Islam.
From the beginning, Akbar successfully attempted to gather a band of intellectual people with liberal ideas at his court. Abul Fazl and his brother Faizi were the most recognized scholars of that time. However, both of them were persecuted by the mullahs for having sympathy with Mahdawi ideas.
Mahesh Das (a Brahman), who is more popular as Raja Birbal was one of the most trustworthy nobles of Akbar’s court.
In 1575, Akbar built a hall known as Ibadat Khana (or the Hall of Prayer) at his new capital, Fatehpur Sikri (nearby Agra), which Akbar kept open for all religious people including Christians, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Jains, and even atheists.
Akbar’s Ibadta Khana horrified many theologians, and various rumors spread i.e. Akbar about to forsake Islam. However, Akbar was less successful in his effort to find a meeting place between the votaries of different religions in his territory.
The debates in the Ibadat Khana had not led to a better understanding among the different religions, but rather lead to bitterness, as the representatives of each religion criticized the other and tried to prove that their religion was superior to others. In 1582, by understanding the conflicting situation, Akbar withdrawn the debates in the Ibadat Khana.
Akbar invited Purushottam and Devi (Hindu philosophers) to explain the doctrines of Hinduism. He also invited Maharji Rana to explain the doctrines of Zoroastrianism.
To understand the Christian religion, Akbar also met with some Portuguese priests, he sent an embassy to Goa, requesting them to send learned missionaries to his court. Two Portuguese saints namely Aquaviva and Monserrate came and remained at Akbar’s court for almost three years.
Akbar also met with Hira Vijaya Suri, the leading Jain saint of Kathiawar, he also spent a couple of years at Akbar’s court.
Abd-ul-Qadir Bada’uni (an Indo-Persian historian and translator) asserted that as a result of knowing different religious views, Akbar gradually turned away from the Islam and set up a new religion, which was compounded many existing religions. However, there is very little evidence to prove that Akbar intended or actually promulgated a new religion of such kind.
The word used by Abul Fazl and Bada’uni for the so called new path was “tauhid-i-ilahi.” The literal meaning of tauhid-i-ilahi is “Divine Monotheism.”
Akbar initiated ‘Pabos’ (or kissing the floor before the sovereign), a ceremony which was previously reserved for God.
Akbar tried to emphasize the concept of ‘sulh-kul’ (or peace and harmony) among different religions in other ways as well. He set up a big translation department for translating works in Sanskrit, Arabic, Greek, etc., into Persian. Most likely, it was the time when the Quran was also translated for the first time.
Akbar introduced a number of social and educational reforms. He stopped sati (the burning of a widow), unless she herself, of her own free will, determinedly desired it. Further, Akbar made a strict rule that widows of tender age who had not shared the bed with their husbands were not to be burnt at all. Akbar also legalized Widow Remarriage.
Akbar was not in favor of second marriage (having two wives at the same time) unless the first wife was barren.
Akbar raised the marriage age, 14 for girls and 16 for boys.
Akbar restricted the sale of wines and spirits.
Akbar revised the educational syllabus, emphasizing more on moral education and mathematics, and on secular subjects including agriculture, geometry, astronomy, rules of government, logic, history, etc.
Akbar gave patronage to artists, poets, painters, and musicians, as his court was infused with famous and scholar people, more popularly known as the ‘navaratna.’
Akbar’s empire (as many historians claim) was essentially secular, liberal, and a promoter of cultural integration. It was enlightened with social and cultural matters.
Akbar was apprehensive because of the growing power of the Portuguese, as they had been interfering the pilgrim traffic (to Mecca), not sparing even the royal ladies.
In their territories, Portuguese were practicing the proselytizing activities, which Akbar disliked. Akbar apparently felt that the coordination and pooling of the resources of the Deccani states under Mughal supervision would check, if not eliminate, the Portuguese danger.
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 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 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.
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.