History of the Mughals (Who Were Them?)

Under the direction of Zahir-ud-Din Babur, the descendants of the Mongol, Turkish, Iranian, and Afghan conquerors of South Asia, known as the Mughals, entered India in the early sixteenth century. Babur was the great-grandson of Timur Lenk, also known as Timur the Lame (from which the Western name Tamerlane is derived), who had invaded India and plundered Delhi in 1398. Timur Lenk then led a short-lived empire based in Samarkand (in what is now the country of Uzbekistan), which united Persian-based Mongols (Babur’s maternal ancestors) and other West Asian peoples. Babur After being expelled from Samarkand in 1504, Babur first established his control in Kabul; he went on to become the first Mughal king (1526-30). He was resolute in his goal to extend his territory eastward into Punjab, into which he had already made many incursions. After that, he accepted an invitation from an opportunistic Afghan leader in Punjab, which took him to the very heart of the Delhi Sultanate, which was governed by Ibrahim Lodi (1517-26). Babur, a seasoned military leader, reached India in 1526 with his well-trained veteran army of 12,000 men to face the sultan’s massive but unwieldy and disunited force of more than 100,000 soldiers. Babur’s army was comprised of veterans who had served in previous wars. At Panipat, Babur was victorious over the Lodi sultan in a decisive victory (in modern-day Haryana, about ninety kilometres north of Delhi). A decisive victory was won by Babur thanks to the use of gun carriages, artillery that could be moved, and better cavalry tactics. After another year, he achieved a decisive victory over a Rajput confederacy that was commanded by Rana Sangha. In 1529, Babur was successful in routing the combined forces of the Afghans and the sultan of Bengal, but he did not live long enough to consolidate his military gains before his death in 1530. As gifts, he bequeathed his memoirs, which are known as the Babur Namah, as well as a number of stunning gardens in Kabul, Lahore, and Agra, as well as offspring who would one day realise his ambition of building an empire in Hindustan.

After Babur passed away, his son Humayun (1530–1566), who was also a soldier, acquired a challenging responsibility. The reassertion of Afghan claims to the throne of Delhi, conflicts over his own succession, and the Afghan-Rajput march into Delhi in 1540 were all factors that contributed to the pressure that was put on him from all sides. He managed to escape to Persia, where he served as an awkward guest at the Safavid court for the better part of 10 years. In 1545, he established a footing in Kabul, reaffirmed his Indian claim, and in 1555, he claimed possession of Delhi. Sher Khan Sur was the most powerful Afghan king at the time, and he was beaten by him.

Humayun’s unexpected death in 1556 left the job of future imperial conquest and consolidation to his thirteen-year-old son, Jalal-ud-Din Akbar (r. 1556-1605). (r. 1556-1605). The stunning military victory at the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556 prompted Akbar’s regent Bayram Khan to vigorously pursue an expansionist agenda on the emperor’s behalf. As soon as Akbar reached adulthood, he started to exhibit his own aptitude for judgement and leadership, and he began to separate himself from the pressures of domineering ministers, court factions, and harem intrigues. As a self-described “workaholic” who seldom got more than three hours of sleep a night, he personally supervised the execution of his administrative rules, which were to serve as the foundation of the Mughal Empire for more than two hundred years. He continued to conquer, annex, and consolidate a vast territory that was bounded by Kabul in the northwest, Kashmir in the north, Bengal in the east, and beyond the Narmada River in the south. This territory was comparable in size to the Mauryan territory that existed approximately 1,800 years earlier (see fig. 3).

Beginning in 1571, Akbar began construction of a fortified city close to Agra that he named Fatehpur Sikri (Fatehpur meaning “Fortress of Victory”). It was there that Akbar had palaces constructed for each of his senior queens, as well as an enormous man-made lake and opulent courtyards filled with water. It is possible that the city’s water supply was inadequate or of poor quality. On the other hand, some historians believe that Akbar had to pay attention to the northwest areas of his empire, and he simply moved his capital for political reasons. Regardless of the reason, the city did not survive for very long. Regardless of the reasons, the capital was moved in 1585 to the city of Lahore, and then again in 1599 to the city of Agra.

When it came to the administration of a huge region and the incorporation of several ethnic groups into the service of his empire, Akbar used two separate strategies that were both successful. In the year 1580, he inquired about the local income figures for the preceding decade in order to have a better understanding of the specifics about the production and price fluctuations of various crops. Akbar, with the assistance of Todar Mal, a Rajput monarch, set a tax schedule that the peasants was able to accept while yet supplying the state with the highest amount of profit possible. The revenue demands, which were determined by regional farming customs and the condition of the soil, varied from one-third to one-half of the yield and were paid in cash. Akbar placed a significant amount of importance on zamindars who owned land (see Glossary). They were able to gather income by using their extensive local knowledge and influence, then they transferred it to the treasury while retaining a piece of it for themselves in exchange for the services that they provided. Within his administrative system, the warrior aristocracy, known as mansabdars, held ranks known as mansabs. These mansabs were stated in terms of the number of men under their command and indicated factors such as pay, armed contingents, and duties. The earnings from jagirs, which were not inherited and could be transferred, was the primary source of income for the military elite (revenue villages).

Akbar was a wise ruler who had a genuine appreciation for the difficulties of administering such a large empire. He instituted a policy of reconciliation and assimilation of Hindus, who represented the majority of the population. This policy included Maryam al-Zamani, the Hindu Rajput mother of his son and heir, Jahangir. He recruited and rewarded Hindu chiefs with the highest ranks in government; encouraged intermarriages between Mughal and Rajput aristocracy; allowed new temples to be built; personally participated in celebrating Hindu festivals such as Dipavali, or Diwali, the festival of lights; and abolished the jizya (poll tax) imposed on non-Muslims. In addition, he allowed new temples to be built. Akbar devised his own philosophy of “rulership as a divine illumination,” which he incorporated in his own religion Din-i-Ilahi (also known as Divine Faith). This theory included the concept of accepting all faiths and sects. He supported widow marriage, opposed child marriage, abolished the practise of sati, and pushed Delhi merchants to set up special market days for women, who normally remained sequestered at home. He also outlawed the practise of sati, which was a kind of female genital mutilation (see Veiling and the Seclusion of Women, ch. 5). At the conclusion of Akbar’s rule, the Mughal Empire controlled the vast majority of the territory in India that was to the north of the Godavari River. Gondwana, which is located in central India and paid homage to the Mughals, and Assam, which is located in the northeast of India, were the only exceptions.

During the reigns of Jahangir (1605–27) and Shah Jahan (1628–58), the Mughal Empire was renowned for its political and economic stability, as well as its stunning artwork and massive architecture. After marrying a Persian princess, Jahangir rechristened her Nur Jahan, which means “Light of the World.” Nur Jahan went on to become the second most important person in the court, after only the emperor. As a direct consequence of this, many brilliant Persian poets, painters, academics, and officers, including members of her own family, sought refuge in India, drawn there by the splendour and wealth of the Mughal court. The number of ineffective, long-serving officials skyrocketed, as did instances of corruption, and the excessive presence of Persians in the court disrupted the delicate equilibrium of impartiality that had previously existed there. Jahangir enjoyed Hindu festivities but encouraged widespread conversion to Islam; he persecuted adherents of Jainism and even had Guru (see Glossary) Arjun Das, the fifth saint-teacher of the Sikhs, put to death. Jahangir’s reign was marked by religious intolerance (see Sikhism, ch. 3). In 1622, Nur Jahan’s failed attempts to secure the throne for the son of her choosing led to Shah Jahan’s rebellion against the Mughal Empire. In the same year, the Persians seized control of Kandahar, which is located in southern Afghanistan; this was an event that dealt a significant damage to the reputation of the Mughal empire.

Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire, sent Mughal soldiers to the Deccan and the northwest beyond the Khyber Pass between the years 1636 and 1646. The imperial coffers was depleted as a result of these conflicts, despite the fact that they displayed the Mughal military’s might. As the state expanded into a massive military machine, the number of nobles and the size of their contingents increased by nearly a factor of four. At the same time, the state increased its demands for more income from the peasants. Broad hubs of trade and crafts, such as Lahore, Delhi, Agra, and Ahmadabad, emerged as a result of political unity and the preservation of law and order across great swaths of land. These large cities were connected to more distant towns and ports by highways and canals. In memory of Shah Jahan’s cherished wife Mumtaz Mahal, the world-famous Taj Mahal was constructed in Agra during his reign as a mausoleum for Mumtaz Mahal. It is a symbol of both the creative accomplishment of the Mughals and the exorbitant financial spending that occurred during a time when resources were decreasing. Because the administration was unable to bring about any significant long-term changes in the preexisting social structure, the economic situation of the country’s peasants and artisans did not improve. There was no incentive for the revenue officials, whose primary concerns were personal or familial gain, to generate resources independent of the dominant Hindu zamindars and village leaders. This was because the Hindu zamindars and village leaders were prevented from handing over the full amount of revenue to the imperial treasury due to their own self-interest and their position of dominance in the local community. Unknowingly, the Mughals fostered the growth of forces that would ultimately result in the disintegration of their empire as their dependency on money from land increased to ever-greater levels.

Aurangzeb, who reigned from 1658 to 1707, was the last of the great Mughal emperors. He ascended to the throne by murdering all of his brothers and locking up his own father. During his rule of fifty years, the empire not only achieved its maximum possible physical capacity, but it also began to show clear signs of its eventual downfall. The enormous and unmanageable army was using antiquated equipment and tactics, and the bureaucracy had ballooned to absurd proportions and become riddled with corruption. It was not possible for Aurangzeb to reverse the dynasty’s deteriorating fortunes or regain its former splendour. Awe-inspiring but lacking in the charisma needed to attract outstanding lieutenants, he was driven to extend Mughal rule over the majority of South Asia and to reestablish Islamic orthodoxy by adopting a reactionary attitude toward those Muslims whom he had suspected of compromising their faith. In doing so, he adopted a reactionary attitude toward those Muslims who he had suspected of compromising their faith.

Aurangzeb was embroiled in a string of drawn-out conflicts, including those with the Pathans in Afghanistan, the sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda in the Deccan, and the Marathas in Maharashtra. All of these conflicts took place during his reign. Peasant uprisings and revolts led by local leaders became all too regular, as did the aristocrats’ plotting to maintain their own standing at the cost of an empire that was slowly declining in strength. The growing ties that his administration had with Islam produced an even deeper breach between the king and his Hindu citizens. Aurangzeb reinstated the jizya tax and banned the construction of any new temples while also destroying a number of existing ones. As a puritan and a censor of morality, he forbade the playing of music in the courtroom, did away with rituals, and punished Sikhs in the province of Punjab. As a result of alienating such a large number of people with these policies, power struggles had already started to intensify before he passed away. Rivals for the Mughal throne engaged in combat with one another, and the brief reigns of Aurangzeb’s successors were marked by a great deal of political unrest. The Mughal Empire suffered severe setbacks as a result of provincial rulers establishing autonomous kingdoms and breaking away from the empire. In 1739, Persian and Afghan soldiers stormed Delhi and carried away numerous jewels, including the Peacock Throne. The Mughals were forced to make peace with Maratha rebels, and as a result, they lost control of Delhi.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!