Ruler # 1. Babur:
All modern historians have assigned a highly respectable place to Babur in history. V.A. Smith wrote- “Babur was the most brilliant Asiatic prince of the age, and worthy of a high place among the sovereigns of any age or country.” Havell described him as “the most attractive figure in the history of Islam,” while Erskine commented- “We shall probably find no Asiatic prince who can justly be placed beside him.”
The character and personality of Babur, no doubt, deserves all these praises. But, Babur could not get his rightful place in history if he would have failed to conquer a large part of northern India. He did not fare well in the politics of Asia and his conquest of Afghanistan was not glorious. It was only his success in India which assigned him the place of an important ruler.
Babur fought three important battles in India, viz., the battles of Panipat, Khanua and Ghaghara and won all of them. He, thus, succeeded in laying down the foundation of the Mughul rule in India. Babur, of course, himself failed to provide stability to his empire and also failed to make it an all-India empire.
Yet by breaking the power of the Afghans and the Rajputs, he laid down the foundation of such an empire which the Rajputs or the Afghans had failed to create during the course of nearly one hundred and fifty years. It has been expressed by many that the real founder of the Mughul empire was Akbar.
Of course, Akbar re-established the Mughul empire, extended and strengthened it and provided it a firm base by a systematic administration. Therefore, he has been legitimately regarded as the greatest Mughul ruler. Yet, Babur alone can be regarded as the founder ruler of the Mughul dynasty. He conquered a large part of north India, made Delhi his capital and destroyed the power of the Afghans and the Rajputs.
Dr S.R. Sharma has compared Babur with Henry VII of England. Both were the founders of dynastic rule in their respective countries and both had to fight against the legitimate or illegitimate successors of displaced ruling dynasties.
He has expressed- “In 1526, Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, by his victory over Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat, ushered in a new era in India and a new dynasty on the throne of Delhi, as Henry VII had done in England after his triumph on the field of Bosworth only forty years earlier (1485).”
Dr R.P. Tripathi has given yet more credit to Babur from another point of view. He credits him for the initiation of a new liberal policy towards the Rajputs in particular and towards the Hindus in general.
He says- “Babur had not only shown the way to found a new empire but had indicated the character and policy which should govern it. He established a dynasty and a tradition in India, which have a few parallels in the history of any other country.”
In the history of the world, Babur occupies a significant place as a scholarly king. His writings, particularly his autobiography, ranks among the best writings of the world written by kings. Even if Babur would not have succeeded in establishing an empire in India, probably, he would have been remembered by the people because of his scholarly writings, particularly his autobiography.
Ruler # 2. Humayun:
As a person, Humayun possessed many qualities of head and heart. He was well-educated and cultured. He knew Turki and Persian well. Besides, he was interested in the study of Geography, Mathematics, Astronomy and Muslim theology. He was an obedient son, lovable husband, affectionate father and a good relative.
He was extremely generous towards his nobles and soldiers and shared with them all his successes and failures. He was sweet in his behaviour to everybody who came in his contact. He was deeply religious but was not a bigot. He made a treaty with the Shah of Persia and agreed to propagate Shia sect among his subjects to achieve his political end. His wife Hamida Banu Begum and his chief adviser Bairam Khan were Shias.
Of course, he destroyed Hindu temples during the course of wars, but in times of peace, he took no measure against the Hindus. He provided patronage to all scholars without discrimination on grounds of religion or race and, thereby, his court had become the centre of learning and culture. Humayun was extremely generous and kind. The water-carrier who saved his life from drowning in the river Ganges after the battle of Chausa was raised to the throne of Delhi for a day.
Humayun repeatedly pardoned his brothers, relatives and those nobles who revolted against him several times. Physically, Humayun was well-built, tough and capable of hard labour. He was a courageous and a capable soldier prepared to face all odds in his life. He participated in all important battles of his life and risked his life many times. Thus, as an individual, the character of Humayun was praiseworthy and admirable.
However, Humayun suffered from certain weaknesses both as an individual and as a ruler. Though he was well-educated and learnt many subjects, he had command over none. His language and writings were also not effective. His kindness and generosity lacked practical wisdom. Therefore, his brothers and relatives took advantage of it and dared to revolt against him several times. That is why Humayun failed as a ruler.
Lane-Poole has remarked:
“His character attracts but never dominates. In private life he might have been a delightful companion and a staunch friend, his virtues were Christian, and his whole life was that of a gentleman. But as a king he was a failure.”
Humayun also lacked the qualities of a good military commander and organiser. The Mughul army which was victorious at the battles of Panipat and Khanua and conquered Gujarat and Malwa for him in the beginning of his reign was defeated without much difficulty by Sher Shah at the battles of Chausa and Kannauj.
Certainly, one of the primary reasons of these defeats was incapable leadership of Humayun. Humayun was also not a good judge of men and circumstances. He failed to understand the diplomatic game of Sher Shah in time. He also failed to extract loyalty from his brothers. That is why the Mughuls failed against the Afghans. Humayun was not a good administrator as well.
He failed to bring under his effective control the provinces of Gujarat, Malwa and Bengal after their conquest. He did nothing to improve the finances of his empire and brought no administrative change in the machinery set up by Babur.
That was also one of the causes of his failure against Sher Shah. Malleson has remarked- “Brave, genial, witty, a charming companion, highly educated, generous and merciful, Humayun was less qualified than his father to found a dynasty on principles which should endure.”
Yet, Humayun possessed a determined will. His failures did not subdue his spirits. He conquered Afghanistan with little help of the Shah of Persia and finally snatched away his Indian empire from the hands of the Afghans at the first proper opportunity.
Dr S. Roy has correctly commented:
“With all his weaknesses and failings, Humayun has a significant place in Indian History which is not, perhaps, always duly appreciated. The well-timed restoration of the Mughul power was a real achievement which paved the way, for the splendid imperialism of Akbar, while the Indo-Persian contact, which he reinforced and stimulated, was a factor of far-reaching consequence in the history of Indian civilization.”
Ruler # 3. Sher Shah:
E.B. Havell has remarked- “Sher Shah showed brilliant capacity as an organiser, both in military and civil affairs.” The same way, William Erskine has remarked: “Sher Shah had more of the spirit of the legislator and guardian of his people than any prince before Akbar.”
Thus, most of the modern historians have recognised the ability of Sher Shah as an administrator. But the credit of assigning Sher Shah his rightful place in history goes to the researches done in the 20th century by Dr Kalka Ranjan Qanungo. Dr Qanungo has described Sher Shah as “The greatest administrative and military genius among the Afghans.”
He says that Sher Shah was a better constructive genius and nation-builder than even Akbar, the Great. Sir Woolseley Haig has also commented- “He was in truth one of the greatest rulers who ever sat on the throne of Delhi. No other ruler from Akbar to Aurangzeb possessed such intimate knowledge of the details of administration or was able to control public business so minutely and effectively as he.”
Thus, most of the historians have praised Sher Shah as an administrator and extensive researches have been attempted on his administration even after the work of Dr Qanungo. Among modern historians Dr Parmatma Saran and Dr Ram Prasad Tripathi, however, have expressed the opinion that “Sher Shah was a good administrator but he was not an innovator.” The majority of modern historians now accept this view.
Of course, Sher Shah was one of the best administrators among the rulers of medieval India but he did not invent any novelty in administration. His revenue administration was not entirely novel while his military reforms were based on the reforms introduced by Ala-ud-din Khalji. Sher Shah learnt from the experiences of others.
The different measures pursued by his predecessors were so adapted by him that they looked like new innovations. Besides, he practised them with such a masterly hand that all his administrative measures succeeded in bringing out order, peace, strength and prosperity to the state as well as to his subjects. That itself is sufficient to regard him as one of the best administrators among the rulers of medieval India.
Ruler # 4. Akbar:
Akbar was the greatest among the Mughul Emperors, one among the great rulers of India and also one among the most reputed and powerful rulers of the world. All contemporary and modern historians have praised him as one of the great rulers of India. Lane-Poole described him as “the noblest king that ever ruled in India” and as “the true founder and organiser of the empire.”
He also remarked that his age “represents the golden age of the empire.” Even V.A. Smith who has commented against him at many places says- “He was a born king of men, with a rightful claim to be one of the mightiest sovereigns known to history. That claim rests surely on the basis of his extraordinary natural gifts, his original ideas, and his magnificent achievements.”
Akbar possessed an attractive and imposing personality. He was an obedient son, a lovable husband and a generous father. He respected and loved all his friends and relatives. He wept bitterly at the death of his friend, Abul Fazl and did not take his food for two days. He possessed many humane virtues because of which he accepted the welfare of his subjects as one of his primary responsibilities and was most generous towards the poor and weaker sections of the society.
His physique was strong and well-maintained though he was a man of medium height. He was not educated but he respected and patronized scholars. He constructed a library which had 24,000 texts which cost nearly rupees sixty-five lacs. He was fond of sports and hunting. He was expert in handling all arms, was a fine shot and a sturdy rider.
He was capable of hard labour and was extraordinarily courageous to face difficulties and even to risk his life in battles. He had absolute faith in God but was tolerant to all religions. As regards religion, he was pioneer of a new policy. Akbar was illiterate but, by coming in contact with scholars in different fields, he had acquired useful knowledge in philosophy, religion, literature, history, etc.
He justified it by bringing different innovations in religion and civil and military administration and also by implementing them successfully. Akbar possessed a sharp memory and remembered things quickly. He, of course, took intoxicants like wine and opium but was not an addict and as his age grew he observed better restraint and left or reduced to minimum even meat-eating.
Like all other rulers of that age, Akbar too had many wives and there were nearly 5,000 women in his harem and certainly, many among them were his concubines. Yet, he was not a debauch. The stories of holding Meena Bazar to find out and capture beautiful women and the attempt of Akbar to dishonour the wife of Prithvi Raj Rathore of Bikaner seem to be false legends.
It is possible that Akbar might have engaged himself in some such follies in his young age but as he grew up to maturity he certainly became sober and temperate. That is why we find instances of cruelty and violence during his early period but, during later period of his rule, these are absent.
Akbar was a daring soldier and a capable commander. He proved his courage and determination in many battles. He led many campaigns in person and brought them to success. The mobility of the Mughul army increased during his time.
His campaign to suppress the revolt in Gujarat has been regarded as a ‘historic campaign.’ He improved fighting tactics, arms and organisation of the Mughul army so that it became invincible during his time. The history of his reign is full of successful military campaigns and extension of the empire.
Akbar proved himself as an innovator in many fields of administration. Besides, he possessed practical wisdom to implement those innovations successfully. The administration which he established survived successfully during the reigns of his powerful descendants and needed no change on principles.
The duties and responsibilities of the emperor, the central and the provincial administration, the revenue system, the coinage, the mansabdari system etc. as defined and established by him were taken over and carried on by his successors. It was Akbar who provided the administration which was universally applied throughout the territories of the Mughul empire and provided same treatment to his all subjects.
As a ruler and statesman, the religious and the Rajput policy of Akbar were not only novel but extremely successful. These provided a firm base and a new direction to the Mughul empire and were largely responsible for power and glory of the Mughul empire.
Akbar also attempted to create a uniform culture among his subjects. The means which he adopted for the literary and artistic growth among his subjects led to a uniform Indian style in different fields and provided incentive to the progress of literature and fine arts.
Thus the character and personality of Akbar was that of a grand monarch. He was successful both as an individual and an Emperor. His life and ideals were inspiring to others as a ruler, conqueror, administrator, statesman and a monarch. That is why Akbar alone has been regarded as ‘the great’ among the Mughul emperors.
Ruler # 5. Jahangir:
Akbar lost all children of his early youth. It was after many prayers and blessings of Shaikh Salim Chisti of Fatehpur Sikri that his wife, the Princess of Jaipur, Maryam-uz-Zamani gave birth to prince Muhammad Salim in 1569 A.D. Salim was brought up with extreme care and affection and under the guidance of eminent teachers, one of them being the great scholar of his age, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana. Salim had many wives.
His first wife was Man Bai who was the daughter of Raja Bhagwan Das of Jaipur and the sister of Raja Man Singh. She became the mother of prince Khusrav, the eldest son of Salim. His second wife was Jagat Gosai (Jodha Bai), daughter of Raja Udaya Singh. She gave birth to prince Khurram (future emperor Shah Jahan).
Parwez, the third son of Salim was born of Begum Sahib-i-Jamal while his fourth son Saharyar was the son of one of his concubines. However, his famous queen was Nur Jahan whom he married much later as the Emperor. Salim became a spoilt child because of extreme love of his parents and when he grew young he became fond of wine and women.
He tried to become an independent ruler during the later period of Akbar’s reign but failed and reconciliation took place between the father and the son. Murad and Daniyal, other two sons of Akbar died before their father. Therefore, Akbar nominated Salim as his successor while he was on his death-bed.
The coronation of Salim took place on 3 November 1605 A.D. and he assumed the title of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Badshah Gazi. Jahangir assigned high offices to those nobles who were loyal to him and among them one was Raja Bir Singh Bundela who had killed Abul Fazl. True to the traditions of his father, Jahangir began his reign with the declaration of many liberal laws which benefited his subjects.
He got a big bell fitted at Shah Burz in the fort of Agra and its golden chain was left in the open on the banks of the river Yamuna. Anybody could beg for justice to the emperor at any time by ringing that bell. It cannot be ascertained that how much use was made of that bell by the common people, but, certainly, it gave an insight to the sense of justice of emperor Jahangir.
Ruler # 6. Shah Jahan:
Nearly thirty years of rule of Shah Jahan marked the zenith of power and prosperity of the Mughul empire and won the credit of being its golden age. The political supremacy of the Mughuls was established in India by Akbar. Shah Jahan extended the political frontiers of the Mughul empire further.
Of course, the Mughul empire enjoyed its most extensive frontiers during the rule of Aurangzeb, but Aurangzeb failed to maintain them for long. The revolts which occurred during his reign sapped up the energy of the empire which ultimately resulted in its breakdown. But no such thing happened during the reign of Shah Jahan.
Till Shah Jahan fell ill which resulted in the war of succession among his sons, no power could throw a successful challenge to the Mughul empire. The empire enjoyed peace and prosperity during his reign. Of course, everything did not remain as well as it seemed outwardly. The Mughul empire certainly developed certain weaknesses during his reign.
The wasteful expenditure on the splendour of the court and construction of magnificent buildings, the beginning of the policy of religious intolerance, and the war of succession fiercely fought by his sons among themselves were such acts which affected adversely the fortunes of the empire. Yet, the reign of Shah Jahan remained the glorious period of the Mughul empire.
Prince Khurram who was awarded afterwards the title of Shah Jahan, was born on 5 January 1592 A.D. at Lahore. His mother, Jagat Gosai (Jodha Bai or Bhanmati) was the daughter of Udaya Singh, ruler of Marwar. Khurram was the favourite child of his grandfather Akbar and Jahangir treated him as his successor to the throne after the revolt of his elder son, Khusrav.
Therefore, he was assigned important posts from the very beginning. When Khusrav revolted, Khurram was given charge of the administration of the capital. In 1606 A.D., he was assigned the rank of 5,000 sawar and 8,000 zat. He was married to Arjumand Banu Begum, daughter of Asaf Khan in 1612 A.D. He successfully participated in the military campaigns against Mewar, Kangra and the Deccan.
He was awarded the title of Shah Jahan after his successful campaign in the Deccan. He remained a member of Nur Jahan Junta till 1622 A.D. and received the best ranks, honour and Jagirs from the Emperor. But after that he lost favour of the Queen. Nur Jahan started supporting the cause of her son-in-law, Shahryar which resulted in difficulties to Shah Jahan. He revolted in 1623 A.D. but did not get success and accepted all the conditions imposed by Jahangir.
When Jahangir died, Shah Jahan was in the Deccan. At that time, he was ably supported by Asaf Khan, his father-in-law who was the vakil of the empire. Khuwaja Abul Hasan, the Diwan of the empire was also in his favour.
In fact, these were the people who were largely responsible for his succession to the throne. They freed prince Dara Shukoh, Shuja and Aurangzeb from the captivity of Nur Jahan, declared Dawar Baksh, son of prince Khusrav as emperor and asked Shah Jahan to proceed at once to the capital.
Nur Jahan failed to take any action against Asaf Khan. Her son-in-law, Shahryar, however, declared himself the emperor at Lahore. But he was an incapable man. Asaf Khan attacked and defeated him. He was blinded. Shah Jahan who was hurriedly proceeding to Agra, sent message to Asaf Khan to kill Shahryar and rest of the princes of the royal family.
Asaf Khan obeyed his orders and all royal princes who could be claimants to the throne were murdered prior to the arrival of Shah Jahan at Agra. Shah Jahan declared himself the emperor on 24 February 1628 A.D. at Agra and assumed the title of Abul Muzaffar Sahab-ud-din Muhammad Sahib Kiran-i-Sani.
Asaf Khan was given the mansab of 8,000 zat and 8,000 sawar and was appointed vazir of the empire. Mahabat Khan was given the title of Khan-i-Khana and his mansab was raised to 7,000 zat and 7,000 sawar. Begum Nur Jahan was given a pension of rupees two lakh per annum. She passed her remaining life peacefully at Lahore where she died in 1645 A.D.
Ruler # 7. Aurangzeb:
Aurangzeb had proved himself a capable commander and administrator as a prince. He was certainly a successful military strategist and practical statesman than his brothers who contended against him for the throne. His success in the war of succession was the success of the most capable prince and therefore, when he crowned himself the Emperor, the Mughul empire went under the direction of a most strong and capable person within the empire.
He ruled for a long period and therefore, the empire could get the advantages of his best talents. Aurangzeb, no doubt, was a great king. The empire reached at the zenith of its power during his rule. Yet, ultimately Aurangzeb failed. The empire moved towards its disintegration during the period of his rule. Thus, his success and failure both were remarkable.
Muhi-ud-din Muhammad Aurangzeb was born on 3 November 1618 A.D. at Dohad near Ujjain. When Shah Jahan revolted against his father and failed, Dara and Aurangzeb were handed over to Nur Jahan as hostages. They became free only after the death of Jahangir. Aurangzeb was provided the best and different sort of education. He became well adept in the art of handling arms and techniques of fighting.
He also learnt Arabic, Persian, Turki and Hindi languages besides the study of religious texts of Islam. His first military campaign as a prince was against Jujhar Singh of Bundelkhand in which he succeeded. Aurangzeb remained governor of the Deccan twice, once of Gujarat and commanded the armies in the campaigns against Central Asia and Kandhar.
Thus, he gained wide experience of administration and fighting as a prince. Then after defeating his brothers and imprisoning his father Shah Jahan, he captured the throne and declared himself the emperor on 31 July 1658 A.D. He assumed the title of ‘Abdul Muzaffar Muhi-ud-din Muhammad Aurangzeb Bahadur Alamgir Padshah Gazi.’