In this article we will discuss about the disintegration and fall of Mughul empire.
Disintegration (1707-1740 A.D.) of the Mughul Empire:
The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 A.D. marked the end of the glory of the Mughul empire. Of course, the process of disintegration of the Empire began during the reign of Aurangzeb, yet, the conditions were not so deplorable that the process could not be checked. The Mughul authority was challenged by several chiefs and Rajas at different places but none of them could assert independence and the Mughul sovereignty reigned supreme all over India.
The Marathas, the Rajputs and the Sikhs resisted the Mughul power simply to gain independence in their respective territories but not to overthrow the Empire as none had the capacity to do so. Thus, the Mughul power was yet insurmountable in India when Aurangzeb died. Therefore, if any one among the successors of Aurangzeb would have been a capable ruler, the process of disintegration of the Empire could be checked.
During the medieval age, the fate of the Empire depended on capability or incapability of the monarch. Therefore, if the Empire was governed by a capable commander and administrator, the glory and power of the Empire could be maintained. But that was not to be. None of the successors of Aurangzeb proved capable.
On the contrary, one after another the Empire was governed in succession by incapable, weak and licentious monarchs who hastened the process of disintegration of the Empire and, finally, led to its collapse. Therefore, the later Mughul monarchs were primarily responsible for the decay, disintegration and collapse of the Empire though, certainly, other factors also contributed towards it.
At his death, Aurangzeb left the Empire with several problems which his successors failed to solve. In the beginning of the 18th century, the Empire faced several political, administrative, economic and social problems which could not be solved. That led to the disintegration of the Empire. During medieval period, the power of the state, besides the emperor, was primarily shared by two classes.
One among those classes were the zamindars who were the hereditary owners of their lands and enjoyed certain privileges on hereditary basis. They were named as Rais, Thakurs, Khuts or Deshmukhs, etc. They occupied an important place within the Empire as they helped in collection of revenue and local administration and also maintained a good number of soldiers for that purpose.
The Mughul emperors had tried to break their power and keep direct contact with the peasants but had not succeeded completely. On the contrary, during the reign of Aurangzeb and the later Mughuls they succeeded in enhancing their power and influence. The worst harm which they did to the Empire was that they encouraged regional loyalties, the advantage of which was encashed by the other powerful class within the Empire, viz., the Nobility.
The nobles took advantage of the weakness of the Empire by carving out independent kingdoms for themselves and were helped by local zamindars whose presence encouraged regional loyalties. The nobility consisted of those people who were left free either to manage their kingdoms, were assigned large jagirs and mansabs or were appointed subedars of the subas and the responsibility to administer them.
Different Rajput rulers, subedars, big and small mansabdars came under the category of the nobility. Emperor Akbar had provided a well-knit organisation for them. Mughul rule has been defined as ‘the rule of the nobility,’ because the Mughul nobility had an effective role in administering the Empire.
The nobility, however, was divided into different categories based on distinctions of religion, home-land, tribe, etc. and each category formed a group of its own. Each of these groups contested among themselves to keep the maximum political power in its own hands.
Mutual rivalry, jealousy and contest for power among these groups of nobility during the rule of weak later Mughul emperors not only reduced the prestige of the Emperor but also hastened the progress of the disintegration of the Empire. Thus, powerful regional loyalties of the zamindars and the ambitions and contest for power among the groups of nobility played a large part in the disintegration of the Mughul empire.
During the reign of Aurangzeb, the Jats, the Sikhs and the Marathas fought against the Mughul empire because of several religious, social and economic tensions. None of them succeeded in their efforts at that time but each of them had a permanent impact on the future course of political events of their respective regions.
Each of them continued their fight against the Empire in their respective regions to gain political ascendancy. Their struggle against the Empire weakened it and participated in its disintegration. Aurangzeb had created widespread discontent among the Rajputs and their important rulers had started fighting against him. He failed to suppress them. His successor, Bahadur Shah also attempted to suppress the Rajput rulers but he too did not succeed.
The Mughul rulers after him, therefore, pursued a policy of reconciliation with the Rajputs. But the damage was already done. The united strength of the Mughuls and the Rajputs could not be utilised for the welfare of the Empire. On the contrary, both of them were weakened and the major loss was suffered by the Mughuls. The Marathas too had stood against Aurangzeb during his life-time.
In the beginning, their aim was simply to regain independence of Maharashtra. But when they gained success in it they tried to take advantage of the weakness of the Empire and aimed to get legal sanction of collecting Chauth and Sardeshmukhi from all over India from the Mughul emperor.
They penetrated in the North and, by 1740 A.D., succeeded in getting powerful hold over the provinces of Gujarat, Malwa and Bundelkhand. The struggle of the Rajputs against the Empire and the growing ambition and power of the Marathas, certainly, accelerated the process of the disintegration of the Empire.
Besides, even during the reign of Aurangzeb, the Empire suffered from several economic and administrative problems. The number of Amirs and their ranks or mansabs had increased so much that there was no more land to be distributed among them as jagirs. That problem was called the problem of Bejagiri.
Aurangzeb tried to solve that problem by showing enhanced income from their respective jagirs on record. But, that enhanced that problem instead of solving it. The Amirs tried to recover the recorded income from their respective jagirs from the peasants but failed to get it. Therefore, on the one hand, the Amirs felt displeased and, on the other hand, the peasants were heavily burdened.
Besides, the wars, the licentious living of emperors and Amirs, the reduction in the Khalisa-land, etc. weakened further the economic and administrative structure of the Empire. The income of the state failed to meet its expenditure. That adversely affected all classes of people, viz., the Amirs, the traders, the artisans, the labour, the peasants etc. It had political implications as well.
It increased group-rivalries at the court, encouraged the Amirs to carve out independent kingdoms for themselves, weakened the central administration and reduced the military strength of the Empire. After the death of Aurangzeb these economic and administrative problems were multiplied and that contributed towards the disintegration of the Empire.
During the reign of the son and successor of Aurangzeb, Bahadur Shah, the group-rivalry of the Amirs at the court enhanced further and its primary cause centred round the post of the Vazir. The rival groups tried to capture this post for their own candidate as it was regarded the central point of political power. After the death of Bahadur Shah, the problem became more acute because none of his successors proved competent.
Therefore, in presence of weak emperors, the post of the Vazir became the most coveted post which wielded highest power and honour in the state. It harmed the Empire in two ways. One, it led to mutual rivalry not only among the groups of the Amirs at the court but, finally, foreign interference in it. Secondly, the Emperor and the Vazir also became rivals to each other to gain power which reduced the prestige of the Emperor. That also helped in the disintegration of the Empire.
1. Emperor Bahadur Shah (1707-1712):
Before his death, Aurangzeb left a will in which he expressed his desire to divide the Empire among his sons. But after his death, the war of succession could not be avoided and his three living sons, viz., Muazzam entitled Shah Alam, Azam and Kam Bakhsh contested for the throne.
When Aurangzeb died Shah Alam was at Jamrud in Afghanistan, Azam was near Ahmadnagar and Kam Bakhsh was at Bijapur. Shah Alam, speedily proceeded towards Delhi, captured it and declared himself the Mughul emperor. His son, Azim-ush-Shan, captured Agra on behalf of his father. Bahadur Shah himself reached Agra in June, 1707.
Thus, Bahadur Shah succeeded in capturing the capital, the treasury and the northern plains and important towns of the Mughul empire at early stage of the war which, certainly gave him an advantageous position against his brothers. Azam declared himself the Emperor in the Deccan and proceeded towards Agra. His son, Bidar Bakht was in Ahmedabad and he could reach Agra earlier. But having no faith in him, Azam did not ask him to do so.
Therefore, Agra was lost to Azim-ush-Shan, the son of Bahadur Shah. Azam reached Jaju, a place near Agra in June where Bahadur Shah had already reached. Bahadur Shah offered to divide the Empire according to the will of his father. But Azam refused it. The battle, therefore, was fought on 18 June 1707. Azam was defeated and killed in the battle.
The youngest prince, Kam Bakhsh was at Bijapur. He declared himself the Emperor there. After the defeat and death of Azam, Bahadur Shah took some more time in tackling some of the problems in the North and, thereafter, reached Deccan in 1708 A.D. He offered peace-terms to Kam Bakhsh as well which, however, were declined.
The battle, therefore, took place on 13 January 1709 A.D. Kam Bakhsh was defeated and, being seriously injured, died the same night. Thus, Bahadur Shah emerged victorious among his brothers and became the sole master of the Mughul empire.
Bahadur Shah became the Emperor at the advanced age of sixty-three. It was not expected that he would give any fresh direction to the Empire and he did not. However, he was liberal in religious affairs as compared to Aurangzeb and some historians have expressed the view that if he would have lived a little longer, probably, the policy of religious intolerance pursued by Aurangzeb would have been completely given up.
Dr Satish Chandra, however, has disagreed with this view. He has expressed that Bahadur Shah did nothing which could justify that he was liberal in any of his policies. Viewing the activities of Bahadur Shah, the opinion expressed by Dr Satish Chandra is closer to the truth. In fact, Bahadur Shah brought no change in the policies pursued by Aurangzeb. The fundamentals of all his policies remained the same though, in practice, differences were there.
Bahadur Shah failed to pursue a consistent policy towards the Rajputs. At that time, the most important rulers of Rajasthan were Rana Amar Singh of Udaipur, the Marwar ruler, Ajit Singh and the ruler of Amber (Jaipur) Raja Jai Singh who was awarded the title of Sawai Mirza Raja.
In the beginning of the reign of Bahadur Shah, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh revolted against him and therefore, the territories of Jodhpur and Amber were annexed to the Mughul empire. But when Bahadur Shah went to the Deccan to fight against Kam Bakhsh, he reconciliated them. But while he was in the Deccan, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh sought the help of Rana Amar Singh and jointly revolted against the Mughul empire.
Therefore, when Bahadur Shah came back to the North from the Deccan, he tried to suppress the revolt of these Rajput rulers. He, however, failed to subdue them. At that very time, the Sikhs, under the leadership of Banda Bairagi, raised the standard of revolt and ravaged the territories of Punjab and Sarhind.
Bahadur Shah thought it wise that he should pay his first attention towards the revolt of the Sikhs. He, therefore, made peace with the Rajputs and restored Jodhpur and Amber to their respective rulers, Ajit Singh and Jai Singh. Thus, Bahadur Shah neither could subdue the Rajputs nor befriend them. Like Aurangzeb, he too was forced to accept their independence under his suzerainty.
The Sikh Guru Govind Singh had helped Bahadur Shah in the war of succession. Bahadur Shah, therefore, did not expect that the Sikhs would rise in revolt against him. But after one and a half years of Guru Govind Singh’s death, the Sikhs revolted in Punjab under the leadership of Banda Bairagi. Banda proved himself a capable commander.
It was rumoured that the soul of Guru Govind Singh was transferred to him. He declared himself the ‘true king’, issued his own coins and tried to establish an independent kingdom of the Sikhs. Bahadur Shah preferred to make peace with the Rajputs and pay his complete attention towards the Sikhs.
He ordered his officers in Punjab to deal with the Sikhs firmly and also personally went there. But he failed to suppress the revolt of the Sikhs. Banda Bairagi could not be captured during his life-time and the Sikhs continued to resist the Mughuls by guerilla tactics of fighting.
Bahadur Shah did not pursue a consistent policy towards the Marathas as well. Before the war of succession ensued, Azam, on the advice of Zuifiqar Khan, permitted Shahu, the son of Shambhaji to leave Mughul camp. It was felt that it would result in a civil war in Maharashtra as the widow of Raja Ram, Tara Bai had already declared her son, Shivaji II as the Chattrapati of the Marathas. The same happened also.
When Shahu reached Maharashtra, he declared himself the Chattrapati of the Marathas. It was contested by Tara Bai on behalf of her son. She contended that Shambhaji had lost Maratha empire to the Mughuls and it was her husband, Raja Ram who had restored it back and therefore, the legitimate claim over the throne of the Marathas was that of her son and not that of Shambhaji’s son, Shahu.
However, Shahu defeated the army of Tara Bai at the battle of Khed and declared himself the Maratha Chattrapati in 1708 A.D. That weakened Tara Bai. But she continued to resist Shahu. Both Tara Bai and Shahu sought permission from the Mughul emperor, Bahadur Shah to collect chauth and sardeshmukhi from the provinces of the Deccan.
Bahadur Shah was more inclined towards Shahu, yet, he did not disclose his intentions. He permitted both of them to collect sardeshmukhi but none to collect chauth. That did not solve the Maratha-menace and they continued to attack the Mughul territory. It created a wrong tradition.
Shahu had accepted the suzerainty of the Mughuls yet his army continued to raid the Mughul territories. It began the tradition of attacking the Mughul territory by its dependent chiefs. Thus, Bahadur Shah, instead of solving the problem of the Marathas, accentuated it further against the interest of the Empire.
Bahadur Shah committed one more serious mistake. He assigned the governorship of the Deccan to Zulfiqar Khan who already enjoyed the post of Mir Bakshi. No Mughal emperor so far had committed this mistake of assigning two such important posts to one of his Amirs. It enhanced the power and influence of the governor of the Deccan which encouraged the tendency of carving out an independent kingdom in the Deccan by its future governors.
Bahadur Shah died in 1712 A.D. He has been regarded as a liberal monarch. He adopted the policy of pacifying the nobility and assigned high offices even to those Amirs who had supported his brothers in the war of succession. He, in practice, did not pursue a policy of religious intolerance practised by Aurangzeb.
He succeeded in getting services of capable Amirs of the Empire. Bahadur Shah succeeded in defeating his brothers and, thus, kept the unity of the Empire intact. He succeeded in upholding the prestige of the Emperor as well. The disintegration of the Empire began only after his reign.
Yet, Bahadur Shah has not been regarded as a capable ruler. He has been nick-named as Shah- i-Bekhabar (ignorant emperor). He failed to solve any major problem of the Empire. He did not pursue any fixed policy either towards the Rajputs or the Marathas.
None of them were effectively taken under control nor anyone of them could be converted into an instrument of support to the Empire. Bahadur Shah neither succeeded in suppressing the revolt of the Sikhs nor did he succeed in arriving at an understanding with them. He enhanced the economic problems of the Empire. He distributed large amount of wealth among his Amirs while he failed to increase the income of the Empire.
The royal treasury, therefore, suffered heavily and the income of the Empire failed to meet its expenditure. Bahadur Shah could not put a check on the ambitions of his Amirs. During his rule, the power and prestige of the post of Vazir enhanced so much that it became a coveted post by every powerful Amir which sharpened group rivalry at the court.
After his death, the group rivalry of the Amirs at the court became so keen that they even interfered in the issue of succession to the throne which undermined the power and prestige of the Empire. Thus, though the disintegration of the Empire did not begin during his reign but, certainly, its background was prepared.
2. Jahandar Shah (1712-1713 A.D.):
The war of succession ensued among the sons of Bahadur Shah viz., Jahandar Shah, Azim-us-shan, Rafi-us-shan and Zaman Shah after his death. Jahandar Shah captured the throne with the help of Zulfiqar Khan, son of Asad Khan who were the leaders of the Irani group of nobles at the court.
Jahandar Shah assigned the post of Vakil-i-Mutluq to Asad Khan and that of the Vazir to Zulfiqar Khan. He left the administration in their hands and himself led a licentious life. He became deeply involved with a prostitute, Lal Kunwar and gave high posts at the court to her relatives because of which the court-life became corrupt. During his time, the army was neglected, the treasury became empty and the economic crisis of the Empire increased manifold.
The Vazir, Zulfiqar Khan, however, proved tactful. He pursued liberal policies. He abolished Jaziya with a view to appease the Hindus. He tried to gain confidence of the Rajput rulers. He assigned high mansabs to the ruler of Amber, Jai Singh and the ruler of Jodhpur, Ajit Singh and also gave them governorship of Malwa and Gujarat respectively.
Ajit Singh was further given the Faujdari of Sorath, Palitana and Eder though, in return, was asked to give up Nagaur to Indra Singh and Roopnagar to Raj Singh. He gave mansab to the son of Tarabai, Shivaji II as well and tried that he and Shahu should get their claims decided by the Mughul emperor.
The Jat leader, Churaman had fought with prince Azim-us-shan in the war of succession. Yet, after the war he was pardoned and given mansab in the Mughul army. The Bundela ruler Chhatrasal was also kept satisfied and he remained loyal to the Mughul emperor.
Of course an attempt was made to suppress the revolt of the Sikhs under the leadership of Banda Bairagi but Ajit Singh was accepted as the adopted son of Guru Govind Singh by the Mughul emperor and, thus, effort was made to pacify the Sikhs as well. Thus, Zulfiqar Khan attempted to satisfy all groups of Indian leaders and chiefs with a view to make them loyal to the Mughul throne.
However, the efforts of Zulfiquar Khan to enhance the power of the Vazir provoked opposition. Even Emperor Jahandar Shah became jealous of him and assigned high offices and powers to other Amirs so that the power might not be concentrated in the hands of the Vazir. He gave extensive powers to his foster-brother, Kokaltas who organised the nobles in a group whose aim was to concentrate the powers of the Emperor in the hands of the Emperor alone.
The Turani group of nobles also became jealous of the powers of Zulfiqar Khan and tried to break it. Their leaders were Ghaziuddin Khan, his son Chin-Qulich Khan and his nephew Mohammad Amin. When Farrukh Siyar fought against Jahandar Shah for the throne, Kokaltas did not cooperate with Jahandar Shah while Chin-Qulich Khan and Mohammad Amin remained neutral during the course of the battle. One of the primary reasons for this was their jealousy against Zulfiqar Khan and that, finally, led to the dethronement of Jahandar Shah.
Jahandar Shah could rule hardly for ten months. He was challenged by Farrukh Siyar, the son of his dead brother, Azim-us-shan. Farrukh Siyar was the deputy Governor of Bengal. He himself was not capable but his mother was quite diplomatic. She tactfully managed to gain the favour of the deputy Governor of Patna, Saiyid Hussain Ali and that of his elder brother and the deputy Governor of Allahabad, Saiyid Hasan Ali, later on, called Saiyid Abd ulla Khan.
The Saiyid brothers too had their selfish motives which inspired them to support Farrukh Siyar. The success of Farrukh Siyar could provide them political power at the court. Therefore, they supported Farrukh Siyar against Jahandar Shah and proceeded towards Delhi with him. Jahandar Shah deputed his son, Azz-ud-din against them but he fled away from near Khajwah even before the battle.
Jahandar Shah, then, fought a battle against Farrukh Siyar near Agra but was defeated. He fled away and found shelter with Vakil- i-Mutluq, Asad Khan at Delhi. But Asad Khan chose not to displease Farrukh Siyar. Jahandar Shah was snatched away from the lap of his beloved, Lal Kunwar and killed. Zulfiqar Khan lost his post of the Vazir when Farrukh Siyar became the emperor.
3. Farrukh Siyar (1713-1719 A.D.):
Farrukh Siyar did not deserve to be a ruler. He had become the Emperor with the help of the Saiyid brothers, viz., Saiyid Abdulla Khan and Saiyid Hussain Ali and soon after they captured all power of the state to themselves. Farrukh Siyar appointed Saiyid Abdulla Khan as the Vazir and Saiyid Hussain Ali as the Mir-Bakshi of the Empire.
A little later, he also assigned the governorship of the Deccan to Hussain Ali. Thus, the two brothers enjoyed the highest posts within the Empire. Of course, the Saiyid brothers shared other high offices of the state with other nobles as well but, while thus trying to keep them satisfied, ensured that they remained the most powerful nobles among them.
In fact, the efforts to make the Emperor a mere puppet in the hands of his powerful nobles began during their period of power. However, Farrukh Siyar resisted the attempts of the Saiyid brothers to make him a puppet, opposed their policies, assigned high offices of the state to those nobles who were opposed to them and conspired against them with a view to overthrow them from power. But he failed in his attempts because he was completely incapable.
The Saiyid brothers, on their side, decided to dethrone him and succeeded. They then changed Emperors according to their interests. This reduced the status of the Emperor, enhanced the powers of the Vazir, increased the group rivalry at the court and encouraged the tendency of carving out independent kingdoms for themselves by powerful nobles.
For all these evils of the Empire, Emperor Farrukh Siyar was more responsible than the Saiyid brothers because neither was he capable of administering the Empire nor provided freedom to the Saiyid brothers to administer the State effectively.
That became responsible for his fall as well. Feeling dissatisfied with the conspiracies of Farrukh Siyar against him, Vazir Abdulla Khan called his brother, Hussain Ali from the Deccan. Hussain Ali strengthened his position by entering into a treaty with the Maratha ruler, Shahu and reached Delhi with a large Maratha army under Peswa Balaji Viswanath. Farrukh Siyar did not compromise with the Saiyid brothers even at the last stage. He found shelter in the harem from where he was dragged out. He was first blinded but, later on, killed.
One important event of the reign of Farrukh Siyar was the suppression of the revolt of the Sikhs. Their leader, Banda Bairagi remained successful against the Mughuls till 1716 A.D. He even defeated once the subedar of Punjab, Islam Khan. Farrukh Siyar removed Islam Khan from Punjab and assigned it to Zakaria Khan.
Zakaria Khan made a determined effort to subdue Banda Bairagi and pursued him from one place to another. Finally, he was trapped at Gurdaspur and forced to surrender. Banda Bairagi was brought to Delhi where he was tortured to death. His death finished the revolt of the Sikhs.
Another important event of the reign of Farrukh Siyar was the treaty between Chhatrapati Shahu and Saiyid Hussain Ali on behalf of the Emperor in 1719 A.D. It, for the first time, involved the Marathas in the politics of the North and gave them the opportunity to know the weakness of the Mughul empire. That affected the course of history in the future.
4. Rafi-ud-Darjat (1719 A.D.):
After deposing Farrukh Siyar, the Saiyid brothers raised Rafi-ud-darjat to the throne. He was the son of Rafi-us-shan and, thus, a grandson of Bahadur Shah. He was, however, ill. Therefore, he was removed from the throne just after three months. He died shortly afterwards.
5. Rafi-ud-Daula or Shah Jahan III (1719 A.D.):
Rafi-ud-daula was the elder brother of Rafi-ud-darjat. He ruled only for three and a half months by the grace of the Saiyid brothers and then died of illness.
6. Mohammad Shah (Rangila) (1719-1748 A.D.):
Mohammad Shah was a grandson of Bahadur Shah and the son of his son Zaman Shah. He was extremely licentious and therefore, was nick-named Rangila. He was raised to the throne by the patronage of the Saiyid brothers. His reign was marked by several important events.
During his rule the fall of the Saiyid brothers took place, the Subas of Hyderabad, Awadh and Bengal became virtually independent, the hold of the Mughuls was wiped out from Rajasthan, the Marathas got hold over the provinces of Gujarat and Malwa and a part of Bundelkhand and Nadir Shah attacked Delhi successfully. The Mughul empire, thus, disintegrated during the period of his rule.
The Fall of the Saiyids:
The Saiyids fell from power just after a year of accession of Mohammad Shah to the Mughul throne. Though the Saiyid brothers had tried to reconciliate every influential group and powerful noble within the Empire, yet, they had created many enemies for themselves. Many of them were jealous of their power and desired to get it for themselves.
Besides, the removal and death of Emperor Farrukh Siyar had also defamed the Saiyids. Many people felt that they were traitors to the throne. Its advantage was drawn by their enemies. Even Emperor Mohammad Shah was jealous of their power and tried to destroy them.
The Saiyid brothers assigned high mansab and the governorship of Malwa as well to the leader of the Turani group of nobles, Chin-Qulich Khan. Yet, he was dissatisfied with them. In 1720 A.D., he attacked Khandesh which was under the governorship of Saiyid Hussain Ali. He defeated the armies of Delhi which were sent against him.
Then Hussain Ali himself marched towards the Deccan with Emperor Mohammad Shah. A conspiracy was planned against him during the course of the journey. It was headed by Mohammad Amin Khan and Haider Quli Khan. Emperor Mohammad Shah was also a party to it.
One day, Hussain Ali was murdered in his camp. When the news reached Delhi, Saiyid Abdulla Khan immediately raised one Mughul prince, Ibrahim to the throne. Emperor Mohammad Shah proceeded towards the North with the royal army to contest against him. Saiyid Abdulla faced the royal army at Biliochpura near Agra in 1720 A.D. He was defeated and imprisoned along with Ibrahim. Thus, the fall of Saiyid brothers took place. After two years, Abdulla Khan was poisoned to death.
The Saiyids enjoyed unlimited power within the Empire during the period 1713-1720 A.D. Some scholars have blamed them of reducing the power and prestige of the Mughal emperor. But the charge is not completely correct.
The Saiyid brothers were primarily responsible for raising Farrukh Siyar to the throne and therefore, in return were awarded the posts of the Vazir and the Bakshi which were the highest post of honour and power within the Empire. But, besides assigning these posts to the Saiyids, Farrukh Siyar did nothing to help them.
On the contrary, he was jealous of them, assigned the rest of the influential posts to their rival nobles with a view to put a check to their power and generally worked against them. The Saiyids, in fact, were forced to work against him with a view to safeguard their lives and, finally, succeeded in dethroning him. Farrukh Siyar was incompetent, licentious and a conspirator and more than anybody else responsible for his own fall.
After the deposition of Farrukh Siyar, the Saiyid brothers enjoyed unchallenged power within the Empire for nearly one and a half years and even changed emperors according to their will. But again the primary responsibility of it was the incompetency of emperors. Even Mohammad Shah, who got the throne by the grace of the Saiyids but, finally, overthrew them, was also an incompetent ruler.
Even after the fall of the Saiyids, he was of no importance in administration. The state power was shared by influential nobles. Thus, the responsibility of destroying the power and prestige of Mughul emperor goes more to weak, licentious and incompetent successors of Emperor Bahadur Shah. The Saiyid brothers were responsible for it only partially.
The Saiyid brothers proved neither diplomatic nor successful administrators. Instead, it is an accepted fact that Abdulla Khan was easy-going and licentious while Hussain Ali was proud and arrogant. Yet, it is also correct that the Saiyids pursued meaningful policies. After the death of Aurangzeb, certain groups and sections of the people opposed his reactionary policies.
They represented the liberal views of the people and the nobles in the administration. The Saiyids belonged to these groups of people. They got the jaziya and the pilgrim-tax abolished, tried to reconcile the Rajput rulers and attempted to utilise the strength of the Marathas for the good of the Empire by giving Chhatrapati Shahu the right of collecting the chauth and the sardeshmukhi from the Deccan. The Saiyids were Indian Muslims. That is why the Irani and Turani groups of nobles were against them.
Yet, the Saiyids tried to satisfy both these groups of nobles. It was against their advice that Emperor Farrukh Siyar imprisoned and got killed the leaders of the Irani nobles, Asad Khan and his son Zulifiqar Khan. The Saiyids tried to satisfy the Turani nobles as well and therefore, assigned high mansab and the governorship of Malwa to their leader, Chin- Qulich Khan.
Thus, the Saiyids tried to reconcile every powerful group of people and nobles and broaden the basis of their administration with a view to strengthen the Empire. But their opponents failed to grasp the value of their policies because of sheer jealousy against them. Even respective Mughul emperors did not cooperate with them. This led to their downfall.
Independent State of Hyderabad:
Even during the reign of Aurangzeb, the Muslim nobles at the court were divided into two groups. The one consisted of foreign Muslims and, the other that of Indian Muslims. The Pathans and the Afghans had lived in India from the past many centuries and had co-existed with the Hindus and, thus, were more Indianised.
The Saiyid brothers belonged to this group of nobles. But this group was opposed by another group of nobles consisting of the Mughuls, Iranis, Turanis etc. who yet regarded themselves as foreigners. After the death of Aurangzeb, these opposite groups were divided against each other more sharply.
Besides, the entire nobility was divided among itself with a view to select the emperor and get the post of the Vazir of its own choice. Emperor Farrukh Siyar was raised to the throne by the Saiyid brothers who belonged to the group of Indian nobles.
The group of foreign nobles felt jealous of them and therefore, participated in their fall. But the fall of the Saiyids did not check the rivalry of opposite groups because foreign nobles were also divided and competed for state-power among themselves.
In such a state of affairs only a capable monarch could put a check to the growing ambitions of powerful nobles. Mohammad Shah was not such an Emperor. It, therefore, led to the creation of several independent states during his reign and the Empire disintegrated.
Chin-Qulich Khan who was awarded the title of Nizam-ul-mulk established the independent state of Hyderabad in the Deccan during the reign of Mohammad Shah. He was the leader of the Turani nobles and was regarded a good diplomat and a capable commander of his times. After the fall of the Saiyids, the post of Vazir was assigned to Amin Khan who died soon thereafter.
In 1722 A.D., this post was given to Nizam-ul-mulk who was the subedar of the Deccan at that time. By that time, Nizam-ul-mulk was an old man. He could not reconcile himself to the atmosphere at the court. While Emperor Mohammad Shah was not prepared to follow his advice, the group of young nobles ridiculed his opinions. Feeling disgusted, he quietly left the court and proceeded towards the Deccan.
Mohammad Shah ordered the then subedar of the Deccan, Muwarij Khan to oppose Nizam-ul-mulk from entering Hyderabad. Nizam-ul-mulk entered into an agreement with the Marathas, fought against Muwarij Khan in 1724 A.D. and defeated him. He captured the entire Mughul-suba of the Deccan by 1725 A D. and made Hyderabad its capital.
Thus, the independent state of Hyderabad was created by him. He, in fact, was completely independent though owed allegiance to the Mughul emperor in name. Emperor Mohammad Shah reconciled with this fact and also awarded the title of Asaf Jah to Nizam-ul-mulk.
The State of Avadh:
The independent state of Avadh was established by the leader of Irani group of nobles, Mir Mohammad Amin Sadat Khan, Burhan-ul-Mulk. Sadat Khan participated in the fall of the Saiyid brothers. He, therefore, was assigned a high mansab and the subedari of Agra.
Emperor Mohammad Shah, however, could not continue with him for long and therefore, with a view to remove him from the court, assigned the governorship of Avadh to him in 1722 A.D. Sadat Khan behaved as an independent ruler from the very beginning of his governorship at Avadh.
He owed only nominal allegiance to the Emperor, appointed his nephew and son-in-law, Safdar Jang as the deputy governor of Avadh and participated freely in the politics of the Mughul court. Sadat Khan tried to check the growing power of the Marathas in the North with little success.
When Nadir Shah attacked India, he advised him not to be satisfied till Delhi was captured which resulted in the loot and massacre of the people at Delhi and disgrace to the Emperor. Afterwards, he felt so ashamed of it that he committed suicide in 1739 A.D. His successor, Safdar Jang refused to owe even nominal allegiance to the Emperor and, thus, came into existence the independent state of Avadh.
The Suba of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa:
At the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 A.D., the son of Bahadur Shah, Azim- us-shan was the governor of the Suba of Bengal. He lived mostly at the court. Therefore, Bengal was governed by the Diwan and Naib Nizam, Murshid Quli Khan on his behalf. When Farrukh Siyar became the Emperor, he gave the governorship of Bengal to Murshid Quli Khan and added Orissa as well to it in 1719 A.D. Murshid Quli Khan was a capable administrator.
The province of Bengal, therefore, prospered under his rule. When he died in 1727 A.D., his son-in-law, Suja-ud-daula Asad Khan got the governorship of these provinces. In 1733 A.D., the province of Bihar was also added to these provinces so that the suba of Bengal comprised not only of Bengal but also the provinces of Bihar and Orissa as well from that time.
After the death of Suja- ud-daula Asad Khan in 1739 A.D., the governorship of this suba was assigned to his son, Sarfaraj Khan. Sarfaraj Khan proved incapable. The advantage was taken by the deputy governor of Bihar, Alivardi Khan who attacked and defeated Sarfaraj Khan in 1740 A.D. He, then, became the master of these provinces.
Emperor Mohammad Shah was in no position to interfere in the affairs of Bengal, compromised with the status quo and recognized Alivardi Khan as the governor of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Alivardi Khan recognized the authority of the Mughul emperor in name only. Thus, the suba of Bengal, in fact, became independent in 1740 A.D.
The Rajput States of Rajasthan and Sawai Mirza Raja Jai Singh:
Mewar, Marwar and Amber (Jaipur) constituted the important states of Rajasthan at that time. The successors of Aurangzeb did not pursue a consistent policy towards these states. The best course for them was to have friendly relations with them with a view to keeping them loyal to the Mughul throne and utilise their cooperation for strengthening the empire. But this course was not adopted by Mughul emperors as a matter of policy.
Therefore, the Rajput rulers took advantage of the weakness of the Empire and attempted to assert independence. Their efforts succeeded and, by 1740 A.D., they virtually gained independence and acquired the status as was enjoyed by the states of Hyderabad, Avadh and Bengal. But the Rajput rulers failed to take complete advantage of the situation.
In most of the cases, they emphasized on their differences which led to quarrels among them. They, therefore, could not become strong and failed to check the growing power of the Marathas towards the North. On the contrary, the Marathas captured the provinces of Malwa and Gujarat and interefered in the internal politics of the Rajput rulers.
Emperor Bahadur Shah tried to suppress the Rajput states including Mewar but did not succeed because of his campaign in the Deccan and the revolt of the Sikhs. In 1708 A.D., the ruler of Mewar, Amar Singh, the ruler of Marwar, Ajit Singh and the ruler of Jaipur, Jai Singh befriended each other and made a combined effort to turn out the Mughuls from Rajasthan and they succeeded to a large extent.
Rana Amar Singh enhanced the area of his influence and, at the same time, received high mansab from the Mughul emperor. The Rana kept good relations with Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur. During the reign of Farrukh Siyar, Rana’s relations with the Saiyia brothers were embittered because of his friendly relations with Raja Jai Singh. After the fall of the Saiyids, the Rana occupied Eder and Sirohi. Thus, during this period, the state of Mewar succeeded in enhancing its power and prestige.
The daughter of Rana Ajit Singh, ruler of Marwar was married to Farrukh Siyar and the Saiyid brothers got him the governorship of Gujarat and Ajmer. But when Mohammad Shah became the Emperor, he snatched away from the Rana the governorship of Ajmer and Gujarat. Therefore, Ajit Singh started opposing the Mughul emperor.
In 1723 A.D., the Mughul army attacked Marwar. Ajit Singh became very weak at that time as none of the Rajput ruler chose to support him. However, the interference of Raja Jai Singh saved his situation. A treaty between the Mughuls and Ajit Singh was arranged by which peace was restored between the two and Ajit Singh gave the jagir of Nagaur to Indra Singh. In 1724 A.D., Ajit Singh was murdered. Mohammad Shah accepted his son, Abhay Singh as his successor. But Abhay Singh was challenged by his brothers, Anand Singh and Rai Singh.
They sought support from the Marathas and got it. That ensued civil war in Marwar which continued till 1728 A.D. It weakened the state of Marwar and the Marathas got the opportunity to interfere in the affairs of Rajasthan. During this time, the Marathas penetrated in Gujarat as well.
In 1730 A.D., Abhay Singh was assigned the governorship of Gujarat but he failed to check the growing influence of the Marathas there. In 1733 A.D., the Marathas attacked Gujarat and Abhay Singh agreed to pay chauth and sardeshmukhi to them. Thereafter he left for Jodhpur. He went to Delhi, tried to get the governorship of Ajmer and participated in the politics of the court which embittered his relations with Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur.
Jaipur and Sawai Mirza Raja Jai Singh:
After the death of his father, Bishan Singh in 1700 A.D., Jai Singh became the ruler of Jaipur at the age of twelve years. He proved himself as the most capable one among his contemporary Rajput rulers. When he had hardly ascended the throne, he was called by Aurangzeb to participate in his Deccan campaign.
He won honours there and therefore, was awarded the deputy governorship of Malwa. When Aurangzeb died, he was in the Deccan. He proceeded towards the North with prince Azam Shah. When the battle between Azam Shah and Bahadur Shah started, he was on the side of Azam Shah but, realising that Azam Shah’s defeat was certain, he left his camp during the course of battle and joined Bahadur Shah.
Bahadur Shah, after becoming the Emperor pardoned him but ordered that Jaipur be included in the Khalisa-land (the land of the Emperor). Jai Singh did not resist the Emperor but joined him in his Deccan campaign like Ajit Singh of Jodhpur whose capital was also included in the Khalisa-fond at that time. He and Ajit Singh, however, left the camp of the Emperor in the way and returned to Rajasthan.
In 1708 A.D. they sought the support of Rana Amar Singh of Mewar. Amar Singh had already married one of his daughters to Ajit Singh. He now married his daughter, Chandra Kunwar with Jai Singh. Thus, all the three important rulers of Rajasthan were united with each other by matrimonial alliances and agreed to turn out the Mughuls from Rajasthan.
They fought unitedly against the Mughuls during the period 1708-10 A.D. Emperor Bahadur Shah was forced to pay his attention first towards the revolt of the Sikhs and therefore, made peace with these rulers. He restored their territories to them. Emperor Jahandar Shah gave the title of Mirza Raja to Jai Singh in 1712 A.D. Yet, Jai Singh remained neutral in the ensuing war between Jahandar Shah and Farrukh Siyar.
Emperor Farrukh Siyar gave Jai Singh the title of Savai and the governorship of Malwa. He, then, became known as Sawai Mirza Raja Jai Singh. In 1715 A.D., Jai Singh saved Malwa from the onslaughts of the Marathas and was honoured by Farrukh Siyar. But Jai Singh was not on good terms with the Saiyid brothers and, therefore, differences arose between him and Ajit Singh, ruler of Jodhpur who was in favour of the Saiyids.
During the course of 1716-18 A.D., he was assigned the responsibility of bringing the Jat leader, Churaman to submission. Me succeeded in that and Churaman accepted the service of the Mughuls. In 1717 A.D., Malwa was taken away from Jai Singh and it was handed over to Amin Khan.
Yet, Jai Singh remained loyal to Farrukh Siyar and promised to support him against the Saiyid brothers. But Farrukh Siyar asked him to leave Delhi and he obeyed. When Mohammad Shah became the Emperor, the position of Jai Singh improved. In 1722 A.D., he was made the governor of Agra and was again assigned the duty of suppressing Churaman Jat who had supported the Saiyid brothers. He succeeded in his assignment which enhanced his prestige at the Mughul court.
The Mughul emperor used him as a medium to keep his relations with the Rajput rulers. Jai Singh, in that capacity, made every effort to keep good relations between the Emperor and Rajput rulers and largely succeeded. He also attempted to keep Bundela chief, Chhatrasal in favour of the Emperor.
Jai Singh was in favour of making compromise with the Marathas so that their services could be utilised in the interest of the Empire. He desired to keep up all the powers in India in favour of the Emperor with a view to strengthen the Empire. He, however, did not succeed because of the group- politics of the nobility at the court, the differences among the Rajput rulers and the growing ambition of the Marathas.
When Nadir Shah attacked India, Jai Singh chose to be neutral because of the group-rivalry at the court. He died in 1743 A.D. Jai Singh remained most successful among his contemporary Rajput rulers and succeeded in enhancing the power and prestige of his state.
Besides his success in the political arena, Jai Singh helped in the cultural progress as well. He established the new city of Jaipur and constructed beautiful palaces, other buildings, markets, etc., therein. Jai Singh was keenly interested in the study of geography, mathematics, astronomy and astrology.
He established research centres for their growth in the cities of Jaipur, Mathura, Banaras and Ujjain and collected a large number of Hindu, Muslim and European scholars at his court. Jai Singh participated in the growth of literature as well. Many religious-texts were written under his patronage. During the early period of his reign, Ratnakar Bhatt Pondrika was one of the best scholars of his time.
His nephew, Vrajnath Bhatt also proved a scholar of repute. Among the notable scholars of his reign were Srikrishna Bhatt, Harikrishna, Mayaram, Jagannath, Kewalram etc. These scholars participated in the growth of knowledge in various fields of learning. Jai Singh tried to check social evils like female-infanticide as well. He supported inter-dining among different castes and sub-castes.
Thus, though being busy with the diplomacy and politics of his age, Jai Singh paid good attention towards the cultural progress of India. Therefore, he has been regarded as a prominent ruler not only among the rulers of Rajasthan but also that of India.
The Attack of Nadir Shah (1739 A.D.):
In 1736 A.D. Nadir Shah captured the throne of Persia (Iran) and turned out the Afghans from there. In 1738 A.D., he occupied Kandhar with a view to annihilate the Afghan-power completely. Then he planned to attack Afghanistan and India. Nadir Shah was ambitious. He realised that the Mughul emperor was not able to pay attention towards the protection of the boundary of his Empire in the north-west.
Therefore, he planned to attack India primarily to plunder its wealth. After the capture of Kandhar, he attacked Afghanistan. The Mughul subedar, Nasir Khan, failed to receive any help from the court. He, therefore, fled away from there and Nadir Shah captured Afghanistan without meeting any resistance.
He then entered Punjab through Peshawar. Zakaria Khan, the subedar of Punjab, also did not receive any help from the Emperor and therefore, submitted. Then alone, the Mughul Emperor, Mohammad Shah realised the danger and reached Karnal with his army. Nadir Shah too reached Karnal where the battle was fought on 24 February 1739 A.D. But the main Mughul army under the command of the Emperor and Nizam-ul-mulk did not participate in the battle.
Only a small part of the army under the leadership of Sadat Khan, Khan-i-dauran and Nasir Mohammad fought against the enemy. It was defeated. After it, negotiations started for a treaty and Nadir Shah agreed to turn back if he was given two crore rupees. During the course of war, Mir Bakshi, Khan-i-dauran was killed. Emperor Mohammad Shah assigned his post to Nizam-ul-mulk. That enraged Sadat Khan who aspired to get that post for himself.
He, therefore, advised Nadir Shah to proceed to Delhi where he could get enormous booty. Nadir Shah was tempted, refused to accept the terms of peace, imprisoned Mohammad Shah and Nizam-ul-mulk and decided to proceed to Delhi. Mohammad Shah was forced to accept it. Nadir Shah entered Delhi on March 20, where he was welcomed by Emperor Mohammad Shah.
On March 22, some citizens of Delhi quarrelled with some Persian soldiers and killed some of them. That enraged Nadir Shah who ordered a general massacre which continued for nearly eight hours. Nearly thirty thousand people were massacred, property was ransacked and every part of Delhi was looted by the Persian soldiers.
Nadir Shah remained in Delhi up to May 15. Then he returned to Persia with a huge booty including the Peacock-throne of the Mughul emperor, the famous Kohinur diamond, thousands of slaves, elephants, camels, horses, etc.
He also annexed Afghanistan, Kashmir, West Panjab, and Sindh to his Empire. Besides, the governor of Punjab, Zakaria Khan accepted his suzerainty and agreed to pay him rupees twenty lacs yearly as tribute. Nadir Shah not only sucked up the economic resources of the Empire but also destroyed its entire power and prestige.
Of course, it made the Indians realise that if India was to be saved from foreign attack it was necessary to maintain an organised central government under the Mughul emperor. Therefore, none of the Indian power including the Marathas who became the foremost military power in India soon afterwards dared to dethrone the Mughul emperor.
But, along with it, the weakness of the Mughul emperor also became known to every power in India which encouraged the attitude of regional independence. It resulted in the disintegration of the Empire.
Thus, the period between 1707-1740 A.D. was marked by certain prominent characteristics of its own. It was marked by keen group politics among the Amirs at the Mughul court. The group politics was not based on caste, religion, foreign nationals or the Indians though, of course, different groups utilised these narrow concepts to serve their respective selfish interests.
The group politics primarily revolved round the political and economic interests. Taking advantage of the weakness of emperors, the prominent nobles organised different groups with a view to get the posts of Vazir and Mir Bakshi for themselves. These posts carried highest power after Emperor particularly the power of distributing jagirs among other nobles.
Another marked feature of this period was the abandonment of the reactionary policy of Aurangzeb. Jaziya was abolished during the reign of Jahandar Shah and, during the reign of Farrukh Siyar, the Saiyid brothers abolished the pilgrim-tax as well. The reactionary forces, certainly, opposed these measures now and then but, in practice, every section of the society accepted them.
Besides, every emperor and group of nobles aimed at reconciling the Jats, the Rajputs and the Marathas. The Rajput rulers did not remain loyal to the Mughul emperors during this period and asserted independence.
However, they failed to take advantage of it, engaged themselves in mutual conflicts so that the Marathas could get the opportunity to interfere in their affairs and, thus, they weakened themselves so much that they remained no more an effective force in the future politics of India.
The weakness of emperors and the group politics at the court led to the disintegration of the Empire and also resulted in foreign attacks. The de facto independent states of Hyderabad, Bengal and Avadh were established during this time which like the Rajput states, owed only nominal allegiance to the Mughul emperor.
The advantage of the disintegration of the Empire was largely drawn by the Marathas who, very soon, became the foremost power in India. Thus by 1740 A.D., the Mughul empire existed only in name. Besides, the weakness of the Empire resulted in foreign attacks. They started during this very time. Nadir Shah successfully attacked India in 1739 A.D. It paved the way for the successive attacks of Ahmad Shah Abdali afterwards.
The Fall of the Mughul Empire:
Mohammad Shah was succeeded by his son, Ahmad Shah (1748-54 A.D.) at the age of twenty-one. He led a licentious life. During his reign, Ahmad Shah Abdali captured Multan and Punjab, the Marathas became influential at the Mughul court and the Jat Raja of Bharatpur, Suraj Mal also got the opportunity to interfere in the politics at the court. After the death of Ahmad Shah, Alamgir II (1754-58 A.D.) ascended the throne. He was also incapable.
During his reign, Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked India for the fourth time, entered Delhi and looted it. Alamgir II was murdered by his Vazir, Imad-ul-rtiulk who then raised Shah Jahan III (1758-59 A.D.) to the throne. He ruled only for a year. In 1759 A.D. the son of Alamgir, prince Ali Gauhar declared himself Emperor in Bihar and assumed the title of Shah Alam II (1759-1806 A.D.). He, however, could not come to Delhi for many years.
He reached Delhi in 1772 A.D. under the protection of the Marathas. The third battle of Panipat was fought during his reign. After Shah Alam, Akbar II (1806-1837 A.D.) and Bahadur Shah II (1838-1858 A.D.) became the Mughul emperors respectively. After the revolt of 1857 A.D., the last Mughul emperor, Bahadur Shah II was sent to Rangoon by the British as a prisoner where he died.