Medieval Indian History - Quick Guide
Kingdoms of North India
In northern India, the post-Gupta age largely comprised of an age of various small kingdoms. However, among these small kingdoms, there were three big kingdoms (between A.D. 750 and 1,000), namely −
All these kingdoms recurrently fought with each other and tried to gain control over northern India; however, none of them succeeded for any length of time.
Struggle for Kanauj
Kanauj was the capital of Harsha and was an important city; hence, many of the campaigns in northern India were fought over the city of Kanauj.
Kanauj was geographically located in the northern plain; a strategic point from where it was easy to control the Ganga valley.
Three major kingdoms were involved in this struggle to control Kanauj; Modern Historians prefer to call them ‘tripartite (i.e. three parties) struggle for Kanauj.’ The three kingdoms were the Rashtrakutas, the Pratiharas, and the Palas.
The Rashtrakuta Kingdom
The Rashtrakutas’ kingdom was located in the northern Deccan i.e. the region around Nasik and its capital was at Malkhed (as shown in the image given below). Malkhed was not only a beautiful, but also a prosperous city.
Amoghavarsha (800 to 878 A.D.), was not only an ambitious, but also was a great emperor of Rashtrakuta kingdom.
The Pratihara Kingdom
The Pratiharas after their success with the Arabs, took their armies eastwards and by the end of the eighth century had captured Kanauj.
The Pala Kingdom
The Palas, who ruled for about four hundred years and their kingdom consisted of almost the whole of Bengal and much of Bihar, was also interested to control Kanauj.
The first king of the Pala dynasty was Gopala. He was elected as a king by the nobles after the death of the previous ruler (died without an heir). Therefore, Gopala was the founder of the Pala dynasty.
Dharmapala, son and successor of Gopal, though attempted to make the dynasty more powerful, but during the early phase of his reign, he was defeated by the Rashtrakuta king.
Dharmapala, later, reorganized his power partly by building a strong army and partly by making alliances with the neighboring kingdoms and prepared himself to attack Kanauj.
The Palas could not hold Kanauj for a long. The Pratiharas recovered their strength during the reign of king Bhoja. Bhoja ruled from about A D. 836 to 882 and was the most distinguished king of northern India.
Bhoja recaptured Kanauj for the Pratiharas. But later he was defeated by the powerful Rashtrakuta king, Dhruva.
Sulaiman, an Arab Merchant had written that the 'Juzr' was a powerful king ruling over a rich kingdom.
Many historians believe that ‘Juzr’ probably the Arabic name given to Gujarat and the king mentioned by Sulaiman was probably Bhoja. Bhoja is also remembered for his interest in literature and for his patronage of Vaishnavism.
Some of his coins, introduced by Bhoja have a picture of the varaha (boar) – an incarnation of Vishnu. Further, he also took the title of ‘adivaraha.’
Within a hundred years of time, all three important kingdoms (discussed above) had declined. Later Chalukyas kingdom emerged in the same area where the Rashtrakutas had ruled.
The Pala kingdom was threatened by Chola armies and was later ruled by the Sena dynasty. The Pratihara kingdom had broken into a number of states, some of which were associated with the rise of the Rajputs.
Medieval Indian History - The Rajputs
The Rajputs always insisted that they were of the kshatriya caste and they were divided into clans.
The Rajput kings belonged to ordered family, which connected them with either the sun-family (surya-vamshi) or the moon-family (chandra-vamsha) of ancient Indian kings. However, there were four clans who claimed that they had not descended from either of these two families, but rather from the fire-family (agni-kula).
The four clans, namely −
Pratiharas, (or Pariharas),
Chauhans (or Chahamanas),
Solankis (or Chaulukyas), and
Pawars (or Paramaras).
These four agni-kula clans established their power in western India and parts of central India.
The Pariharas ruled in the region of Kanauj;
The Chauhans were strong in central Rajasthan;
Solanki power rose in the region of Kathiawar and the surrounding areas, and
The Pawars established themselves in the region of Malwa with their capital at Dhar near Indore.
Besides, some other minor rulers also became powerful and gradually built small kingdoms in various parts of northern India, for example −
Kamarupa (in Assam),
Utkala (in Orissa).
Many of the hill states of the Punjab also developed during the early phase of medieval period; such as −
Durgara (Jammu), and
Kuluta (Kulu) in Himachal.
Some other worth noting kingdoms of central India (contemporary to the Rajputs) were −
The Chandelles in Bundelkhand,
The Guhilas in Mewar to the south of the Chauhans, and
The Tomaras in Haryana and the Delhi region.
Over a period of time, the Chauhans defeated the Tomaras and annexed their kingdom.
Prithviraj III, the prince of Chauhan dynasty, was the most powerful king of that period in northern India. Chandbardai, the Hindi poet of his (Prithviraj’s) court had written the famous poem ‘Prithviraja-raso.’
Medieval Indian History - The Invaders
Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Ghori, these two were the major invaders of the early medieval period.
Mahmud of Ghazni
Ghazni was a small kingdom in Afghanistan, which was founded by a Turkish nobleman in the tenth century. One of its successors, namely Mahmud wanted to make Ghazni into a big and powerful kingdom; therefore, he decided to conquer a part of Central Asia.
In order to make his large and powerful army, Mahmud had needed a huge property; hence, he decided to attack India to rob Indian wealth (to accomplish his great ambition).
The first raid of Mahmud began in A.D. 1,000. In a short period of twenty-five years, Mahmud made seventeen raids. Meanwhile, he fought battles in Central Asia and in Afghanistan as well.
Between A.D. 1,010 and 1025, Mahmud attacked only on the temple towns in northern India, as he had heard that there were much gold and jewelry kept in the big temples in India.
One of these attacks, which is frequently mentioned while discussing Medieval History, was the destruction of the Somnath temple located in western India.
In 1,030, Mahmud died and the people of northern India get relieved. Though Mahmud was destructor for the Indians, but in his own country, he was a builder of a beautiful mosque and a large library.
Mahmud was the patron of the famous Persian poet, Firdausi, who wrote the epic poem ‘Shah Namah.’
Mahmud sent the Central Asian scholar Alberuni to India, who lived here for many years and had written his experience, describing the country and the condition of the people.
Muhammad Ghori was the ruler of the Ghor kingdom, a small kingdom of Afghanistan. He was the supreme ruler of Ghurid Empire.
Ghori was more ambitious than Mahmud, as he was not only interested in robbing wealth of India, but also intended in conquering northern India and adding it to his kingdom.
Since Punjab had already been a part of the Ghazni kingdom; therefore, it made easier to Ghori to plan India campaign.
Muhammad's most important campaign in India was against the Chauhan ruler, Prithviraj III. In 1191, Prithviraj defeated Ghori; this battle is popularly known as the ‘first battle of Tarain.’
In 1192, Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj in the second battle of Tarin. The defeat of Prithviraj opened the Delhi area to Muhammad and he began to establish his power.
In 1206, Ghori was murdered and his kingdom in northern India was left in the control of his general Qutb-ud-din Aibak.
Medieval Indian History - Delhi Sultanate
After Muhammad Ghori’s death, slave sultans were ruled India.
The Slave Sultans (AD. 1206-1290)
Mamluks were the earliest rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. They are also known as the Slave Kings because many of them were either slaves or were the sons of slaves and became Sultans.
The first of the slave kings was Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who was the general of Muhammad Ghori. After the death of Ghori, Qutb-ud-din stayed in India and established his kingdom.
The ruler of Ghazni tried to annex the territory held by Qutb-ud-din, but he failed. When lltutmish succeeded Qutbud-din as Sultan, a separate kingdom was established in the northern India, namely Delhi Sultanate.
Over a period of time, the Sultans of Delhi extended their control up to Bengal in the east and Sind in the west.
During the Sultanate period, there was the problem of the local Indian rulers who had been conquered. Sultans had taken territories of some rulers and some others were allowed to keep it.
The rulers who were allowed to keep their territories paid a sum of money as a tribute and agreed to help the Sultan with military support when required.
Sultanate had also problems from the north-west, for example, the rulers of Afghanistan were quiet, but the Mongol people of Central Asia, led by Chenghiz Khan, made fresh conquests.
The Sultan Iltutmish had faced the administrative problems. However, when he died, his daughter Raziya became the sultan and she had to face the problems.
After Iltutmish, the next important Sultans was Balban, a strong and iron-willed Sultan. He was more successful in solving the problems than his predecessors. He defended the Sultanate from the attacks of the Mongols.
Balban fought against the local rulers who troubled him. His biggest problem was the nobles who had become very powerful and were threatening the position of the Sultan. Slowly but firmly, Balban broke their power and finally the position of the Sultan became all-important.
Balban’s success was integrated into his strategic administrative policy. He successfully changed the organization of the army and curbed the revolt of the nobles.
Balban encouraged people to do the ‘sijdah’ in his presence. Sijdah means, people had to kneel and touch the ground with their forehead in salutation to him (Balban).
Sijdah, horrified the orthodox Muslims. According to Muslims belief, “all men are equal, and therefore, no one should do the sijdah before anyone else except God.”
Medieval Indian History - The Khilji Sultans
Khilji dynasty came after Mamluks and ruled until A. D. 1320.
Khilji Dynasty (1290 – 1320)
In 1,290, the Slave Sultans were succeeded by a new dynasty, known as Khiljis. Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji was the founder of Khilji dynasty.
Alauddin Khilji, who was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din was one of the most ambitious and powerful sultans of Khilji dynasty. He wanted to conquer the world (to become second Alexander).
Alauddin Khilji, when became sultan, gave presents (of gold) to the citizens. At the same time, he also contended that he was a strong and powerful ruler and hence, he would deal severely with anyone who showed signs of disloyalty.
Alauddin Khilji raised the land taxes on the wealthier people of the Doab (the fertile area between the Ganga and Yamuna rivers). Further, he strictly monitored the revenue, which the nobles got from their land and hence, did not allow them to keep anything, which was not their due.
The prices of goods were also closely controlled so that everyone could afford to pay the price demanded as well as no one could make a large profit.
Alauddin Khilji made a new policy i.e. he ordered a new assessment of the cultivated land and the revenue. First, the land under cultivation (of his kingdom) was measured. And the revenue of these lands was assessed on the basis of the measurement.
Alauddin Khilji campaigned against the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa. He tried to establish his control over Rajasthan by capturing the famous forts of Ranthambhor and Chittor.
Under the command of Malik Kafur, Ala-ud-din sent a large army towards the south with the intention to conquer the peninsula as well as obtain money and wealth.
Malik Kafur plundered in all directions and collected a large amount of gold from the various kingdoms of the south, including the Yadavas (of Devagiri), the Kakatiyas (of Warangal), and the Hoyasalas (of Dvarasamudra).
The defeated rulers were allowed to keep their throne provided they paid a tribute. Malik Kafur also conquered the city of Madurai. By the time, no north Indian ruler attempted to penetrate so far in the south India.
In 1,315, Aladdin Khilji died. After his death, there was a chaotic situation for the succession. Ambitious Malik Kafur made himself as sultan, but lacked support from Muslim amirs and hence, he was killed only after few months.
By 1,320, three more Khilji successors assumed power, but no one sustained rather killed brutally. Likewise, a new dynasty namely Tughlaq was founded.
Medieval Indian History - Tughlaq Sultans
Tughlaq dynasty came after the Khilji dynasty and ruled from A.D. 1320 to 1413.
Tughlaq Dynasty (1320 – 1413)
In 1,320, Ghazi Malik became the king under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq. Likewise, the ‘Tughlaq’ dynasty began.
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-51), the eldest son and successor of Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq, was one of the most ambitious and powerful Sultans of Tughlaq dynasty.
Ibn Battutah, the North African Arab traveler, came India during Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s period and he had written the detailed description of the Muhammad’s kingdom.
Muhammad was a man of ideals who attempted as far as possible, to rule on the principles of reason. He was a great knowledgeable mathematician and a logician.
Muhammad increased the taxes of the peasants (especially who were from the Doab area). However, a famine in the Doab region made condition worse.
As a result of famine, the people refused to pay the extra taxes and rose in rebellion; therefore, finally, the Sultan had to cancel his order.
Muhammad also moved the capital from Delhi to Devagiri (which he renamed Daulatabad). As per his strategic plan, Daulatabad (located nearby modern Aurangabad in Maharashtra) was a better place for controlling the Deccan.
The moving of the capital was, however, not successful, as it was too far from northern India, and hence, the Sultan could not keep a watch on the northern frontiers. Therefore, Muhammad returned the capital back to Delhi.
Muhammad decided to issue 'token' coins on brass and copper, which could be exchanged for silver coins from the treasury. This scheme would have worked, if he had monitored it carefully and allowed strictly only to the government body to issue token coins. But it did not happen rather many people started making brass and copper ‘tokens’ and the Sultan, therefore, had no control over the finances. The token coins had to be withdrawn.
Unfortunately, Muhammad’s many administrative policies failed; hence, gradually he lost the support not only of the people, but also many of the nobles and the ulema.
The ulema were the scholars of Islamic learning who were generally orthodox in their outlook.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq
In March, 1351, Muhammad died. After his death, his cousin Firoz Shah came to the throne who ruled till 1388.
Firoz realized that one of the reasons for the failure of Muhammad was that he did not have the support of the nobles. Therefore, Firoz first established a friendly relation with them and made them happy by giving them, grants or revenue.
Firoz, further, allowed the orthodox ulema to influence state policy in certain matters. Thus Firoz improved his relationship with the powerful groups at the court; however, in spite of all these, the power of the Sultan decreased.
In the meantime, the governors of certain provinces, including Bihar and Bengal, had rebelled against the Sultanate. Firoz tried to control them, but was not very successful.
Firoz was interested in improving the general welfare of his subjects. He improved parts of the kingdom by starting new irrigation schemes. The Yamuna Canal was one of his schemes.
Firoz also established a few new towns, such as Ferozpur, Ferozabad, Hissar-Firoza, and Jaunpur.
Firoz also constructed many educational centers and hospitals. He was interested in the ancient culture of India. Firoz order to translate a number of Sanskrit books into Persian and Arabic languages.
Firoz also owned two of the pillars of the emperor Ashoka and one of them was placed on the roof of his palace.
In September 1388, Firoz died, after which there was a civil war among his descendants. Because of the political instability, the governors of many provinces became independent kings and finally only a small area around Delhi remained in the hands of the Tughluq Sultans.
Sayyid Dynasty (1413 – 1451)
By 1413, the Tughlaq dynasty ended completely and local governor occupied Delhi and given way to Sayyid Dynasty.
In 1398, Timur, the Turkish chief invaded India and robbed Indian wealth. While returning back, he appointed Khizr Khan as the governor of Delhi.
Khizr Khan had taken Delhi from Daulat Khan Lodi and founded Sayyid dynasty in 1414. Sayyid dynasty ruled Delhi until 1451.
In 1421, Khizr Khan died, hence, his son Mubarrak Khan succeeded. Mubarrak Khan represented himself as ‘Muizz-ud-Din Mubarak Shah’ on his coins.
Mubarrak Khan ruled till 1434 and he was succeeded by his nephew Muhammad Shah. Muhammad Shah ruled till 1445.
Muhammad succeeded by Ala-ud-din Alam Sham, who ruled till 1451. In 1451, Bahlul Lodi became the Sultan and founded the Lodi dynasty.
Medieval Indian History - Lodi Sultans
Lodi Dynasty came after Sayyid dynasty and ruled until A.D. 1526.
Lodi Dynasty (1451–1526)
Lodi dynasty was originally from Afghan who ruled Delhi Sultanate for about 75 years.
Bahlul Lodi, who founded the dynasty and ruled Delhi from 1451 to 1489. After his death in 1489, his second son Sikandar Lodi succeeded the throne.
Sikandar Lodi took the title of Sikandar Shah. It was Sikandar Lodi who founded Agra city in 1504 and moved capital from Delhi to Agra.
Sikandar Lodi, further, abolished the corn duties and patronized trade and commerce in his kingdom.
After Sikandar Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi (the youngest son of Sikandar Lodi) became sultan. Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of Lodi dynasty who ruled from 1517 to 1526.
Ibrahim Lodi was defeated by Babur in 1526, in the first battle of Panipat and from now Mughal Empire established.
The Lodi kings tried to consolidate the Sultanate and attempted to curb the power of rebellious governor.
Sikandar Lodi who ruled from 1489-1517, controlled the Ganges valley up to western Bengal.
Sikandar Lodi moved capital from Delhi to Agra, as he felt that he could control his kingdom better from A gra. He also tried to strengthen the loyalty of the people by various measures of public welfare.
During the sultanate period, the nobles played a powerful role. Sometimes, they even influenced state policy and sometimes (as governors), they revolted and became independent rulers or else usurped the throne of Delhi.
Many of these nobles were Turkish or Afghani, who had settled in India.
Some of the nobles were men who came to India only in search of their fortune and worked for the Sultan.
After Ala-ud-din Khilji, Indian Muslims and Hindus were also appointed as officers (nobles).
The Sultan followed the earlier system of granting the revenue from a piece of land or a village to the (noble) officer instead of paying them salary.
Medieval Indian History - New Kingdoms
As the power of the Sultanate gradually declined, the number of new kingdoms arose in different parts of the subcontinent. Most of them began as provinces of the Sultanate, but later became independent province.
In western India, there were the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa. Ahmed Shah who founded the city of Ahmadabad, had strengthened the power of Gujarat.
During the reign of Hushang Shah, Malwa region became important and powerful. Hushang Shah built the beautiful fortress city of Mandu.
Gujarat and Malwa, however, were frequently at war with each other, which in reality reduced their power.
There were two important Rajput kingdoms, namely Mewar and Marwar. These two were recurrently at war with each other. In spite of the fact that the two royal families had marriage relations.
Rana Kumbha of Mewar was the powerful ruler of this time. He was a man of many interests, as he was a poet, musician, and powerful ruler.
During the period, many other kingdoms had been risen in Rajasthan, Bikaner was one of them.
In the north India, the kingdom of Kashmir came into prominence. Zain-ul-Abidin, also known as 'Bud Shah' (the great king) the ruler of the fifteenth century, was the most popular name of this period.
Zain-ul-Abidin encouraged the scholarship for both Persian and Sanskrit. He was a popular ruler of his time, as his major policies were concerned about the welfare of the people.
Jaunpur and Bengal, these two were the important regions of the Eastern India. Both of these were founded by governors of the Delhi Sultan who had later rebelled against the Sultanate.
Jaunpur was ruled by the Sharqi kings. He had a great ambition i.e. to capture Delhi, which never happened. Later, Jaunpur became an important center of Hindi literature and learning.
Bengal was ruled by kings of different races; however, largely were Turks and Afghans. All these kings were patrons of local culture and encouraged the use of the Bengali language.
Bahamani and Vijayanagar were the significant kingdoms in the Deccan regions of south India. These two kingdoms had been arisen during the period of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq.
Bahamani and Vijayanagar, both these kingdoms were founded by officers of the Sultanate who had rebelled against the Sultan.
Hasan led a rebellion against the Sultan and proclaimed the independence of the Bahmani kingdom. He took the title of Bahman Shah.
The Bahmani kingdom included the whole of the northern Deccan up to the river Krishna (as shown in the map given above).
Vijayanagara Kingdom was founded by two brothers Harihara and Bukka.
In 1336, Harihara and Bukka conquered the territory of the Hoysala (i.e. modern Mysore State) and proclaimed themselves as an Independent ruler of the Vijayanagara Kingdom.
Harihara and Bukka made Hastinavati (modern Hampi) their capital.
Apart from these big kingdoms, there were many other smaller kingdoms, especially along the eastern coast (from Orissa to Tamil Nadu). These smaller kingdoms were being frequently attacked by either the Bahmanis or the Vijayanagara rulers.
In 1370, Vijayanagara conquered Madurai. It was also active on the west coast. Meanwhile, the Bahmani kingdom was engaged in fighting against its northern neighbors, namely the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa.
All these kingdoms of the subcontinent became powerful, because of the handsome income that came through the land revenue and trade.
Gujarat and Bengal received big profits from overseas trade especially with western Asia, East Africa, South-East Asia, and China.
The Bahmani and Vijaynagara kingdoms also took part in the overseas trade.
Besides trade, local culture, literature in the regional language, architecture, paintings, and new religious ideas were developed in these kingdoms.
Medieval Indian History - Religion
After the arrival of Islam in India, some changes can be seen in religious practice as well. Religious ideas (especially Hindu and Muslim religions) were exchanged. However, in context of religious trends, the following two movements are the most noticeable −
Sufi Movement and
During the eleventh century, some of the Muslims (especially who had come from Persia and nearby regions) were fundamentally Sufis. They settled in different parts of India and soon gathered plenty of Indian followers.
The Sufi ideology promoted love and devotion as means of coming nearer to God. The true God’s devotees bound to came close (both) to God and to one's fellow men. Secondly, Sufis suggested that prayers, fasts, and rituals were not as important as the true love of God.
The Sufis, as they were promoting true love to God and fellow men, they were pretty flexible and tolerant for all other religions and sects, and advocated that the paths to God can be many.
The Sufis, further, promoted respect for all human beings. This was the reason that the orthodox Ulema did not approve of the ideology of Sufis and said that Sufi teachings were not in agreement with orthodox Islam.
Many of the Hindus also respected the Sufi saints and became followers. However, the Sufis did not attempt to deceive or convert Hindus to Islam, but rather advised Hindus to be better Hindus by loving the one true God.
One of the most popular Sufi saints was Muin-ud-din Chishti. He lived most of his life in the city of Ajmer (where he died in 1236).
Muin-ud-din Chishti emphasized on the devotional music and said that the devotional music is one of the ways to go closer to the God.
The Ulema did not approve of linking music with religion or God. However, Chishti's followers held gatherings at the places where some of the finest music could be heard.
The qawwali was a familiar form of singing at the sufi gatherings. Some songs sung in Hindi were also popular.
Baba Farid who lived at Ajodhan (now in Pakistan) was also a popular Sufi saint.
Nizam-ud-din Auliya was the Sufi saint who was loved by both the Sultans and by the public. His center was in the neighborhood of Delhi.
Nizam-ud-din Auliya was a brave and honest man and he advocated with his free mind. If Nizam-ud-din Auliya did not like any action of even the Sultan, he said so and was not afraid as were so many other people.
The Bhakti Movement
During the seventh century, Bhakti movement evolved in the south part of the country (especially in the Tamil speaking regions). Over a period of time, it spread in all the directions.
The alvars and the nayannars of the Tamil devotional cult had started the tradition of preaching the idea of bhakti through hymns and stories.
Most of the saints of Bhakti movement were from the non-Brahman families.
Like Sufi ideology, the bhakti ideology also taught that the relationship between man and God was based on love, and worshipping God with devotion was better than merely performing any number of religious ceremonies. Bhakti Saints emphasized on the tolerance among men and religions.
Chaitanya, the devotee of Krishna, was a religious teacher who preached in Bengal. He composed many hymns dedicated to Krishna.
Chaitanya had traveled different parts of the country and gathered a group of his followers. At the end of his life, he settled at Puri in Orissa.
In Maharashtra, the Bhakti ideology was preached by Jnaneshvara. Jnaneshvara had translated Gita in Marathi.
Namadeva and in a later period, Tukaram, were the pretty popular saints of Bhakti movement.
Kabir, who was basically a weaver, was also a Bhakti saint (in Banaras). The dohas (or couplets), which Kabir composed and preached to his followers are still recited.
Kabir realized that religious differences do not matter, for what really matters is that everyone should love God. God has many names (e.g. Ram, Rahim, etc.). Therefore, he tried to make a bridge between the two religions, namely Hinduism and Islam.
The followers of Kabir had formed a separate group, popular as Kabirpanthis. Later, Surdas and Dadu continued the bhakti tradition.
The Sikh Movement
In the northern India, Nanak was another religious teacher who was as important as Kabir. Nanak had founded the Sikh religion and became popular as Guru Nanak.
Probably, Nanak was the son of a village accountant and born and lived in Punjab region.
Nanak left his job and travelled across the country. Finally, he returned and settled down at Kartarpur now called Dera Baba Nanak.
Guru Nanak’s teachings (which available in the form of verses) are included in a scripture, named as the Adi Granth. Adi Granth was compiled by his fourth successor in the early 17th century.
Guru Nanak insisted that his followers must be willing to eat in a common kitchen i.e. langar. Likewise, he promoted unity irrespective of the caste.
Guru Nanak grouped his followers together and before his death, he appointed a guru to be their leader.
The followers of the tenth guru came to be known as the ‘Khalsa,’ which means "the pure".
In the seventeenth century, the Khalsa had become a strong military group. It was the time when the Sikhs distinguished themselves from other people by the means of five characteristics (popular as ‘5Ks’), namely −
Kara (iron bracelet),
Kripan (dagger), and
The bhakti movement was not only a religious movement, but rather it also influenced social ideas. The earlier bhakti teachers such as those of the Tamil devotional cult and saints such as Chaitanya were largely concerned with religion.
Kabir and Nanak, in particular, also had ideas on how society should be organized. They both objected to the division of society on the caste basis. They also refuted the low status given to women. They encouraged women to join their menfolk in various activities.
When the followers of Kabir and Nanak gathered together, women were included in the gathering.
Mirabai, who was a princess, from Rajasthan, had given up her life of luxury and became a devotee of Krishna.
Mirabai composed some of the finest hymns dedicated (largely) to Krishna.
Babur’s Advent into India
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 −
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.
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
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.
Shaibani Khan, in a short span of time, besieged the most of the Timurid kingdoms and forced Babur to move towards Kabul.
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.
Medieval Indian History - Major Battles
Following are the major battles that fought by Mughal emperor Babur
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.
Significance of Babur's Conquest
The significance of Babur’s advent into India are as follows −
Kabul and Qandhar had always acted as staging places for an invasion in India, Babur’s advent made Kabul and Qandhar the integral parts of an empire comprising north India.
Babur and his successors strengthen the India security from an external invasion, which were persistent from the last 200 years.
Geographically Kabul and Qandhar positioned in the trade route; therefore, the control of these two regions strengthened India's foreign trade.
Babar attempted to re-establish the prestige of the Crown, which had been eroded after the death of Firuz Tughlaq.
Zahir al-Din 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 −
The strength and prestige of the Crown;
The absence of religious and sectarian bigotry; and
The careful fostering of culture and the fine arts.
Babur, with all these three features (discussed above), provided a precedent and a direction for his successors.
Throughout the reign period (1530-1556), Humayn 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 −
The administration systems of Mughal Empire were weak and the finances were unjustifiable.
The Afghans had not been subdued entirely; hence, they were cultivating the hope of expelling the Mughals from India.
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).
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 −
Humayun’s inability to understand the nature of the Afghan power and Sher Shah’s deceptive trick.
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).
Without getting the support of the local rulers and zamindars, the Mughals were bound to remain numerically inferior.
The differences of Humayun with his brothers, and his alleged faults of character.
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).
Medieval Indian History - Sur Empire
Founded by Sher Shah, the Sur Empire ruled India from 1540 to 1555.
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 and 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.
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.
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.
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 −
25,000 infantry armed with matchlocks or bows;
5,000 elephants; and
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.
Medieval Indian History - 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.
Early Phase of Akbar’s Reign
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
Kingdom of Malwa
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 −
100 zat, received a monthly salary of Rs. 500/month;
1,000 zat received Rs. 4,400/month;
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’s Organization of Government
Akbar hardly brought any changes in the organization of local government.
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 −
Each of these subah consisted of a governor (subadar), a diwan, a bakhshi, a sadr, a qazi, and a waqia-navis.
Akbar’s Relation with Neighbours
Relation with Rajputs
When Humayun conquered India, for the second time, he embarked upon a deliberate and diplomatic policy to win over these elements.
Abul Fazl has written in his work as "to soothe the minds of the zamindars, he (Humayun) entered into matrimonial relations with them."
When Jamal Khan Mewati (one of the greatest zamindars of India), submitted to Humayun, he married one of his (Humayun’s) beautiful daughters and married his younger sister to Bairam Khan. Over a period of a time, Akbar also followed this policy.
Before the Akbar period, the girl once married, normally, was lost to her family, and never came back after her marriage. But, Akbar abandoned this policy. He gave religious freedom to his Hindu wives and gave an honored place to their parents and relations in the nobility.
Relation with Amber State
Bhara Mal, the ruler of Amber cemented the alliance (with Akbar) by marrying his younger daughter, Harka Bai, to Akbar.
Bhara Mal was given a high dignitary. His son, Bhagwan Das, rose to the rank of 5,000 and his grandson, Man Singh, to the rank of 7,000, which was accorded by Akbar to only one other noble, namely Aziz Khan Kuka (his foster-brother).
In 1572, when Akbar went on Gujarat expedition, Bhara Mal was placed as the in-charge of Agra where all the royal ladies were residing; it was a signal honor usually given only to nobles who were either relations or close confidants of the emperor.
Akbar had abolished the pilgrim-tax, and the practice of forcible conversion of prisoners of war. In 1564, Akbar also abolished the jizyah, which was (sometimes) used by the ulama to humiliate non-Muslims.
Relation with Mewar State
Mewar was the only state which had stubbornly refused to accept Mughal suzerainty.
In 1572, Rana Pratap succeeded Rana Udai Singh to the 'gaddi' (throne) of Chittoor. Akbar sent a series of embassies to Rana Pratap asking to accept Mughal suzerainty and to do personal homage. All these embassies, including the one led by Man Singh, were courteously received by Rana Pratap. In return, Rana Pratap also sent Amar Singh (his son) with Bhagwan Das to do homage to Akbar and accept his service. But Rana never accepted or made any final agreement.
In 1576, Akbar went Ajmer, and deputed Raja Man Singh with a force of 5,000 to lead a campaign against Rana. In anticipation of this campaign, Rana had devastated the entire territory up to Chittoor so that the Mughal forces might get no food or fodder and fortified all the passes in the hills.
The battle between Rana Pratap and Mughal force (led by Man Singh) was fought at Haldighati in June 1576.
The powerful attack by the Rajputs, which was supported by the Afghans threw the Mughal force into disarray. However, because of the fresh reinforcements in Mughal’s forces, the tide of battle turned against the Rajputs. The Mughal forces were advanced through the pass and occupied Gogunda, a strong point which had been evacuated by the Rana earlier. Rana Pratap somehow managed to escape from the battle field.
The battle of Haldighati was the last battle that Rana engaged in a pitched battle with the Mughals; afterward, he relied upon the methods of guerilla warfare.
In 1585, Akbar moved to Lahore to observe the situation in the north-west which had become dangerous by that time. Because of the critical situation, he (Akbar) remained there for the next 12 years. Therefore, after 1585, no Mughal expedition was sent against Rana Pratap.
Akbar’s absence gave an opportunity to Rana Pratap and hence, he recovered many of his territories, including Kumbhalgarh and the areas nearby Chittoor. Rana Pratap built a new capital, namely Chavand, near modern Dungarpur.
In 1597, Rana Pratap died at the age of 51, due to an internal injury incurred (by himself) while trying to draw a stiff bow.
Relation with Marwar State
In 1562, after the death of Maldeo of Marwar, there was a dispute between his sons for succession. However, the younger son of Maldeo, Chandrasen, (son of the favorite queen of Maldeo), succeeded to the gaddi (throne).
Chandrasen opposed the Akbar’s policy; hence, Akbar took Marwar under direct Mughal administration. Chandrasen fought bravely and also waged a guerilla warfare, but after some time, he forced to escape. In 1581, Chandrasen died.
Relation with Jodhpur State
Akbar conferred Jodhpur to Udai Singh, the elder brother of Chandrasen. To strengthen his position, Udai Singh married his daughter, Jagat Gosain or Jodha Bai with Akbar. Jodha Bai is the mother of Akbar's eldest son Salim (Jahangir).
In 1593, when the son-in-law of Rai Singh of Bikaner died due to a fall from his palki, Akbar went to the raja's house to console him, and discouraged his daughter from performing sati (self-immolation) as her children were young.
Akbar's policy towards Rajput was continued by his successions, Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Jahangir, whose mother was a Rajput princess (Jodha Bai), had married with a Kachhawaha princess as well as a Jodhpur princess.
The Rana Pratap's son, Karan Singh, who was deputed to proceed to Jahangir’s court was diplomatically received. Jahangir got up from the throne, embraced him in darbar and gave him gifts.
Prince Karan Singh was accorded the rank of 5,000, which had been earlier accorded to the rulers of 'Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Amber.
Rebels during Mughal Empire
Mughal’s disciplinary and central administrative system was not acceptable by many regional independent nobles who were still strong, particularly in areas such as Gujarat, Bengal, and Bihar. All these kingdoms had a long tradition of forming separate kingdoms.
Rebels in Rajasthan
In Rajasthan, Rana Pratap's struggle for freedom was one of the major problems for Mughal Empire. In such a case, Akbar had to deal with a series of rebellions.
Rebels in Gujarat
Gujarat remained in a state of unrest for almost two years due to a proposal for freedom by a representative of the old ruling dynasty.
Rebels in Bengal and Bihar
The most serious rebellion during Akbar period was in Bengal and Bihar extended up to Jaunpur (east Uttar Pradesh).
The major cause of the rebels in Bengal and Bihar was the strict enforcement of the dagh system or branding of the horses of the jagirdars, and strict accounting of their incomes.
Akbar's half-brother, Mirza Hakim, the ruler of Kabul, also abetted the rebellion. A large number of Afghans in the eastern region were sullen at the loss of the Afghan power and were ready to join a rebellion.
The rebellions kept the Mughal Empire distracted for almost two years (1580-81), and hence Akbar had to face with a very difficult situation. Due to the mishandling of the situation by local officials, Bengal and Bihar passed into the hands of the rebels who declared Mirza Hakim as their ruler.
The rebellions of Bengal and Bihar even received a religious divine to issue a fatwa, assembled the faithful to take the action against Akbar.
To control the rebellions of Bengal and Bihar, Akbar sent a force (led by Todar Mal). Akbar also sent force (led by Raja Man Singh) to check the expected attack by Mirza Hakim.
Todar Mal proceeded with great strength and controlled the situation in the east. On the other hand, Mirza Hakim advanced on Lahore with 15,000 horses, but his effort was dismantled collectively by Raja Man Singh and Bhagwan Das.
In 1581, Akbar completed his success by marching to Kabul. It was the first time when an Indian ruler had entered in a historic town.
Mirza Hakim refused to accept Akbar's suzerainty, or to come to pay personal allegiance to him, hence, Akbar handed over Kabul to his sister, before returning to India.
Abdullah Khan Uzbek, who was the hereditary enemy of the Mughals, had been gradually gathering strength in Central Asia. In 1584, he overran Badakhshan (it was the region of northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan), which had been ruled by the Timurids.
Mirza Hakim and the Timurid princes ousted from Badakhshan; hence, they appealed to Akbar for help. But before Akbar could take any action, Mirza Hakim died due to excessive drinking and left Kabul in a state of disturbance.
In 1586, to block all roads to the Uzbeks, Akbar sent expeditions against Kashmir and Baluchistan. Likewise, the whole of Kashmir, including Ladakh and Baluchistan, came under Mughal Empire.
Expeditions were also sent to clear the Khybar Pass, which had been blocked by rebellious tribesmen. In an expedition against them, Raja Birbal, the favorite of Akbar, lost his life. But the Afghan tribesmen were gradually forced to surrender.
The consolidation of the north-west and fixing a scientific frontier of the empire were two of the major achievements of Akbar. Further, Akbar’s conquest of Sindh (1590) also opened Punjab for trade down the river Indus.
Akbar stayed at Lahore till 1598, until the death of Abdullah Uzbek. Abdullah Uzbek’s death, finally, removed the threat from the Uzbek side.
Orissa, which was under the domination of Afghan chiefs, was conquered by Raja Man Singh. Man Singh also conquered Cooch-Bihar and parts of Bengal, including Dacca.
Mirza Aziz Koka, the foster-brother of Akbar, conquered Kathiawar in the west. Akbar deputed Khan-i-Khanan Munim Khan and prince Murad at Deccan in the south India.
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.
Deccan and South India
After the break-up of the Bahmani kingdom, three powerful states, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, and Golconda emerged as the independent states. In 1565, all these three states united to crush Vijayanagara Empire at the battle of Bannihatti, near Tallikota.
After the victory in the battle of Bannihatti, the Deccani states resumed their old ways. Both Ahmednagar and Bijapur claimed Sholapur, which was a rich and fertile tract of that time.
The Gujarat rulers actively supported Berar ruler against Ahmednagar, and later also engaged in a war against Ahmednagar. On the other hand, Bijapur and Golconda clashed over the possession of Naldurg (located in Maharashtra).
In 1572, the Mughal emperor Akbar conquest Gujarat, which created a new situation. The conquest of Gujarat was just beginning of the Mughal conquest of the Deccan. However, Akbar at that time was busy elsewhere and did not pay attention to the Deccan affairs.
Ahmednagar conquested Berar. Further, Ahmednagar and Bijapur made an agreement whereby Bijapur was left free to expand its territory in the south at the expense of Vijayanagara, while Ahmednagar ruled Berar.
The Marathas were also started taking interest in the affairs of the Deccan.
In south, the revenue affairs at the local level were in the hands of the Deccani Brahmans.
During the middle of the sixteenth century, the rulers of the Deccan states relied upon a policy i.e. winning over the Marathas to their side.
The Maratha chiefs were given services and positions in all the three leading states of the Deccan. Ibrahim Adil Shah (ruler of Bijapur), who ascended the throne in 1555, was the leading advocate of this policy.
Ibrahim Adil Shah, most likely, introduced Marathi in revenue accounts at all levels. Besides, a few other families such as the Bhonsales who had the family name of Ghorpade, Dafles (or Chavans), etc., also rose to prominence in Bijapur.
Ahmednagar ruler had been given the title of ‘Peshwa’ to a Brahmana, namely Kankoji Narsi.
Mughal’s Movement towards Deccan
After decline of the Delhi Sultanate, many Sufi saints and other people in search of the employment had migrated to the court of the Bahmani rulers.
After the conquest of Malwa and Gujarat in 1560's and early 1570's, Akbar gradually moved towards the Deccan politics.
In 1576, a Mughal army invaded Khandesh, and compelled the rulers of Khandesh to surrender. However, because of the 12 years (from 1586 to 1598) Akbar’s absent from India (he was lived at Lahore during this period), affairs in the Deccan deteriorated.
Among the Deccan states, there was very unstable politics. War among the various Deccan states was a frequent occurrence. Religion (especially shia and sunni) was the leading cause of conflict.
Mahdawi ideas had spread widely in the Deccan. In fact, a group of the Muslims believed that in every epoch, a man from the family of the Prophet will make an appearance and will strengthen the religion, and make justice triumph; such a group of Muslims were known as the ‘Mahdi.’
In India, Saiyid Muhammad, who was born at Jaunpur (in Uttar Pradesh), in the first half of the fifteenth century, proclaimed himself as the Mahdi.
Saiyid Muhammad traveled throughout the country as well as in the Islamic world, which created great enthusiasm. He established his dairas (circles) in different parts of the country, including the Deccan where his ideas found a fertile soil. However, the orthodox elements were bitterly opposed to Mahdawaism as to Shiism.
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.
Conquest of South – I
In 1591, Akbar sent embassies to all the Deccani states inviting them to accept Mughal suzerainty. None of the states accepted this.
The Mughal invasion on Ahmednagar was led by prince Murad, who was the governor of Gujarat (at that time), and reinforced by Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan.
Chand Bibi shut herself up in the fort (of Ahmednagar) with the boy-king, Bahadur. After a close siege of four months in which Chand Bibi played a heroic role, the two sides (Mughals and Ahmednagar) agreed for an agreement and in 1596, Mughal suzerainty was accepted.
The Mughal annexation of Berar alarmed other Deccani states a combined force of Bijapur, Golconda, and Ahmednagar led by a Bijapur commander invaded Berar.
In 1597, the Mughals defeated the Deccani forces. As a result of this defeat, the Bijapur and Golconda forces withdrew and left Chand Bibi to meet the situation alone. Likewise, Mughal had sieged Ahmednagar, for the second time.
In the absence of any external help from outside, Chand Bibi had agreed for the negotiations with the Mughals, but she was accused of treachery by a hostile faction and hence was killed.
The Mughals now assaulted and captured Ahmednagar and the boy-king, Bahadur, was sent to the fortress of Gwalior.
In 1601, Khandesh was unified in the Mughal Empire. After the capture of Asirgarh, Akbar returned to the north to deal with the rebellion of his son, Salim.
Akbar was conscious that no lasting solution to the Deccan problem could be arrived without an agreement with Bijapur. To assure himself, Akbar sent the messages to Ibrahim Adil Shah II; as a result of which he (Adil Shah II) married his daughter to prince Daniyal (the youngest son of Akbar).
In 1602 prince Daniyal (immediately after his marriage) died because of excessive drinking. Thus the situation in the Deccan remained vague.
Rise of Malik Amber
Malik Ambar was an Abyssinian (born in Ethiopia). There is little known about his early life; however, probably, he was from a poor family and his parents sold him in a slave market in Baghdad. Later, he was purchased by a merchant who treated him well and brought him to the Deccan.
When the Mughals invaded Ahmednagar, Ambar at first went to Bijapur to try his luck there. But he soon returned back and joined himself in the powerful Habshi (Abyssinian) party, which was opposed to Chand Bibi.
After the fall of Ahmednagar, Malik Ambar with the implied support of the ruler of Bijapur, received the title of Peshwa (a title which had been common in Ahmednagar those days).
Malik Ambar gathered around him a large band of Maratha troopers (or bargis). The Marathas were adept in rapid movements, and in plundering and cutting off the supplies of the enemy troops.
Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana was the Mughal commander in the Deccan; he was a shrewd and wily politician and an intelligent soldier. In 1601, he (Abdul Rahim) inflicted a crushing defeat on Ambar at a place called Nander (in Telangana). However, the war ended with a friendship agreement between Abdul Rahim and Amber.
In October 1605, Akbar died. After his death, there were differences among the Mughal commanders in Deccan regions; this situation gave an opportunity to Amber and hence he unleashed an aggressive campaign to expel the Mughals from Berar, Balaghat, and Ahmednagar.
Amber’s campaign was actively supported by Ibrahim Adil Shah (the ruler of Bijapur). Adil Shah considered it essential because he thought that the Nizam Shahi state should continue as a buffer between Bijapur and the Mughals.
Adil Shah gave Amber the powerful fort of Qandhar in Telangana for the residence of his family and stowing treasures, provisions, etc. Father, Adil Shah also sent 10,000 horsemen to support Amber.
In 1609, the treaty was cemented by a marriage alliance between the daughters of one of the leading Ethiopian nobles of Bijapur with Malik Ambar. Adil Shah gave a handsome dowry to the bride and spent about Rs. 80,000 on fireworks. Likewise, by 1610, most of the territories (in south) won by Akbar were lost.
Jahangir sent prince Parvez with a large army to conquest Deccan, but he could not meet the challenges posed by Malik Ambar. Lastly, Ahmednagar was also lost, and Parvez had to conclude with a disgraceful peace agreement with Ambar.
Over a period of time, Malik Ambar became arrogant and separated his allies. The Khan-i-Khana, who had been posted as the Mughal viceroy of the Deccan once again, took advantage of the situation and won over to his side a number of Habshis as well as Maratha nobles, including Jagdev Rai, Babaji Kate, Udaji Ram, etc.
In 1616, with the help of the Maratha sardars, Khan-i-Khana defeated the combined forces of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, and Golconda. This defeat shook the Deccani alliance against the Mughals. However, Ambar did not relax his efforts.
Jahangir, however, was not interested to extend Mughal commitments in the Deccan, or even become too deeply involved in its affairs. He had belief that his moderation would enable the Deccani states to settle down, and live in peace with the Mughals.
Despite Jahangir’s diplomatic policy, Ambar continued to lead the Deccan' resistance against the Mughals. After two years, the combined Deccani forces were again defeated by the Mughals. The credit for these victories was given to Prince Shah Jahan.
After the defeat, the Deccani states had to pay an indemnity of Rs. 5,000,000. Later, Amber conducted a series of campaigns against Bijapur for the recovery of Sholapur, which was a bone of contention between the two states.
Ambar had shown a remarkable military skill, energy, and determination. His achievements were short-lived due to his inability or reluctance to accept Mughal’s terms and conditions.
Malik Ambar attempted to improve the administrative system of Nizam Shahi state by introducing Todar mal's land revenue system. He abolished the old system of giving land on contract.
After 1622, in a situation, when Deccan was in turmoil due to the rebellion of Prince Shah Jahan against his father Jahangir, Malik Ambar once again managed to recover many of the old territories, which had been ceded by the Mughals. However, he could not live much long after this and died in 1626 at the age of 80.
Conquest of South – II
Shah Jahan ascended the throne in 1627. At the same time, Ahmednagar lost badly and Bijapur and Golconda accepted the Mughal Suzerainty.
Shah Jahan came to a conclusion that there could be no peace for the Mughals in the Deccan as long as Ahmednagar continued as an independent state. This conclusion was a major departure from the policy, which had been followed by Akbar and Jahangir.
Shah Jahan was not much interested to extend Mughal territories in the Deccan beyond what was necessary. He, therefore, sent a message to Bijapur ruler and offered to cede to him roughly one-third of the Ahmednagar state.
The demand of one-third territory from Ahmednagar was a shrewd move on the part of Shah Jahan with the intent to isolate Ahmednagar diplomatically and militarily. Jahangir also offered services to the various Maratha sardars.
Adil Shah also was anxious because of Malik Ambar’s humiliation and the annexation of Sholapur. He, therefore, accepted Shah Jahan's proposal, and deputed an army at the Nizam Shahi border to cooperate with the Mughals.
In 1629, Shah Jahan strategically deputed a large army against Ahmednagar; one group sent to operate in the Balaghat region (in the west), and the other in the Telangana region (in the east).
The Mughals, on their part, had refused to hand over to the Adil Shah the areas allotted to him under the agreement. As a result of this, Adil decided to help Nizam Shah who agreed to surrender Sholapur to him.
Adil Shah sent a large army under Randaula Khan (Bijapur General) and Murari Pandit for the surrender of Daulatabad and for provisioning its garrison.
Shahji Bhonsle also was joined in Bijapur's service to harass the Mughals and cut off their supplies. But the combined operations of the Bijapuri forces and Shahji’s forces were failed.
In 1633, Mahabat Khan (Mughal general) was closely interested in Daulatabad, and forced the garrison to surrender.
After the defeat, Nizam Shah was sent to prison in Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh). This war marked as the end of the Nizam Shahi dynasty.
By following the path of Malik Ambar, Shahji nurtured a Nizam Shahi prince, and raised him up as ruler.
Adil Shah sent a force of seven to eight thousand horsemen to support Shahji, and encouraged many of the Nizam Shahi nobles to surrender their forts to Shahji.
Many scattered Nizam Shahi soldiers joined Shahji whose force swelled to 20,000 horse. With these, he harassed the Mughals and took control of large portions of the Ahmednagar state.
By understanding the critical situation, Shah Jahan deputed a large army to invade Bijapur. Further, the policy of carrot and stick and the advance of Shah Jahan to the Deccan changed the Bijapur politics.
The leaders of the anti-Mughal group including Murari Pandit were displaced and killed and a new agreement was made with Shah Jahan. According to this treaty, Adil Shah agreed to −
Recognize Mughal suzerainty,
Pay an indemnity of twenty lakhs of rupees, and
Not to interfere in the affairs of Golconda, which was brought under Mughal protection.
Adil Shah also agreed to operate with the Mughals for reducing Shahji to submission, and if he agreed to join Bijapuri service, to depute him in the south, away from the Mughal frontier.
Shah Jahan also sent to Adil Shah a solemn Farman (summon) impressed with the mark of the emperor's palm that the terms of this treaty would never be violated.
A peace agreement with the Mughals enabled the Deccani states to expand their territories towards the further south and to strengthen their power and prosperity.
Soon after the treaties of 1636, Bijapur and Golconda overran the rich and fertile Karnataka area from the river Krishna to Tanjore and beyond.
A series of campaigns were conducted by Bijapur and Golconda against the southern states.
Over a period of time, rapid expansion weakened internal cohesion of these southern states. Ambitious nobles such as Shahji, and his son Shivaji in Bijapur, and Mir Junda, the leading noble of Golconda, started carving out spheres of influence for themselves.
In the south, however, the development came to an end in 1656 after the death of Muhammad Adil Shah, and arrival of Aurangzeb as the Mughal viceroy of the Deccan.
Deccan’s Cultural Contribution
The Deccani states had a number of cultural contributions to their credit. Adil Shah was very fond of organizing discussions with Hindu and Muslim saints.
Adil Shah invited Catholic missionaries to his court, much before Akbar had done so. He had an excellent library to which he appointed the well-known Sanskrit scholar, Vaman pandit. Patronage of Sanskrit and Marathi was continued by his successors.
Ibrahim Adil Shah II (1580-1627), the successor of Adil Shah, ascended the throne (of Bijapur) at the age of nine. He was very attentive of the poor, and had the title of abla baba, or Friend of the Poor.
Adil Shah II was very fond of music; he composed a book namely Kitab-e-Navras (Book of Nine Rasas). In this book, he set various musical modes or togas. In his songs, he freely prayed the goddess of music and learning, Saraswati. Due to his broad approach, he came to be called as Jagat Guru.
Adil Shah II, further, built a new capital, Nauraspur; where he invited a large number of musicians (to settle). He offered patronage to all, including Hindu saints and temples. This included grants to Pandharpur, the center of the worship of Vithoba, which became the center of the Bhakti movement in Maharashtra.
Qutb Shah employed both Hindus and Muslims people in his military, administrative, and diplomatic departments.
Golconda was the popular intellectual resort for the literary men. Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah (who was a contemporary of Akbar) was very fond of both literature and architecture.
Sultan Muhammad Qutb Shah wrote in Dakhini Urdu, Persian, and Telugu and left an extensive collection. He was the first who introduced a secular note in poetry.
Qutb Shah not only wrote about God and the Prophet (their praise), but he also wrote about nature, love, and the social life of his time.
The successors of Qutb Shah and many other poets and writers of his time adopted Urdu as a literary language. In addition to Urdu language, Persian, Hindi, and Telugu were also significant for the idioms and vocabulary.
Urdu gradually percolate to north India from the Deccan by the eighteenth century.
In 1591-92, Quli Qutb Shah founded the city Hyderabad, he also constructed many buildings, the most famous of which is the Char Minar.
The Gol Gumbaz (the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur) which was built in 1656 has the largest single dome ever constructed. The architect of Gol Gumbaz was Yaqut of Dabul.
Political Development during the Mughals
The Mughal rulers, particularly Akbar, personally refurbished and consolidated the administrative system. Akbar maintained the alliance with the Rajput.
Akbar and his successors successfully maintained further attempted to broaden the political base of the Mughal Empire by allying with powerful sections including the Afghans and the Marathas.
Mughals architected their capitals not only beautifully, but also strategically where they tried to make the Mughal court the center of the cultural life in the country.
The Mughals played a positive role in developing and stabilizing India’s relations with her neighboring Asian powers, including Iran, the Uzbeks, and the Ottoman Turks. Likewise, the Mughals opened and promoted India’s foreign trade.
Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar, succeeded to the throne without any difficulty, as his younger brothers died at early age (during the life time of Akbar) because of excessive drinking.
Khusrau, the eldest son of Jahangir, broke out into rebellion (Jahangir had also rebelled once against his father, and disturbed the empire for some time). However, Khusrau soon accepted his mistake and forgave by Jahangir.
Diplomatic Policy of Mughals
Like Akbar, Jahangir also realized that the conquest could be lasting on the basis not of force, but rather of winning the goodwill of the people. He, therefore, treated the defeated Afghan chief and their followers with great sympathy.
Jahangir, by following his diplomatic policy and released many of the princes and zamindars of Bengal who were detained at the court and allowed to return to Bengal. Musa Khan was released and his estates were restored.
To continue the policy, the Afghans also began to be welcomed into the Mughal nobility. The leading Afghan noble under Jahangir was Khan-i-Jahan Lodi who served the distinguished service in the Deccan.
Jahangir, however, had to begin a long era of peace, but the situation was changed radically by two incidents −
The Persian conquest of Qandhar, which was a misfortune to Mughal prestige and
Deteriorating health of Jahangir.
These two incidents unleashed the latent struggle for the succession among the princes as well as among the nobles (who were also competing for power). Further, the deteriorating health of Jahangir also introduced Nur Jahan into the political affairs.
Medieval Indian History - Nur Jahan
Nur Jahan first married to an Iranian, Sher Afghan, and after his death (in a clash with the Mughal governor of Bengal), she married to Jahangir in 1611.
After marrying with Nur Jahan, Jahangir appointed her father Itimaduddaula as joint diwan and later he had been promoted to chief diwan. Besides, other members of her (Nur Jahan) family also benefited.
In ten years of his service, Itimaduddaula proved his loyalty, competency, and acumen. He made a considerable influence in the affairs of the state until his death.
Asaf Khan, Nur Jahan's brother, was also a learned and deserving man. He was appointed as the ‘khan-i-saman;’ it was the post reserved for the highly trustworthy nobles.
Asaf Khan married his daughter with Khurram (later Shah Jahan). Khurram was favorite of Jahangir particularly after the rebellion and imprisonment of Khusrau.
Some historians mentioned that along with her father and brother, and in alliance with Khurram, Nur Jahan formed a group or "junta," which managed Jahangir’s governance at such a level that without its support no one could approach emperor. This led to the division of the court into two groups i.e. Nur Jahan "junta" and its opponents.
Over a period of time, Nur Jahan became ambitious and tried to dominate, which resulted in a breach between her and Shah Jahan, and that this drove Shah Jahan into rebellion against his father in 1622. It was the time when Shah Jahan felt that Jahangir was completely under Nur Jahan's influence. However, some other historians are not agreed with this view.
The precise political role of Nur Jahan during that period is not clear. However, she dominated the royal household and set a new fashion based on Persian traditions.
Nur Jahan was the consistent companion of Jahangir, and even joined him in his hunting expeditions since she was a good rider and a shooter. However, Jahangir was not dependent on the "junta" or on Nur Jahan’s diplomacy.
Shah Jahan became powerful because of his personal qualities and achievements rather than the support of Nur Jahan. And, Shah Jahan had his own ambitions of which Jahangir was not unaware.
During the Mughal period, no emperor could afford or allow a noble or even a prince to become so powerful (lest he challenged his authority). Probably, it was the reason of the conflict arose between Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Medieval Indian History - Shah Jahan’s Rebel
Khusrau (elder brother) was the potential contender of Shah Jahan; therefore, as long as he (Khusrau) was alive, he was a great hurdle (for Shah Jahan). In 1621, Shah Jahan killed Khusrau (who had been kept in his custody) and spread the news that he died due to colic (abdomen pain).
Shahriyar, a younger brother of Shah Jahan, married to Nur Jahan’s daughter (from her former husband) and taken an important command that mentally disturbed Shah Jahan; hence, he (Shah Jahan) rebelled.
The immediate cause of Shah Jahan’s rebel was the order that given to him to proceed Qandhar, which had been besieged by the Persians, but he refused.
Shah Jahan was afraid that the Qandhar campaign would be a long and difficult one and that might intrigue against him (i.e. during his absence from the court). Hence, he demanded full authority such as full command of the army, which included the veterans of the Deccan, complete control over Punjab, control over a number of important forts, etc.
Jahangir was enraged because of strange demands of Shah Jahan. Further, Jahangir had been also convinced that the prince was meditating rebellion; hence, he wrote harsh letters and took punitive steps, which only made the situation worse and resulted in an open breach.
From Mandu (where he was stationed), Shah Jahan moved to attack Agra in order to capture the treasures lodged there.
The Mughal commander, posted at Agra, was vigilant and he foiled Shah Jahan’s move. After failing at Agra, Shah Jahan moved to Delhi; by the time, Jahangir had assembled a large army under the command of Mahabat Khan.
Mahabat Khan was ordered to move on to Mandu (Malwa), Prince Parvez appointed the nominal commander of the army. Another army was sent to Gujarat.
Shah Jahan was forced out of the Mughal territories and compelled to take shelter nearby the Deccani rulers, his erstwhile enemies. Further, he crossed the Deccan into Orissa, controlled the governor by surprise, and then he also took the control of Bengal and Bihar.
Mahabat Khan was again deputed against Shah Jahan and he successfully forced Shah Jahan to retreat to the Deccan again. This time, Shah Jahan made an alliance with Malik Amber who was once again at war with the Mughals. But the by time, Shah Jahan failed to success in his expedition and hence he wrote a humble letter his father Jahangir.
Jahangir realized that time came to pardon and conciliate his brightest and most energetic son. However, in 1626, as part of the agreement, two of Shah Jahan's sons, namely Dara and Aurangzeb, were sent to the Jahangir’s court as a hostage, and II tract in the Deccan was assigned for Shah Jahan's expenses.
Jahangir’s health was gradually deteriorating, however, he was still mentally alert, and did allow to make any decisions without his consensus.
Jahangir's illness increased the vulnerability that an ambitious noble might try to use the situation to take supreme power in his hands.
Mahabat Khan who had played a leading role in controlling Shah Jahan's rebellion, had been feeling disgruntled because certain elements at the court were eager to clip his wings after the end of the prince's rebellion.
Mahabat Khan’s alliance with Prince Parvez was also a threat. Summoned by the court to render accounts, Mababat Khan came with a trusted body of Rajput and seized the emperor at an appropriate moment when the royal camp was crossing the river Jhelum on its way to Kabul. Nur Jahan, who had not been apprehended, escaped.
Nur Jahan played a trick and hence, she surrendered herself to Mahabat Khan in order to be close to Jahangir, and tried to pause the suspicions of Mahabat Khan; however, she was secretly trying her best to weaken his (Mahabat Khan) position.
Over a period of time, Nur Jahan took advantage of the mistakes and weakness of Mahabat Khan (who was actually a soldier, and not a diplomat or an administrator), she managed to wean away most of the nobles from Mahabat Khan's side. Further, Rajput soldiers were also not in support of Mahabat Khan.
Soon Mahabat Khan realized his precarious position, and hence, he fled from the Jahangir’s court. Later, he joined Shah Jahan.
Nur Jahan’s victory over Mahabat Khan was her greatest victory and a true reflection of her cool courage and sagacity. However, she could not enjoy her victory for long, as Jahangir died (in 1627).
After Jahangir’s death, Asaf Khan, supported by the divan, the chief nobles, and the army, arrested Nur Jahan and sent an urgent summons to Shah Jahan. In the meantime, Asaf Khan appointed Khusrau’s son as puppet emperor.
Shah Jahan’s younger brother, Shahriyar, made a feeble effort for the throne, but he was easily defeated and thrown into prison (and blinded).
Shah Jahan's reign effectively from 1628 to 1658), which was full of distinct activities (as discussed above).
Mughals’ Foreign Policy
Because of being responsible for the expulsion of Babur and the other Timurid princes from Samarkand and the adjoining area (including Khorasan), the Uzbeks were the natural enemies of the Mughals.
The Khorasanian plateau linked Iran with Central Asia, and was an important trade route to China and India. The Uzbeks clashed with the rising power of the Safavids who claimed Khorasan.
The Uzbeks tried to exploit the sectarian differences with the Safavid rulers of Iran who had ruthlessly persecuted the Sunnis.
By considering an ambitious attitude of the Uzbeks, it was natural for the Safavids and the Mughals to ally (against the Uzbek).
The Ottoman (Turkish Sultan) threat from the west, compelled the Persians to be friend with the Mughals, particularly when they had to face an aggressive Uzbek power in the east.
Akbar and Uzbeks
In 1511, when Safavids defeated Shaibani Khan (the Uzbek chief), Babur had regained Samarkand; however, it was only for the short period. Further, Babur had to leave the city, as the Uzbeks had defeated the Persians.
Later, Shah Tahmasp, the Safavids monarch also helped Humayun, when he (Humayun) had defeated and ousted from India by Sher Shah.
The territorial power of the Uzbeks grew rapidly in the seventies under Abdullah Khan Uzbek.
In 1572-73, Abdullah Khan Uzbek seized Balkh which, along with Badakhshan, had served as a kind of buffer between the Mughals and the Uzbeks.
After the death of Shah Tahmasp (in 1576), there was political instability in Iran; hence, by understanding the situation, in 1577, Abdullah Khan II (Uzbek ruler) sent an embassy to Akbar proposing partition of Iran.
Akbar ignored this appeal (because of sectarian narrowness). A strong Iran was essential to keep the restless Uzbeks in their place. At the same time, Akbar had no desire to get embroiled with the Uzbeks, unless they directly threatened Kabul or the Indian possessions, which was the key to Akbar's foreign policy.
Akbar sent a return embassy to Abdullah Uzbek in which he asserted that differences in law and religion could not be considered as sufficient ground for conquest.
Abul Fazl mentioned that the Khyber Pass was built in such a way that a wheeled traffic can also pass through. It was done due to fear of the Mughals, the gates were usually kept closed.
Speculating an invasion from Badakhshan, Abdullah Uzbek created trouble among the tribesmen of the north-west frontier, which was executed by one of his trustworthy agents, Jalala who was a religious fanatic.
Because of Abdullah Uzbek’s action, the situation became very serious; therefore, Akbar had to action. It was during this expedition, Akbar lost one of his best friends, Raja Birbal.
In 1585, Abdullah Uzbek suddenly conquered Badakhshan; both Mirza Hakim (his half-brother) and his grandson sought refuge at Akbar's court and were given suitable mansabs.
Immediately after the Uzbek’s attack, Mirza Hakim died and then Akbar annexed Kabul and made his dominion.
Abdullah Khan Uzbek sent another embassy to the Akbar’s court; however, at this time, Akbar was at Attock (on the river Indus). Abdullah Khan revived the earlier proposal for a joint campaign against the Safavid power, and for opening the way for pilgrims to Mecca.
The Ottoman (Turkish) sultan had invaded northern Iran, and the Uzbeks were threatening Herat in Khorasan.
Akbar sent a long letter in reply to Abdullah Uzbek's proposal. He disapproved the Turkish action, and proposed to dispatch an army to Iran led by one of the royal princes to help.
Akbar, however, made no serious preparations to support the threat of a campaign in Iran. Abdullah Uzbek had invaded Khorasan even before Akbar's letter reached him and captured most of the areas be claimed.
Most likely, an agreement was made that defined the Hindukush as the boundary. Further, the Mughals gave their interest in Badakhshan and Balkh, which had been ruled by Timurid princes till 1585.
After conquering Qandhar in 1595, Akbar accomplished his objective of establishing a scientific defensible frontier.
Akbar remained in Lahore until 1598, and left for Agra only after the death of Abdullah Khan Uzbek. After the death of Abdullah, the Uzbeks broke up into contending principalities, and ceased to be a threat to the Mughals for a considerable time.
In 1649, the setback in Balkh region led to a revival of Uzbek hostility in the Kabul region and Afghan tribal unrest in the Khyber-Ghazni region emboldened the Persians to attack and conquer Qandhar. Collectively, all these were great threat for Shah Jahan; therefore, he launched three major campaigns, led by princes (of blood) to recover Qandhar.
The first attack was launched by Aurangzeb (popular as the hero of Balkh), with an army of 50,000. Though the Mughals defeated the Persians outside the fort, they could not conquer it in the face of determined Persian opposition.
After three years, Aurangzeb made another attempt, but again failed. However, in 1653, the most grandiloquent effort was made by Dara Shikoh, the favorite son of Shah Jahan.
Dara Shikoh had made a great attempt and even maintained his strong position, but ultimately, it was of no avail.
Because of the repeated attacks and subsequent failures, Mughals lost much more than the loss of Qandhar as a whole. Failure also stained Mughals’ prestige.
In 1680, the proud Ottoman (Turkish) sultan sent an embassy to Aurangzeb’s court and asked for support. This time, Aurangzeb decided not to repeat the futile contest on Qandhar issue, and hence, agreed for the diplomatic relations with Iran.
The basic foreign policy of Mughals was based on the defence of India, which was further strengthened by the diplomatic means.
In spite of the fact that there were (temporary) obstructions over the question of Qandhar; friendship with Persia was Mughals’ keynote.
Further, the Mughals had also emphasized on relations of equality with leading Asian nations with both −
The Safavids, who claimed a special position by virtue of their relationship with the Prophet and
The Ottoman sultans who had assumed the title of Padshah-i-Islam and claimed to be the successors of the Caliph of Baghdad.
The Mughals also used their diplomatic foreign policy to promote India's commercial interests. Kabul and Qandhar were the twin gateways of India's trade with Central Asia.
From the discussion above given, it is clear that the Mughals succeeded in maintaining a controlled frontier in the north-west, based on the Hindukush, on the one side, and the Kabul-Ghazni line, on the other. However, Qandhar remained as its outer bastion.
Medieval Indian History - Mansabdari System
Akbar had developed a new administrative machinery and revenue system, which were maintained by the subsequent Mughal Emperors (with minor modifications).
The Mansabdari System, as it developed under the Mughals, was a distinctive and unique system.
The origins of the Mansabdari system, however, can be traced back to Changez Khan. Changez Khan organized his army on a decimal basis, the lowest unit of his army was ten, and the highest ten thousand (toman) whose commander was known as ‘Khan.’
There is, however, a controversy regarding the Mansabdari system i.e. when it started precisely. From the available evidence, it appears that this system had been initiated by Akbar (in 1577). Along with Mansabdari system, Akbar also reformed the revenue system and introduced two new concepts namely ‘Zat’ and ‘Sawar.’
The Zat rank signified the personal status of an individual in the imperial hierarchy. Zat had fixed salary.
Classification of Mansab
There were sixty-six grades or Mansabs from ten to ten thousand. However, ranks above five thousand were reserved for princes.
Persons holding ranks below 500 Zat were called ‘Mansabdars;’
Persons holding ranks somewhere between 500 and 2,500 were known as ‘Amirs:’ and
Persons holding ranks of 2,500 and above were known as ‘Amir-i-umda’ or ‘Amir-i-azam.’
A person with a rank of 5,000 could have under him a Mansabdar up to a rank of 500 Zat and one with a rank of 4,000 could have a Mansabdar up to a rank of 400 Zat, and so on.
The categories, however, were not rigid; persons were generally appointed at a low mansab, but gradually (because of his skills and loyalty) promoted. A person could also be demoted if he became incompetent or disloyal (as a mark of punishment).
All employees of these ranks were expected to maintain a stipulated quota of horses, elephants, beasts of burden (camels and mules), and carts from their own salary.
A Mansabdar holding the rank of 5,000 Zat had to maintain 340 horses, 100 elephants, 400 camels, 100 mules, and 160 carts. Over a period of time, these were maintained centrally; however, the expenses still were taken from the salary of respective Mansabdar.
Depending upon the quality, the horses were classified into six categories and the elephants were categorized into five categories. It was practiced because horses and elephants of high breed were greatly prized and were considered indispensable for an efficient military machine.
For meeting the financial requirements of all levels of Mansabdars, they were paid very handsomely.
A Mansabdar with a rank of 5,000 could get a salary of Rs. 30,000/month;
A Mansabdar with a rank of 3,000 received Rs. 17,000/month; and
A Mansabdar with a rank of 1,000, received Rs. 8,200/month.
A Mansabdar was allowed to retain 5% of the total salary of the sawars in order to meet various contingent expenses. In addition to this, he (a Mansabdar) had been given two rupees for every sawar that he maintained. This amount had been given to compensate him for his efforts and the larger responsibility (integrated into this work).
By the end of Akbar's reign, the highest rank a noble could attain was raised from 5,000 to 7,000, which had been given to Mirza Aziz Koka and Raja Man Singh.
A number of other modifications were, however, carried out, but the Mansabdari system (as discussed above) was maintained until the end of Aurangzeb's reign.
Depending upon the situation, Mughals also practiced to reduce salaries. For example, the average salary paid to a sawar was reduced by Jahangir.
Jahangir also introduced a system whereby the selected nobles could be allowed to maintain a larger quota of troopers, without raising their Zat rank. The system was popular as ‘du-aspah’ (a trooper with two horses) or ‘sih-aspah’ (a trooper with three horses) system.
The salaries of the Mansabdars were given in rupees, but over a period of time, they were normally not paid in cash, but rather by assigning them a ‘jagir.’
Mansabdars also preferred a jagir because cash payments were likely to be delayed and sometimes even entailed a lot of harassment.
The salaries of the Mansabdars were put on a month scale i.e. 10 months, 8 months, 6 months or even less than that. Besides, their obligations for the maintenance of a quota of sawars were also brought down accordingly.
Most of the Marathas who were employed in the Mughal service, were assigned Mansabs on a 5 monthly basis or even less than that. Likewise, they were given a high rank in the hierarchy, but the actual number of horses and effective sawars was much lower – according to their rank (as discussed above).
Under the Shah Jahan’s administration, the Mansabdari system worked properly, as he had paid personal and meticulous attention to administration.
The cavalry was the principal arm of the Mughal army and the ‘Mansabdars’ provided the overwhelming proportion of it. In addition to the mansabdars, the Mughal emperors had also employed individual troopers, namely ‘Ahadis.’
The Ahadis had been more popular as gentlemen-troopers and received much higher salaries than other troopers of the same rank.
The Ahadis were a highly trustworthy corps, and they were directly recruited by the emperors.
An Ahadi mustered up to five horses; however, sometimes two of them shared one horse.
The duties of Ahadis were of miscellaneous type such as clerical jobs of the imperial offices, the painters of the court, the foremen in the royal karkhanas (factories), etc.
During the Shah Jahan’s reign, Ahadis were numbered about 7,000 and were well distributed over the different parts of the army. Many of them worked as skilled musketeers (baraq-andaz) and bowmen (tir-andaz).
In addition to the Ahadis, the emperors had also maintained a crop of royal bodyguards (wala-shuhis) and armed palace guards. They were actually cavalrymen, but served on foot in the citadel and the palace.
There were a large number of the footmen (piyadgan). Many of them consisted of matchlock-bearers (banduqchi). Their salaries were ranging between three and seven rupees a month.
The foot-soldiers also included porters, servants, news-runners, swordsmen, wrestlers, and slaves.
The Mughal emperors had a large stable of war elephants, and also a well-organized park of artillery.
The artillery was comprised of two sections −
Heavy guns, which were used for defending or assaulting forts; these were often clumsy and difficult to move and
The light artillery, which was highly mobile and moved with the emperors whenever needed.
Under the Shah Jahan reign, the Mughal army consisted of about 200,000, excluding the men working in the districts and with faujdars. However, this number increased to 240,000 during the Aurangzeb period.
Social Life under the Mughals
The economic, social, and cultural conditions during the first half of the seventeenth century were flourishing like anything.
Ralph Fitch (a British traveler) had written about Patna (Bihar) as, “Here the women bedecked with silver and copper that it is strange to see, they use no shoes by reason of the rings of silver and copper they wear on their toes."
The houses of the mass of the people were made up of mud (which still can be seen in many remote parts of the country).
Regarding the food, rice, millets, and pulses were the staple diet; besides, fish in Bengal and in the coastal regions, and meat in the south of the peninsula were also common.
Ghee and oil were much cheaper than the staple food grains and hence were a staple part of the poor man's food. However, salt and sugar were more expensive.
The village artisans were paid for their services by means of commodities, which were fixed by custom.
In spite of having so much prosperity, some historians also mentioned that there were inequality and disparity, especially in the villages. The peasant who did not have his own ploughs and bullocks often tilled the land of zamindars or the upper castes, and could make out a bare existence. These peasants were popular as ‘pahis.’
Whenever there was a famine (which was frequent in those days), it was the lower class Peasants and the village artisans who suffered the most. Tulsidas, the sixteenth century Hindi poet, had said (about these people) that this type of cultivation was a source of misery.
The peasants who owned the land tilled their own land were known as “Khudkasht.” These peasants had to pay their land revenue at customary rates.
It has been estimated that the population in India at the beginning of the seventeenth century was about 125 million. Hence, there was an abundance of cultivable land.
All classes of the peasants probably had more fuel at their disposal because of the abundance of forests.
During this time, a peasant cannot be dispossessed off from his land until he had been paying the land revenue. Secondly, a peasant can also sell his land. Children of a peasant had the right to inherit his father’s land (after his death).
Cities were largely comprised of the poor i.e. the artisans, the servants, and slaves, the soldiers, petty shopkeepers, etc.
The salary of the lowest grade servant (as per the record of the European travelers), was less than two rupees a month. The bulk of the menials and foot soldiers were given less than three rupees a month.
During this period, it has been calculated that a man could maintain his family and other personal requirements merely in two rupees (for a whole month).
Nobles and Zamindars
The nobles, along with the zamindars, formed the ruling class in medieval India. Socially and economically, the Mughal nobility was the privileged class.
Ideally, the doors of the Mughal nobility were open to everyone, but in practice, the persons who were related to aristocratic families (irrespective of their background – either they were Indians or foreigners), had been given privilege.
To begin with, the bulk of the Mughal nobles were invited from the homeland of the Mughals, i.e. Turan, and from its neighboring areas, such as Tajikistan, Khorasan, Iran, etc.
Indian Muslims who were popular as Shaikhzadas or Hindustanis were also given service in the Mughal court.
Akbar initiated a new trend, as he began to recruit Hindus into the noble category on a regular basis. The largest section among them was the Rajputs. Among the Rajputs, the Kachhwahas were outweighed.
In 1594, the proportion of Hindus in the nobility under Akbar, was about 16 percent.
Raja Man Singh and Raja Birbal, both were the personal friends of Akbar, while in the sphere of revenue administration, Raja Todar Mal had a place of great influence and honor.
The Rajputs who were recruited to the nobility, either belonged to hereditary rajas or to the aristocratic families. In addition to this, the nobility did provide an opportunity of promotion and distinction to many persons for humble origin.
The nobility attained a considerable measure of stability under the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan and they paid personal and careful attention to the organization of the nobility (the Mansabdari system), orderly promotions, discipline, and the recruitment of competent people into the imperial service.
The Mughal nobles, as we have seen, received salaries which were extremely high by any standards. This, as well as the liberal policy of the Mughal emperors in matters of faith, and the stable political conditions in India attracted many talented persons from foreign lands to the Mughal court.
Bernier, the French traveler, once said that the “Mughal nobility consisted of foreigners who enticed each other to the court.” However, the modern research has shown this statement to be fallacious.
Under the reign of Jahangir and Shah Jahan, most of the nobles were those who born in India. At the same time, the proportion of Afghans, Indian Muslims (Hindustanis), and Hindus in the nobility continued to rise.
Jahangir was the first Mughal Emperor who realized that the Marathas were "the hub of affairs" in the Deccan, and hence made effort convinced them. This policy was continued by his son Shah Jahan.
Among the Maratha Sardars who served Shah Jahan was Shahaji, the father of Shivaji; however, soon he deserted. Later, Aurangzeb gave an opportunity to many Marathas and Deccan Muslims.
The Hindus that formed roughly about 24 percent of the nobility during the reign of Shah Jahan; later (under the reign of Aurangzeb), they accounted about 33 percent of the nobles. Among the Hindu nobles, the Marathas formed more than half.
The Mughal nobles received extremely high salaries; at the same time, their expenses were also very high. Each noble maintained −
A large number of servants and attendants;
A large stable of horses, elephants, etc.; and
Transport of all types.
Many of the nobles also maintained a big harem (of women), which was normal for a man of higher status at that time.
Besides varieties of fruits, about 40 dishes used to be prepared for each meal for Akbar. Ice, which was an item of luxury at that time, was used the year around by the privileged classes.
The expensive jewels and ornaments, which were worn both by men and women were common among the higher status people.
Jahangir introduced a new fashion for men wearing costly jewels in their ears after piercing them. To some extent jewelry was also meant to be a reserve to be used in an emergency.
There is a controversy that the Mughal nobles had little interest in saving because, after their death, all their properties reverted to the emperor. The idea behind that was everything flowed from him, therefore, at last, everything flowed to him.
Many historians refuted this idea (i.e. returning to the nobles’ property back to emperor); the Mughal emperors did not claim the property of their nobles. Nevertheless, when a noble died, a careful inventory of his property and estate was made because, usually, the noble owed considerable sums of money to the central treasury. Therefore, his debts first be adjusted before the property could were handed over to his heirs.
The emperor reserved the right of settling the property of a noble among his heirs (or/and according to his choice), and not on the basis as laid down by the Islamic law. Secondly, daughters did not receive a share of their father's properties.
The procedure of dispensing properties of deceased noble sometimes led to considerable delays and harassment to the dependents (especially of the detested noble).
Aurangzeb made a rule that the properties of a noble who did not owe money to the state were not to be attached and that, in any case, a certain part of the property of a deceased noble should be made available immediately to his dependents.
Members of the royal family, including princes and queen mothers, took keen interest in foreign trade. Akbar's widow and the mother of Jahangir, owned ships, which run between Surat and the Red Sea ports.
The right of ownership regarding the land depended mainly on succession.
The people who settle a new village or who brought wastelands under cultivation, belong to the respective villages. These villagers became the owners of these lands.
The considerable section of the zamindars had the hereditary right of collecting land revenue from their respective villages. This was called his ‘talluqa’ or his ‘zamindari.’
For collecting the land revenue, the zamindars received a share of the land revenue which could go up to 25 percent.
The zamindars, not necessarily “owner” of all the lands over which he collected the land revenue.
The peasants who actually cultivated the land could not be dispossessed as long as they paid the land revenue. Thus the zamindars and the peasants, both had their own hereditary rights in land.
The zamindars had their own armed forces (to collect the land revenue), and generally resided in the forts or garhis which were both a place of refuge and a symbol of status.
The zamindars generally had, close connections with the caste, clan, or tribal basis and also with the peasants settled in their zamindaris.
In addition to these zamindars, there was a large class of religious divines and learned men who in return for their services, were granted tracts of land for their maintenance. In Mughal terminology, such grants were popular as ‘milk’ or ‘madad-i-maash’ and in Rajasthani terminology, it was popular as ‘shasan.’
Trade and Commerce
In the medieval period, the middle classes masses had been largely belonged to merchants and other professional classes such as vaidyas and hakims (Ayurvedic doctors) and other officials.
Among the merchant classes, some specialized in wholesale trade, and others in the retail trade. The wholesale traders were known as ‘seth’ or ‘bohra’ and the retail traders were known as ‘beoparis’ or ‘banik.’
In south India, the community ‘chettis’ formed the trading class. Besides, there was a special class, ‘banjaras,’ who specialized in the trading.
The banjaras used to move from one place to another place, sometimes with thousands of oxen, laden with food grains, salt, ghee, and other daily use stuff.
The ‘sarrafs’ (shroff) are specialized in changing money, keeping money in deposit or lending it, or transmitting it from one part of the country to the other by means of ‘hundi.’
The ‘hundi’ was a letter of credit payable after a certain period. The use of hundis made it easier to move goods or to transmit money from one part of the country to another.
When needed, the hundis were cashed at a discount rate, which sometimes included insurance so that the cost of goods lost or destroyed in transit could be recovered. Taking the advantage of these facilities, the Indian merchants could easily ship goods to countries of West Asia as well where there were Indian banking houses.
English and Dutch traders who came to India during the seventeenth century found that the Indian financial system was highly developed, and the Indian merchants were very active and alert.
The trading community of medieval time in India was considerably large in number and included some of the richest merchants of the world. For example, Virji Vohra had a large fleet of ships and he dominated Surat trade for several decades; Malaya Chetti dominated the Coromandel Coast; Abdul Ghaffoor Bohra was much popular trader who left 85 lakhs of rupees in cash and goods at the time of his death in 1718.
Merchants and traders lived in lofty houses with colored tiles, wore fine clothes, and had people carrying flags and banners before them when they moved out in public.
The French traveler, Bernier, however, written: “the merchants tried to look poor because they were afraid that they might be squeezed of their wealth.”
Bernier’s observation might be wrong because the emperors right from the time of Sher Shah passed many laws to protect the property of the merchants.
The laws made (for the traders) by Sher Shah were very strict. Secondly, Mughal Emperor Jahangir made a provision that "if anyone, whether nonbeliever or Musalman should die, his property and other belongings should be left for his heirs, and no one should interfere with them.”
In a case where the respective (rich) person had no heir, an inspector should be appointed and also there would be separate guardians to guard the property, so that its value might be expended in a lawful and social expenditure, such as the building of mosques and sarais, repair of broken bridges, and the digging of tanks and wells."
Organization of Trade & Commerce
The Mughals paid attention to roads and sarais, which made communication easier. A uniform tax was levied on goods at the point of their entry into the empire. Rahdari (a transit duty, a toll) or Road ceases was declared illegal, though it continued to be collected by some of the local rajas (kings).
The Mughals introduced silver rupees of high purity, which became a standard coin in India and abroad and that helped in the growth of India's trade as well.
Mughals also made the policies that helped the commercialization of the economy and the growth of a money economy.
During the Mughals period, salaries of the standing army as well as many of the administrative personnel (excluding the nobles) were paid in cash. Besides, under the zabti system, the land revenue was assessed and required to be paid in cash.
The growth of the rural grain markets led to the rise of small townships (or qasbas). The demand for all types of luxury goods by the nobles led to the expansion of handicraft production as well as the growth of towns.
Ralph Fitch, who came India during the Akbar's reign said that Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were each larger than London.
Monserrate said that Lahore was second to none of the cities in Europe or Asia. Bernier says that Delhi was not much less than Paris and that Agra was larger than Delhi.
Ahmadabad was also a large town, being as large as London and its suburbs. Dacca, Rajmahal, Multan, and Burhanpur were large towns, while Patna in Bihar had a population of 2 lakhs.
Role of European Trading Companies
In the beginning of seventeenth century, the arrival of Dutch and English traders also helped in the growth of India's trade.
The Indian traders welcomed the foreign traders and they helped to break the Portuguese monopoly of sea trade, and in a course of time, helped to establish a direct link between India and the European markets.
Over a period of time, like the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English traders were also intended to establish a monopoly and made fortified establishments so that they could confront the local rulers.
The Portuguese power had begun to decline during the second half of the sixteenth century, as was demonstrated by the defeat of the Spanish Armada by England in 1588.
Despite a vehement opposition by the Portuguese, in 1606, the Dutch established themselves at Machilipatnam after obtaining a farman from the ruler of Golconda. They also established themselves in the Spice-Islands (Java and Sumatra); likewise, by 1610, they predominated in the spice trade.
The cloth produced on the Coromandel Coast was the most popular and also cheapest to carry. Hence, Dutch increased their trade to south from Machilipatnam to the Coromandel Coast. They made Pulicat as their base station after taking it from the local ruler.
Like the Dutch, the English also had come to the coast for the spice trade, but the hostility of the Dutch created a hindrance.
In 1612, after defeating a Portuguese fleet out-side Surat, the English were able to set up a factory (in Surat), for which permission finally was taken by Thomas Roe in 1618 from the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
The Dutch followed the English and soon established a factory at Surat as well.
Export of textiles was the base of India's foreign trade. As an English writer observed, "From Aden to Achin (in Malaya) from head to foot, everyone was clothed in Indian textiles."
In 1622, with the help of the Persian forces, the English captured Ormuz, the Portuguese base at the head of the Persian Gulf.
By the first quarter of the seventeenth century, both the Dutch and the English were well set in the Indian trade, and the Portuguese monopoly was broken forever.
The Portuguese restricted to Goa and Daman and Diu only; likewise, their share in India's overseas trade declined continuously and was almost insignificant by the end of the century.
By 1640, export of cloth from the Coromandel equated with that of Gujarat; and by 1660, it was three times that of Gujarat. Machilipatnam and Fort St. David, which later developed into Madras were the chief centers of the trade.
Another item which became popular was the export of Saltpeter (chemical name Potassium nitrate), which supplemented the Europeans, as it was used in making gun-powder and was also used as a ballast for ships going to Europe.
The best quality Saltpeter was found in Bihar; therefore, exports from these areas grew rapidly; surprisingly, by the end of the century, this trade became equal (in value) to the exports from the Coromandel.
The Indian textiles became a rage in England by the last quarter of the seventeenth century. An English observer wrote, "Almost everything that used to be made of wool or silk, relating either to dress of the women or the furniture of our houses was supplied by the Indian trade."
The increasing import from India, put down the local European market; as a result of which, in 1701, an agitation had been seen in Europe. Subsequently, all calicoes painted, dyed, printed, or stained from Persia, China, or the East Indies (i.e. India) were banned. But the agitation and subsequent strict laws could not change the trade pattern effectively.
India was more closely linked to the world markets, especially to the European markets where a commercial revolution was taking place. But this linkage had negative factors as well. Europe had little to supply to India in return for its goods.
Mughals’ Cultural Developments
The traditions in the fields of architecture, painting, literature, and music, which had been created during the Mughal period set a norm and deeply influenced the succeeding generations.
Because of having wonderful cultural development, the Mughal period can be called as the second classical age after the Gupta age (of northern India).
During the Mughal period, the cultural development (of India), amalgamated with the Turko-Iranian culture brought to the country by the Mughals.
The Mughals built magnificent forts, palaces, gates, public buildings, mosques, baohs (water tank or well), etc. Besides, they also constructed formal gardens with running water.
Use of running water even in the palaces and in the pleasure resorts was a special feature of the Mughals.
Babur was very fond of gardens and hence he constructed a few in the neighborhood of Agra and Lahore.
Some of the Mughal gardens, such as the Nishat Bagh garden (in Kashmir), the Shalimar Bagh (in Lahore), the Pinjore garden (in Chandigarh) etc. can be seen even today.
Sher Shah also had given a new stimulus to the Indian architecture. His famous mausoleum at Sasaram (Bihar) and his mosque in the old fort at Delhi are considerable examples of architectural marvels.
Akbar was the first Mughal ruler who had the time and means to undertake construction on a large scale. He built a series of forts, the most famous of which is the fort at Agra. Agra fort was built of red sandstone, which had many magnificent gates.
In 1572, Akbar commenced a palace-comfort complex at Fatehpur Sikri (36 kilometers from Agra), which was completed in eight years.
The climax of fort building was reached at Delhi with the construction of Lal Qila (Red Fort) by Shah Jahan.
The Gujarat style of architecture was used most widely in the palace built probably for the Rajput wife or wives.
Persian or Central Asian influence can be seen in the glazed blue tiles used for decoration in the walls or for tiling the roofs.
One of the most magnificent constructions was the Buland Darwaza (Lofty Gate), which was constructed in 1576 at Fatehpur Sikri to commemorate Akbar’s victory in Gujarat.
By the end of Jahangir’s reign, the practice of constructing buildings entirely of marble and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones began.
The particular method of decoration, popular as ‘pietra dura,’ became more popular under Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan used this technique while constructing the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is a great example of Mughals’ architecture, which brought together all the architectural forms developed by the Mughals in a very pleasing manner.
Humayun’s tomb built at Delhi (during Akbar’s reign), has a massive dome of marble; normally, it is considered as a precursor of the Taj Mahal.
The chief glory of the Taj Mahal is the massive dome and the four slender minarets linking the platform to the main building.
Mosque-building also reached its climax under Shah Jahan, the two most noteworthy mosques are −
The Moti Masjid (at the Agra fort): It is built (like the Taj Mahal) entirely of marble, and
The Jama Masjid (at Delhi): It is built of red sandstone.
The Mughal architectural traditions based on a combination of Hindu and Turko-Iranian forms along with decorative designs were continued during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Mughal traditions influenced the palaces and forts of many provincial and whole kingdoms.
The Golden Temple (of the Sikhs), located at Amritsar (in Punjab), was built on the arch and dome principle and incorporated many features of the Mughal traditions of architecture.
The Mughals made a distinctive contribution in the field of painting. They introduced many new themes portraying the court, battle grounds, and the chase scenes. Besides, Mughal painters also introduced many new colors and new forms.
The Mughal painters had created a living tradition of painting, which continued to work in different parts of the country even after the disappearance of Mughal glory.
After the eighth century, the tradition seems to have decayed, but palm-leaf manuscripts and illustrated Jain texts from the thirteenth century onwards indicated that the tradition had not died.
Humayun had taken two master painters, into his service who accompanied him to India.
During the Akbar’s reign, the two great painters (who came India with Humayun), organized painting in one of the imperial establishments. Besides, a large number of painters from different parts of the country were invited; many of them were from the lower castes.
From the beginning, both Hindus and Muslims painters joined in the work. Jaswant and Dasawan both were the famous painters of Akbar's court.
Over a period of time, the painting school developed fairly and became a celebrated center of production.
Apart from illustrating Persian books of stories, the painters were soon assigned the task of illustrating the Persian text of the Mahabharata the historical work, Akbar Noma, and many others.
Mughal painting was at climax under Jahangir’s period who had a very peculiar sense of paintings. During those days, it was a fashion in the Mughal School that in a single painting - the face, the body, and the feet of a person to be painted by different artists.
Some of the historians claimed that Jahangir had the sense to distinguish the work of each artist separately in a picture.
During Jahangir’s period, special progress was made in portrait painting and paintings of animals. Mansur was the great name in this field.
The Rajasthan style of painting combined the themes and earlier traditions of western India or Jain school of painting with Mughal forms and styles.
In addition to hunting and court scenes, Rajasthan style of paintings also illustrated paintings on mythological themes, such as the romance of Krishna with Radha, or the Barah-masa (it is the seasons, or Ragas (melodies).
Language, Literature and Music
During the Mughal period, regional languages also developed due to the patronage extended to them by the local and regional rulers.
By the time of Akbar, knowledge of Persian had become so widespread in north India because Akbar dispensed with the tradition of keeping revenue records in the local language.
The tradition of keeping revenue records in the local language was also in the Deccani states till their extinction in the last quarter of the seventeenth century.
Persian prose and poetry were at climax under Akbar's reign. Abu’l Fazl who was a great scholar and a stylist, as well as the leading historian in the Akbar’s court, set a style of prose-writing which was emulated for many generations.
Faizi (brother of Abu’l Fazl) was the leading poet of that age. Faizi also worked for the Akbar's translation department. The translation of the Mahabharata was carried out under his supervision.
Utbi and Naziri were the two other leading Persian poets. They were migrated from Iran to India and made the Mughal court one of the cultural centers of the Islamic world. Besides, Hindus also contributed to the growth of Persian literature.
Apart from literary and historical works, a number of famous dictionaries of the Persian language were also compiled in this period.
Regional languages acquired stability and maturity, as some of the finest lyrical poetry was produced during this period.
The romance of God Krishna with Radha and the milkmaids’ pranks of the child Krishna and stories from Bhagawat Gita were largely in lyrical poetry and translated in many regional languages including Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Rajasthani, and Gujarati.
Many devotional hymns to Rama were also composed and the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were translated into the regional languages.
Medieval Hindi in the Brij form, that is the dialect spoken in the neighborhood of Agra, was also patronized by the Mughal emperors and Hindu rulers. From the time of Akbar, Hindi poets began to be attached to the Mughal court.
A leading Mughal noble, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana, produced a fine blend of Bhakti poetry with Persian ideas of life and human relations. Likewise, the Persian and the Hindi literary traditions began to influence each other.
Tulsidas was one of the most influential Hindi poet of the medieval period who had written Ramcharitmanas. He used a dialect of Hindi, spoken in the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh (around Banaras).
Eknath and Tukaram developed and made the Marathi language, popular. Eknath explains – “if Sanskrit was made by God, was Prakrit born of thieves and knaves? Let these erring of vanity alone. God is no partisan of tongues. To him Prakrit and Sanskrit are alike. My language Marathi is worthy of expressing the highest sentiments and is rich laden with the fruits of divine knowledge.”
This undoubtedly expresses the sentiments of all those writing in local languages. It also shows the confidence and the status acquired by these languages. Due to the writings of the Sikh Gurus, Punjabi received a new life.
Akbar patronized Tansen (the great musician of Gwalior) who is credited with composing many new melodies (ragas).
Jahangir and Shah Jahan as well as many Mughal nobles also had given very much importance to music.
Some researchers say that Aurangzeb banished singing in his court, but not the performance of musical instruments. In fact, Aurangzeb himself was an accomplished veena (a musical instrument) player.
Music in all forms continued to be patronized by Aurangzeb's queens (in the harem) and by the nobles as well. This the reason that the largest number of books on classical Indian music (in Persian) were written during Aurangzeb's reign.
Religious Ideas and Beliefs
Amongst the new Bhakti movements were the Sikh movement in the Punjab and the Maharashtra Dharma in Maharashtra.
The Sikh movement had its origin with the preaching of first Sikh Guru Nanak. But its development is closely linked with the institution of Guruship.
The first four Gurus of Sikh followed the tradition of quiet meditation and scholarship. However, the fifth Guru, Arjun Das, completed the compilation of the Sikh scriptures popular as the Adi Granth or Grant Sahib.
To emphasize that the Guru combined both spiritual and worldly leadership in his person, he began to live in an aristocratic style. He erected lofty buildings at Amritsar, wore fine clothes, kept fine horses procured from Central Asia and maintained retainers in attendance.
Guru Arjun Das started a culture of collecting offerings from the Sikh community at the rate of one-tenth of their income.
Akbar had been deeply impressed with the Sikh Gurus and, probably he also visited them at Amritsar. But later, a clash began with the imprisonment and killing of Guru Arjun Das by Jahangir on a charge of helping rebel prince, Khusrau, with money and prayer.
After Arjun Das, Guru Har Govind became Sikh Guru. He was also imprisoned for some time, but soon he was set free.
Guru Har Gobind developed friendly relations with Jahangir and accompanied him on his journey to Kashmir just before his death. However, Guru Har Gobind clashed with Shah Jahan on a hunting issue.
There were a series of skirmishes and ultimately the Guru retired to the Punjab foothills where he did not interfere with.
By the time of Guru Har Gobind, Sikh Guru had sizeable followers, including a Pathan contingent led by Painda Khan. However, the occasional conflict between the Gurus and the Mughal rulers remained there, but that was personal and political rather than religious.
Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, was by temperament a scholar and a Sufi who loved to discourse with religious divines. With the help of Brahmanas of Kasi, Dara got the Gita translated into Persian.
Dara declared the Vedas to be "heavenly books in point of time" and “in conformity with the holy Quran," thus underlining the belief that there was no fundamental difference between Hinduism and Islam.
Dadu (a saint of Gujarat), preached a non-sectarian (nipakh) path. He refused to relate himself with either the Hindus or the Muslims, or to bother with the revealed scriptures of the two, asserting the indivisibility of the Brahma or the Supreme Reality.
Tukaram from Pandharpur, Maharashtra began a liberal trend of Bakhti movement, which later became the center of the Maharashtra Dharma. In addition, here, worship of Vithoba (a form of Vishnu), had become popular.
The same liberal tread can be seen in the life and works of Tukaram, the supreme exponent of Shake in Maharashtra at Pandharpur, which had become the centre of the Maharashtra Dharma and where worship of Vithoba, a form of Vishnu, had become popular.
Tukaram, who was probably born in a ‘sudra’ (lower caste) family used to do puja (worship) to the god with his own hand (worship of God by sudra was strictly prohibited at that time).
The sentiments of the orthodox Hindus were echoed by Raghunandan of Navadwipa (Nadia) in Bengal. He was the most influential writer of Dharamshastras (of medieval period). He claimed that none other except Brahmanas had the right to read the scriptures or to preach.
Raghunandan, further, said that in the Kali age, there were only two varnas (caste), i.e. Brahmanas and Sudras. The true Kshatriyas having disappeared long ago and the vaishyas and others having lost their caste status due to the non-performance of appropriate duties.
Considered to be the most influential writer on the Dharamshastras during the medieval period, Raghunandan asserted the privileges of the Brahmans stating that none other except the Brahmans had the right to read the scriptures or to preach.
Muslim Bhakti Movements
Among the Muslims, the trend of ‘tauhid’ practiced, and was supported by many leading Sufi saints, but a small group of the orthodox ‘ulama’ reacted against this practice and also the liberal policies of Akbar.
The most renowned figure in the Muslim orthodox and revivalist movement of the time was Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi. He is a follower of the orthodox Naqshbandi school of Sufis which had been introduced in India during Akbar’s reign.
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi opposed the concept of pantheistic mysticism (touhid) or the belief in the unity of Godhead, denouncing it as un-Islamic. He, further, also opposed all those practices and beliefs, which were due to the influence of Hinduism, such as the use of music in religious gatherings (sama), excessive meditation, visiting tombs of saints, etc.
In order to assert the Islamic character of the state, Shaikh Ahmad demanded re-imposition of jizyah, a stern attitude towards the Hindus and the minimum association with them by the Muslims.
The ideas of Shaikh Ahmed, however, had little impact. Jahangir even imprisoned him for claiming a status beyond that of the Prophet and released him only after his withdrawal. Further, even Aurangzeb did not pay any special attention to his son and successor.
From above discussion, it is clear that the influence of the orthodox thinkers and preachers was limited, being necessarily confined to the narrow circles.
The prestige and influence of the narrow, orthodox elements, and their re-assertion of narrow ideas and beliefs, however, was a barrier to the growing process of understanding and tolerance among the votaries of the two leading religions, namely Hinduism and Islam, and a hindrance to the process of cultural integration. The conflict these two ideas surfaced out during the Aurangzeb's reign.
Problems of Succession
There was no clear tradition of succession among the Timurids, which can be seen in an irregular succession of this dynasty. The years of Shah Jahan's reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession among his sons.
The right of the nomination of a prince by the ruler had been accepted by some of the Muslim political thinkers. But it could not be asserted in India during the Sultanate period.
Hindu traditions were not very clear in the matter of succession either. According to Tulsidas, a contemporary of Akbar, a ruler had the right of giving the tika to any one of his sons. However, there were many cases among the Rajputs where such a nomination had not been accepted by the other brothers.
Sanga had to wage a bitter struggle with his brothers before he could assert his claim to the gaddi (throne).
The growing trend towards a struggle for the throne among brothers was a major concern to Shah Jahan during the latter part of his reign. Four of his sons, Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad, had been carefully trained for government and in the art of warfare.
Among all four, each of them had proved to a deserving and energetic commander. Though, Shuja and Murad had made a mark for bravery, but were inactive and ease-loving.
Dara was known for his liberal views in matters of religion and was a patron of learning. He was friendly, and had won over the confidence of his father who leaned on him increasingly for advice in matters of governance. But Dara was unsuccessful, as he had a little actual experience of warfare. Further, it was also proved in some of the events that he was a poor judge of human character.
Aurangzeb, On the other hand, had proved to be a skillful organizer, an intelligent commandant, and a shrewd negotiator. By paying personal attention to individual nobles (both Hindu and Muslim), he had won over many of them to his side.
By the end of 1657, Shah Jahan was fallen ill at Delhi and for some time, his life was despaired of, but gradually, he recovered his strength under the loving care of Dara. Meanwhile, it was rumored that Shah Jahan had already died, and Dara was concealing the reality to serve his own purposes. After some time, Shah Jahan slowly made his way to Agra.
In the meantime, prince, Shuja in Bengal, Murad in Gujarat, and Aurangzeb in the Deccan, had either been persuaded that the rumor was true, or pretended to believe them, and prepared for the inevitable war of succession.
Anxious to avert a conflict among his sons, which might spell ruin to the empire, and anticipating his speedy end, Shah Jahan decided to nominate Dara as his successor.
Shah Jahan raised Dare's mansab from 40,000 zat to the unprecedented rank of 60,000. Dara was given a chair next to the throne and all the nobles were instructed to obey Dara as their future sovereign.
Aurangzeb did not like Shah Jahan’s decision and he took serious action to become emperor. He defeated everyone and successfully became emperor.
There were many reasons for Aurangzeb's success; significant of them were divided counsel and underestimation of his opponents by Dara.
On hearing of the military preparations of his sons and their decision to attack the capital, Shah Jahan had sent an army to the east under the command of Dara’s son, Sulaiman Shikoh, which was supported by Mirza Raja Jai Singh (to deal with Shuja who had crowned himself).
Second military group was sent to Malwa under Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of Jodhpur. On his arrival in Malwa, Jaswant found that he was faced with the combined forces of Aurangzeb and Murad.
Shah Jahan had instructed Jaswant Singh to bar the move of the princes to the capital and to persuade them to go back, and in any case to avoid entering into a military conflict with them.
Jaswant Singh could have retreated, but as deeming retreat was a matter of dishonor, he decided to stand and fight, though the likelihoods were definitely against him. This was a great mistake on his part.
On April 15, 1658, the victory of Aurangzeb at Dharmat encouraged his supporters and raised his prestige, while it discouraged Dara and his supporters.
Dara was over-confident about his strength. He had assigned some of the best troops for the eastern campaign. Led by Sulaiman Shikoh (his son), the army moved to the east and gave a good account of itself.
In February 1658, Sulaiman Shikoh defeated Shuja near Banaras and decided to pursue him into Bihar. On the other hand, after the defeat of Dharmat, an urgent message was sent to Sulaiman to return back to Agra soon.
After patching up a hurried treaty on 7 May 1658, Sulaiman Shikoh marched to Agra from his camp near Monghyr in eastern Bihar. But could not return to Agra on time for the conflict with Aurangzeb.
After Dharmat, Dara made desperate efforts to seek allies. He sent repeated letters to Jaswant Singh who had retired to Jodhpur. The Rana of Udaipur was also approached. Jaswant Singh moved out slowly to Pushkar near Ajmer. After raising an army with the money provided by Dara, he waited there for the Rana to join him.
Rana had already been won over by Aurangzeb with a promise of a rank of 7,000 and the return of the parganas seized by Shah Jahan and Dara from him in 1654. Thus, Dara failed to win over even the important Rajput rajas to his side.
On 29 May, 1658, the battle of Samugarh was basically a battle of good generalship, the two sides being almost equally matched in numbers (about 50,000 to 60,000 on each side).
Aurangzeb's troops were battle hardened and well led and defeated Dara. Aurangzeb forced Shah Jahan to surrender by seizing the source of water supply to the fort.
Shah Jahan was strictly supervised and confined to the female apartments in the fort though he was not ill-treated. He lived for eight long years, lovingly nursed by his favorite daughter, Jahanara, who willingly chose to live within the fort.
Jahanara re-emerged into public life only after Shah Jahan's death and was given great honor and given the position of the first lady of the realm. Aurangzeb also raised her annual pension from twelve lakh rupees to seventeen lakhs.
According to the terms of Aurangzeb's agreement with Murad, the kingdom was to be partitioned between the two of them. But Aurangzeb had no intention of sharing the empire. Hence, he treacherously imprisoned Murad and sent him to the Gwalior jail where was killed after two years.
After losing the battle at Samugarh, Dara had fled to Lahore and was planning to retain control of its surrounding areas. But Aurangzeb soon arrived in the neighborhood with a strong army. Dara left Lahore without a fight and fled to Sindh.
Dara moved from Sindh to Gujarat and then Ajmer on an invitation from Jaswant Singh, the ruler of Marwar.
In March 1659, the battle of Deorai near Ajmer was the last major battle Dara fought against Aurangzeb. Dara could well have escaped into Iran, but he wanted to try his luck again in Afghanistan.
On the way, nearby the Bolan Pass, a treacherous Afghan chief made him a prisoner and handed him over to his dreaded enemy.
Two years after Dara's execution, his son, Sulaiman Shikoh, had taken shelter in Garhwal. But the ruler of Garhwal, handed him over to Aurangzeb on an imminent threat of invasion.
After taking command of the Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb tried to mitigate, to some extent, the effects of the harsh Mughal custom of war to death between brothers.
In 1673, at the instance of Jahanara Begum, Sikihr Shikoh, son of Dara, was released from the prison in 1673, given a mansab, and married a daughter of Aurangzeb. Izzat Bakhsh (son of Murad) was also released, given a mansab, and he married another daughter of Aurangzeb.
In 1669, Dara's daughter, Jani Begum, who had been looked alter by Jahanara as her own daughter, was married to Aurangzeb's third son, Muhammad Azam.
Aurangzeb’s Reign and Religious Policy
Aurangzeb ruled for almost 50 years. During his long reign period, the Mughal Empire reached its territorial climax.
Aurangzeb stretched his territory from Kashmir (in the north) to Jinji (in the south), and from the Hindukush (in the west) to Chittagong (in the east).
Aurangzeb letters reflected the close attention that he paid to all affairs of the state and governance. He was a strict disciplinarian who did not spare even his own sons.
In 1686, Aurangzeb imprisoned prince Muazzam on a charge of intriguing with the ruler of Golconda, and kept him in prison for 12 long years. His other sons also had to face his wrath on various occasions.
Aurangzeb’s personal life was marked by simplicity. He had the reputation of being orthodox, God fearing Muslim. In a course of time, he began to be regarded as a zinda pir, or "a living saint."
Aurangzeb was not interested in philosophical debates or in mysticism; however, he did not prohibit his sons from experimenting in Sufism.
While taking his stand on the Hanafi school of Muslim law, which had been traditionally followed in India, Aurangzeb did not hesitate in issuing secular decrees, called ‘zawabit.’
A collection of his decrees had been collected in a work known as Zawabit-i-Alamgiri.
Apart from being an orthodox Muslim, Aurangzeb was also a ruler. He could hardly forget the political reality that the overwhelming population of India was Hindu, and that they were deeply attached to their faith.
At the beginning of his reign, Aurangzeb prohibited the kalma being inscribed on coins, as it trampled underfoot or be defiled while passing from one hand to another.
Aurangzeb banned the festival of Nauroz, as it was considered as Zoroastrian practice favored by the Safavid rulers of Iran.
Aurangzeb appointed Muhtasibs in all the provinces. Their major work was to see that people lived their lives in accordance with the shara.
Muhtasibs were responsible for ensuring that the things, which were forbidden (such as intoxicants and gambling dens, etc) by the shara and the zawabits (secular decrees) were, as far as possible, not disobeyed openly.
While appointing Muhtasibs, though, Aurangzeb emphasized that the state was also responsible for the moral welfare of the citizens. But these officials were instructed not to interfere in the private lives of citizens.
In 1669, Aurangzeb took a number of measures, which have been called puritanical, but many of them were of an economic and social character, and against superstitious beliefs. Likewise, he prohibited singing in the court and the official musicians were pensioned off. The instrumental music and naubat (the royal band) were, however, continued.
Singing also continued to be patronized by the ladies in the harem, and also by individual nobles. It is interesting to note that the largest number of Persian works on classical Indian music were written during Aurangzeb's reign. Aurangzeb himself was proficient in playing the Veena.
Aurangzeb withdrawn the practice of jharoka darshan or showing himself to the public from the balcony (initiated by Akbar). He considered it a superstitious practice and against Islam.
Aurangzeb banned the ceremony of weighing the emperor against gold and silver and other articles on his birthdays. However, because of majority of social demand, Aurangzeb had to permit this ceremony for his sons when they recovered from illness.
Aurangzeb prohibited astrologers from preparing almanacs. But the order was disobeyed by everybody including members of the royal family.
To promote trade among the Muslims who depended (almost) exclusively on state support, Aurangzeb exempted Muslim traders from the payment of cess. However, Aurangzeb found that the Muslim traders were taking undue advantages of this and cheating the state; therefore, he reinstated it, but kept it at half of what was charged from others.
Some evidences suggest that Aurangzeb wanted to have the clergy on his side, as the clergy exercised a powerful hold on the minds of men.
Aurangzeb restated the position of the shara regarding the temples, synagogues, churches, etc., that "long standing temple should not be demolished but no new temples allowed to be built." He also allowed that the old places of worship could be repaired "since buildings cannot last forever."
When he was governor of Gujarat, Aurangzeb, ordered a number of temples in Gujarat to be destroyed, which often meant merely breaking the enrages and closing down the temples at the outset of his reign. However, Aurangzeb found that images of these temples had been restored and idol-worship had been resumed.
In 1665, Aurangzeb again ordered to destroy these temples. The famous temple of Somnath, which he ordered to be destroyed, was earlier in his reign.
Aurangzeb encountered political opposition from a number of quarters, such as the Marathas, Jats, etc., as they had adopted a new stance. Therefore, while dealing with the conflicts (with the local elements), Aurangzeb considered it legitimate to destroy even long standing Hindu temples as a major punishment and as a warning.
Aurangzeb looked upon temples as the centers of spreading rebellious ideas, i.e. ideas which were not acceptable to the orthodox elements. Therefore, in 1669, he took strict action especially when he learnt that in some of the temples in Thatta, Multan and especially at Banaras, both Hindus and Muslims used to come from great distances to learn from the Brahmans.
Aurangzeb issued orders to the governors of all provinces to prohibit such practices and to destroy all those temples where such practices took place.
As a result of these orders, a number of temples such as the famous temples of Vishwanath at Banaras and the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura built by Bir Singh Deo Bundela during the reign of Jahangir were destroyed and a mosque; erected in their place.
Mustaid Khan, author of the Maasir-i-Alamgiri mentioned that with reference to the destruction of the temple of Keshava Rai at Mathura, "On seeing this instance of the strength of the Emperor's faith and the grandeur of his devotion to God, the proud rajas were subdued, and in amazement they stood like images facing the wall." Thereupon, many temples built in Orissa during the last ten to twelve years were also destroyed.
During 1679-80, when there was a state of hostility with the Rathors of Marwar and the Rana of Udaipur, many temples of old standing were destroyed at Jodhpur and its parganas, and at Udaipur.
After 1679, it seems that Aurangzeb's zeal to destroy temples decreased, as after this, there was no evidence of any large-scale destruction of temples in the south (between 1681 and his death in 1707).
Aurangzeb again introduced the jizyah (or the poll tax) (it was abolished by Akbar). According to the shara, in a Muslim state, the payment of jizyah was obligatory, for the non-Muslims.
Aurangzeb, in fact, did not try to change the nature of the state, but reasserted its fundamentally Islamic character. Aurangzeb's religious beliefs cannot be considered as the basis of his political policies.
Aurangzeb’s religious ideas and beliefs on the one hand, and his political or public policies on the other, however, clashed on many occasions and he faced difficult choices. Sometimes this led him to adopt contradictory policies which damaged the empire.
Medieval Indian History - North-East India
After becoming emperor officially, Aurangzeb embarked upon an era of strong rule. In some regions, such as the north-east and the Deccan, the imperial frontier was advanced.
Aurangzeb’s first attempt immediately after his succession was to restate imperial authority and prestige, which included recovery of the regions, which had been lost during the war of succession and to which the Mughals felt that they had the legal claim.
The kingdom of Kamata (Kamrup) declined by the end of the fifteenth century and was replaced by the kingdom of Kuch (Cooch Bihar), which dominated north Bengal and western Assam and continued the policy of conflict with the Ahoms.
In 1612, the Mughals defeated and occupied the western Assam valley up to Bar Nadi with the help of Kuch armies.
The Kuch ruler became a Mughal vassal. Likewise, he Mughals came into contact with the Ahoms who ruled eastern Assam across the Bar Nadi.
After a long war with the Ahoms who had harbored a prince of the defeated dynasty, in 1638, a treaty was made with them, which fixed the Bar Nadi as the boundary between them and the Mughals. Thus Gauhati (Assam) came under Mughal control.
Mir Jumla, who had been appointed as the governor of Bengal by Aurangzeb, wanted to bring Cooch Bihar and the entire Assam under Mughal control.
Mir Jumla first attacked Cooch Bihar (which had rejected Mughal suzerainty) and annexed the entire kingdom to the Mughal empire. Next Jumla invaded on the Ahom kingdom and occupied its capital Garhgaon. Likewise, the Mughal boundary was extended from the Bar Nadi to the Bharali River.
Mir Jumla died soon after his victory. Later, the Ahom regained its power, which had not been broken, and also it was beyond the Mughal power to enforce the treaty.
In 1667, the Ahoms renewed the contest. They not only recovered the areas ceded to the Mughals, but also occupied Gauhati (Assam).
Over a period of time, the Mughal forces had also been expelled from Cooch Bihar. Likewise, all the won territories of Mir Jumla were rapidly lost. But later the shock of the Mughal invasion and the subsequent warfare damaged the strength of the Ahom kingdom and led to the decline and disintegration of the Ahom empire.
Shaista Khan succeeded Mir Jumla as the governor of Bengal after his death. He gave personal attention to the problem of south Bengal, where the Magh (Arakanese) pirates, in conjunction with Portuguese pirates, had been terrorizing the area up to Dacca (capital of Bengal) from their headquarters at Chittagong. The land up to Dacca had become deserted and trade and industry had suffered a setback.
Shaista Khan strategically built up a flotilla to meet the Arakanese pirates and captured the island of Sondip as a base of operations against Chittagong.
The Arakan navy near Chittagong was routed out and many of the ships captured. In 1666, Shaista Khan attacked Chittagong and captured. The destruction of Arakanese navy opened the seas for free trade and commerce.
Popular Revolts and Movements
During his reign, Aurangzeb had to deal with a number of political issues, such as −
The Marathas in the Deccan,
The Jats and Rajputs in north India,
The Afghans and Sikhs in the north-west, and
The nature of these problems was different from each other, for example −
In the case of the Rajputs, it was basically a problem of succession.
In the case of the Marathas, it was the issue of independence.
In the case of Jats, it was the clash of peasant-agrarian background.
In the case of Afghans, it was a tribal issue.
The only movement in which religion played a role was the Sikh movement. However, later, the Jat and the Sikh movements concluded in attempts to set up the independent regional states.
It has been sometimes argued that all these movements, excluding the Afghan one, represented a Hindu reaction against Aurangzeb’s narrow religious policies.
The first section to come into conflict with the Mughal Empire was the Jats of the Agra-Delhi region who were living on both sides of the river Yamuna.
The Jats were mostly peasant cultivators, only a few of them being zamindars. With a strong sense of brotherhood and justice, the Jats had often come into conflict with the Mughals.
The conflict with the Jats had taken place during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan on the issue of collection of land revenue.
All the imperial road to the Deccan and the western seaports passed through Jats’ area; therefore, the Mughals had to take a serious action against the Jat rebellions.
In 1669, under the leadership of local Zamindar Gokla, the Jats (of Mathura) were rebelled, which spread rapidly among the peasants of the area. This rebel compelled Aurangzeb to take serious action in person. Resultantly, the Jats were defeated and Gokla was captured and executed.
In 1685, under the leadership of Rajaram, there was a second rebel of the Jats. This time, Jats were better organized and adopted the methods of guerilla warfare, combining it with plunder.
The rebels were continued to 1691, when their leader Rajaram and his successor, Churaman, were compelled to surrender. In spite of this, unrest among the Jat peasants were remained persistent and their plundering activities made the Delhi-Agra road unsafe for travelers.
During the 18th century, taking advantage of Mughal civil wars and weakness Churaman carved out a separate Jat principality in the area and to oust the Rajput zamindars.
In 1672, at Narnaul (nearby Mathura), another armed conflict occurred between the peasants and the Mughals. This time, the conflict was with a religious body known as ‘Satnamis.’
The Satnamis were mostly peasants, artisans, and lower caste people, such as Goldsmiths, Carpenters, Sweepers, Tanners, and other ignoble beings.
The conflicts with Afghans (who lived in mountain region) were continued and most of the Mughal Emperors fought with Afghans.
Akbar fought against the Afghans and in the war, he lost the life of his close friend and very intelligent and loyal noble, Raja Birbal.
The conflicts with Afghans were partly economic and partly political and religious in character.
To clear the Khyber Pass and crush the uprising, Aurangzeb deputed the Chief Bakhshi, Amir Khan. After the hard battles, the Afghan resistance was broken.
In 1672, there was a second Afghan uprising. Akmal Khan was the leader, who proclaimed himself king and struck khutba and sikka in his name.
Near Khyber Pass, the Afghans suffered a disastrous defeat; however, Khan managed to escape.
In 1674, Shujaat Khan, a Mughal noble suffered a disastrous defeat in the Khyber. However, he was rescued by a heroic band of Rathors sent by Jaswant Singh.
In the middle of 1674, Aurangzeb himself went to Peshawar and stayed there till the end of 1675. Slowly, by force and diplomacy, the Afghan united front was broken, and peace was restored.
The Sikhs were the last to come into military conflict with Aurangzeb; however, the reasons for the conflict were political and personal rather than religious.
The Gurus had started living in style, with an armed following, and assumed the title of sachha padshah (the true sovereign).
There was no conflict with the Sikh Guru and Aurangzeb, upto 1675 until Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested along with his five followers, brought to Delhi, and executed.
The cause of Tegh Bahadur’s execution was not clear. Some Persian accounted that Tegh Bahadur had joined hands with Hafiz Adam (a Pathan) and created nuisance in Punjab. On the other hand, according to Sikh tradition, the execution was due to intrigues (against the Guru) by some members of his family who disputed his succession.
Some of the historians had written that Aurangzeb was annoyed because of the Tegh Bahadur’s act of converting a few Muslims into Sikh and raised a protest against religious persecution in Kashmir by the local governor.
Whatever the reasons, Aurangzeb's action was unjustified from any point of view and betrayed a narrow approach. Further, the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur compelled the Sikhs to go back to the Punjab hills. It also led to the Sikh movement (led by Guru Govind Sindh) gradually turning into a military brotherhood.
Guru Govind Singh had a considerable organizational ability. By using his skill, in 1699, he founded the military brotherhood popularly known as the “Khalsa.”
Guru Govind Singh had made his headquarters at Makhowal or Anandpur located in the foothills of the Punjab. In given period of time, the Guru became too powerful.
Guru Govind fought a series of wars against the hill rajas and won. The organization of the khalsa further strengthened the hands of the Guru in this conflict.
In 1704, an open breach between the Guru and the hill rajas took place, as the combined forces of a number of hill rajas attacked the Guru at Anandpur.
The rajas had again to retreat and forced the Mughal government to intervene against the Guru on their behalf.
Aurangzeb was concerned with the growing power of the Guru and had asked the Mughal faujdar to punish the Guru.
The Mughal forces attacked at Anandpur, but the Sikhs fought bravely and beat off all assaults and they were taken shelter inside the fort.
The Mughals and their allies now captured the fort closely that closed all sorts of movements. Resultantly, starvation began inside the fort and the Guru was forced to open the gate apparently on a promise of safe conduct by Wazir Khan. But when the forces of the Guru were crossing a swollen stream, Wazir Khan's forces suddenly attacked.
Two of the Guru's sons were captured, and on their refusal to embrace Islam, they were beheaded at Sirhind. Further, the Guru lost two of his remaining sons in another battle. After this, the Guru retired to Talwandi.
Relations with Rajputs
Jahangir continued Akbar's policy of giving favors to the leading Rajput rajas and of entering into matrimonial relations with them.
Shah Jahan also maintained the alliance with the Rajputs, but he did not appoint any Rajput raja as the governor of a province, and no further matrimonial relations were made with the leading Rajput rajas. In spite of the fact that he (Shah Jahan) himself was the son of a Rajput princess.
Perhaps, the alliances with the Rajputs had become so consolidated, that it was felt that matrimonial relations with the leading rajas were no longer necessary. However, Shah Jahan accorded high honor to the heads of the two leading Rajput houses, namely Jodhpur and Amber.
Raja Jaswant Singh, the ruler of Marwar, was in Shah Jahan’s favor. Both he and Jai Singh held the ranks of 7000/7000 at the time of Aurangzeb's accession.
Aurangzeb secured the active support of the Maharana of Mewar and raised his mansab from 5000/5000 to 6000/6000.
Jaswant Singh who had been deputed to look after the affairs of the Afghans in the north-west died by the end of 1678.
In November 1679, Aurangzeb attacked Mewar. A strong Mughal detachment reached Udaipur and raided the camp of the Rana who had retreated deep into the hills to conduct a harassing warfare against the Mughals.
The war Between the Mughals and Rajputs soon reached at a stalemate as the Mughals could neither penetrate the hills, nor deal with the guerilla tactics of the Rajputs.
Over a period of time, the war became highly unpopular. Prince Akbar, the eldest son of Aurangzeb, tried to take advantage of the situation and he went against his father.
In January, 1681, Prince Akbar, in alliance with Durgadas, the Rathor chief, marched towards Ajmer where Aurangzeb was helpless, as all his best troops were being engaged elsewhere.
Prince Akbar, however, delayed and Aurangzeb was able to stir up dissensions in his camp by false letters. Resultantly, Prince Akbar had to flee to Maharashtra.
Aurangzeb patched up a treaty with Rana Jagat Singh (the successor of Rana Raj Singh).
The new Rana was forced to surrender some of his parganas in lieu of iazyah and was granted a mansab of 5,000 on a promise of loyalty and not supporting Ajit Singh, but it did not benefit much.
Aurangzeb’s policy towards Marwar and Mewar was clumsy and blundering, which brought no advantage of any kind to the Mughals. On the other hand, Mughal failure against these Rajput states damaged Mughal military prestige.
The breach with Marwar and Mewar weakened the Mughal alliance with the Rajputs at a crucial period.
Medieval Indian History - Rise of Maratha
The Marathas had important positions in the administrative and military systems of Ahmednagar and Bijapur.
Marathas did not have any large, well-established states; however, a number of influential Maratha families, namely, the Mores, the Ghatages, the Nimbalkars, etc., exercised local authority in some areas.
The Maratha ruler Shahji Bhonsle and his son, Shivaji, consolidated the Maratha kingdom. Shahji acted as the kingmaker in Ahmednagar, and defied the Mughals.
Taking advantage of the unsettled conditions, Shahji tried to set up a semi-independent principality at Bangalore, as Mir Jumla, the leading noble of Golconda, tried to carve out such a principality on the Coromandal coast. Further, Shivaji's attempted to carve out a large principality around Poona.
Early Career of Shivaji
Shahji had left the Poona jagir to his neglected senior wife, Jija Bai and his minor son, Shivaji.
Shivaji was brave and intellect since his childhood. When he was merely 18 years old, he overran a number of hill forts near Poona—Rajgarh, Kondana, and Torna in the years 1645-47.
In 1647, after the death of his guardian, Dadaji Kondadeo, Shivaji became his own master and the full control of his father's jagir came under his control.
In 1656, Shivaji conquered Javli from the Maratha chief, Chandra Rao More and started his reigning career.
The conquest of Javli made Shivaji the undisputed master of the Mavala region or the highlands and freed his path to the Satara region and to the coastal strip, the Konkan.
Mavali foot-soldiers became a strong part of Shivaji’s army. With their support, Shivaji conquered a series of hill forts near Poona.
Shivaji and the Mughals
In 1657, the Mughal invasion of Bijapur saved Shivaji from Bijapur reprisal. Shivaji first entered into negotiations with Aurangzeb and asked him for the grant of all the Bijapuri territories he held and other areas including the port of Dabhol in the Konkan. Later Shivaji betrayed and changed his side.
Shivaji resumed-his career of conquest at the expense of Bijapur. He burst into the Konkan, the coastal strip between the Western Ghats and the sea, and seized the northern part of it.
The ruler of Bijapur sent Afzal Khan (one of the premier nobles) along with 10,000 troops. Afzal Khan had been given instructions to capture Shivaji by any possible means.
In 1659, Afzal Khan sent an invitation to Shivaji for a personal interview, promising to get him pardoned from the Bijapuri court. Convinced that this was a trap, Shivaji went with full preparation, and murdered Afzal Khan. Shivaji captured all Afzal Khan’s property, including equipment and artillery.
Shivaji soon became a legendary figure. His name passed from house to house and he was credited with magical powers. People flocked to him from the Maratha areas to join his army, and even Afghan mercenaries who had been previously in the service of Bijapur, joined his army.
Aurangzeb was anxious because of the rising of the Maratha power near to the Mughal frontiers. Poona and adjacent areas, which had been parts of the Ahmednagar kingdom had been transferred to Bijapur by the treaty of 1636. However, these areas were now again claimed by the Mughals.
Aurangzeb instructed Shaista Khan, the new Mughal governor of the Deccan (he was also related to Aurangzeb by marriage), to invade Shivaji's dominions and Adil Shah, the ruler of Bijapur, was asked to cooperate.
Adil Shah sent Sidi Jauhar, the Abyssinian chief, who, invested Shivaji in Panhala. Getting trapped, Shivaji escaped and Panhala came under the control of the Bijapuri forces.
Adil Shah took no further interest in the war against Shivaji, and soon came to a secret understanding with him. This agreement freed Shivaji to deal with the Mughals.
In 1660, Shaista Khan occupied Poona and made it his headquarters. He then sent detachments to seize control of the Konkan from Shivaji.
Despite harassing attacks from Shivaji, and the bravery of Maratha defenders, the Mughals secured their control on north Konkan.
In 1663, on one night, Shivaji infiltrated into the camp and attacked on Shaista Khan, when he was in his harem (in Poona). He killed his son and one of his captains and wounded Khan. This daring attack of Shivaji put Khan into disgrace. In anger, Aurangzeb transferred Shaista Khan to Bengal, even refused to give him an interview at the time of transfer as was the custom.
In 1664, Shivaji attacked Surat, which was the premier Mughal port, and looted it to his heart's content.
Treaty of Purandar
After the failure of Shaista Khan, Aurangzeb deputed Raja Jai Singh of Amber, who was one of the most trusted advisers of Aurangzeb, to deal with Shivaji.
Unlike Shaista Khan, Jai Singh did not underestimate the Marathas rather he made careful diplomatic and military preparations.
Jai Singh planned to strike at the heart of Shivaji's territories i.e. fort Purandar where Shivaji had lodged his family and his treasure.
In 1665, Jai Singh besieged Purandar (1665), beating off all Maratha attempts to relieve it. With the fall of the fort at sight, and no relief likely from any quarter, Shivaji opened negotiations with Jai Singh.
After hard bargaining with Shivaji, the following terms we agreed upon −
Out of 35 forts held by Shivaji, 23 forts were surrendered to the Mughals;
Remaining 12 forts were left with Shivaji on condition of service and loyalty to the Mughal throne;
Territory worth four lakhs of huns a year in the Bijapuri Konkan, which Shivaji had already held, was granted to him.
The Bijapur territory worth of five lakhs of huns a year in the uplands (Balaghat), which Shivaji had conquered, was also granted to him. In return for these, Shivaji was to pay 40 lakhs huns in instalments to the Mughals.
Shivaji asked them to be excused from personal service. Hence, a mansab of 5,000 was granted to his minor son, Sambhaji.
Shivaji promised, however, to join personally in any Mughal campaign in the Deccan.
Jai Singh, later, cleverly threw a bone of contention between Shivaji and the Bijapuri ruler. But the success of Jai Singh's scheme depended on Mughal support to Shivaji in making up from Bijapur territory worth the amount he had yielded to the Mughals.
Jai Singh had considered the alliance with Shivaji from the starting point of the conquest of Bijapur to the entire Deccan. However, the Mughal-Maratha expedition against Bijapur failed. Shivaji who had been deputed to capture fort Panhala was also unsuccessful.
As the plan failed, Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to meet with Aurangzeb at Agra. Jai Singh though that if Shivaji and Aurangzeb could be reconciled, then Aurangzeb might be persuaded to give greater resources for a renewed invasion on Bijapur. But Shivaji’s meeting with Aurangzeb also became futile.
When Shivaji met Aurangzeb, he kept him in the category of 5,000 mansabdar (the rank, which had been granted to his minor son). Further, the emperor, whose birthday was being celebrated, did not find time to speak to Shivaji. Therefore, Shivaji walked off angrily and refused imperial service.
Since Shivaji had come to Agra on Jai Singh's assurances, Aurangzeb wrote to Jai Singh for advice. In return, Jai Singh strongly argued for a lenient treatment for Shivaji. However, in 1666, before any decision could be taken, Shivaji escaped from the detention.
Administrative System of Shivaji
Shivaji’s system of administration was largely borrowed from the administrative practice of the Deccani states.
Shivaji designated eight ministers, sometimes called the ‘Ashtapradhan’ (it was not in the nature of a council of ministers), each minister being directly responsible to the ruler.
The most important ministers were the ‘Peshwa’ who looked after the finances and general administration, and the sari-i-naubat (senapati), which was a post of honor and was generally given to one of the leading Maratha chiefs.
The majumdar was the accountant, while the waqenavis was responsible for intelligence post and household affairs. Further, the surunavis or chitnis helped the king with his correspondence.
The dabir was master of ceremonies and also helped the king in his dealings with foreign powers. The nyayadhish and panditrao were in charge of justice and charitable grants.
Shivaji preferred to give salaries in cash to the regular soldiers; however sometimes the chiefs received revenue grants (saranjam).
Shivaji strictly regulated the “mirasdars,” (mirasdars were those who had the hereditary rights in land). Later mirasdars grew and strengthened themselves by building strongholds and castles in the villages. Likewise, they had become unruly and seized the country. Shivaji destroyed their bastions and forced them to surrender.
Shivaji was not only a deserving general and a skillful strategist, but he was also a shrewd diplomat and laid the foundation of a strong state by curbing the power of the deshmukhs.
In 1670, Shivaji renewed the contest with the Mughals, sacking Surat a second time. During the next four years, he recovered a large number of his forts, including Purandar, from the Mughals and made deep inroads into Mughal territories, especially Berar and Khandesh.
Mughal preoccupation with the Afghan uprising in the north-west gave an opportunity to Shivaji. Further, Shivaji also renewed his contest with Bijapur, securing Panhala and Satara by means of bribes.
In 1674, Shivaji crowned himself formally at Rajgarh. He was by now, became the most powerful among the Maratha chiefs.
The formal coronation had, therefore, a number of purposes, including −
It placed him on a much higher pedestal than any of the Maratha chiefs;
It strengthened his social position and hence he married into some of the leading old Maratha families;
Gaga Bhatt, the priest presiding over the function, supported Shivaji and said that Shivaji was a high class Kshatriya; and
As an independent ruler, now it became possible for Shivaji to enter into treaties with the Deccani sultans on a footing of equality and not as a rebel.
In 1676, Shivaji undertook an expedition into the Bijapuri Karnataka. Shivaji was given a grand welcome by the Qutb Shah at his capital and a formal agreement was made.
Qutub Shah agreed to pay a subsidy of one lakh huns (five lakhs of rupees) annually to Shivaji along with a Maratha ambassador who was appointed at his court.
Qutub Shah, further, supplied a contingent of troops and artillery to aid Shivaji and also provided money for the expenses of his army.
The treaty with Qutub Shah was beneficial to Shivaji, as it enabled him to capture Jinji and Vellore from Bijapur officials and also to conquer much of the territories held by his half-brother, Ekoji.
Shivaji had assumed the title of “Haindava-Dharmoddharak” (Protector of the Hindu faith), but he plundered mercilessly the Hindu population of the respective region.
As per the agreement, Shivaji had to share treasure (won in the war) with Qutub Shah, but when Shivaji returned back to home with treasure, he refused to share anything with the Qutub Shah. Hence, Qutub Shah resented with Shivaji.
Karnataka expedition was the last expedition of Shivaji, as he died shortly after his return from the Karnataka expedition (1680).
Aurangzeb and Deccani States
Relations of Aurangzeb with the Deccani states can be categorized into three phase as −
The First Phase between 1658 and 1668;
The Second Phase between 1668 and 1681;
The Third Phase between 1681 and 1687; and
The Fourth Phase (between 1687 and 1707).
The treaty of 1636, by which Shah Jahan had given one-third of the territories of Ahmednagar state as a bribe for withdrawing support to the Marathas, and promised that the Mughals would "never never" conquer Bijapur and Golconda, had been abandoned by Shah Jahan himself.
In 1657-58, Golconda and Bijapur were threatened with extinction. Golconda had to pay a huge indemnity, and Bijapur had to agree to the surrender of the Nizam Shah' territories granted in 1636.
After becoming emperor, Aurangzeb had to face two problems viz −
The rising power of Shivaji, and
Persuading Bijapur to part with the territories ceded to it by the treaty of 1636.
In 1657, Kalyani and Bider had been secured. Parenda was secured by bribe in 1660.
Angered by Adil Shah's attitude of non-cooperation, Aurangzeb ordered Jai Singh to punish both Shivaji and Adil Shah.
Jai Singh was an astute politician. He told Aurangzeb, "It would be unwise to attack both these fools at the same time".
Jai Singh had suggested that the Maratha problem could not be solved without a forward policy in the Deccan — a conclusion to which Aurangzeb finally came 20 years later.
The campaign for the conquest of the Deccan would be long and arduous and would need the presence of the emperor himself with large armies. But as long as Shah Jahan was alive, Aurangzeb couldn’t afford to go away on a distant campaign.
With his limited resources, in 1665, Jai Singh's Bijapur campaign was bound to fail. The campaign recreated the united front of the Deccani states against the Mughals, for the Qutb Shah sent a large force to aid Bijapur.
The Deccanis adopted guerilla tactics, luring Jat Singh on to Bijapur while devastating the countryside so that the Mughals could get no supplies. Jai Singh found that he had no means to assault the city, since he had not brought siege guns, and to invest the city was impossible.
In the Deccani campaign, no additional territory was gained by Jai Singh. The disappointment of failure and the censures of Aurangzeb hastened Jai Singh's death and he died in 1667.
In 1668, the Mughals secured the surrender of Sholapur by bribery.
During the period of 1668 to 1676, the power of Madanna and Akhanna (two brothers of Golconda) had increased. They had virtually ruled Golconda from 1672 to almost till the extinction of the state in 1687.
The brothers had attempted to establish a policy of tripartite alliance among Golconda, Bijapur, and Shivaji. However, this policy was periodically disturbed by faction fights at the Bijapur court, and by the over-weening ambition of Shivaji.
In 1676, Mughals attacked Bijapur and overthrown the Khawas Khan (the regent of Bijapur).
Aurangzeb, further, invited Bahadur Khan and Diler Khan who had good relations with the Afghan faction in Bijapur was placed in command. Diler Khan persuaded the Afghan leader Bahlol Khan to join in an expedition against Golconda.
In 1677, the failure of the Mughal-Bijapur attack was in no small measure due to the firm leadership of Madanna and Akhanna.
In 1679-80, Diler Khan again attempted to seize Bijapur, but failed; probably, because of lack of equipment and forces to fight against the united forces of the Deccani states.
In 1681, when Aurangzeb went Deccan in pursuit of his rebel son, Prince Akbar, he first ordered his forces to fight against Sambhaji (the son and successor of Shivaji), meanwhile making renewed efforts to separate Bijapur and Golconda from the side of the Marathas.
Aurangzeb’s dividing policy could not bring any beneficial result. The Marathas were the only shield against the Mughals, and the Deccani states were not prepared to throw it away.
Failure of Aurangzeb made him anxious and he decided to force the issue. He invited Adil Shah and asked to supply a vassal to the imperial army and facilitate the Mughal army a free passage through his territory and also to supply a contingent of 5,000 to 6,000 cavalry for the war against the Marathas.
Adil Shah, on the other hand, appealed for help from both Golconda and Sambhaji, which was promptly given. However, even the combined forces of the Deccani states could not withstand against the full strength of the Mughal army, particularly when commanded by the Mughal emperor or an energetic prince, as had been demonstrated earlier. In spite of being the presence of Emperor Aurangzeb and prince, it took 18 months to siege.
The success of Mughals, provided replenishing justification for the earlier failure of Jai Singh (1665), and Diler Khan (1679-80).
Following the downfall of Bijapur, a campaign against Golconda was inevitable.
In 1685, despite stiff resistance, the Mughals had occupied Golconda. The emperor had agreed to pardon Qutb Shah in return of a huge subsidy, the ceding of some areas, and the ousting of two brothers Madanna and Akhanna.
In 1688, Qutb Shah accepted Mughals conditions and subsequently, Madanna and Akhanna were dragged out on the streets and murdered. In spite of this acceptance, Qutb Shah could not protect his monarchy.
Aurangzeb had triumphed but he soon found that the extinction of Bijapur and Golconda was only the beginning of his difficulties. The last and the most difficult phase of Aurangzeb's life began now.
After the downfall of Bijapur and Golconda, Aurangzeb was able to concentrate all his forces against the Marathas.
Apart from invading Burhanpur and Aurangabad, the new Maratha king, Sambhaji (son of Shivaji) had thrown a challenge to Aurangzeb by giving shelter to his rebel son, Prince Akbar.
Sambhaji took a peculiarly passive attitude towards Prince Akbar, spending his energies in a futile war with the Sidis on the coast and with the Portuguese.
In 1686, prince dashed into the Mughal territory, but repulsed. Discouraged, Prince Akbar escaped by sea to Iran, and sought shelter with the Iranian king.
In 1689, Sambhaji was surprised at his secret hideout at Sangameshwar by a Mughal force. He was paraded before Aurangzeb and executed as a rebel and an infidel.
As historians observed that this was undoubtedly a major political mistake on the part of Aurangzeb. He could have set a seal on his conquest of Bijapur and Golconda by coming to terms with the Marathas.
By executing Sambhaji, he not only threw away this chance, but provided the Marathas a cause. In the absence of a single rallying point, the Maratha sardars were left free to plunder the Mughal territories.
Rajaram, the younger brother of Sambhaji, was crowned as king, but he had to escape when the Mughals attacked his capital.
Rajaram sought shelter at Jinji on the east coast and continued the fight against the Mughals from there. Likewise, Maratha resistance spread from the west to the east coast.
Aurangzeb, after 1690, concentrated on annexing to the empire of the rich and extensive Karnataka tract.
During the period between 1690 and 1703, Aurangzeb stubbornly refused to negotiate with the Marathas. Rajaram was besieged at Jinji, but the siege proved to be long drawn out.
Jinji fell in 1698, but the chief prince, Rajaram, escaped. Maratha resistance grew and the Mughals suffered a number of serious reverses. The Marathas recaptured many of their forts and Rajaram also managed to come back to Satara.
From 1700 to 1705, Aurangzeb dragged his exhausted and ailing body from the siege of one fort to another. On the other hand, floods, disease, and the Maratha rambling bands took fearful toll of the Mughal army. All these gradually lead to apathy and disaffection among the nobles and the army.
Many of the jagirdars made secret pacts with the Marathas and agreed to pay chauth if the Marathas did not disturb their jagirs.
In 1703, Aurangzeb opened negotiations with the Marathas. He was prepared to release Shahu (the son of Sambhaji), who had been captured at Satara along with his mother.
Aurangzeb was prepared to grant Shivaji's swarajya to Shahu and the right of sardeshmukhi over the Deccan, thus recognizing his special position.
Over 70 Maratha sardars actually assembled to receive Shahu. However, Aurangzeb cancelled the arrangements at the last minute, as he was uncertain about the intentions of the Maratha.
By 1706, Aurangzeb was convinced of the futility of his effort to capture all the Maratha forts. He slowly retreated to Aurangabad while as exulting Maratha army hovered around and attacked the stragglers.
In 1707, when Aurangzeb breathed his last at Aurangabad, he left behind an empire, which was deeply distracted, and in which all the various internal problems of the empire were coming to a head; later led to decline of the Mughal Empire.