New Social and Political Groups traces from history


750 AD to 1750 AD is a rich historical time in Indian history, full of significance, and a plethora of developments. India’s landscape changed significantly during this period. Historians face a massive undertaking when analyzing this time, due to the prior-mentioned reasons.

The Delhi Sultans and The Mughals

The Mughals achieved success in their expansionism, which was impressive, since history was not on their side. The Mughals enjoyed success over a long period in Indian history, and are one of the most renowned political and royal dynasties globally, their influence and legacy standing tall to this day.

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The Legacy of Timur and Genghis

Timur was a maternal ancestor of Babur, while Genghis was paternal. Their existence foreshadowed the success and dominance of the Mughal Empire. Both Timur and Genghis were fierce expansionists and creatures of war.

Timur laid claim to 17 million lives, while Genghis laid claim to 40 million. Their ferocity and territorial nature are unparalleled to this day.

Genghis often took the queens of conquered lands, and he had children, ranging in the thousands. Today, 0.5 million men, or approximately 1 in 200 men are descendants of Genghis Khan.

Timeline of the Mughals

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  • Babur − The first Mughal, in 1526, defeated the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodi, seizing Delhi and Agra.
  • Humayun − Humayun had conflict with siblings over his expansionism in Afghanistan, after splitting the inheritance according to the will of Babur. Defeated by Sher Khan at Chausa, and Kanauj, he fled to Iran, but managed to reclaim Delhi. Unfortunately, shortly after, he died of an accident.
  • Akbar − Known as the most democratic Mughal, a patron of arts and literature, Akbar employed Hindus, among whom was his minister, Birbal. While tolerant, Akbar didn’t abandon Mughal expansionism. He seized Chittor and Ranthambor, and had successful campaigns in Gujarat, Bihar, Bengal, and Orissa. He expanded the empire by seizing Qandahar, Kashmir, and Kabul. Berar, Khandesh, and portions of Ahmadnagar faced annexation into the Empire.
  • Jahangir − Prince Salim, started his career by rebelling against his father, Akbar. He took over Akbar’s conquests, conducting several campaigns, with the Sisodiya ruler of Mewar, Amar Singh accepting Mughal Service.
  • Shah Jahan − Shah Jahan imitated his father by rebelling against Jahangir. He launched military campaigns against Ahmadnagar. He annexed the city in 1632, but conflict over his succession saw him imprisoned for life.
  • Aurangazeb − Aurangazeb was the greatest Mughal expansionist. He initiated campaigns in the north-west against the Yusufzai and the Sikhs, but didn’t succeed. The Rajputs rebelled against the Mughals due to their intervention in administration. He had conflict with Maratha Chieftain Shivaji, making him flee from Agra, however, Shivaji continued to be a thorn in the back of Aurangazeb, after he declared himself an independent king.

The Delhi Sultanate

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Several campaigns were launched by the Delhi Sultanate, intending to bring together the hinterlands of the garrison towns. Forests were razed, and the lands were awarded to peasants with agriculture being patronized. Trade routes were safeguarded and regional trading was promoted. The 2nd expansion was along the external frontier of the Sultanate. They raided South India and armies seized animals, slaves, and precious goods and metals.

A century and a half after humble beginnings, Sultanate armies had traversed a major portion of the subcontinent. Defeating rival armies and capturing cities, the sultanate collected taxes and exercised control over a vast region.

Post Mughal Developments

The Mughal Empire was in disarray after Aurangazeb. Governors had immense power, political, economic, and military, over massive areas of the Mughal empire. As they consolidated control over these provinces, revenue was declined to be remitted to the capital.

Rebellions worsened their problems. Increasing taxes did not help the Mughal cause, and local chieftains were looking to solidify their own positions. The incapability of the Mughal Empire post-Aurangazeb was demonstrated by the capture of power by regional chieftains, provincial governors, and other groups.

Nadir Shah of Iran and the Afghani King Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded North India and plundered the riches of Delhi, the latter invading North India five times.

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The Rise of New Rulers and Dynasties

In the 7th Century, across the subcontinent, landlords, or chieftains, were celebrated by royalty, as their subordinates or samantas. They were vassals or tributary chiefs. The term translates to ‘neighbor.’ Their presence was expected in court, and they were expected to assist the royal armies. In this way, samantas gained power, prominence, and importance, eventually becoming maha-samantas. This translates to ‘great lord’ of an area or region.

Maha-samantas even broke away from their rulers, becoming independent.

The following are dynasties which established dominance during this time −

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  • Rashtrakutas of the Deccan − Subordinate to the Chalukyas of Karnataka.
  • Chalukyas of Karnataka − Overthrown by Dantidurga, a Rashtrakuta chief, who then performed the Hiranya-garba, to become a Kshatriya.
  • Kadamba Mayurasharman − Brahmins who renounced their way of life and took to war, they founded kingdoms in Rajasthan and Karnataka.
  • Gurjara −Pratihara Harichandra – Much like the Mayurasharman, they were also Brahmins. They also established kingdoms in Karnataka and Rajasthan.

The Rise of the Cholas in Focus

The Muttaraiyar were a family that were prominent, holding considerable power in the Kaveri delta. They were under the Pallava dynasty of Kanchipuram. Vijayalaya from the Chola family, hailing from Uraiyur, seized the delta from the Muttaraiyar in the mid-800s. The descendants of Vijayalya, known as the Cholas, captured regions that were nearby, rising in prominence.

The Cholan, Vijayalaya, upon seizing the land under Muttaraiyar control, in the Kaveri Delta, constructed the town of Thanjavur and a temple for the goddess Nishumbhasudini. The territories belonging to the Pandayas and the Pallavas were annexed and became Cholan territory.

Rajaraja I, the most influential Cholan, ascended the throne in 985. He carried out expansion of control in annexed regions, while modifying how the kingdom was managed. He constructed the Peruvudaiyar Temple in Thanjavur which is one of the biggest. The popular Brihadeswara Temple was also constructed by him, and it is one of the largest Hindu temples globally.

Expansion and Battle in the Search for Riches

The city of Kanauj in the Ganges Valley, was coveted. Kanauj is renowned for manufacturing scents and perfumes. It is India’s perfume capital and has several perfume distilleries manufacturing Kanauj perfume, which is protected by the Union of India. Historically, it was a symbol of North Indian power. It was a strategic location due to the Upper-Ganges valley being a prime location for coveted items that were traded. It was also a cultural goldmine.

Afghani ruler Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, initiated expansionist policies which included Central Asia, Persia, and north-western portions of the subcontinent. He plundered temples of India for their riches annually, including Somnath in Gujarat. A portion of what he stole was utilized to create a capital in Ghazni. The Sultan had an interest in the subcontinent and enlisted contemporary Sanskrit scholars to assist in authoring the Kitab-ul-Hind, an Arabic account of the subcontinent.

Other rulers during this period were −

  • Chahamanas, who came to be known as the Chauhans exercised control over the regions surrounding Ajmer and Delhi.
  • The Gahadavalas of Western Uttar Pradesh put an end to the expansionist efforts of the Chauhans.
  • Prithviraja III defeated an Afghani ruler called Sultan Muhammad Ghori in the year 1191.
  • However, Prithviraja III was defeated by Ghori the very next year, in 1192.


  • India has been a hotbed for the development of kingdoms, and has also been invaded by several forces, large and small.
  • The Mughal Empire is arguably the greatest empire in Indian history, but towards the end of its power, it became diluted in its prominence.
  • The Delhi Sultanate had control over a vast region in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Samantas were landlords or chieftains, celebrated by royalty. They were vassals or tributary chiefs.
  • The Cholas are a prominent South Indian Empire, who constructed the town of Thanjavur.


Q1. What led to the decline of the Mughal Empire?

Ans. Ineffective leadership, competition from local forces for power, and rebellion against increasing taxes led to the eventual decline of the Mughal Empire.

Q2. Why did the Delhi Sultanate raze down forested areas?

Ans. They did this to award the land to peasants, and patronize agriculture.

Q3. What is the meaning of ‘samanta?’ Who is a ‘maha-samanta?’

Ans. Samantas were chieftains or landlords who were recognized by royalty. They were expected to be present in court, and to assist the royal armies. Maha-samantas were very powerful samantas, powerful enough to break away from their overlords.

Q4. Who is the ancestor of the Cholas?

Ans. Vijayalaya, is the ancestor of the Cholas, and built the town of Thanjavur and a temple for the goddess Nishumbhasudini.

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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