Mughal Empire
History of India Historical Atlas
Mughal Empire

Mughal Empire

I.) 1526-1556 : The founder of the Mughal Empire, Timurid Babur, ruler of Kabul, for much of his life failed in his repeated attempts to take control of Samarkand. In 1526 he lead an invading army into the plains of northern India, defeated the Lodi Sultan of Delhi in the Battle of Panipat and established the Mughal Dynasty. His rule extended over Uttar Pradesh, the Punjab and adjacent regions in Central Asia. Babur died in 1530 and was, in Hindustan, succeeded by his son Humayun. Brothers of Humayun established independent holdings in the Punjab, Kabul.
The Lodi Dynasty had not been overthrown, just expelled from Delhi. In the 1530es, from their base in modern Bihar, the Lodi took the offensive against the Mughals, and Humayun was expelled from Delhi in 1540. He was to spend the following years in Persian exile. In 1555, with an army provided by the Safavid ruler of Persia, he retook Delhi; in 1556 he died.

II.) 1556-1605 : The Rule of Akbar (which translates to "the Great"). Akbar transformed the Mughal Empire from a Mongol-type Muslim Khanate ruling over conquered people into an Indian Empire practising religious tolerance, integrating Shiite Persian nobles and Hindu Rajput princes to limit the influence of the Uzbek nobility. Akbar's attempt to introduce a synchretistic religion, Kitab ul-Illah or Din-i-Illahi, was only of temporary success.
During the rule of Akbar, Malwa, Gujarat, Bengal were conquered.

III.) 1605-1658 : The successors of Akbar (Jahangir 1605-1627, Shah Jehan 1628-1658) were less formidable figures. On the occasion of the death of a Mughal Emperor, succession struggles were normal, as the rulers practised polygamy and succession was not regulated.
Jahangir and Shah Jehan maintained the policy of religious toleration. The policy of expansion by conquest was continued (Ahmednagar 1638); however, Jahangir is most known for having moved the capital to Agra, Shah Jehan for having constructed the Taj Mahal in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

IV.) 1658-1707 : Aurangzeb. He abolished religious toleration, was a fervent Muslim. While Akbar (temporarily) conquered southern India, his harsh treatment of other religions (reimposition of the per-capita-tax on non-Muslims; execution of Sikh gurus) caused armed resistance. Upon Aurangzeb's death, both the Sikh Confederation and the Marathas fought the Mughal Empire.
In contemporary Europe, Aurangzeb's Mughal Empire enjoyed great reputation, as a wealthy country ruled by a powerful monarch.

V.) 1707-1858 : The successors of Aurangzeb were puppets in the hands of powerful figures more interested in establishing their influence over part of the Empire than in maintaining the Mughal Empire itself. Several Mughal Emperors were killed, often after only briefly occupying the throne. The rise of the Maratha Federation is to be seen as being part of a complex power struggle within the Mughal Empire rather than as a war of conquest against it.
The Marathas, as well as powerful officials ruling 'Mughal provinces', in theory, recognized Mughal sovereignty, as expressed in Maratha coinjage. In all practicality, the Maratha rulers, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Nawab of Bengal, the Kingdom of Awadh (Oudh) were independent.
In 1803 Mughal Emperor Shah Alam placed himself under British (E.I.C.) protection. In 1858, following the Sepoy Rebellion, the British blamed the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah, for having participated, and deposed him. The Mughal Empire formally was abolished, annexed by British India.

VI.) Political-Administrative Culture : The Mughal Empire was a feudal state, centered on the imperial court. The Emperor based his authority on the number and strength of his vassalls, holders of fiefs the size of which could vary; under Akbar these vassalls included Muslims and Hindus. Akbar attempted to establish a synchretistic religion, Din-i-Illahi, in an attempt to establish an esprit-de-corps among the Mughal court nobility, a measure which ultimately failed.
The loyalty of vassalls, especially in the provinces far from the Mughal court, was a matter of political convenience, depending on the charisma of the individual ruler, the size of the army he could field etc. The conquest of the Deccan proves as an example; with the appearance of a large Mughal army, many feudatory lords of Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda declared allegiance to the Mughal Emperor, rather than defending their country against the invading army. Once Aurangzeb had died, Mughal authority in much of the Deccan ended abruptly, by the desertion of numerous Mughal vassals.
Aurangzeb's decision to end the culture of religious tolerance at the Mughal court and revert to a strict implementation of Islam alienated both the Hindus and the Sikhs.

VII.) The Military : Babur invaded India with a Central Asian army, mainly relying on cavalry and using firearms as well as cannon. Her strength lay in mobility. Akbar transformed the Mughal military (Indianization); Hindu Rajputs rose to the rank of generals; the army would include war elephants, siege equipment, infantry and a large number of camp followers. Mughal armies now resembled a tent city, moving at a pace of perhaps 15 km a day and requiring a lot of food and money to be maintained.
In the 18th century, at a time when the Mughal Empire became battleground for competing provincial governors and vassalls, European officers and firearms became a factor of increasing importance in Indian warfare.

VIII.) The Economy : Relation with the Colonial Companies . The coastal regions of India were peripheral to the Mughal Empire; the ports of Surat and of Bengal were the most important from Mughal perspective. The competing colonial companies were no threat to the Empire of Akbar and Aurangzeb; the Mughals long were able to force trade be conducted on their terms. When the Danish East India Company entered the scene and committed what the Mughals regarded acts of piracy, trade with all European colonial companies was seized until this perceived piracy ended.
The Economy : Domestic Economy . India had a diverse economy, the main sector of which was agriculture. India's textile industry produced both for a domestic market and for export; a mining and metal industry produced tools and arms. Mughal masonry built the Taj Mahal, Mughal jewellers shaped the Peacock Throne and Koh-i-Noor, all of worldwide fame. The Mughal Empire was based on taxation, much of which ended up in the pockets of the feudatory nobility.
The Emperors did not pursue much of an active economic policy. For instance the irrigation canals dug by the British in the Punjab in the later 19th century, turning the province into the breadbasket of India, could have been dug by the Mughals; the technology would have been available; the vision was lacking.

IX.) Culture : The Mughal court maintained Persian as language of administration, a language foreign to the vast majority of the population. Hindi (Urdu) was the language spoken by the masses in the core provinces of what is today Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan.
The Mughals were great admirers of architecture, had the Forts of Agra and Lahore built, the Red Fort of Delhi remodelled, the Taj Mahal and a number of mosques and masjids built.

Articles Peshwa, Scindia, Maratha Empire, Shivaji, Sambhaji, Rajaram, Shahuji, Ramaraja, Holkar, Bhonsle, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Berar, from Wikipedia
History of Maharashtra, from Mumbai Net
DOCUMENTS Coins of Marathas, from Nupam's Webpage for theIndian Coins
REFERENCE Stewart Gordon, The Marathas 1600-1818. The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge : UP, 1998 [G]
John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire. The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge : UP (1993) 2002 [G]
Muzaffar Alam, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India. Awadh & the Punjab, Oxford : UP (1986) 1991 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on December 13th 2005

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