The Rise and fall of the Mughal Empire

TheRise and fall of the Mughal Empire


TheRise and fall of the Mughal Empire

TheMughal Empire dazzled the world by its military might, extensiveterritories and tremendous cultural achievements. The Mughal systemof government was despotic therefore, the success of the empiredepended on the personality of the emperor at the time. Under theemperors with strong personalities, all went well for theadministration (William87). The succession of a weak emperor weakened all aspects of theadministration. All the Mughal emperors after Emperor Aurangzeb wereweak, and therefore unable to meet the challenges of administering avast empire. The reign of Aurangzeb was the epitome of the Mughalrule in India. A mysterious disease struck the heart of the empire,spreading gradually to other regions (Darwin 351).

Thedeath of Aurangzeb

Aurangzebdied in 1707, signaling a war of succession between Muhammed Azam,Prince Muazzam and Kam Bakhsh, his surviving sons. The death ofAurangzeb led to the reign of nine emperors who led the empire inquick successions for 50 years. In 1709, Prince Muazzam got thebetter of his younger brothers and killed them (Abraham232).At an advanced age of 63 years, Muazzam could not assume the role ofan active emperor he, therefore, assumed the title of Bahadur Shah. The Mughal governors in Deccan, Oudh, and Bengal freed themselvesfrom the control of the central government headed by the emperor(William107).The empire continued to experience incursions in the northwest asinvaders came in search of wealth. This was worsened by the invasionof European trading companies who later penetrated the politicalsphere.

BahadurShah died in February 1712 initiating the usual succession warbetween his four sons (Abraham732).His children were so preoccupied with the succession battle that amonth after dying, the body of Bahadur Shah had not been buried.Jahandar Shah won the battle to take over his father as the emperor.His reign lasted for only one year as Farrukhsiyar challenged hisposition. Farrukhsiyar defeated and killed Jahandar Shah in 1713 withthe help of the Sayyid brothers Hussain Ali and Abdulla Khan. In1719, the Sayyid brothers strangled the emperor (Darwin 581).

In1717, Farrukhsiyar granted the English East Indian Company manytrading privileges. The emperor exempted the company from customsduties as it carried out trade through Bengal. Sayyid brothers raisedin quick succession Emperor Rafi-ud-Darajat, Rafi-ud-Daula, andemperor Muhammad Shah (William472).Nadir Shah invaded India in 1739 leaving the Mughal Empire in a totalmess. By the time the Mughal emperors Ahmed Shah (1948) and AlamgirII (1754) took over the leadership, the rot had penetrated the entireempire.

AhmadShah Abdali raided India several times in 1748, 1752, 1757 and 1759making bold with every successive invasion (William253).The Marathas snatched Bundelkhand and Malwa from the emperor, whilethe Afghans took over Panjab. The other rulers from Shah Alam II(1759-1806) and the successors after him only acted as ceremonialemperors. They were puppets in the hands either the English of theMarathas. The English eventually captured Delhi in 1803. However, theEnglish still kept the fiction of the Mughal Empire until 1858 whenthe last emperor sought exile in Rangoon (Jadunath655).The constant bombardment from Ahmad Shah, the Afghans and theonslaught of the British forced the last emperor to flee from Mughal.

AhmadShah Abdali’s invasion of India

AhmadShah Abdali’s invasion of India quickened the fall of the MughalEmpire. The attacks created a state of anarchy and confusion, leavingthe empire in total disarray. The downfall of the Mughal Empire wasevident when the new Emperor Sha Alam II was denied entry into Delhifor over 12 years and was only escorted by the Marathas during hiseventual entrance. Mahadaji Sindhia, the Maratha leader, recoveredDelhi from Ghulam Qadir in 1788 (Abraham501).He handed over the city to the Emperor however, the English capturedthe city and the emperor in 1803. The emperor became a prisoner tothe East India Company (Abraham602).Ahmed Shah’s determined invasions left the empire in economicdisarray. Lack of enough finances in the treasury contributed to thefall of the empire. Unrest form its own citizens and the pursuance ofindependence by empire rebels denied the administration taxes andother levies. The emperor lacked the finances to maintain his army aswell as maintain the daily administrative work. Eventually, theempire lost its grip in the northwest from invaders and eventually tothe British.

Someof the emperors were naive and did foolishly in their administrativeduties. For example, in 1753, Ahmad Shah appointed Mahmud (histwo-year-old son) as the governor of Panjab. To worsen the matter, heappointed a one-year-old boy the deputy to Mahmud. Similarly, AhmadShah appointed Tala Sayyid as the governor of Kashmir and appointed afifteen-year-old boy to deputize Tala Sayyid (William159).The appointments portrayed the emperors as unworthy custodians ofpublic interests. They could not maintain the integrity of theempire. The people of Mughal lost trust in their emperors because ofsuch acts of abuse of office. The administrative structure lost itsinfluence on the people as well as the foreign traders form Europeand Asia.

TheRise of the Marathas

Therise of the Marathas was another significant factor that contributedto the collapse of the Mughal Empire. Under the Peshwas, the Marathaconsolidated power particularly in western India and channeled theirefforts in attacking the Mughal Empire. The Maratha inaugurated thepolicy of Greater Maharashtra and popularized the idea of Hindu-padpadshahi (Darwin 483). The tide of Maratha expansion continued torise until it engulfed northern India. The Maratha were so powerfulthat at one point assumed the role of the ultimate defenders of Indiaagainst the incursions of Ahmad Shah. They had a major role indisintegrating the administrative system in the Mughal Empire(Jadunath167).The Marathas showed their determination to rise above the emperorwhen Mahadaji Sindhia, the Maratha leader, recovered Delhi fromGhulam Qadir in 1788. This was a clear demonstration to the Marathasthat the emperor was weak.

TheRise of the Europeans

Theweakening of the Mughal Empire in the 18thcentury led to the rise in warlordism. European countries led by theBritish acted as warlords, taking advantage of the confused times(Jadunath105).The Europeans were better than the Indians in many aspects includingtrade, commerce, diplomacy, and war. The British, through the EastIndian Company recruited a large army that controlled vast areas inIndia. The turbulence in the administrative system allowed theBritons to control trade and the other main economic activitiesincluding mining (Darwin 832). The company was answerable to no oneelse but its shareholders. Therefore, every action, whether ruthlessor not, was never questioned.

TheEast India Company spearheaded the establishment of numerous portsall over India. The ports included Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay(Jadunath543).The British were able to achieve their conquest through signingforceful treaties, wars, annexations and alliances with the collapsedadministrative system. The British forced the commercialisation ofagriculture by forcing farmers to grow cash crops to be used as rawmaterials in Britain (William303).The British later introduced formal education to create a class ofwell-educated Indians to take charge of their industries. The learnedIndians would also be offered administrative jobs to help the Britishrule the country. With all these measures, the British established afirm political control over India, leading to the eventual collapseof the Mughal Empire.


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Eraly,Abraham.&nbspTheMughal throne : the saga of India`s great emperors.London: Phoenix, 2004. Print.

Sarkar,Jadunath.&nbspFallof the Mughal Empire.Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1988. Print.