Medieval India

Mughal Empire | Rulers

The Muhgals were the descendents of Mongols and Turks. The rule of Mughal starting from 1526 to 1857 has greatly contributed to the history of India.

Mughal’s Rajput policy vs Afghan policy

Akbar and his successor’s were not in favour of ending Rajput ruling families. They aimed at converting them into subordinate allies. They opposed if ever individuals rather than ruling houses and in case of rebellion or intransigence on the part of a Rajput family. They seemed to have decided to retain Rajput ruling families as an integral part of their political system.

But the Afghans were treated differently. Towards them the Mughals were more stiff and unrelenting. Under stress of circumstances an Afghan prince might be temporarily tolerated as vassal but this was never a part of their general policy.

In Malwa Bihar, Bengal and Orissa a uniform policy was followed – deposition of the ruling Afghan family occupation of as much of their territory as possible and securing the submission of subordinate Afghan nobles by the lure of office and jagir but insisting on the imperial right to transfer them to other jagirs or fresh jobs.

Mughal Empire | Rulers
Mughal Empire | Rulers

The difference in the policy was due to the fact that the Rajputs were true to their word and once they had submitted they regarded rebellion or treachery unworthy of their honour and family pride. But the Afghans being essentially selfish could not always be relied upon. Secondly the Rajputs might have kept the possibility of the establishment of an all – India Empire as a cherished goal in the realm of thought but in practice they were satisfied with mere local autonomy.

The Afghans on the other hand had been the masters of an extensive north-Indian empire and could not wholly divest their political ambition of it. Consequently it was far more difficult for them to become sincerely loyal to their dispossessors. Akbar was conscious of the fact that he had seized sovereignty from the Afghans towards whom strong sections of the people had some tenderness of feeling. Hence continuance of their ruling dynasties was fraught with serious danger to the security of the empire. Akbar never accorded to any non-Rajput ruling family whether Hindu or Muslim the generous treatment reserved exclusively for the Rajputs.


Originally Babar was the ruler of Farghana.In the first Battle of Panipat fought on 21April, 1526 between Babur and Lodhi Emperor Ibrahim Lodhi in which victory of Babur over the Lodhi laid the foundation of Mughal Empire in India.In 1527 Babur defeated Rana Sanga in the Battle of Khanwa.Afghans under Muhmmad Lodhi were defeated by Babur at the Battle of Ghagara in 1529.Babur died at Agra in 1530 but according to his will his body was taken to Kabul and buried there.Babur was a prolific writer as well as poet has written his autobiography Tuzuk-i- Baburi in Chaghatay Turki.


Humayun was the eldest son of Babur .Sher Shah Suri an ambitious ruler of Bengal had fought Humayun in the Battle of Chausa in 1539 in which Humayun was defeated and Mughal force was almost destroyed. In the beginning Humayun was helped by the ruler of Amarkot Rana Virsal where Hamida Banu gave birth to Akbar in 1542. Humayun finally got shelter in the court of Emperor Shah Tahmasp of Persia. Humayun reconquered his Indian empire with the help of Shah of Iran in 1555 by defeating Afghans. He died in 1556. Humayun was passionately devoted to the study of astronomy, loved painting and wrote Persian poetry.

Akbar (1556-1605)

Akbar was born at Amarkot in 1542.At the age of 14 he became the emperor after the death of his father Humayun.Bairam Khan was the regent up to 1560. In 1556 second Battle of Panipat was fought between the Hemu and Mughals which Muhgals won under the generalship of Bairam Khan.Raja Bharmal the Kuchchhwaha King of Amber married his eldest daughter to Akbar and subsequently Raja Bhagwan Das and Man Singh were inducted into the Imperial Mughal service. Almost all Rajput states were subjugated and they submitted to Akbar but the Rana of Mewar continued to defy Mughal suzerainty.

In the battle of Haldighati in 1576, Rana Pratap was defeated by the Mughals under Man Singh.In 1562 Akbar discontinued the practice of enslaving the defeated soldiers in the battles. In 1563 pilgrimage tax was abolished. In 1564 the discriminatory jaziya tax was abolished. In 1575 Ibadatkhana was built at Fetahpur Sekri for religious discussions. Initially only Sunni were allowed later all religious groups such as Shias, Hindus, Christians and Zorastrians were allowed to participate. In 1579 Akbar read the Khutba composed by Faizi in his own name. In September 1579 Mahzar was proclaimed by Akbar which made him the Imam-i-Adil.In 1582 Din-i-Illahi or Tauhid-i-IIahi was started by Akbar which is considered by some historians a new religion started by Akbar.Akbar died in 1605.He was buried at Sikandra.

Akbar’s Conquests

Akbar conquered northern India from Agra to Gujarat and then from Agra to Bengal and the borders of Assam. He strengthened his northwest frontier and then proceeded to subdue the Deccan. He conquered Malwa, Garhkatanga and Gondwana, Gujarat and Bengal, Kashmir and Baluchistan, Sind, Orissa, Qandahar,Kandesh and a part of Ahmed Nagar. After the conquest of Malwa the way to Gujarat lay open. It was a rich province commanding a large share of India’s trade with western Asia and Europe through its port of Cambay.In 1572 Akbar invaded Gujarat. The Mughals got free access to the sea .The conquest of Gujarat brought the Mughals in contact with the Portuguese. Raja Todar Mal made his first revenue settlement in Gujarat. After this Akbar turned his attention to Bengal and Bihar and annexed them to his Empire.

In 1585 Akbar moved to the north west frontier in order to foil the attempts of the ambitious Abdullah Khan Uzbek to seize Kabul and stayed there until Abdullah Khan’s death in 1598.During his presence he send three expeditions from his camp at Hasan Abdal .One left for Kashmir and another set out against Baluchistan. The third force went to Afghan tribes and an Afghan religious movement called the Raushaniyas.His early military campaigns against the Raushaniyas and the tribes were unsuccessful. Raja Bhagwan Das one of the generals of the Kashmir expedition succeeded in persuading Yusuf Khan the last ruler of Kashmir to surrender. Akbar refused to accept his terms and instead had him and his son arrested. The army sent by Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1586 and it was made a sarkar of Kabul province. The army sent against Baluchistan persuaded the Baluchi chiefs to surrender and in 1590 Sind was also conquered.

Early in Akbar’s reign the Shah of Iran had captured Qandahar so Akbar sent an army under his general Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan.The governor of Qandahar surrendered and it became a part of the Mughal Empire. The Mughal boundaries extending from Sind, Baluchistan, Kabul and Kashmir to the Hindu Kush were the strongest line of defense that had ever existed in India.

Also one by one all the Rajput states were subjugated and they submitted to Akbar. His earliest campaigns were against Durgawati of Garhkatanga followed by Chittor against Rana Uday Singh and Ranthambhore against Rao Surjan Hada. The Mughals captured the two powerful forts of Rajasthan Ranthambhor and Chittor guarded by Jaimal. But the Rana of Mewar continued to defy Mughal authority despite several defeats particularly in the battle of Haldighati in 1576 in which Rana Pratap was defeated by the Mughal army under Man Singh.

After completing the conquest of Northern India Akbar diverted his attention towards the Deccan. In 1596 Berar was ceded to the Mughals. In the second siege of Ahmadnagar Chand Bibi was killed and it was conquered in 1600 AD. In 1601 the fort of Asirgarh was captured and Kandesh was annexed to the Mughal Empire. Akbar intended to deal with the kingdoms of Bijapur,Golconda and Bidar but he had to leave the Deccan following prince Salims’s revolt .

Jahangir (1605-1627)

Prince Salim ascended the throne in 1695.He assumed the title of Jahangir.He issued 12 ordinances after becoming emperor. In 1611 he married Mehrunnissa who was later on called Nur Jahan, her father Gyas Beg was given the title of Itmaduddaulah. During Jahangir’s time relations with Rajput of Mewar improved and Amar Singh submitted in 1615 to the Mughal.The practice of enrolling Marathas into the Mughal army and nobility was started.

In 1606 Jahangir’s son Khusrau revolted but defeated and imprisoned. Guru Arjun Dev 5th Guru of Sikhs was beheaded on the charge of blessing Khusaru.In 1625 Mahabat Khan imprisoned Jahangir and Nurjahan.Jahangir wrote Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri in Persian. During his time painting reached to its zenith in Mughal court.Jahangir died in 1627 at Bhimbar in Kashmir. He is buried at Dilkush garden in Lahore.

Shah Jahan (1627-1658)

Prince Khurram succeeded Jahangir and adopted the title of Shah Jahan in 1627. In 1607 Jahangir had granted him a Mansab of 800 zat. In 1632 Portuguese were defeated by him near Hugli.In 1612 Shahjahan married Anjumand Bano Begum who later became famous as Mumtaz Mahal.In 1636 Ahmadnagar was annexed by Shahjahan.His reign is described by French travelor Bernier and Taverier and the Italian traveler Manucci.

In 1638 Ali Mardan Khan the Persian governor of Khandhar surrendered the port to the Mughal government of Kabul. Bundelas under Jujhar Singh rebelled during the Shahjahan reign.In the end of his reign there was a bloody war of succession among his sons in which Aurangzeb become successful due to Shahjahan; favour to Dara Shikoh to the throne.Aurangzeb imprisoned Shahjahan at Agra Fort and he died in captivity in 1666.He was buried besides his wife’s grave in Taj Mahal.

Aurangzeb (1658-1707)

Aurangzeb ruled for almost 50 years. During his long reign the Mughal Empire reached its territorial climax. At its height it stretched from Kashmir in the north to Jinji in the south and from the Hindukush in the west to Chittagong in the east. But much of the Aurangzeb’s time was spent in trying to put down revolts in different parts of the empire.Aurangzeb sent his army to the Deccan to curtail the rising Maratha power and to prevent them from overpowering the kingdoms of Bijapur and Golconda.

Aurangzeb Deccan Policy

Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy was influenced partly by imperial interests and partly by the religious considerations.

In Deccan Aurangzeb failed to assess the situation realistically hence unable to take actions.Shivaji had carved out an independent Maratha state in the territories north and south of Konkan. To contain the Marathas Aurangzeb invaded Bijapur under Sikandar Adil Shah and annexed it in 1686.This brought an end to Adil Shahi dynasty. Bijapur became the seat of the Mughal provincial governor.

Aurangzeb ordered attack against Abul Hassan Qutub Shah of Golconda. In 1687 the Mughal army entered the fort and Golconda was annexed to Mughal Empire. After the downfall of Bijapur and Golconda Aurangzeb concentrated all his forces against the Marathas.

In 1689 Sambhaji was taken captive and executed and his son Sahu was captured. Aurangzeb gave Sahu the mansab of 7000 and treated him well. But he misjudged the strength of Marathas. The Marathas recovered themselves and commenced a people’s war which exhausted Aurangzeb’s treasury and compelled him to be on the defensive.

The war booty from Golconda and Bijapur was insufficient to cover the cost of the last phase of the Deccan wars. The reputation of the Mughal army was undermined by continuous rebellions and attacks from the Marathas in the Deccan. Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 finally brought to an end on the Deccan. What caused the real breakdown of the Mughal Empire was his faulty Deccan policy.

Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy can be divided into four phases
Phase-I (1658-68)
It was led by Jai Singh.The Mughals failed to lay siege on Bijapur in 1665 and Jai Singh died in 1667.

Phase-II (1668-84)
It was unsuccessful because of a tripartite alliance between Golconda,Shivaji and Bijapur in which Madanna and Akanna played a crucial role.

This phase saw the capture of Bijapur (1686) and Golconda (1687).

In this phase Sambhaji the son and successor of Shivaji was captured and executed.

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