mughal empire

The Mughals or Mogul Dynasty was an empire that ruled most of Northern India extending large parts of the Indian Subcontinent including Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The Mughals originated from a Muslim Persinate dynasty of Chagatai Turco- Mongol origin of modern day Uzbekistan. They ruled from the early 16th to the mid- 18th century. The rulers of the Mughal dynasty descended from Timur and Genghis Khan and it was further well-known by its emperor’s efforts to integrate Hindus and Muslims into a united Indian state.

Babur (1526-1530):

The most prominent emperor among the Mughal rulers were the founder of the dynasty, Babur whose reign was from 1526- 1530, a Central Asian ruler who came to India at the age of 14 years to fulfill his ambitions. He ruled most parts of Northern India after defeating Panipat in 1526. He could not allow the new emperor to consolidate gain due to the obsession with wars and military campaigns.

Humayun (1530-1540):

After Babur’s reign, the dynasty was taken over by his son Humayun at the age of 23 in December 1530. He lost the territories in 1540, but regained those 15 years later with the aid of the Safavid dynasty of Persia and with additional territory. During his rule, the empire was largely influenced by the Persian art, architecture, language and literature. He could successfully expand the empire almost one million square kilometers till the time of his death in 1556, leaving a substantial legacy for his son, Akbar.

Akbar (1556-1605):

Abu’l-Fath Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar popularly known as Akbar was the great ruler of Mughal dynasty who ruled from 1556 to 1561. He succeeded his father, Humayun under a regent, Bairam Khan as Akbar was young and inexperienced when he came into power. Bairam Khan helped Akbar to expand and merge Mughal Empire in India. Akbar was a strong personality and a successful general. The Mughal period is marked as the “Classic period” during his rule in 1556.  He followed great control over military, political, cultural and economic governance, due to which he could extend the empire to entire country. In order to unify the vast Mughal Empire, he established a centralized system of administration and adopted a policy of conciliating conquered rulers through marriage and diplomacy. The Mughal dynasty enjoyed economic progress as well as religious harmony under Akbar’s reign. To elude tribal bonds and Islamic state identity, he strived to unite far- flung lands of his realm through loyalty.

Akbar was also a great patron of art and culture. His love for literature triggered him to create a library of over 24,000 volumes written in various languages including Sanskrit, Hindustani, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic and Kashmiri. Akbar’s court at Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri became centers of the arts, literature and learning. Mughal style of arts, painting and architecture is a combination of Perso- Islamic culture with a blend of indigenous Indian elements.

Akbar promulgated Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic creed which is derived from Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity with a hope to bring about religious unity within his empire. He was chosen as a prophet by a simple monotheistic cult which drew the ire of the ulema and orthodox Muslims. Akbar laid the foundation of multicultural empire. He abolished the sectarian tax on non- Muslims and appointed them to high civil and military posts. He was the first ruler to win the trust and loyalty of the native subjects. He translated Sanskrit literature and participated in native festivals. He believed that a stable empire depends on the co-operation and goodwill of his subjects.

Jahangir (1605-1627):

After Akbar the Mughal empire was succeeded over by his eldest son Jahangir. He was the fourth Mughal ruler from 1605 to 1627. Jahangir’s rule was characterized by political stability, a strong economy and impressive cultural achievements. His curiosity for power, led him to revolt in 1599 when Akbar was engaged in Deccan. Jahangir got defeated but could succeed his father in 1605 because of Ruqaiya Sultan Begum, Salima Sultan Begum and his grandmother Maryam Makani the ladies in Akbar’s harem who put immense effort to support Jahangir win the throne.

The first year of his rule saw a revolt planned by his son Khusrau who was caught later and was brought before his father in manacles. Jahangir blinded his deserter son after getting control over 2000 members of the rebellion. Later, he fought a battle with his rebellious son Khurram in Hindustan. In the year 1623, he had a diplomatic negotiation with Khurram to end the conflict, which had returned political peace to much of India. Jahangir successfully dealt with the Hindu rulers of Rajputana by settling the conflicts with loyalty, which led Jahangir to earn Mughal supremacy and high ranks in the Mughal aristocracy.

Jahangir had a fascination for art, science and architecture. He had an atelier of his own paintings. He patronized the European and Persian arts. Ustad Mansur a renowned painter during Jahangir’s time documented the animals and plants which Jahangir encountered on his military exhibitions or received as donations from emissaries of other countries. Jahangir maintained a huge aviary and a large zoo to keep records of every specimen and organized experiments. The interest for paintings urged his scientific interest for nature. It was during his reign, the Mughal paintings reached great heights. He promoted Persian culture throughout the empire, especially when he got influenced by the Persian Empress, Nur Jahan and her relatives who dominated Mughal politics from 1611. Shalimar garden in Kashmir is the most beautiful garden which is regarded as the best Mughal architecture dated from Jahagir’s reign and the world’s first seamless celestial globe was built by Mughal scientist under the patronage of Jahangir.

Shah Jahan (1627-1658):

Shahabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan (Khurram), the son of Jahangir and his Hindu Rajput wife Taj Bibi Bilquis Makani, was chosen as successor to the throne after the demise of his father in 1627. During the period of his rule, many Mughal architectures were built. One of the best known of which is Taj Mahal at Agra built in the year 1632-1654 as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is counted among the Seven Wonders of the World today.

Shah Jahan got engaged to Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal) in 1593-1631. Mumtaz Mahal was the daughter of Asaf Khan who was serving as Chief Minister in the Mughal court. They belong to an illustrious Persian noble family serving Mughal Emperors from the reign of Akbar. Shah Jahan met Mumtaz at their young age when they engaged but they had to wait five years for marriage, on a date suggested by the astrologers as most auspicious for a happy married life.

Mumtaz Mahal was a politically wise woman. She was the key adviser and confidante to her husband. Later, she was awarded with immense power related to state matters and was also made responsible for the imperial seal that allowed her to review official documents in their final draft. However, she met her death at the age of 37 years due to postpartum hemorrhage, caused by considerable blood loss after a painful labour of thirty hours while giving birth to Gauhara Begum in Burnpur.

Aurangzeb (1658-1707):

The son of Shah Jahan, the sixth emperor of Mughal Empire took Mughal dynasty to the zenith of its territorial expanse. He successfully expanded the empire towards the south to more than 3.2 million square kilometers and ruled over an estimated population in a range of 100-150 million which subjected with an annual yearly tribute of Rs. 2,879,469,894 in 1690. Unfortunately, his policies deserted the legacy of pluralism and led to the downfall of the Mughal Empire.

Mughal Architecture:

Mughal architecture is an amalgamation of Islamic, Persian and Indian architecture. Mughal architecture reached its heights during Shah Jahan period. He built the famous monument, the Taj Mahal as reminiscence for his beloved wife Mumtaj. It was built entirely of white marble at a cost of approximately 32 million rupees. It is a famous World Heritage Site in India. According to Rabindranath Tagore, it is known as the “teardrop on the cheek of time” built between 1630- 1648. Its construction took 22 years and total of around 22,000 laborers and 1000 elephants. The Mahal has a longest plane of symmetry which ran through the entire complex of mirror mosque made in red sandstone. The sarcophagus of Shah Jahan was covered by the symmetry and was placed off centre in the crypt room below the main floor. It was built in such a way so that it complements the Mecca facing mosque constructed to the west of the main structure.

The Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore all were built with the designs and art premeditated by Shah Jahan. The Red fort is built with the red sandstone, is a special building well-known for Diwan-i-Aam and Diwan-i-Khas. The Shalimar Garden was built in the year 1641-1642 is also in the World heritage list of UNESCO.

The Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) in Lahore Fort, Shahjahan Mosque and a section of Sheesh Mahal and Naulakha pavilion all were built during the era of Shah Jahan. He positioned and designed all the architectures so carefully and elegantly that its produces a pleasing effect.

During the reign of Aurangzeb the replacement for squared stone and marble were made by bricks or rubble with stucco ornaments.

The Indo- Mughal architecture Srirangapatna and Lucknow are such examples which were designed during Aurangzeb’s era. Badshahi Mosque was constructed by Aurangzeb in 1674 under the supervision of Fida-i-Koka. It is last series of congregational mosque in red sandstone which was modeled as the one built by Shah Jahan in Shahjanabad. It was made adjacent to the Lahore fort. The Alamgiri gate was built in 1673 A.D to face west towards the Badshahi Mosque. It is main entrance to the Lahore Fort today.

Mughal Arms and Weapons:

The Mughal military forces made used swords, bows and arrows, horses, camels, elephants and some of the world’s largest cannons, muskets and flintlock blunderbusses at the battlefield. Kotah-yaraq is a short arm that is grouped into five classes: swords and shield, maces, battle-axes, spears and daggers. These are commonly used by most of the cavalrymen. To make distant attacks, bows and arrows (Kaman and Tir), the matchlock (Banduq or Tufanq), and pistols were used. The artillerymen i.e. the Topkanah used Rockets for making attacks at the distant places.

The Mughals considered the field artillery the most important and effective type of weapon. It’s used in the battlefield helped in earning victory in many fights.

Decline of Mughal dynasty:

The Mughal Empire felt its terminal decline in the reign of Aurangzeb when the Marathas military revolted against them under the leadership of Shivaji Bhosale. The Marathas routed out the Mughal armies and took over several provinces from the Mughals. These created internal dissatisfaction as the Mughal Empire experienced administrative and economic weakness which led to downturn of the empire. The Nawab of Bengal, Awadh and the Nizam of Hyderabad and other small provinces declared their independence and in 1739, the Mughals were poorly defeated by Nader Shah, the founder of Afsharid dynasty in Persia which left Mughals with limited power and authority over the only city of Shahjahanabad by the last emperor Bahadur Shah II.

Bahadur Shah issued a firman supporting the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The British East India Company followed the defeat and tried for betrayal. They imprisoned and exiled the Mughals to Rangoon. The last leftovers of the Mughals were formally won over by the British, and the Government of India Act 1858 allowed the British Crown to formally enjoy direct control of India.

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