Saturday, October 31, 2009

Siraj Ud Daulah captures Calcutta

The Battle of Plassey

As the East India Company grew in size so did its lust for power. The decline of the Mughal empire and the rise of regional provinces like Bengal, presented the Company an opportunity for political interference. In 1740, Nawab Alivardi Khan of Bengal became practically independent. In 1756, his death led to a power struggle between his widow Ghasiti Begum and grandson Siraj Ud Daulah who became the Nawab of Bengal.

The company's support for Ghasiti Begum earned it the wrath of Siraj. The Company also started fortifying the Fort William without the Nawab's permission. On 20th June 1756, Siraj attacked and took over Fort William. Many of the English prisoners, who were imprisoned in a tiny room, died. This is often portrayed as the Black Hole of Calcutta. Many believe that the incident has been greatly exaggerated to suit the purpose of the Company.

The Company Fights back

The company sent in relief troops from Fort St. George of the Madras headquarters. The troops led by Robert Clive and Admiral Watson retook Calcutta on 2nd January, 1757. The treaty of Alinagar was signed between the Nawab and the Company.

However Clive's military ambitions were on the ascendancy. His troops captured the French settlement of Chandernagore. He tempted Siraj's uncle Mir Jafar to ally with him in exchange for the Nawab's position. On 23rd June, 1757, the Company troops marched against Siraj. Betrayed by his own men Siraj was defeated in the Battle of Plassey, which is said to have lasted only a few hours. He was soon assassinated in his capital Murshidabad. From being traders, the Company turned kingmakers in Bengal and Mir Jafar was installed as the new Nawab. Clive got his pound of flesh from the Nawab in terms of 234,000 pounds and was awarded an annual salary of 30,000 pounds per year. This made him one of the richest Britons in the world. The company also secure rights over a large area south of Calcutta. Construction of a new Fort William was started and was completed in 16 years in 1773. These events led to the rise of Calcutta and the decline of Murshidabad.

War of Deccan

Dupleix and French Policy

Two principal factories on the east coast of India were the British station at Fort St. George, now Madras, and the French station at Pondicherry, eighty miles farther south. The first man who seems to have entertained definite notions about building up a European sovereignty upon the ruins of the Mogul Empire was Dupleix, the French Governor at Pondicherry. His long residence in the East had given him knowledge of Indian affairs that few Europeans possessed. His restless, capacious, and inventive mind had formed this scheme at a time when the oldest servants of the English Company were busied only about invoices and bills of lading. Nor had he only proposed for himself the end. He had also a just and distinct view of the means by which it was to be attained.

He clearly saw that the greatest force which the princes of India could bring into the field would be no match for the small body of men trained in the discipline and guided by the tactics of the West. He saw, also, that the natives of India might, under European commanders, be formed into armies such as Saxe or Frederick would be proud to command. He was perfectly aware that the most easy and convenient way in which a European adventurer could exercise sovereignty in India was to govern the motions, and speak through the mouth, of some glittering puppet dignified by the title of Nabob or Nizam. The arts, both of war and policy, which the English employed a few years later with such signal success, were first understood and practiced by this ingenious and aspiring Frenchman.

In 1748 the Nizam of the Deccan died. Two claimants for the throne appeared in the persons of Nazir Jung, son of the old Nizam, and Mirzapha Jung, a grandson. About the same time an adventurer, Chunda Sahib, set up a claim for the throne of the Carnatic against Anaverdy Khan, the reigning prince. Here was the opportunity for Dupleix to carry his long-cherished plans into execution. He espoused the cause of Chunda Sahib in the Carnatic, and sent four hundred French soldiers to his assistance. A battle was fought and Anaverdy Khan was killed. His son Mohammed Ali fled with a scanty remnant of his army to Trichinopoly, and nearly all the Carnatic submitted to the conqueror.

Next Dupleix lent his French soldiers to Mirzapha Jung, who in a short time became master of the Deccan. The new sovereigns showered wealth and favors upon the successful Frenchman. He was declared governor of a territory in India as large as all France, with a population of 50,000,000 people. He was placed in command of the largest military force of the country. He was presented with a million dollars in money and many valuable jewels. Neither the Nizam nor the Nabob concluded any affairs of moment without his advice and consent. He was, in fact, invested with sovereign powers, and French influence in Southern India was paramount and seemingly firmly established.

The triumph of the French arms carried consternation to the British factory at St. George. Unless the victorious career of Dupleix could be stayed, not only would British influence be destroyed, but also the very existence of their trading posts would soon be at an end. At this time the government of St. George was feeble. The military officers in command were without experience. Everything betokened speedy and irretrievable ruin. In this emergency the valor and genius of an obscure English youth suddenly turned the tide of fortune.

The Anglo-French Struggle

Since the 15th century when Europeans first arrived in India the fight for supremacy between rival factions became a part of the Indian history. But the Anglo-French struggles should get special mentions, as there role in shaping the course of modern India is far more important than that of any other contemporary struggles.

The actual onset of the struggles arose from Anglo-French commercial and political rivalry in India and political rivalry in Europe. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century the French stake in India was not great enough to be worth the despatch of an English armament. The two companies therefore declared neutrality and went on trading. But between 1720 and 1740 the French Company's trade increased ten times in value until it was nearly half that of the old-established English company at about Pound 880,000.

The stake of both countries in India was now considerable. The British were deeply involved with indigo, saltpetre, cottons, silk, and spices; they had a growing, trade with China and a strong vested interest in England itself in the form of shipping and stores brokers. The value of the trade was more than ten per cent of the public revenue of Great Britain at that time.

The occasion for intervention arose with Frederick the Great of Prussia's seizure of Silesia in 1740. In the war of the Austrian Succession, which followed (1740-48) Britain and France were on the opposite sides in the rival coalitions. It is these wars, of wholly European origin, which provided the political turning point in the history of modern India. In 1746 a French fleet made possible the capture of Madras. In 1748 a British fleet made an unsuccessful attempt to capture Pondicherry. Madras was again exchanged between the French and the British by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

Maratha raids Bengal

Marathas & Bengal

Maratha Raids a scourge in eighteenth-century Bengal were a sequel to Maratha rivalry with the Mughals. Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals, had started operations for the annexation of the entire Deccan and his ever-extending warfare affected the Marathas. His attempt to win the Maratha chiefs by grant of mansabs ultimately proved a failure. Some Maratha chiefs were won over, but others took their place in building new fortunes by ravaging Mughal districts. The name (Bargi) by which these Maratha raiders are known in Bengal is a corruption of bargir, meaning the lowest clans of Maratha common soldiers whose arms and horses were supplied by the state, as contrasted with soldiers who owned their own horses and equipment. The Marathas ravaged the country and brought untold miseries to the people.

During the period of the later Mughals, the most important challenge to their power came from the Marathas, whose armies overran the whole of India under the Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761). Between 1742 and 1751 Bengal was repeatedly invaded and, in 1751, the Bengal Nawab had to cede Orissa to the Marathas.

A Maratha army from Nagpur invaded Burdwan district in early April 1742. Nawab alivardi khan arrived at Burdwan from Cuttack on 15 April 1742. The Marathas under Bhaskar Pandit cut off his grain supply, and another group plundered the country for forty miles around. Alivardi broke through the cordon after a desperate attempt and reached Katwa on 26 April. Mir Habib, a Persian peer of the nawab betrayed him and joined the Marathas at this time. He guided their operations with all his local knowledge. His extraordinary ability and implacable enmity towards Alivardi Khan gave to the Maratha incursion into Bengal its long-drawn and murderous character.

Alivardi Khan (1740-1756) nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Originally known as Mirza Muhammad Ali, he was the son of Mirza Muhammad, an Arab by descent and an employee at the court of Azam Shah, second son of Aurangzeb. His mother belonged to the Turki tribe of Afshar settled in Khurasan. His grandfather was a foster brother of Aurangzeb. On his attaining adulthood, Azam Shah appointed him as the superintendent of the filkhana (elephant stables); he was also given charge of the zardozkhana (department of embroidered clothes). The death of Azam Shah in a battle in 1707 and the consequent loss of employment put Mirza Muhammad Ali's family in great trouble. For his livelihood he came to Bengal in 1720 with his wife and daughters in a state of penury.

But Murshid Quli Khan, the nawab of Bengal, did not receive him kindly. He proceeded to Cuttack, where he was received by Shujauddin Muhammad Khan with due honour. He was initially appointed to a post carrying a monthly salary of Rs one hundred and subsequently elevated to a higher rank as a reward for his satisfactory and faithful services, notably, in reducing to submission some refractory zamindars of Orissa, effecting satisfactory arrangements for the administration of the villages belonging to those zamindars, and effectively reforming the department of finance. Orissa, thus, served as the practising ground in administrative affairs for Mirza Muhammad Ali, who was destined to be the future subahdar of Bengal.

Besides his satisfactory work in Orissa, Mirza Muhammad Ali helped Shujauddin considerably in securing the masnad of Bengal after the death of the latter's father-in-law Murshid Quli Khan. Shujauddin bestowed rewards and favours on members of Mirza Muhammad Ali's family in recognition of his sound advice and meritorious services. Mirza Muhammad Ali was appointed faujdar of the chakla Akbarnagar (rajmahal) in 1728 and was invested with the title of 'Alivardi'. The people of Rajmahal enjoyed peace and prosperity under the efficient administration of their new faujdar.

Alivardi became the principal adviser of Shujauddin in all affairs of state. The nawab placed so much reliance on Alivardi's advice that he used to summon him once a year from Rajmahal to murshidabad to help him in the transaction of the political and fiscal affairs of the subah. When, in 1732, Emperor Muhammad Shah added Bihar to the Bengal subah (Bihar remained an appendage of the Bengal government from then till 1912) and automatically placed it under Nawab Shujauddin, the nawab did not think it advisable to keep the entire charge of Bihar and Bengal under himself and appointed Alivardi naib nazim of Bihar in 1733. A few days before Alivardi received this new appointment, his youngest daughter amina begum, married to his youngest nephew Zainuddin Ahmad Khan, had given birth to a son, sirajuddaula. Alivardi had no son of his own; he adopted the child as his successor, and made him an object of special favour and affection, as his birth was synchronous with his elevation to that high post. After his stay at Azimabad (Patna) for one full year he was summoned to Murshidabad by Shujauddin, who bestowed him with the title of Mahabat Jang and the rank of panch hazari mansabdar, after which he returned to Azimabad.

During the nawab's stay at Katwa, Mir Habib lured Bhaskar Pandit with the prospect of boundless plunder, to make a sudden dash to his capital during his absence. On 6 May 1742 Bhaskar Pandit's Maratha raiders reached Dahipara, a suburb of murshidabad, burnt its bazars, and then crossing over to Murshidabad itself plundered it, taking three lakhs of rupees from the house of the banker jagat sheth alone. Alivardi arrived to save his capital in the morning of 7 May. The raiders retreated to Katwa, and a line of burning villages marked their track. From the month of June Katwa became the headquarters of a Maratha army of occupation. Mir Habib acted as their chief adviser and agent. Early in July he managed with the help of his friends in Hughli to imprison the drunken faujdar of the district, Muhammad Reza, and a Maratha garrison under Shesh Rao was stationed there. Thus, the districts west of the Ganges, from rajmahal to Medinipur and Jessore, passed into the hands of Maratha invaders, and Shesh Rao was installed as their governor. Mir Habib acted as the diwan of Bengal on behalf of the Marathas, and summoned the zamindars to pay chauth to the Maratha administration. Many people abandoned their homes and migrated to the eastern side of the Ganges in order to save the honour of their women.

Occasional Maratha raids also threatened the nawab’s rule in the area east of the Ganges. Roving Maratha bands committed wanton destruction and unspeakable outrage in territories from which the Nawab's authority had disappeared. Due to Maratha plundering merchants and weavers fled away from Birbhum. Maratha devastation in other areas scared away the weavers of silk products. The adangs (silk and cloth factories and emporia) were deserted; food grains became scarce, trade laboured under every disadvantage.

Alivardi decided to attack the Marathas before the drying of the roads (during the monsoon recess), which might provide the light Deccani horse its natural advantage. Early in the morning of 27 September 1742 the nawab's troops made a surprise charge upon the sleeping Maratha camp of Bhaskar Pandit at Katwa; the Marathas fled, leaving behind all their camp and baggage. Bhaskar recalled his troops from all their outposts in Bengal and led the fugitives into Medinipur district where he looted and burnt Radhanagar, a famous silk-rearing centre, and took up position at Narayangarh. Alivardi marched in person and recovered Cuttack, driving the Marathas beyond Chilka Lake in December 1742. He returned to Murshidabad in triumph on 9 February 1743.

Due to his declining authority, the Mughal emperor was compelled to agree to pay chauth for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to Raja Shahu who, it is said, had assigned it to Raghuji Bhonsle, the raja of Nagpur. But, in the meantime, the Mughal emperor had appealed for help to Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao, the rival and personal enemy of Raghuji. The peshwa had agreed in November 1742 to eject Raghuji from Bengal by force. Raghuji, however, was bent upon exacting the chauth and in early March 1743 he arrived at Katwa along with Bhaskar Pandit.

The peshwa entered Bihar with a strong force from the south in early February 1743. From Benares he traversed the plains, hills and jungles of Bihar and took the road to Murshidabad. After exchanging oaths of friendship, the peshwa and the nawab agreed on 30 March 1743 that the nawab would pay the chauth for Bengal to Raja Shahu, and also Rs. 22 lakh to the peshwa for the expenses of his army, while Shahu undertook to effect a final settlement with Raghuji, who would not trouble Bengal in future.

Raghuji on hearing of these two allies advancing together against him decamped from Katwa to Birbhum. The peshwa made a rapid cavalry dash, leaving the slow Bengal army behind, overtook Raghuji on 10 April 1743, drove him away into the western hills with heavy loss of men and baggage. Raghuji took the road to Sambalpur and then returned to Puna. The nine months from June 1743 to February 1744 passed in peace. The Maratha invasions of the past two years doubled Alivardi's army expenses, while his coffers had been exhausted as a result of the subsidy exacted from him by the peshwa. The nawab had paid him 22 lakhs of rupees for ensuring protection against all the Bargi raids. But in return, Nawab Alivardi did not get the assured peace. He was utterly bewildered by the revival of the Maratha menace at the beginning of March 1744, when Bhaskar Pandit again invaded Bengal by way of Orissa and Medinipur. The two Maratha chiefs, the peshwa and Raghuji settled their differences through the mediation of Shahu on 31 October 1743. By this arrangement the portion of Bihar lying west of Patna and including Shahabad and Tikari, yielding 12 lakhs of rupees a year, was assigned to the peshwa. Raghuji Bhonsle was to enjoy Bengal, Orissa, and the portion of Bihar east of Patna.

Alivardi Khan now indulged in a treacherous tactics to scare away the Maratha invaders. He invited Bhaskar Pandit and his captains to an interview with him for making a peaceful settlement of the question of chauth of Bengal. The meeting was to take place in a huge tent set up at Mankara on 31 March 1744. On entering the tent, assassins hidden behind the screens massacred Bhaskar Pandit and 21 of his captains, and all the Maratha detachment vacated Bengal and Orissa. This incident gave the three eastern provinces peace and prosperity for fifteen months.

Alivardi's campaign for the recovery of Orissa from Mir Habib started towards the end of 1746. His general mir jafar defeated Habib's lieutenant Sayyid Nur in a decisive battle near Medinipur town. But Mir Habib came up from the south of Balasore and was soon afterwards joined by the Maratha force under Janoji Bhonsle (son of Raghuji). At the news of this turn of events, Mir Jafar fled to Burdwan, abandoning Medinipur district. Alivardi defeated Janoji in a severely contested battle near Burdwan in March 1747. The baffled Maratha raiders fled back to Medinipur. Murshidabad and Burdwan districts were cleared of them. The nawab returned to his capital and stayed there during the rainy season. During the whole of 1748, the Marathas remained in undisturbed possession of Orissa and the territory up to Medinipur. In March 1749 Alivardi set out to reconquer Orissa. Fighting a few skirmishes the Marathas constantly fled further and further. By the middle of June 1749 the reconquest of Orissa was completed. But only a week after Alivardi had marched out of Cuttack in June 1749, the Marathas under Mir Habib defeated and captured Alivardi's agent. The old and exhausted Alivardi returned to Medinipur to close the path of Maratha raids from Orissa into Bengal.

At the end of February 1750 the Marathas resumed their raids into Bengal. On 6 March 1750 Mir Habib arrived near Murshidabad and plundered the country around. So Alivardi quickly fell back from Medinipur to Burdwan. The raiders disappeared into the jungles and the nawab returned to Medinipur (April 1750) to guard that frontier post. Mir Habib had gained nothing from the barren province of Orissa in these years and his raids into Bengal had always failed due to Alivardi's vigilance and vigour. He, therefore, entered into a peace treaty with Alivardi according to which Mir Habib would become a servant of Alivardi and act as a naib-nazim (deputy governor) of Orissa on his behalf. Alivardi was to pay 12 lakhs of rupees as chauth for Orissa and the surplus revenue of the province to Raghuji. The Maratha government agreed not to set foot in Alivardi's domains again. But with Mir Habib's assassination by the Maratha troops on 24 August 1752, Alivardi lost his control over Orissa once again, and the province came under Maratha occupation.

The repeated Maratha raids proved disastrous for Bengal. The untold miseries of the people were so severe that the incident came to be referred to in a popular lullaby. The repeated failure of crops added to the miseries of the people. The burning of villages by Maratha raiders struck terror in the minds of the people, which in turn led to large-scale migration to the districts east of the Ganges, where the density of population increased, causing various economic problems. The economic effects sapped the financial strength of the Bengal nawab, which in turn led to the disaster, which was to befall his successor in the near future.

Accession of Baji Rao Peshwa at Poona

Bajirao Peshwa

Baji Rao Peshwa became Peshwa at the age of 20. There was criticism against appting a person so young but Raja Shahu was committed to the appt. Besides by the circumstances of his upbringing and inclination, he lacked the will to assert himself and be bothered about the details of administration. The subsequent Maratha rulers refused to accept the treaty of 1719 referred to above, accept Maratha claims on Gujarat and Malwa. The Nizam, Mir Qamar-ud-din used the Marathas to overcome his Mughal rivals but refused to cooperate with the Marathas in recovering chauth from Karnatak. Attempting to break away from the Marathas shackles he shifted capital from Aurangabad to Hyderabad.

Eventually the Nizam was overcome in 1728 in the battle of Palkhed. The Peshwa marched towards Aurangabad but avoided taking the enemy headon. Instead he moved towards Gujarat with the Nizams army in hot pursuit. The pursuit was abandoned in the hilly tract and the Nizam occupied Pune instead. The Peshwa now attacked the Nizams capital, Aurangabad and was challenged for action in a waterless tract near Palkhed. Starved of food and water, the Nizam sent word to the Peshwa asking for peace.

The growing ambition of Bajirao coupled with the independent streak of the various chieftains was bound to result in conflict, the area being Gujarat. While the Peshwa, elated by his victories was in no mood to give up claims on Northern Gujarat, others like the Gaikwars, Bhonsle, Pawars were opposed to the Peshwa’s designs. At this stage the young Dabhade made a tactical blunder of holding secret negotiations with the Nizam to seek his help. Getting a whiff of this, the Peshwa invaded Gujarat and defeated the combined forces of the Senapati / Nizam. This victory form a landmark in the history of the Peshwa’s as it left them without a rival at home. Through a series of attacks on the Sidis of Janjira ( near Mumbai), the Peshwa reduced the territories under their control and became in all but name a tributary of the Marathas.

Realizing the weakness of the Mughal empire, the Peshwa pursued his northward expansion drive with zeal. He brought Malwa, Gujarat and Bundelkhand ( parts of Western, central U.P.) under Maratha control, thereby, for the first time in the history of Bharat making Deccan as the point of controlling Hindustan. In October 1730, Malhar rao Holkar and Ranoji Sindia were granted the jagir of Malwa with them making Indore and Ujjain their headquarters. The Peshwa’s march to Delhi started with his arrival in northern Bundelkhand just about 70 kms of Agra. Malhar Rao Holkar lost to the Governor of Avadh, S Khan forcing the Peshwa to make a tactical retreat. While the Mughals were celebrating their victory, the Peshwa took a detour through modern day Haryana and descended on Delhi. On reaching Delhi he changed his mind and decided not to attack. Through some misunderstanding, the Mughals attacked the Peshwa’s forces only to be routed. The successful march had led to a surge in the Peshwa’s reputation and generated awe in the enemy’s camps.

Unable to accept the growing might of the Peshwa’s, the Mughals invited the Nizam and other Rajput chiefs to join hands and push the Peshwa to south of the Narmada. Through a series of strategic moves, the Peshwa’s cut off supply lines to the various parts of this alliance, defeated them and forced the Nizam to beg the signing a treaty in 1738. Called the victory of Bhopal, it marks the zenith of the Peshwa’s career. It also implied the arrival of a new power in Hindustan. The Nizam failed to keep his promise of ratifying the terms of the treaty. Serious doubts assailed the mind of the Peshwa’s strategy that allowed the Nizam to escape in 1728 ( Palkhed ) and 1738 ( Bhopal ).

While Bajirao was overrunning Hindustan, his brother Chimnaji Appa defeated the Portuguese in 1740 ending their rule in North Konkan. The persecution of all those who did not conform to the Christian doctrine forced the Hindu leaders to secretly invite the Portuguese to free them of foreign rule. The conquest of Bassein was long cherished by the Marathas as a matter of national pride and glory.

The last few years of the Bajirao’s life were clouded by domestic discord. He was fond of a mistress and drank, ate meat in her company. He passed away in 1740. In the words of Sir Richard Temple, “ he died as he lived, in camp under canvas among his men and he is remembered to this day among the Marathas as the fighting Peshwa and the incarnation of Hindu energy.”

Besides securing the Deccan, he was the first Marath to go on the offensive in Hindustan. If Shivaji created a Maratha state, Bajirao transformed it into an empire. While he extracted revenue ably, he paid no heed to the problems of governance. He was a matchless cavalry leader but not a statesmen, far sighted reformer. The Jagir system vested more money in the hands of satraps like Holkars making Bajirao die with a debt of Rs 14 lacs. A centralized monarchy might have changed history. Net net, he gave the Maratha state stability, secured its freedom and opened prospects for expansion.

Death of Aurangzeb

End of the Emperor

Of all the men who sat upon the throne in Delhi no name evokes such an image of somber grandeur as that of Aurangzeb. His rule, which stretched across nearly half a century of Indian history, ended with his death in 1707. Despite Aurangzeb's personal hostility to the arts and his removal of the seat of government to the south, Delhi remained an artistic and cultural center and the foremost city of the empire.


During the years that followed the death of Sambhaji, the Marathas continued at intervals to plunder Ahmadnagar territories. If it was the emperor's idea that, Maratha resistance could be stifled after the death of Sambhaji, he was entirely wrong. Under the leadership of Rajaram who was proclaimed king, Ramchandrapant Amatya, Pralhad Niraji, Sahtaji Ghorpade, Dhanaji Jadhav and other Maratha noblemen carried on the struggle against the Moghal invaders inspite of the fall of Rayagad and capture of Yesubai and Shahu, the son of Sambhaji. The Marathas carried the war into the very heart of Moghal territory, the theatre of war stretching from Burhanpur in the north to Jinji in the south, which Rajaram had put up as his headquarters. The Maratha commanders destroyed the Moghal field armies and crippled the material resources of the Moghal generals. It was difficult for the emperor to cope with the Maratha system of warfare.

In 1699 under Raiaram the combined Maratha troops entered Gangthadi claiming the chauth or one-fourth and the sardeshmukhi or extra tenth as their established right. All who submitted to these demands were protected, such of the Moghal garrisons who remained passive were not molested, and those who opposed were put to the sword. On this occasion the Maratha exactions were unusually systematic. Where they could not secure ready money they took promissory notes from the heads of villages according to the practice introduced by Shivaji. When he had nearly completed his tour Rajaram left Haibatrav Nimbalkar in Gangthadi to collect what they termed the outstanding balances. Haibatrav, when appointed to this duty, was styled Sar Lashkar, and received the Jari Patka or golden streamer. At this moment of triumph, the Maratha nation suffered a tragic loss in the death of Rajaram who found the strain of camp-life unbearable. He died at Sinhgad on 2nd March 1700. After the death of Rajaram, Dhanaji Jadhav spread his horse in every quarter and performed many signal exploits.

Rajarams’s reign was an eventful one paving the way for the future greatness of the Marathas. Credit goes to his wise councilors and brave generals. A significant change in military administration by him was the system of granting lands to the military commanders in lieu of cash as followed by Shivaji. This single change was greatly responsible for the expansion and the fall of the Maratha Empire. Rajaram died in 1700 to be succeeded by his 4 yr old son Shivaji III whose mother was Tarabai. A capable administrator, she inspired valor amongst her followers, guided military operations moving to different forts.

And so ended the reign of Shivaji and Rajaram. Shivaji laid the foundations for the Maratha Empire and the Peshwas capitalized on his efforts.

Sambhaji Raje

Sambhaji's Execution

Early in 1685 Aurangzeb moved his armies to the south and invested Bijapur on 27th March. Bijapur capitulated on 12th September 1686. Golkonda was then invaded on 28th January 1687 and was captured on 1st October 1687. During the course of these invasions, the main attention of the emperor had been withdrawn from the Maratha country. Prince Akbar again and again urged Sambhaji to make a sudden sweep upon the emperor's central camp and effecting a complete rout of his powerful armies. But either Sambhaji was half-hearted in his promises to Akbar or he did not feel himself equal to that task so that a magnificent opportunity was lost. Akbar therefore in sheer desperation gave up his attempts to secure the throne and escaped to Iran where he reached in January 1688. During Aurangzeb's campaign against Bijapur and Golkonda Sambhaji kept his residence at Panhala and shortly before in the beginning of 1685 his troops passing through Ahmadnagar district devastated the Moghal territory from Aurangabad to Burhanpur carrying away enormous booty. But now Aurangzeb was free to devote his entire resources against Sambhaji and one of the Moghal Generals Sharza Khan invaded Satara district.

A kind of encircling movement began against Sambhaji and on 1st February 1689 Sambhaji was trapped at Sangameshwar. The news was received by the emperor at Akluj. He at once left Akluj and proceeded to Bahadurgad where the captives were brought under the guard of Hamiduddin Khan. Under emperor's order Sambhaji was made a mark of public ridicule. Four miles away from the camp Sambhaji and Kavi Kalash were dressed as buffoons in long fool's caps with bells fixed on them. They were then mounted on camels and brought to Babadurgad where they were slowly paraded through the entire camp and brought before the emperor after which they were removed to their cell. Next day Aurangzeb sent Ruhulla Khan to Sambhaji making him an offer of his life on condition that

(1) he surrendered all his forts,
(2) disclosed all his hidden treasures and
(3) declared the names of those Mughal officers who were in league with him.

Sambhaji whose heart was swelling under the insults heaped upon him spurned the offer and loosened his tongue in abuse of the emperor and his prophet. The consequences were obvious. The helpless prisoners were cruelly tortured and then removed from Bahadurgad to Koregaon where they were executed on 11th March 1689.

Death of Shah Jahan

The Emperor on Death Bed

SHAH JAHAN, Mogul emperor of Delhi, the fifth of the dynasty. After revolting against his father Jahangir, as the latter had revolted against Akbar, he succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in 1627. It was during his reign that the Mogul power attained its greatest prosperity. The chief events of his reign were the destruction of the kingdom of Ahmadnagar (1636), the loss of Kandahar to the Persians (1653), and a second war against the Deccan princes (1655). In 1658 he fell ill, and was confined by his son Aurangzeb in the citadel of Agra until his death in 1666.

Shah Jahan’s life, which began in 1592 with happy ceremonies, wouldn’t have ended in a more tragic way. He spent the last eight years of his life sequestered in a part of the Agra fort; only Jahanara, his sincere daughter was allowed to visit him. Yet His only consolation was that from his prison window, he could see his unique architectural work Taj Mahal, though he couldn’t visit.

During those eight years, Shah Jahan’s soul had always yearned for visiting Taj Mahal where his beloved wife lay buried and it only rested when he followed her and was at last buried beside her.

The period of his reign was the golden age of Indian architecture. Shah Jahan erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, built as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal; while the Pearl Mosque at Agra and the palace and great mosque at Delhi also commemorate him. The celebrated Peacock Throne, said to have been worth 6,000,000 also dates from his reign; and he was the founder of the modern city of Delhi, the native name of which is Shahjahanabad.

Emperor Aurangzeb

Prelude to Aurangzeb's Reign

Shah Jahan was a bigoted Muslim and a confirmed nepotist. He provided for the imperial princes before anyone else in the matter of administrative and judicial postings regardless of age, capability and talent. He also started the practice of conferring the cream of the offices on each prince; like Dara Shikoh was made the governor of Punjab and Multan, Aurangzeb was appointed governor of all the four provinces of the Deccan and so on. This might have been just a clever way to keep them occupied, but that was not how the nobility viewed it. The nobles saw this, and rightfully so, as an obstacle in the path of their promotions.

However, the end of Shah Jahan's reign did not live up to the beginning; it saw one of the messiest battles of succession (also see History in Delhi) that Indian history ever witnessed. In September 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill. The prognosis was so unoptimistic that the rumors had it that the emperor was dead. This was enough to spark off intense intrigue in the court. All the four claimants to Shah Jahan's throne were the children of the same mother – although one would never have guessed that from their temperaments and their determination to make it to the throne.

In 1657, Dara Shikoh was 43, Shah Shuja 41, Aurangzeb 39 and Murad 33. All of them were governors of various provinces: Dara was the governor of Punjab, Murad of Gujrat, Aurangzeb of the Deccan and Shah Shuja of Bengal. Two of them emerged clear frontrunners in the battle for the throne quite early: Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb was with doubt the ablest of Shah Jahan's sons and a clear favorite for the throne. His credentials both in battle and administration were legendary. He was also an orthodox Muslim of the oldest school possible, which made him a hot favorite with the clergy.

As stated earlier, the actual events, which unfolded around Shah Jahan’s illness, were confused. Aiding and abetting the confusion with every word and gesture, for his own aims and purposes, was the favorite son Dara Shikoh. Aurangzeb did not waste much time. Acting on Dara Shikoh's behalf, Aurangzeb along with Murad met the Mughal armies twice in battle, and beat them each time while moving on relentlessly towards Agra, where Shah Jahan was convalescing.

When Shah Jahan heard of Aurangzeb's advance, he expressed a wish to meet Aurangzeb and talk to him. It was the emperor's belief that upon seeing him alive, his son would turn on his heels and go back. Clearly the old king had been ailing only in body and not in mind, for certainly the appearance of Shah Jahan himself would have laid to rest the whole issue of succession. Even the most ardent of Aurangzeb's supporters would have had second thoughts about defying the great Mughal's authority openly.

However, Dara Shikoh lacked the potentate's easy confidence in his son. He was not so convinced that Aurangzeb would meekly go back to where he had come from once the king had reassured him. In panic he also gave out that he was the heir-apparent.

So with suspicion and rumours ruling the day and power having the last laugh, Aurangzeb was the most amused of them all. Within a year he had all his brothers out of the way, father permanently in custody in the Agra Fort (where he hung on for eight years before dying in 1666) and was firmly entrenched on the Mughal throne.

If Shah Jahan has been over-romanticized by scholars, his son and successor Aurangzeb has been unduly denigrated. Aurangzeb, it seems, could do nothing right. Later writers were to contrast his bigotry with Akbar's tolerance, his failure against the Marathas rebels with Akbar's successes against the Rajputs; in fact he has been set up as the polar opposite of everything that earned one the Akbarian medal of genius. One writer has said about him, rather tongue-in-cheek, "His life would have been a blameless one, if he had no father to depose, no brothers to murder and no Hindu subjects to oppress."

This picture of him has left such an impact on popular imagination that even today he is regarded as the bad guy of the Mughal regime, the evil king who slayed all Hindus and Sikhs. Hardly anyone remembers that he governed India for nearly as long as Akbar did (over 48 years) and that he left the empire larger than he found it. In fact, Aurangzeb ruled the single largest state ever in Mughal history.

Aurangzeb's rise to the throne has been criticised as being ruthless. However, he was no crueler than others of his family. He succeeded not because he was crueler but because he was more efficient and more skilled in the game of statecraft with its background of dissimulation; and if it's any consolation, he never shed unnecessary blood. Once established, he showed himself a firm and capable administrator who retained his grip of power until his death at the age of 88. True, he lacked the magnetism of his father and great-grandfather, but commanded an awe of his own. In private life he was simple and even austere, in sharp contrast to the rest of the great Mughals. He was an orthodox Sunni Muslim who thought himself a model Muslim ruler.

Aurangzeb's Reign

Aurangzeb's reign really divides into two almost equal portions.

The first twenty-three years were largely a continuation of Shah Jahan's administration with an added footnote of austerity. The emperor sat in pomp in Delhi or progressed in state to Kashmir for the summer. From 1681 he virtually transferred his capital to the Deccan where he spent the rest of his life in camp, superintending the overthrow of the two remaining Deccan kingdoms in 1686-7 and trying fruitlessly to crush the Maratha rebellion. The assured administrator of the first period became the embattled, embittered old man of the second. Along with the change of occupation came a dramatic metamorphosis of character. The scheming and subtle politician became an ascetic; spending long hours in prayer, fasting and copying the Quran, and pouring out his soul in tortured letters. It was in the second or the Deccan phase of his career that Aurangzeb began to drift towards complete intolerance of Hindus. Earlier his devotion towards Islam had very rarely taken the form of any religious bigotry. Now all that changed – the very king who had ordered in February 1659 that "It has been decided according to our cannon law that long standing temples should not be demolished… our Royal Command is that you should direct that in future no person shall in unlawful ways interfere with or disturb the Brahmins and other Hindu residents in those places" became a total fanatic.

In this zealousness to promote the cause of Islam, Aurangzeb made many fatal blunders and needless enemies. He alienated the Rajputs, whose valuable and trusted loyalty had been so hard won by his predecessors, so totally that they revolted against him. Eventually he managed to make peace with them, but he could never be easy in his mind about Rajputana again, a fact that hampered his Deccan conquest severely. Then, he made bitter enemies in the Sikhs and the Marathas. Things came to such a head that Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs was at first tortured and then executed by Aurangzeb for not accepting Islam; a martyrdom which is mourned to this day by the Sikh community. The 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singh then raised an open banner of revolt against Aurangzeb.

No, Great-grandfather Akbar would certainly not have approved or been amused. He would have raised his imperial eyebrows at such a royal mess and sharply rebuked Aurangzeb for squandering away what he had worked so hard to achieve. Deccan or no Deccan.

Aurangzeb ended his lonely embittered life in Aurangabad in 1707. Perhaps with relief, but surely with much grief too for surely he knew that with him set the glorious sun that was the Mughal dynasty.

Many directly blame Aurangzeb and his destructive policies, which eroded the faith of the subjects in the Mughals for this. However, this is by far an overstatement. Whatever might have been Aurangzeb's policies, he remained very much the emperor till his dying breath in 1707. True, his policies did lead to resentment; even at the end of Shah Jahan's reign the rot had set in. Aurangzeb in fact tried to stop it and did a good band-aid job for a little while, but then things just went haywire with his persistent Deccan devil.

Deccan wrung Aurangzeb the man, the king, the father and the believer out of all softer emotions and decorum. He simply lost all sense of balance. He alienated a sizeable portion of his subjects along with allies and employees and made completely unnecessary enemies, which cost his successors dearly. He tried during his lifetime to put down rebellions all over his empire (the Marathas, the Sikhs, the Satnamis and the Rajputs) by one hand while trying to take Deccan with the other. However, it was like trying to put out a wild fire. Ultimately, it was these alternative power blocs, which were cropping up all over the country that sped up the fall of the Mughals. Not to mention the foreign powers who were already among those present: the British stretching their legs in Calcutta, the Portuguese in Goa and the French testing waters in the South.

Of course, it did not help matters that the successors of the great Mughals were weak and unworthy of their forefathers. But that was bound to happen some time or the other, wasn't it? So, from the late-18th century the field was wide open for any new power that wanted to try to set up shop in India.

This was the time when a certain East India Company suddenly realized that they had stumbled upon a gold mine.

Shivaji Maharaj

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (1627-1680)

Shivaji was born of a Maratha family in 1627 A.D. His father was a chief of the kingdom of Bijapur. Though he was high up, he was not allowed to control any fort. In his early youth, Shivaji inspired the local peasant youths around Poona to follow him in his idealistic pursuits.

In his early, his band attacked the mountain fort of Torna about twenty miles from Poona. He took control from the fort as Governor. It was characteristic of him immediately send a word to the King of Bijapur, that he had done purely in the king's interest as the ex-governor was not given all the revenue due to the king. This brought more time, and Shivaji used this technique of cunningness to conquer more and more such forts. The king eventually ordered Shivaji to stop these activities. But Shivaji knew that by now the whole region was behind him and thus ignored any warnings from the King of Bijapur.

The King then sent a small army under Afzal Khan to catch him dead or alive. Shivaji now portrayed even more cunning techniques. He pretended to be extremely afraid of Afzal Khan and his army, and offered to surrender personally to him provided his well-being was guaranteed. He suggested that he should be accompanied by two unarmed followers to meet Afzal Khan and two of his guards personally. This was agreed to. When the meeting took place, Afzal Khan (a big, stocky and giant of a figure, compared to short and agile figure of Shivaji) tried to kill Shivaji with a big embrace and stab at Shivaji. Shivaji was however prepared with a short knife under his palm. With a swift action, he slayed the giant.

When the ruler in Delhi heard of this he sent his general Shaista Khan to suppress this uprising which was gaining momentum at great speed. Shivaji had to abandon temporarily the plains to a much more powerful Moghul army. With the help of the locals, he could enter into the living quarters of the general with his followers and created chaos. He had caused irreversible injury to the generals’ body and pride, so much so that he was recalled to Delhi.

Due to requirement of maintaining a large army, Shivaji felt the need of finance. His next crusade was to loot the Mughal city of Surat, which was the centre of the rich, traders from all over. He is likened here to Robin Hood here. No injury to women, children of elderly was ever caused. This wealth gave Shivaji sufficient wherewithal to continue his crusade.

This time the Mughal emperor sent a vast army under its senior general, Jai Singh. After a few skirmishes Shivaji thought it prudent nominally to accept the emperor's sovereignty and offered to come to court itself to pay homage. The trick worked and his army remained intact. He proceeded to Agra to present himself at the mughal court. However the perfidious emperor arrested him. As is well known, Shivaji tricked his jailors and escaped. By the time he returned to Poona, his army was in good condition. This was his opportunity to give a crushing defeat to the retreating armies.

Shivaji drew strength from the guidance of his guru, Guru Ramdas who together with mata Jijabai in his young life, made him a national hero.

Now Shivaji had an unquestioned sway over a big area. Fort Raigad was to become the centre of power and prowess. During the coronation ceremony he gave magnificent gifts to holy men and the poor. He died after three years. His son could not amass sufficient strength to finish the work of liberation throughout Bharat. Nevertheless, Shivaji had laid the foundation of a great Hindu empire which lasted for two centuries.

Aurangzeb - The viceroy of Deccan


Aurangzeb was the greatest king among the Mughals and ruled over the largest territory of any ruler in Indian history. His empire extended from Kabul in present Afghanistan to areas in South India bordering Madurai in present Tamil Nadu State. He was a kind-hearted man and led a simple life. He was a just ruler and forgave his enemies. He abolished all non-Islamic practices at his court; abolished Ilahi calendar introduced by Akbar and reinstated Islamic lunar calendar. He enforced laws against gambling and drinking. He abolished taxes on commodities and inland transport duties. He forbade the practice of Emperor being weighed in gold and silver on birthdays. Aurangzeb did not draw salary from state treasury but earned his own living by selling caps he sewed and selling copies of the Quran he copied by hand.

Birth and Education

Mohyuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb was born on October 24, 1618 CE at Dohad in the Bombay Presidency. He was the third son of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Aurangzeb was nine years old when his father became Emperor of India. From that time on, his regular education began. He got good education in religion as well as the ordinary education of that time. He memorized the whole Quran and was taught to write in a beautiful handwriting. He also developed a taste for poetry and could make verses. He also learned the Arabic language.

Military Training

His military training began by age 16. When Aurangzeb was seventeen, he was made the Viceroy of Deccan. Aurangzeb worked well as the Viceroy of Deccan. This didn't still bring peace to his mind. He wanted a purpose of life. After some thought, he turned to the Quran as a light for his life.

Life as a Faqir

In May 1644 CE, he gave up his duties as the Viceroy of Deccan and left to live in the wild region of Western Ghats. Here he lived for several months as a Faqir (poor, simple man). He took up a life of prayer and self-disciplined life.

Anger of his Father

This action of Aurangzeb brought great anger to his father, the Emperor. He was so shocked that his son became a Faqir that he stopped all his allowances and took his estates. This didn't bother Aurangzeb at first. After some thought though, Aurangzeb decided to go back to his family. For some months, Aurangzeb lived in Agra with disgrace. His mother and sisters felt sorry for him but the Emperors displeasure was hard to go.

Regaining his Rank

In November 1644 CE, his sister, Jahan Ara, who was the eldest and best-loved daughter of the Emperor, got a terrible burn and when she recovered, the Emperor, who was so happy, could not refuse her anything. At her request, Aurangzeb was raised back to his rank. The prince was again the Viceroy of Deccan.

Shah Jahan - The Emperor

Shah-Jahan (1628-58)

Shah Jahan ascended the throne in 1628 and assumed the title of Abul Muzaffar Shahbuddin Muhammad Sahib-i Kiran-i Sani. His reign opened with the execution of his brothers and nephews. In the first year of his reign Shah Jahan had to face the rebellion of Jujhar Singh, son of Bir Singh Deo, the Bundela chief who was responsible for murder of Abul Fazl. He made encroachment on the Mughal territory and showed signs of rebellion. Initially he surrendered to the Mughal army but he revolted again in 1635. Later he was pursued by the Mughal troops and killed by the Gonds.

The revolt of Khan Jahan Lodi in 1628 gave much more trouble to Shah Jahan than the Bundela rising. He entered into an alliance with the ruler of Ahmednagar and revolted. Shah Jahan realized the gravity of the situation and decided to personally supervise the operation. But ultimately in 1630 Khan Jahan had to give up & died near the fort of Kalanjar.

With Shah Jahan’s accession to the throne, the Deccan policy of the Mughals entered a new phase. Apart from political differences, the Deccan rulers had pronounced Shiahite learnings and were suspected of allegiance to the Shia rulers of Persia. The death of Malik Ambar came as a blessing to the Mughals.

In 1630 his son Fath Kan the minister of Ahmadnagar put the king in confinement and later killed him. In 1631 the Mughal army laid siege on Bijapur but were compelled to raise it after twenty days for lack of provisions. Finally in 1633 the Mughals won the fort of Daulatabad & the Nizam Shahi kingdom came to an end. But Shah Jahan’s imperialistic designs could not be satisfied without crushing Bijapur and Golconda. He called upon the rulers of these countries to acknowledge his suzerainty. Abdullah Qutb Shah of Golconda formally recognized the suzerainty of Shah Jahan but the king of Bijapur was not ready to barter away his independence. But ultimately Adil Shah of Bijapur had t acknowledge the over lordship of the emperor & was allowed to retain his ancestral kingdom. Having thus settled the state affairs in the Deccan in 1636 Shah Jahan retired to Agra. Aurangzeb was appointed the Governor of The Deccan & he occupied that post for eight years (1636-44). During this period, Aurangzeb annexed Bagalna near Nasik and reduced the power of Shahji. In 1653, Aurangzeb was appointed the Governor of the Deccan for the second time. He remained in the post till 1657.

In September 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill. The physicians were not hopeful about his recovery. As soon as the news of his illness reached his sons they started making preparations for capturing the throne. In 1658 Aurangzib took over & imprisoned his father. Ultimately in 1666 he did in captivity.

Undoubtedly, Shah Jahan was one of the greatest rulers of the Mughals. The Mughal empire reached its greatest prosperity in the reign of Shah Jahan. As a emperor he led a strenuous life. He personally supervised the minutest details of the administration and appointed men of highest ability as his minister. He was an orthodox musalman but was never unfair to his non-Muslim subjects. He considerably increased the royal retinue, the state-establishments and the magnificence of the court. The Peacock throne, the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and numerous other works of architecture and art testify to his wealth as well as his aesthetic sense. He was an excellent calligraphist. His patronage of men of letters and of artisans and craftsmen was in keeping with the traditions of his family. Poetry, music, painting, dancing, astronomy, mathematics and medicine flourished under the generous and intelligent patronage of the emperor.

Shah Jahan revolts against Jahangir

The History

Jahangir was crowned emperor by his father when the latter had been on his deathbed in 1605. He had to face the usual share of revolts and rebellions. The very first one being from prince Khusro, in which he was in good company – for Khusro revolted when Jahangir's son, Shah Jahan, came to the throne as well. The single most important person in Jahangir's life was his wife, the enigmatic Nur Jahan, whom he married in 1611.

Nur Jahan was the real power behind Jahangir. She was a great queen, and a woman of amazing gifts. She was quite a beauty and set many trends in designs of clothes, textiles and jewellery. The attar (perfume) of roses was just one of this great lady's innovations. She was also a very capable and shrewd administrator. No detail, however small, escaped the queen's attention. Her ability to keep a cool head was almost legendary and she amazed even battle-hardy generals with her calm and poise in the middle of crisis. She has been accused of nepotism and of giving rise to a class of nobility which composed entirely of her kith and kin, but that she was entirely in control is clear from the fact that she rebuked even her brother when she thought so fit. Jahangir often remarked: "I have sold my kingdom to my beloved queen for a cup of wine and a bowl of soup."

However, Nur Jahan was not without failings and her biggest was ambition, not only for herself but for her child – a daughter from earlier marriage. She tried her best to keep the king and the rightful heir Shah Jahan separated and to make her daughter's husband the king. However, this was one project that Nur Jahan could not complete with success.

The Revolt

Jahangir was not a mere figurehead in his kingdom. He led his armies into battle a number of times and extended the frontiers of his empire further down in the Deccan, although he lost Kandhar. This loss, however, was not his fault but that of the bitter in-fighting between Shah Jahan and his stepmother. Nur Jahan ordered Shah Jahan to move in battle against a rebellion there, but the prince, suspicious of her motives, refused and revolted against Jahangir instead. The emperor got so occupied with his family affairs that he simply forgot about winning Kandhar back, even though it would have been a matter of just a few days siege.

Things became so bad that Jahangir had to resort to the extreme measure of kidnapping his own grandchildren away to Kashmir with him to stop his son. Depsite all this however Shah Jahan, being a huge favorite with the nobility, safely ascended the throne in 1627, when Jahangir died.

Capture of Kangra Fort

Jahangir, after being enthroned the king, was seized with the desire to conquer Kangra and capture the fort, about which it was believed: "He who held the fort, ruled all the hill states". In 1615, he sent a strong contingent of troops under the command of Sheikh Farid Murtaza Khan and Raja Suraj Mal of Nurpur, his trusted confidant. But the troops returned without success. Unfazed, the king sent another contingent in 1620 under the command of Sunder Dass. This time the troops succeeded in capturing the fort after facing a stiff resistance. The ambitious Muslim invader also annexed the other hill states to his empire and garrisoned his troops in the fort to keep a watchful eye on the hill rulers.

The fort, a winsome blend of the medieval and ancient genre of fort architecture, covers a fairly large area and is guarded by high ramparts and a huge wall. Its gates have been named after its conquerors who captured it from time to time. The entrance gate is known as Ranjit Singh Gate, which leads to Jahangiri Darwaza. Then there are the Ahini and Amiri Darwazas, both dedicated to Nawab Ali Khan, the last Muslim Governor of Kangra. The other two gates — Andheri and Darshani Darwazas — had suffered extensive damage in the earthquake.

Submission of Mewar to the Mughals

Maharana Amar Singh I

Maharana Amar Singh I, fifty-fifth ruler of the Mewar Dynasty (r. 1597-1620); eldest of the seventeen sons of the hero Maharana PRATAP SINGH I, he succeeded his father, January 19, 1597 at CHAVAND, aged 38, and ruled for twenty-three years from Udaipur. Because Pratap Singh had insisted on quitting the comforts of Udaipur and fighting the Mughals in guerilla warfare conditions in the Aravalli Hills, Amar Singh's first job after succession was to make Udaipur the capital of Mewar once more. He had to persuade his subjects, who had followed Pratap Singh (under orders) into the wilderness, to return to the city. With the death of Mughal emperor Akbar, eight years after Pratap's demise, it was hoped that Mewar would enjoy peace for the first time in many decades. Amar ensured the status quo by not pursuing aggression against the Mughals. Although the peace was not to last, Amar pursued a vigorous programme to better the condition of his war-scarred subjects.

He remodelled his country's institutions, reassessing land holdings and distribution of fiefs, and established a new system of ranking for the nobility. He regulated sumptuary laws, those that control personal habits that offend a community's moral or religious conscience. Adding to the City Palace, he built the lower gateway, Badi Pol. Amar Singh had been his father's constant companion during Pratap's extensive campaign as a guerilla fighter. He was a faithful and loyal son and companion, yet he caused his father concern that he would not pursue independence as he had, but surrender Mewar's freedom to the Mughals (see PRATAP'S CONCERN ABOUT AMAR). Earnestly, the chiefs pledged themselves "by the throne of Bappa" that the dying ruler's fears would not eventuate. To some degree, Pratap's predictions would turn out to be correct, even though Amar Singh eventually fought many more battles than his father did.

In North India, following Akbar's death, Prince Salim succeeded as Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627). Shortly thereafter, he dismissed the peace treaty and renewed the war against Mewar with vigour. From 1605 to 1614, successive Mughal generals tried to conquer Mewar: Asaf Khan, 1606-1608; Mahabat Khan, 1608-1609; Abdullah Khan, 1609-1611; Raja Basu, 1611; Aziz Koka, 1611-1614; and Jahangir's ablest son, 32-year-old Prince Khurram, 1614. Villages and towns were sacked; crops, orchards and forests were destroyed indiscriminately; and temples were razed. Once more the people of Mewar suffered great distress. At first, Amar Singr relocated his court to Ajmer near Mewar's northern border, and mounted an overwhelming force to crush Maharana Amar Singh. Amar followed his father's example, and moved into the Aravalli jungles, while Jahangir, in a wide sweep, annexed the areas of Kapasan, Untala, Debari, Gogunda, Chavand, Bari Sadri, and finally Udaipur itself. Amar retaliated, recapturing the areas of Untala, Mandal, Badnore, and Malpura. Next, Jahangir appointed his son, Prince Parvez, commander of the Mughal army. However, Maharana Amar, flushed with his recent successes, and with the help of Punja, chieftain of Pandevi (Panawara), whose force containefierce Bhil warriors, again routed the Mughal army in the pass near Khamnor, the scene of many bloody combats in the past, including the famous Battle of HALDIGHATI. Parvez fled the battlefield and retreated to Ajmer in disgrace. By then, Maharana Amar had fought seventeen pitched battles, but each victory had meant the loss of many more of Mewar's most experienced veterans.

In 1614, a substantial army now led by Prince Khurram (known to history as Emperor SHAH JAHAN) headed out from Ajmer to attack Mewar. He camped with his Mughal army at GOGUNDA, 36 km. northeast of Udaipur. Although Amar had tried to carry out his father's policies for seventeen years, he could muster only a handful of chieftains to meet the approaching enemy. The Mewar generals and ministers (the nobles), dismayed by the heavy odds against them and dejected by their earlier losses in the continuous battles of the past, pressured Amar into negotiating a peace treaty with Emperor Jahangir. With reluctance, the Maharana sent two of his nobles, Haridas Jhala and Shubh Karan (the Maharana's maternal uncle), to Khurram with a peace proposal. In turn, Prince Khurram sent a message to his father, Emperor Jahangir, in Ajmer, recommending there was no surer way of earning the approbation of the Maharana than by maintaining friendly relations with Mewar. The emperor agreed and issued a farman (decree) for the ramification of the negotiated terms, which were based on Maharana Amar Singh's own conditions.

The terms were:
1. Neither the Maharana nor any future Maharana would be called upon to present themselves at Court while India was ruled by a foreign power (thereby retaining the independent dignity of the House of Mewar). Therefore, the Maharana would not attend the Mughal court in person. Instead he would only meet with Khurram at Gogunda, and send his young son, Crown Prince Karan Singh, to the Mughal court-Amar had fathered two sons, Karan Singh and Surajmal.
2. The Maharana would not accept any Imperial title, nor agree to any matrimonial alliance between the two families.
3. Chittor would be restored to the Maharana on condition it would not be repaired or fortified.
4. The Maharana would provide a contingent of 1,000 horse (horsemen), whenever demanded.

The Maharana accepted the terms and, in February 1615, met Prince Khurram at Gogunda and signed the peace treaty. As noted above, Pratap Singh held fears that his son and successor might not continue the battle to regain all of Mewar from the Mughals. Perhaps his fears were realised as some chroniclers have accused Amar Singh of treachery because of the treaty. In 1616, Amar finally achieved the long dream held by his father: he regained the ancient capital of Chittor when Emperor Jahangir returned the fortress to Mewar. Also, as per the treaty, Prince Karan Singh spent two months at the Mughal court, at Jahangir's invitation. There, he and his family's recent aggressor, Prince Khurram, became firm friends; it was a friendship that was to be called upon during Karan Singh's subsequent reign.

Dutch Factory at Pulicat

Dutch East India Company - VOC

On March 20, 1602, the representatives of the provinces of the Dutch republic, granted a the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) a monopoly on the trade in the East Indies. Its purpose was not only trade; the Compagnie also had to fight the enemies of the Republic and prevent other European nations to enter the East India trade. During its history of 200 years, the VOC became the largest company of its kind, trading spices like nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper, and other consumer products like tea, silk and chinese porcelain.

Pulicat was strategically located for the distribution of gunpowder, as its excellent shipping facilities enabled the Dutch to keep most of the VOC's major establishments in the East (such as Batavia, Malacca, and Ceylon) well stocked. The Dutch began manufacturing gunpowder there at least as early as the 1620s, if not earlier. Almost from the presumed start, they predicted that they would be able to meet the Company's needs throughout the East Indies. In fact, so many of the VOC establishments came to depend on Pulicat's gunpowder that Batavia (the Company's headquarters in the East) once complained to its governor in Coromandel that, even though they were far from wasteful, they would nonetheless have been hard pressed to supply the homeward-bound ships as well as the Moluccas, Amboina, Banda, and Taiwan with gunpowder had it not been for the fleet that had arrived from the Netherlands.

The period which witnessed the decay of the Hindu powers of Tamilaham and the anarchy arising in the struggle for mastery between the Mohammedans and the Maharattas favored the growth of European colonies which were anxious to share in the fabulous wealth of the Indies, after the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese in 1498. During the whole of the 16th Century the Portuguese busied themselves in erecting and consolidating the acquisitions they made on both the coasts. The Portuguese were fortunate in the time of their arrival. The Hindu ruler, Zamorin, owed his prosperity to his ports position as an entry point, and he was prepared to welcome the Portuguese. The Portuguese gained most from their participation in the carrying trade of the Indian Ocean, particularly on the Coromandal coast.

The Reign of Jahangir, 1605-1627

During his 50-year reign, Akbar accumulated much wealth from the political and commercial centers in northern India. His immediate successors, Jahangir and Shah Jahan, were able to surround themselves with a splendor and opulence unequaled by any other Muslim dynasty.

From the beginning, Jahangir's life was overshadowed by the achievements of his father Akbar. Jahangir grew up resentful of his masterful parents and bitterly jealous of his father's long-established coterie of advisers who must have interfered between father and son. Hambly writes that despite Jahangir's acute intelligence, the Mughal ruler was generally indifferent to the larger interests of the empire. Moreover, he lacked any obvious inclination for warfare and was bored by the humdrum details of day-to-day administration. Jahangir was self-indulgent and sensual with a streak of cruelty that emanated from a weak personality.

Despite Jahangir's disinterest in expansion, the imperial frontiers continued to move forward -- in Bengal, Mewar and Ahamadnagar. The only major reversal to the expansion came in 1622 when Shah Abbas, the Safavid ruler of Iran, captured Kandahar with impunity.

Jahangir lived under the spell of personalities that were more colorful than his own; the most influential of these personalities was the beautiful Nur Jahan whom he married in 1611. Nur Jahan then became the real ruler of the empire until the death of her husband Jahangir.

Nur Jahan's Persian grandfather was in the service of Shah Tahmasb; the grandfather died in Yazd laden with honors. His heirs, however, soon fell upon hard times, and his son, Mirza Ghiyas al-Din Muhammad, was forced to set out for India with his family. In 1577, during the trip to India, his wife gave birth at Kandahar to a eautiful daughter, Mihr al-Nisa (Sun of Women). Later, Jahangir would give Mihr al-Nisa the name of Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace) which he later expanded to Nur Jahan (Light of the World).

Mihr al-Nisa's father, Mirza Ghiyas al-Din Muhammad, made his way to Akbar's court at Fatehpur Sikri and rose rapidly in the imperial hierarchy. He held many important positions including that of diwan of Kabul; he ended his days with the rank of commander and the proud title of Itimad al-Dawleh (Pillar of the State). His son, Asaf Khan, was an urbane and affable courtier and a sharp fiscal administrator who secured the favor of both Jahangir and Shah Jahan, writes Hambly.

The son attained the highest provincial governorships and finally the rank of commander-in-chief. Hambly notes that in 1612, a year after Mihr al-Nisa's marriage to Jahangir, Asaf Khan arranged for his daughter, Arjumand Banu Begum, to marry Prince Khurram, one of Jahangir's younger sons. Fifteen years later, Khurram would ascend to the throne as the emperor Shah Jahan. Nur Jahan's niece would win immortality as Mumtaz Mahal, the woman in whose honor the Taj Mahal was built.


Jahangir's wife, Nur Jahan, was an excellent conversationalist, a fine judge of Persian poetry and a poet herself. Her accomplishments made her an irresistible companion for the emperor. Nur Jahan was a patron of painting and architecture whose interests also extended to the decoration of rooms as well as the designing of ornaments, brocades, rugs and dresses. The fashions in women's clothing that she adopted were still in vogue at the end of the 16th century.

Nur Jahan was Jahangir's favorite companion. She shared his interests in fine artistic objects and precious stones. Nur Jahan also assisted Jahangir in the layout and design of Persian gardens like the beautiful Shalimar-Bagh on the Dal Lake in Kashmir.

Jahangir's love of flowers and animals is reflected in the numerous miniatures painted by artists who shared their master's keen eye for the beauties of wild nature. Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of James I of England, was amazed at Jahangir's knowledge and discriminating taste where pictures were concerned.

Jahangir was not particularly interested in architecture, but one of the buildings that dates from his reign ranks among the finest achievements of the Mughal spirit. This is the tomb of Mirza Ghiyath Beg, usually known by his title I'timad ad-Dawlah (Pillar of the State), built at Agra by Nur Jahan (Light of the World) for her father who died in 1622. The tomb stands in a quadripartite garden. The enclosure walls, a guest-house on the river Yamuna and the podium are made of traditional red sandstone inlaid with colored marble.

The tomb of I'timad ad-Dawlah is the first structure in India in which white marble replaces red sandstone as the ground for polychrome pietra dura inlay. The tomb, measuring about 22 yards on a side, contains a central tomb chamber surrounded by square and rectangular rooms decorated with carved painted plaster in the Persianate style. The broad octagonal towers, like minarets, mark the corners, and a small pavilion or upper story rises above the roof. Three arched openings on each side provide shadows which contrast with the gleaming surface, while the cornice and eaves mark strong horizontal lines.

The modest, jewel-like building is remarkable for its delicate but exuberant decoration and warm tonality. The traditional technique of inlay has changed; opus sectile, marble intarsia of various colors, has been replaced by pietra dura, in which hard and rare stones such as lapis, onyx, jasper, topaz, carnelian and agate were embedded in the marble.

Traditional geometric designs and arabesques are combined with representational motifs of drinking cups, vases with flowers, cypress trees and visual descriptions of Paradise from the Holy Qur'an. The intricate inlay in yellow, brown, gray and black, contrasting with the smooth white marble, prefigures the later phase of white marble garnished with gold and precious stones that marks the most sumptuous buildings constructed under later Mughal patronage.

East India Company

In the sixteenth century the English started trade with the east. The English had to pay high prices for goods bought from the east. Lured by the Portuguese profits the English too wished to have their share of wealth and profits. Attaining power in this area would result in getting goods at prices they decide. Besides this the defeat of the Spanish Armada had made England the mistress of the seas. In 1500 a group of merchants under the Chairman ship of Lord Mayor formed an association in London to trade with India. In 1600 Queen Elizabeth granted a charter to the governor at a company of merchants to trade freely with the countries of the east. Voyages were made to SOUTH EAST ASIA to trade in spices. Attention towards India was diverted due to the Dutch influence in the Spice islands and getting raw materials for the English. The vast Indian mainland could be a market for the finished goods. The voyage to India was led by Captain Hawkins. He landed at the westcoast of Surat and succeeded to get some trade concession for the company from Emperor Jahangir. He also secured permission to set up a factory at Surat. The Portuguese influence in the Mughal Court proved a obstacle to the English trade. In 1612 Captain Best defeated the Portuguese fleet near Surat thus reducing their influence. He secured permission for building of a factory at Surat. In 1615 King James I of England sent Sir Thomas Roe as his ambassador to the court of Jahangir, and secured permission for the company to set up factories. Thus factories were set up at Ahmedabad, Broach and Agra

Akbar conquers Ahmadnagar

Last Conquest - Ahmednagar

By 1527, there were mainly five Muslim kingdoms in deccan, they were, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golconda, Berar and Bedar. These were mainly the remnants of the old Bahmani kingdom, established by Bahman Shah in 14th century after revolting against Delhi. The history of these kingdoms is a record of almost continuous strife. Common jealousies not only prolonged the existence of smaller states but saved each of the larger of annihilation, and the usual course of warfare was a campaign of two of the larger states against the third.

On 1597, Akbar asked the kingdom of Ahmadnagar to swear fealty to him. Which they refused on this he decided to attack the kingdom of Ahmadnagar, and the Khan Khanan in Malwa as well as Sultan Murad (Son of Akbar) in Gujarat were asked to proceed towards Ahmadnagar.

The imperial troops reached Ahmadnagar and laid siege of the fort. At the time of the siege Ahmadnagar was ruled by infant king Bahadur, who was looked after by Chand Bibi. Sultan Murad, in order to hasten the fall of the fort mined the defenses. Secret informations enabled the defenders to remove the charges by counter mining and render the mines harmless. One, however, remained intact and this, when exploded, killed many of garrison and destroyed fifty yards of the curtain between the two armies, but the breach was so gallantly defended by Chand Bibi in person that the assailants were repulsed and night permitted the defenders to repair the damage.

Soon Sultan Murad sent an envoy to Chand Bibi, offering to raise the siege in return for the cession of Berar. The garrison was suffering from Famine, so Chand Bibi decided to give away Berar. Sultan Murad retreated. In 1599 Akbar's youngest son, Daniyal and Khan Khanan were appointed to the Deccan, and the emperor followed them and encamped at Barhanpur. The Prince and the Khan Khanan advanced towards Ahmadnagar. Chand Bibi fought valiantly to save Ahmadnagar but lost heart. Summoned Jita Khan, a eunuch, who had been her confidant. She told Jita Khan about her decision to surrender. Jita Khan on hearing it ran out crying that Chand Bibi has turned traitor, mob rushed in her apartments of the palace and slew her. Soon Ahmadnagar fell into the hands of Akbar.

Akbar invades Khandesh

The annexation of Khandesh in 1601 by Akbar was an event of great military and economic importance in the history of Mughal India. Khandesh provided a territorial link between the north and the south. The Mughals realised this; they made use of its resources to promote, preserve and protect the imperial interests. The region, in fact, assumed far greater importance under the Mughals than it had under the Faruqis. For a century and a quarter (1601-1724), Khandesh as a Mughal province played a vital role in the history of medieval Deccan.

The Battle of Haldighati


The battle of Haldighati has gone down in the annals of Indian history as one which showcased the great valour of the Rajput troops led by their scion Rana Pratap. The result was indecisive, but the battle was truly symbolic of the raw courage, spirit of sacrifice, and loyalty of the Rajputs in their heroic defence of their motherland.


Haldighati, is a small village in the Aravalli Hills about 44 km north of Udaipur and about 1,839 m. above sea level. Beyond this is Haldighati Pass, a narrow defile almost a kilometre in length, running south to northeast and finally ending in a broad plain. An interesting geographical feature of the pass is its soft yellow soil, which when crumbled resembles the turmeric (haldi), which gives the place its name. It was here that the famous Battle of Haldighati was fought on June 18, 1576 between Maharana PRATAP SINGH of Mewar and the Imperial army of Emperor Akbar of Delhi.

The Moghul and the Rajput

Haldighati, Battle of (June 18, 1576), a four-hour confrontation between the Imperial forces of Mughal Emperor AKBAR and Maharana PRATAP SINGH I (1572-1597) of Mewar. Despite it being an indecisive battle - an inglorious success of sorts for the Mughals and "a glorious defeat" for Mewar - it has entered the annals as one of the kingdom's most memorable episodes. By the mid 1500s, in his bid to rule all of India, Emperor Akbar had forced all Rajput kingdoms, except Mewar, to become part of his empire. Wanting to make this leading Rajput state obey, he tried force, but failed. Changing his tactics, throughout 1573 he sent a series of envoys to Pratap with a peace treaty. However, although Pratap was agreeable to signing it, he was emphatic that it had to be conciliation on his terms: he would not become subservient to any other ruler (particularly a foreigner) and Mewar would not sacrifice its independence. Frustrated and humiliated, Akbar gathered his armies together, placed them under the command of Mughal general Asaf Khan and Pratap's archenemy, fellow Rajput MAN SINGH of Amber, and gave the order to destroy Mewar. On May 3, the Mughals marched south towards the village of Haldighati where a pass accessed the terrain of Pratap Singh and his temporary capital of Kumbhalgarh.

The Battle

June 18, 1576. Before sunrise, the Mughal army was on the move. As dawn broke, the Bhil lookouts saw the huge force crossing the river and assembling near Khamnor. Pratap Singh moved his men into the neck of Haldighati Pass. They halted, prepared to wait for the opportune moment to strike. The legendary warrior was impressive in his helmet, and chain-armour over a white tunic (still preserved in Udaipur's City Palace Museum). He sat proudly upon Chetak, his handsome white Arab stallion that had been his closest ally in many battles. The horse was clad in colourful mail that ended with a mask resembling a grotesque elephant, designed to terrify an opponent's steed and to protect the horse from the enemy's war elephants, on the assumption that elephants will not harm younger elephants. Pratap clasped his huge sword in one hand; his other gripped the ancient banner of the House of Mewar, the crimson field with the golden face of the Sun God in the centre. The sun climbed higher. Faces ran with perspiration. The muffled thunder of the Mughal army came ever nearer. The ground began to tremble. Soon, a cloud of dust was rising above distant treetops, filtering the morning sun. The Maharana led his group into the larger phalanx of troops under Qazi Khan. His war elephants brought up the rear. There was immediate panic. As the rows of youths hailed arrows into the Mewar ranks, the surprised skirmishers baulked, then stumbled back across the uneven, rock-strewn terrain. Vicious thorn bushes tore into their skin and clothing. They collided headlong with the warrior youths. Chaos reigned. Horses screamed in fear. Swords slashed. Muskets cracked. Bows twanged; arrows ripped into bodies. Brave men uttered war cries; others their death howls.

A band of Mughal Rajputs turned and fled, straight into a line of troops moving in from the right. The dead and wounded of both sides began to clutter the pass. The ground was already running scarlet. Pratap's group galloped out of the defile and immediately clashed with Qazi Khan and the Sheikhzadas of Sikri. The onslaught was vicious; the enemy broke and fled and did not stop until they were at least 16 km beyond the river, where they were confronted by the rear guard. They re-formed for a new assault. Already Pratap and Chetak had sustained several wounds. Undaunted, the Maharana, holding high the crimson banner, led his men deeper into the enemy's ranks. A wall of the Emperor's war-elephants, brought forward to stop the advance of the Mewar elephants, halted his relentless victory charge. A stray musket ball killed the mahout of a Mughal elephant. Out of control, it ran amok, trampling all in its path. The opposing elephants impacted, huge tusks ripping into flanks, broadswords in trunks slicing open any unprotected flesh. Fighting off all comers, Pratap and his men pressed on into the heart of the enemy, trying to encounter Man Singh and the heavy artillery. The death of the first would throw the Mughal forces into disarray, and the loss of the artillery would at least neutralise the massive advantage the Mughals had over Mewar.

Above the din of battle, he heard a familiar war cry, and spun round in his saddle. Man Singh was standing in his elephant's howdah, trying to encourage his men to stem the rout by the Mewar warriors. Pratap spurred his steed to a determined gallop towards Man Singh. Lances, swords or arrows could not stop his fury. He cut his way through to the Mughal general. Chetak skidded to a halt, throwing up dust, but collided with the elephant's plate armour. He reared up against the huge beast, his forelegs glancing off its tusks. Man Singh was partly obscured by his mahout, but Pratap heaved his lance at the howdah. The weapon passed through the driver's body, killing him instantly, and smashed against the howdah's metal plates. Man Singh had disappeared. Thinking he had killed Man Singh, Pratap let out a triumphal cry of revenge. The uncontrolled elephant swung around in panic. The broadsword attached to its trunk slashed through the tendons of one of Chetak's hind legs.

Unaware of this, Pratap wheeled Chetak to rejoin his men. The horse now had the use of only three of his legs but, enveloped by the furore, he persisted valiantly. Man Singh had simply ducked behind the howdah's railing for protection. Moments later, he scrambled down on to the elephant's neck in a desperate effort to control its panicked rush through Mughal lines. Imperial cavalry, who had rushed to guard their commander, now surrounded Pratap. A Mughal officer, Bahlol Khan, charged the Maharana. Steel rang against steel. Pratap mustered his energy for one almighty blow. His heavy sword sliced through the Mughal's headpiece and, like a hot knife through soft butter, hewed straight down through the Mughal's body, even disembowelling his horse. Other Mughals were now on top of Pratap. Chetak was limping and stumbling. Pratap fought his way back to the main body of the Mewar force, which was steadily forcing the Mughals into retreat. Suddenly, a great commotion of kettledrums came from the rear of the Imperial ranks. Across the sea of bloodied, mud-caked bodies, the Rajputs saw the Mughal reserves making their entry. And, to Pratap's dismay, Man Singh followed closely at the head of battle-weary soldiers and horsemen.

Pratap's first impulse was to make another attempt to destroy the Rajput traitor, possibly meeting death in a blaze of glory. One of his officers, Jhala Man of Sadri, snatched the royal standard of Mewar from Pratap's hand, determined to fight a rear guard action until Pratap's army had reached the protection of the defile. "Ride swiftly to safety!" he yelled. Reluctantly but wisely, Pratap shouted an order to his remaining chiefs to take their men to the village of Koliyari, where arrangements had been made for treating the wounded.

Waving the Sun-God banner, Jhala rallied his men to meet the enemy's counter-attack, as the remainder of the Mewar army disappeared into the cover of the hills. Bringing up the rear, Pratap stopped upon an outcrop of rock. He turned to look back at the swirling dust haze that all but hid the horrendous spectacle of the battleground. Through it came the tumult of shots, the clashing swords, the cries of victory and death. For a few moments, he was able to follow the progress of his crimson banner. Then it, too, fell. An attendant came back and took Pratap's bridle. "We tarry too long, Highness." They continued on. Chetak was now limping badly. Pratap, too, was now faint from loss of blood; he had sustained seven severe wounds from musket, sword and lance.

Pratap was pursued by two Mughal horsemen but was saved by his brother, SAKTA. However, having carried his master to safety, Chetak died. Pratap joined the remainder of his men, recovered from his wounds, then continued his guerilla resistance (see PRATAP SINGH I, MAHARANA). Despite temporary victory for the Mughals, the battle of Haldighati is significant for the tenacity displayed by the Rajputs, allied with the Bhils, and the art of defensive mountain warfare which Maharana Pratap Singh perfected and which his successors were proud, and wise, to use.

Custom Search