Babur - The First Mughal Emperor [1526-30]
At the age of 14, Babur ascended the throne of the Central Asian kingdom of Farghana. His greatest ambition was to rule Samarkand. He fought many battles in the pursuit of this goal, winning and losing his kingdom many times in the process. In 1504, he ventured into what is now Afghanistan and conquered Kabul.
His position in Central Asia was precarious at best. In order to consolidate his rule, he invaded India five times, crossing the River Indus each time. The fifth expedition resulted in his encounter with Ibrahim Lodhi in the first battle of Panipat in April 1526. Babur's army was better equipped than Lodhi's; he had guns while the sultan relied on elephants. The most successful of Babur's innovations was the introduction of gunpowder, which had never been used before in the Sub-continent. This combined with Babur's newer tactics gave him a greater advantage. Babur's strategy won the war and Ibrahim Lodhi died fighting.
Panipat was merely the beginning of the Mughal rule. Akbar laid its real foundation in 1556. At the time of the battle of Panipat, the political power in India was shared by the Afghans and the Rajputs. After Panipat, the Hindu princes united under Rana Sanga, the Raja of Mewar, resulting in a sizable force. Babur's army showed signs of panic at the size of the huge opposing army. To prevent his forces retreat, Babur tried to instill confidence in his soldiers by breaking all his drinking cups and vessels, and vowed never to drink again if he won. His soldiers took heart, and when the armies met in the battle at Kanwaha, near Agra on March 16, 1527, Babur was able to win decisively. Kanwaha confirmed and completed Babur's victory at Panipat. Babur thus became the king of Central India.
|Coins from the Mughal era|
|Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire|
The Mughal age is famous for its many-faceted cultural developments. The Timurids had a great cultural tradition behind them. Their ancestral kingdom at Samarkand was the meeting ground of the cultural traditions of Central and West Asia. The Mughals brought with them Muslim cultural traditions from Turko-Iranian areas, which inspired the growth of the Indo-Muslim culture.
Humayun’s Rule [1530-40, 1555-6]
|The foundations of Mughal art were laid by Humayun|
Unfortunately, after recovering his empire, Humayun was not destined to rule for long. In January 1556, he met his tragic end by slipping from the famous building known as Din Panah. After him his eldest son Akbar took over the rule of the empire.
Suri Dynasty [1540-55]
|Sher Shah Suri|
|Sher Shah Suri built the Rohtas Fort near Jehlum|
The principal reforms for which Sher Shah is remembered are those connected with revenue administration. He set up a revenue collection system based on the measurement of land. Justice was provided to the common man. Numerous civil works were carried out during his short reign; planting of trees, wells and building of Sarai (inns) for travelers was done. Roads were laid; it was under his rule that the Grand Trunk road from Delhi to Kabul was built. The currency was also changed to finely minted silver coins called Dam.
|Tomb of Esa Khan, an influence nobleman at the court of Sher Shah Suri|
Akbar’s Reign [1556-1605]
|Miniature Mughal Era painting depicting Akbar|
|An example of Mughal art commissioned by Humayun|
|Close-up view of Diwan-i-Khas at Fatehpur Sikri, a town built by Akbar near Agra, India|
Mujaddid Alf Sani''s Movement [1564-1624]
|Emperor Akbar, who propounded Din-i-Ilahi|
British Arrive in India
|A representative of the British East India Company negotiating a deal with a local Indian trader|
In violation of a trade agreement with the Nawab of Bengal, the British started reinforcing Fort William in Calcutta. This led to a clash between the British and the son of the Nawab of Bengal, Sirajuddullah, who opposed the British violation and reinforcement of Fort William. Owing to the treachery of his uncle Mir Jaffar, Nawab Sirajuddullah was defeated in the battle of Plassey in 1757. After the battle of Plassey, the British began the systematic conquest of the Sub-continent. It was mainly the Muslims who raised resistance to the British rule. The other organized group, the Marhattas, periodically sided with the British against the Muslims. The people of India were not united against the foreign aggressors, which made it easier for the British to seize power. The Marhattas, threatened by the British challenged them under the leadership of their Peshwas. This resulted in a series of Anglo-Marhatta wars, which finally resulted in bringing the Marhatta confederacy under the British rule. Some Muslim rulers like Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan single-handedly tried to free India from the British yoke, but were defeated. After minimizing the major threats, the British systematically expanded their control and by 1823 had become masters of two-thirds of India. They were proudly able to claim: "The sun never sets on the British Empire"
Jehangir’s Reign [1605-1628]
|Mughal miniature painting depicting Jehangir|
|Jehangir's tomb at Shahdra, Lahore|
the history of Mughal architecture, Jehangir's reign marks the period of transition between its two grand phases, namely the phase of Akbar and that of his grandson, Shah Jehan. The most important feature of this period is the substitution of red sandstone with white marble. Jehangir had a deep love of color. The system of pietra dura, i.e. the inlaid mosaic work of precious stones of various shades, gained popularity towards the end of his reign. He was also fond of laying gardens. One of the most famous gardens laid by him was the Shalimar Bagh in Lahore. The Mughal style of art was greatly developed during his reign. The most important feature of the paintings of this era was the decline of the Persian and enhancement of the Indian cultural influence.
Mughal paintings lost much of their glamour and refinement after Jehangir's death in 1627. During the late 17th and 18th centuries this art migrated to regional centers such as in Rajput and Jaipur, where it prospered under the influence of the local culture.
Shah Jehan’s Rule [1628-58]
|The Grand Mosque of Delhi built by Shah Jehan|
|The spectacular Red Fort|
Aurangzeb Alamgir’s Reign [1658-1707]
|Badshahi Mosque, Lahore|
Decline of Mughal Rule and the Battle of Plassey
|Revolts during the 17th century Mughal Empire|
His son Muazzam, who ruled from 1707 to 1712, succeeded Aurangzeb Alamgir. He took for himself the title of Bahadur Shah. He ruled for five years and momentarily revived the Mughal Empire. But the Marhatta's power increased and they became the unchallenged rulers of Deccan. In the province of Punjab, the Sikhs under Guru Govind Singh became a force to reckon with. One of the reasons that power centers kept springing up outside Delhi was the frequent change in the succession of Empires. Nearly 17 kings were crowned during the period spanning from 1707 to 1857.
Taking advantage of this chaotic situation, the East India Company began strengthening its military capabilities. They conspired with Hindu traders and moneylenders against Nawab Sirajuddullah of Bengal to take over his principality. The Battle of Plassey of 1757 is considered a major breakthrough for the British in the Sub-continent. It paved the way for the company's rule in Bengal, and hence the whole of India ultimately came under the company's rule.
In the 19th century, Muslims like Syed Ahmad Brailvi and Shah Ismail carried out Jihad against the Sikhs, as did Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan in Deccan against the British. However, they failed in their efforts to stop the downfall of the Muslim rule. The final crunch came after the war of 1857 when the Mughal rule officially came to an end and India came under the direct rule of the British crown.
Causes of the Fall of Mughal Empire
|British Fort - St. George|
The absence of any definite law of accession was another important factor. The war of successions not only led to bitterness, bloodshed, and loss of money and prestige of the empire over a period of time, but to its eventual fall. The degeneration of the rulers had also led to the moral degeneration of the nobility. Under the early Mughals, the nobles performed useful functions and distinguished themselves both in war and peace. But the elite under the later Mughals was more interested in worldly pursuit and self-enhancement. The nobles who had once been talented men with integrity, honesty, and loyalty, turned selfish and deceitful. Growth of hostile and rival clique in the court also undermined the strength of the government. Widespread corruption in the administration started and taking bribes became common.
|Tipu Sultan of Mysore|
the last of the Mughal Emperors
|Extravagance was one of the causes of the Mughal's decline; the Tomb of Safdar Jung in Delhi, a Mughal nobleman and Governor, built by his son Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula in 1754|
Shah Wali Ullah’s Reform Movement [1707-1762]
|The grandeur of a Mughal emperor's darbar|
Shah Wali Ullah belonged to a religious family. He was educated at Madrasa-i-Rahimiyah by his father Shah Abdul Rahim. After finishing his education, he went for pilgrimage and higher studies to Saudi Arabia. At this time, Muslims in India were divided into Hanfia, Sufi, Shia, Sunni and Mullah sects. While in Hijaz, he decided to launch a campaign to popularize Islamic values amongst the Muslims and to present Islam in a rational manner. On his return to the Sub-continent, he started working towards the achievement of these goals.
Shah Wali Ullah's singular and most important act was his translation of the Holy Quran into simple Persian, the language of the land, so that people of the Sub-continent could understand and follow it. He studied the writings of each school-of-thought to understand their point of view, then wrote comprehensive volumes about what is fair and just in light of the teachings of Islam. He worked out a system of thought, beliefs, and values, on which all but the extremists could agree. He thus provided a spiritual basis for national cohesion.
Shah Wali Ullah trained students in different branches of Islamic knowledge and entrusted them with the teaching of students. He recommended the application of Ijtihad against blind Taqlid. He also interpreted Quran and Hadith according to the context of the times.
Shah Wali Ullah directed his teachings towards reorienting the Muslim society with the concepts of basic social justice, removing social inequalities, and balancing the iniquitous distribution of wealth. He established several branches of his school at Delhi for effective dissemination of his ideas. In his book "Hujjat-ullah-il-Balighah", he pinpointed the causes of chaos and disintegration of Muslim society. These were:
1. Pressure on public treasury, the emoluments given to various people who render no service to the state.
2. Heavy taxation on peasants, merchants, and workers, with the result that tax evasion was rampant. According to Shah Wali Ullah, a state can prosper only if there were light and reasonable taxes.
He wrote open letters to:
1. Mughal rulers, to give up their corrupt and inefficient practices.
2. Soldiers, to inculcate within them the spirit of Jihad.
3. Artisans, workers, and peasants, to remind them that the economic prosperity of the state depended on their labors.
4. The Emperor, asking him to teach a lesson to the Jats threatening the Mughal Empire. He also wrote and advised him not to give jagirs (land) to mansabdars who were not loyal to the state.
5. Masses, to be conscious of their duties and not to indulge in the accumulation of wealth.
Shah Wali Ullah tried to reconcile the basic differences amongst the different sections of the Muslims and considered the government as an essential means and agency for regeneration of the community. He wrote to Ahmad Shah Abdali; "...give up the life of ease. Draw the sword and do not to sheath it till the distinction is established between true faith and infidelity...".
His efforts resulted in the defeat of the Marhattas at the hands of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Najib-ud-Daula, in the third battle of Panipat in 1761.
Shah Wali Ullah was responsible for awakening in the community the desire to win back its moral fervor and maintain its purity. To rescue a community's conscience, belief and faith from destruction was no small achievement. Even after his death in 1762, his sons and followers carried on his work. Many future Islamic leaders and thinkers were inspired by his example.
Faraizi Movement [1830-57]
|Haji Shariatullah launched the Faraizi Movement|
Haji Shariatullah went to Mecca on the Pilgrimage. He returned to his country after 20 years and started his reform movement known as the Faraizi movement. His movement basically targeted the most depressed class of the Muslims. He asked them to give up un-Islamic customs and practices and to act upon the commandments of the religion called Faraiz or duties. Hence his followers came to be known as Faraizi. He forbade Tazia on the occasion of Muharram and singing and dancing at the time of wedding ceremonies. His movement was also directed against the oppression of the Zamindars. He declared the country Dar-ul-Harab, as Eid and Friday prayers could not be offered there.
The movement infused new life into the lives of the Muslims of Bengal. It wrought great agitation among them, especially the peasants who were imbued with his doctrines. Thus, he sowed the seeds of independence in Bengal. He died in 1840.
|Mir Nasir Ali, also known as Titu Mir, struggled for the uplift of the Bengali Muslims|
He asked his followers to settle in lands managed by the government. During the revolt of 1857, he was put under arrest for organizing the peasants of Faridpur districts against the British government. He died in 1860.
Mir Nasir Ali, known as Titu Mir is another important figure who was moved by the sufferings of the Muslim of Bengal. After returning from Pilgrimage, Titu Mir devoted himself to the cause of his country. He made Narkelbaria, a village near Calcutta, the center of his activities. Many oppressed Muslim peasants gathered round Titu Mir in their resistance against the Hindu landlord, Krishna Deva Raj. Titu Mir was able to defeat Krishna Deva and set up government. The British aiding the Hindu landlords sent an army of 100 English Soldiers and 300 sepoys to Narkelbaria. In 1831, Titu Mir died fighting the British forces.
The death of Titu Mir did not dishearten his followers. His example rather served as a source of inspiration for them in the years to come.
War of Independence
|A scene from the War of Independence|
The War of Independence broke out in January and March 1857. The British army had recruited local Indians in their forces. These soldiers were issued cartridges greased with fat from tabooed animals. The soldiers refused to use these cartridges. In 1857, starting with an uprising in Meerut, soldiers in the British Army in Bengal launched a full-scale mutiny against the British. This mutiny spread swiftly across the Sub-continent. Initially, the Indian soldiers were able to push back the British forces. The British army was driven out of Delhi and the Indian soldiers took control of the city. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal King, was compelled to lead the freedom fighters. In Bahadur Shah Zafar, the rebels found a symbol of freedom, but a mere symbol was all he was. Wanting to spend his days writing poetry, the man was in no way even a remnant of the glory of his forefathers. He proclaimed himself the Emperor of the whole of India. The civilians, citizens and other dignitaries took oath of allegiance to the Emperor. The Emperor issued his own coin and appointed his sons to key posts.
The British quickly regained control of Delhi. They ransacked and destroyed the city. They took revenge in the most gruesome manner by killing innocent people indiscriminately. A wide scale massacre of the inhabitants of Delhi was carried out to avenge the killings of the British soldiers. The Mughal emperor was captured from his sanctuary, the tomb of Emperor Humayun. The emperor's sons were slaughtered in cold blood. Their bodies were beheaded and their heads were presented to the aging emperor in prison. Bahadur Shah was imprisoned in Rangoon, Myanmar, where he breathed his last.
After the War of Independence in 1857, the British government assumed sovereignty over the lands of the British East India Company. The British control over the Sub-continent grew in the next 50 years and culminated in the British Raj. Queen Victoria's Indian realm continued to expand, until Hunza, the remote kingdom bordering China, fell into British hands in 1891, bringing the expansion to its zenith.
The British delineated the frontier separating British India from Afghanistan in 1893. The resulting Durand Line cut straight through the tribal area of the Pathans. The British left the tribal areas to govern themselves under the supervision of British political agents.
The British thus became masters of India, where for nearly 800 years Muslims had ruled. However, their attitude towards the Muslims was that of antipathy. According to Hunter, a prominent historian, "The Muslims of India are, and have been for many years, a source of chronic danger to the British power in India". The British attributed the war of 1857 to the Muslims alone. As a result, property belonging to Muslims was confiscated and they were denied employment opportunities everywhere in the army, revenue department, and judiciary.
|An artist's rendition of the War of Independence|
By a series of revenue and financial measures, the British smashed the political and social position of the Muslims. In the province of Bombay, the government appointed "Inam Commission" to inquire into the land grants of the Muslim times. The Commission took away 20,000 estates from the Muslims and thus ruined many families and institutions of the community.
The Company's commercial policy eliminated the Muslims from internal and foreign trade. When the Europeans came to the Sub-continent, the Muslim merchants lost much of their commerce with foreign countries. But they maintained their hold on internal trade and their commercial activities extended to the Persian Gulf and the coastal territories of the Arabian Sea. During the Company's rule, the Muslim traders were pushed out of this area as well by the competition of the Company's traders who enjoyed many special concessions.
The newly introduced English system of education had many drawbacks for the Muslims, mainly because it made no provisions for religious education. As a result, they stayed away from it. Thus, within a few years of loss of political power, the Muslims lost all avenues of employment, were dispossessed of their estates and deprived of the benefits of education. A highly cultured community turned into a backward and poor people. In their place British-educated Hindus began to occupy positions in governments offices formerly held by the Muslims.