Moghul Period History and pre-British era

The Moghul Empire was ruled by Islamic and Turkish imperial powers. It reigned a significant part of the subcontinent of Asia from the initial part of the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century. When it was at the peak of its power, around the 18th century, it controlled a major part of the Asian subcontinent and portions of the current Afghanistan.

Babur, a Timurid prince, established the foundation of this Empire at the beginning of the 16th Century. Babur or Zahiruddin Mohammed ruled from 1526 to 1530. He was a descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan. He gained monopoly of the regions of Khorasan, Doab and Sindh province and lower area of the river Indus. Amongst his military achievements he had defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the first battle that took place in Panipat. Even though Babur was vastly outnumbered in army size, he took advantage of Ibrahim Lodi's habit of fighting at the enemy camp. He set up a trap after seizing Panipat and waited for Ibrahim Lodi to arrive. The Moghul Emperor then faced the Rajput army under Rana Sanga at the famous war of Khanwa. The initial military achievements by the Moghuls were mainly due to the armyís unity, usage of artillery, horse-mounted archers and mobility.

Babur was succeeded by his son Humayun or Nasiruddin Mohammed who ruled from 1530 to 1556. However Sher Shah Suri uprooted Humayun during this time. From 1540 to 1555 there was the Afghan king and his descendents ruled these regions. From 1540 Humayun turned into a ruler who was in exile. With the demise of Sher Shah Suri, Humayun managed to re-conquer Delhi in 1555. Unfortunately, he passed away within a period of six months due to an accidental fall from a staircase. His tomb that is located in Delhi symbolises an exceptional landmark of the refinement and development of Moghul art and architecture.

Humayunís untimely demise in 1556 put the task of imperial consolidation and conquest in the hands of his young teenage son, Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar who reigned from 1556 to 1605. Bairam Khan pursued a dynamic policy of rule on behalf of Akbar and established a decisive victory at the second battle that took place in Panipat in the year 1556. With the advancement of time, Akbar freed himself from the manipulation of court factions and overbearing ministers. He also became detached from harem intrigues and demonstrated his individual capacity for leadership and judgement. With he help and support of his renowned Navratnas, he conquered and consolidated all corners of the subcontinent that included Kabul, Kashmir, Bengal, Narmada River, Gondwana, large portions of the Deccan region, Assam and many others.

Akbarís empire reflected a very vibrant cultural and intellectual life. He was tolerant towards other religions. The imperial library included books of different languages and religious scriptures. He also encouraged dialogues and debates among different intellectuals who had contradictory views. Architecture was at its peak during Akbarís reign. Some major constructions include the fort located in Agra and the creation of a nascent capital city in Fatehpur Sikri.

With the death of Emperor Akbar in the year 1605, Prince Salim or Nuruddin Mohammed, his son, ascended the royal throne and gained the honourable title of Jahangir. His reign lasted from 1605 to 1627. His wife Nur Jahan assisted him in his artistic ventures. Jahangir had been the most significant figure in creating the Moghul garden. His reign was marked by religious persecution, which led Jain and Hindu forces to rebel against him. Other rebellions against him were from Prince Khusrao and the Persians.

Jahangir was succeeded by his son Shihabuddin Mohammed or Shah Jahan, who ruled from 1627 to 1658. During his tenure, maintenance of order and law and political unification led to the expansion and consolidation of the empire far and wide. His reign is most popular for architectural achievements. These included the Taj Mahal, Diwan-i-Am, Moti Masjid, Jama Masjid and many others.

Shah Jahan became terminally ill in the year 1657. This resulted a struggle for succession between his four sons, Shah Shuja, Murad Baksh, Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb defeated and executed his brothers and ascended the throne after a devious battle. He imprisoned his father leaving him to die in 1666.

Aurangzeb or Muhiuddin Mohammed was the last significant Mughal emperor. His reign lasted from 1658 to 1707. During this phase, the empire had reached its largest geographical expansion. Nevertheless it was during this time period that the first sign of decline of the great Moghul Empire was noticed. The reasons were many. The bureaucracy became corrupted and the army implemented outdated tactics and obsolete weaponry.

Aurangzeb managed to restore military dominance of the Moghuls and expanded influence southward for a considerable time period. He became involved in an ongoing series of wars against many leaders. These included the Rajputs of Malwa, Bundelkhand and Rajasthan, the sultans of Golkonda and Bijapur and the Marathas of Maharashtra. The Marathas under Shivaji placed a hard challenge for Aurangzeb.

The wars against the Afghani Pashtuns weakened the foundation of the Moghul military. The growing influence of the Sikhs also posed a big threat to the Moghul Empire. They became more and more militant in order to establish a country of their own. From 1681 till 1707, the Moghuls suffered continuous defeats against the Marathas. In the year 1761, Ahmed Shah Abdali finally raided Delhi after the third battle of Panipat.

Aurangzebís reign was marked by religious persecution and intolerance. He re-introduced the jiziya tax for non-Muslims. This led to a lot of resentment amongst his subjects.

In a way, the tolerant policies of Akbar were carried on by Shivaji Maharaj in the western part of India. His empire extended all the way to Attock in present day Sindh at one point in time. Shivaji's empire reinforced Akbar's philosophy and laid the foundations of present day Indian culture of religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.

The downfall of the Moghul Empire had become inevitable during Aurangzebís tenure. Following 1725, its decline became more pronounced. Aurangzeb was the last significant Moghul emperor. The last one was Bahadur Shah II who ruled from 1837 to 1857. He was exiled and imprisoned by the British, following the Great Indian Rebellion that took place in 1857.



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