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Worldvisitguide > Mughal Empire
Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire, which was also the self-designation of the Timurids in Central Asia and Khorasan, was an empire that at its greatest territorial extent ruled most of the Indian subcontinent, then known as Hindustan.
It also parts of what is now Afghanistan and the Baluchistan region. It was established in 1526, enjoyed expansion and consolidation until about 1707 and survived, even if in drastically attenuated form, until 1857. The empire was founded by the Timurid leader Babur in 1526, when he defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the last of the Delhi Sultans at the First Battle of Panipat. Mughal is the Persian word for Mongol, and was generally used to refer to Central Asian nomads who claimed descent from the Mongol warriors of Genghis Khan. The Mughal rulers were adherents of Islam.

The territory was largely conquered by the Pashtun Sher Shah Suri during the time of Humayun, the second Mughal ruler, but under Akbar the Great it grew considerably, and continued to grow until the end of Aurangzeb's rule. Jahangir, the son of Mughal Emperor Akbar and Rajput princess Mariam-uz-Zamani, ruled the empire from 1605-1627. In October 1627, Shah Jahan, the son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and Rajput princess Manmati, succeeded to the throne, where he inherited a vast and rich empire in India; and at mid-century this was perhaps the greatest empire in the world. Shah Jahan commissioned the famous Taj Mahal (between 1630 and 1653), in Agra as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child.

By 1710, the empire had reached its zenith with a territory spanning over 750 million acres.

The Mughal ruling class was Muslims, although most of the subjects of the Empire were Hindu. Although Babur founded the Empire, the dynasty remained unstable (and was even exiled) until the reign of Akbar, who was not only of liberal disposition but also intimately acquainted, since birth, with the mores and traditions of India. Under Akbar's rule, the court abolished the jizya (the poll-tax on non-Muslims) and abandoned use of the lunar Muslim calendar in favor of a solar calendar more useful for agriculture. One of Akbar's most unusual ideas regarding religion was Din-i-Ilahi ("Faith-of-God" in English), which was an eclectic mix of Hinduism, versions of Sufi Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. It was proclaimed the state religion until his death. These actions however met with stiff opposition from the Muslim clergy. The Mughal emperor Akbar is remembered as tolerant, at least by the standards of the day: only one major massacre was recorded during his long reign (1556/1605), when he ordered most of the captured inhabitants of a fort be slain on February 24, 1568, after the battle for Chitor. Akbar's acceptance of other religions and toleration of their public worship, his abolition of poll-tax on non-Muslims, and his interest in other faiths bespeak an attitude of considerable religious tolerance, which, in the minds of his orthodox Muslim opponents, was tantamount to apostasy. Its high points were the formal declaration of his own infallibility in all matters of religious doctrine, his promulgation of a new creed, and his adoption of Hindu and Zoroastrian festivals and practices. Religious orthodoxy would only play a truly important role during the reign of Aurangzeb Alamgir, a devout Muslim and the strongest military commander of the Mughal line; this last of the Great Mughals retracted some of the liberal policies of his forbears.

Political economy
The Mughals used the Mansabdar system to generate land revenue. The emperor would grant revenue rights to a Mansabdar in exchange for promises of soldiers in war-time. The greater the size of the land the emperor granted, the greater the number of soldiers the Mansabdar had to promise. The Mansab was both revocable and non-hereditary. This gave the center a fairly large degree of control over the Mansabdars.

The Great Mughal Emperors

• Babur (Zahiruddin Mohammed) : 1526/1530
• Humayun (Nasiruddin Mohammed) : 1530/1540
• Interregnum - Afghan Rule (Sher Shah Suri and his descendants) : 1540/1555
• Humayun (Nasiruddin Mohammed) : 1555/1556
• Akbar (Jalaluddin Mohammed) : 1556/1605
• Jahangir (Nuruddin Mohammed) : 1605/1627
• Shah Jahan (Shahabuddin Mohammed) : 1627/1658
• Aurangzeb (Moinuddin Mohammed) : 1658/1707

Establishment and reign of Babur
In the early 16th century, Muslim armies consisting of Mongol, Turkic, Persian, and Afghan warriors invaded India under the leadership of the Timurid prince Zahir-ud-Din-Muhammad Babur. Babur was the great-grandson of Central Asian conqueror Timur-e Lang (Timur the Lame, from which the Western name Tamerlane is derived), who had invaded India in 1398 before retiring to Samarkand who himself claimed descent from the Mongol ruler, Genghis Khan. Babur was driven from Samarkand by the Uzbeks and initially established his rule in Kabul in 1504. Later, taking advantage of internal discontent in the Delhi sultanate under Ibrahim Lodi, and following an invitation from Daulat Khan Lodhi (governor of Punjab) and Alam Khan (uncle of the Sultan), Babur invaded India in 1526.

Babur, a seasoned military commander, entered India in 1526 with his well-trained veteran army of 12,000 to meet the sultan's huge but unwieldy and disunited force of more than 100,000 men. Babur defeated the Lodhi sultan decisively at the first Battle of Panipat. Employing gun carts, moveable artillery, superior cavalry tactics, and the highly regarded Mughal composite bow, a weapon even more powerful than the English longbow of the same period. Babur achieved a resounding victory and the Sultan was killed. A year later (1527) he decisively defeated, at the Battle of Khanwa, a Rajput confederacy led by Rana Pratap Singh of Chittor. A third major battle was fought in 1529 when, at the battle of Gogra, Babur routed the joint forces of Afghans and the sultan of Bengal. Babur died in 1530 at Agra before he could consolidate his military gains. During his short five-year reign, Babur took considerable interest in erecting buildings, though few have survived. He left behind as his chief legacy a set of descendants who would fulfill his dream of establishing an empire in the Indian subcontinent.

Babur's will to Humayun
According to the document available in the State Library of Bhopal, Babur left the following will to Humayun :
- "My son take note of the following: Do not harbor religious prejudice in your heart. You should dispense justice while taking note of the people's religious sensitivities, and rites. Avoid slaughtering cows in order that you could gain a place in the heart of natives. This will take you nearer to the people.
Do not demolish or damage places of worship of any faith and dispense full justice to all to ensure peace in the country. Islam can better be preached by the sword of love and affection, rather than the sword of tyranny and persecution. Avoid the differences between the shias and sunnis. Look at the various characteristics of your people just as characteristics of various seasons."

When Babur died, his son Humayun (1530/1556) inherited a difficult task. He was pressed from all sides by a reassertion of Afghan claims to the Delhi throne and by disputes over his own succession. Driven into Sindh by the armies of Sher Shah Suri, in 1540 he fled to Persia, where he spent nearly ten years as an embarrassed guest of the Safavid court of Shah Tahmasp. During Sher Shah's reign, an imperial unification and administrative framework were established; this would be further developed by Akbar later in the century. In addition the tomb of Sher Shah Suri is an architectural masterpiece that was to have a profound impact on the evolution of Indo-Islamic funerary architecture. In 1545, Humayun gained a foothold in Kabul with Safavid assistance and reasserted his Indian claims, a task facilitated by the weakening of Afghan power in the area after the death of Sher Shah Suri in May 1545. He took control of Delhi in 1555, but died within six months of his return, from a fall down the steps of his library. His tomb at Delhi represents an outstanding landmark in the development and refinement of the Mughal style. It was designed in 1564, eight years after his death, as a mark of devotion by his widow, Haji Begum.

Humayun's untimely death in 1556 left the task of conquest and imperial consolidation to his thirteen-year-old son, Jalal-ud-Din Akbar (r.1556/1605). Following a decisive military victory at the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, the regent Bayram Khan pursued a vigorous policy of expansion lsiaon Akbar's behalf. As soon as Akbar came of age, he began to free himself from the influences of overbearing ministers, court factions, and harem intrigues, and demonstrated his own capacity for judgment and leadership. A workaholic who seldom slept more than three hours a night, he personally oversaw the implementation of his administrative policies, which were to form the backbone of the Mughal Empire for more than 200 years. He continued to conquer, annex, and consolidate a far-flung territory bounded by Kabul in the northwest, Kashmir in the north, Bengal in the east, and beyond the Narmada River in central India. Akbar built a walled capital called Fatehpur Sikri (Fatehpur means "town of victory") near Agra, starting in 1571. Palaces for each of Akbar's senior queens, a huge artificial lake, and sumptuous water-filled courtyards were built there. However, the city was soon abandoned and the capital was moved to Lahore in 1585. The reason may have been that the water supply in Fatehpur Sikri was insufficient or of poor quality; or, as some historians believe, that Akbar had to attend to the northwest areas of his empire and therefore moved his capital northwest. In 1599, Akbar shifted his capital back to Agra from where he reigned until his death.

Akbar adopted two distinct but effective approaches in administering a large territory and incorporating various ethnic groups into the service of his realm. In 1580 he obtained local revenue statistics for the previous decade in order to understand details of productivity and price fluctuation of different crops. Aided by Todar Mal, a Hindu scholar, Akbar issued a revenue schedule that optimized the revenue needs of the state with the ability of the peasantry to pay. Revenue demands, fixed according to local conventions of cultivation and quality of soil, ranged from one-third to one-half of the crop and were paid in cash. Akbar relied heavily on land-holding zamindars to act as revenue-collectors. They used their considerable local knowledge and influence to collect revenue and to transfer it to the treasury, keeping a portion in return for services rendered. Within his administrative system, the warrior aristocracy (Mansabdars) held ranks (Mansabs) expressed in numbers of troops, and indicating pay, armed contingents, and obligations. The warrior aristocracy was generally paid from revenues of nonhereditary and transferable jagirs (revenue villages).

An astute ruler who genuinely appreciated the challenges of administering so vast an empire, Akbar introduced a policy of reconciliation and assimilation of Hindus (including Jodhabai, later renamed Mariam-uz-Zamani Begum, the Hindu mother of his son and heir, Jahangir), who represented the majority of the population. He recruited and rewarded Hindu chiefs with the highest ranks in government; encouraged intermarriages between Mughal and Rajput aristocracy; allowed new temples to be built; personally participated in celebrating Hindu festivals such as Deepavali, or Diwali, the festival of lights; and abolished the jizya (poll tax) imposed on non-Muslims. Akbar came up with his own theory of "rulership as a divine illumination," enshrined in his new religion Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith), incorporating the principle of acceptance of all religions and sects. He encouraged widow re-marriage, discouraged child marriage, outlawed the practice of sati, and persuaded Delhi merchants to set up special market days for women, who otherwise were secluded at home. By the end of Akbar's reign, the Mughal Empire extended throughout north India even south of the Narmada river. Notable exceptions were Gondwana in central India, which paid tribute to the Mughals, Assam in the northeast, and large parts of the Deccan. The area south of the Godavari river remained entirely out of the ambit of the Mughals. In 1600, Akbar's Mughal empire had a revenue of £17.5 million. By comparison, in 1800, the entire treasury of Great Britain totaled £16 million.

Akbar's empire supported vibrant intellectual and cultural life. The large imperial library included books in Hindi, Persian, Greek, Kashmiri, English, and Arabic, such as the Shahnameh, Bhagavata Purana and the Bible. Akbar regularly sponsored debates and dialogues among religious and intellectual figures with differing views, and he welcomed Jesuit missionaries from Goa to his court. Akbar directed the creation of the Hamzanama, an artistic masterpiece that included 1400 large paintings. Architecture flourished during the reign of Humayun's son Akbar. One of the first major building projects was the construction of a huge fort at Agra. The massive sandstone ramparts of the Red Fort are another impressive achievement. The most ambitious architectural exercise of Akbar, and one of the most glorious examples of Indo-Islamic architecture, was the creation of an entirely new capital city at Fatehpur Sikri.

After the death of Akbar in 1605, his son, Prince Salim, ascended the throne and assumed the title of Jahangir, "Seizer of the World". He was assisted in his artistic attempts by his able wife, Nur Jahan. The Mausoleum of Akbar at Sikandra, outside Agra, represents a major turning point in Mughal history, as the sandstone compositions of Akbar were adapted by his successors into opulent marble masterpieces. Jahangir is the central figure in the development of the Mughal garden. The most famous of his gardens is the Shalimar Bagh on the banks of Lake Dal in Kashmir.

Mughal rule under Jahangir (1605-27) and Shah Jahan (1628-58) was noted for political stability, brisk economic activity, beautiful paintings, and monumental buildings. Jahangir married a Persian princess whom he renamed Nur Jahan (Light of the World), who emerged as the most powerful individual in the court besides the emperor. As a result, Persian poets, artists, scholars, and officers--including her own family members--lured by the Mughal court's brilliance and luxury, found asylum in India. The number of unproductive officers mushroomed, as did corruption, while the excessive Persian representation upset the delicate balance of impartiality at the court. Jahangir liked Hindu festivals but promoted mass conversion to Islam. He persecuted the followers of Jainism and even executed Guru Arjun Dev, the fifth saint-teacher of the Sikhs in 1606 for refusing to make changes to the Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book). The execution was not entirely for religious reasons; Guru Arjun Dev Ji supported Prince Khusro, another contestant to the Mughul throne in the civil war that developed after Akbar's death. Nur Jahan's abortive efforts to secure the throne for the prince of her choice led Shah Jahan to rebel against Jahangir in 1622. In that same year, the Persians took over Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, an event that struck a serious blow to Mughal prestige. Jahangir also had the Tuzak-i-Jahangiri composed as a record of his reign.

Shah Jahan
Jahangir's son Prince Khurram ascended the throne in 1628 as Emperor Shah Jahan. Between 1636 and 1646, Shah Jahan sent Mughal armies to conquer the Deccan and the lands to the northwest of the empire, beyond the Khyber Pass. Even though they aptly demonstrated Mughal military strength, these campaigns drained the imperial treasury. As the state became a huge military machine, causing the nobles and their contingents to multiply almost fourfold, the demands for revenue from the peasantry were greatly increased. Political unification and maintenance of law and order over wide areas encouraged the emergence of large centers of commerce and crafts--such as Lahore, Delhi, Agra, and Ahmadabad--linked by roads and waterways to distant places and ports.

However, Shah Jahan's reign is remembered more for monumental architectural achievements than anything else. The single most important architectural change was the use of marble instead of sandstone. He demolished the austere sandstone structures of Akbar in the Red Fort and replaced them with marble buildings such as the Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience), the Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience), and the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque). The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, the grandfather of his queen, Mumtaz Mahal, was also constructed on the opposite bank of the Jumna. In 1638 he began to lay out the city of Shahjahanabad beside the Jamuna river further North in Delhi. The Red Fort at Delhi represents the pinnacle of centuries of experience in the construction of palace-forts. Outside the fort, he built the Jami Masjid, the largest mosque in India. However, it is for the Taj Mahal, which he built as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, that he is most often remembered.

Shah Jahan's extravagant architectural indulgence had a heavy price. The peasants had been impoverished by heavy taxes and by the time his son Aurangzeb ascended the throne, the empire was in a state of insolvency. As a result, opportunities for grand architectural projects were severely limited. This is most easily seen at the Bibi-ki-Maqbara, the tomb of Aurangzeb's wife, built in 1678. Though the design was inspired by the Taj Mahal, it is half its size, the proportions compressed and the detail clumsily executed. The Taj Mahal thus symbolizes both Mughal artistic achievement and excessive financial expenditures at a time when resources were shrinking. The economic positions of peasants and artisans did not improve because the administration failed to produce any lasting change in the existing social structure. There was no incentive for the revenue officials, whose concerns were primarily personal or familial gain, to generate resources independent of what was received from the Hindu zamindars and village leaders, who, due to self-interest and local dominance, did not hand over the entirety of the tax revenues to the imperial treasury. In their ever-greater dependence on land revenue, the Mughals unwittingly nurtured forces that eventually led to the break-up of their empire.

The Reign of Aurangzeb and the Decline of the Empire
The last of the great Mughals was Aurangzeb Alamgir. During his fifty-year reign, the empire reached its greatest physical size but also showed unmistakable signs of decline. The bureaucracy had grown corrupt; the huge army used outdated weaponry and tactics. Aurangzeb restored Mughal military dominance and expanded power southward, at least for a while. Aurangzeb was involved in a series of protracted wars: against the Pathans in Afghanistan, the sultans of Bijapur and Golkonda in the Deccan, the Marathas in Maharashtra and the Ahoms in Assam. Peasant uprisings and revolts by local leaders became all too common, as did the conniving of the nobles to preserve their own status at the expense of a steadily weakening empire. From the early 1700s the campaigns of the Sikhs of Punjab under leaders such as Banda Bahadur, inspired by the martial teachings of their last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, also posed a considerable threat to Mughal rule in Northern India.

The increasing association of Aurangzeb's government with Islam and his religious bigotry further drove a wedge between the ruler and his Hindu subjects. Aurangzeb's policies towards his Hindu subjects were harsh, and intended to force them to convert. Temples were despoiled and the harsh "jiziya" tax (which non Muslims had to pay) was re-introduced. In this clime, Contenders for the Mughal throne were many, and the reigns of Aurangzeb's successors were short-lived and filled with strife. The Mughal Empire experienced dramatic reverses as regional nawabs or governors broke away and founded independent kingdoms. In the war of 27 years from 1680 to 1707, the Mughals suffered several heavy defeats at the hands of the Marathas. They had to make peace with the Maratha armies, and Persian and Afghan armies invaded Delhi, carrying away many treasures, including the Peacock Throne in 1739.

Successors : "The Lesser Mughals"

• Bahadur Shah I (Shah Alam I), b. October 14, 1643 at Burhanpur, ruler from 1707-1712, d. February 1712 in Lahore.
• Jahandar Shah, b. 1664, ruler from 1712-1713, d. February 11, 1713 in Delhi.
• Farrukhsiyar (b.1683, r.1713-1719, d.1719 at Delhi).
• Rafi Ul-Darjat, ruler 1719, d. 1719 in Delhi.
• Rafi Ud-Daulat (Shah Jahan II), ruler 1719, d. 1719 in Delhi.
• Nikusiyar, ruler 1719, d. 1719 in Delhi.
• Mohammed Ibrahim, ruler 1720, d. 1720 in Delhi.
• Mohammed Shah, b. 1702, ruler from 1719-1720, 1720-1748, d. April 26, 1748 in Delhi.
• Ahmad Shah Bahadur, b. 1725, ruler from 1748-1754, d. January 1775 in Delhi.
• Alamgir II, b. 1699, ruler from 1754-1759, d. 1759.
• Shah Jahan III, ruler 1760
• Shah Alam II, b. 1728, ruler from 1759-1806, d. 1806.
• Akbar Shah II, b. 1760, ruler from 1806-1837, d. 1837.
• Bahadur Shah II aka Bahadur Shah Zafar, b. 1775 in Delhi, ruler from 1837-1857, d. 1862 in exile in Rangoon, Burma.

Present-day descendants : A few descendants of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, are known to be living in Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. The majority of direct descendants still carry the clan name Temur with four major branches today: Shokohane-Temur (Shokoh), Shahane-Temur (Shah), Bakshane-Temur (Baksh) and Salatine-Temur (Sultan). There is also a line of direct descendants who carry the name "Mirza", who now live in various areas of the world. Many claim direct descendants to the Mughal empire, but few have the historical data to prove their claims.

Descendants of the Mughals in Hyderabad, India : The Living Mughals is the story of four lost generations of the Mughal dynasty after Bahadur Shah Zafar. Arijeet Gupta's film unearths the direct descendants of the dynasty who now live in Hyderabad and have been lost in the mists of time.

The main protagonist of the film is the Hyderabad-based Begum Laila Umahani, the direct descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar from his first wife Ashraf Mahal. Apart from Ashraf Mahal, Zafar had three more wives - Akhtar Mahal, Zeenat Mahal and Taj Mahal.

The film dwells on the family history of the four succeeding generations. Zafar's son, Mirza Quaiush, his son Mirza Abdullah followed by his son Mirza Pyare and his daughter, the present Begum Laila Umahani who lives in Hyderabad with her eight grown up children and grandchildren.

Gupta says that extensive research has gone into the making of The Living Mughals. The big breakthrough came when he picked up the first lead. Research confirmed that Mirza Quaiush was the only one among the 22 sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar who managed to escape from the British and flee to Kathmandu. He lived the life of a fugitive seeking refuge with rulers of Udaipur and Awrangabad. His son Mirza Abdullah also lived a part of his life as a fugitive before settling down in Hyderabad.

In fact, Hyderabad proved to be a double blessing for Mirza Abdullah. He received both moral and material help from the Nizam and his son Mirza Pyare was born soon after he settled here.

Like his father, Mirza Pyare too benefited immensely by his association with Hyderabad's royal family. He married Habeeb Begum from the family of the sixth Nizam. In 1914 a daughter was born to them who was christened Begum Laila Umahani. Today she is the only surviving member of the fourth generation of Mughals. The most interesting part of the film is devoted to the 88-year-old Begum who lives in a rented house in Asmangadh in Hyderabad along with her sons and grandchildren - the fifth and sixth generation of Zafar.

Incidentally, Begum Laila Umahani has four sons and four daughters. These descendants of the Mughal dynasty that ruled India for 332 years are now a lower-middle class family. For the last 40 years the Begum has not visited Delhi which was once the headquarter of the mighty Mughal empire.

- "Unlike the royal existence of her ancestors, the Begum, her children and grandchildren comprising 19 members live in two adjacent houses of three rooms each where they just about manage to cram in", says Gupta.

Mughal influence on the Subcontinent
The main Mughal contribution to the south Asia was their unique architecture. Many monuments were built during the Mughal era including the Taj Mahal. The first Mughal emperor Babur wrote in the Baburnama :

- "Hindustan is a place of little charm. There is no beauty in its people, no graceful social intercourse, no poetic talent or understanding, no etiquette, nobility or manliness. The arts and crafts have no harmony or symmetry. There are no good horses, meat, grapes, melons or other fruit. There is no ice, cold water, good food or bread in the markets. There are no baths and no madrasas. There are no candles, torches or candlesticks".

Fortunately his successors, with fewer memories of the Central Asian homeland he pined for, took a less jaundiced view of Indian culture, and became more or less naturalized, absorbing many Indian traits and customs along the way. The Mughal period would see a more fruitful blending of Indian, Iranian and Central Asian artistic, intellectual and literary traditions than any other in Indian history. The Mughals had taste for the fine things in life - for beautifully designed artifacts and the enjoyment and appreciation of cultural activities.

However, the Hindus of India provided the Mughals with a richer philosophy and the plentiful spices which were incorporated into modern Indian life. While the Mughals' superior position may have been appreciated, in reality, they borrowed as much as they gave. However, it could not be doubted that they introduced many changes to Indian society and culture, including :

• Centralized government which brought together many smaller kingdoms
• Persian art and culture amalgamated with native Indian art and culture
• Started new trade routes to Arab and Turk lands
• Mughali cuisine
• Urdu and Hindi languages were formed for common Muslims and Hindus respectively
• A new style of architecture
• Landscape gardening

The remarkable flowering of art and architecture under the Mughals is due to several factors. The empire itself provided a secure framework within which artistic genius could flourish, and it commanded wealth and resources unparalleled in Indian history. The Mughal rulers themselves were extraordinary patrons of art, whose intellectual caliber and cultural outlook was expressed in the most refined taste.

Alternate meanings
The alternate spelling of the empire, Mogul, is the source of the modern word mogul. In popular news jargon, this word (Mughal/Mogul) denotes a successful business magnate who has built for himself a vast (and often monopolistic) empire in one or more specific industries. The usage seems to have an obvious reference to the expansive and wealthy empires built by the Mughal kings in India. Rupert Murdoch, for example, is a news mogul. See also Media mogul.