The Decline of the Mughal Empire
Key Question 2: What were the causes and consequences of the decline of the Mughal Empire?
Following are the major reasons that led to the decline of the Mughal Empire:
Aurangzeb (1618 – 1707)
Biography:• He was born in November 1618 at Dahod.• His father was Shah Jahan and he was the youngest among brothers.• He was the viceroy of Deccan kingdoms from 1636 to 1644 and 1654 to 1658.• He dethroned his father and became emperor.
Aurangzeb as a Person:• He was deeply religious, self-disciplined and industrious.• He spent his time writing copies of the Holy Quran.• He was ruthless but avoided shedding blood unnecessarily.• His courage in battle was undeniable.
Aurangzeb as an Emperor:• Shah Jahan left the Empire larger than ever, but Aurangzeb spent most of Empire’s wealth in wars.• He was very religious and his religious reforms against Non-Muslims received much criticism.• He appointed theologians to assemble a book of Islamic law, named as ‘Fatawa-al-Alamgiriya’.• His goal as a ruler was to rule all over India.
Aurangzeb’s Role in the Decline:• Aurangzeb was the last great Mughal empire and he spent most of his rule fighting Marhattas and Rajputs. • During the final years of Aurangzeb's rule, the problems in the Mughal Empire started to rise.
Following are the major reasons that led to the decline of the Mughal Empire:
The War Against Marhattas:• He started the war against Marhattas and created enemies for Mughals in the south region.• The Marhattas defeated the Mughal army in 1737 and took over Malwa.• It was a long war that continued for twenty-five years due to which the state was left unattended and weakened the empire.
The Downfall of Economy & High Tax:• The war costed the treasury drastically and the Empire’s economy in a miserable state.• To cover up the loss, Jizya (tax) was imposed on Muslims and the people started disliking him.
Religious Reforms:• He destroyed Hindu temples.• He enforced Hindus and Sikhs to live their life with respect to Quran.• He made Hindus agitated by banning Satee.
Extravagance:• He spent money on his luxuries.• He built a pearl mosque for his personal use.• He built palaces.• His luxuries further weakened the economy.
The War of Succession:• To get the throne, Aurangzeb had to fight with his brothers but this war for throne turns out to be heavy on the treasury.• Therefore, to avoid this situation among his three sons, he divided the entire empire but in vain.• They still fought over the throne, Prince Muazzam rise as the victor but he died after a few years. • Jahandar Shah was murdered within a year of being a victor.• The succession disputes also affected the army strength because different fractions of the army men were supporting different princes making the empire vulnerable.• After the death of Aurangzeb, there were 12 claims on the throne within ten years.• In 1719, Muhammad Shah became the emperor. He was the last to claim the throne.
Eventual Break of the Mughal Empire After 1707
• After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire eventually declined and inevitably broke. However, since it was a very successful Empire, it still took 150 more years for its definite end.
Following are the reasons that made the Mughal Empire fall:
The Challenges of The Empire:
• It was an empire that was difficult to administrate.
• The disputes of succession take a huge toll on the treasury. Aurangzeb tried to defend from it but failed.
• The cost on the wars to stop rebellions like Nadir Shah was heavy.
Rebel by Locals:
• Since the empire was very large, it became to keep an eye on everyone and stop rebellion from the locals.
• The locals who were in power such as the Zamindars (landlords) built their armies.
• After the death of Aurangzeb, they grew stronger, denied to make tax payments and accept any new emperor.
Rebel by Princes:
• As the Mughal Empire weakened, the Princes started rebelling to rule areas independently.
• They tried to rule areas that are far from the Emperors reach and didn’t make any contributions to the Empire’s treasury.
Rebel by Nawabs:
• The provincial governors, known as the ‘Nawabs’ were very important in carrying out the instructions for the Emperor and Empire.
• Their loyalty towards the Mughals weakened as they became stronger and powerful.
• In the 1720s, The Nawabs separated themselves from the Imperial control and stopped sending revenues to the Empire's treasury.
Rebel by Marhattas:
• It was considered as the most serious reason for the decline of Mughals.
• Aurangzeb failed to defeat Marhattas before his death.
• Under the leadership of Sivaji, the Marhattas power expanded.
• In 1737, they defeated the Mughal army outside Delhi and took over Malwa.• In 1760, the even captured Delhi.• They became the most powerful people during the middle of the century.
Invasion by Afghans & Persians:
• Since the Mughal Empire was divided within itself, it became vulnerable to external invasions.
• The first armed invasion was led by Afghans and Persians.
• In 1738-1739, under the leadership of Nadir Shah, the Persians launched an invasion.
• The invasion by Persians was nothing more than a successful looting expedition.
• They looted the famous Peacock Throne, jewels and gold and returned home.
• During 1747 – 1769, ten invasions were launched by the Afghan leader Ahmed Shah in northern India.
Military Weakness & Extravagance:
• The Mughal army became over-confident that resultant in their downfall.
• The Mughals became self-observant and started spending their wealth on personal pleasures.
Role of East India in the Decline of Mughal Empire
• During the fifteenth century, as the sea routes opened, new trade opportunities created for the Western world.
• The extravagance, wealth and splendor of the Mughals attracted the Europeans to do business in India.
• At first, the Europeans seemed completely harmless business traders.
• They were interested in Indian spices, cotton, gold, jewels, and metalworks of India to trade.
• Trading posts were established along with military outposts by Europeans, Dutch, Portuguese and French with cooperation from the Mughals.
• Mughals saw the opportunity of higher profit by their trade and gave them their support.
The British Takeover
• The East India Company was established by merchants.
• In 1750, the British East India Company gained supremacy among their competitors especially French, in the form of British East India Company.
• The East India Company created a private army and played an integral role in the establishment of British rule.
• The decline of Mughals and the downfall of Marhattas allowed British to take hold of India.
• They wanted to take control of all trade routes to eliminate competitors as most of the trades passed through the sub-continent.
• The East India Company got bankrupt and after the War of Independence 1857.
• The British Government has seen the failure of the East India Company as an opportunity to take over India by blaming the company for the War of Independence
• The British Government seized assets of the company.
British Expansion in the Sub-Continent to 1857
Resistance to British:
• In 1686, the East India Company (EIC) refused to pay taxes to the Mughal Empire.
• Aurangzeb sent forces and defeated the British.
• Due to this defeat, a heavy fine was imposed on them by Aurangzeb to continue their trade.
• Additionally, in 1756, Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal also attacked EIC’s base in Calcutta.
• The British were again defeated, and the city of Calcutta was captured.
• Both resistances show the power of Mughals had while Aurangzeb was alive as well as the bravery of local rulers after his death.
The Rise of British:
• In 1764, the rulers of Orissa, Bihar, Bengal, and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II were defeated by British strengthening their position in the sub-continent.
• In 1782, Warren Hastings – the first Governor ended the first Marhattas War by signing an agreement removing the threat of Marhattas power looming over them.
• The Marhattas was strong and didn't allow the British to capture their land but rather agreed for negotiations.
• Another Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh was a threat and would not have let the British enter into Punjab but an agreement was signed of everlasting friendship in 1809.
• Tipu Sultan and Haider Ali, the Nawabs of Maysore also resisted British but were defeated and killed in 1799.
• In 1903, the Mughal Emperor of Delhi, Shah Alam was forced by British that he was ruling under their protection making the British the indirect rulers of Delhi.
• The Industrial revolution and advanced weaponry of British also gave them an edge over the Indian rules who were using the outdated weaponry.
The Annexations by British:
• Russia wanted to expand its territory which made the British afraid.
• They invaded Afghanistan but faced many difficulties including the locals and terrain.
• Within two years, the Afghans rebelled and killed all of the 4000 British men except a doctor who reported the incident.
• After facing a shameful defeat by hands of Afghan, the British were enraged.
• Under the leadership of Sir Charles Napier, they invaded Sindh to not only restore their pride but also to capture Bolan Pass, which was an important route.
• It was a shameful act because they violated the signed agreement with the Amirs of Sindh.
Punjab & NWFP:
• The British were afraid of Ranjit Singh, Sikh ruler of Punjab and wanted the Khyber Pass and Indus River trade route in their control.
• The Sikhs were aware of the looming threat and attacked the British in 1845, it was the first Sikh War.
• In 1848 – 1849, the second Sikh War started, the British defeated them and took over Punjab along with NWFP.