“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



The proud Mughal Empire which had ruled the north for two centuries was declining and soon the emperor of Delhi became a pensioner for the British. The process of disintegration began with Aurangzeb and his policies yet at the time of his death in 1707, the Empire was still strong. After his death, his sons quarreled amongst themselves and Bahadur Shah won. He had a more tolerant and secular policy. Under him, the Rana’s of Mewar and Marathas were appeased and earlier policy of aggression was withdrawn. Sikhs too were conciliated by giving Guru Gobind Singh a Mansab rank. However due to the grant of Mansabs and posts the royal treasury was exhausted. His death in 1712 plunged Delhi into civil war.

    Jahandar shah followed him to the throne as he was supported by the most powerful noble Zulfiqar khan. Zulfiqar Khan controlled the administration and adopted a policy of tolerance towards the chief of Mewar and Marathas. However, against the Sikhs, he continued the old policy of aggression. Soon the other nobles poisoned the emperor’s ears against Zulfiqar khan. He began secretly plotting against Zulfiqar khan. Finally, Jahandar khan was killed by the next successor Farrukh Siyar.

Farrukh Siyar was the undependable and worthless successor. The Sayyid brothers were instrumental in helping him win. They got important posts in the administration. The emperor wanted to rule personally but the Sayyid brothers believed that then he should be a puppet and they should handle administration to reverse the decay of the Empire. This led to conflicts between the emperor and the Sayyid brothers and finally, the emperor was killed. In his place, three successor princes were nominated. Two died quickly and the last Muhammad shah took the throne.

Under the Sayyid brothers, the Mughal ties with Rajputs, Marathas, and Jats were strengthened. But corruption had increased. The Sayyids couldn’t rule properly due to continuous quarrels with other nobles. The death of the emperor had created public revulsion against them. The other nobles called the anti-Islamic and anti-Mughal due to their tolerant policy. The emperor too wanted to rule freely. Hence soon rebellion started against the Sayyid and they were killed.


Muhammad shah reigned for 30 years. An emperor who had sound knowledge of administration was needed to save the Empire but Muhammad shah wasn’t that. He led a life of luxury and pleasure. This disgusted his nobles and they left to carve semi independent states. The corruption too had increased under his reign. One such Wazir Nizam ul Mulk founded the south state of Hyderabad.


It was in this period the afghan king nadir shah descended in the north. He was attracted by the vast wealth. He invaded the North West frontier but met with no resistance. The nobles of Mughal court quarreled and wouldn’t unite even when the enemy was insight. This led to their heavy defeat. A bloodbath was seen in Delhi and Nadir Shah captured the Mughal treasury, Kohinoor diamond and the peacock throne. The Mughal emperor had been taken prisoner and released after he gave up all provinces west of Indus. After nadir shah the Mughals saw repeated attacks from Ahmed Shah Abdali. Abdali was nadir shahs ablest general and became the ruler of Afghanistan. He defeated the Marathas in 1761 at Panipat. The Mughal Empire had shrunk to just kingdom of Delhi but the Mughal never participated in the affairs of the state. Shah Alam II who ascended throne in 1759 spent the initial years wandering away from his kingdom as he was in mortal fear from his Wazir. He joined Shuja ud dawla and Mir Qasim in battle of Buxar against the English East India Company but was defeated. He remained as a pensioner in the Allahabad fort till 1772 and returned to Delhi under protective arm of the Marathas. When Delhi was captured by Marathas in 1803 till 1857 the Mughals were only political front of the British.


In fact after 1759 Mughals remained only because they symbolized political unity of the country in the minds of the people.


Causes of the decline of the Mughals:


  1.  Aurangzeb’s policy of expansion put pressure on men and material.
  2. His intolerant policy on Hindu chief Shivaji in Deccan and Sikhs put additional strain on the Empire. This drained the resources of the Empire and ruined trade and industry.
  3. The North West front was exposed as Aurangzeb concentrated on Deccan for 25 years.
  4. His inability to subdue the Marathas undermined prestige of the Empire and local chief too dreamed of independence.
  5. When Aurangzeb tried to re extend the imperial sway over Rajputs and earned the ire of Rajputs it further led to confrontation.
  6.  Weak successors who focused on personal pleasure were responsible for the decline. The absence of fixed rule of succession led to civil war among the princes this led to loss of life and weakened the administrative fabric of the Empire.
  7. Revenue policy of Aurangzeb too was harsh and affected the peasant. The agriculture produce declined which couldn’t sustain the mighty state. The jagirdars harassed the peasants for revenue; this wasn’t passed on to the treasury. The decline in trade and industry compared to Europe led to India lagging behind it economically and politically.
  8.  Absence of political nationalism meant that people were loyal to their respective kingdoms not the country.
  9. Foreign invasions by nadir shah and Abdali. Also rise of the British.
  10. Weakness of the army as the mansabdars couldn’t maintain their full quota of the soldiers.


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