Decline of the Mughal Empire

The Mughal Empire

Decline of the Mughal Empire


Shah  Jehan  left  the  Empire  more  peaceful  and  large  than  any  other  Emperor.  However, Aurangzeb soon found much of his money spent on fighting.

o War of Rajputs 1679-1681. Rebellions such as Sikhs, Jats in Gokal and Satnamis in Mewar.

o Keen to extend empire towards north. He fought a campaign against Pathan tribes in NWFP.

o  The Most costly of all was campaign towards Marathas in Deccan. Their leader Shiva was defeated in 1665 and prisoned in Agra. However, he soon escaped and was back as leader for Marathas. Even 25 years of campaign was not able to overthrow Marathas in Deccan. It just almost emptied the Treasury of Mughal Empire.

In 1707, death of Aurangzeb. The Empire was bigger than any other, however, there were some weaken factors of it.

Aurangzeb’s Reforms

Historians are divided among Aurangzeb’s attitude towards Non-Muslims. Measure taken by

Aurangzeb are:

o Jizya was Imposed (tax on Non-Muslims)

o Numbered Hindu Temples were destroyed

o Some old religious practices were banned, such as suttee

o Islamic Laws were enforced making Sikhs and Hindus to live according to Quran

Some Historians describe this as

Intolerant Attitude towards Non-Muslims

Some describe as follow:

It was not intolerant, Aurangzeb was little more Orthodox among other Emperor.

Most of criticism about Aurangzeb is because:

o Appointing censors to Public Morals

o Banning the Consumption of Alcohol

o Stopping Singing and Dancing at ‘Court’

o Maximum lengths of breads

However, to some peoples: Needy and Wise Measures

Aurangzeb was Popular among traders, abolishing many taxes, however, taxation was still very high. Cost on military campaign contributed to ending Treasury, which was further damaged by Extravagant Lifestyle (Pearl Mosque)

During this region, start of Decay of Empire can be seen!


Aurangzeb fought his rivals/brothers to get on the throne. So, he was convinced to avoid such fights, which was damaging the Mughals Treasury. So, he divided his empire into his three sons, however, it was not successful… they still fought for the throne. Prince Muazzum (Victor) survived only few years. His four sons fought, Jahandar Shah (victor) was murdered within a year. In 10 years after death of Aurangzeb, there were 12 claims of being the emperor.

1719, Muhammad Shah was on throne for 30 years, he faced much opposition. Still, he was last who could claim to the emperor.

The Empire Disintegrates

o  Nadir Shah was successful to beat Muhammad Shah’s forces in 1739 at Karnal. He captured and sacked Delhi, however, he didn’t wanted to rule, he wanted to plunder as much as possible and leave Delhi. He left after two months

o  1747, Afghan general Ahmed Shah Durrani attacked Kabul, Peshawar and Lahore. 1749, he caught Punjab and later Kashmir and Multan in 1756.

End of Mughal Empire

o 1748, Empire was shrinking rapidly, resistance of Ahmed Shah Durrani came from Marathas not Mughals

o  Durrani placed Ahmed Shah (Son of Muhammad Shah) on throne. But Empire was shrinking rapidly. He was sent in jail by his own courts

o  Successor Alamgir II was assassinated on the orders of CM. Next Emperor Shah Alam was outside Delhi for 12 years, he lost battle of Buxar. New emperor was placed under British protection.

o Upcoming 2 rulers ruled in names only

o Akbar II ruled Dehli.

Reasons for the Decline of Mughal Empire

Some historians blamed that Aurangzeb was the seed of the Mughal Decline, but still the Empire was maintainable, after all it was very successive empire. Even after Aurangzeb, the Empire continued another 150 years.

A)  The Nature of the Empire

Administrative: Huge Empire, was very difficult to administrate. Emperor was unable to know exactly what was happening to the other side of the Empire.

Succession: Huge sums were also wasted when succession had disputes. Shah Jehan was not dead yet, however, fights for Empire started between sons. Aurangzeb tried to avoid that by dividing empire. Still disputes continued to erode the Empire

Military Costs: The costs of putting down rebellions such as Nadir Shah was enormous.

B)   The Consequences of Success

o Decline Military Expertise: An ‘Over Confident’ army with no longer the Expertise can be easily beaten. Consider Battles with Marathas in Deccan

o Pleasure Seeking: Mughals turned pleasure seeking as they were very wealthy. Nobles had the finest clothes and food. Finest Building were becoming symbol of Extravagance.

o Weak Control: The Huge the empire the hard it is to control. There’s no doubt that Mughal Empire was vast/huge.

C)  The Arrival of British

Mughal Empire was in serious decline from 18th  century. And from the region of Jehangir EIC wanted to take advantage of wealth gained by trade in India. EIC was Private Trading Company, but behind it was the most powerful country. It was the first to go through Industrial Revolutions. EIC, were able to afford army Mughals cannot defeat. So, decline and the strength of British meant fall of mightiest Mughal Empire.

Enter the British

East India Company:

o  The East India Trading Company was a Company set up by British Merchants to trade with India in 1600.

o 1600, its first port was set up at Surat.

o The East India Company gained power and created a private army.

o It made a major role in establishing British Reign in the subcontinent.

o The East India Company was finished through India Act 1858 after War of Independence.

o The British was interested in the Indian Wealth of Spices and Mineral Resources.

o The British wanted to use and take control over the major trade routes to control World

Trade and they all passed through the subcontinent.

o The British wanted to eliminate all other countries from competitions.

o The British wanted to trade for its economic growth.

Why the British took over on EIC?

o The company became bankrupt.

o It lost its monopoly. Other companies wanted to share the Indian trading monopoly.

o British government achieved its purpose of capturing the subcontinent by blaming EIC of War of Independence.

o India Act 1858 abolished the company and the British government took over the company’s assets.

British gains control

Battle of Plessey: The French encouraged the Nawab of Bengal to attack the EIC base at Calcutta. Furthermore the Fortification of British post on Calcutta was also against agreement with the Nawab of Bengal and so Siraj-ud-Daulah marched over Calcutta and seized Fort William and locked the British residents in a small room. 23 out of 65 people died and so Battle of Plessey began. Robert Clive succeeded in defeating Siraj-ud-Daullah by bribing one of his key men Mir Jafar. Jafar was made the new Nawab of Bengal as reward and Bengal came under EIC’s rule. Robert Clive was given Kashmir as reward.

Battle of Buxar: 1764, Mir Qasim (Son of Mir Jafar) joined forces with the Nawab of Oudh, and the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II in order to drive the British out of Bengal. The British fought under Hector Munro and won a decisive battle, after which their influence gradually increased and

the EIC forces eventually took over the revenue collection of Bihar and Orissa. Their influence was further extended into Oudh and this victory helped the British in extending its control moreover in India as it paved a clear way for the British to make further inroads into the Indian possessions.

Annexation of Sindh- a shameful British act?

1839, Assault on Afghanistan: The British were threatened about Russia seeking to expand its territory. In 1939, British invaded Afghanistan and installed its own puppet ruler, however the British army could not face the difficult terrain of Afghanistan as well as the locals and soon

within Two years the Afghan’s rebelled and massacred the British force. Out of 4000 soldiers, only

one doctor from Kabul survived and reported the incident.

1843, The Annexation of Sindh: The British pride was hurt by the invasion in Afghanistan and decided to attack on Sindh under Sir Charles Napier to restore their Pride and Prestige among Muslims and to capture the important Route through Bolan pass. Also they wanted to make sure it is not the target of Sikhs expansion. Even in Britain many people condemned Napier’s action for they had broken a friendship treaty with the Amirs of Sindh in 1809. Sir Charles Napier provoked Amirs of Sindh to attack British. Now they had a reason to make it the base of annexation.

Annexation of Punjab and NWFP

The British now turned to Punjab threatened by the increasing power of Ranjit Singh and now to capture the trade route over Indus River and Khyber Pass. The Sikhs were worried also and so they attacked on British controlled India in 1845, First Sikh War. Their main army was destroyed. Finally in 1848-9 Second Sikh War, the Sikh army was destroyed and so the British took over Punjab. The NWFP also came under British rule with Capture of Punjab.

Why were the British able to conquer India?

The weakness of India: There was no uniting force in India. People of different communities were not even involved in attempts to recover the Mughal Empire. Thus it can be concluded: “A disintegrated society weakens the nation and ultimately it will lead to enslave its own citizens to others”

The Strengths of British: Industrial Revolution in Britain resulted an advanced technology in country. Superior Weapons. They saw, India in decline. It was an opportunity for Trade and imposing British administration. They believed that they would succeed and they are destined to rule large parts of world.

It can be seen weakness of India and Strengths of British resulted as end of rule of mighty Mughals.

British Rule

o  1833 Charter Act, said that Indians would have greater say to run their country/appointment in civil service. However, examinations were in London, so all the officials employed were from England.

o  Historian remember this rule as ‘Drain of Wealth’. Income of country was used to buy goods which were sent to England.

o  In start Govt. was less involved religion. However, later in 1829, suttee was banned. 1834, English was replaced with Persian. 1835, English was included in education.

Indian Exploitations: Historians say, 150 years after the ‘Battle of Plassey’. 1000 million euros have been taken from India Subcontinent to England. This explains that poverty existed and why famines in 1877, 78, 89, 92 killed 15 million peoples.

Doctrine of Lapse

Lord Dalhousie applied a new policy for the expansion of the British Empire, which was called ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ in 1852. According to the doctrine the rulers of state were not allowed to adopt sons. As a result their states were annexed many states like Oudh, Jhansi, Behar, etc. through this doctrine. These annexations created a sense of insecurity among the general public. They became suspicious of the British policies.

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