The Deccan policy of the Mughals was not determined by a single factor but guided by a number of factors like the strategic importance of the Deccan states, and the administrative and economic necessities of the Mughal Empire etc.
Babur could not establish any contact with the Deccan due to his preoccupation in the North. Humayun also could not find enough time because of his involvement in Gujarat, Bihar and Bengal to devote himself in the affairs of the Deccan. Akbar was the first Mughal emperor who wished to extend the Mughal suzerainty in the Deccan.
Deccan Policy of Mughals
- At the time of Babur’s invasion on India there were six Muslim states, viz., Khandesh, Berar, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golconda and Bidar and one Hindu state, i.e., Vijayanagar in the South.
- According to Babur, the state of Vijayanagar was the most powerful among them. He mentions that Krishnadeva Raya (1509-1530 CE) was the greatest monarch of the Tuluva Dynasty of Vijayanagar. However, Babur could not pay any attention towards the South.
- During Humayun’s reign (1530-40 CE), Muhammad Shah, ruler of Khandesh supported Bahadur Shah of Gujarat against Mewar and fought against Humayun at Mandsaur and Mandu.
- Therefore, Humayun attacked Khandesh after his conquest of Gujarat. Muhammad Shah begged pardon which was granted by Humayun. Thus, Humayun had no planned policy towards the Deccan.
- It was the beginning of the Mughal rule in India and the Afghans were challenging the authority of the Mughals in Northern India. It kept both Babur and Humayun busy in the North.
Under Akbar (1556 to 1605)
- After the conquest of the North-Western frontier, Akbar turned his attention to the conquest of Deccan and Southern India where disunity and warfare between the various kingdoms provided a congenial political condition for an invader. The Vijayanagar Empire had restrained the Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan from fighting one another. However, with the fall of Vijayanagar, after the Battle of Talikota in 1565 CE, the Muslim chieftains devoted their entire energies and resources in mutual warfare.
- Akbar was the first among the Mughal emperors who planned to conquer the Deccan. His primary objective in conquering the Deccan was to expand his rule all over the country. He was also dissatisfied with the constant religious strife in the Deccan and was extremely keen on establishing Sulh-i-kul. Besides, Akbar was not happy with the Portuguese who were becoming powerful on the Indian sea-coast and growing as a menace to the Mughal Empire. Moreover, they were harassing the Haj Pilgrims bound for Mecca. Akbar wanted to break up their power which could be possible by conquering the Deccan.
- According to Abul Fazl one objective of Akbar in conquering the Deccan was to liberate the subject-people of the Deccan from the despotic rule of their local rulers and provide them peace and prosperity. However, modern historians have not given any importance to his opinion.
- In 1591 CE, Akbar despatched from Lahore four diplomatic missions to Khandesh, Ahmadnagar Bijapur and Golconda and asked them to accept his sovereignty. Except Khandesh all other states refused.
- Later on, Ali Khan, ruler of Khandesh died fighting on the side of the Mughals against Ahmadnagar. Akbar then turned his attention to the kingdom of Ahmadnagar. In 1593 CE the Mughals attacked Ahmadnagar. Chand Bibi, an aunt of the reigning king Muzaffar of Ahmadnagar fought bravely against them.
- However, she either committed suicide or was murdered later on. But Ahmadnagar continued to fight and it was after many years of struggle that the Mughals succeeded in capturing the territories and forts of Berar, Ahmadnagar and Daulatabad.
- Miran Bahadur, son of Ali Khan succeeded his father to the throne of Khandesh. He refused to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Mughals and stopped paying tribute.
- The Mughals, therefore, attacked Khandesh, captured the fort of Asirgarh in 1601 CE and, finally, annexed all territories of Khandesh to Empire.
- Miran Bahadur was imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior and was given a pension. However, during his lifetime Akbar failed to take any action against Bijapur and Golconda.
- Thus, Akbar occupied Khandesh, captured a part of the territory of Ahmadnagar along with some strong forts like Daultabad, Ahmadnagar, Burhanpur, Asirgarh etc. and, thus, not only established the power of the Mughals in the Deccan but also paved the way for the conquest of the Deccan for his successor.
Under Jahangir (1605 to 1627)
- Like his father, Jahangir was also committed to the conquest of the entire Southern India. Akbar had conquered only a part of the Nizamshahi kingdom of Ahmadnagar including its capital town. However, the major part of the state remained under the control of Nizamshahi nobles.
- Jahangir endeavored to annex Ahmadnagar and force the rulers of Bijapur and Golconda to accept his suzerainty. But, the Mughals had to face tough resistance put up by Malik Ambar, the Wazir of Ahmadnagar.
- He improved the economy of Ahmadnagar, trained Maratha soldiers in guerilla warfare, fought aggressively against the Mughals and during the early period of the reign of Jahangir recovered the fort of Ahmadnagar and some other territory of the state of Ahmadnagar.
- Although Jahangir deputed his most capable generals such as Khan-i-Jahan Lodhi, Abdullah Khan in the Deccan campaigns yet no success was gained because of the mutual differences among the Mughal officers and the success of Malik Ambar in opposing them.
- In 1617 CE, Prince Khurram attacked Ahmadnagar and forced it to sign a treaty by which Ahmadnagar surrendered the fort of Ahmadnagar and the territory of Balaghat to the Mughals.
- Prince Khurram was conferred upon the title of Shah Jahan by Jahangir at that very time. But it was, in fact, no remarkable success of the Mughals.
- Ahmadnagar was not prepared to accept the sovereignty of the Mughals and started fighting against them again.
- In 1621 CE, however, peace was again signed between the two by which Ahmadnagar surrendered a part of its territory to the Mughals and also paid rupees eighteen lakhs in cash.
- Bijapur and Golconda which had helped Ahmadnagar who also paid rupees twelve lakhs and rupees twenty lakhs respectively to the Mughals.
- Thus, during Jahangir’s reign, Ahmadnagar was weakened and the states of Bijapur and Golconda were pressurized. But, there was no extension of the empire and no state of the Deccan was either finished or forced to submit.
- Dr. R.P. Tripathi has commented: “It advanced the Mughal power no further than it had stood when Akbar left the Deccan.”
Under Shah Jahan (1628 to 1658)
- Shah Jahan’s Deccan policy was a continuation of the one initiated by his ancestors, Akbar and Jahangir. He also attempted either to annex the kingdoms of the Deccan or force them to accept his suzerainty. He was a capable commander and understood the politics of the Deccan well.
- The death of Malik Ambar provided him good opportunity to put pressure on Ahmadnagar. Fateh Khan, son of Malik Ambar, who became the Wazir was incapable and corrupt. He was not sincere to the Sultan or to the state. Instead, he was interested in pursuing his own selfish ends. He got murdered Sultan Murtaza Nizam Shah II and placed a child, Hussain Shah on the throne. But he was not loyal even to him. He opened discussions with the Mughals and at the same time tried to befriend Bijapur. His unprincipled diplomacy resulted in the loss of many loyal nobles like Shahji Bhonsle to him as well as the faith of Bijapur and the Mughals.
- Eventually, he surrendered Sultan Hussain Shah to the Mughals in 1633 CE. Hussain Shah was imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior and Ahmadnagar was annexed to the Mughal Empire. It meant the end of the state of Ahmadnagar though Shahji Bhonsle continued to fight against the Mughals on behalf of another child of the ruling dynasty of Ahmadnagar, named Murtaza III. However, he surrendered that child to the Mughals in 1636 CE and accepted the service of Bijapur.
- Muhammad Qutb Shah, the Sultan of Golconda died in 1626 CE. He was succeeded by minor son Abdulla Qutb Shah, then a lad of eleven years and a half. In 1636 CE, Golconda was forced to accept the suzerainty of the Mughals. Aurangzeb, when appointed as governor of the Deccan in 1652 CE, pressurized Golconda because it had failed to pay the annual tribute to the Mughals. Aurangzeb started interfering into the affairs of Golconda on one pretext or the other. He got the opportunity when Mir Jumla, one of the most prominent nobles of the Sultan, quarreled with him and sought personal intervention for restoring peace from Shah Jahan. Aurangzeb occupied Hyderabad and besieged the fort of Golconda. But before he could capture it, he received orders of Shah Jahan to raise the siege.
- Consequently, a treaty was signed between the two by which Golconda accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal emperor, married one of his daughters to prince Muhammad, son of Aurangzeb, gave rupees ten lakhs as dowry and yet another rupees seventeen lakhs as war-indemnity to the Mughals. Thus, though Golconda was weakened but its existence remained.
- Muhammad Adil Shah I ascended the throne of Bijapur in 1627 CE. He had no fixed plan against the onslaughts of the Mughals while his nobles were divided among themselves. On December 3, 1631 CE, Shah Jahan ordered his Prime Minister Asaf Khan to invade Bijapur, but this invasion proved to be a failure.
- The Mughals again attacked it in 1636 CE and compelled it to accept their suzerainty. Later on, it enjoyed immunity from the attacks of the Mughals for the next twenty years.
- Adil Shah died in November 1656 CE. It was believed that he had no son but his wife, Bari Sahiba declared one child as his son and succeeded in placing him on the throne, with the name of Adil Shah II, then a lad of eighteen. Shah Jahan tried to take advantage of it. He charged Bijapur for different things and ordered Aurangzeb to attack it. Aurangzeb besieged the fort of Bijapur but before he could capture it, he received order of Shah Jahan to raise the siege.
- A treaty was, therefore, signed between the two in 1657 CE by which Bijapur accepted the suzerainty of the Mughal emperor and agreed to pay rupees one and a half crores to the Mughals. The forts of Bidar and Kalyani also fell to the Mughals.
- Aurangzeb also forced Shivaji to settle for peace with the Mughals. Thus, during the reign of Shah Jahan the Deccan policy of the Mughals was quite successful. The state of Ahmadnagar was completely annexed to the Mughal Empire and Bijapur and Golconda were forced to accept the suzerainty of the Emperor, surrender part of their territories and some important forts and pay annual tribute and war-indemnity.
- If Shah Jahan himself would not have stopped Aurangzeb, probably Bijapur and Golconda could be annexed. The politics of Deccan was very well understood by Shah Jahan. He probably felt that the annexation of these two states would complicate matters for the Mughals. Therefore, he felt satisfied by making them weak and accepting of his sovereignty by them.
- Prince Dara Shukoh and Princess Jahan Ara did not want the elimination of these states because it would have enhanced the power and prestige of Aurangzeb. Shah Jahan’s illness and the possibility of a war of succession among his sons was, probably, another reason of the safety of these states at that time.
Under Aurangzeb (1658 to 1707)
- Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy can be divided into two phases:
- Phase I (till 1680)
- Emperor himself not in person but the role of military generals in Deccan.
- Three major concerns:
- Qutubshahis and
- Treaty of Purandhar (1665) happened in this phase between Jai Singh I as a Mughal commander and Shivaji as a Maratha power.
- Phase II (1680 onwards)
- Aurangzeb in person went to Deccan and led the charge against Deccani states
- 3 concerns (Marathas, Qutubshahis and Adilshahis) remained the same.
- Military campaigns of Aurangzeb led to annexation of Adilshahis in 1686 and Qutubshahis in 1687.
- Maratha ruler Sambhaji was executed in 1689.
- Phase I (till 1680)
- Aurangzeb’s policy towards the Deccan had political, economic and religious motives. The expansion of the Mughal Empire was one purpose of Aurangzeb. Probably, extinction of the states of Bijapur and Golconda was a prior necessity for the destruction of the power of the Marathas in the Deccan.
- Besides this, the very existence of Shia rulers, in spite of their humble submission to the Mughal throne, was an eye sore to him. Apart from this, the states of the Deccan were wealthy. Aurangzeb was tempted to conquer them with a view to capture their wealth. Therefore, Aurangzeb was not satisfied simply by acceptance of his suzerainty by them but he desired to annex them to the Mughal Empire.
- During the first half of his reign (1657-81 CE) Aurangzeb remained busy in Northern India. Therefore, the responsibility of looking after the Deccan affairs was left to his different nobles.
- Bijapur had failed to fulfill the terms of the treaty of 1657 CE. Therefore, Mirza Raja Jai Singh was deputed to attack it in 1665-66 CE but he failed to get the submission of Bijapur. However, the situation, changed when Adil Shah II died in 1672 CE and was succeeded by his four-year son, Sikandar Adil Shah.
- The Sultan, being a minor, was unable to keep his nobles under his control. The nobles were divided into two groups, viz., the foreigners and the Indian Muslims.
- Both these groups attempted to capture the power of the throne which led to mal-administration of the state. Taking advantage of this the Mughals attacked Bijapur in 1676 CE but with no result.
- The Mughals didn’t succeed in the coming years also till Aurangzeb himself reached the Deccan. In 1681 CE, there took place a fateful occurrence in the revolt of Prince Muhammad Akbar which took Aurangzeb to the South in fury. Aurangzeb reached the Deccan in 1682 CE with a view to destroy all states of the South.
- He first deputed his son, Azam against Bijapur. Bijapur collapsed after 15 months of heroic resistance and was annexed to the Mughal Empire on September 22, 1686 CE and Adil Shahi dynasty came to an end. Sikandar Adil Shah was granted a pension.
- Abul Hasan Qutb Shah (1626-72 CE) was the Sultan of Golconda at that time. He had purchased peace with the Mughals in 1657 CE by giving away his daughter in marriage to Prince Muhammad Sultan, the eldest son of Aurangzeb. He was a Shia, had entrusted the work of administration to his two capable Brahmin ministers, Madanna and Akhanna and buried himself in the pleasures of harem life. He had expressed his displeasure at the occupation of Bijapur by the Mughals.
- Aurangzeb was dissatisfied with all that and ordered Prince Shah Alam to attack Golconda. Abul Hasan left Hyderabad and sought shelter in the fort of Golconda. Abul Hasan pleaded for a treaty with the prince and he agreed. But Aurangzeb was not prepared for any treaty. He besieged the fort of Golconda in 1687 CE and captured it by strategy. Sultan Abul Hasan was made captive in the fort of Daulatabad and was given a lifetime pension. Golconda was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
- The conquests of Bijapur and Golconda did not complete the conquest of the Deccan by Aurangzeb. The rise of the Maratha power under Shivaji was yet a powerful challenge to him. Shivaji had established an independent kingdom in Maharashtra.
- Shivaji first came into conflict with the Mughals in 1656 CE when he attacked Ahmadnagar and Junar. But Aurangzeb forced him to agree for peace in 1657 CE. After consolidating his hold over the throne, Aurangzeb appointed his maternal uncle Shaista Khan to be the viceroy of the Mughal Deccan. He ordered him to attack the Maratha territories while Shivaji was involved in his conflict with Bijapur. But Shaista Khan failed.
- On April 14, 1663 CE, Shivaji carried out a very daring exploit by organizing a surprise night-attack on Shaista Khan in his sleeping chambers at Poona. Aurangzeb recalled Shaista Khan and deputed Raja Jai Singh to attack Shivaji. Jai Singh forced Shivaji to sign the Treaty of Purandhar on June 24, 1665 CE by which he surrendered 3/4th of his territory and forts.
- Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 CE where he was virtually imprisoned. However, he managed to escape from Agra on August 29, 1666 CE. He renewed his hostilities against the Mughals in 1670 CE. Shivaji celebrated his coronation ceremony with great pomp and show at Raigarh on June 16, 1674 CE and assumed the title of Maharaja Chhatrapati, thus proclaiming the establishment of a sovereign Hindu state. Shivaji died on April 13, 1680 CE but before his death he had succeeded in establishing quite an extensive kingdom in the South.
- He was succeeded by his eldest son, Shambhaji. Prince Akbar, son of Aurangzeb found shelter with him. But Shambhaji was an incompetent ruler. Aurangzeb reached the Deccan in 1682 CE and succeeded in capturing Shambhaji. He was killed on March 21, 1689 CE and the entire Maharashtra was occupied by Aurangzeb. It completed the conquest of the South by Aurangzeb.
- However, his success did not last long. The Marathas rose as one force against the Mughals to liberate their motherland. The Maratha war of independence was first led by Shivaji’s second son Raja Ram and then by his widow, Tara Bai. Both Raja Ram and Tara Bai proved equal to their task. Raja Ram proved to be a capable organizer while Tara Bai proved herself quite diplomatic. After the death of her husband, she declared her infant son Shivaji II as the ruler of the Marathas and fought against the Mughals.
- A Muslim historian, Khafi Khan, who was, in no way favorable to the Marathas, wrote about her: “It was the result of her efforts that the Marathas started attacking not only the Subas of the Deccan but also the distant Mughal provinces and Aurangzeb failed to subdue the Marathas even till the end of his reign.“
- This war continued till Aurangzeb’s death. Different Maratha chiefs organized their armies, used guerilla warfare against the Mughals, attacked the Mughal territory even outside Maharashtra and continued their efforts till they succeeded in snatching away Maharashtra from the clutches of the Mughals. Aurangzeb failed to subdue the Marathas and died in the Deccan fully realizing his failure against the Marathas. Thus, the Deccan policy of Aurangzeb ultimately failed.
- The Deccan policy of the Mughals reached perfection of its success during the Aurangzeb’s rule. However, its success proved to be temporary. Aurangzeb failed to consolidate his success. The Marathas rose against him and brought about the collapse of his Deccan policy. The failure of the Deccan policy of Aurangzeb led to the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
- The conquest of the South by Aurangzeb expanded the boundary of the Mughal Empire so extensively that it became impossible to administer it from one place. Indian history had proved it a number of times that the attempt to annex the South by the rulers of the North failed every time. The story was repeated during the reign of Aurangzeb.
- In his effort to conquer the South and keep it under his direct rule, Aurangzeb neglected even the North which was the source of strength of his empire. While Aurangzeb and his best officers could not liberate themselves from the wars in the Deccan, the North was left in the hands of his junior and less competent officers.
- Therefore, the hold of the Mughals over Northern India also became loose. The continuous warfare in the Deccan also exhausted the treasury. All this resulted in the failure of Aurangzeb and contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire. It was the “Deccan Ulcer” that ruined Aurangzeb. His Deccan policy was misguided and impractical.
- The annexation of Bijapur and Golconda by Aurangzeb was also unwise. It resulted in direct conflict of Aurangzeb with the Marathas which became primarily responsible for the failure of his Deccan policy though Jadunath Sarkar has expressed a divergent opinion. He has opined that the weak states of the Deccan neither could function as a protective wall between the Mughals and the Marathas nor could become fruitful allies of the Mughals Therefore, a confrontation between the Mughals and the Marathas was inevitable.
- During the rule of later Mughals, the Deccan was lost to the empire and the Marathas gained ascendancy.
- Thus, it is quite evident that the personal whims or religious considerations of the Mughals did not dictate their policy towards the Deccan states.
- Beginning from Akbar, there were changes in relations between the Mughals and the Deccan states. It is better to look at these changes by considering the overall socio-economic and administrative situation of the Mughal Empire.
- Akbar’s basic concern in the Deccan was to establish Mughal authority there and to protect the ‘Surat hinterland’. He knew that it was not possible to achieve this objective through military conquest only, so he took recourse to diplomacy.
- Jahangir was in favor of maintaining the position that Akbar achieved by the treaty of 1600 CE in the Deccan and Jahangir’s reading of the situation in the Deccan and the internal problems of the Empire influenced him to follow this policy. Violation of the Treaty of 1600 CE by Ahmadnagar forced Shah Jahan to follow an aggressive policy against Ahmadnagar and the Treaty of 1636 CE settled the Deccan problem at least for the next 20 years. Again, the growing expansion of Bijapur and Golkonda in the Karnatak region and the financial crisis of the Empire persuaded Shah Jahan to change his policy.
- Even Aurangzeb who, before his accession to the throne, was a staunch advocate of forward policy in the Deccan was not in favor of outright conquest of Bijapur and Golkonda. However, the rising power of the Marathas, fear of an alliance between the Marathas and Bijapur-Golconda as well as the internal crisis of the Empire forced Aurangzeb to conquer Bijapur and Golconda in the 1680s.
- All these goes to show that the Deccan policy of the Mughals was determined by the needs of the contemporary situation rather than by mere personal whims of the rulers.
- Some historians criticize the Deccan policy of the Mughals as wrongly devised and the Mughal Empire ultimately had to pay for it. Passing such judgment would be historically inappropriate.
- Considering the prevailing situation in the Deccan, particularly the rise of the Marathas on the one hand and the existing enmity and distrust of the Deccan states on the other, made the Mughal intervention in the Deccan inevitable.
- It is evident that the Mughal rulers certainly considered the contemporary situation before taking any step towards the Deccan states. Various factors guided their attitude towards the Deccan states. Their occasional failure in the Deccan was not only because of their lack of understanding of the Deccan problem but the factional strife of the Mughal nobles as well as their questionable loyalty was equally responsible for the fiasco in the Deccan affairs.
- So one should understand the Deccan policy of the Mughals from a broader perspective, instead of narrowing down on any single factor.