Jahangir was born as Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim on 31 August, 1569in Fatehpur Sikri to Mughal Emperor Akbar and his Rajput wife Mariam-uz-Zamani Begum.
As the eldest surviving son of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, he was trained for succession from a young age. He was tutored by the best teachers his father could find and was given expert training in civil and military administration. However, he grew impatient for power and revolted in 1599 when Akbar was engaged in Deccan, but they later reconciled and after the death of Akbar in 1605, Jahangir succeeded to the throne.
With the support of his stepmothers, he rose to power on Akbar’s death. His reign started on 3rd November 1605 and continued till his death on 28 October 1627.
His ascension was challenged by his eldest son Prince Khusrau who staged a revolt with the blessings of Sikh Guru Arjun Dev. Prince Khusrau was defeated, captured and blinded, while Guru Arjun Dev was executed.
He also had to face a rebellion by his other son Khurram. But this was also settled. Prince Khurram later became the emperor on Jahangir’s death and became known as Shah Jahan.
Do-aspa and Sih-aspa system was introduced by Jahangir.
Do-aspa: In this system, mansabdars had to maintain double horses in comparison to their ‘Sawar’ rank.
Sih-aspa: In this system, mansabdars had to maintain a triple number of horses in comparison to their ‘Sawar’ rank.
Jahangir was so impressed with William Hawkins that he gave him the title of English Khan.
Painter Abul Hasan was given the title of ‘Nadir-ul-Zaman’ by Jahangir.
Ustad Mansor was another excellent painter of Jahangir reign.
Jahangir wrote his autobiography Tujuk-i-Jahangiri in Persian language.
Murderer of Abul Fazl, Raja Vir Singh Bundela was awarded by Jahangir.
Francisco Pelsaeri was the foreign traveler who visited India during the reign of Jahangir and left a unique account of Mughal empire in his text ‘The Remonstrantie’.
Tombs of Itmad-ul-Doula was built by Noorjahan. The monument is priceless because it is the first tomb in India that is entirely made up of marble.
In the year 1594, while still a prince, Jahangir had commanded a force that defeated Vir Singh Deo of Bundela and captured the city of Orchha. He also acquired the suzerainty of Cooch Bihar, Mewar and Kistwar in Kashmir.
Within five months after he ascended to the throne, Jahangir ’s son Khusrau revolted in alliance with Man Singh. The prince was defeated and imprisoned while many of his followers were put to death.
The fifth Sikh Guru, Arjun Dev, who had supported the rebellion of the prince was imposed with a heavy fine. When he refused to pay the fine, he was arrested and later tortured to death.
Conquests and Campaigns
Jahangir continued with several of his father’s policies. Like Akbar, he too embarked on a series of military campaigns aimed at expanding the territories under Mughal rule. He also held the vast empire established by his father with great efficiency.
In the East, the Afghan Chiefs, supported by Hindu Rajas of the region, raised a rebellion against the Mughal Emperor under the leadership of Usman Khan. In 1608, Jahangir sent Islam Khan, grandson of Shaikh Salim Chisti to lead the campaign against the Afghans. Islam Khan fixed his headquarters at Dacca tried to capture Sonargaon, which was under the control of Musa Khan and his confederates who were called Barah Bhuiyan. After three years of hard fought campaign, Sonargaon was conquered. Soon, Usman Khan was defeated too, and the Afghan resistance ended.
Jahangir next turned his attention towards Deccan where Malik Ambar had declared himself the ruler of Ahmednagar and started defying the authority of Mughals. Ambar was an Abyssinian military commander who served as Peshwa under Murtaza Nizam Shah II of Ahmednagar and was adept in guerrilla warfare in which he also used the local Maratha warriors to his advantage. Jahangir sent an expedition under Abdur Rahim, Khan-i-Khana, in 1616 who inflicted a crushing defeat on Ambar. To add to this, Jahangir sent a large army under Prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan) which made Ambar to submit to the Mughal Emperor. But, this peace was short lived as Ambar resumed his resistance against Mughals and he was helped by other Deccan States like Bijapur. In 1622, when Mughal Empire was in turmoil following the rebellion of Prince Khurram against the crown, Ambar regained many of his old territories. Thus, Deccan continued to remain a troubled spot for the Mughals even after the death of Ambar in 1626 AD.
One of the main achievements of Jahangir was the settlement of the long standing dispute with Mewar. Rana Pratap had been succeeded by his son Amar Singh in 1597 AD, who was as resilient as his father in opposing Mughals. After his accession, Jahangir launched several campaigns against Rana, but in vain. In 1613 AD, he himself reached Ajmer to direct the campaign and was successful in forcing Rana to sue for peace. Amar Singh’s son, Prince Karan Singh was graciously received by Jahangir and was accorded a mansab of 5000.
The other major challenge that Jahangir faced was from the Persians. Akbar had conquered Kandahar in 1595 AD, but in 1620, Shah Abbas, the Safavid ruler of Persia, tried to capture it. Jahangir decided to send Prince Khurram to defend Kandahar fort but he refused to march and raised the banner of rebellion. Khurram was suspicious that it was a ploy of Nur Jahan to keep him out of the line of succession, in favour of her son-in-law, Shahryar, who was also the younger son of Jahangir.
This controversy enabled the Persians to conquer Kandahar, which was a serious blow to the Mughal Empire, as much of the trade between India and Central Asia passed through this region. Moreover, it was easy to defend the empire from attacks from Central Asia and West Asia from Kandahar region.
Meherunnisa or Nur Jahan was the daughter of Mirza Ghias Beg, also known as Itmad-ud-Daulah, a noble in the court of Akbar. She was married to Jahangir in 1611 and ever since, she held great influence over the state matters and administration. Her brother was appointed Khan-i-saman, a post reserved for nobles in whom the emperor had full faith.
Along with her father, her brother and Prince Khurram, she formed a closed group or Junta which manipulated decisions of Jahangir in administrative matters. She was also politically ambitious and that led to Shah Jahan revolting against his father. After the death of Jahangir in 1627, she retired from court life and died in AD 1645.
In the beginning of Jahangir ’s reign, there were expectations in orthodox circles that Akbar’s policy of Sulhi-kul and religious eclecticism would be abandoned, and the supremacy of the sharia restored. However, Jahangir maintained the liberal character of the state instituted by Akbar. He did not seek to revive the Jizya or the pilgrim tax and the Hindus still occupied high office and enjoyed freedom to construct new temples. Consequently in Mathura, Gokul and Brindaban many new temples were built during his reign. The Christians were also permitted to build and maintain places of worship for themselves.
Jahangir also continued to celebrate the various Hindu festivals like Diwali, Holi, Dashera, Rakhi, Shivratri etc. at his court. Jahangir himself participated in them, as also many of the nobles.
However, one notorious exception was the persecution of Sikh Guru Arjun Dev by Jahangir on charges of the Guru supporting the rebellion of Prince Khusrau. But it cannot be maintained that he persecuted the other religious groups on regular basis. His actions affected only an individual or a particular locality and each instance of alleged religious persecution had some non-religious motive at the base. It is therefore difficult to say that he had adopted a policy of religious intolerance or persecution.
Relation with Europeans
When Jahangir ascended to the throne, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English traders had already arrived in India. Jahangir was initially liberal with the Portuguese traders and granted them trade concessions. But they soon incurred his wrath when they began to indulge in piracy and attacked Mughal ships. Jahangir refused them permission to have any trade relations with Mughals until the Portuguese made amendments.
He had skirmishes with the Portuguese when they seized a Mughal ship off the coast of Surat in 1613. He retaliated by seizing Daman and confiscating their churches. He gave the English considerable concessions to gain advantage and favour against the Portuguese.
It was during Jahangir’s reign that two Englishmen, Sir John Hawkins and Thomas Roe arrived in India as ambassadors of King James I of England. The East India Company had already been formed in AD 1600. John Hawkins remained in India for three years (1608-1611) while Thomas Roe came to India in AD 1615 and succeeded in obtaining trade concessions for the British traders. The two ambassadors have left behind detailed account of Mughal administration.
Evaluation of Jahangir’s Reign
Jahangir was a fairly successful ruler and administrator. He successfully maintained the administrative structure set up by Akbar. Jahangir was also a good judge of circumstances. His reign of twenty-two years remained mostly successful. Jahangir desired the welfare of his subjects and strived for it. The peasants were well-off during his reign.
One of the greatest virtue of Jahangir was his love for justice. He is most famous for installing the golden “chain of justice” outside the castle of Agra. The chain, which was attached to some bells, would ring the bells when pulled and summon the emperor. It was meant to be a link between the citizens and the emperor, and it was announced that any aggrieved person ringing the bells would be granted a personal audience with the emperor.
Art, literature, and architecture prospered under Jahangir’s rule, and the Mughal gardens in Srinagar remain an enduring testimony to his artistic taste.
Some of the European Historians have described him as a weak ruler. But that is only because he is fixed up between the grand personality of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar and the grandeur of his son, Shah Jahan.
He was said to be addicted to alcohol and opium. He married many times and one of his favourite wives was Nur Jahan who is thought to have influenced him in politics.
He died in Kashmir where he had gone to rejuvenate his health. He was 58.
He was succeeded by his son Khurram from his Rajput wife Jagat Gosaini.