The death of Jahangir was followed by a brief struggle for succession. In 1628, Khurram was able to remove all his rivals and ascended to the throne as Shah Jahan.
He proved to be an able military commander, though he is best remembered for his architectural achievements and during his reign Mughal Architecture reached its zenith.
Shah Jahan launched a prolonged campaign in the northwest frontier to recover Kandahar and other ancestral lands. But was unable to control Kandhar. The motive behind Shah Jahan’s Balkh campaign was to secure a friendly ruler in Balkh and Badakshan which bordered Kabul.
His Deccan policy was more successful. He defeated the forces of Ahmadnagar and annexed it. Both Bijapur and Golkonda signed a treaty with the emperor. Shah jahan defeated Shivaji’s father shahji Bhonsle.
In 1631 Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz mahal passed away at Burhanpur. In memory of her Shah jahan started constructing Musoleum at Agra(Taj mahal).
He was contemporary to Louis XIV of France.
In his reign the famous Peacock Throne was made for the King.
Europeans like Bernier (French physician and traveller), Tavernier (French gem merchant and traveller), Mandelslo (German adventurer and traveller), Peter Mundy (English Trader) and Manucci (Italian writer and traveller) visited India during the reign of Shah Jahan and left behind detailed accounts of India.
Arjumand Bano Begum, the daughter of Asaf Khan, was married with prince Khurram and later on was known as Mumtaz mahal.
Shah Jahan left behind a great legacy of structures constructed during his reign. Buildings constructed by Shah Jahan include Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Shish Mahal, Moti Mosque, Khas Mahal, Musamman Burj, Nagina Mosque, Jama Mosque, Taj Mahal and Red Fort.
The Upanishads were translated into the persian language during the reign of Shah Jahan by his son Dara Shikoh, as Sirr-i-Akbar.
Majma-ul-Bahrain is original creation of Dara Shikoh. Shah Jahan gave him the title of ‘Shah Buland Iqbal’.
Shah Jahan shifted the capital from Agra to Delhi in 1648.
Shah Jahan abolished the persian court custom of Sijda which was started by Balban.
The loss of Quandhar during the period of Shah Jahan was a big blow to mughal empire from the viewpoint of strategic stronghold.
Kalim was the ‘Poet-Laureate’ of Shah Jahan’s reign.
Shah Jahan was a great general, and Jahangir had himself relied on him to keep the rebellions in check. In AD 1628, Jujhar Singh, a Bundella Chief, raised the banner of rebellion in Bundelkhand, but was defeated and later killed. The next to rebel was Khan-i-Jahan Lodi, the Subedar of Deccan, who had revolted in alliance with the ruler of Ahmednagar . He too was defeated and killed.
The three Deccan States – Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda– had been creating trouble for the Mughal Empire frequently. Shah Jahan was convinced that there could be no peace for Mughals in the Deccan as long as Ahmednagar continued to be an independent state. In AD 1629, he deputed large army against Ahmednagar, and personally marched to Deccan to coordinate the forces. The Bijapur ruler, Adil Shah, and Shahji Bhonsle, father of Shivaji, were asked to cooperate with Shah Jahan in the campaign. A large part of Ahmednagar was annexed by the Mughals and after the conquest, a puppet ruler was given the throne of Ahmednagar.
After the battle, Mahabat Khan was made the viceroy of Deccan. In 1633, Adil Shah sent a large army to capture Daulatabad fort. Mahabat Khan had to face the combined forces of Bijapur and Ahmednagar, including Shahji who had defected to Bijapur. However, the Mughal forces once again proved superior and Nizam Shah was forced to surrender. He was sent to Gwalior fort, thus ending the Nizam Shahi dynasty.
Even after this, Shahji and Adil Shah continued their campaigns against the Mughals. Shah Jahan realised that the main problem was the attitude of Bijapur. He deputed a large army to invade Bijapur and forced Adil Shah to enter into a treaty according to which Bijapur recognised Mughal suzerainty, and paid an indemnity of twenty lakh rupees.
Shah Jahan also forced a treaty on Golconda according to which the Qutub Shahi ruler pledged his loyalty to the Mughal Emperor and agreed to include the name of Shah Jahan in khutba. These treaties, signed in 1636, were truly statesman like and after this, the Mughal suzerainty was recognised throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Shah Jahan himself was a devout Sunni Muslim, who prayed regularly and kept fasts on Ramzan. During the early years of his reign, he exhibited orthodoxy also.
He stopped the practice of Hindus keeping Muslim slaves, imposed pilgrimage tax on the Hindus, though he removed it shortly afterwards, and stopped the celebration of Hindu festivals at the court.
In AD 1633, he ordered that no temple whose foundation had been laid in Jahangir’s time but had not been completed would be allowed to be completed. Accordingly, 76 temples begun at Banaras were destroyed. Temples and churches were also destroyed during wars. Shah Jahan encouraged conversion to Islam throughout his reign. During his reign the war – captives were converted to Islam, culprits who accepted Islam were left free. Hindus were forced to accept Islambefore their marriage to Muslims and those who disrespected either the holy Quran or Prophet Muhammad were punished to death.
However, Shah Jahan’s zeal to support Islam slowly slackened and his regulations were not enforced during the later period of his rule. This was probably due to the influence of the liberal views of his favourite son Dara Shikoh and his daughter Jahanara. The necessity of getting the loyalty of Hindu nobles too might have been another reason.
During the later period of his rule, Shah Jahan continued the Hindu practices of Jharokha-darshan, and put no burden of additional taxes on members of other religions. Destruction of Hindu temples was also stopped during this time. Shah Jahan even showed a reverence for Hindu scholars. Kavindra Saraswati, Sundar Das and Chintamani received patronage at his court. A few Sanskrit texts were translated into Persian under the patronage of Prince Dara Shikoh. The Hindus were given state services on merit. Raja Jaswant Singh and Rai Singh were well rewarded by him. Musicians, dancers and painters of all faith were patronised at his court.
Thus, as he approached the later period of his reign, Shah Jahan did not persecute people of other faiths and whatever fanaticism he exhibited during the early period of his rule was abandoned during the latter period. Keeping this view in mind, his period of rule cannot be regarded as the period of religious intolerance, even though it is quite clear that his policy was to some extent prejudiced as compared to the policy of his father and his grandfather.
Relation with European Traders
The Portuguese had been allowed to establish a factory in Hugli in Bengal, during the reign of Akbar. In defiance of the imperial orders, the Portuguese began to fortify the area in 1641 AD. They not only exacted heavy duty from Indian traders, but also began the cruel practice of slave trade. The proselytization of Indians into Christianity added to the resentment.
All this led to Shah Jahan attacking the Portuguese and Hugli was seized from them. The Dutch East India Company, which was established in 1602 had opened its trading centres at Surat, Ahmedabad, Cochin, Patna and Agra. The English had also built their trading centre at Fort Saint George and were also allowed to trade at Hugli during the reign of Shah Jahan.
War of Succession
Shah Jahan had four sons-Dara, Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad. He was in favour of his eldest son Dara becoming the emperor after his death.
When Shah Jahan fell ill in AD 1657, a fierce conflict broke out among his sons for the throne. Shuja, who was in Bengal, crowned himself as the king and marched towards Agra. However, Dara’s son Sulaiman along with Raja Jai Singh defeated Shuja near Banaras in February, 1658.
Aurangzeb was not only an able military commander, but also a shrewd diplomat. He realised that it would not be easy to defeat Dara. So he won over Murad, who was in Gujarat, with a promise to share the Empire with him. The combined army marched towards Agra and defeated a large army commanded by Raja Jaswant Singh of Marwar at Battle of Dharmat (April, 1658).
In the decisive Battle of Samugarh (May, 1658), Aurangzeb proved to be a superior military general. Dara’s forces were routed and Aurangzeb made Shah Jahan a virtual prisoner. Aurangzeb treacherously imprisoned Murad and sent him to Gwalior jail. Shah Jahan lived for eight more years confined in his fort. Dara and Murad were executed while Shuja was killed a few years later .
Evaluation of Shah Jahan’s Reign
The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its glory during this period. It has often been described as the Golden Age or the Age of magnificence. There was peace and prosperity throughout the empire. Rulers devoted themselves to the promotion of art and architecture and the splendour of the court dazzled the Europeans. The state income increased as a result of growth in foreign trade.
However, underlying the glitter of the courtroom and apparent peace, there were signs of bankruptcy and weakening of the Empire. This was because huge sums of money were spent on the construction of tombs, palaces, mosques and unsuccessful military expeditions in the North-West and Deccan.