Development of the Mughal Empire

  • The word ‘Mughals’ derives from the Mongols, a nomadic tribe native to Mongolia. In the thirteenth century A.D. Chengez (Genghis) Khan united fragmented groups of Mongol people to lay the foundation of the Mongol Empire, which straddled across Asia and Europe during the thirteenth and fourteenth century A.D.
  • Later in the fourteenth century, Timur, a Barlas Turk, proclaimed himself as the son in law of the Genghis Khanid dynasty and declared himself as an independent sovereign. Babur a descendent of Chengez (Genghis) Khan founded the Mughal Empire in India by defeating Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat in 1526.


  • Babur’s ancestor, Timur, had largely benefited of his Indian adventure. Timur had annexed some areas of Punjab, which remained with his successors for several generations. When Babur conquered Afghanistan, he felt he had right over these areas. This conquest made him think of the conquest of India.

Reasons for Conquest of India

  • Like myriad earlier invaders of India from Central Asia, Babur too was drawn towards India by the lure of its wealth. Babur was looking towards India as a place which could add to his meager revenue from Kabul. Moreover, he was apprehensive of the attack of Uzbeks on Kabul, because of which he considered India as a suitable base for refuge and also to carry out operations against Uzbeks. Also, the splintered political conditions of India suited Babur. He also received embassies from Afghan chief Daulat Khan Lodi and Rana Sanga, requesting him to invade India.
  • By defeating Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat (20 April 1526), Babur established his control up to Delhi and Agra. But presence of Babur in the Indo-Gangetic valley was a threat to Rana Sanga. While Sanga wanted to confine Babur to Punjab, Babur accused Sanga of breach of agreement as Sanga did not join him against Ibrahim Lodi. The armies of Babur and Rana Sanga eventually fought the Battle of Khanwa in 1527, where Sanga was defeated.
  • The Battle of Khanwa secured Babur’s position in the Delhi-Agra region. He then led a campaign (Battle of Chanderi) against Medini Rai of Chanderi in 1528, in which he captured Chanderi.
  • But, the Afghans who were dominant in eastern Uttar Pradesh were not reconciled. In 1529, Babur started a campaign (Battle of Ghaghara) against them but could not win a decisive victory. He signed an agreement with Afghan chiefs, who were allowed to rule over Bihar. Shortly after, Babur died on 26th December 1530.
  • Although Babur was an orthodox Sunni, he was not bigot. He was one of the two important writers in the Turkish language. He wrote ‘Tuzuk-i-Baburi’.

Significance of Babur’s Conquest of India

  • He brought Kabul and Qandhar within the North Indian Empire, which
    • secured the North-west frontier for almost 200 years.
    • increased India’s share of trade with China and Mediterranean seaports.
  • Defeat of Lodi’s and the Rajput confederacy under Sanga, eventually led to the formation of an all-India Mughal empire.
  • A new mode of warfare began in India. Although already known, Babur popularized gunpowder and artillery in India.
  • He formed a state based on strength and prestige of the crown.


  • Humayun succeeded Babur in 1530. He had various challenges in the form of consolidation of the infant Mughal empire, timurid tradition of dividing the empire among all the brothers, the Afghans who were thinking of expelling Mughals from India and growing power of Bahadur Shah of Gujarat.
  • Shortly, Humayun undertook Gujarat campaign. He won both Gujarat and Malwa from Bahadur Shah, but also lost them in a quick succession. However, he succeeded in destroying the threat posed by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat.
  • Meanwhile, Sher Shah, a powerful Afghan sardar, increased his power when Humayun was busy in his Gujarat campaign. Although Sher Shah professed loyalty to the Mughals, he was planning to expel Mughals from India. Sher Shah defeated Humayun in the battle of Kannauj (1540). This battle made Humayun a prince without a kingdom and he had to take a shelter at the court of Iranian king.
  • The major cause of Humayun’s defeat was that he failed to understand the nature of the Afghan power. Afghan tribes were scattered over north India, who could always unite under a capable leader. Sher Shah gave them this leadership. Also, Humayun showed bad political sense in the form of his Bengal campaign against Sher Shah. Also, after Sher Shah’s victories he did not receive help from his brothers.
  • But in 1555, with the breaking up of the Sur empire, Humayun was able to recover Delhi. But he died soon thereafter, after falling from the first floor of the library building in his fort at Delhi. His tomb was build by his favourte wife Bega Begum.

Sur Empire (1540-55)

  • Sher Shah ascended the throne of Delhi in 1540. He ruled over the mightiest empire in the North India since the time of Muhammad bin Tughlaq. He added Malwa and Rajasthan to his territories. He died in 1545 and was succeeded by his son Islam Shah, who ruled till 1553. After Islam Shah’s death a civil war set in amongst his successors. This created an opportunity for Humayun, who in 1555 defeated Afghans, to recover Delhi and Agra.

Contribution of Sher Shah

  • He re-established law and order across his empire.
  • He improved communication by building roads which helped in fostering trade and commerce. He restored the Grand Trunk Road connecting Bengal with Northwest. He built sarais and inns along these roads. Many of these sarai developed into market-towns (qasbas) and stages for news service or dak-chowki.
  • His currency reforms and standardisation of weights and measures all over the empire helped in increasing trade and commerce.
  • For land revenue administration, he insisted on measurement of the sown land for computation of average produce to determine the state’s share, which was one-third of the average produce.
  • The tomb built by Sher Shah for himself at Sasaram is seen as a culmination of Sultanat type of architecture and a starting point of a new Mughal style.


  • Akbar was the greatest of the Mughal rulers. He was crowned in 1556. After the Second battle of Panipat between him (led by his wakil Bairam Khan) and Hemu, the Afghan leader, he established his control over the empire. During the first phase of expansion of the empire, he brought regions like Ajmer, Malwa, Garha-Katanga, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bengal under his control.
  • The administrative changes made by Akbar as well as his liberal religious policy resulted in rebellions in Gujarat, Bengal and Bihar. These rebellions kept the empire distracted for two years (1580-81). Akbar with the services of his nobles like Todar Mai, Raja Man Singh etc. successfully handled these rebellions.
  • Soon after this, due to rising threat from Uzbeks, Akbar had to concentrate on the North-west frontier. He consolidated his power in the North-West and gave the empire a scientific frontier. He also captured Odisha (Earlier known as Orissa) and Dacca. With this, by the turn of the century the political integration of the North India was achieved.
  • Hereafter, Akbar turned his attention towards the Deccan. He was afraid that sectarian rivalries of the Deccani states could spread into the Mughal empire in the North. Also, the Portuguese were trying to expand their position over the mainland. This along with proselytizing activities by the Portuguese impelled Akbar to get involved in the Deccani affairs.
  • Akbar himself marched down to capture Khandesh in 1601. In the same year control was established over Berar, Ahmadnagar and parts of Telangana. However, no lasting solution could be arrived at for the Deccani problem, as Bijapur was yet to accept Mughal suzerainty. This situation was left to be tackled by Jahangir.

Land Revenue Administration under Akbar

  • In the field of land revenue administration, Akbar instituted a new system called the dahsala (Ain-i-Dahsala). Under it, the average produce of different crops and average prices prevailing over the past 10 years were calculated. One third of the average produce was the state’s share. The revenue demand was in cash. This system was called the zabti system. The zabti system was associated with Raja Todar Mal.
  • Other systems of assessment were also followed during Akbar’s period. The batai or ghalla-bakshi system was the most common and oldest of all. Under it, the produce was divided in the fixed proportion between the peasants and the state. Under batai, the peasants had the choice to pay in either cash or in kind, but the state preferred cash. Another system which was used was nasaq.
  • Akbar was interested in advancement of cultivation. Under him, loans (taccavi) to peasants was provided for seeds, implements etc. In fixing of the land revenue, continuity of cultivation was taken into account. Also, the land was classified as per the quality of the land.

Mansabdari System

  • Under this system, every officer was assigned a rank (Mansab). The lowest rank was 10 and the highest was 5000 for the nobles, which was later raised to 7000. The rank decided the personal status (zat) of a noble and salary due to him as well as the number of cavalrymen (sawar) he was required to maintain. Ideally, for every one cavalryman, two horses had to be maintained.
  • The Mansabdars were paid by assigning jagirs to them. But, sometimes paid in cash too. Akbar would not have been able to expand his empire and maintain his hold over it without a strong army. For this purpose, it was necessary for him to organize the nobility as well as his army. Akbar realized both these objectives by means of the mansabdari system.

Relations with the Rajputs

  • Akbar expanded Humayun’s policy of winning over the Rajputs through matrimonial alliances. But, he did not insist upon matrimonial relations as a precondition. Many Rajputs, like rulers of Ranthambhor, Banswara etc. surrendered to him without entering into matrimonial relations. The Rajput policy also had the angle of broad religious toleration. The only state that defied Mughal suzerainty was Mewar, led by Rana Pratap.
  • Akbar’s policy of inducting the Rajput rajas into Mughal service and treating them at par with Mughal nobles benefited. This along with his religious tolerance cemented Akbar’s ties with the Rajputs. Akbar’s Rajput policy was continued by his successors, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.

Akbar’s Religious Policy

  • Akbar followed a liberal religious policy. He emphasized that the state should be based on sulh-i-kul i.e. equal toleration of and respect to all sections irrespective of their religious beliefs. In 1575, Akbar built Ibadat Khana, the Hall of Prayer at Fatehpur Sikri, where he discussed religious and spiritual topics with selected theologians, mystics, scholarly courtiers and nobles. He tried to establish a new order tauhid-i-llahi which literally means ‘Divine Monotheism’.
  • Akbar also introduced social and educational reforms. He stopped sati and allowed it only when a widow herself desired it. Widow remarriage was also legalized. The age of marriage was raised to 14 for girls and 16 for boys. The sale of wines and spirits were restricted. But, as Akbar was living in the age of superstition, these steps got limited success. Akbar also revised educational syllabus wherein emphasis was given on moral and secular subjects like mathematics, agriculture, history, logic etc.


  • Jahangir succeeded to the throne in 1605 and ruled till 1627. His main achievement was the settlement of outstanding dispute with Mewar and thereby strengthening of the alliance with the Rajputs.
  • He also subjugated Deccani states but preferred not to get deeply embroiled inthe Deccani affairs. He settled the rebellion of the Afghan chiefs in the Bengal region. But the Persian conquest of Qandhar and Shah Jahan’s refusal to proceed to Qandhar to save it on apprehensions of court intrigue eventually led to a rebellion by Shah Jahan. This coupled with, worsening health of Jahangir led to rise of Shah Jahan.

Shah Jahan

  • Shah Jahan ascended the throne in 1628. During the confusion in the Agra due to Jahangir’s weak health, rebellion by Shah Jahan and ambitions of Mahabat Khan led to loss of control over Deccani States. To establish peace in the Deccan for the Mughals, Shah Jahan felt it was necessary to subjugate Ahmadnagar.
  • Shah Jahan tried to form alliance with Adil Shah of Bijapur against Ahmadnagar. But in between the struggle against Ahmadnagar, Adil Shah felt the threat of Mughals and thus, he changed the sides. Therefore, Mughals failed to control the area. Hereafter, Shah Jahan turned his attention to Bijapur. At the same time he offered the division of Ahmadnagar between Mughals and Bijapur.
  • This led to the treaty between Mughals and Bijapur in 1636. With this treaty, the Mughal suzerainty was established in the Deccan. But the ambitions of Maratha nobles like Shahji and after him, his son Shivaji, and of Golconda nobles kept the area disturbed. Also, arrival of Aurangzeb as the viceroy of the Deccan precipitated the crisis.

Administration during Jahangir and Shah Jahan

  • The administrative machinery and the revenue system developed by Akbar were maintained with minor variations under Jahangir and Shah Jahan. However, some changes were made in the mansabdari system. Jahangir introduced du-aspah sih-aspah system under which selected nobles could be allowed to maintain a large quota of troopers, without raising their zat rank.
  • This was further modified during Shah Jahan’s reign to reduce the number of troopers a noble was required to maintain. This reduction was a result of the financial stress on the exchequer due to number of reasons. This in turn affected the efficiency of the Mughal cavalry on the whole.
  • Despite this the mansabdari system functioned properly under Shah Jahan due to his personal attention and services of highly competent wazirs.


  • The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by the war of succession among his sons. Aurangzeb with his high handed approach towards his father and brothers, succeeded to the throne. During his rule, the Mughal empire reached its territorial climax. It stretched from Kashmir in the north to Jinji in the south and from Hindukush in the west to Chittagong in the east.
  • Aurangzeb was orthodox in his belief. He demolished many Hindu temples which created disquiet among large sections of the Hindus. Also re-imposition of jizyah in 1679 created resentment amongst the Hindus. But his religious beliefs cannot be considered as the basis of his political policies.
  • Although Aurangzeb attached great value to the alliance with the Rajputs his policy of subjugation towards Marwar and Mewar weakened the alliance with the Rajputs. He was also involved in conflict with the Jats, Afghans and Sikhs. All this put strain on the empire. Moreover these preoccupations of Aurangzeb relaxed the pressure of Mughals on Shivaji during a crucial period of consolidation of Maratha kingdom.
  • In 1681, Aurangzeb started his Deccan campaign. He successfully triumphed against Bijapur and Golconda. He made inroads in the Maratha kingdom too, but the Marathas were not defeated. Finally, in 1707 he died, leaving behind an empire which was sorely distracted, and in which all the internal problems were coming to a head.

Later Mughals

  • Period after Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 was marked by
    • Weak successors
    • War of succession
    • Increase in power of nobles, who either became
    • ‘kingmakers’ or carved out semi-independent/ independent kingdoms.
    • Court intrigues
    • Religious tolerance
    • Decline in authority of the Emperor
    • Decline in area of effective control
Mughals 1770

Bahadur Shah-I

  • He emerged victorious in war of succession that followed Aurangzeb’s death.
  • He favored a pacific policy.
  • He made peace with Guru Gobind Singh but later led campaign against the Sikhs, who rose in rebellion under Banda Bahadur.
  • State finances deteriorated on the account reckless grant of Jagirs.

Jahandar Shah (1712-13)

  • He became king with the support of Zulfiqar Khan, who was appointed as the Wazir or Prime Minister.
  • The administration was under Zulfiqar Khan.
  • He encouraged ijarah or revenue farming, which resulted in oppression Jahandar Shah of the peasants.
  • He was defeated by Farrukh Siyar supported by Saiyad brothers.

Farrukh Siyar (1713-19)

  • He was engaged in strife for power with Saiyad brothers, who had been gaining influence in administration of the Empire.
  • He was killed by Saiyid brothers in 1719.

Saiyid Brothers

  • Saiyid brothers-Abdulla Khan and Hussain Ali Khan.
  • They were popularly known as ‘king makers’ for their role in enthroning and dethroning kings at will
  • Their influence in administration increased substantially.
  • They tried to save the empire from rebellions and administrative disintegration but failed due to court intrigues

Muhammad Shah (1720-48)

  • He neglected administration of the empire
  • He himself indulged in court intrigues
  • Nadir Shah invaded India during his reign.
  • Area of effective control under the empire declined during his reign.

Ahmad Shah (1748-54)

  • Son of Muhammad Shah Rangeela and Kudsiya Begum (a dancing girl).
  • Ineffectual Mughal emperor of India from 1748 to 1754, who has been characterized as good-natured but incompetent and without personality, training, or qualities of leadership.
  • Twice during his reign, the Afghan Ahmad Shah Abdali plundered the northwest Punjab area, extorting money and land from him.
  • The Marathas snatched Malwa and Bundelkhand.
  • His wazir, Imad-ul-Mulk, blinded him and imprisoned him at Salimgarh.

Alamgir II (1754-59)

  • He was the second son of Jahandar Shah and was raised to the throne by Imad-ul-Mulk after he deposed Ahmad Shah.
  • Had to face repeated invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali.
  • The famous Battle of Plassey ( 23 June c. 1757 CE) was fought during his tenure. The Battle of Plassey helped the British East India Company to seize control of Bengal.
  • He was also murdered by his wazir, Imad-ul-Mulk.

Shah Alam II / Ali Gauhar (1759-1806)

  • During his reign, the Mughal power was so depleted that it led to a saying in Persian “Sultanat-e-Shah Alam, Az Dili ta Palam”, meaning “The kingdom of Shah Alam is from Delhi to Palam,” Palam being a suburb of Delhi.
  • Due to his conflict with the wazir, he fled to Awadh (c. 1761 – 1764 CE). He returned to Delhi when Marathas re-established their hold and invited him to the capital.
    • Shah Alam spent his last years under the protection of the Maratha chief Sindhia, and, after the Second Maratha War (1803-05), of the British.
  • The third Battle of Panipat (c. 1761 CE) was fought during his reign between the Marathas and Ahmad Shah Abdali.
  • The Battle of Buxar was fought in c. 1764 CE between the forces under the command of the British East India Company, led by Hector Munro and the combined armies of Mir Qasim (Nawab of Bengal), Shuja-ud-Daula (Nawab of Awadh) and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam Ⅱ. The war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Allahabad (c. 1765 CE) under which Diwani rights (right to collect land revenue) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were granted to the British East India Company.
  • He was the first Mughal ruler who became an East India Company pensioner.
    • He was called ‘King of Delhi’ by the British, who issued coins bearing his name for 30 years after his death.

Akbar Shah / Akbar Ⅱ (1806-1837)

  • He was the second son of Shah Alam II and the father of Bahadur Shah II.
  • He sent Ram Mohan Roy as an ambassador to Britain and gave him the title of Raja.
  • During his regime, in 1835, the East India Company (EIC) discontinued calling itself subject of the Mughal Emperor and issuing coins in his name.
  • He was a great poet and is credited with the introduction of the Hindu-Muslim unity festival Phool Walon Ki Sair.

Bahadur Shah II / Zafar (1837-1858)

  • He was the last Mughal emperor of India who reigned 1837-58. He was an accomplished poet and his pen name was Zafar (victory).
    • He was a poet, musician, and calligrapher, more an aesthete than a political leader.
  • For most of his reign he was a client of the British and was without real authority.
  • He was chosen as nominal leader of the revolt of 1857. After the rebellion was put down by the British, he was exiled to Burma (Myanmar) with his family.
Later Mughal

Foreign Invasions

Nadir Shah’s Invasion

  • Causes of the Invasion:
    • Negligence of the North-west Frontier: Aurangzeb was alert in the defence of the North-west frontier. But after 1707, the administration of Kabul and Ghazni became lax. For example, the salary of the soldiers was not paid for the last 5 years.
    • Unkept Promise: Nadir Shah had entered into an agreement with the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah not to give shelter to the fugitive Afghans in Kabul. This promise was not kept by the Mughals.
    • Abuse of Emissaries: The embassy sent by Nadir Shah to Delhi was attacked by the Mughal soldiers. Moreover, the practice of exchange of ambassadors with the Persian court was discontinued by the Mughals.
    • Lure of Wealth: Nadir Shah was allured by the wealth of India.
    • Invitation: He was invited to invade India by the Indian Amirs. This ensured him of the rot that had set in the Mughal Empire.
  • Course of invasion:
    • Consequently, Nadir Shah started the campaign in 1738. He dashed into Lahore without much resistance. The alarmed Mughal Emperor tried to gather force along with Nizam-ul-Mulk and Saadat Khan. But disunity, lack of planning, mutual jealousies led to the defeat of the Mughal forces in the Battle of Karnal (February, 1739). Nadir Shah marched to Delhi and ransacked it. His total plunder was estimated to be around 70 Crores. He carried away the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan.
  • Impact of Nadir Shah’s Invasion:
    • Apart from the financial loss, it eroded the prestige of the Mughals. The Marathas and the foreign trading companies took advantage of this later.
    • The central administration was paralysed.
    • The impoverished nobles tried to recover their losses by rack-renting peasants. They fought for rich jagirs.
    • The loss of Kabul and areas west of Indus exposed the Empire to threat of invasions from North-west.

Ahmed Shah Abdali’s Invasions

  • In 1747, after the assassination of Nadir Shah, Ahmed Shah Abdali declared himself the ruler of Qandhar. Soon he formed the modern kingdom of Afghanistan. He invaded India number of times between 1748 to 1767. He fought and defeated the Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.
  • Impact of Abdali’s Invasions
    • Abdali’s invasions hastened the downfall of the Mughal Empire.
    • The frequency of the raids paralysed the administration.
    • The finance of the Empire was weakened.
    • Importantly, it gave a big blow to the Maratha ambition of controlling the Mughal Empire.
    • The confusion created by the raids led to the rise of regional powers like, the Sikhs, the Rohillas etc.

Causes of Decline of Mughal Empire

Responsibility of Aurangzeb

  • Under Aurangzeb’s rule, the Mughal Empire reached its territorial zenith. But, it expanded beyond the control of the central authority. To control such a vast Empire at the time when means of communication was undeveloped was beyond the capabilities of weak successors of Aurangzeb.
  • Moreover, the religious policies of Aurangzeb created discontent in the Empire. It led to rebellions by the Sikhs, Jats, Bundelas etc. Also, his Rajput policy alienated the Rajputs. His policy of aggressive imperialism against the Deccani states and the Marathas drained the resources of the Empire.

Weak-Successors and Nobles

  • A centralised rule like that of Mughals needs strong Emperors to control it. But the weak successors of Aurangzeb, who gave importance to luxurious life and ignored the administration, exposed the limitations of the centralised rule. The military too, was ignored. This resulted in rebellions, rise of regional powers and strengthening of powers like the Marathas. It also led to foreign invasions, which plundered the Empire of its resources.
  • The nobles followed the example of their weak Emperors. They either took to luxurious life or carved out independent states for themselves. They also played the role of ‘kingmakers’ in the war of succession by organizing themselves in various factions. This factionalism was so strong that the nobles failed to unite even during foreign invasions.

Military Weaknesses

  • The organization of the army on the feudal basis had its own limitations. The soldiers held mansabdar as their chief rather than the Emperor. This defect assumed alarming proportion during the later Mughals.
  • Also, the military lacked discipline, cohesion and modern equipment. The Mughal army was unwieldy to manage in wars. The military officials were infamous for changing sides. Due to financial crises, soldiers remained unpaid a number of times. Such military, without coherence and loyalty could not be expected to fight for the Empire.

Financial Crisis

  • Aurangzeb’s Deccan campaign emptied the treasury and ruined the trade and commerce. The wars damaged the standing crops and thus demoralized peasantry gave up agriculture. This further affected land revenue collection.
  • Under the later Mughals, the situation deteriorated further. The independence of regional powers affected imperial revenue. Moreover, the wars of succession, lavish living of the Emperors and the nobles emptied the treasury. The payments in the form of jagirs and foreign invasions also affected resources of the Empire.

Rise of Marathas

  • Marathas were the most important external cause that brought about the collapse of the Mughal Empire. A policy of Hindu Empire envisaged by the Peshwas could only be realized with the fall of the Mughal Empire.
  • The Maratha ambitions were buttressed by the nature of the Mughal Empire which failed to unite Hindus and Muslims. Many Indian chiefs looked upon the Mughal rulers as foreigners and as enemies of India and of Hindu religion.

Invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali

  • The invasions by Nadir Shah and Abdali exposed the military weakness of the Mughal Empire. They plundered the Empire of its financial resources.

European Companies

  • The medieval character of the Mughal Empire was challenged by the dynamic and progressive West. In the race of civilizations the Europeans outperformed the Indians.
Impacts of Mughal Empire

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Tariq Aslam Kaul

very much informative regarding fall of the Mughals-Has the wars stopped ? Are the humans around the world live in peace or are fed and no starvation ? basically humans are hungry for power and wealth even knowing this fact that one has to die sooner or later .Thanking You.