For long it has been held that the Mughal-Rajput relations were determined by the personal religious beliefs of the individual rulers. On this basis, Akbar’s liberalism and Aurangzeb’s orthodoxy were considered the yardstick of their policies and its impact on the political scene. However, recently the Mughal-Rajput relations are being considered within the framework of Mughal nobility as well as the tensions within the different segments of the nobility itself.
A centralized bureaucratic Mughal empire was faced with the problem of dissolution of power between its various components. The political variations of the Mughal Empire were governed to a large extent by the struggle for supremacy or autonomy by the bureaucracy and the autonomous rajas and zamindars.
The social and cultural aspects and the geostrategic context of the country are equally important to be taken into account. Rajasthan and Malwa played a key role in determining the early course of political events in North India. The Mughal-Rajput conflict cannot be understood independently but should be seen as part of a conflict which had a past history. It developed in the background of the decline of the Delhi Sultanate and the emergence of a new state system in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Malwa.
During the 16th century, the Mughal-Rajput alliance developed in response to the political requirements and interests of the two most important ruling elites in the country- the Mughal and the Rajput. The relations between the two developed in the context of a relatively slow expansion of the empire, and restricted economic growth. It resulted in internal tension which was reflected in increased religious dissension and of the reassertion of the principle of regional independence by the Marathas and other powers. These factors, in addition to internal clash among the Rajputs, had a definite impact on the evolution of Mughal-Rajput relations during the period.
Akbar opened a new chapter in the direction of Rajput policy. In the field of military, the Rajputs were the leaders of the Hindus and they were renowned for their bravery. Unsurprisingly Akbar, who wanted to establish his Empire on the willing co-operation of the Hindus, decided to win over the Rajputs.
Raja Bharmal, the ruler of Amber was the first one to establish friendly relations with Akbar in 1562 CE. Bharmal married his younger daughter Harkha Bai (also known as Jodha Bai) to Akbar. The Hindu wives of Akbar enjoyed complete religious freedom and received an honored place to their parents and relations in the nobility.
Bharmal was made a high dignitary. His son, Bhagwan Das, was assigned the mansab of 5000 and his grandson, Man Singh was given the mansab of 7000. Akbar stressed his special association with the Kachhawaha ruler in many other ways. The rulers of Jaisalmer and Bikaner had also formed matrimonial alliances with Akbar. Mewar was the only state which had stubbornly refused to accept the suzerainty of the Mughals.
Although Chittor and the plain area around Mewar had come under Mughal domination, Udaipur and the hilly area which formed the larger part of Mewar had remained under the control of the Rajput ruler. Akbar even adopted a disciplinarian approach to deal with Mewar. He re-imposed jaziya tax and declared religious war against Rana. But his dependence on religion to solve Mewar threat failed to yield decisive result. Even after the Battle of Haldighati in 1576 CE, Mughals failed to establish their complete authority over Mewar. Thus, it is evident that had Akbar not followed a broad based, tolerant and friendly approach with Rajputs, it would not have been possible for him to control Rajputana.
Akbar’s Rajput policy had developed completely by 1585-86 CE. His relation with Rajputs was stable and balanced by now. Rajputs were not only friends but partners in the Mughal Empire. Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari provides a list of names of 24 Rajput mansabdars. Raja Todarmal was made the head of revenue department.
The Rajput policy of Akbar proved extremely successful for Mughal Empire and is regarded as the best example of his diplomatic skills. With the help of Rajputs, Akbar was able to establish a strong and stable empire. The Rajputs were a martial clan among Hindus and he could get rid of the influence of his own conspirators.
The Mughal-Rajput matrimonial alliances transformed the outlook and state policy of Akbar. He was surprised to note the devotional attachment of the Rajputs of to him. They were ever ready to lay down their lives for Akbar and the honor of the Mughal throne. Akbar won over their love and services beyond all contemplations. Akbar also reciprocated by following a rational approach to the problem of Hindu subjects, especially the Rajputs. A number of Rajputs were taken into the Imperial service. Many joined as Mansabdars. The hated jizya and Pilgrimage tax was also abolished. Akbar made every effort to remove the feeling among the Rajputs that they were being discriminated against. It was this policy of reconciliation towards the Hindus in general and the Rajputs in particular which enabled Akbar to establish control over the whole of Northern India and a part of the Deccan.
Akbar’s son Jahangir continued his father’s policy of establishing personal relation with the Rajput chiefs by entering into matrimonial relation with them. He had already married a Kachchawaha princess, Man bai, the daughter of Raja Bhagwant Das and a Jodhpur princess, the daughter of Mota raja Udai singh, in Akbar’s lifetime. He had also married Princesses from Bikaner and Jaisalmer. When Jahangir assumed the throne, he entered into marriage relations with Rajput ruling houses, including one with the daughter of Ram Chandra Bundela and another with the daughter of Jagat Singh Kachchawaha, the eldest son of Raja Man Singh. However, Mewar was still defying the Mughals. Matrimonial alliances between the Mughals and the leading Rajput states became less frequent once Mewar had submitted and the alliance with the Rajput had attained a measure of stability.
During the reign of Jahagir, his son Khurram (later Shahjahan) was married to Bai Lilawati, granddaughter of Raja Gaj Singh and daughter of his son Rao Sakat Singh. There is no other recorded marriage of Shahjahan or Aurangzeb with the daughter of the leading Rajput houses. Thus, marriages between the Mughal rulers and the leading Rajput houses had a limited political purpose which had been largely fulfilled by the time Mewar had surrendered. These marriages did lead to cordial relations between the Mughals and the leading Rajput houses.
Prior to Akbar’s reign, the practice of giving Hindu princesses to Muslim kings in marriage was known. It has been an integral part of astute statecraft all over the world and throughout the various periods of history. Humayun entered into matrimonial alliances with powerful zamindars and local rajas. But in most of the cases these marriages did not lead to any stable relations between them, and the women were lost to their families and did not return after marriage. However, Akbar’s policy of matrimonial alliances marked a departure in India from earlier practice in that the marriage itself marked the beginning of a new order of relations, in which the Hindu Rajputs who married their daughters or sisters to him would be treated on par with his Muslim fathers-in-law and brothers in-law in all respects except being able to dine and pray with him or take Muslim wives. These Rajputs were appointed as members of his court and their daughters’ or sisters’ marriage to a Muslim ceased to be a sign of degradation.
The Mughal harem comprised of women of diverse races including the Rajputs. The Mughal emperors especially Akbar, allowed his Hindu wives to practice their own religion inside the harem. Akbar also participated in the Hindu festivals such as Holi, Rakhi, Dusshera and Diwali in his court. A number of paintings of Jahangir and Shahjahan’s period depict the scattering of colors in the court and the palace in the presence of the emperor.
Akbar even wore the tilak, mark of a Hindu who has fulfilled his rites in the festivals. He changed the style of his turban to a Rajput one, adopted much of the Rajput style of dress, just as he advised the Muslim ladies of the harem to wear, for the sake of coolness, the short bodice, bare midriff and the light gauzy skirts and veil of Hindu women. However, they refused and followed the customs of their mothers and grandmothers, but it might indeed have been these, to her, grievous deviations of her revered Emperor that, in 1576 CE, made Gulbadan decode to make the haj.
Rajputs were appointed as commanders of the Mughal armies and were rewarded by means of revenue and land and as revenue and land passed through the generations, so did family loyalty to Mughal rule. Ceremonial and secular patronage also played a role in the connection between Mughals and Rajputs with an elaborate display of, non-Islamic symbols to reward and promote harmony in the heterogeneous cavalry which served them. Men were rewarded with the personal robes of the Emperor, swords, horses, turban, jewels, and decorated quivers, never with Koran’s. By means of military service, marriage and patronage, the Rajputs emerged as a caste which was loyal to Mughal court. Akbar married a Rajput princess making his son and eventual successor Jahangir half Rajput. In turn, Jahangir’s son Shahjahan was also a son of a Rajput mother. Pt. Jawarharlal Nehru refers to this period as “Mughal-Rajput cooperation” and advocates that “racially this Turk-Mongol dynasty became far more Indian than Turk or Mongol…. The Mughal nobility became progressively Indianized and the Rajputs and others were influenced by Persian culture”. These changes altered the way Hindus and Muslims used to look themselves and each other.
Colonel Tod has described the Rajput character in glowing terms. According to him the Rajput race is the noblest and proudest in India, they are of highest antiquity and purest descent, they have a feudal military autocracy and brave and chivalrous, keenly sensitive to disrespect and especially jealous of the honor of their women.
It would be impractical to elucidate on dress, the fashion varying in each province and tribe, though the stuff was everywhere the same: cotton in summer, and quilted chintz or broadcloth in winter. The ladies have only three articles of parure; the ghaghra, or petticoat, the kanchuli, or corcet; and the duppatta, or scarf, for covering the upper part of the body as well as used as a veil. The other articles comprised lugdi, the medieval version of a sari, angarli and kamcholi kinds of blouses. Earlier the blouse was tied at the back with strings for keeping the breasts in place. Later on, under the influence of Mughals blouses with front openings became the fashion. Numerous ornaments were worn. Men used to wear the trousers of every shape and calibre, a tunic girded with a ceinture, and a scarf, form the wardrobe of every Rajput. The turban was the most significant part of the dress, and was the definite mark of the tribe; the form and fashion were varied, and its decoration differed according to time and circumstances.
The men wore a dhoti, termed the loin cloth by the British, and a loose fitting, long, shirt or angarkhah. The simplicity of dress of the earlier rulers gave way under the influence of the Mughals and the nobility took to a short coat called the achkan with a central row of buttons and tight fitting pajyamas. Both men and women wore shoes or slippers, which were made of leather. The richer classes had their shoes made from tiger, panthers and antelope skins and ornamented with gold and silver. Turban, pagdi or safa was the famous head dress of the Rajputs.
Due to their close association with the Mughal courts the Rajputs adopted the Mughal styles of clothing and chose richly embroidered brocades and silks from Benares. Beautiful Kashmir shawls and pashminas replaced the local Dhabla in their wardrobe.
The influence of Mughal culture on Rajasthan was confined to the court nobility and upper section of the official class, in the religious and cultural life the rulers and the people followed their traditional beliefs and customs, but their court life, formalities and manners and upper section of the official class, but their court life, formalities and manners were influenced by the Mughals. The Mughal influence came not all at once but it entered slowly and gradually.
The Rajput states gradually came under the Mughal rule when the Rajput Kingdoms were conquered by the Mughals. It started with Amber captured by the Emperor Akbar in 1562 CE to Mewar, the last of the Rajasthani kingdoms to fall in 1615 CE. A number of Rajput rulers were given high military rank in the Mughal army, and further connections were made through the Mughal policy of forming matrimonial alliances with the Rajput royal houses. The Rajasthani rulers thus started attending the Mughal court and to assimilate many aspect of court culture, which absorbed. From architecture to painting, the Mughal ideas and aesthetics combined with local styles to form a new post Mughal-Rajput culture.
During the reign of Shahjahan, the Rajputs were assigned important commands and were granted high mansabs which suggests that he trusted the Rajputs and assigned them important duties. However, he discontinued Jahangir’s policy of not granting subedari to the Rajput rajas of leading houses. However, these assignments were few and rare. The Rajputs continued to be given posts like the qiladar and faujdar. The distinction between civil and military was still made on the basis of caste and ethnic origins. During the rule of Jahangir and Shahjahan, the Rajputs continued to be allies but they had hardly any role in administration.
In Shahjahan’s reign there were two conflicts against the Bundelas and Mewar and both occurred as a result of conflicting interpretations of concept of paramountcy and suzerainty. The Rajputs got involved in military raids for gaining territory at the cost of their neighbors and for extracting money from those who were supposedly subordinate to them but could rebel against them whenever the opportunity arose. The Mughals who held authority wanted to control these conflicts out of self-interest and because the subordinate chieftains had direct relations with the Mughals to protect themselves and seek the help of Mughals when required. Thus, the Mughals and the Rajputs had common interests in so far as the collecting of land revenue and maintenance of law and order were concerned, but there were differences in rights and privileges. They could be resolved by a process of give and take or could lead to tensions. The Mughals attempted to make it clear that no subordinate chief could extend his territory without the consent of the Mughal Emperor. If he was prepared to part with the gains of conquest, he could be given permission. This shows the class nature of the struggle between the Mughals and Rajputs.
Struggle with Mewar should be studied in the light of the concept of Mughal paramountcy. During Akbar’s reign, subordinate principalities of Mewar had asserted their independence. But, in 1615 CE, the over-lordship of Mewar over these states and territories was recognized. Later, these subordinate chieftains again proclaimed their independence and tried to expand into neighboring areas. They were supported by the Mughals. Struggle for control over territories occurred between the Mughals and Mewar.
The Rajput policy of Aurangzeb during the 1680’s was a cause of concern for both the Rajputs as well as to a section of the Mughal nobility. This is evident from the Rajput-Mughal nobles’ involvement in the rebellion of Prince Akbar. The rulers of Mewar and Marwar were disgruntled with Aurangzeb’s policy and they wanted the restoration of territories seized by Aurangzeb. A section at the Mughal court, e.g., Prince Azam regarded Aurangzeb’s Rajput policy as defective and tried to conspire with the Rana of Mewar expecting his help in the war of succession. Aurangzeb became lukewarm towards the Rajputs in the second half of the 17th century. They were not offered important assignments. He interfered in matters pertaining to matrimonial alliances between the Rajputs. However, Aurangzeb’s tussle with Mewar and Marwar did not mean a breach with the Rajputs in general. The rulers of Amber, Bikaner, Bundi and Kota continued to receive rnansabs. But they were not given high ranks or positions in Aurangzeb’s reign like during the reign of Akbar and his successors Jahangir and Shahjahan.
It cannot be claimed that wars with Mewar and Marwar signaled the suspension of Akbar’s policy of alliance with the Rajputs. In effect, the wars show the conflict between the policy of alliance with the Rajputs and the broader policy of winning over the local ruling elites, i.e. zamindars. It is difficult to say that Aurangzeb’s orthodoxy exclusively shaped his Rajput policy. A number of other factors were operational. As the Mughal Empire got united in the North, the next step was to expand it Southwards which meant an alliance with the Marathas. The Rajputs lost their importance in the Mughal system as the prominence of the Marathas increased in the second half of the 17th century. Now the Rajputs required an alliance with the Mughals. The wars with Mewar and Marwar drained the state’s exchequer but it was not a serious one and did not affect the overland trade to the Cambay seaports substantially. However, the Rajput policy of Aurangzeb showed his incompetence to deal with issues effectively which affected the prestige of the Empire. It led to political and religious disharmony which demonstrated lack of political insight. All this stimulated rebellions by the Mughal Princes in alliance with the Rajputs.