Babur, when ruling over Kabul received an embassy from Daulat Khan Lodi to displace Ibhrahim Lodi since he was a tyrant and enjoyed no support from his nobles.
Rana Sanga also invited Babur to invade India. He might have hoped that like Timur, Babur would withdraw after sacking Delhi and weakening Lodis but Babur ’s decision to stay on in India completely changed the situation. Rana turned to a foe from a friend and all others rallied behind him. Mughals expansionist ambitions and others wish to rule over Delhi brought them into conflict with almost all the neighboring rulers.
Babur did not have a planned policy towards the Rajputs. He had to fight against Rana Sanga of Mewar and Medini Rai of Chanderi because this was necessary for the establishment and safety of his empire in India. He solemnly declared jihad on both of these occasions and portrayed himself as a staunch Muslim. Thereafter he married Humayun with one Rajput princess and employed Rajputs in the army. Thus, he neither tried to befriend Rajputs nor regarded them as his permanent enemies.
Humayun more or less followed the same policy as his father towards the Rajputs. He stayed away from helping Mewar against Bahadur Shah of Gujarat even when Rani Karnvati of Mewar had offered to become his sister. He also failed to get support of Maldeo of Marwar against Sher Shah.
Akbar was the first Mughal emperor to follow a planned policy towards the Rajputs. He had imperialistic ambitions and tried to bring under his rule as much territory of India as was possible. Akbar preferred to befriend the Rajputs instead of turning them into his enemies. He was impressed by the chivalry, faithfulness, fighting skill, etc. of the Rajputs and was convinced that the only way to perpetuate his power and dynasty was to seek the support of the Rajputs.
He saw numerous rebellions of those very people on whom depended the Mughal authority and hence, wanted dependable allies from among the Indian people instead of depending on foreigners. The Rajputs, therefore, became a good choice. The liberal religious policy of Akbar also directed him to be friendly with them.
Akbar took the following steps which further pushed the Rajput rulers towards his suzerainty. He captured strong forts of the Rajputs like the forts of Chittor, Ranthambhor, and Kalinjar, and thus weakened the power of the Rajputs to offer him resistance. Those Rajput rulers who either accepted his sovereignty or entered into matrimonial relations with him voluntarily were left masters of their kingdoms. They were given high offices in the state and there was no interference in their administration. They were, however, asked to pay annual tribute to the emperor.
Those who opposed him were attacked and efforts were made to force them to accept his sovereignty. Mewar portrays the best example of this.
In pursuance of this policy, Akbar accepted the submission of Raja Bharmal of Ambar and welcomed a matrimonial alliance with that Kachhwaha ruling family in January 1562. He took Bhagwant Das and Raja Man Singh into his service, and soon discovered that they were very loyal and serviceable. It was, in fact, only after Akbar had tasted the Kachhwaha loyalty and devotion that he decided to invite other Rajput chiefs in the land to accept him as their suzerain and join his service on a footing of equality with the highest of his Muslim officials and commanders. Due to such treatment, nearly all the States of Rajasthan entered into alliance with him and their chiefs were enrolled as mansabdars.
But the above result was not achieved without military demonstration and battle fight. Merta fell in 1542, Ranthambore in 1568 and in 1570 Marwar, Bikaner and Jaisalmer submitted without resistance. Other States in Rajasthan and Central India followed suit. Mewar alone rejected the proposal. After a prolonged siege, Chittor, was also lost.
Akbar’s Rajput policy was combined with a policy of broad religious toleration. In 1564 he abolished jizya which was sometimes used by the ulma to humiliate non-Muslims. He had earlier abolished the pilgrimage tax and the practice of forcible conversion of prisoners of war.
The Rajput policy of Akbar proved beneficial to the Mughal state as well as to the Rajputs. The alliance secured to the Mughal Empire the services of the bravest warriors in India.
The steadfast loyalty of the Rajputs became an important factor in the consolidation and expansion of the empire. The alliance ensured peace in Rajasthan and enabled the Rajputs to serve in far flung parts of the empire without worrying the safety of their homelands.
Akbar’s Rajput policy was followed by his son Jahangir in same liberal manner but simultaneously he also attempted to force Mewar to submission which had refused it so far. He sent several Mughal forces, one after another, to invade Mewar right from the beginning of his reign. Rana Amar Singh fought against the Mughals with the zeal like his father. Initially he refused to submit but ultimately, he agreed for peace on the advice of his son prince Karan and few of his nobles and the treaty was signed with the Mughals in 1615 A.D.
According to the treaty, the Rana accepted the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor Jahangir and, instead of himself, deputed his son and successor, prince Karan to attend the Mughal court. Jahangir returned to the Rana all territory of Mewar including the fort of Chittor on condition that it would not be repaired. Thus, the long conflict between Mewar and the Mughals finally came to an end.
Shahjahan continued the policy of his father and grandfather , though the numbers of Rajputs at higher posts were decreasing.
Aurangzeb reversed the policy which was enunciated by Akbar and pursued by Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
The Rajputs were the greatest obstacle in his pursuance of policy against the Hindus. Aurangzeb, therefore, attempted to destroy the power of the Rajputs and annex their kingdoms.
The three important Rajput rulers at that time where, Raja Jaswant Singh of Marwar, Rana Raj Singh of Mewar and Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur. All the three were at peace with the Mughals when Aurangzeb ascended the throne. But, Aurangzeb never kept faith in the loyalty of these Rajput rulers and in this way he turned valuable friends into dangerous foes.
The Rajputs, who were one of the best supporters of the Mughal Empire since the reign of Akbar, revolted against Aurangzeb. Their services could no more be utilized in strengthening the Mughal empire. On the contrary, it added to the troubles of the empire. It encouraged other revolts also.
Thus, the Rajput policy of Aurangzeb failed and its failure contributed to the failure of Aurangzeb and resulted in the weakening of the Mughal Empire.
Deccan and South Indian States
The Deccan policy of the Mughals was guided by the following factors like the strategic importance of the region, the administrative and economic necessities of the Mughal Empire, etc.
Babur and Humayun followed a weak Deccan policy as they did not have time to focus south. When Babur attacked India there were six Muslim states, viz Khandesh, Berar, Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda and Bidar and one Hindu state Vijayanagara in the south. According to Babur the state of Vijayanagara was the strongest among them.
It was only Akbar who made efforts to extend Mughal suzerainty over the Deccan states. He decided to extend the Mughal influence in the Deccan so as to protect the trade routes to the ports of Gujarat and to control the Portuguese who had emerged as a power in the west coast.
In 1591 A.D., he sent his ambassadors to Khandesh, Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda and asked them to accept his sovereignty. After many years of hard fighting the Mughals succeeded in capturing the territories and forts of Berar, Ahmednagar and Daulatabad. The Mughals attacked Khandesh, captured the forts of Burhanpur and Asirgarh and finally annexed all territories of Khandesh to the empire. Akbar failed to take any action against Bijapur and Golconda during his life-time.
Thus, Akbar annexed Khandesh, captured a part of the territory of Ahmednagar, occupied a few strong forts like Daulatabad, Ahmednagar, 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 successors.
Jahangir tried to follow Akbar ‘s policy in the Deccan, but could not do so because of his preoccupations elsewhere as also due to the rivalry and quarrel among the Mughal generals who did not implement his plans. Moreover, they had a formidable adversary in Malik Ambar, the vazir of Ahmednagar.
Malik Ambar improved the economy of Ahmednagar, trained Maratha soldiers in guerilla warfare, fought aggressive wars against the Mughals and during the early period of the reign of Jahangir recovered the fort of Ahmednagar and some other territory of the state of Ahmednagar from the Mughals.
In 1617 A .D., Jahangir deputed prince Khurram in the Deccan forcing to sign a treaty which surrendered the fort of Ahmednagar and the territory of Balaghat to the Mughals. Jahangir gave the title of Shah Jahan to prince Khurram at that very time.
Shah Jahan also attempted either to annex the kingdoms of the Deccan or force them to accept the suzerainty of the Emperor. 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 Ahmednagar and after a brief period, Ahmednagar was annexed to the Mughal Empire.
Deccan policy of Aurangzeb had political as well as religious purpose. The extension of the empire was also one of the purposes of Aurangzeb. It is believed that 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 political motive, he desired to annex these states because their rulers were Shias. Therefore, Aurangzeb was not satisfied simply by acceptance of his suzerainty by them but he desired to annex them to the Mughal Empire.
Aurangzeb remained busy in the north for the first twentyfive years of his rule. It was only in 1686 that he himself reached Bijapur and it surrendered to Mughal suzerainty.
Golkonda was ruled by Qutub Shahi rulers at that time. Aurangzeb deputed Prince Shah Alam to attack Golconda and in 1687, it fell to the Mughal Empire. The conquests of Bijapur and Golconda did not complete the conquest of the Deccan by Aurangzeb. The newly-risen power of the Marathas under Shivaji was yet a powerful challenge to him. Shivaji had established an independent kingdom in Maharashtra.
When Aurangzeb became the emperor, he deputed Sayista Khan to suppress Shivaji but Sayista Khan failed. Aurangzeb recalled him and deputed Raja Jai Singh to attack Shivaji. Jai Singh forced Shivaji to sign the treaty of Purandar by which he surrendered 3/4th of his territory and forts. Shivaji visited Agra in 1666 A.D. where he was virtually imprisoned. However, he managed to escape from Agra. He started his fight against the Mughals but later died in 1680.
Aurangzeb reached the Deccan in 1682 A.D.and succeeded in capturing Shambhuji in 1689 A.D. Shambhuji was killed and entire Maharashtra was occupied by Aurangzeb. It completed the conquest of the South by Aurangzeb.
The Deccan policy of the Mughals reached perfection of its success during the rule of Aurangzeb. But it was a temporary success. The conquest of the South by Aurangzeb extended the boundary of the Mughal Empire so extensively that it became impossible to administer it from one place. The continuous warfare in the Deccan ruined the economy of the empire. The Marathas rose against him and brought about the collapse of his Deccan policy. The failure of the Deccan policy of Aurangzeb resulted in the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
Babur was inspired with the spiritual manner of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. According to the Sikh tradition Emperor Humayun while fleeing to Iran in 1540, waited upon Guru Angad at Khadur to seek his blessing. Akbar, liberal in his religious policy, treated Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan with veneration.
His son and successor, Jahangir, was not as openhearted. He had Guru Arjan executed and Guru Hargobind imprisoned for a time, though later he adopted a friendly attitude towards the latter. Guru Hargobind gave a martial turn to the career of the Sikh community, and there arose in his lifetime armed clashes with the imperial troops.
The Sikhs were the last to come into military conflict with Aurangzeb; however, the reasons for the conflict were political and personal instead of religious. The Gurus had started living in style, with an armed following, and took up the title of sachhapadshah (the true sovereign). There was no clash with the Sikh Guru and Aurangzeb, up to 1675 until Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested with his five followers, brought to Delhi, and executed.
The cause of Tegh Bahadur ’s execution was not clear-cut. Some Persian accounted that Tegh Bahadur had joined hands with Hafiz Adam (a Pathan) and created nuisance in Punjab. On the other hand, according to Sikh tradition, the execution was due to intrigues (against the Guru) by some members of his family who challenged his succession.
Some of the historians had written that Aurangzeb was annoyed because of the Tegh Bahadur’s move of converting a few Muslims into Sikh and raised a protest against religious persecution in Kashmir by the local governor.
Whatever the reasons, Aurangzeb’s action was unjustified from any point of view and portrayed a narrow approach.
Further, the execution of Guru Tegh Bahadur necessitated the Sikhs to go back to the Punjab hills. It also led to the Sikh movement (led by Guru Gobind Singh) successively turning into a military brotherhood. Guru Gobind Singh had a considerable organizational ability. By using his skill, in 1699, he founded the military brotherhood popularly known as the “Khalsa.”
Guru Gobind Singh set up his headquarters at Makhowal or Anandpur located in the foothills of the Punjab. In given period of time, the Guru became too powerful. Guru Govind fought a series of wars against the hill rajas and won. The organization of the khalsa further strengthened the hands of the Guru in this conflict. In 1704, rift between the Guru and the hill rajas appeared, and the combined forces of a number of hill rajas attacked the Guru at Anandpur. The rajas again had to withdraw and urged the Mughal government to intervene against the Guru on their behalf.
Aurangzeb was anxious with the growing power of the Guru and had asked the Mughal faujdar to punish the Guru. The Mughal forces attacked at Anandpur, but the Sikhs fought bravely and beat off all assaults and they were taken shelter inside the fort. The Mughals and their allies now conquered the fort that blocked all sorts of movements.
Resultantly, starvation began inside the fort and the Guru was forced to open the gate apparently on a promise of safe conduct by Wazir Khan. But when the forces of the Guru were crossing a swollen stream, Wazir Khan’s forces suddenly attacked.
Two of the Guru’s sons were captured, and on their refusal to accept Islam,they were executed at Sirhind. Further, the Guru lost two of his remaining sons in another battle. After this, the Guru retired to Talwandi.
Jats of the Agra-Delhi region who were living on both sides of the river Yamuna were the first to clash with the Mughal Empire. They were mostly peasant cultivators, only a few of them being zamindars.
With a strong sense of brotherhood and justice, the Jats often clashed with the Mughals. The conflict with the Jats had taken place during the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan on the issue of collection of land revenue. All the imperial roads to the Deccan and the western seaports passed through Jat area therefore, the Mughals had to take a serious action against the Jat rebellions.
In 1669, under the leadership of local Zamindar Gokla, the Jats (of Mathura) rebelled, which spread rapidly among the peasants of the area. This rebel compelled Aurangzeb to take serious action in person. Resultantly, the Jats were defeated and Gokla was captured and executed.
There was a second uprising of Jats under Rajaram and they were better prepared this time. Although they put up stiff resistance, they were defeated again. Unrest among the Jat peasants remained persistent and their plundering activities made the Delhi-Agra road unsafe for travelers.
During the eighteenth century, taking advantage of Mughal civil wars and weakness Churaman, the Jat leader carved out a separate Jat principality in the area.
North Eastern Kingdoms
The history of Muslim contact with north-east India began practically along with the establishment of their suzerainty in Bengal in the early 13th century. From their new base of operation at Bengal it was but natural that the Muslim rulers began to look to the eastern frontier for territorial aggression. Their political ambition was further aggravated by the rich natural resources of the north eastern kingdoms – fertile lands, dense forest populated by valuable wild animals, especially elephants, various aromatic plants and syrups, silk, musk, ivory, gold and silver , etc.
The nature of relation between the Muslim rulers of Bengal and the kingdoms of Kamarupa, Sylhet and Tripura throughout the pre-Mughal period was characterized by hostility and ill will. It was only from the Mughal period that we saw a departure from this policy, thereby bringing in various phases of calculated moves.
The kingdom of Kamata (Kamrup) declined by the end of the fifteenth century and was replaced by the kingdom of Kuch (Cooch Bihar), which dominated north Bengal and western Assam and continued the policy of conflict with the Ahoms. In 1612, the Mughals defeated and occupied the western Assam valley up to Bar Nadi with the help of Kuch armies. The Kuch ruler became a Mughal vassal. Likewise, the Mughals came into contact with the Ahoms who ruled eastern Assam across the Bar Nadi.
After a long war with the Ahoms who had harbored a prince of the defeated dynasty, in 1638, a treaty was made with them, which fixed the Bar Nadi as the boundary between them and the Mughals. Thus Gauhati (Assam) came under Mughal control.
Mir Jumla, who had been appointed as the governor of Bengal by Aurangzeb annexed the entire kingdom of Cooch Bihar to the Mughal Empire. Next Jumla invaded on the Ahom kingdom and occupied its capital Garhgaon.
Shaista Khan succeeded Mir Jumla as the governor of Bengal after his death. He gave personal attention to the problem of south Bengal, where the Magh (Arakanese) pirates, in conjunction with Portuguese pirates, had been terrorizing the area up to Dacca (capital of Bengal) from their headquarters at Chittagong. He strategically built up a flotilla to meet the Arakanese pirates and captured the island of Sondip as a base of operations against Chittagong. In 1666, he attacked Chittagong and captured it. The destruction of Arakanese navy opened the seas for free trade and commerce.