The general deterioration in the Mughal administration was visible in the neglect of the defence of the north-west frontier. Aurangzeb had kept a vigilant eye on the defence of the north-western frontier and the Mughal provinces in that region. The Mughal province of Kabul was very well-administered and the people regularly paid the taxes.
The tribal people in the north-west were pacified and regular subsidies were paid to them, the roads towards India were kept open and a constant and brisk communication of political intelligence had been maintained between Kabul and Delhi. However, after the departure of Prince Muazzam from Kabul in 1707 the administration of Kabul and Ghazni became lax.
The general rot that had sapped the vitality of the empire was visible in the helpless condition of the defences of the frontier.
The same jobbery, corruption and carelessness which had exposed Gujarat and Malwa to the attacks of the Marathas, exposed the north-west frontier to the ambition of Nadir Shah of Persia.
Ghulam Husain, the author of Siyar-ul-mutakherin, writes that incapable viceroys were appointed by favouritism; the garrisons in the north-west were totally neglected; the tribal subsidies were withheld to swell the illicit gains of those in power or their dependants; and the frivolous sovereign and his like-minded ministers heard little, and cared less, about what was going on beyond the mountains.
To cite an example, when the Mughal Governor of Kabul reported the threat of a Persian invasion, Khank-i-Dauran simply ridiculed the news and described it the outcome of baseless fears; when the governor reported that the salary of the soldiers had been in arrears for the past five years, evasive replies were sent to him.
Nadir Quli was boin in 1688 in a Turkoman family of Khorasan. He had a stormy career in his youth. He proved the Saviour of Persia against Afghan domination.
The Afghans under their leader Mahmud had snatched Kandhar from the Persians and later (1722) attacked and captured Isfahan, the capital of Persia.
Nadir Kuli took upon himself the task of liberating his adopted country from the rule of the Afghans. In 1727 Nadir occupied Nishapur and turned out the Afghans from that region. Nadir acknowledged the overlordship of the Safawid Prince Shah Tahmasp and preferred to work as his Commander-in-Chief.
Before long the whole of Persia was liberated from Afghan rule. The grateful Shah shared his kingdom with Nadir Kuli and allowed him to rule over half of Persia in full sovereign rights including the right to issue coins in his name.
In 1736 the last of the Safawid ruler died and Nadir became the ruler of the whole of Persia and assumed the title of Nadir Shah (Nader Shah Afshar).
The Afsharid dynastywas an Iranian dynasty that ruled Iran (Persia) in the mid-eighteenth century, descended from the Turkoman Afshar clan in Iran’s north-eastern region of Khorasan.
The dynasty was established in 1736 by Nadir Shah (Nader Shah Afshar), a superb military leader who toppled the last member of the Safavid dynasty and proclaimed himself Shah of Iran.
Iran attained its largest breadth since the Sasanian Empire during Nader’s rule. It ruled over modern-day Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan Republic, sections of the North Caucasus (Dagestan), Afghanistan, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan, as well as parts of Iraq, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman at its peak.
Following his death, the majority of his empire was partitioned among the Zands, Durranis, Georgians, and Caucasian khanates, with Afsharid sovereignty limited to a tiny provincial kingdom in Khorasan.
Finally, in 1796, Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar overthrew the Afsharid dynasty, establishing a new native Iranian kingdom and restoring Iranian suzerainty over several of the aforementioned provinces.
Nadir Shah’s Invasion
Nadir Shah was greatly ambitious and sought extension of his dominions at the expense of his neighbouring countries. His first target was Kandhar. So long as Kandhar was not conquered it would remain a menance to the safety of Persia and constantly disturb the peace and prosperity of Khorasan. Moreover, without the conquest of Kandhar the full heritage of the Safawids could not be said to have come into his possession.
To isolate the Afghan rulers of Kandhar, Nadir Shah entered into correspondence with Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah soliciting that Afghan fugitives might not find shelter in Kabul.
Muhammad Shah gave assurances to Nadir’s envoy about that. When, however, Nadir Shah conquered Kandhar in March 1738, a number of Afghan fugitives took shelter at Kabul and Ghazni. Under Nadir’s strict instructions his soldiers did not violate Mughal territory and refrained from pursuing the Afghan fugitives in Kabul and Ghazni. Notwithstanding the breach of promiseson the part of the Mughal government, Nadir had despatched in 1737 an imperative emissary— third of its kind—towards Delhi. Nadir’s emissary was attacked and cut off at Jalalabad by the Mughal soldiers.
The indifference with which the Mughal emperor treated the envoys of Nadir Shah and the cruel treatment meted out to the last emissary was made an excuse by Nadir Shah to invade India. Besides, the Mughal emperor had insulted Nadir Shah by discontinuing the practice of exchange of ambassadors with the Persian court when Nadir ascended the throne.
However, the real causes of Nadir Shah’s invasion of India are to be found in the ambition of Nadir Shah on the one hand and the apparent weakness of the Mughal Empire on the other.
Nadir had heard about the fabulous wealth of India and his greed was excited. To top all, Nadir had received definite information about the wretched condition of the Mughal administration and the internal dissensions which had sapped its vitality, which belief of his was fortified by the number of letters of goodwill and invitation he had received from Indian Amirs soliciting him to invade India.
Nadir Shah entered Ghazni on 11 June 1738 and captured Kabul on 29 June. Nadir Shah, who had created for himself a reputation as a merciful enemy and liberal master, held out inducements to deserters. Nasir Khan, the Mughal governor of Kabul, surrendered without resistance and was pardoned and restored to the viceroyalty of Kabul and Peshawar on profession of loyalty to his new master.
Crossing the Indus at Attock, Nadir easily defeated the governor of Lahore and treated him kindly and the latter also like Nasir Khan joined the conqueror’s train on a rapid march towards Delhi.
The Battle of Karnal, 24 February 1739.
Nadir’s rapid advance towards Delhi alarmed the Mughal emperor. The emperor gathered an army of 80,000 and accompanied by the Nizam-ul-Mulk, Qamar-ud-Din and Khan-i-Dauran marched from the capital to confront the invader. Saadat Khan joined them soon after.
The weakness of the Mughal side was soon clear from the fact that it had no knowledge of the enemy’s whereabouts until Nadir’s advance-guard attacked the baggage train of Saadat Khan. Further, there was neither any general plan of action nor an agreed leader.
The battle of Karnal lasted only three hours. Khan-i-Dauran fell fighting in the battlefield while Saadat Khan was taken prisoner by Nadir Shah.
Nizam-ul-Mulk played the role of the peace-maker. It was agreed that Nadir would get 50 lakhs of rupees, 20 lakhs immediately and 30 lakhs in three equal instalments of 10 lakhs each payable at Lahore, Attock and Kabul respectively.
The Emperor was so pleased with the services of Nizam-ul-Mulk that he conferred on him the office of the Mir Bakhsi which had fallen vacant on the death of Khan-i-Dauran.
Nadir’s March to Delhi.
The selfishness and mutual rivalries of the Mughal nobles played havoc at this stage. Saadat Khan, who had coveted the office of the Mir Bakhshi, was so greatly disappointed at the conferment of the post on the Nizam that he sought a meeting with Nadir and told him that he could easily secure 20 crores of rupees only if he would proceed to Delhi.
Nadir had already obtained sufficient information about the state of the Mughal politics from the Nizam. During his meeting with the Nizam earlier, the Persian invader had asked him why in spite of the presence of brave men like him the Marathas had captured large territories of the empire. The Nizam had plainly told him that the court factions had created great confusion and that was why he had himself gone away to the Deccan in disgust.
Now Nadir had himself tested the truth of the Nizam’s observations. Nadir Shah now decided to march to Delhi where he reached on 20 March 1739. At Delhi the khutba (emblem of sovereignty) was read for Nadir and coins were struck in his name. The Mughal Empire had ended, the Persian Empire had begun.
On 22 March a rumour spread in Delhi that Nadir had suddenly died. There was a popular rising in the city in which 700 of Nadir’s soldiers were killed. Thereupon, Nadir gave an order for general massacre. It has been estimated that about 30,000 persons were slaughtered. On the solicitation of Muhammad Shah, Nadir ordered his men to stop the massacre.
Return of Nadir Shah
Nadir Shah remained in Delhi for about two months. He tried to collect the maximum booty from Delhi. He laid all the nobles and even the general population under contribution. Saadat Khan, the villain of the peace, was threatened with corporal punishment if he did not collect for the invader an amount of 20 crores. Helpless, Saadat Khan took poison and ended his life.
Saadat Khan’s successor, Safdar Jang paid two crore rupees as his part of the contribution. The booty collected by Nadir amounted to 30 crores of rupees in cash besides jewels, gold and silver plates, besides “100 elephants, 7,000 horses, 10,000 camels, 100 eunuchs, 130 writers, 200 smiths, 300 masons and builders, 100 stone-cutters and 200 carpenters”. Above all, the invader carried with him the ‘Peacock Throne’ of Shah jahan which alone had cost a crore of rupees.
The Mughal emperor was also compelled to give a royal princess in marriage to Nadir’s son, Nasir Allah Mirza. Muhammad Shah also surrendered to Nadir Shah the Mughal provinces west of the river Indus including Kashmir and Sind. The subah of Thatta and the ports subordinate thereto were also surrendered to the invader. Besides, the Governor of the Panjab agreed to pay to Nadir a sum of rupees 20 lakhs per annum “to remove the reason for any Persian garrison being left east of the Indus”.
Nadir on his part declared Muhammad Shah as Emperor of the Mughal Empire once again with the right to issue coins and have the khutba read in his name. Before leaving Delhi, Nadir also gave much advice to Muhammad Shah and exhorted his subjects to obey him. He also promised military support to the Mughal emperor in time of need.
The Peacock Throne was a magnificent jewelled throne that served as the seat of the Mughal Empires in India.
It was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan in the early 17th century and was housed in the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences, or Ministers’ Room) of Delhi’s Red Fort. It was called after a peacock because two peacocks are seen dancing at its back.
On the Throne was inscribed in emerald a phrase celebrating Shah Jahan’s achievements. It was made with an estimated 116 emeralds, 108 rubies, and other rare diamonds, sapphires, and pearls.
There were silver stairs leading up to a platform 6 ft by 4 ft. The platform was raised about 25 inches above the ground on four gold-encased feet.
Nadir Shah was slain by his own bodyguards in 1747, and Persia sank into turmoil. In the pandemonium that erupted thieves looted the palace and demolished the Peacock Throne.
Damage on Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire suffered severe devastation as a result of Nadir Shah’s assault. The Maratha sardars and the foreign commercial corporations were made aware of the Mughal Empire’s covert weakness, which resulted in an irreversible loss of prestige. The invasion destroyed imperial finances and negatively impacted the nation’s economy.
In an effort to regain their lost money, the poor nobles started to rack-rent and abuse the peasantry further. Additionally, they fought more vehemently than ever over expensive jagirs and prestigious positions.
The Empire was once more exposed to the possibility of attack from the North-West after losing Kabul and the territories to the west of the Indus. A crucial line of defense was cut off (North Western defense of Mughal Empire).
Later, encouraged by Nadir Shah’s antics, his successor, Ahmad Shah Abdali, invaded India many times between 1748 and 1767, plundering Delhi.