• The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 triggered the decline of Mughal Empire in India. The rise of regional powers was primarily due to the decline of the Mughal Empire.
  • The regional nobles and overlords had already become powerful during Aurangzeb’s reign and the chain of events after his death gave them the leeway to assert their independence.
  • The regional states that rose in the 18th century can be broadly classified into
    • Successor states – states that arose due to assertion of independence by governors of Mughal provinces due to decay of central authority- and
    • Rebel states – states that arose due to rebellion by local chieftains, Zamindars and peasants against Mughal authority.
Rise of Regional Powers

Successor States


  • Awadh was established as one of the twelve original subahs (top-level imperial provinces) by Mughal emperor Akbar and it became a hereditary tributary polity after the death of Aurangzeb.
  • Awadh was known as the granary of India as it was a fertile plain between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It was important strategically for the control of the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and was a wealthy and prosperous province. Faizabad was the capital of Awadh and it consisted of five sarkars viz Awadh, Lucknow, Bahraich, Khairabad and Gorakhpur.
  • As the Mughal power declined after the death of Aurangzeb the later emperors lost their paramount status and the feudal lords strengthened their position. Awadh grew stronger and more independent. It’s capital city was Faizabad. Saadat Khan, the first Nawab of Awadh, laid the foundation of Faizabad at the outskirt of ancient city of Ayodhya.
awadh map

Saadat Ali Khan

  • Saadat Ali Khan I was declared as the first Subedar Nawab (Governor) of the Mughals in Awadh province from 1722 to 1739. Son of a wealthy merchant of Khurasan, at the age of 25, he accompanied his father Muhammad Nasir and took part in the campaign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb against the Marathas.
  • He was honored with the title of Khan Bahadur for his contribution to the Mughal Emperor. He was among the commanding Mughal generals in the Battle against Nadir Shah. Saadat Khan was captured during the battle and died in the massacre of Delhi by Nadir Shah on 19 March 1739.
  • Faizabad, the capital city of Awadh, was founded in 1730 by Saadat Ali Khan. He is the founder of the lineage Nawab of Awadhs.
  • He was succeeded by Nawab Safdarjang and Nawab Shuja-uddaula who further consolidated power in the awadh region.

Political Sphere of Influence

  • After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Nawabs of Awadhs exercised significant influence in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab region.
  • Safdarjang, who succeeded Saadat Khan, was an able administrator. He was not only effective in keeping control of Awadh, but also rendered valuable assistance to the weakened Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah.
  • Safdarjang was given governorship of Kashmir by the Mughal Emperor, gradually became a central figure at the Delhi court. He gained complete control of administration in the Mughal Empire in the later years of Muhammad Shah. When Ahmad Shah Bahadur ascended the throne at Delhi in 1748, Safdar Jung was given the title of Chief Minister of Hindustan.
  • Shuja-ud-Daulah, the son of Safdarjang, was also an able administrator. He was chosen as Grand Wazir by Shah Alam II. Shuja-ud-daulah, the 3rd Nawab, allied with Mir Qasim of Bengal against the British, lost the crucial battle of Buxar in 1764. This resulted in beginning of the political influence of British in the Awadh region.
  • Given the strategic significance of the region, British always maintained an upper hand in the region. After installing Saadat Khan II as Nawab in 1801, they pressurized him to cede half of the Awadh to him. Even at the time of first war of Independence in 1857, Awadh was a crucial political region.


  • The Nawabs of Awadh belong to Persian Shia Muslim dynasty from Nishapur. They encouraged the existing Persian literature to shift from Delhi to Awadh. During that period Awadh also witnessed a steady stream of scholars, poets, jurists, architects, and painters from Iran. Nawab of Awadhs like the erstwhile great Mughal rulers was largely tolerant in their religious outlook.
  • Saadat Khan, the founder of the Awadh Royal House, had many Hindus in his service who from time to time helped him to achieve his goal.
  • Shuja-ud-daula, the 3rd Nawab, did not impose undue restrictions on the personal freedom of Hindus as well as on the public celebrations of their religious festivals. Many Hindu saints who came to Ayodhya were allowed to settle down and granted plots of land for the erection of temples and Dharmashalas for pilgrims. Hindus and Muslims used to celebrate each other’s festivals and there was not restriction on the Hindus.


  • As discussed earlier, Awadh was the region of the fertile land in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. Therefore, the economy during the reign of Nawabs was dominantly agrarian in nature. The traditional crops were sugarcane, wheat and rice. Due to presence of well managed supply chain, peasants were generally prosperous under the nawabs.
  • It is also pertinent to mention that Awadh was one of the prosperous provinces of the Mughal Empire. This period also witnessed the decline of the traditional urban trade centers such as Delhi, Agra, Burhanpur etc. The new trade centers were established in Lucknow, Faizabad etc.
  • To remove economic hardships, Nawabs also commissioned various public works in which the laborers were paid from the treasury. One such initiative had led to the construction of the majestic Bara Imambara in Lucknow. The East India Company after establishing influence over Awadh, plundered it of its wealth, and resulted in the decline of the Industrial towns such as Kanpur and Lucknow.


  • The society at the time of Nawabs of Awadhs was largely traditional in nature. Cities such as Lucknow, Faizabad, Jaunpur etc. witnessed the growth of the synthesis of the Hindu-Muslim culture also commonly known as Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb.
  • The caste system was still highly prevalent as the top positions in the administrations were generally occupied by the Brahmins. With the rise of British influence, and development of mercantile trade, the trading class also assumed significant role in the society.
  • Jagat Seth was one of the prominent people, who dealt in hundis – a type of negotiable instrument to send money from one place to another.
  • Education was still limited to the privileged few, and due to adoption of purdah system from cultural synthesis, the condition of women further deteriorated in the society.


  • The Nawabs of Awadh, patronized literature and several noted writers and poets were part of their court. The period saw the development of Indo-Persian genre of the literature. Urdu was also a popular language of literature at that time.
  • Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was among the great patrons of literature. The renowned urdu poet ‘Ghalib’ was in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Apart from him, other notable persons were ‘Barq’, ‘Ahmad Mirza Sabir’, ‘Mufti Munshi’, and ‘Aamir Ahmad Amir’, who wrote books at the orders of Wajid Ali Shah.
  • Wajid Ali shah, himself, was an accomplished writer and wrote under the pseudonym ‘Akhtar’. He was considered as distinguished scholar and as eminent poet. Having good command over Persian and Urdu, Wajid Ali Shah also wrote in the popular dialect of Awadhi language. Huzn-i-Akhtar, is considered as his most important works, which is autobiographical in nature and contains nearly 1276 couplets.

Art and Architecture

  • Art:
    • Awadh under the rule of Nawabs reached the glorious heights in the development of Fine Arts and Performing Arts.
    • The paintings and Music of that era was known to be the best in the world. The paintings of Awadh provided a different way of representing the prevalent political, social and cultural atmosphere that was distinctly different from the conventional Mughal style or the European style of perspective art. Paintings of Awadh were of traditional Indian art form in which high importance was given to rich detailing, symbolism, use of tempera colors and intricate drawing.
    • During the colorful decades of Nawabs rule in awadh, Lucknow emerged as one of the most celebrated centre of music, drama, dance, painting and poetry.
    • Music in India went through different stages of growth for four centuries from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century resulting in the creation Hindustani music of today. This period also saw the birth of many of the modern musical forms, like Khayal and Thumri. This was also the period of the establishment of Gharanas, where the elite artists tried to protect their traditions and began to transmit them within the family to their direct descendents.
  • Architecture:
    • In the initial period, the architecture in Awadh was heavily influenced with the Mughal Architecture.
    • Shuja-Ud-Daulah in 1765 constructed a chowk (Central Market Place) in Faizabad, which was reminiscent of grand chowks of Mughal Empire. The chowk was characterized by the grand mosque having 3 bulbous domes and minarets at each corner.
    • The tombs in Faizabad were also modeled on the Mughal tombs; particularly the tomb for Shuja ud Daula, built approximately in 1775. The tomb of his wife, Bahu Begum, constructed approximately forty years later, also displayed significant Mughal features. The tombs possess bulbous domes and are set in Charbagh style which was the most striking and praiseworthy mughal architectural format.
    • The architecture developed by Later Nawabs in Lucknow is placed generally into two broad categories.
      • First is the structures built by the nawabs for their own residences or as public works and which often reflect considerable European influence,
      • while the other category was the religious structures which were usually based upon the architecture of earlier Indo-lslamic traditions.
    • In this period a series of palaces were constructed in Lucknow. Asaf ud-Daula’s Macchi Bhavan was built approximately in 1774, and the historic Qaiser Bagh, was built approximately about 1848 by Wajid Ali Shah. In 1784, Nawab Asaf ud-Daula had constructed an enormous Imambara, which was a hall used during the celebrations of Muharram and was originally designed for storing movable shrines (taziya) employed in these ceremonies.


  • The erstwhile Bengal region, which includes present day West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and various districts of Bangladesh, was one of the most significant provinces of the Mughal Empire. The subedars of the province were known as Nawabs, and were responsible for Nizamat or governance of the province. Though, nominally they were under the Mughals and paid tribute to them, in reality after the weakening of Mughal Empire in 18th century they were the actual rulers of the province.
  • The rule of Nawabs went on smoothly till 1757, when Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated by British East India Company in the Battle of Plassey. Bengal was the first province to have British influence in the country. First they established dual system of government and then from 1780 onward Bengal came under direct control of company.

Murshid Quli Khan

  • Murshid Quli Khan was the first Nawab of Bengal, who served from 1717 to 1727. Murshid Quli Khan, who was a brahmin by birth belonged to Burhanpur. After being converted to Islam he was known as Muhammad Hadi.
  • Later on, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb gave him the title of “Murshid Quli Khan”. In 1698, the Mughal emperor made him the Diwan of Hyderabad. The success achieved by him there resulted in his elevation to the posts of Faujdar of Murshidabad and the Diwan of Bengal in 1700. In 1703, he was made the subedar of Orissa and further in 1704 he assumed the post of Diwan of Bihar.
  • In 1717, he was appointed as the Subedar of Bengal, one of the most influential positions in the Mughal Empire. He transferred his capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad, which was accepted by the Mughal Emperor Farukh Siyar.
  • He assumed the title of Alauddin Zafar Khan Bahadur and Bengal was virtually acquired a status of a semiindependent province. Though, largely independent in nature, he did not challenge the sovereignty of the Mughal emperor. He continued the practice of revenue remission to Delhi.

Alivardi Khan

  • Alivardi Khan ruled as the Nawab of Bengal during the period of 1740-1756. He is famous as one of the few Mughal-era leaders who were victorious during the Battle of Burdwan against the Maratha Empire. His birth name was Mirza Muhammad Ali and his father was an Arab in the service of Azam Shah, son of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
  • After the death of Azam Shah, the family of Mirza Muhammad Ali fell into poverty. He managed to find employment under the Subedar of Orissa, Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan. With the promotion of Shuja-ud-Din to the post of the Nawab of Bengal, his future prospects further widened.
  • In 1728, Shuja-ud-Din promoted Mirza Muhammad Ali as Faujdar (General) of Rajmahal and gave him the title of Alivardi Khan in 1740. In the Battle of Giria, he defeated and killed Shuja ud-Din’s successor, Sarfaraz Khan took control of Bengal and Bihar. Immediately after assuming power, Alivardi Khan got it legitimized by the Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur and further resumed the policies of Murshid Quli Khan.
  • In 1747, Marathas under the leadership of Raghoji, attacked the territories of the Alivardi Khan. Alivardi Khan and the Mughal Army fought with the Marathas at the Battle of Burdwan where the Maratha forces were completely routed. This was one of the most significant victories for Bengal Nawabs. Alivardi Khan had a reign of 16 years, and was mostly engaged in various wars against the Marathas during his rule. In his last days, he focused his attention to rebuilding and restoring Bengal.


  • Siraj-ud-Daulah was the last independent Nawab of Bengal for the period 1756 -1757. The end of his reign resulted in the beginning of British East India Company’s rule over Bengal which further spread to almost whole of India.
  • He was the son of, Amina Begum, who was the daughter of Alivardi Khan. Since, after his birth Alivardi Khan attached greater heights in his political ambitions, hence Siraj-ud-Daulah was designated as the successor of Alivardi Khan. Therefore, he was imparted the education and training suitable for a future Nawab. He also accompanied Alivardi Khan in his military ventures against the Marathas during the Battle of Burdwan in 1746.
  • Siraj-ud-Daulah succeeded Alivardi Khan as the Nawab of Bengal in 1756. He had reservation regarding the British presence in Bengal.
  • Some of the reasons for his resentment against the British where:
    • He was apprehensive that East India Company was involved in instigating a conspiracy to oust him by members of his own court.
    • The company had strengthened the fortification around the Fort William without intimating it to the Nawab.
    • The company had greatly abused the trade privileges granted to them by the Mughal rulers in form of Dastaks. It caused heavy loss of customs duties for the government.
    • The company had given shelter to some of his officers, who fled after misappropriating government funds.
  • When Siraj-ud-Daulah came to know that East India Company had started enhancement of military preparedness at Fort William in Calcutta, he got worried and asked for its immediate cessation. As the Company ignored his directives, Siraj-Ud-Daulah was left with no choices and he captured Kolkata from them in 1756. During this operation, it is alleged that on his orders 146 British subjects were forcefully crammed in a 20 by 20 foot chamber, which is also known as the infamous Black Hole incident of Calcutta. Only 23 people were said to have survived the overnight ordeal in such inhospitable conditions.

Battle of Plassey

  • The Battle of Plassey is considered as the turning point in the history of India as it paved the way to eventual British domination in Indian Sub-Continent.
  • After Siraj-Ud-Daulah captured Kolkata in 1756 and the Black Hole incident occurred, the British retaliated by sending fresh troops from Chennai, commanded by Sir Robert Clive, to recapture the fort and avenge the attack. The Nawab’s army was thin as most of them were deployed in north to counter the threat from Ahmed Shah Abdali.
  • Moreover, it was led by Mir Jafar, who was disgruntled with the Nawab, and was looking for an opportunity to settle the score. With the help of Mir Jafar and several other officials from the side of Nawab, British forces defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah in June 1757 in the battle of Plassey.
  • Siraj-ud-daulah fled the capital Murshidabad, but soon he was captured and executed. This brought an end to the reign of independent Nawabs in Bengal and marked the beginning of British Supremacy.

Political Sphere of Influence

  • Murshid Quli Khan rose through the ranks to become one of the trusted generals of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. When the royal treasury was on the verge of bankruptcy due to Deccan conquests of Aurangzeb, he contributed a sum of 1 Lakh Rupees to the treasury through his efficient revenue administration. He was successful in obtaining the approval of emperor for shifting of his capital from Dacca to Murshidabad.
  • With the weakening of Mughal Empire after the demise of Aurangzeb, Murshid Quli Khan, consolidated his sole and supreme authority in Bengal and became a significant ruler in the eastern part of India. The political influence of the Nawabs of Bengal was at its pinnacle during the reign of Alivardi Khan and Siraj-ud-Daulah.


  • Although, Islam was the dominant religion, still Nawabs of Bengal were largelytolerant about Hinduism and other religions. Under succeeding Nawabs, Bengali Hindus, because of their talents and mastery of Persian Language, came to occupy the highest civil posts under the subahdar and many of the military posts under the faujdars. Under later nawabs many Hindus held the office of Chancellor or Exchequer.

Socio-economic Structure

  • There was distinct division in the society at the time of Nawabs of Bengal. Ryots or Peasants occupied the bottom of pyramid and often have to pat large taxes and revenues.
  • The trader class attained eminent position and some of the merchants like Jagat seth and Amir chand were like a large scale bankers in their own right.
  • Later, British East India Company also approached the Mughal emperor and obtained a royal farman for carrying out the trade and commerce in the region of Bengal. They coaxed the Mughal King Farukh Siyar to issue dastaks which entitled them to carry out duty free trade in the Bengal Region.
  • Bengali society, with the rising western influence, attained significant growth in education and skill development. The status of women was much better than their contemporaries in other parts of India. They had almost equal access to education as their male counterparts. This enlightened Indian society and later on became the nucleus of the India struggle for freedom.

Art and Architecture

  • The architectural landscape of Bengal after the decline of Mughal Empire came to be dominated by three active groups, who were responsible for different types and forms of buildings:
    • Wealthy Hindu bankers, landholders and merchants constructed splendid terracotta temples on large scale.
    • The architecture of Calcutta, which came under British influence, has a distinct nature to it.
    • The Nawabs of Murshidabad chiseled out their own architectural artifacts in the Northern Bengal Region.
  • Jami Masjid was one of the finest examples of the Nawab’s architecture, which is still a prominent monument in Murshidabad. It is one of the largest mosques in the eastern India. Later an elegant Imambara was also constructed at the time of Alivardi Khan. Most of the monuments constructed in Nawab’s reign were religious in nature.


  • Hyderabad was one of the largest provinces of the Mughal Empire and occupied a prominent position in Deccan.
  • At the time of Aurangzeb, it was organized as a subha, and was administered by Subahdars. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, these subhadars established an independent Asaf Jahi Dynasty which remained in power till the Independence of India in 1947.


  • Nizam-ul-Mulk, often shortened as Nizam, was the title of the sovereigns of Hyderabad State, belonging to the Asaf Jah dynasty who ruled from 1724 onwards.
  • It was founded by Mir Qamar-udDin Siddiqi, who was a viceroy of the Deccan under the Mughal Empire from 1713 to 1721. In 1724, Mughal control of the deccan area weakened, and Mir Qamarud-Din Siddiqi declared himself independent in Hyderabad. He adopted the title of Asaf Jah-I and initiated the Asaf Jahi dynasty.
  • Nizams were in conflict with the Marathas in Deccan, and after defeat in various battles such as of Palkhed, Bhopal, Rakshasbhuvan, and Kharda, accepted to pay Chauth to Marathas. After the British victory in the Second Anglo Maratha War in 1805, the Nizam of Hyderabad came under the protection of the British East India Company.

Asaf Jah I

  • He ruled for the next twenty four years. He was a wise and an able ruler, and through his efforts safeguarded his kingdom from the Marathas and also was successful in keeping the English, Portuguese and the French at bay.
  • He subdued the refractory zamindars and showed tolerance towards the Hindus who had economic power in their hands and as result, Hyderabad witnessed the emergence of a new regional elite who supported the Nizam.
  • After the death of Nizam, Asaf Jah, Hyderabad began to experience a series of crises. During the subsequent years, the Marathas, Mysore and the Carnatic – all settled their territorial scores against Hyderabad. The situation improved again after 1762 during the period of Nizam Ali Khan, who seized control of the administration and during his long reign lasting up to 1803, he settled border disputes with his neighbours giving Hyderabad the much desired political stability.

Political Sphere of Influence

  • Although, Hyderabad was a very prosperous state, its political influence was largely nominal in nature. In its earlier years, its influence was restricted by the conquest of Marathas, who even extracted the taxes (Chauth) from the Hyderabad State.
  • From the time of third Nizam, Hyderabad came under the British influence. The Nizams ruled in the strict supervision on the Residents.
  • The political influence of the state saw significant increase after the first war of independence in 1857. The Nizams were rewarded for their loyalty to crown by exalting their status. The significance increased further after the cooperation of Nizams in the 1st and 2nd world war to the British. Due to his increased status among the princely states, the last Nizam of Hyderabad even contemplated for remaining independent before acceding to the Indian state.


  • Islam was the state religion of Hyderabad, although overall it was followed by around 13% of the population. The Nizams were largely tolerant of the Hindus. Some Hindus even attained the high position of Diwan in the administration.
  • At the time of independence, the last Nizam formed a Muslim militia of Razakars whose main purpose was to preserve the dominance of Islamic minority in the Hyderabad State. In 1948 the Razakars indulged in large scale violence, murdering Hindus, abducting and raping women, burning houses and fields, and looting non-Muslim property in a widespread reign of terror.


  • The reign of Nizams saw literary growth after the beginning of printing in Hyderabad. In 1824 AD, Urdu Ghazals with title of Gulzar-e-Mahlaqa written by Mah Laqa Bai was printed and published from Hyderabad.
  • The reign of Nizam VII saw many advances in literary work. Urdu was introduced as a language of court, administration and education.
  • Many regional scholars and poets (Shibli Nomani, Dagh Dehlvi, Fani, Josh Etc.) made Hyderabad their home, that grew and brought reforms in the literary and poetry work.

Art and Architecture

  • Examples of Qutub Shahi architecture are Charminar, Mecca Masjid and Charkaman which were constructed in the 15th century. These were built with massive granite walls using granite and lime mortar as the chief ingredients. Osman Ali Khan, Nizam VII, is called as the maker of modern Hyderabad.
  • The buildings constructed during his reign are impressive and represent a rich variety of architecture. Osmania University, Osmania General Hospital and High Court are designed in the styles of medieval and the Mughal architecture.
  • The Nizam, applied the European styles. British influence is present in some of the constructions such as Falaknuma and King Kothi Palaces.
  • Hyderabad has many famous historical sites constructed during Qutb Shahi and Asif Jahi period, including the Golconda, Chowmahalla Palace,etc.

The New state


  • Guru Gobind Singh established the Khalsa Panth. Within 50 years, Sikhs became a strong political force in the Punjab Region.
  • The rise of Sikh power was coincidental with the decline of Mughal Power in Delhi. In this period, Many Sikh sardars became owners of large parts of land called as Misls. The head of these Misls were called Misldars.
  • The repeated invasions by the western invaders were responsible for acquiring of martial skills by the people of Punjab for their survival. The Misldars were militarily very strong. Although powerful, Misls were not consolidated politically.
  • There were 12 Misls which varied in size, power as well as importance. The Misldars were often in conflict with each other. Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated these Sikh Misls and founded the Sikh Empire, which lasted for almost half a century.
sikh empire map

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Political Sphere of Influence
  • Sikh empire was a considerable power in the earlier 19th century in the north-western part of India. British Crown was wary about the Muslim invaders from the Central Asian region. Therefore, Sikh Empire was utilized as a buffer state.
  • In 1806, Ranjit Singh signed a treaty with the East India Company, in which he agreed that his Sikh empire would not expand south of the Sutlej River, and the Company agreed that it would also not attempt to cross the Sutlej River into the Sikh territory.
  • The Sikh Empire extended to Multan in 1818, and gradually the whole Bari Doab came under his rule. In 1819, Maharaja Ranjit Singh defeated the Afghan rulers and annexed Srinagar and Kashmir, stretching his rule in the north and the Jhelum valley, beyond the Himalayas.
  • After Ranjit Singh’s death, there was confusion in the Sikh state. The English, who were on the lookout for an opportunity to expand their territories, conquered the Sikh kingdom (1839-40).
  • The reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is known for its secular nature and tolerance towards other religions. Men of different religions and races served in his army and occupied high positions of authority in his government.
  • The Sikh army led by Ranjit Singh never indulged in demolishing of the places of worship belonging to the enemy. He also restored and built various historical Sikh Gurdwaras most notably the Golden Temple of Amritsar Maharaja Ranjit Singh gave equal patronage to Hinduism and also visited Sufi mosques and other holy places. His court also reflected the secular pattern, where the Prime Minister was a Dogra Hindu, his foreign Minister was a Muslim, and his finance Minister was a Brahmin. There were no incidents of forced conversions in his time.
Art and Architecture
  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a great patron of Sikhism. He renovated the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, and much of the present decorative gilding and marble work was conducted under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
  • In the memory of the Tenth Guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh, he built two of the most sacred shrines of Sikhism. These are Takht Sri Patna Sahib, and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Nanded.


  • The Maratha Empire also known as the Maratha Confederacy was a Hindu state which existed from about 1674 to 1818. At its peak, the empire’s territories covered almost one-third of South Asia.
  • The Maratha Empire was established by Shivaji after the weakening of Mughals and its power was consolidated by Peshwas, a line of Prime Ministers. They presented the largest threat to the expansion of British Empire in India.
  • The Maratha Empire was at its zenith in the eighteenth century, under the leadership of Shahu and the Peshwa Baji Rao I. The losses suffered by the Marathas at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, brought an end to further expansion of the empire and reduced the power of the Peshwas to a greater extent.
Maratha Empire


  • Shivaji Bhonsle founded the Maratha dynasty and is celebrated as a warrior Maratha king. He carved out the Maratha territory by arresting the enclaves of the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the foundation of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was crowned as the Chhatrapati of his state at Raigad, the capital of Maratha Kingdom.
  • Shivaji established an empire with the help of disciplined military and well-structured administrative organizations. He was the pioneer in the innovation in the military tactics, devising various unconventional methods which were hinged on strategic factors like geography, terrain, speed, and surprise often called as Guerilla warfare to defeat his larger and more powerful enemies. He also reversed the progress of Islam and revived many Hindu political traditions and court conventions. He promoted the usage of Marathi and Sanskrit in his administration, in place of Persian.
  • The rising power of the Maratha State under Shivaji resulted in the conflict with the Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb. Shivaji caused many reverses to the Mughal army in Deccan, and later peace was established via Treaty of Purnadar. Shivaji was also kept as captive by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, but he managed to escape in disguise.
  • Shivaji passed away in 1680, and left behind a state which was always in conflict with the Mughals. Territories exchanged hands repeatedly between the Marathas and the Mughals for the period of 27 years. The conflict finally ended in the conclusive defeat for the Mughals in 1707.

Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath

  • After the tragic execution of Sambhaji, there was a battle of succession in Maratha State between Sahuji, grandson of Shivaji, who was released from the captivity by Mughals and Tarabai, the widow of Rajaram who succeeded Sambhaji. Bajirao Vishwanath was instrumental in securing the throne for Sahuji, by hatching the Barabhai conspiracy.
  • For his service he was appointed as Peshwa by the young Maratha Emperor to consolidate his grip on Maratha State which was under a civil war and persistent attack by the Mughals under Aurangzeb.
  • Balaji Baji Rao (1740-1761) further extended the empire in different directions. Maratha power reached its height under him. The Marathas soon reached Delhi and offered their support to the Mughal emperor. The expulsion of Ahmad Shah Abdali’s agent from Punjab brought the Marathas into an open conflict with Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle between the two forces was fought in Panipat in January 1761. The Marathas were completely defeated.
  • Nearly 28,000 soldiers were killed. The Peshwa died in June 1761. The Battle of Panipat destroyed the possibility of the Marathas emerging as the strongest power in India.
  • For the British, this battle was of immense significance. The Maratha defeat cleared the way for the rise of British power in India. It should be noted that the Indian powers were strong enough to destroy the Mughal Empire but not strong enough to unite it to create anything new in its place.
  • Possibly the Marathas alone possessed the strength to fill the political vacuum created by the disintegration of the Mughal Empire. But they lacked political vision and succumbed to British power.

Political Sphere of Influence

  • At its zenith, the Maratha Empire occupied the territories of Central and Northern Indian sub-continent. They were the sore in the eyes of the Mughal Empire and after their decline; they got the authority to impose tax (Chauth and Sardeshmukhi) on the Mughal territories.
  • They were in conflict with the regional powers such as Mysore State in South and Hyderabad State in Deccan. Later, they proved to be the most dominant obstacle in the expansion of the British Empire in India. The 2nd Anglo-Maratha war resulted in the conclusive defeat of the Marathas and their influence and authority declined thereafter.


  • The Maratha state was the symbol of Hindu resurgence after the centuries of the Islamic dominance. As expected, the dominant religion of the State was Hinduism, and most of the official work was also carried out with Hindu traditions.
  • In Maratha State, Religious tolerance and religious pluralism were important pillars as these were fundamental beliefs of Shivaji, the founder of the empire. One of the unique features of the Maratha Empire was that it did not adhere to the caste system. It was most notable that the, the Brahmins (priestly class) were the prime ministers of the Kshatriya (warrior class) (Maratha) emperors.
  • The policy of religious tolerance provided equal importance to Hindu interests and exerted important backpressure against the expanding Mughal influence.

Art and Architecture

  • Due to their protracted wars with the Mughals, the earlier Maratha rulers had neither the time nor the resources for investing in making of buildings or patronizing arts. The characteristic of the Maratha style, can be analyzed from, the later buildings such as forts, palaces and temples. Brick, wood, mortar and stone were the materials used for construction.
  • It can be said that the Maratha architecture lacked the beauty and grace of the architecture of the Mughals. But they excelled in the fort architecture. The wood work used for decorating palaces and other civil buildings was intricately done. Maratha art could have further developed and would have attained a distinctive character but it could not be achieved because of the turbulent times.

Jat State

  • Similar to the other successor states the Jats also consolidated their power during the late seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. They were the first section to come in conflict with the Mughal government. The Jats were mostly peasant cultivators, only a few of them being Zamindars. The conflict of Jats had taken place during the reign of Jahangir and Shah Jahan over the collection of land revenue. Since the imperial road to the Deccan and the western seaports passed through the jat area, the Mughal government had taken serious view of these rebellions and taken stern action.
  • After a series of failed uprising, in 1685 the second uprising was led by Rajaram. Jats were organized and adopted to guerrilla warfare. Aurangzeb appointed a Rajput Raja as a faujdar of the entire area to handle the situation. This complicated the situation even more.
  • Under Rajaram’s successor, Churaman, the Jats acquired control over the territories situated to the west of the city of Delhi, and by the 1680s they were dominant region between the two imperial cities of Delhi and Agra. For few years, they became the custodian of the city of Agra.
  • They were prosperous agriculturists, and towns like Panipat and Ballabhgarh became important trading centers in their control. Under Suraj Mai, the kingdom of Bharatpur, emerged as a dominant state. It provided refuge to many notable persons When Nadir Shah sacked Delhi in 1739.
  • His son Jawahir Shah commanded 30,000 troops of his own and collaborated with maratha and Sikh troops to fight the Mughals. Bharatpur fort was built by Jats in a fairly traditional style. At Deeg the Jats built an elaborate garden palace combining styles seen at Ambar and Agra.

Independent Kingdoms

Independent Kingdoms
  • The decline of Mughal Empire gave birth to many independent kingdoms. Their birth was either because of assertion of autonomy from Mughals or because of rebellion against the Mughals. Mughals were not able to check the growth in powers of their feudatories. They grew in power and when they acquired enough power they revolted against the Mughals and formed their independent kingdoms.
  • There were many big kingdoms like Mysore, Rajputs, Maratha, Awadh, Kerala, etc. Apart from the big rulers there were also many small regional powers like Jats, rulers of Kashmir, etc. These powers were there to challenge the supremacy of British in India.
  • The major problem with all these kingdoms was that none of these empires were united. They were always warring against each other. Instead of cooperating against foreign rule they fought amongst themselves. Not only these they even conspired against native rulers along with the foreign powers. This made it even easier for country to become a colony.


  • Vijayanagar Empire ended in early 18th century. Yet the kingdom of Mysore preserved its independence. It was being ruled by the two ministers Nanjaraj (the Sarvadhikan) and Devraj (the Dulwai). The king of Mysore, Chikka Krishna Raj was mere a puppet in hands of the two ministers.
  • Nizam-ul-Mulk regarded Mysore as Mughal territory and his successors also considered that Mysore was a part of their Kingdom. The Marathas repeatedly invaded Mysore.
  • In the Anglo-French conflict Mysore involved itself but failed to make any political or territorial gain. It was Haidar Ali, a military adventurer of humble origin, who made Mysore powerful.
Mysore Kingdom

Haidar Ali

  • He was born in 1721 in a normal family. He entered the service of Nanjaraj and was appointed faujdar of Dindigul in 1755. He was uneducated but possessed a keen intellect. He was a man of great energy and daring determination. He was a brilliant commander and a shrewd diplomat.
  • Haidar Ali soon found his opportunity in prevailing anarchy which led to the wars which involved Mysore for more than twenty years. He was clever enough to use the opportunities that came his way. And thus he gradually raised in the Mysore army.
  • Though Haidar Ali was illiterate he was an efficient administrator. He took over Mysore when it was weak. There was anarchy prevailing everywhere after the collapse of Vijayanagar Kingdom.
  • Mysore was also facing the crisis of efficient leadership. The state was divided and economy of state was also not doing well. There were chances of being captured by the neighbouring Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad. Mysore was in crisis. It needed efficient leadership. Haider Ali recognised the problems and took control of situation.
Military Reforms
  • He was well aware of the developments going on in world through the companies which came for trade. He was also worried with the calculation of his neighbours.
  • Thus as soon as he took the throne he soon recognized the advantages of western military training and applied it to the troops under his own command. He established a modern arsenal in Dindigul in 1755 with the help of French experts.
  • Though he was himself a staunch believer of Islam, he practiced religious toleration. He also gave priority to merit. Those who were capable were elevated up the order irrespective of the faith or religion he belonged. Thus he recruited many other officials in his administration. His first Dewan was a Hindu.
  • He used to respect all the religions and allowed people to pursue their faith. He encouraged temple construction and religious activity of the Hindu majority Mysore province. This policy was also followed by his son Tipu Sultan. But there are also some historians who doubt the religious policies of Tipu Sultan.
Political Strategies
  • Came to Power:
    • In 1761, Haidar Ali overthrew Nanjaraj and established his authority over the Mysore state.
    • He extended full control over the rebellious poligars (zamindars) and conquered the territories of Bidnur, Sunda, Sira, Canara and Malabar.
  • Good Negotiator:
    • But Peshwa Madhavao I adopted an aggressive policy. Haidar Ali was defeated at Ratehalli in May 1764. After that a treaty was concluded. Haidar paid 28 lakhs as tribute and restored territories between the Krishna and Tungabhadra River.
    • Again in 1766, the Peshwa marched against Haidar. Nizam Ali also joined the Peshwa in this conflict. But soon after Nizam Ali concluded an alliance with the British. This made Peshwa to march alone against Mysore state. Again Haider Ali was compelled to submit. Haidar agreed to pay a tribute of Rs 33 lakhs to the Peshwa and got back most of his territory including Sira, Chik Balapur and Kolar, but the Marathas retained Hoskote and some other places. Nizam Ali thought it proper to come to terms with Haidar.
  • Changing calculations with English:
    • In the beginning, Haidar looked upon the British power as hostile to him. He along with his cavalry made a sudden dash on Madras in March 1769. The English made peace in the next month providing for mutual restoration of conquest and a defensive alliance.
    • As a realist, Haidar felt that the defensive alliance of 1769 must be the basis of his foreign policy. This will help him against the Nizam (his traditional enemy) and the Marathas (dangerous neighbour). But soon he was disappointed by the British. The English gave him no aid during the Maratha invasion of 1769-72. As he once said ‘I have wasted several years of my life by the supposition that England was a great nation.’
  • First Anglo Maratha War:
    • The behaviour of English made him to change his propositions of foreign policy. He decided to support the Maratha, the Nizam and Bhonsle during the First Anglo-Maratha War, as a common struggle against the English.
  • This brought in the hostilities of British towards Mysore and their ambition to gain control of Northern Circars. Also Nizam of Hyderabad instigated British against Mysore. But Haidar Ali managed the situation well despite having no allies. He defeated the British during first Anglo-Mysore war.
  • French was a key Mysore ally and during the Anglo – French rivalry in Europe, Mysore also got dragged in. Thus second Anglo Mysore war started. Initially Mysore made significant success. But later on peace was reached between France and British. This also led to peace in Mysore war. But during this war, Haidar Ali died. Later on his son Tipu Sultan continued the war.

Tipu Sultan

  • He ruled Mysore till his death at the hands of the British in 1799. He was a man of complex character. He was young and energetic. He usually took quick decisions. Unlike his father he was not a great strategist. The Madras Governor, Lord Macartney, who was anxious for peace, concluded the Treaty of Mangalore (March 1784) on the basis of mutual restoration of conquests and release of prisoners. Warren Hastings regarded the treaty as ‘humiliating pacification.’
  • Mysore under Tipu continued to grow as a formidable power. He sent envoys to France and Turkey (1787) and received some vague encouragement.
  • The new Governor General, Lord Cornwallis, from the moment of his arrival, considered that a war with Tipu was inevitable.
  • Tipu’s attack on the Raja of Travancore, an ally of the Company, freed the Governor-General from the strict policy of neutrality laid down by Pitt’s India Act of 1784. Lord Cornwallis found no difficulty in securing the alliance of the Peshwa and the Nizam. In this war (Third Anglo Mysore War, 1790-92), the Mysore ruler was defeated.
  • The Treaty of Seringapatam (March 1792) deprived Tipu Sultan half of his territories. After the treaty, Tipu paid a visit to the Maratha general Haripant to get cooperation against the English. He warned him that English are their real enemy and not Mysore.
  • Tipu Sultan was a brave man. Instead of being crippled by the British after the 3rd Anglo-Mysore war, Tipu showed unexpected signs of recovery:
    • He strengthened the fortifications of Seringapatam,
    • Reorganised the army and tried to establish contact with France.
  • This threatened the British. Wellesley immediately called Tipu Sultan to sever his connections with the French and enter into a Subsidiary Alliance with the British. Tipu Sultan was a man of self respect. He could not accept the stern conditions made by British. This led to fourth Anglo-Mysore war. The war was brief but decisive. Seringapatam was taken by assault on May 4, 1799. Tipu Sultan himself was killed in action and his son surrendered. A chief of the old Hindu dynasty Wodeyars were made King of Mysore. Purnia, Tipu’s Brahmin minister, was made the de facto ruler. The new Mysore state entered into a subsidiary treaty (July 1799) with the British which reduced it to the position of a dependency of the Company. Thus the English had to fight four wars with Mysore in order to reduce it to complete subjection. This task was made easy by:
    • the resources of the Company,
    • the narrow policy of the Marathas and the Nizam who became the allies of the Company,
  • Tipu Sultan was also responsible for driving the Indian powers to the arms of the Company. His military policy was also defective. He depended too much on defensive strategy and neglected cavalry which had rendered signal service in the campaign of his father.
  • Tipu Sultan was a great ruler who took great pains to improve the prosperity of his dominion. He was a good learner. He used to read books of diverse fields. His personal library contained books on such diverse subjects as religion, history, military science, medicine, and mathematics.
  • Like his father, Tipu Sultan was a good administrator. He managed his subjects well. He was religiously tolerant and had a distinguishing character. He was a great innovator.
  • He was one who believed in philosophy of change with the times. This was symbolised with the introduction of a new calendar, a new system of coinage, and a new scales of weights and measures.
Foreign Relations
  • Tipu Sultan was a man of international exposure. He used to be aware of the happening of the world. He was well aware of the French revolution and was an admirer of French revolution. He planted a ‘Tree of Liberty’ at Srirangapatnam and he was also in favour of forming laws which will be according to the principles of Republic.
  • Jacobin club of Mysore was a revolutionary organisation formed by French in Mysore. Tipu Sultan became a member of a Jacobin Club. He called himself citizen Tippo. He also had trade relation with many countries. Under Tipu Sultan Mysore became a formidable power. He sent and received envoys especially from France and Turkey.
Military Organisation
  • Because of warring nature of Indian states, they had to be prepared for war any time. Defence was the only option. So a person who could manage the military well was required. Father of Tipu Sultan Hyder Ali was himself a Military officer and had managed the security of Mysore in the best possible way.
  • Like his father Tipu was also a capable ruler and military organiser. This is evident from the fact that during those days of general indiscipline among Indian armies, his troops remained disciplined and loyal to him to the last. His infantry was armed with muskets and bayonets which were manufactured in Mysore. So he also emphasised the modernisation of the arsenal. He used to keep various types of guns which were difficult to be recognised. In order to protect the Malabar Coast from attacks he made an effort to build a modern navy after 1796. He had fleet of boats in his navy.
  • Agriculture was the major sector for economy in those days. It was a major source of revenue for kingdom. Every ruler had to frame such policies which would ensure the well-being of the farmers and also will earn a good amount of revenue for the kingdom. Tipu Sultan was well aware of all this. He made certain changes in Agricultural sector.
  • He tried to do away with the custom of giving jagirs because this had led to subjugation of farmers and also the loss of revenue because of corruption by intermediaries. Second change was that he increased the revenue to increase the state income. Third change was that he made an attemp to reduce the hereditary possessions of the poligars in order to bring the land under the control of state.
  • Though his land revenue was as high as that of other contemporary rulers – it ranged up to 1/3rd of the gross produce. He checked the collection of illegal cesses, and he was liberal in granting remissions. This led to reduction in pilferage and also reduced the corruption to a great extent.
  • Some English historians have said that the peasants of Mysore were happier in the regime of Tipu and Haider Ali than that compared with territory which was controlled by the English Company. This was all because of policies of Tipu Sultan.
  • Tipu Sultan was also tolerant towards other religions like his father. He participated in the religious functions and respected the religious freedom of the majority Hindu population. He never tried to impose his religion on his subjects. His religious toleration is evident from the fact that he gave money for the construction of goddess Sharda idol in the Shringeri Temple. This famous temple was situated barely 100 yards from his palace. Also he used to give gifts to several other temples on regular basis.
  • But some historians differ from this view and say that Tipu’s religious freedom was limited only within his territory. He has been accused of conversions in territory of Malabar. He did not respect the people of other religion from different kingdom.


  • At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Kerala was divided into a number of feudal chiefs and Rajas.
  • Among the important states were those of
    • Calicut under the Zamorin,
    • Cochin,
    • Chirakkal and
    • Travancore.


  • After the Chera Empire got dissolved in 1100 A.D. the region was under the rule of many kingdoms. But the empire rose to prominence during the rule of King Marthanda Varma. He was a king of Venad from 1729.
    • He used all means to unify many small kingdoms. During his time the empire was named Thiruvithamcode or Travancore. Combining rare foresight and indomitable courage, the king did works in various fields.
  • In order to organise the state it was required to curb the anarchy prevailing in the region. This was mainly because after the decline of Chera and collapse of Mughal rule, many feudatories established their rule in smaller parts.
  • They kept on warring amongst themselves over pity issues. Marthanda varma was a good visionary and a well equipped administrator. He understood the problems and then started taking steps to organise the Kingdom. For this, firstly he subdued the feudatories who were the major cause of anarchy. Then he organised the region as per the eighteenth century and established a disciplined Army on the western model, to protect the external boundaries of the state.
Foreign Policy
  • Marthanda Varma was a realist by nature. He had an offensive approach towards foreign policy. He used his army to conquer Quilon and Elayadam. This helped him in enlarging the territory of Travancore.
  • After defeating a union of feudal lords and establishing internal peace, he expanded the kingdom of Venad through a series of military campaigns from Kanyakumari in the south to the borders of Kochi in the north during his 29-year rule. This led to the Travancore-Dutch War (1739-1753) between the Dutch East India Company who had been allied to some of these kingdoms and Travancore. In 1741, Travancore won the Battle of Colachel against the Dutch East India Company, resulting in the complete removal of Dutch power from the region.
  • Marthanda Varma undertook many irrigation works and encouraged trade and commerce. He reorganised the commercial sector and monopolised the spice trade. He built roads for enhancing the business climate of the state. Under his rule water sport from Varkala, Thiruvananthpuram and Cochin were started.
  • Pallikondan dam, Chattuputhoor dam, Sabari dam, Kumari dam and Chozhanthitta dam, all on the river Pazhaya in the vicinity of Nagercoil, were constructed by him and are still operational. Because of his efforts to boost irrigation the paddy cultivation doubled in the region.
Cultural Developments
  • Marthanda Varma renovated Padmanabhapuram Palace, built Krishnapuram Palace near Alappuzha. Padmanabhaswamy temple was renovated and Marthanda Varma also paid tribute to various temples.
  • The 18th century witnessed a remarkable revival of language and literature. Apart from Malayalam literature, Sanskrit was liberally patronised and Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore, became a famous centre of culture. Rama Varma, successor of Marthanda Varma, were themselves a great scholar and being conversant with English language, took keen interest in European affairs.
  • By 1763 almost all the small states of Kerala had been either absorbed or subordinated by the big three states – Cochin, Travancore and Calicut.
  • Haider Ali of Mysore began his invasion in 1766 and conquered Northern part of Kerala till Cochin, including territories of Zamorin of Calicut.

Rajput States

  • After Aurangzeb’s death, weakened central authority created new opportunities for aggrandizement by provincial officers. During the first three decades of the eighteenth century, nascent regional kingdoms in several Northern provinces began to appear. The strained relationship of the Rajputs with the Mughals led them to the formation of an anti-Mughal league. Ajit Singh, Jay Singh II and Durgadas Rathod led the league. During the tussle between the Sayyid brothers, the Rajputs followed several policies in order to fulfill their self-interest. In this way the Rajputs won the prestigious posts in the Mughal court during the Sayyid brothers. Thus the Rajputs got the power of controlling vast Empire extending from Delhi to Surat on the Western coast.
  • Apart from this in Rajasthan, the leading Rajput emirs energetically overturned the intricate imperial administrative controls imposed on that province. Rajputs dedicated considerable efforts into expanding their home territories, in order to build near-autonomous regional kingdoms. Furthermore, as the Mughal Empire was gradually being burdened with difficulties, rajas stopped paying tribute.
  • The desire for independence partially arose from the harsh treatments they were granted, dating back to the reign under Aurangzeb. The ruthless campaigns of Aurangzeb in Rajasthan as well as his religious intolerance, including revival of Jizya, significantly aroused anger of many Rajputs. The insults which had been offered to their chiefs and their religion and the ruthlessness and unnecessary severity of Aurangzeb’s campaigns in their (Rajput’s) country left a sore which never healed. A race which had been the right arm of the Mughal Empire at the beginning of the reign was hopelessly alienated, and never again served the throne without distrust.

Raja Jai Singh of Ambar (1699-1743 AD)

  • He was the most outstanding Rajput ruler of the eighteenth century. He was a great reformer and made Jaipur a veritable museum of intellectual activities. He founded the city of Jaipur on strict architectural principle. Himself a great astronomer, he erected observatories with sophisticated instruments at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura. He drew up a set of tables to enable people to make astronomical observations.
  • He prompted the translation of Euclid’s ‘Elements of Geometry’ into Sanskrit as also several works on trigonometry and Napier’s work on logarithmic.

Decline of the Rajput Power

  • It is an irony of fate that the Rajputs who were a paragon of rare bravery, chivalry, courage and valour lost to the Turk invaders who came from barren, destitute and distant lands. There are several reasons assigned to this phenomenon. But broadly they can be grouped under the following seven heads: political, military, religious, social, geographical, administrative and economic causes. Let us discuss one by one:
  • Political Causes
    • Lack of a powerful central authority: There was no powerful central authority in India that could have offered strong resistance to the invaders as the Magadha Empire did during Alexander’s invasion. India at that time was divided into a number of independent Rajput states.
    • Disunity among the Rajput rulers: There were tough mutual fights among Rajputs states, particularly among the Chauhans and the Rathors, the Chandelas and the Chalukyas and the Pratiharas, Palas and the Rashtrakutas.
    • Lack of political insight: Even a series of Muslim invasions did not produce a single Rajput ruler with political insight to visualize as to what would happen to all of them, one by one, if the foreign inroads were not faced and checked unitedly.
    • Neglect of the frontiers: The Rajput rulers failed to evolve any frontier policy and could not forget their internal feuds and rise above personal prejudices
      to save the frontier states being crushed under the foreign soldiers.
    • Feudalism: The army of a Rajput ruler was constituted by collecting the armies of the feudal chiefs. The soldiers demonstrated more loyalty to their feudal chief
      than to the ruler. Feudal system led to the weakening of the power of the king.
  • Military Causes
    • Lack of appropriate military strategy: The Rajput army advanced with all the wings together-the right, the centre and the left. The Turks used a special strategy with their two units-one advanced guard and other the reserve. The advance guard was meant to test their strength and to find out the weak areas. The reserve was thrown into the battle fray after the Rajput had exhausted their resources.
    • Lack of offensive: The Rajputs mostly fought defensive battles with the foreign invaders and this was not the appropriate way of winning a battle.
    • Outdated weapons and war strategies: The Rajput did not try to find out the latest techniques and weapons used in foreign lands.
    • Swordsmen versus archers: The Turkish archers shooting arrows from their horses were more than a match for the Rajput soldiers with their swords which could become effective only if they could reach close to the enemy.
    • Elephants versus horses: The Rajput depended to a considerable extent upon the elephants. The elephants were easily struck with fear with the swiftness of the horses’ movements and the war cries. They ran helterskelter spreading fear and disorder in their own camp. The strength of the Turks lay in their efficient cavalry.
    • Lack of military leadership: Military leadership is quite different from bravery and chivalry. The Rajput rulers and their commanders did not have the requisite
      capacity to infuse zeal in their armies. On the other hands, the Turk invaders could easily arouse the battle cry ‘to do or die’.
    • Only Rajput’s in the army: Only Rajput’s had the duty to fight. Other classes were indifferent. Thus too much dependence on the Rajput’s was one of the weaknesses of the military organisation.
  • Religious Causes:
    • Ghazi spirit of the Muslim army: A Ghazi is one who gives his life in defence of Islam. For the Muslim soldiers, the fight against the Rajputs i.e. the Hindus, was a ‘Jihad’ (Holy war) – a crusade to protect as well as to spread their religion. The soldiers were thoroughly convinced that if they died for their religion they would go to paradise. If they won, they would get all the pleasures of the world, besides being the protectors of their religion.
    • No unitary ideology of the Hindus: Hinduism had no unified ideology to bind them together to the extent the Muslims had.
    • Impact of Buddhist religion: The Buddhist concept of Ahimsa did a great harm to the martial spirit of the Hindus. It made the Hindus timid and peace-loving.
  • Social Causes
    • Decaying society: The caste system had divided the Hindu society and injected the venom of hatred, humiliation, inequality, prejudices and untouchability. On the contrary, Islam had infused a spirit of brotherhood.
    • Superstition of the Hindus: Superstition acted like a double-edged sword towards the fall of Hindu India. While the Muslims believed that victory was bound to come to them, the Hindus believed that they were bound, to be conquered by the Muslims in ‘Kaliyug’, such a superstition demoralized and discouraged the Hindus. Slave system of the Muslim rulers: The slaves maintained by the Muslim rulers were very faithful to their masters. They were provided adequate opportunities to hold high offices according to their ability . They were always ready to die for their masters.
  • Administrative Factors:
    • The Rajput rulers did not set up an efficient spy system to be adequately acquainted themselves with the overall position of their adversaries. It is also very unfortunate that sometimes Rajput officials proved treacherous as they let out some of the military secrets to the enemy.
  • Geographical Factors:
    • Some historians have suggested that the hot climate of India sapped the strength and vigour of the Indian soldiers. The Muslim soldiers came from cold regions and were habitually hardy and sturdy. They were not bothered by the Indian heat as they were used to face climatic harshness. Heat or cold, did not matter to them as they were there to conquer and that was the only thing that mattered to them. The Muslim rulers had excellent recruiting grounds in lands beyond the Afghan hills. From there they could constantly bring new recruits to fight against the Hindus.
  • Economic Factors:
    • Soldiers of the Turk invaders were attracted by the wealth of India. They, therefore, fought with full zeal. As already stated, religious fanaticism was also there. Thus the two factors combined together to infuse vigour in them. The wealth of the temples had a great attraction for the Muslim invaders. These temples however, were not properly protected. It, therefore, became easy for the invaders to plunder these places and this demoralised the people.


  • With the closure of the 18th century, the actual rule of the Mughal emperor was confined only to a limited area around Delhi.
  • The weakness of the empire led the regional powers to assert their authority. Nonetheless, the symbolic authority of the Mughal emperor prevailed as the emperor was a source of political legitimacy. The newly formed states did not challenge the emperor, but rather persistently looked for his sanction to legitimise their authority. This led to decentralisation of power and local disputes among them.
  • The English East India Company (EIC) defeated Siraj ud Daulah in the Battle of Plassey (1757). The Mughal emperor granted the company the diwani rights of Bengal – control over the administration of the region and the right to collect tax revenue in lieu of a revised revenue amounts every year, after defeat in the Battle of Buxar 1764. Hereafter, EIC defeated French East India company and became a powerful player in the local polity as it was involved in local disputes.
  • Meanwhile, with EIC’s lingering influence over south, by the 1770s the balance of power had shifted. The Maratha in western India and Tipu Sultan of Mysore were defeated and expansion continued. By early nineteenth century, the EIC was the dominant political power in India, with direct control over two-thirds of the subcontinent and indirect control over the rest. Subsequently, this led to 200 years of colonial supremacy and control of India by the British.

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