Causes for Decline and fall of the Mughal Empire
No empire in history is survived forever. The Mughal Empire of India was no exception. It declined for various reasons. The following were the main causes of its decline.
The Vastness of the Empire:
The Mughal Empire is growing in size from the time of Akbar. With the conquest of the South by Aurangzeb, it covered almost all India from Kashmir to river Kaveri and from Kabul to Chittagong it became too vast to be governed from one center at the command of one man. Communications were difficult. Distances were enormous. The Empire therefore began to sink under its own weight.
There were no systems of democratic decentralization in those days. The provincial Government looked to the emperor for orders. The burden of administration grew with the growth of the Empire. Its success depend only the ability of the Emperor. If the Emperor’s person declined or his policy turned wrong, the Empire was bound to suffer.
Responsibility of Aurangzeb:
The stability of the Emperor depended on the support of the people. India was primarily a land of the Hindus. Without their loyalty and court-operation, stability was impossible. Akbar realized this need from the beginning of his rule. He won over the Hindus by his liberal policies. He employed them in higher services. Some of them were given highest positions. His successors followed that wise policy. As long as the people were loyal, the empire was strong.
But Aurangzeb reversed his system. His religious regulations became painful to Hindus. As a result, the majority population withdrew their court-operation. Their revolt broke out. The Jats, Bundelas, and Satnamis heralded an era of unrest. Aurangzeb’s religious policy weakened the foundation of the empire.
Similarly, his Rajput policy proved disastrous. The strongest supporters of the empire became its worst enemies Rajput war threw the Empire into turmoil, pointing to serious consequences.
Finally, Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy sounded the death-knell of the Mughal Empire. The Maratha War in the Deccan continued till the death of Aurangzeb. His absence from the north for long 26 years was his biggest blunder. The Empire lost men and money endlessly. It also lost its power and prestige. Administration declined in Northern India .provincial rulers felt bold to defy the center. In the long run, the Deccan the saw the death of the Emperor as well as the decline of the Empire. It is said that as the Spanish Uicer killed Napoleon, the Deccan Uicer killed Aurangzeb.
Wars of Succession:
The Mughal Dynasty suffered from a grave internal problem.it was the problem of succession. Sons revolted against fathers to capture the throne. Brothers fought the wars of succession.Jahangir, as prince Salim, revolted against his father Akbar. Shah Jahan revolted against Jahangir. Aurangzeb revolted against Shah Jahn. The fratricidal wars among the brothers were of a more serious nature. Shah Jahn killed his brother. Aurangzeb came to the throne by killing his brothers.
After him, the wars of succession came in quick interval. The disease became more serious. For a Mughal Prince, there were only two alternatives, namely, either the throne or the coffin. As they fought rapid wars, the Empire lost its vitality quickly. No Emperor among the later Mughals could rule in peace.
The first six Mughal Emperors from Babar to Aurangzeb are described as the great Mughals. The Emperors after Aurangzeb are called the latter Mughals. These later Mughal Emperor are weak and worthless. They could not save the Empire from rapid decline.
Aurangzeb was succeeded by his son Bahadur Shah. He came to the throne after the bloody battle with other brothers. He was too old to rule effectively, and died within five years. The next emperor Jahndar Shah came to the throne by killing his three brothers. He was a worthless man. He ruled at the advice of a dancing girl named Lal Kumari. The contemporary historian Khafi Khan wrote: “In the brief reign of Jahnder, violence had full sway. It was a fine time for minstrels and singers and all the tribes of dancers and actors.” This emperor was killed within a year by his nephew, Farrukhsiyar. Another useless man, Farrukhsiyar became a puppet in hands of two Sayyid Brothers who became the Kingmakers. Within a short time, Farrukhshiyar was blinded and killed pitilessly by the kingmakers. More unworthy men were made Emperors. The story of such tragedies continued. The Mughal Empire broke down because of such successors.
Weakness of the Nobility:
The Mughal nobles of earlier times formed a brave class of royal supporters. They were good fighters and advisers. But degeneration gradually set in . the later Mughal nobility showed the worst vices of court life. They became lazy and luxurious. Wealth and power changed their character for the worst.
Some of them became too selfish. Some dream of independence. Most of them spent time in plots, conspiracies, and court intrigues. The emperors were too weak to control them. Instead, they became puppets in hands of powerful and ambitious nobles.
Worst of all, the nobility got divided into fictions. Grouped as Turanis, Iranis, and Hindustanis, and they quarreled among themselves. A degenerated nobility was largely responsible for the decline of the Empire.
Weakness of the Army:
When rulers and the nobles became unworthy of their position, the Mughal army too became weak and inefficient. Days were gone when the soldiers of Babar could suffer extreme hardship only the Indian soil. The armies of the later Mughals had no vigor, courage or capability for bigger military role. Their generals became lazy and pleasure loving. Though big in size, the Mughals army could not show its strength in the Rajput or the Maratha war even under Aurangzeb. The Inspiration, which was seen among the Jats, Bundelas, Sikhs, Rajputs and Marathas, was not seen among the Mughals. The military weakness became a potential cause of the decline of the Mughals Empire.
Independence of Provincial Rulers:
Under the later Mughals, the bigger subhas, or provinces virtually became independent. Provinces like Oudh and Bengal passed under powerful rulers to paid nominal respect to Delhi. But, in reality, they ruled their provinces like independent kingdoms. The emperors helplessly saw the reduction of their territory to a very small area around Delhi.