What are the causes for the decline of the Mughal Empire?

The Mughal Empire, which had reached its zenith during the rule of Shah Jahan and his son, began to decline after the rule of Aurangzeb. In fact, the decline began during the last days of Aurangzeb. There were many causes for the downfall of this great dynasty. Let us view the causes that hastened the fall of the Mughal Empire after Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb’s responsibility:

Aurangzeb was largely responsible for the downfall of the empire. His predecessors did a lot to win over the loyalties of their subjects, particularly the Rajputs and the Hindus. But Aurangzeb was a fanatic and could not tolerate the non-Muslims. He imposed jazia and forbade the celebration of Hindu festivals. He thus lost the friendship and loyality of the Rajputs. His execution of the Sikh guru and his enmity with the Marathas forced them to raise arms against him. His excessive obsession with the Deccan also destroyed the Mughal army, the treasury and also adversely affected his health. Being a fanatic Sunni Muslim, he could not tolerate even the Shias. They too turned against him. He laid too much stress on simplicity and was against singing, dancing and drinking which were common habits of the Muslim nobles. They did not like a king who was so much against their ways. Aurangzeb, thus “himself gave a green signal to the forces of decay” and so after his death the mighty empire disintegrated into smaller states.

Weak Successors:

The successors of Aurangzeb were both weak and incompetent. The later Mughals spent more time in their harems and in pleasure and soon lost control of the states.

No Definite Law of Succession:

The Mughals did not follow any definite law of succession. After the death of every emperor, there ensued a bloody war of succession amongst his sons. Each one, used nobles and members of the royal family to get the throne thereby dividing the nobles who fought for their self-interest only. This created anarchy. Nobles resorted to conspiracies and made the Mughal power weak and vulnerable.

Poor Economy:

The economic stability of the empire was ruined because of the constant wars. Some of the wars did not add even an inch to the Mughal Empire. Besides this, the Mughal rulers spent lavishly on buildings and monuments. Finally, the foreign invasions completely shattered the economy.

Moral Degradation of the Soldiers:

An excess of wealth and luxury made the Mughal army lazy, corrupt and inefficient. The soldiers and the generals became pleasure loving and easygoing. Often they proved to be disloyal. Now they could not even go to the battlefield without their train of attendants and women. Sometimes they only fought for money and easily succumbed to bribes.

Rise of New Powers:

New powers such as the Sikhs, Jats and Marathas came onto the scene. Gradually they broke off from the Mughal domination and established their own independent states.

Coming of the Europeans:

The Europeans, especially the British, played an important role in putting an end to the Mughal Empire. They first obtained a freeman to trade with India, but gradually began interfering in Indian politics and gradually set up a British empire in India that lasted for 200 years.

Foreign Invasions:

The invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali proved fatal for the Mughal Empire. Not only were the Indians defeated but their weakness was exposed and India became as easy prey to other foreign powers too.


Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, had organized the Sikhs into a military force. After his death, his disciple Banda Bahadur carried on his his struggle against the Mughals. However, Banda was finally captured and put to death in 1715 during the reign of Farukh Siyar. But the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali gave the Sikhs a fresh opportunity to once again challenge the authority of the Mughals. They organized themselves into small groups known as misls. These misls were twelve in number and each one had a leader. Although these misls could not unite for a long time, they carried on their struggle with each other’s cooperation. By the end of the eighteenth century, Ranjii Singh, however, brought them together and founded a Sikh kingdom. He brought the entire area to the west of the Sutlej under his control. Under Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs power reached the zenith of its glory, but his death was followed by an internal struggle for power.

The Rajputs

The Rajputs were strong military-like warriors but they had a major drawback in that they never organized themselves into a single power. They were constantly at war with each other. Even after the fall of Aurangzeb, they failed to rise to the occasion and grab power. The royal patronage that they received during the days of Akbar was now lost. The most important ruler of this period was Sawai Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur who built the Pink city and also the astronomical observatories. But during the eighteenth century, the Rajputs became very weak due to the rise of the Sikhs, Jats and the Marathas.