Short notes on the Deccan Policy of the Mughals

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Short notes on the Deccan Policy of the Mughals

Akbar. At that time, there was hardly any trouble in the transfrontier regions. He could have very well undertaken a campaign in the Deccan but he did not. He was looking forward to the troubles convulsing Badakhshan and he was more concerned with them.

Berar

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In 1583-84 occurred the Gujarat Rebellion. In 1585-86, Akbar ordered Aziz Kokah, the Khani-Azam to affect the conquest of Berar. The mutual jealousies of the commanders were responsible for inactivity and ultimate dispersion of the army. At that time, a greater concern was engaging the attention of Akbar.

Ahmadnagar

Akbar had been watching the state of affairs in the Deccan. In 1590, he summoned Burhan- ul-Mulk from his Jagir and offered him his armed assistance to dispossess his son Ismail from the throne of Ahmadnagar. Burhan-ul-Mulk declined the offer with the explanation that “a Mughal Army would alarm the Dakshinis but if allowed to gather his adherents on the frontier, he would endeavour to win the Nizam Shahis by conciliation.” Akbar gave him Hindia at the frontiers of Berar and asked Raja Ali Khan of Khandesh to help him in his project. The time chosen was extremely favourable.

The insane and imbecile king Murtaza Nizam Shah had been murdered in 1588 by his son Miran Husain who in turn had been deposed by his Minister Mirza Khan who had raised Ismail, son of Burhan-ul-Mulk to the throne. Mirza Khan was the Head of the Foreigners and his act was resented by the Deccanees among who was Jamal Khan, the Mahdavi. Jamal Khan won over the king to his side and became the Prime Minister of the State. His rule was marked by partisan persecution and consequent alienation of the greater pan of the people.

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Nevertheless, he had defeated Salabat Khan and driven out the foreigners from the kingdom. At that time, Ahmadnagar was invaded by Burhan-ul-Mulk with the help of Raja Ali Khan. Jamal Khan was defeated and killed. His master Ismail was taken and kept as a prisoner and the old Burhan-ul-Mulk occupied the throne. With his succession in 1590, the influence of the foreigners was restored and the Shia Faith was reestablished as state religion. Akbar must have been happy to find his own nominee on the throne of Ahmadnagar without war or waste of his resources.

Akbar’s Diplomatic Offensive in the Deccan

In 1591, Akbar launched a diplomatic offensive. He sent embassies to all the Deccan States inviting them to accept Mughal Suzerainty. The Rulers of Bijapur and Golcunda did not see their way to accept the invitation and they dismissed Akbar’s envoys with polite words and presents. The behaviour of Burhan Nizam was very annoying. He treated the imperial emissary, Aminuddin, in a most clumsy manner and charged him with plundering some merchants and dismissed him summarily. Raja Ali Khan of Khandesh was the only one who could be considered friendly.

The Rulers of the Deccan ought to have realised that the annexation of Orissu in 1592, the appointment of Prince Murad as the First Viceroy of Gujarat and Shahrukh Mirza, son-in-law of the Emperor, as the Governor of Malwa, indicated the seriousness of Akbar’s resolve. They might have thought that Akbar was deeply engrossed in the affairs of the North-West Frontier and would not be able to undertake large-scale operations in the Deccan. They were unwilling to recognise any superior authority over them, but were contented with mutual wars, factious strafes, religious persecutions, bad administration and an all-round demoralisation.

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The Deccan states were administered by foreign adventurers and fortune-seekers. They could hardly claim to be the natural leaders of the people of those states. Their rulers had no more claim to rule over the people of the Deccan than the Mughal Emperors.

They could not claim any moral or spiritual vitality, superiority or energy from the natural patriotism of the people of the Deccan. They could not impart strength or inspire enthusiasm enough to protect the Deccan from the menace of the Portuguese and could not even maintain law and order in their own states.

Ahmadnagar and Chand Bibi

In 1595, Burhan Nizam Shah died and there was faction fighting among the Nobles of the Nizamshahi Dynasty. There were four candidates for the throne, backed by different parties and the strongest claim was that of Bahadur who the son of Burhan Nizam Shah was. Chand Bibi who was the sister of Burhan, was the widow of the former Ruler of Bijapur. She was a remarkable woman who had virtually ruled the state of Bijapur for almost 10 years when Ibrahim Adilshah was a minor. She went to Ahmadnagar and took up the cause of her nephew.

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At that stage, Miyan Manjhu, the leader of the Deccan Party, invited prince Murad, Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana and the Governor of Malwa to come and restore peace and order in the Deccan. Since Akbar had already prepared them for action, there was little difficulty in setting the armies in motion. Raja Ali Khan was also directed to join the Mughal Army with his troops. By the time the Mughal Army could reach Ahmadnagar, Miyan Manjhu had gained a victory over the Abyssinians and political affairs began to shape themselves gradually according to his wishes Manjhu repented for .the folly of invited Murad and began to prepare for the defense of Ahmadnagar.

In order to unite all he removed restrictions imposed on Chand Bibi, tried to win her favour and conciliate the He also opened negotiations with Bijapur and Golcunda and them to resist Mughal Aggression in the Deccan. To fight the Mughals, Miyan Manjhu entrusted the Regency to Chand Bibi and he moved out of the fort. Most of the officers were of the view that there was little hope of success unless the armies of Golcunda and Bijapur joined them in time and wanted to delay the fighting till their arrival. Chand Bibi did not agree with that view and decided to fight the Mughals. She shut herself up in the fort with the boy king Bahadur and played a heroic role for four months.

The jealousy and rivalry between Sadiq Khan and Shahbaz divided and distracted the Mughal officers. Delay in capturing the fort gave time to the supporters of Ahmadnagar to rally and take active measures. Venkoji, the Koli Chief, threatened to cut the communications of the Mughals with Gujarat. Saiyid Raja who was sent to fight him was outnumbered, defeated and killed.

A few days after one Saadat Khan surprised and captured a large quantity of treasure, stores and munitions which Saiyid Alam was carrying from Gujarat to the Mughals. Shahbaz Khan and the Khan-i-Khana did not like Ahmadnagar to fall so that Prince Murad may not get any credit for capturing the fort.

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Raja Ali Khan of Khandesh secretly sympathised with Ahmadnagar and connived at the supplies which were thrown into the fort whenever required. The Rulers of Bijapur and Golcunda sent about 70,000 troops to help Ahmadnagar. The defense was determined and gallant. Glittering with armour a veil on her face and a naked sword in her hand, Chand Bibi came out riding an elephant to lead her soldiers. That raised their morale.

Although the Mughals showed the greatest valour humanly possible and fought from sunrise to sunset they appeared to be striking against a wall of iron and were obliged to withdraw. Both sides were exhausted. In 1596, an agreement was made by which Ahmadnagar agreed to give Berar to the Mughals in return for their recognition of the claim of Bahadur as a Ruler of Ahmadnagar under the suzerainty of the Mughal Emperor.

Capture of Ahmadnagar

At that stage, the other Deccan States realised the danger from the Mughals. They sided with Ahmadnagar and created obstacles in the way of the Mughals taking possession of Berar. In 1597, the Mughals defeated a Deccan force consisting of the forces of Bijapur, Golcunda and Ahmadnagar. After the defeat, the forces of Bijapur and Golcunda withdrew and Chand Bibi was left alone to face the situation. She was in favour of observing the treaty of 1596 but her nobles attacked the Mughals in Berar.

The result was a second siege of Ahmadnagar by the Mughals. Chand Bibi opened negotiations with the Mughals but she was murdered. The Mughals assaulted and captured Ahmadnagar. Bahadur, the boy king, was sent to the Fortress of Gwalior. Balaghat was added to the Mughal Empire. A Mughal garrison was stationed at Ahmadnagar. This was in 1600 A.D. However, that did not solve the problem of Akbar.

Fall of Asirgarh

In order to study the situation on the spot, Akbar advanced into Malwa and from there into Khandesh. He was keen to have the Fort of Asirgarh in Khandesh which was reputed to be the strongest fort in the Deccan. The siege of Asirgarh was intensified. With the capture of Sapan hill, the fall of Maligarh and the occupation of Korhe Hill, Asirgarh was stripped of her outer defences and exposed to a more effective onslaught.

While the military position of the Mughals improved and the siege was tightened, affairs in the fort went from bad to worse. The Nobles of Bahadur Khan were divided in their opinions. Salaries of the troops were in arrears. Supplies were getting putrefied. A peculiar kind of pestilence broke out in the fort. People began to get weary of the protracted siege and progressively deteriorating situation. Mughal diplomacy and gold were actively employed to break the morale of the defenders.

A conspiracy was hatched to deliver up Bahadur Khan to the Mughals and secure peace. It was finally decided that Bahadur should offer submission provided Akbar left him in possession of the fortress and kingdom and promise security of life, honour and property to the garrison. Akbar accepted other proposals but insisted on the surrender of the fort. Bahadur was advised to surrender the fort and offer personal homage to Akbar. He was escorted to the court and after he had paid respects to the Emperor, he was placed under surveillance. The fort surrendered in 1601 and Khandesh was incorporated in the Mughal Empire.

Some writers have charged Akbar of treachery in regard to his transactions leading to the capture of Asirgarh and detention of Bahadur Khan. It is impossible to believe that Bahadur could have voluntarily surrendered himself only to be kept in prison. It is equally impossible to accept that he had gone to Akbar simply because Akbar had called him for an interview “swearing on his own royal head that the visitor would be allowed to return in peace”.

If the position of Bahadur was as strong as the Jesuit writers describe, there was no necessity for him to risk his life. Moreover, the main cause of quarrel between the Emperor and Bahadur was the demand of personal submission and surrender of Asirgarh and hence it is difficult to understand why Bahadur suddenly decided to go to the Emperor.

If Akbar had given Bahadur an understanding that he would waive his demand for Asirgarh if he made his submission, there was no point in throwing away the military advantage to be got after taking possession of Asirgarh. If Bahadur had willingly surrendered the fort, Akbar might have treated him better, but his refusal changed the circumstances and instead of being treated like a guest, he was dealt with like an enemy and sent to Gwalior.

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