Short essay on end of Mughal rule in India

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The conflicts, killings and treacherous dealings which the events unleashed completely ended the days of the empire as an effective power. However, it continued to provide a kind of legal framework for Indian politics and as an idea remained active up to 1857, to inspire the fighters for India’s first battle for freedom.

Anyway, the Mughal empire was over, instead a Mughal state existed in Delhi and its environs for another three decades or so. It now took the form of the kingdom of Delhi, its rulers, though they continued with the old forms and practices, were essentially local princes within limited horizons. It continued with the usual ups and down in its affairs and at times became formidable in strength.

Najib-ud-daula ruled over Delhi from 1761 to 1770 as the deputy of Abdali and Shah Alam, the two personages with whom he never broke up. Actually, he was an independent ruler for all pur­poses, because Ahmad Abdali apparently had noth­ing to do with his conquered domain and the Marathas were too exhausted to take any interest.

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Najib therefore made full use of the opportunity, though he was harassed by the Sikhs in the north and the Jat insurrection in the south. He was strong enough to keep things under control, but was not able to subdue either of the trouble-makers.

Upon his death Shah Alam returned to Delhi, but then it was under the rule of the Persian adventurer, Mirza Najaf Khan. Shah Alam, crowned in 1759 while he was a fugitive in Bihar, was not brilliant, but nonetheless was the most talented among the later Mughals.

There was a severe famine at the time of Najaf Khan’s death in 1782, the calamity giving rise to untold misery of those who lived and horrible agonies among those who perished. The devastation was so complete that its effect was found to continue even up to the year 1820.

As was to be expected, Shah Alam did not have a single lieutenant to share his burdens, while the misery and poverty increased the dissensions and the court intrigues.

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Around this time in 1785, the Mughals invited Mahadji Scindhia to Delhi, legalising his position as Vakil-i-Mutlaq or Regent of the Realm. In 1787, the Rajputs defeated Scindhia at Lalsont, which reduced his standing in the court to some extent.

However, shortly there­after, the Rohilla, Ghulam Qadir (grandson of Najib) seized Delhi and, disappointed in not finding the expected treasure, in a fit of frenzy blinded Shah Alam. The whole empire was shocked by this deed.

Scindhia defeated Ghulam, executed him, and re­stored Shah Alam who lived to usher in the British in 1803, a blind king, respected, tolerated and pitied. The Delhi kingdom had now become a Maratha province.

Shah Alam reigned till 1806, after him came Akbar II who ruled from 1806 to 1837, and Bahadur Shah II who ruled from 1838 to 1858. Bahadur Shah II was in fact the last Mughal emperor. Following the revolt in 1857 and the defeat of the Indians, Bahadur Shah was exiled to Rangoon by the British. He spent his last years in Rangoon.

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