20 Causes behind the Downfall of the Mughals in India
In the words of Stanely Lane-Poole, “As some imperial corpse preserved for age in its dead seclusion, crowned and armed and still majestic, yet falls to the dust at the breath of heaven, so fell the Empire of the Mughals when the great name that guarded it was no more.”
V. A. Smith writes, “The collapse of the Empire came with a suddenness which at first sight may seem surprising. But the student who has acquired even a moderately sound knowledge of history will be surprised that the Empire lasted so long rather than it collapsed suddenly.”
There were many causes which were responsible for the downfall of the Mughal Empire; some of them were as follows:
(1) Religious Policy of Aurangzeb:
The most important cause of the downfall of the Mughal Empire was the religious policy of Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb alienated the sympathy and support of the Hindus by committing all sorts of atrocities on them. He imposed Jajiya on all the Hindus in the country. Even the Rajputs and Brahmans were not spared. He dismissed the Hindu Officials from state service and allowed only those to continue who were prepared to embrace Islam. An order banning the building of new Hindu Temples in areas directly under Mughal control was promulgated early in his reign.
Though old temples were not to be destroyed under this order, it was decreed that temples built since the time of Akbar should be regarded as newly built temples and on that plea were desecrated in different parts of the Mughal Empire and those included the Temples of Vishwanath at Kashi and the Temple of Bir Singh Deo at Mathura. A number of schools attached to the temples were shut down.
In 1679, when the State of Marwarj was under direct imperial administration and the Rajputs prepared themselves to resist Mughal a j Authority, old as well as new temples were destroyed in different parts of the Empire. Thousands n of artisans and labourers were employed to pull down Hindu Temples and Mosques were built with their material. After the death of Raja Jaswant Singh, Aurangzeb tried to keep Ajit Singh; under his control. Durga Das managed to remove him and his Mother Rajputana in spite of all the precautions taken by the Mughal Government. That led to the Rajput War which continued from 1679 to 1681.
Although peace was made, Aurangzeb could not depend upon the Rajputs.ff It proved to be a great handicap when he was busy in the Deccan Wars. Instead of depending |g upon the support of the Rajputs, he had to set apart Mughal Forces to meet any possible trouble® from their side. The execution of Guru Teg Bahadur was a blunder. That led to the alienation of the Sikhs who became a strong military power under Guru Gobind Singh. Later on, these very Sikhs gave trouble to the Mughal Emperors.
Although Banda was captured and put to death after a long resistance, the Sikh Power was not crushed. It kept on growing day by day and ultimately the Sikhs were able to out the Mughals from the Punjab. The same policy of religious persecution led to the rise of the Marathas under Shivaji. The persecution of the Hindus hardened their character and they became the bitter enemies of the Mughals. To quite Lane- Poole, “His mistaken policy towards Shivaji provided the foundation of a power that was to prove a successful rival to his own Empire.
(2) The Deccan Policy of Aurangzeb:
The Deccan policy of Aurangzeb was also partly responsible for the downfall of the Mughal Empire. Aurangzeb was bent upon crushing the power of the Marathas. He found that the States of Bijapur and Golcunda were a source of help to the Marathas who were employed in those states in large numbers. They occupied important places of trust and authority in civil administration. Maratha soldiers were welcomed in those states. They got not only money but also military training. Aurangzeb felt that if those states were annexed, the source of the strength of the Marathas will be stopped.
Moreover, the rulers of those states were Shias and for a fanatical Sunni like Aurangzeb, there was no place for them in India. The Marathas were able to get a lot of booty of raiding those states. It was maintained that if those states were annexed, it will not be easy for the Marathas to gain anything because they shall have to fight against the might of the Mughal Empire.
With that object in mind, Aurangzeb himself went to the Deccan and annexed Bijapur and Golconda in 1686 and 1687 respectively. He might have claimed credit for the destruction of the Shia States, but he had committed a blunder in doing so. He should have followed a buffer state policy towards those states and subordinated his religious zeal to statesmanship. If he had helped these states against the Marathas he would have been able to keep the latter in check with much less expense and waste of energy.
After the annexation of Bijapur and Golconda, Aurangzeb tried to crush the power of the Marathas. Sambhaji, the son of Shivaji, was captured and put to death under the orders of Aurangzeb. His son, Sahu, was also captured and made a prisoner. He continued in Mughal custody up to 1707. However, the Marathas carried on their struggle against the Mughals under the leadership of Raja Ram and his widow Tara Bai. When Aurangzeb died in 1707, the power of the Marathas was still not crushed. They were stronger than before.
V. A. Smith writes about AuYanzeb and his Deccan Policy in these words, “The Deccan was the grave of his reputation as well as of his body.” Aurangzeb had to remain away from the North for a quarter of a century. The result was that the whole of the Mughal administration was thrown out of gear. There was complete confusion everywhere. As the Emperor was busy in the Deccan, the Provincial Governors did not send land revenue to the Central Government. At a time when more money was required for the Deccan war, very little was coming from the provinces. When Bahadur Shah succeeded to the throne, the treasury was empty.
The Mughal Government being a centralised despotism, the absence of the Emperor from the North for a long period encouraged centrifugal tendencies among the Governors. After the death of Aurangzeb, those tendencies continued to grow and the result was that ultimately various provinces became independent of the central authority. Thus, Awadh, Bengal, the Punjab and the Deccan became independent.
The Rohillas became independent in Rohilkhand. The Rajputs also asserted their independence. Thus, gradually the Mughal Empire broke up. The failure of Aurangzeb in the Deccan wars destroyed the military prestige of the Mughals. Too much of expenditure made the Mughal Government bankrupt. The Deccan wars can be called the ulcer which destroyed the Mughal Empire.
(3) Revolts in Provinces of the Empire:
Another cause of the downfall of the Mughal Fmpire was the revolts in various provinces of the Empire. During the Reign of Aurangzeb, no provincial Governor could dare to defy his authority. However, there were many who were secretly hostile to him. They were all trying to build up reserves of power and secure such allies as could help them to realise their ambitions when the aged Emperor passed away. All the sons of Aurangzeb fell into this category among officers Bahadur Khan, Diler Khan and Zulfiqar Khan were all suspected of harbouring such motives. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Empire began to break up and the process of breaking up was rather rapid.
(4) Size of the Mughal Empire Became unwieldy:
In the time of Aurangzeb, the size of the Mughal Empire became unwieldy. It became physically impossible for any man to govern the same from one centre when the means of communication and transport were not developed. A centralised despotic Government was not suited to the needs of the time. The Mughal lines of communication were open to Maratha attacks to such an extent that the Mughal Nobles found it impossible to collect their dues from the Jagirs assigned to them and sometimes made private pacts with the Marathas.
That raised the power and prestige of the Marathas, led to demoralisation in the nobility and a setback to imperial prestige. The view of Dr. Satish Chandra is that “Perhaps Aurangzeb might have been better advised to accept the suggestion put forward by his eldest son, Shah Alam, for a settlement with Bijapur and Golconda, annex only a part of their territories and let them rule over Karnatak which was away from and difficult to manage.'”
(5) Weak Successors of Aurangzebs:
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the weak successors of Aurangzeb. If they had been intelligent and brilliant, they could have stopped the decline that set in during the Reign of Aurangzeb. Unfortunately, most of them were worthless they were busy in their luxuries and intrigues and did nothing to remedy the evils that had crept into the Mughal Polity. Bahadur Shah I was 63 years of age when he ascended the throne in 1707 and did not possess the energy to perform the onerous duties of the state. He tried to keep the various parties and courtiers satisfied by offering them liberal grants, titles, rewards etc.
Rulers like Jahandar Shah (1712-13), Farrukh Siyar (1713-79), Muhammad Shah (1719-48), Ahmad Shah (1748-54), and Bahadur Shah II (1837-57) were no better. Some of them were mere puppets in the hands of their Wazirs. To quote Edwards and Garret, “The chronicles of the court of Delhi after the Heath of Aurangzeb offer an unbroken tale of plots and counter-plots on the part of powerful nobles, culminating at intervals in open disorder and fighting with the titular Emperor serving as the sport and plaything of contending groups.”
(6) Absence of the Law of Primogeniture in the Matter of Succession:
Another cause was the absence of the law of primogeniture in the matter of succession to the throne. The result was that every Mughal Prince considered himself to be equally fit to become the ruler and was prepared to fight out his claim. To quote Erskine, “The sword was the grand arbiter of right and every son was prepared to try his fortune against his brothers.” After the death of Bahadur Shah, the various claimants to the throne were merely used as tools by the leaders of rival factions to promote their own personal interests.
Zulfkar Khan acted as the king-maker in the war of succession which followed after the death of Bahadur Shah I in 1712. Likewise, the Sayyid Brothers acted as king-makers from 1713 to 1720. They were instrumental in the appointment of four kings to the throne. After their disappearance from the sconce, Mir Mohammad Amin and Asaf Jah Nizam-ul-Mulk acted as king-makers. Undoubtedly, the absence of the law of succession contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire.
(7) Gradual Deterioration in the character of the Mughal Kings:
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the gradual deterioration in the character of the Mughal Kings. It is said that when Babur attacked India, he swam all the rivers on the way. He was so strong that he could run on the wall of a fort while carrying men in his-arms. Unmindful of the difficulties confronting him, Humayun was able to win back his throne after the lapse of many years. The same hardy character enabled Akbar to conquer the whole of the Northern India and a part of the Deccan. No amount of riding on horse-back exhausted him.
He could walk miles and miles on foot. He could kill a lion with one stroke of his sword. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperors became ease-loving and cowardly. Their harems were full. They went about in palanquins and were hardly fit to rule a country where the mass of the people detested the Mughal rule. S.R. Sharma writes. “Kam Baksh, as a captive on his death-bed, regretted that a descendant of Timur was captured alive. But Jahandar Shah and Ahmed Shah were not ashamed to be caught up in the tresses of their concubines who came between them and thier duties as Emperors:
The Former fooled himself in public with his Lai Kunwar and the latter buried himself in his seraglio-which extended over four square miles-for weeks together without seeing the face of male.”
(8) Degeneration of the Mughal Nobility:
There was also the degeneration of the Mughal nobility. When the Mughals came to India, they had a hardy character. Too much of wealth, luxury and leisure softened their character. Their harems became full. They got wine in plenty. They went in palanquins to the battle-fields. Such nobles were not fit to fight against the Marathas, the Rajputs and the Sikhs. The Mughal Nobility degenerated at a very rapid pace.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes that “No Mughal Noble family retained its importance for more than one or two generations, if the achievements of a nobleman were mentioned in three pages, the achievements of his son occupied nearly a page and the grandson was dismissed in a few lines such as “he did nothing worthy of being recorded here.” The Mughal Nobility was taken from the Turks, the Afghans and the Persians and the climate of India was not suitable for their growth. They began to degenerate during their stay in India.
The truth of this argument is challenged. It is pointed out that there is no reason to believe that the people belonging to colder climates are better warriors. Among the many well-known administration and distinguished warriros produced by the Mughal Empire, there were many Hindustanis and immigrants who lived in India for a long time. The eighteenth century also produced a large number of capable nobles and distinguished generals. Their personal ambitions were unlimited and they preferred to carve out independent principalities for themselves rather than serve the Mughal Emperors loyally and devotedly.
The chief reason for the degeneration of the nobility was that gradually it became a closed corporation. It gave no opportunity of promotion of capable men belonging to other classes as had been the case earlier. The offices of the state became hereditary and the preserve of people belonging to a few families. Another reason was their incorrigible habits of extravagant living and pompous display which weakened their morale and drained their limited financial resources. Most of the Nobles spent huge sums on keeping large harems, maintaining a big staff of servants etc. and indulged in other forms of senseless show.
The result was that many of the nobles became bankrupt in spite of their large Jagirs. Dismissal from service or loss of Jagirs spelt ruin for most of them. That promoted many of them to form groups and factions for securing large and profitable Jagirs. Others turned themselves into grasping tyrant who mercilessly fleeced the peasants of their Jagirs. Many Nobles became ease-loving and soft. They dreaded war and became so much accustomed to an extravagant way of life that they could not do without many of the luxuries even when they were on military campaigns.
The Mughal Nobility was corrupt and fact-in-ridden. By giving suitable bribes, any Government rule could be evaded or any favour secured. The interests of the Mughal Empire did not appeal to them. The British regularly brided Mughal Nobles for getting their work done. Even the highest nobles took bribes which were called Peshkash or presents. That lowered the tone of administration. With the passage of time, corruption and bribery increased. Later on, even some of the Mughal.
Emperors shared the money which their favourites charged as Peshkash from people desirous of getting a post or seeking a transfer. Factionalism kept on growing till it extended to all branches of administration the two major causes of functionalism were struggle for Jagirs and personal advancement and struggle for supremacy between the Wazir and the monarch. Thus faction fights weakened the monarchy, gave a chance to the Marathas, Jats etc. to increase their power and to interfere in the court politics and prevented the Emperors from following a consistent policy. Factionalism became the most dangerous bane of the Mughal Rule from 1715 onwards. To save themselves from these faction fights, the Mughal Emperors depended upon unworthy favourites and that worsened the situation.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes. “All the surplus produce of a fertile land under a most bounteous Providence was swept into the coffers of the Mughal Nobility and pampered them in a degree of luxury not dreamt of even by kings in Persia or Central Asia. Hence, in the houses of the Delhi Nobility, luxury was carried to an excess. The harems of many of them were filled with immense number of women of an infinite variety of races, intellect and character.
Under Muslim Law the sons of concubines are entitled to their matrimony equally with sons born in wedlock, and they occupy no inferior position in society. Even the sons of lawfully married wives became, at a precocious age, familiar with vice from what they saw and heard in the harem, while their mothers were insulted by the higher splendor and influence enjoyed in the same household by younger and fairer rivals of servile origin or easier virtue. The proud spirit and majestic dignity of a Cornelia are impossible in the crowded harem of a polygamist; and without Cornelias among the mothers there cannot be Grachhi among the sons.”
A reference may also be made to the moral degeneration among the Mughal Nobles. “In a mean spirit of jelousy, they insulted and thwarted new men drawn from the ranks and ennobled for the most brilliant public services, and yet they themselves had grown utterly worthless. We have a significant example of the moral degeneration of the Mughal peerage. The Prime Minister’s grandson, Mirza Tafakhur used to sally forth from his mansion in Delhi with his ruffians, plunder the shops in the bazar, kidnap Hindu women passing through the public streets in litters or going to the river, and dishonor them; and yet there was no judge strong enough to punish him, no police to prevent such crimes. Every time such an occurrence was brought to the Emperor’s notice by the news-letters or official reports, he referred it to the Prime Minister and did nothing more.”
(9) Deterioration and Demoralisation in the Mughal Army:
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the deterioration and demoralisation in the Mughal Army. The abundance of riches of India, the use of wine and comforts had their evil effects on the Mughal Army and nothing was done to stop the deterioration. The soldiers cared more for personal comforts and less for winning battles. In the words of Irvine, “Excepting want of personal courage, every other faults in the list of military vices may be attributed to the degenerate Mughals; indiscipline, want of cohesion, luxurious habits, inactivity and commissariat and cumbrous equipment.”
The impotence of the Mughal Annies was declared to the world when the Mughals failed to recapture Qandhar in spite of three determined efforts made by them. In 1739, Nadir Shah not only plundered the whole of Delhi but also ordered wholesale massacre. When such a thing happened without any effort on the part of the ruler to stop it, he forfeited the right to command allegiance from the people. The Mughal States was a police state and when it failed to maintain internal order and external peace, the people lost all their respect for the Government.
The view of Sir Wolseley Haig is that “The demoralisation of the army was one of the principal factors in the disintegration of the Mughal Empire.” The source of the weakness was the composition of the army which consisted chiefly of contingents maintained by the great nobles from the revenues of assignments held by them for that purpose. As the authority of the sovereign relaxed, the general tendency among the great nobles was naturally to hold as their own those assignments which maintained their troops.
The general laxity of discipline converted the army into a mob. Drill was unknown and a soldier’s training which he might undergo or as he liked, consisted in muscular exercise and a individual practice in the use of the weapons with which he was armed. He mounted guard or not as he liked. There was no regular punishment for military crimes. Aurangzeb himself habitually overlooked a matters of course acts of treason, cowardice and deliberate neglect of duty before the enemy.
About the military system of the Mughals, it is contended that their weapons and methods of war had became frost-gorwn and outmoded. They put too much reliance on artillery and armoured cavalry. The artillery was local in action and ponderous in movement. It was rendered stationary by huge tail of camp which looked like a city with its markets, tents, stores and baggage. All kinds of people, men and women, old and young, combatants and non-combatants, besides elephants, cattle and beasts of burden, accompanied the Mughal Army.
On the other hand, the Maratha cavalry was swift and elusive like wind. They suddenly erupted on Mughal Camps and launched damaging attacks on their posts. Before the Mughals could get time for recovery, the Marathas, “like water parted by the oar,” closed and fell on them.
At the turn of the 18th century, musketry made rapid progress and became prominent in the methods of warfare. Swift running cavalry of matchlockmen was superior to army equipped with heavy artillery and armour-clad cavalry. In spite of that, the Mughals refused to charge their old methods of warfare and no wonder they were defeated by the Marathas.
(10) Mughals Suffered from Intellectual Bankruptcy:
The Mughals suffered from intellectual Bankruptcy. That was partly due to the lack of an efficient system of education in the country which alone could produce leaders of thought. The result was that the Mughals failed to produce any political genius or leader who could “teach the country a new philosophy of life and to kindle aspirations after a new heaven on earth.
They all drifted and dozed in admiration of the wisdom of their ancestors and shook their heads at the gorwing degeneration of the moderns.” Sir Jadunath Sarka points out that “There was no good education and no practical training of the Mughal Mobility. They were too much patted by eunuchs and maid servants and passed through a sheltered life from birth to manhood. Their domestic tutors were an unhappy class, powerless to do any good except by love of their pupils, brow-beaten by eunuchs, disobeyed by the lads themselves and forced to cultivate the arts of the courtier or to throw up their thankless office. Not much could be expected from such teachers and their wards.”
(11) Mughal Empire Faced Financial Bankruptcy:
After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire faced financial bankruptcy. The beginning had already been made in the time of Aurangzeb and after his death; the system of farming of taxes was resorted to. Although the Government did not get much by this method, the people were ruined. They were taxed to such an extent that they lost all incentive to production.
Shah Jahan had increased the state demand to one-half of the produce. The extravagant expenditure by Shah Jahan on buildings was a crushing burden upon the resources of the country. The venality of the officials and the tyrannical caprice of the Mughal Governors, added to the misery of the people who had little or no means, for obtaining redress. The financial collapse came in the time of Alamgir II who was practically starved by his Wazir Imad-ul-Mulk. It is stated that Alamgir II had no conveyance to take him to the Idgah and he had to walk on foot.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar says that “On one occasion, no fire was kindled in the harem kitchen for three days and one day the princesses could bear starvation no longer and in frantic disregard of Purdah rushed out of the palace to the city, but the fort gates being closed, they sat down in the men’s quarters for a day and a night after which they were persuaded to go back to their rooms. Such a thing happened in 1775 and obviously such a Government had no justification to exist.”
(12) The Mughal Rule was Alien to the Indian Soil:
It did not take its roots in the soil of the country. It failed to evoke “such feelings as those which led the people of Maharashtra to follow and fight for Shivaji, it drew no strength from ancient tradition which has always exerted so marked an influence upon Hindu ideas and sentiments.” The orthodox Muslims felt that they were in India but they did not belong to this country.
They were not allowed to take to their hearts the traditions, language and cultural products of country. They had no imported them from Persia and Arabia. Even the civil and criminal laws had to be borrowed from the writings of jurists and decisions of judges in Baghdad and Cairo. This not only arrested the mental and social progress of the Indian Muslims but also made their hearts a fertile soil for noxious weeds.
(13) Widespread Corruption in the Administration:
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the widespread corruption in the administration. The exaction of official perquisites from the public by the officials and their sub-ordinates were universal and admitted practice. Many officials from the highest to the lowest took bribes for doing undeserved favour.
Even the Emperor was not above it, Aurangzeb is started to have asked an aspirant to a title. “Your father gaves to Shah Jahan one lakh of rupees for adding Alif to his title and making him Amir Khan. How much will you pay me for the title I am giving you? The ministers and influential courtiers around the Emperor made fortunes; Qabil Khan in 2’/2 years of personal attendance on Aurangzeb amassed 12 lakhs of rupees in cash, besides articles of value and a new house. Offices were reserved for old families of clerks and accountants and outsiders were not allowed to come in. Such a state of affairs was detrimental to the highest interests of the state.
(14) The Mansabdari System Degenerated:
The Mansabdari System degenerated in the time of Aurangzeb and his successors. There was corruption and oppression on all sides. William Norris points out that “in the later years of Aurangzeb’s reign, the treasury was empty, the wars were ceaseless, the army was disorganised and officers were discontented and disloyal. Bernier says that “There were great ministers and generals but the mass of the people were human sheep.”
(15) The stoppage of Adventurers from Persia:
Another cause of Mughal downfall was the stoppage of adventurers from Persia, Afghanistan and Turkistan. While the Mughal in India ruined themselves through luxuries and pleasures, there was a death of men who could shoulder the responsibilities of the Government. It is the adventurers, particularly from Persia, a who had given able administrators and generals and when that source stopped, the Mughal Administrative machinery became like a corpse and it was not able to deliver the goods.
(16) Another cause was an inner malaise, kind of general loss of serve on the party of the Muslim Community in India. The Muslims in India forgot that they had a mission to fulfill in this country. The Muslims who counted in the country cared more for personal aggrandizement than for the glory of Islam in India. The ablest among them were keen to set up kingdoms of their own and thereby perpetuate their names.
Theologians like Shah Wali Ullah took refuge in the concept of the community of the faithful looking only to God instead of calling upon the Muslims in rally round the throne. What were to be seen was not patriotism or bravery but cynicism, opportunism and indulgence. Much could not be expected in this sorry state of affairs. 1
(17) Invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali:
The invasion on India by Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali gave a serious blow to the already tottering Mughal Empire. The I easy victory of Nadir Shah and the repeated invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali exposed to the world the military weakness of the Mughal state.
The invaders sacked Delhi and carried away with them huge booty. This affected adversely the prestige of the Mughal Empire and the people lost all faith in the capacity of the Mughal Rulers to protect them against foreign invaders. This also encouraged the Indians to assert their independence.
(18) Neglected the Development of the Navy:
The Mughals neglected the development of the Navy and that proved suicidal for them. The later Mughals did not pay any attention to sea power and left their coast-line completely undefended. That was exploited by the Europeans who ultimately established their mastery over India.
(19) Unable to Satisfy by the Minimum Needs of the People:
Another cause of the downfall of the Mughal Empire was that it could no longer satisfy the minimum needs of the people. The condition of the Indian Peasant gradually worsened during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 18th century, his life was “poor, nasty, miserable and uncertain”. The burden of land revenue went on increasing from the time of Akbar.
The constant transfer of Nobles from their Jagirs led to great evil. They tried to extract as much from a Jagir as possible in the short period of their tenure as Jagirdars. They made heavy demands on the peasants and cruelly oppressed them, often in violation of official regulations. After the death of Aurangzeb, the practice of Ijarah or farming the land revenue to the highest bidder became more and more common both on Jagir and Khalisah (Crown) Lands.
That led to the rise of a new class of revenue farmers and Talukdars whose extortions from the peasantry often knew no bounds. There was stagnation and deterioration in agriculture and impoverishment of the peasant. Peasant discontent increased and came to the surface. There were instances of the peasants leaving the land in order to avoid the payment of taxes.
Peasant discontentment found an outlet in a series of uprisings such as the Satnamis, the Jats and the Sikhs and that weakened the stability and strength of the Empire. Many peasants formed roving bands of robbers and adventurers and thereby undermined law and order and efficiency of the Government.
Bhimsen writes thus about the oppressive officers: “There is no limit to the oppression of these men of their oppression and cruelty what May one writer? For description can suffice.” To quote Khafi Khan, “The cruelty oppression and injustice of the officials, who have no thought of God, has reached such a degree that if one wishes to describe a hundredth part of it, it will still defy description.”
Professor Irfan Habily writes thus in his book entitled “The Agrarian System of Mughal India”. “But the Mughal Empire had its own grave digger and what Sadi said of another great Empire might well serve as its epitaph: The Emperors of Persia Who oppressed the lower classes; Gone is their glory and Empire: Gone their tyranny over the peasant:”
(20) Rise of the Marathas:
Another important factor which contributed to the decline of the Mughal Empire was the rise of the Marathas under the Peshwas. They consolidated their position in Western India and then started entertaining plans for a Hindupad Padshahi or a Greater Maharashtra Empire. The dream could be realised only at the cost of the Mughal Empire. They gains of the Marathas were the loss of the Mughals.
The Marathas became the strongest power in Northern India in the mid-eighteenth century. They played the role of king-makers at the Delhi Court. They acted as the defenders of the country against foreign invaders like Ahmad Shah Abdali. It is true that the Marathas did not succeeded in their great mission but their conquests in Northern India in the 18th century gave a death-blow to the Mughal Empire.
(21) The territorial gains of the English East India Company destroyed all chances of the revival of the Mughal Empire. The British won the Battle of Plassey and continued to expand their Empire in the Deccan and in the Gangetic Region. With the passage of time, they were able to establish their hold over the whole of India and there could be not chance for the revival of the Mughal Empire.
The Mughal Empire. He points out that Aurangzeb has been criticized for having failed to unite with the Deccan States against the Marathas, or for having conquered them thereby making the Empire “so large that it collapsed under its own weight”. A unity of hearts between Aurangzeb and the Deccani states was “a phychological impossibility” once the treaty of 1636 was abandoned, a development which took place during the reign of Shah Jahan himself.
After his accession, Aurangzeb desisted from pursuing a vigorous forward policy in the Deccan. In fact, he postponed as long as possible the decision to conquer and annex the Deccani states. His hand was virtually forced by the growing Maratha power, the support extended to Shivaji by Madanna and Akhanna from Golconda and fear that Bijapur might fall under the domination of Shivaji and the Maratha-dominated Golconda. By giving shelter to the rebel Prince Akbar, Sambhaji virtually threw a challenge to Aurangzeb who quickly realised that the Marathas could not be dealt with without first subduing Bijapur and possibly Golconda.
Dr. Satish Chandra points out that the impact of the Deccani and other wars of the Mughal Empire and of the prolonged absence of Aurangzeb from Northern India should not be overestimated. Despite the mistakes of policy and some of the personal shortcomings of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire was still a powerful and vigorous military and administrative mobile band of
the Marathas in the mountainous region of the Deccan. Maratha forts might be difficult to capture and still more difficult to retain. But in the plain of Northern India and the vast plateau extending up to the Karnatak, the Mughal artillery was still master of the field. Thirty or forty years after the death of Aurangzeb when the Mughal artillery had declined considerably in strength and efficiency, the Marathas could still not face it in the field of battle.
In Northern India which was the heart of the Empire and was of decisive economic and political importance in the country, the Mughal administration still retained much of it vigor. The administration at the district level proved amazingly tenacious and a good deal of it survived and found its way indirectly into the British administration. Despite the military reverses and mistakes of Aurangzeb the Mughal Dynasty still retained a powerful hold on the mind and imagination of the people.
Dr. Satish Chandra further points out that as far as the Rajputs were concerned; the breach with Marwar was not due to any attempt on the part of Aurangzeb to undermine the Hindus by depriving them a recognised head. That was due to a miscalculation on his part. He wanted to divide the Marwar state between the two principal claimants, and in the process alienated both, as also the ruler of Mewar who considered Mughal interference in such matters to be dangerous precedent.
The breach with Mewar and the long drawn-out war which followed damaged the moral standing of the Mughal state. However, the fighting was not of much consequence militarily after 1681. It may be doubted whether the presence of Rathor Rajputs in large numbers in the Deccan between 1681 and 1706 would have made much difference in the outcome of the conflict with the Marathas.
In any case, the demands of the Rajputs related to the grant of high Mansabs as before and restoration of their homelands. Those demands having been accepted within half a dozen years of the death of Aurangzeb, the Rajputs ceased to be a problem for the Mughals. They played no role in the subsequent disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
Dr. Satish Chandra maintains that the religious policy of Aurangzeb should be seen in the social, economic and political contexts. Aurangzeb was orthodox in his outlook and he tried to remain within the framework of Islamic law. That was developed outside India in vastly dissimilar situations and could hardly be applied rigidly to India.
The failure of Aurangzeb to respect the susceptibilities of his non-Muslim subjects on many occasions, his adherence to the time-wom policy towards temples and re-imposition of Zajiya as laid down by the Islamic law did not help him to rally the Muslims to his side or generate a greater sense of loyalty towards a state based on Islamic Law. On the other hand, it alienated the Hindus and strengthened the hands of those sections which were opposed to the Mughal Empire for political or other reasons.
By itself, religion was not at issue. Jajiya was scrapped within half a dozen years of the death of Aurangzeb and restrictions on the building of new temples were eased, but they had no effect on the decline and disintegration of the Mughal Empire.
The conclusion of Dr. Satish Chandra is that “In the ultimate resort, the decline and downfall of the Mughal Empire was due to economic, social, political and institutional factors. Akbar’s measures helped to keep the forces of disintegration in check for some time, but it was not possible for him to effect fundamental changes in the structure of society. By the time Aurangzeb came to the throne, the socio-economic forces of disintegration necessary to effect fundamental changes in the structure or to pursue policies which could reconcile the various competing elements. Aurangzeb was both a victim of circumstances and helped to create the circumstances of which he became a victim.”
The view of Dr. Satish Chandra is that “India lagged behind the world in the field of science and technology and the Mughal Ruling class remained blind to this development. It was more concerned with matters of immediate concern than matters which would shape the future. The Mughal Empire had already reached the limits of its development. The feudal aristocratic nature of the state and the neglect of science and technology by the ruling class were placing limits to the economic development of the country.'”
Dr. Satish Chandra concludes, “Thus, the roots of the disintegration of the Mughal empire may be found in the Medieval Indian Economy; the stagnation of trade, industry and scientific development within the limits of that economy; the growing financial crisis which took the form of a crisis of the jagirdari system and affected every branch of state activity; the inability of the nobility to realise in the circumstances their ambitions in the service of the state and, consequently, the struggle of factions and the bid of ambitious nobles for independent dominion.
The inability to the Mughal Emperors to accommodate the Marathas and to adjust their claims within the framework of the Mughal Empire, and the consequent breakdown of the attempt to create a composite ruling class in India; and the impact of all these developments on politics at the court and in the country, and upon the security of the north-western passes. Individual failings and faults of character also played their due role but they have necessarily to be seen against the background of these deeper, more impersonal factors”.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes. “The Mughal Empire and with it the Maratha over lordship of Hindustan fell because of the rottenness at the core of India society. The rottenness showed itself in the form of military and political helplessness. The country could not defend itself: royalty was hopelessly depraved or imbecile, the nobles were selfish and shortsighted; corruption, inefficiency and treachery disgraced all branches of the public service. In the midst of this decay and confusion, our literature, art and even true religion had perished.