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Old Sunday, March 23, 2008
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Arrow Mughal Emporers (1526-1858)


Early modern India continued to be marked by the pattern of alternation between larger, inclusive (imperial) states and smaller states or kingdoms based on regional power bases and linguistic/cultural formations. New in this period was a dramatic increase in urbanization and a greater commercialization of agriculture and trade—results of the expanded imperial system, which fostered integration of localities into larger economic networks both within the subcontinent and between South Asia and other imperial centers. Very little speculation has been put forward regarding demographic changes before the 19th century; the regions of greatest population density when censuses began to be taken are presumed to be the same as those during this earlier period as well (with the rice-growing areas of the eastern Gangetic Basin and the east coast having the highest population). The increasing size and number of urban centers established in the early modern period have been presumed to foster as well as absorb the population increases in the subcontinent.

Initially in the north and ultimately over much of the South Asian subcontinent, the Mughal Empire emerged in this period to tie India to the larger Islamic world. Beyond economic integration with this larger system, the Mughals encouraged further integration through the opportunities offered to military and administrative elite migrating from Persia and the Arabic areas of the Middle East. Still, faced with the necessity of creating a shared political culture that would tie the immigrant ruling class to indigenous power structures, the Mughals fashioned a new Indo-Persian cultural system that created a shared elite culture focused on the emperor. Particular values—including Indian notions of good rule, Indian aesthetics, and hierarchical conceptualizations of the relationship between community and state—became incorporated within the ruling ethos.

At the same time in the south, the Vijayanagara Empire consolidated around a state ideology fashioned from Hindu theories of kingship and new claims to power by soldier-merchant groups. The elaboration of this state made clear the similarities of economic and political processes faced by both the empires. Key to success were the administrative and ideological ties established between the state and its constituent communities; the nature of these ties indicated that while one empire is called Islamic and the other Hindu, the Mughal and Vijayanagara rulers built their respective politico-cultural systems on the basis of many similar cultural assumptions that may be seen as typically South Asian in nature.

Toward the end of this period, the imperial systems in both the north and the south began to break apart. Across the subcontinent successor states arose, solidifying political and cultural coherence around regional identities expressed in local vernacular languages and literary works. The political and economic opportunities presented to local elite claimants enabled them to direct cultural patronage to solidify these regional cultures and identities. The ferment provided by the new political formations, and the contestations that naturally accompanied new claims to power, provided a period of great flux and creative reinvention of political forms and legitimations.

Into this flux moved a variety of European actors, brought to the subcontinent by their interest in trade and their new organization at home as commercial monopolies (the East India Companies of the English, the Dutch, and the French). These monopolistic enterprises facilitated the financing of ambitious pursuit of trade overseas. Still “bit” players in the unfolding drama, Europeans tried to ally themselves with different Indian princes absorbed by their internecene warfare, hoping to capitalize on the victories won by their allies.

By 1500

THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE developed, in its second half, into what is known as the nayaka state-system, in which administrative and political relations differed significantly from what had gone before. While the Vijayanagara rulers continued to hold ultimate power over a broad belt of territory, they shared authority locally with a number of military chiefs, or nayakas. Originally part of the great Telugu migrations southward into the Tamil country in the 15th and 16th centuries, Balija merchant-warriors who claimed these nayaka positions rose to political and cultural power and supported an ethos that emphasized nonascriptive, heroic criteria in legitimizing political power. The Balijas were proud of their Sudra status, in a world previously dominated by a classical Sanskritic varna scheme that insisted that kings had to be Kshatriya (two castes higher than Sudras). The new egalitarian ethos made it easier for claimants from a variety of communities to succeed to political control.


Kaikkolas (weavers) and kanmalas (smiths) increased in power during the 15th and 16th centuries: set privileges were granted to them by nayakas and their subordinate local magnates. Indeed, the diversity of artisan and merchant communities in this period shows the increased importance of these professions in the emerging socioeconomic structure.


Spread of the Sikh faith in Bengal. Founded by Nnak (1469–1538), who merged Hinduism with Muslim egalitarianism. Later turned militant under persecution by the Mughals.


Yusuf Adil Shah of Bijapur, having annexed Gulbarga, established the Shi'ite form of Islam under state patronage, despite protest from many Sunnis.


The Portuguese, under Francisco de Almeida, at Diu destroyed an Egyptian-Indian fleet that had, in the previous year, defeated a Portuguese squadron at Chaul.


The Portuguese acquired Goa as headquarters, in place of Cochin.


Golconda became independent (till 1687).


Bahadur, the last active sultan of the “sultanate state” period, with the aid of Khandesh captured Mandu and annexed Malwa (1531), after which he captured Chitor (1534).

To 1550s

In the heyday of the Vijayanagara Empire, the center retained full control of the nayaka chiefs, receiving a third of the revenues collected in the territories assigned to the chiefs. The nayakas had only limited lordship over territory and had to maintain from their income armed forces for the king.

1526–1761 (1857)

The MUGHAL EMPIRE in India was founded by Babar (1483–1530), descendant of Timur-I Lang in the fifth generation, who had seized Kabul (1504) and Lahore (1524) as compensation for loss of Ferghana and Samarkand. Decisive victory at Panipat over Ibrahim Shah Lodi gave him Delhi and Agra, which he defended in the Battle of Khanwa (1527) against Rana Sanga of Chitor, chief of a Rajput confederacy.


Victory on the Battle of Ghaghra,, where it meets the Ganges, completed conquest of the kingdom of Delhi to the frontier of Bengal.
Babar's acts, problems, and personality appeared in his Turki Memoirs, or Baburnama.


Humayun drove Bahadur Shah of Gujarat to flight before Chitor and captured Mandu and Champanir (1535) but lost both through a year of inaction. The same fault and treachery of his brothers lost the empire to the nayakas.


The nayakas established rule at Madurai, longest-lived of the nayaka “little kingdoms.” Also established were two other prominent nayaka centers at Tanjuvur (defeated by the 1670s) and the territory controlled by the Senji Nayakas (defeated by the 1630s, this territory passed first to Bijapur and then to the Mughals). Marked economic change in these territories caused by introduction of new crops, expanded sphere of manufacturing production, and creation of important marketing centers. Revenues collected by the states on agriculture and trade permitted them to build towns and large temple complexes and to develop a new kingly ethos of consumption that altered the philosophical and ideological definitions of kingship, especially in terms of the relationship of the king to the communities of his realm.


The Portuguese secured by treaty Bassein and were allowed to fortify Diu, which they defended against an Ottoman fleet and a Gujarati army (1538).


Sur dynasty of the Afghan Sher Shah (1539–45), who had consolidated his power in Bihar and had driven Humayun to seek refuge in Persia, whence he returned precariously to Delhi and Agra (1555). In north India, Sher Shah began administrative experiments that later served as the basis for the Mughal system of governance.


Efforts to expel the Portuguese failed miserably.


AKBAR (b. 1542, personal rule 1562) restored and consolidated the empire throughout northern India.


Guided by Bairam Khan, his guardian (till 1560), he crushed the Afghans at Panipat.


Constantine de Braganza seized Daman.


Conquest of Malwa was effected by the harem party (dominant 1560–62).


Akbar's marriage to a Rajput princess of Amber (mother of Jahangir) and abolition of the jizya tax on non-Muslims (1564) marked a new policy of impartiality and conciliation of subjects. Marriage alliances and taxation policies served as aspects of new cultural system focused on elite loyalty to the emperor who, in turn, reinforced connections to the populace through patronage of various cultural activities.


A coalition of Ahmadnagar, Bijapur Bidar, and Golconda decisively defeated Vijayanagar at Talikota and led to the execution of the rajah. In 1574 Ahmadnagar annexed Berar, which had hindered the allied campaign.


Chitor was taken by Akbar and about 30,000 Rajputs massacred.


A new Mughal capital city at Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra, was founded and magnificently built but abandoned on Akbar's death. Architecture became a key strategy in affirming the connection between Mughal rulers and the country; Akbar and his regional governors mounted an aggressive building campaign across expanded territories.


Conquest of Gujarat gave Akbar access to the sea, new ideas, and revenues. To defend his conquest he rode 450 miles in 11 days with 3,000 horsemen.
Reorganization of administration was begun by (1) resumption to the crown of all lands, hitherto held by officials as temporary assignments but now to be administered and revenues collected directly; (2) establishment of the Mansabdari system, a unified state service of officers arranged in a hierarchy of military (cavalry) rank but performing civil (mainly financial) as well as military functions if required; (3) substitution of a single tax of one-third produce of the land for the traditional levy of one-sixth plus numerous cesses that were now declared abolished; (4) the branding of all horses maintained for government service, to prevent usual fraud.


Bengal was definitely conquered from the Afghans.


Khandesh was induced to submit as first step toward reconquest of the Deccan, actually accomplished only by Aurangzib (1659–1707).


Public debates on religion held at the Mughal court and presided over by Akbar, and instituted for Muslims only in 1575, were thrown open to Hindus, Jains, Zoroastrians, Sabaeans, and Christians. Akbar showed new respect for animal life (Jain ahimsa) and Zoroastrian reverence for the sun, and invited to court from Goa the Portuguese Jesuits Antonio Monserrate and Rodolfo Acquaviva (1579; arr. 1580). These, like later missions (1590, 1595), failed despite a friendly reception.


In spite of revolt that followed a claim to infallibility under Muslim law (1579), the emperor decreed a new Divine Faith much influenced by Sufi practice. The limited support he won for it collapsed at his death. Cultural patronage—including support for translation and illustration of Hindu epics—formed a central strategy in the development of a unique Indo-Persian cultural system.


Jamal Khan, minister of Ahmadnagar, an adherent of the Mahdavi heresy that anticipated the advent of the Mahdi (world savior) in A.H. 1000, persecuted both Sunnis and Shi'ites.


Prince Salim, later Jahangir, rebelled but was restored to favor.


John Mildenhall, representative of the English East India Company (London Company, founded Dec. 31, 1600), arrived at Agra but secured no concession until 1608.


JAHANGIR maintained his father's empire in northern India but allowed much political power to pass to his wife, Nur Jahan (1611). His personal interest in painting, however, led to expansion of Mughal cultural patronage, an important aspect in continuing political legitimacy.


William Hawkins failed to secure a treaty for James I, as did Sir Thomas Roe (1615–19), but the English won trading rights at Surat after defeating a Portuguese fleet (1612).


Bubonic plague, clearly identified for the first time, became epidemic.


SHAH JAHAN (d. 1666) was greatly interested in artistic patronage but destroyed Ahmadnagar (1632) and defeated Golconda (1635) and Bijapur (1636). His active patronage of cultural production extended Akbar's cultural system.


The Taj Mahal was built as tomb for Shah Jahan's wife, Mumtaz Mahal, for whom he had already built the splendid palace Khass Mahal on the fort at Agra.


The site of Madras was granted to an Englishman.


Aurangzib campaigned unsuccessfully in Badakhshan and Balkh as part of constant program for expansion carried on by the Mughals.


Aurangzib failed to wrest Kandahar from the Persians.


Again governing the Deccan, Aurangzib campaigned ambitiously and arrested the revival of Bijapur but failed to check the Maratha raider Sivaji.


Dutch (East India Company) expelled Portuguese (1638–58) from Ceylon.


Aurangzib rebelled, following the illness of Shah Jahan and competition for the succession among his four sons.


Having imprisoned Shah Jahan, AURANGZIB became emperor. The Mughal dominion was undermined, in part, by Aurangzib's continued effort to expand his dominions, lack of sufficient good land to award to new mansabdars, and a renewed emphasis on Islamic definitions of good rule, all of which led to reversals in Mughal cultural system and, thus, to a decline in political stability.


Sivaji reduced Bijapur (1659) and sacked Surat (1664 and 1670); the English factory escaped harm. In 1667 he won the title of rajah from Aurangzib and began to levy land taxes in Mughal territory (Khandesh, 1670); he successfully organized Maratha government on Hindu principles with the guidance of the poets Ramdas and Tukaram and was enthroned as an independent ruler (1674). Marathas thus became most formidable force in the Deccan and laid claim to the mantle of Vijayanagara, which now stood as model of “Hindu” kingship.


Chittagong was annexed for Aurangzib by the Bengal governor.


In an attempt to placate restive immigrants from other parts of the Islamicate world who served as his most important military and administrative elite, Aurangzib adopted policies that led to prohibition of the Hindu religion and destruction of Hindu temples, with great loss to Indian art and the jizya reimposed on non-Muslims (1679). These actions appeared to abrogate the cultural system integrating Mughal rule with local elites. The period was marked by Jat rebellions (1669, 1681, 1688–1707), Hindu uprisings, and troubles with Afghan tribes and with the now militant and theocratic Sikhs (1675–78).


Marwar was annexed in war against the Rajputs; hostilities continued nearly 30 years.


Prince Akbar revolted unsuccessfully against his father's misgovernment and died in exile.


Assuming personal command in the Deccan, Aurangzib subjugated Bijapur (1686) and Golconda (1687) but failed to check the Marathas.


Aurangzib seized Surat (1685), intending to expel the English, whose unwise attempt to seize Chittagong lost them all their claims in Bengal (1688); their naval superiority menaced Mughal trade, however, and they were encouraged to return to Bengal (Calcutta founded, 1690).
Following the decline of the Portuguese power in India, that of the English had been increased by the acquisition of Bombay (1661) and the absorption of Dutch ambitions chiefly in the Spice Islands. Foundation of the French Compagnie des Indes Orientales (1664) under strict government control, along with numerous settlements (Pondichéry, 1674), now opened the way for acute Anglo-French rivalry.


Capture of Sivaji's successor, Sambhaji, failed to crush the Marathas, and indecisive warfare continued until 1707.
The intellectual curiosity and luxurious tastes of the Mughal rulers, except Aurangzib, fostered brilliant cultural progress. Histories, annals, and memoirs, chiefly in Persian, a dictionary supported by Jahangir, and the unsurpassed poems of Tulsi Das (1532–1623) formed important literary contributions. Slavish imitation of Persian painting was modified by Hindu and even European influences; a height of keen observation and delicate rendering was attained under Shah Jahan. Under him also the building of palaces, mausoleums, and mosques in Indo-Persian style attained an exquisite elegance.


Following Aurangzib's death the empire rapidly disintegrated; various provincial governors became virtually independent (1772 ff.). As these regional rulers competed for control over territory, they sought alliances with Europeans to gain additional armies and military prowess. Political control devolved to the regional courts of successor states. In the cities, rule devolved to various self-regulating communities of merchants and to displaced Mughal courtiers, who took up cultural patronage and began to remake cultural systems in the interests of localities. This creative ferment was viewed as anarchy and decline by European observers.

c. 1708

The Sikhs, who had been founded in the 15th century as a strictly religious order, proclaiming Muslim and Hindu fellowship and monotheism and opposing caste restrictions and priestcraft (except for the secular and religious authority vested in the guru Hargovind, 1606), became a thoroughly militant order under the last guru, Govind Singh (1666–1708); they menaced Mughal rights in the Deccan but their strength was broken by Bahadur Shah (1707–12).


The English East India Company, through gifts and medical service, secured from the Mughal emperor exemption from customs duties and other concessions.
The reorganized Maratha government gradually became preeminent in India, exacting taxes from the whole Deccan except Hyderabad, which became essentially independent of Delhi (1724) under its governor, the Nizam-ul-Mulk (d. 1748). The governors of Avadh (Oudh) (1724) and Bengal (1740) also became independent but maintained the fiction of allegiance to the Mughal emperor.


A pillaging invasion of Persians under Nadir Shah checked the Maratha expansion northward, defeated imperial troops, and withdrew, retaining possession of Afghanistan and the wealth of Delhi.


Following the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in Europe, the French, strengthened by their participation in Indian intrigue under the guidance of Joseph Dupleix, captured Madras (1746) and defeated the protesting nawab of the Carnatic. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) restored Madras to Britain.


Anglo-French rivalry continued, each side supporting candidates for the positions of nizam of the Deccan and nawab of the Carnatic. French domination, at its height in 1751 when Bussy virtually ruled the Deccan and Dupleix the Carnatic, was checked by Robert Clive's (1727–74) brilliant seizure of Arcot (Sept. 12, 1751). The recall of Dupleix (1754) left English prestige firmly established.

Early 1700s

As the Successor States attempted to solidify their authority through cultural patronage and military supremacy, distinct painting and architectural styles emerged, especially in the Deccan, Bengal, among Rajput princes, and at Awadh. Merchants and courtiers also sponsored expanding performance genres, from street theater to processions and including dance, poetry, and music. Local political competition often was expressed through artistic competition.


The nawab (Siraj-ud-Daulah) of the Bengal region captured Calcutta (June 20) and imprisoned unescaped residents in a small storeroom in the fort (later called the Black Hole), where over a hundred perished from suffocation, wounds, and the heat.


British forces under Watson and Clive retook Calcutta and, being again at war with France, seized Chandernagor (March 23). Clive formed a conspiracy with Hindu bankers and the nawab's general, Mir Jafar, which enabled his forces to rout those remaining loyal to the nawab at Plassey (June 23). Mir Jafar, having executed Siraj-ud-Daulah, was installed as nawab under what was in effect an English protectorate of Bengal.


As part of a general expansion of influence, Maratha cultural patronage reached far into north India. Significant urban centers, such as the pilgrimage city of Banaras, were almost completely rebuilt by Maratha patrons, who also supported vast numbers of mendicants, intellectuals, and widows. Maratha occupation of the Punjab (1758) and renewed northern activity (1760) excited allied opposition of the Rohilla Afghans and Ahmad Shah Abdali (the Durani Afghan chief, who had invaded the Punjab almost annually between 1748 and 1759).

1761, Jan. 14

The Marathas were crushingly defeated by this coalition in the Battle of Panipat. Subsequent mutiny caused Ahmad Shah's withdrawal, leaving India in dissension.
British supremacy over other European contenders in India's foreign relations was assured by their defeat of the Dutch (1759) and capture of Pondichéry from the French, who by the Treaty of Paris (1763) (See 1763, Feb. 10) retained only Pondichéry, Chandernagor, and other scattered stations, with limited numbers of troops. The Compagnie des Indes Orientales was dissolved in 1769.

1764, Oct. 22

Victory at Baksar over forces of the deposed nawab of Bengal, the nawab of Avadh, and the titular Mughal emperor gave the British uncontested control in Bengal and Bihar, awarded in the form of the diwani of Bengal (1756–67). Clive administered Bengal affairs for the company through collection of the land revenue in Bengal, Bihar, and part of Orissa, taking over the actual collection of revenue in 1771. Irresponsible administration in the face of famine as company servants lined their own pockets led to the reduction of official perquisites for those whose rapacity since 1757 Clive had encouraged by his own example.
The militarism of the Mughals and the predatory policy of the Marathas led to an emphasis on warfare and piracy as sources of prestige and wealth and a gradual devolution of state responsibility for industry, education, and cultural progress. Such activity took place, instead, on a local and regional level, notably by the Delhi Muslim reformer Shah Wali-Ullah (1703–60) and the Bengali poet Bharatchandra (1717–60). General economic chaos ensued, with Europeans profiting greatly from gifts, forced sales, and usury. One exception was Indore (1765–95) under the rule of the pious Ahalya Bai.
During dissension in the Maratha confederacy, Haidar Ali (1721–82) gained power, usurped the throne of Mysore (1761), and claimed the authority previously held by other Muslim rulers in the Deccan.


He compelled the British at Madras, who became involved in war against him (1767), to sign a treaty of mutual assistance.


Disastrous famine in Bengal wiped out an estimated third of the population.


As governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings (1732–1818) initiated reforms, including simplification of the revenue system and improved coinage, government control of salt and opium manufacture, reduction of dacoity (robbery), and study of Muslim and Hindu law (Calcutta Madrasa, 1781). He was styled governor-general, with certain supervisory powers over the other two company presidencies (Bombay and Madras) under the Regulating Act.


The REGULATING ACT, by which Parliament also established a supreme court for British subjects in the company's territories, limited the rights of the company's directors, and prohibited officers' private trade and receipt of presents. Hastings's high-handed measures kept the company solvent and relatively secure in a turbulent period but incurred the censure of jealous colleagues, notably Philip Francis, and led to his impeachment (after his retirement in 1785) with a trial (1788–95) resulting in acquittal.


First Anglo-Maratha War, the result of the Bombay government's alliance with the would-be Maratha peshwa, Raghoba. Hastings sent an expedition across the peninsula from Calcutta to Surat (1778, arrived 1779) and broke the coalition between the Marathas, Haidar Ali, and the nizam. The Treaty of Salbai (1782) obtained for Bombay 20 years' peace with the Marathas and the cession of Salsette and Elephanta.


France and Britain being again at war, Hastings took Pondichéry and Mahé.


Provoked by this action, Haidar Ali, with French help, attacked the British in the Carnatic but was defeated at Porto Novo (1781) and died (1782); the Second Anglo-Mysore War, continued by his son, Tipu Sultan, was terminated when French aid was withdrawn.


PITT'S INDIA ACT, in an endeavor to check territorial expansion, forbade interference by the East India Company in native affairs or declaration of war except in case of aggression and made the company's directors answerable to a board of control appointed by the crown.


Lord Cornwallis (after a 20-month interregnum of Sir John MacPherson) became governor-general and commander in chief, with power to overrule his council. Under injunctions to preserve peace, he made administrative reforms: company officers given adequate fixed salaries and their private trade eliminated; separation of administrative from commercial branches of service.


Tipu attacked Travancore, opening the Third Anglo-Mysore War; Cornwallis allied himself with the peshwa and the nizam, and Tipu was defeated and forced to cede half his territory, paying a large indemnity (March 19, 1792).


The Sanskrit College was established at Benares by Jonathan Duncan.


Cornwallis's Code inaugurated substantial reforms. The Permanent Settlement stabilized the revenue system by fixing the assessment in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa (and Benares Province, 1795) with collection through zamindars (large landlords) (zamindari system), but failed to check the latter's exploitation of the peasantry; it also effected ruthless sale of zamindar rights in case of default and closed the way to later reassessments, thereby eventually causing great financial loss to the government. The judicial system was reshaped on the British model but with a paucity of courts. Indians were excluded from all higher posts. Zamindars were left only revenue duties, their magisterial and police functions being transferred to European district judges and Indian police (darogas).

In the Madras presidency a careful survey along the lines of local practice led to a system of direct levy (periodically reassessed) from the ryot (peasant), later extended to Bombay presidency (ryotwari system); in the Northwest and Central Provinces, somewhat later, a third type of revenue settlement, the mahalwari system, was introduced, collecting revenue through villages or estates.
Meanwhile the principal Maratha leader, Mahadaji Sindhia (d. 1794), assumed protection of the emperor, reclaimed Delhi, and extended his power in northern India.


Sir John Shore, governor-general.


Ceylon conquered from the Dutch and administered jointly by the East India Company and the crown until 1802, the latter assuming full responsibility thereafter.
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