Mughal Empire in India – Akbar – Babur – Shah Jahan

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Mughal Empire


From the latter half of the 16th century Mughal’s expanded their kingdom from Agra and Delhi. By17th century they controlled nearly all of the subcontinent. They imposed structures of administration and ideas of governance that outlasted their rule, leaving a political legacy that succeeding rulers of the subcontinent could not ignore.

Babur (1526- 1530)

  • The first Mughal emperor of the Mughal Empire
  • Political situation in north-west India was suitable for Babur to enter India.
  • Sikandar Lodi died in 1517 and Ibrahim Lodi succeeded him. Lodi tried to create strong centralized empire which alarmed Afghan chiefs as well as Rajputs.
  • In 1526 he defeated the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodi and his Afghan supporters, at (First) Panipat (War) and captured Delhi and Agra.
  • The establishment of an empire in the Indo-Gangetic valley by Babur was a threat to Rana Sanga.
  • During 1527 Babur defeated Rana Sanga, Rajput rulers and allies at Khanwa [a place west of Agra].
  • Babur’s advent was significant :
  • Kabul and Kandahar (present day Afghanistan and Iran respectively) became integral part of an empire comprising North India. Since these areas had always acted as staging place for an invasion of India and provide security from external invasions
  • Conquest of Kabul and Kandahar helped to strengthen India’s foreign trade with China and Mediterranean seaports.
  • His war tactics were very expensive since he used heavy artillery which ended era of small kingdoms.
  • He introduced a concept of state which has to be based on strength and prestige of Crown instead of religious interference. This provided a precedent and direction to his successors.

Humayun [1530-1540, 1555-1556]

  • Humayun divided his inheritance according to the will of his father. His brothers were each given a province.
  • Sher Khan defeated Humayun which made him forced to flee to Iran.
  • In Iran Humayun received help from the Safavid Shah. He recaptured Delhi in 1555 but died in an accident the following year.

Akbar [1556-1605]

His reign can be divided into three periods:

  1. 1556-1570: Military campaigns were launched against the Suris and other Afghans, against the neighboring kingdoms of Malwa and Gondwana, and to suppress the revolt of Mirza Hakim and the Uzbeks. In 1568 the Sisodiya capital of Chittoor was seized and in 1569 Ranthambhor was seized.
  2. 1570-1585: military campaigns in Gujarat were followed by campaigns in the east in Bihar, Bengal and Orissa.
  3. 1585-1605: expansion of Akbar’s empire. Qandahar was seized from the Safavids, Kashmir was annexed, as also Kabul. Campaigns in the Deccan started and Berar, Khandesh and parts of Ahmednagar were annexed.

Jahangir [1605-1627]

  • Military campaigns started by Akbar continued.
  • The Sisodia ruler of Mewar, Amar Singh, accepted Mughal service. Less successful campaigns against the Sikhs, the Ahoms and Ahmednagar followed.

Shah Jahan [1627-1658]

  • Mughal campaigns continued in the Deccan under Shah Jahan.
  • The Afghan noble Khan Jahan Lodi rebelled and was defeated.
  • In the north-west, the campaign to seize Balkh from the Uzbeks was unsuccessful and Qandahar was lost to the Safavids.
  • Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb for the rest of his life in Agra.

Aurangzeb [1658-1707]

  • In the north-east, the Ahoms [was a kingdom in Assam near Brahmaputra valley] were defeated in 1663, but they rebelled again in the 1680s because Ahoms successfully resisted Mughal expansion for long time. They didn’t want to give up their sovereignty which they were enjoying for 600 years.
  • Campaigns in the north-west against the Yusufzai and the Sikhs were temporarily successful.
  • Mughal intervention in the succession and internal politics of the Rathor Rajputs of Marwar led to their rebellion.
  • Campaigns against the Maratha chieftain Shivaji were initially successful. However, Shivaji escaped from Aurangzeb’s prison and declared himself an independent king and resumed his campaigns against the Mughals.
  • Prince Akbar II rebelled against Aurangzeb and received support from the Marathas and Deccan Sultanate.
  • After Akbar’s rebellion Aurangzeb sent armies against the Deccan Sultanates. Bijapur [Karnataka] was annexed in 1685 and Golconda [Telangana] in 1687.
  • From 1698 Aurangzeb personally managed campaigns in the Deccan against the Marathas who started guerrilla warfare.
  • Aurangzeb also had to face the rebellion in north India of the Sikhs, Jats and Satnamis. The Satnamis were sect of Hinduism and they resented Aurangzeb’s strict Islamic policies – which included reviving the hated Islamic Jizya tax (poll tax on non-Muslim subjects), banning music and art, and destroying Hindu temples.

Mughal relations with other rulers

  • The Mughal rulers campaigned constantly against rulers who refused to accept their authority.
  • However, as the Mughals became powerful many other rulers also joined them voluntarily. e.g.: Rajputs.
  • The careful balance between defeating and not humiliating their opponents enabled the Mughals to extend their influence over many kings and chiefs.

17th century and after

  • Despite economic and commercial prosperity inequalities were a glaring fact. Poverty existed side by side with the greatest opulence.
  • At the time of Shahjahan’s reign highest ranking mansabdars were nominal and they are the ones who receive maximum salaries than others.
  • The scale of revenue collection tax left very little for investment [in tools and supplies] in the hands of the primary producers – the farmer and the artisan.
  • As the authority of the Mughal emperor slowly declined, his servants emerged as powerful centers of power in the regions. They constituted new dynasties and held command of provinces like Hyderabad and Awadh but still were loyal to Mughals.
  • By the 18th century the provinces of the empire had consolidated their independent political identities.

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