I am fascinated by the Mughal Empire. Simply Fascinated. It all started in 5th grade when I insisted to know more about my ancestors because being a fully Bangladeshi girl wasn’t interesting enough, right? I was elated when my mom informed me that we were related to the Mughals, specifically to the Wazir of the third emperor, Akbar the Great. I spent hours and hours on the Internet doing research on my exotic ancestors at the mere age of 11, and it’s still what I do now to be quite honest. That’s what initiated my passion for Mughal history.
I spent a lot of time learning about their ups and downs during their reign in India. However, one thing has always held on to me; they were very powerful. Whether I’m reading a book or watching documentaries, they are portrayed as powerful, barbaric, and imposing people dominating South Asia. Yet, their legacy isn’t as grand or extravagant as I would have thought. How did such a puissant dynasty come to an end in the first place? This, my friend, is a question I’ll try to answer throughout this report.
The following pages will give you a throughout abstract of the Mughal Empire and its gradual decline. Slowly but surely, you will notice that history repeats itself and that in this case, mistakes repeats themselves. Indeed, we are where we are because what happened before, thus the importance of history. The Indian society barely acknowledges the impacts of Mughal reign yet South Asia gets international recognition from their legacies. Read the whole report, I assure you it will get clearer.
INSERT Mughal Empire in 1601 Map
Use of the term ‘India’ refers to the Indian subcontinent and includes areas that we now know as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It all began with the first battle of Panipat in 1526 where the Lodi Sultanate had the misfortune of falling to the founder of the Mughal dynasty, Babur. Born in Ferghana (present-day Uzbekistan), the emperor was not native to India. Descendant of Tamerlane, one of the last great Turkic conqueror, and the famous Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire, Zahir-ud-Din Mohammed Babur was without a doubt a military adventurer and a soldier of distinction. Thus, when he made his raid to Panipat, with no more than 12 000 soldiers against Ibrahim Lodi’s 100 000 soldiers, he won the battle with his use of artillery, unique Central Asian tactics, and ruling experience. Indeed, Babur ruled in Samarkand (present-day Uzbekistan) and Kabul before successfully invading Hindustan and so beginning the period of Mughal rule over India.
‘The chief excellency of Hindustan is that it is a large country and has abundance of gold and silver. … as far indeed as the great ocean the peoples are without break.’
He describes with fascination and detail in his memoir the country he was beginning to conquer. In fact, one of the reasons behind the invasion of India was specifically to utilize the country’s wealth and prosperity, India being at that time one of the richest lands in the world. This greatly favors the newly founded empire’s financial status and lightens the burden of establishing an elaborate system for the functioning of the empire.
It is recognized that India is home to the largest population of people following the Hindu faith and it was no different during Mughal rule. Reaction from the Hindu majority of the population towards the Muslim Mughal Sultanate was conventional to any newly established monarchy. It is an expected attitude considering the fact that the Mughals were not the first Muslims to rule significant parts of India as that honor goes to the Delhi Sultanate which started in 1206. Thus, the religious changes and its impacts on the new policies were not a matter of concern for the subject. The actual problems lied within the empire’s proximity to the Hindu Rajput kingdoms occupying northern India. Not only did Babur’s empire make way for expansion, it also made new enemies, particularly the Rajputs. The war of conquest in northern India had just begun.
Babur became king at a young age and died aged only 47, before he had securely established his dynasty, leaving his son a difficult inheritance.
Due to instability within the empire, Nasir-ud-Din Muhammed Humayun had difficulties with his succession. Rivalry with his half-brother Mirza Kamran for the throne, improper administration, and lack of experience encircled his empire with enemies. One of them, Sher Shah Suri, is widely known for being the reason of Humayun’s short reign. An officer of the Lodi dynasty, Sher Shah challenged the Mughal throne, seizing the opportunity because of the apparently weak Mughal emperor.
A British representative at one of the last Mughal darbars, Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe described some of Humayun’s intellectual and physical failures while fighting against Sher Shah Suri in his accounts of Delhi. He stresses on the emperor’s good luck and considers it the reason for which remained alive.
‘… Before he could reach the opposite bank, the horse was exhausted and sunk into the stream, and the Emperor must himself have met with the same fate if he had not been saved by a water carrier who was crossing the river with the aid of the skin used to hold water and which inflated as a bladder, supported the King’s weight as well as his own.’
‘… Hoomaioon must still have perished had not two soldiers who happened to have gained that part of the shore, tied their turbans together and by throwing one end to the Emperor, enabled him to make good his landing. Hoomaioon fled to Lahore and eventually to Persia.’
During his 15 years in Persia, the exiled emperor developed a friendly relation with the Safavid Shah Tahmasp, ruler of Persia. With his military aid, Humayun eventually recaptured Qandahar and Kabul, making way towards his goal. Taking opportunity of the running disputes between the Suri princes, the Mughals were back in India.