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The Mughal empire was one of the largest centralized states known in 
pre-modern world history. It was founded in the early 1 500s and by the end of 
the following century the Mughal emperor ruled almost the entire Indian 
subcontinent with a population of between 100 and 150 millions. As well as 
military success, the Mughal emperors displayed immense wealth and the 
ceremonies, etiquette, music, poetry, and exquisitely executed paintings and 
objects of the imperial court fused together to create a distinctive aristocratic 
high culture. 

In this volume, Professor John Richards traces the history of this magni- 
ficent empire from its creation in 1526 to its breakup in 1720. He stresses the 
dynamic quality of Mughal territorial expansion, their institutional innovation 
in land revenue, coinage and military organization, ideological change, and the 
relationship between the emperors and Islam. Professor Richards also analy- 
zes institutions particular to the Mughal empire, such as the jagir system, and 
explores Mughal India’s links with the early modern world. 

The Mughal Empire offers a concise and up-to-date synthesis of this 
spectacular period in the history of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It will be 
widely read by students and specialists of South Asian history and civilization 
and will be of interest to travellers wishing to know more about the 
background to the great Mughal monuments. 



The Mughal Empire 


General editor GORDON JOHNSON 

Director, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of 
‘Cambridge, and Fellow of Selwyn College 

Associate editors C. A. BAYLY 
Professor of Modern Indian History, University of 
‘Cambridge, and Fellow of St Catharine's College 

and JouN F. RicHaRDS 
Professor of History, Duke University 

Although the original Cambridge History of India, published between 1922 and 
1937) did much to formulate a chronology for Indian history and describe the 
administrative structures of government in India, it has inevitably been overtaken 
by the mass of new research published over the last fifty years. 

Designed to take full account of recent scholarship and changing conceptions of 
South Asia’s historical development, The New Cambridge History of India will be 
published as a series of short, self-contained volumes, each dealing with a separate 
theme and written by a single person, within an overall four-part structure. As 
before, each will conclude with a substantial bibliographical essay designed to lead 
non-specialists further into the literature. 

The four parts are as follows: 

I The Mughals and their Contemporaries. 
II Indian States and the Transition to Colonialism. 
III The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society. 
IV The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia. 

A list of individual titles already published and in preparation will be found at the 
end of the volume. 

Extent of Mughalempire, 1530 

WZZZZZA Extent of Mughal empire, 1605 
Extent of Mughal empire, 1707 

Babur's Afghan kingdom showing 
‘attempted Mughal expansion 

--—> Sun empire 
Attempted Mughal expansion 



Frontispiece The Mughal empire, 1526 to 1707 
Source: F. Robinson, Atlas of the Islamic World since 1500 
(Oxford, 1982), p. 59. 



The Mughal Empire 




The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom 

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© Cambridge University Press 1995 

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception 

and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, 
no reproduction of any part may take place without 

the written permission of Cambridge University Press. 

First published 1993 
Reprinted 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001 

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge 
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data 
Richards, J. F 
The Mughal Empire: John F, Richards. 

p. cm. ~ (The New Cambridge history of India: I. 5) 
Includes bibliographical references. 
ISBN 0 521 25119 2 
L Mogul Empire - History, I. Title. II. Series. 
DS436.N47 1987 pt. 1. vol. 5 
954.02'5-de20 92-3074 CIP 

ISBN 0521 25119 2 hardback 
ISBN 0 521 56603 7 paperback 

Dedicated to the memory of my mother 



List of maps and tables page xii 
General editor’s preface xiii 
Preface xv 
Introduction 1 
1 Conquestand stability 6 
2 Thenew empire 29 
3 Autocratic centralism 58 
4 Land revenue and rural society 79 
5 Jahangir 1605-1627 94 
6 Shah Jahan 1628-1658 119 
7 The War of Succession 1st 
8 Imperial expansion under Aurangzeb 
1658-1689 165 
9 The economy, societal change, and 
international trade 185 
10 Maratha insurgency and Mughal conquest 
in the Deccan 205 
11 The Deccan Wars 225 
12 Imperial decline and collapse, 1707-1720 253 
Conclusion 282 
Glossary 298 
Bibliographic essay 304 
Index 311 


The Mughal Empire, 1526-1707 frontispiece 
1 The Mughal Empire, 1601 page 7 
2 Northern Afghanistan 131 
3 Assam 166 
4 The Western Deccan in 1707 206 
5 South India, 1707 226 

t Imperial revenue and expenditure, 1595-96 76 
2 The imperial elite: nobles 2,500 zat and 

above 144 
3 Mansabdars above 500 zat, 1647-48 145 


The New Cambridge History of India covers the period from the 
beginning of the sixteenth century. In some respects it marks a radical 
change in the style of Cambridge Histories, but in others the editors 
feel that they are working firmly within an established academic 

During the summer of 1896, F. W. Maitland and Lord Acton 
between them evolved the idea for a comprehensive modern history. 
By the end of the year the Syndics of the University Press had 
committed themselves to the Cambridge Modern History, and Lord 
Acton had been put in charge of it. It was hoped that publication would 
begin in 1899 and be completed by 1904, but the first volume in fact 
came out in 1902 and the last in 1910, with additional volumes of tables 
and maps in 1911 and 1912. 

The History was a great success, and it was followed by a whole 
series of distinctive Cambridge Histories covering English Litera- 
ture, the Ancient World, India, British Foreign Policy, Economic 
History, Medieval History, the British Empire, Africa, China and 
Latin America; and even now other new series are being prepared. 
Indeed, the various Histories have given the Press notable strength in 
the publication of general reference books in the arts and social 

What has made the Cambridge Histories so distinctive is that they 
have never been simply dictionaries or encyclopedias. The Histories 
have, in H. A. L. Fisher’s words, always been “written by an army of 
specialists concentrating the latest results of special study”. Yet as 
Acton agreed with the Syndics in 1896, they have not been mere 
compilations of existing material but original works. Undoubtedly 
many of the Histories are uneven in quality, some have become out of 
date very rapidly, but their virtue has been that they have consistently 
done more than simply record an existing state of knowledge: they 
have tended to focus interest on research and they have provided a 
massive stimulus to further work. This has made their publication 
doubly worthwhile and has distinguished them intellectually from 



other sorts of reference book. The editors of the New Cambridge 
History of India have acknowledged this in their work. 

The original Cambridge History of India was published between 
1922 and 1937. It was planned in six volumes, but of these, volume 2 
dealing with the period between the first century a.pD. and the Muslim 
invasion of India never appeared. Some of the material is still of value, 
but in many respects it is now out of date. The last fifty years have seen 
a great deal of new research on India, and a striking feature of recent 
work has been to cast doubt on the validity of the quite arbitrary 
chronological and categorical way in which Indian history has been 
conventionally divided. 

The editors decided that it would not be academically desirable to 
prepare a new History of India using the traditional format. The 
selective nature of research on Indian history over the past half-century 
would doom such a project from the start and the whole of Indian 
history could not be covered in an even or comprehensive manner. 
They concluded that the best scheme would be to have a History 
divided into four overlapping chronological volumes, each containing 
about eight short books on individual themes or subjects. Although in 
extent the work will therefore be equivalent to a dozen massive tomes 
of the traditional sort, in form the New Cambridge History of India 
will appear as a shelf full of separate but complementary parts. 
Accordingly, the main divisions are between I. The Mughals and their 
Contemporaries, Il. Indian States and the Transition to Colonialism, 
Ill. The Indian Empire and the Beginnings of Modern Society, and IV. 
The Evolution of Contemporary South Asia. 

Just as the books within these volumes are complementary so too do 
they intersect with each other, both thematically and chronologically. 
As the books appear they are intended to give a view of the subject as it 
now stands and to act as a stimulus to further research. We do not 
expect the New Cambridge History of India to be the last word on the 
subject but an essential voice in the continuing discussion about it. 


The starting point for this volume is 1526, the date of Babur’s victory at 
Panipat. The ending point is 1720, the date of Muhammad Shah’s 
accession in Delhi. By the latter date the essential structure of 
centralized empire was disintegrated beyond repair. Behind my choice 
of 1720, rather than 1739, or 1761, or even 1803, is the belief that the 
collapse of the centralized formal apparatus of the Mughal empire was 
an important turning point in Indian history. Three decades of study 
have convinced me that Mughal centralized power was a reality and 
that its effect on Indian society was considerable. Whether this was 
good or bad is a different question. After 1720 the Mughal empire 
became a substantially different entity. 

Within these dates I have tried to describe the construction of the 
Mughal empire, its operation, and its destruction. One of my aims has 
been to explain as clearly as possible the design and operation of the 
imperial system. This is no small matter, for generations of scholars 
have worked hard to try and decipher the intricacies of this enterprise. 

Another goal has been to write a concise, coherent narrative history 
from 1526 to 1720. The narrative is conventional in that I trace the large 
public events, primarily political and military, that shaped imperial 
history. Partly this is because I believe that we ought to take the 
military history of the Mughal empire more seriously than is our 
current custom. After all, war was the principal business of the Mughal 
emperors, who committed by far the bulk of their resources to the 
military. It is also difficult to understand the nature of the empire 
without some knowledge of its dynamic growth in territory and 

A third aim is to encourage further scholarly work on the Mughal 
period. We simply do not know enough. The secondary literature on 
the Mughals is thin despite its great importance in South Asian and 
world history. Many more detailed local histories need doing. A host 
of scholarly monographs and lengthy articles on various castes and 
ethnic groups are waiting for their historian. New sources in different 
genres and languages need to be identified, authenticated, collated, and 



published in the original text and in translation. We need better 
integration of the Indian and European sources by someone who reads 
Rajasthani, Persian, French, and Dutch, for example. For such new 
work our best hope lies in the originality of young historians from 
India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. 

Finally, my most important goal is to offer a one-volume synthesis 
that will be comprehensible to the non-specialist. I hope that this book 
can be read with profit by anyone interested in this most fascinating of 
historical periods. If successful, the volume should create a context for 
further reading and study. 

In writing this volume I have become deeply conscious of my debt to 
colleagues in this field. I am especially grateful to Irfan Habib, Ashin 
Das Gupta, Satish Chandra, Tapan Raychaudhuri, and M. Athar Ali 
for their inspired scholarship and leadership in Mughal history over the 
past decades. Peter Hardy and Simon Digby have provided warm 
support and encouragement for my work over the years. A more 
immediate debt is to my two fellow editors, Gordon Johnson and 
Christopher Bayly, for their patience and their criticism. I especially 
wish to thank Muzaffar Alam for his incisive comments on an earlier 
draft. I have also benefited from discussions with Catherine Asher, 
Stewart Gordon, Bruce Lawrence, Om Prakash, Sanjay Subrahma- 
nyam, and Ellen Smart. And, as always, I must thank my wife and 
children for their continuing love and understanding. 


The Mughal empire was one of the largest centralized states known in 
pre-modern world history. By the late 1600s the Mughal emperor held 
supreme political authority over a population numbering between 100 
and 150 millions and lands covering most of the Indian subcontinent 
(3.2 million square kilometers). Timurid India far outstripped in sheer 
size and resources its two rival early modern Islamic empires — Safavid 
Persia and Ottoman Turkey. The Mughal emperor’s lands and subjects 
were comparable only to those ruled by his contemporary, the Ming 
emperor in early modern China. 

The “Great Mughal’s” wealth and grandeur was proverbial. His 
coffers housed the plundered treasure of dozens of conquered dynas- 
ties; his regalia and throne displayed some of the most spectacular 
precious stones ever mounted. Nearly all observers were impressed by 
the opulence and sophistication of the Mughal empire. The ceremonies, 
etiquette, music, poetry, and exquisitely executed paintings and objects 
of the imperial court fused together to create a distinctive aristocratic 
high culture. Mughal courtly culture retained its appeal and power 
long after the empire itself had declined to a shell. Today the Mughal 
style as represented in miniature paintings, or much-admired buildings 
like the Taj Mahal, has an immediate and powerful attraction. 

For nearly one hundred and seventy years (1556-1719) the Mughal 
empire remained a dynamic, centralized, complex organization. The 
emperor commanded cadres of officials and soldiers of proven loyalty 
who carried out his orders in every province. Men, money, infor- 
mation, and resources moved regularly and routinely throughout the 
empire as official needs dictated. Mughal success was the product of 
hard-driving, active rulership exercised by extremely capable rulers 
who acted as their own chief executives. Military victory, territorial 
expansion, and centralized control rested upon the management skills 
and strategic vision of the emperors and their advisers. 

The empire was more than a superficial canopy stretched over the 
substantial social life lived in each region. It was an intrusive, centraliz- 
ing system which unified the subcontinent. Imperial military power 



imposed an unprecedented level of public order. The scale and level of 
organized violence diminished perceptibly in the lands within its 
borders. Imperial demands for revenue and tribute stimulated pro- 
duction and encouraged market growth. The uniform practices and 
ubiquitous presence of the Mughals left an imprint upon society in 
every locality and region of the subcontinent. Few persons and 
communities, if any, were left untouched by this massive edifice. 

Although the first two Timurid emperors and many of their 
noblemen were recent migrants to the subcontinent, the dynasty and 
the empire itself became indisputably Indian. The interests and futures 
of all concerned were in India, not in ancestral homelands in the 
Middle East or Central Asia. Furthermore, the Mughal empire 
emerged from the Indian historical experience. It was the end product 
of a millennium of Muslim conquest, colonization, and state-building 
in the Indian subcontinent. 

Muslim and Hindu-Buddhist warriors first clashed in the early 
seventh century in Seistan on the border between Iran and Afghani- 
stan. Century after century their descendants skirmished, raided, and 
fought bloody battles along a slowly eastward-moving military 
frontier. From the western edge of Afghanistan and the shores of 
Makran and Sind, the area of Muslim political conquest reached Kabul 
in the ninth century, Delhi in the early thirteenth century, and the 
cities of the Deccan and South India in the fourteenth century. Behind 
this frontier line Muslim generals built new states commanded by 
Turkish, Persian, Afghan, and other foreign Muslim elites. For a few 
decades in the mid-fourteenth century, the Sultans of Delhi ruled over 
an empire extending over most of the subcontinent before it broke 
apart. Thereafter, the locus of Indian Muslim political power reverted 
to regional kingdoms. 

Indo-Muslim rulers appealed regularly to Muslim militancy in the 
jibad or holy war against the idolatrous Hindus of the subcontinent. 
Indo-Muslim rulers relied heavily upon the support of the Islamic 
religious establishment for legitimacy and political backing. In return 
the state supplied money and administrative support for the essential 
institutions of organized Islam. Theologians, preachers, and judges, 
often employed by the state, actively sought to retain the orthodox 
purity of the community in India against the absorptive power of 
Hindu Brahminical religion. Sufi shaikhs, who were influential leaders 
of the Muslim community and who also received royal largess, met a 



wide range of religious and social needs among lay adherents. The 
implicit contract between ruler and religious leaders was an important 
aspect of Islamic conquest and expansion. 

By 1500 Hindu society in nearly every region of the subcontinent 
save the extreme south was conditioned to accept the authority of an 
Indo-Muslim ruler - whether of foreign or Indian origin. Generations 
of Hindu kings, warriors, and priests, fought and lost, rebelled and 
lost, and finally accepted service within the Muslim political order. 
Rajput, Maratha, and Telugu and other warrior castes recognized the 
legitimacy of Islamic political power in return for assurances of 
continued dominance in the countryside. Men from various secretarial 
castes, such as the Kayasths or the Khatris, adapted to the new order by 
learning Persian and becoming experts in the administrative pro- 
cedures required by Indo-Muslim states. Generation after generation 
the process of political socialization continued. The Mughals were the 
beneficiaries of that process when they began to construct their 
overarching imperial system. 

As heirs to the Indo-Muslim political tradition, the Mughals found 
conditions favorable for political centralization. They could turn to 
numerous precedents in their efforts to build a reliable yet flexible 
political and administrative system. All earlier sultans had recruited 
and maintained a nobility firmly bound to themselves and relatively 
free of constraining local ties. If continually reinforced, bonds of fealty 
and personal loyalty imposed open-ended obligations of service for 
each grandee. Earlier regimes had induced local Hindu warrior- 
aristocracies to maintain order and help levy taxes in the countryside. 
Royal officials could obtain cooperation to the limits spelled out in 
contractual arrangements. These were the ‘two essential joints in the 
articulated structure of the Indo-Muslim state. Without a reliable 
imperial elite, no ruler could function. Without cooperating local 
aristocracies the countryside was lost. An unresolved question was the 
extent to which powerful armed nobles could be transformed into 
royal officials at the center and armed lords of the land be transformed 
into royal officials in the countryside. 

Another, often-ignored technological advance aided Indo-Muslim 
rulers. The introduction and wide use of paper in the eleventh century 
made the centralized administration of large, complex organizations 
much easier. Rulers could exercise tighter control over people, 
land, resources, and money by using paper documents and records. 



Information flows became more copious and reliable. Enforcement of 
standardized rules and regulations became more feasible. 

The economy of the subcontinent responded buoyantly to new 
markets and new demands under the Indo-Muslim states. By the 
sixteenth century regional economies were linked together in a dense 
overland and coastal trading network. Agriculture, industry and trade 
could readily support the economic needs of a rising empire. The 
wealth of Hind was proverbial in the relatively less fertile and sparsely 
settled lands of the medieval Islamic world to the west. 

In each region on the subcontinent, peasant cultivators living in 
peasant villages grew dozens of varieties of foodgrains and specialized 
crops for subsistence and for sale in a hierarchy of cash markets. Wells 
and riverine irrigation helped to improve production and partially 
offset years when the annual monsoon rains failed. Industrial pro- 
duction was impressive — especially from the intricately organized 
textile industry. Weavers, dyers, bleachers, and painters produced an 
enormous range of cotton and silk cloth for sale in local, regional, and 
international markets. Markets for commodities and labor were exten- 
sive and efficient. Overland, coastal, and deep-water trade routes 
linked local economies with the wider world. Indian trading communi- 
ties in Gujarat, North India, and the south could scarcely be equalled 
for the sophistication of their skills and resources. The Indian popu- 
lation was long-accustomed to a money economy using gold, silver, 
copper, and mixed silver and copper coinage. Meager domestic pro- 
duction of gold and silver was augmented by large imports paid for by 
India’s trade surplus.' 

The subcontinent’s productivity ensured that it enjoyed a con- 
tinuing favorable balance of trade. Apart from precious metals, India’s 
only other unmet needs included large numbers of horses (primarily 
for military use), black slaves and ivory from Africa, and other exotic 
consumption goods. Exports included much sought-after Indian 
cotton cloth bound for Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Middle East 
as well as spices, narcotics, and other agricultural commodities.? 

In the early decades of the sixteenth century, the compressed social 
energy of western Europe began to have an impact upon the Indian 
subcontinent. New ideologies, technologies, products, and markets 

1 See Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of India 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 1, Part 1, ¢. 1200-1500, pp. 45-162 for a 
full description. 

2 Simon Digby, “The Maritime Trade of India,” in Raychaudhuri and Habib, pp. 125-162. 



pressed upon the subcontinent. These forces traversed long- 
established overland and sea routes through the Middle East and the 
Mediterranean to reach northern and western India. In addition, under 
the impetus of Iberian expansion, new maritime connections with 
western Europe became the conduit for direct, unmediated transfers to 
India. Many diffusions originated in Europe’s discoveries in the New 
World. This new conjuncture stimulated growth in the economy of the 
subcontinent and, indirectly, the growth and expansion of the Mughal 

The direct maritime connection was established by the Portuguese, 
who, sailing around the coast of Africa, entered the Indian Ocean 
trading world for the first time in 1498. Portuguese round ships 
equipped with numerous light cannon were far superior to indigenous 
vessels.} In 1509 the first viceroy, de Almeida, destroyed an allied war 
fleet sent by the Mamluk ruler of Egypt and the Sultan of Gujarat. For 
the next century or more the Portuguese were the dominant naval 
power in the Indian Ocean. From a command post on the western 
coast of India, they administered a new, unprecedented political entity: 
a maritime empire. 

In 1510 Albuquerque occupied the estuarine island of Goa on the 
Mandovi river and held it against a besieging army commanded by the 
Sultan of Bijapur whose principal port Goa had been. Goa became the 
seat of the viceroy and a council appointed by the Portuguese king in 
Lisbon. Between Goa and Lisbon a new, formal, sea borne linkage was 
established by which a European state exercised direct control over its 
subsidiary realm in the east. Each year a flotilla of vessels armed and 
equipped by the king sailed from Lisbon to Goa; each year a flotilla 
returned from the Indies. Portuguese and their slaves, precious metals, 
orders and correspondence, officials, supplies including firearms and 
other commodities travelled out to India. Returning Portuguese, 
spices, official dispatches and correspondence, and other commodities 
made the return voyage. An aggressive early modern state in Europe 
administered a direct political and economic connection between India 
and Europe. 

> Bailey W. Diffie and George D. Winius, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580 
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), pp. 214-219. 



The legacy of the Indo-Muslim frontier, the medieval Indian 
economy, and new connections with Europe helped to create con- 
ditions favorable to the rise of an imperial state in North India. These 
conditions by no means assured that such a state would arise, or that it 
would be ruled by the Timurids. The Mughal empire was the product 
of a prolonged political struggle whose outcome was in large measure 
due to the abilities and good fortune of its founders and builders, The 
two founders of the Mughal empire, Babur and his son and successor, 
Humayun, eventually won a bitter struggle with the Afghans for sup- 
remacy in northern India. In this conflict the Mughals, although 
kings, were scarcely to be viewed as emperors. They fought, some- 
times against overwhelming odds, to create a Mughal domain in the 
rich Indo-Gangetic plain of north India. 

Their principal adversaries were Afghans who had supplanted 
Turks and Persians to become the most powerful and widely dis- 
persed foreign Muslim group in northern India. Under the Lodi 
dynasty thousands of Afghan soldiers and traders had migrated from 
the mountain valleys of Afghanistan to the plains of north India. 
Many, like the founder of the Lodi dynasty, Buhlul Lodi, could trace 
their origins to the overland horse trade. North Indian demands for 
riding and battle horses created a ready market for the hardy horses of 
the Central Asian steppe. By this point in time many of these Afghan 
adventurers had settled on the land as local lords who controlled a 
Hindu peasantry. 

BABUR I§ 26-1530 

The Mughal empire was founded by Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, 
a Chaghatai Turkish ruler, who invaded the Lodi-governed Punjab 
several times from his capital at Kabul before winning a decisive 
victory. The unexpected entry of Babur into the Indian scene added a 
third party to the Afghan-Rajput struggle that had just begun. The 
Mughal intrusion displaced the indigenous Hindu Rajputs and the 




ize Sauna of tughat orcs Sata , Satevid empire end Urbek khenete © Capital of the empire 

=-=* Boundary 

© Capitals of subas and other: 

cia for iguana ea exes Cleo 
Under Mughel suzereinty after 1608 and placed within supe Keahnit 

Under Mughal suzerainty after 1606 and pieced within suba Lahore 
Annexed after 1605 
Ketter tine of Mughal controlin Badakhshan, 1646-7 
‘Sarkar Qendahar, (rts Setovice, 9609 38, ond telly in 1648 
Fee ee eae 5 

compre aft 

Kingdom ‘pamatlyanrveced to Mughal errpire, 1595, but not destroyed until 1636 

The Mughal empire, 1601 
Source: I. Habib, An atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982), OA 



long-domiciled Afghans by the foreign elite - Turks and Uzbeks from 
Central Asia. 

In 1526, at the battle of Panipat, only a few miles from Delhi, 
Babur’s compact twelve thousand man army defeated a much larger 
force under the command of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi. 
At Panipat Babur was equipped with both matchlockmen and field 
cannon which he employed to good effect against the Afghan cavalry. 
Like most Indian rulers the Lodis had not adopted firearms. Ibrahim 
Lodi died in the battle along with dozens of other Afghan chiefs. After 
occupying Delhi, the victor sent his son Humayun to Agra, the Lodi 
capital, to seize the royal palaces and treasure. Shortly thereafter Babur 
joined his son, distributed much of the enormous treasure to his 
followers, and mounted his throne at Agra, which became his capital.! 

The next year, at the battle of Kanua, Babur led his army to victory 
over a confederacy of Rajput kings headed by Rana Sanga, ruler of the 
state of Mewar in Rajasthan. Eighty thousand Rajput cavalrymen and 
five hundred armored war elephants charged the much smaller Mughal 
force. Babur’s guns and his long-practiced use of the enveloping tactics 
of Central Asian cavalry proved to be as effective against the Rajputs as 
the Afghans. The death of the Rana of Mewar and many other Rajput 
leaders at Kanua shattered the possibility of a Rajput resurgence of 
power in the north. In 1528 Babur marched to the great bastion of 
Chandiri, the stronghold of a great Rajput chief feudatory to the Rana 
of Mewar. The Mughal troops stormed the fort and slaughtered the 

These brisk victories, achieved over the dominant warrior coalitions 
themselves struggling for control of Hindustan, gave Babur a base 
from which to consolidate his rule in nothern India. He could have 
treated these engagements as simply the culmination of a giant, and 
highly successful, plundering raid into Hind and withdrawn to Kabul. 
Many of his followers probably looked forward to this withdrawal. 
Humayun had already been sent back to Kabul to defend that city and 
its region against further Uzbek assaults. Instead, however, Babur 
decided to stay and to strengthen his hold over the fertile lands and 
wealthy cities of Hindustan. 

In December, 1530 Babur died. His kingdom included Central 
Asian territories, Kabul, the Punjab, Delhi, part of Bihar to the east, 

* For further details see Rushbrook Williams, An Empire Builder of the Sixteenth Century 
(Delhi: $. Chand, 1922). 


and south to Gwalior. As yet it was a new conquest state with little 
done to consolidate Mughal rule in the new Indian territories. 

Babur bequeathed to his successors a distinguished lineage stretch- 
ing back to the great Central Asian conqueror Timur, and also through 
the Chaghatai Turks back to Chingiz Khan. Through Timur, the 
Mughal dynasty claimed impeccable credentials as rulers and conquer- 
ors of extraordinary luster. (Hence the term Timurid used synony- 
mously for Mughal in this volume.) In addition Babur’s legacy 
included Central Asian horsemanship and battle tactics, life lived 
comfortably under canvas in tents, and the Turki language. He left a 
persistent and abiding Sunni Islamic faith and a familial connection 
with the orthodox Naqshbandi Sufi order which had originated in 
Central Asia. His legacy included a sophisticated cultural style derived 
from Timur’s patronage at Samarkhand and refined at the courts of his 
successors in Central Asia. Finally, not least of Babur’s heritage were 
his memoirs, written in Turki, which recounted his life adventures 
from his early youth in the valley of Ferghana to his conquest of India. 
Copied by distinguished calligraphers and illustrated by the finest 
painters, manuscript copies of Babur’s remarkable journal became a 
primary source for the familial pride of the Mughal or Timurid 

HUMAYUN 1530-1556 

The emperor Humayun (1530-1556) encountered massive difficulties 
in his efforts to retain and expand Babur’s conquests in India. The 
source of one of his major problems was another of Babur’s legacies. In 
keeping with the appanage system of the Timurids, Humayun 
distributed provinces to administer to each of his four brothers. In the 
northwest Mirza Sulaiman obtained Badakhshan, and Kamran 
governed Kabul and Qandahar. In India Askari and Hindal each were 
given large districts to administer. Within a year, Kamran, with the 
support of his brother Askari, occupied the Punjab and forcibly 
removed Humayun’s governor. He then forced Humayun to agree to 
his possession of the province. Humayun was thereby denied access 
to the resources of both the Punjab and the Central Asian bases of the 
2 Ishwari Prasad, The Life and Times of Humayun (Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1956) 
PP. 44-45. 


Humayun’s immediate concerns lay with the Afghans to the east 
who looked to restore an heir to the Lodi throne. After an initial 
victory over the Afghan forces in the east, Humayun retreated into 
nearly a year of profound inactivity at Agra induced, it seems, by a 
growing addiction to opium taken with wine. During this period two 
powerful enemies consolidated their positions. 

In the south Bahadur Shah, ruler of the prosperous maritime state of 
Gujarat, challenged Humayun by seizing control of the Sultanate of 
Malwa. Bahadur Shah was busily negotiating Afghan support in the 
northeast to try to eject the Mughals from North India. The Gujarat 
court was the refuge of many Lodi exiles who urged Bahadur Shah to 
action. Bahadur Shah had built up an extremely large army equipped 
with the latest cannon. He employed an Ottoman Turkish engineer 
and Portuguese gunners.> 

In 1535 Humayun launched a campaign against the Gujarat ruler 
who was then engaged in his own invasion of Rajasthan. The Mughals 
defeated and drove back the Gujarat armies and captured the fortress of 
Champanir in Gujarat in a very short time. But delay and indecision on 
Humayun’s part, largely brought on by opium use, forced him to 
withdraw from Gujarat without deposing Bahadur Shah or formally 
annexing the kingdom. Further danger from Gujarat ended with the 
untimely death of Bahadur Shah at the hands of the Portuguese. 

While the Mughals were engaged on the seacoast, an extremely able 
Afghan nobleman, Sher Khan Sur, had quietly gained control of the 
military fief of his father in southern Bihar. During the five years 
consumed by Humayun’s campaigns in the south, Sher Khan became 
the acknowledged leader of the Afghan resistance against the Mughals 
and a king in all but name. In 1537 Sher Khan invaded Bengal, defeated 
Mahmud Shah, the ruler of Bengal, and besieged him at Gaur, his 
capital. Fearing Sher Khan’s growing power, Humayun marched to the 
east to relieve the Bengal Sultan. Unfortunately, Humayun’s ill- 
advised attempt to take Chunar fort rather than pressing on to Gaur 
permitted Sher Khan to capture Gaur and take control of Bengal. 
Mahmud Sultan fled his lost kingdom to seek an insecure refuge with 
Humayun at Chunar. 

The fall of Chunar was followed by months of maneuvering which 
left Sher Khan with strong Afghan support and Humayun in a 
precarious position in the east. The Mughals and the Afghans met once 
> Prasad, Humayun, p. 71. 



again at Chausa, a river town on the Ganges. Three months of 
inconclusive negotiations between Humayun and Sher Khan were 
ended by an Afghan surprise attack in June, 1539. The battle became a 
complete rout in which Humayun himself barely escaped alive. Sher 
Khan, who had defeated the acknowledged ruler of Hindustan, 
assumed the title of Sher Shah in a coronation ceremony after the 

In May, 1540, the Mughal and Afghan armies met once again near 
Kanauj. The demoralized Mughal army panicked, ran, and was but- 
chered. Humayun fled to Agra and then on to Lahore with a few 
followers. At Lahore a confused meeting with Kamran and his other 
brothers produced no plan of action. Kamran refused to allow his 
brother to take refuge in Kabul. The Timurids decamped from Lahore 
just ahead of Sher Shah and left the Afghan leader unchallenged ruler of 
northern India in 1540. 

During the next fifteen years, Humayun remained a royal exile, a 
refugee seeking a means to recover his throne in India. From Lahore he 
and his much-depleted army rode to Sind, then back to Rajasthan and 
to Sind again with varying responses from local chiefs and rulers. In 
1544 he crossed the border to Herat and sought refuge with Shah 
Tahmasp, the Safavid ruler in Iran. At the Safavid court, Humayun, 
under extreme duress, accepted the Shia faith in order to keep himself 
and several hundred followers alive. After this initial test, Shah 
Tahmasp grew more friendly and eventually agreed to underwrite 
Humayun’s attempt to regain power. With fresh troops and funds 
Humayun led a combined Mughal-Persian force which seized Qanda- 
har and then occupied Kabul. There followed an eight-year war 
between Humayun and Kamran for dominance in Afghanistan. 
Finally, in 1553, the royal exile reoccupied Kabul as its unchallenged 
ruler. Kamran became his brother’s captive and was blinded to render 
him incapable of rule. 

From Kabul Humayun turned to duplicate his father’s conquest of 
northern India. Sher Shar had only ruled at Agra for five years before 
his death in 1545. During that brief period his energetic administration 
forecast many of the centralizing measures in revenue assessment and 
military organization that would be carried to completion by the 
Mughals. The throne at Delhi passed to his son Islam Shah Sur, who in 
the course of an eight-year reign was not able consolidate his father’s 
administrative reforms or his own centralized rule. At Islam Shah’s 



death in 1553 the Sur domains were divided by treaty into the Punjab; 
Agra and Delhi; Bihar and the eastern region; and Bengal. Each was 
ruled by a son or relative of Sher Shah Sur. Everywhere the Sur 
administrative system was breaking up. Drought in preceding years 
brought famine conditions by early 1555. Popular distress contributed 
to Afghan demoralization as mortality from starvation and disease shot 

Humayun, now fully energized, led his army from Kabul back to the 
northern Indian plain in late 1554. The Mughals met little resistance 
until Sikandar Shah Sur, the ruler of the Punjab, assembled a large 
Afghan army at the town of Sirhind. A hard-fought battle ended with 
Mughal victory. Sikandar Shah Sur fled the battlefield and with him 
went any hope of further Afghan resistance. Humayun entered Delhi 
and restored Babur’s monarchy by mid-1555. 

The Mughal restoration was complete. But Humayun had little time 
left. Within seven months, in January, 1556, he met a fatal accident on 
the steps of his library in the fortress at Delhi. Humayun’s nobles 
concealed the fact of his death for seventeen days until they could 
secure a stable arrangement for the succession. The agreement arrived 
at permitted Humayun’s young son Akbar, then twelve years of age, to 
be crowned under the title Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar. 

AKBAR 15 56-1605 

During his long reign Akbar made no emotional or political commit- 
ment to a permanent capital. His court, household, chancery, 
treasury, stables, and armories moved from one urban setting to 
another to suit changing circumstances. When desired, the Timurid 
ruler became readily mobile. The massive tents of the imperial 
encampment, emplaced after the day’s march, retained the grandeur 
and fixed spatial arrangements of a permanent city built of stone, 
The emperor himself, rather than a physical site, was the capital of 
the empire. 

Akbar’s changing strategic foci are reflected in the four successive 
sites — Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Lahore, and Agra - adopted as royal 
capitals. Each phase in his grand strategy is defined by increased 
Mughal power, resources and territory as the precarious regime 
inherited by the young Timurid prince grew into a multi-regional 




Bairam Khan, a dominant member of Humayun’s nobility, assumed 
the role of protector or regent for the young Akbar. Several months 
after Akbar’s enthronement, Hemu, a minister and general of one of 
the presumptive heirs of Islam Shah Sur, marched with a huge army to 
attack Delhi. Hemu, a Hindu Vaisya or member of a literate, mercan- 
tile caste, who had risen from humble circumstances to be a general for 
the Sur regime, claimed royal status by employing the ancient Sanskrit 
title of Raja Vikramaditya. Had he succeeded this would have been a 
remarkable reassertion of the Sanskritic/Brahminical monarchical 
tradition in North India — long subservient to Muslim rulers. A much 
smaller Mughal army assembled by Bairam Khan with Akbar at his 
side met Hemu’s forces at Panipat, the site of the climactic Lodi- 
Timurid battle three decades earlier. The Sur forces nearly over- 
whelmed the Mughals but for a stray arrow that wounded Hemu and 
brought him as a prisoner to the Mughal commanders. Together 
Bairam Khan and his young protégé slew the helpless Sur general. The 
dead commander’s troops, thoroughly demoralized, rapidly deserted 
the battlefield to give the victory to the Mughals. 

In the next six months the Mughals won another major battle against 
Sikandar, one of the Sur princes, who then fled east to Bengal. Under 
Bairam Khan’s direction Mughal armies occupied Lahore and seized 
Multan in the Punjab. In 1558 they took possession of Ajmer, the 
aperture to Rajasthan, after the flight of its Muslim ruler. Late in the 
same year a Timurid commander defeated Ibrahim, the remaining Sur 
prince, and annexed Jaunpur, capital of the former Sultanate of 
Jaunpur in the eastern Gangetic valley. By early 1557 a Mughal force 
besieged a Sur commander in control of Gwalior fort, the greatest 
stronghold north of the Narmada river. After nearly two years the 
beleaguered Afghan garrison surrendered in January, 1558. 

This aggressive flurry of activity put the vital cities and strongholds 
of a compact region between Lahore, Delhi, Agra, and Jaunpur under 
Mughal control. This was Hindustan, the old heartland of Muslim 
political and military power in North India. The Mughals, like their 
predecessors, now tapped the immense agricultural productivity and 
busy trade of the epicenter of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Lahore and 
Delhi stood together as western and eastern redoubts ~ symbols of 
Muslim victory and domination in Hindu north India. 



By the fourth regnal year Bairam Khan had launched a drive to the 
south into Rajasthan and Malwa. At this juncture a new political 
struggle put a temporary halt to expansion. Akbar, then turned 
seventeen, chafed in adolescent rebellion against Bairam Khan’s stern 
authority. Several clashes with the regent brought the young king to an 
alliance with a dissident faction of the nobility. This clique consisted of 
Adham Khan, Akbar’s Turani foster brother, the son of his wet-nurse, 
and a group of his relatives. Hamida Begam, Akbar’s mother, actively 
encouraged the planned coup. Ethnic and religious friction underlay 
dissatisfaction with the all-powerful minister. The orthodox Sunni 
Muslim Central Asian (Turani) nobles disliked deferring to a Persian 
Shia like Bairam Khan. Their dislike intensified when Bairam Khan 
appointed a fellow Shia theologian as religious minister (sadr) who 
controlled state patronage in the form of gifts, grants and jobs. 

In March, 1560, Akbar, who was at Delhi, demanded Bairam Khan’s 
resignation as chief minister. Feeling the erosion of his position, 
Bairam Khan complied. The disgraced minister could choose between 
continued personal service at court (but not as regent), or temporary 
exile in a pilgrimage to Mecca. Choosing the pilgrimage, the unfortu- 
nate minister was assassinated on his journey by an Afghan with a 
long-standing personal grievance, before he embarked for the sea 


Between 1560 and 1571, the first period of his mature rule, Akbar 
remained at Agra. For two years Maham Anaga, Akbar’s foster 
mother, Adham Khan, and Shihab-ud-din, a cousin who served as 
governor of Delhi, exercised nearly complete political and fiscal 

The troika wasted little time in resuming military activity. A Mughal 
field army under the command of Adham Khan and Pir Muhammad 
Khan invaded the kingdom of Malwa. The Mughal army defeated Baz 
Bahadur, the Sultan of Malwa, at the town of Sarangpur. The defeated 
ruler fled to the Sultanate of Khandesh for refuge leaving his harem, 
treasure, and war elephants. His principal queen, Rupamati, famed for 
her beauty, took poison rather than lose her honor in captivity. This 
tragic theme has inspired many poetic compositions since that date. 

Despite its initial success the campaign proved a disaster from 



Akbar’s point of view. Adham Khan retained virtually all the spoils. 
The victorious commander then followed Central Asian practice by 
wholesale slaughter of the surrendered garrison, their wives and 
children, and many Muslim theologians and Sayyids (descendants of 
the Prophet). The opprobrium this generated greatly upset Akbar. The 
emperor rode in person to the army’s headquarters to confront Adham 
Khan and relieve him of command. Akbar sent his other leading 
general, Pir Muhammad Khan, in pursuit of Baz Bahadur deep into the 
territory of the Deccan Muslim Sultanate of Khandesh. But the rulers 
of Khandesh and Berar and the royal fugitive Baz Bahadur allied to 
beat back the Mughal army. 

Baz Bahadur temporarily regained control of Malwa until, in the 
next year, another Mughal army invaded and firmly annexed the 
kingdom. Malwa became a province embedded within the nascent 
imperial administration of the Timurid regime. Baz Bahadur survived 
as a refugee at various courts until, eight years later, in 1570, he took 
service with his conqueror as a Mughal noble (amir). 

Shortly after the return of the Mughal armies, in late 1561, Akbar’s 
conflict with Adham Khan flared up again. Feeling slighted by the 
appointment of another noble as chief minister (vakil), Adham Khan 
attacked and killed the new minister in his own audience hall in the 
palace. When the still armed Adham Khan confronted Akbar in the 
harem, he was struck down by the outraged young emperor and 
thrown from a terrace into the palace courtyard. Still alive, Adham 
Khan was dragged up and thrown to the courtyard once again by 
Akbar to ensure his death. This dramatic event is described in full detail 
in the histories of the reign and graphically portrayed in miniature 
paintings. The fate of Adham Khan became part of a growing corpus of 
stories that together formed the legendary Akbar. 

Akbar immediately assumed full executive powers as ruler. In place 
of the office of chief minister he created four specialized ministerial 
posts for financial, military, household, and religious affairs. In so 
doing, he removed one focal point for noble rebellion and discontent. 
No single member of the Mughal nobility would have unquestioned 
preeminence and thereby attract dissident adherents. The threat of an 
over-mighty chief minister had been diverted —at Jeast until the waning 
days of the dynasty. 

Beyond these measures the young ruler faced the problem of 
political organization. Military victories were not enough; the new 



regime required a coherent political statement. Somehow Akbar had to 
interweave the strands of his inherited Timurid charisma and auth- 
ority, of centralized authority inherited from the Surs and the Sultans 
of Delhi, and the notion of Islamic legitimacy. If he failed to do so, 
North India would undergo once again war between Mughals, 
Afghans, Rajputs, and regional Muslim rulers which had disfigured the 
previous three decades. Merely to survive as a ruler, he must win over 
or break the power of two groups: the Muslim nobility with its armed 
power and wealth, and the religious elites of Islam, the #/ema and Sufi 
shaikhs, with their influence over the Muslim community in India. 


In 1561 Sher Khan Sur, son of Adil Shah Sur, still unsubdued, marched 
from the great Afghan bastion at Chunar toward Jaunpur with a large 
army. Two Mughal commanders, Zaman Khan and Bahadur Khan, 
Central Asian Uzbek nobles, dealt a sharp defeat to the Afghans and 
seized arms, treasure and war elephants. Zaman Khan duly reported 
the victory to the emperor, but retained the battle plunder without 
permission. Akbar was incensed at the violation of royal prerogatives — 
especially in the case of the war elephants whose use was a royal 
symbol in India. He marched in person to Kara and confronted the two 
generals in person. They paid formal homage to him and dutifully 
handed over the spoils of battle. The seizure of Chunar rounded out 
the first phase of Mughal expansion in the east. 

In the two years after the departure of Bairam Khan, the Mughal 
ruler, still not past his twentieth birthday, displayed his true political 
and organizational capabilities. He asserted his position as an absolu- 
tist ruler demanding deference from all. Even victorious generals could 
be brought to submission if prompt vigorous action were taken by the 
emperor. Akbar became his own comander-in-chief and most capable 
strategist and field commander. 

As a symbol of his new-found autonomy and military prowess, 
Akbar sent a mission to the Baghela Rajput ruler Ram Chand at 
Kalinjar, his capital, to induce the famed singer-musician Tansen to 
come to the Mughal court at Agra. Ram Chand, who had rejected 
earlier overtures from the Surs, dared not refuse and sent Tansen with 
his instruments and lavish presents to Akbar’s court. Akbar is said to 
have given Tansen two hundred thousand rupees as a gift on the 



occasion of his first performance at court. Acquisition of Tansen’s 
services stimulated Akbar’s active patronage of music. Tansen, and 
after him, his sons and other pupils actively cultivated what was to 
become known as North Indian or Hindustani music. 

After Malwa the first major target was the hilly, thinly populated 
kingdom of Garha-Katanga, or Gondwana, famed for its herds of wild 
elephants. A Mughal army under Asaf Khan, an Uzbek noble, invaded 
the kingdom in 1564. The Rajput queen, Rani Durgavati of the Candela 
lineage, died commanding her armies in a futile defense. The Mughals 
swept aside the remaining Rajput defenders and marched on the capital 
at Chauragarh. The young Candela prince Bir Narayan died in battle. 
Most of his female relatives perished in the bloody rite of suicide and 
immolation in flames reserved for noble Rajput women and their 
attendants (jauhar). Garha-Katanga became a huge district (sarkar) 
incorporated within the just acquired province of Malwa. As was the 
case with all such imperial annexations the boundaries and internal 
divisions of the kingdom remained unaltered. 


In 1564, trouble flared up with the Uzbek nobles, Khan Zaman and his 
brother Bahadur Khan, who had defeated the Afghans at Chunar. 
Although most of these nobles had returned with Humayun to India, 
Uzbek allegiance to the Timurids was not as firm as it might have been. 
The Uzbek nobles traced their lineage back to Shaiban, the Uzbek 
ruler, who had been Babur’s nemesis a half century earlier and whose 
descendants continued to rule in Central Asia. Accustomed to a more 
egalitarian political tradition, these grandees resented Akbar’s imperi- 
ous ruling style. Considerable friction existed also between the staunch 
Sunni Muslim Uzbeks and the Shia Persian nobles employed in 
Mughal service. Not surprisingly, the Uzbek dissidents determined to 
test Akbar early while the young ruler was still solidifying his position. 

In 1564 Abdullah Khan, governor of Malwa, went into open revolt. 
Akbar marched with an army to Mandu and drove the rebel with his 
followers to seek refuge in the still-independent Sultanate of Gujarat. 
Early in 1565 Akbar’s attempt to recall the senior Uzbek officer in 
Awadh, touched off a unified Uzbek rebellion. A confused series of 
battles and negotiations ended in early 1566 with Akbar’s withdrawal 
to Agra and the rebels still holding the eastern provinces. 



Akbar also faced a potential challenge from his half-brother, Mirza 
Muhammad Hakim, who governed Kabul and its surrounding dis- 
tricts. Mirza Muhammad Hakim’s hold on Kabul was threatened by 
the Timurid ruler of Badakhshan (whose kingdom had been restored to 
him in 1530 by Babur). Despite Akbar’s assistance, the Badakhshani 
armies were besieging Kabul in 1566. Muhammad Hakim left a 
garrison in place and retreated with his army towards the Indus river in 
the Punjab plain. 

The still unreconciled Uzbek nobles, learning of these events, 
invited Muhammad Hakim to invade India. They, in turn, proclaimed 
him the legitimate Mughal ruler by having Muhammad Hakim’s name 
read in the Friday prayers (the khutha) in the great mosque at Jaunpur. 
Encouraged by this, Muhammad Hakim marched through the Punjab 
and besieged Lahore. At this critical point, a group of Timurid nobles 
bearing the title Mirza or prince also rebelled and tried to seize Delhi. 
The elderly leader, Muhammad Sultan Mirza, was descended from 
Timur’s second son (instead of Akbar’s descent from the third son). In 
theory, at least, Muhammad Sultan, or his numerous sons and grand- 
sons, could claim Akbar’s throne. This claim was strengthened by 
intermarriage with Timurid princesses from Akbar’s line. Loyalist 
commanders drove off the rebels and captured Muhammad Sultan 
Mirza. The remaining Mirzas sought refuge and support from the Rana 
of Mewar and other Rajput rulers in Rajasthan. 

Akbar responded to this crisis by ignoring the Mirzas and marching 
to confront his half-brother at Lahore. Mirza Muhammad Hakim 
retreated to Kabul, now cleared of the Badakhshan army. Akbar chose 
not to pursue him. For the next decade, Mirza Muhammad Hakim 
acted as a sovereign ruler at Kabul and posed a continuing danger to 
Akbar’s regime in India. 

The emperor wheeled his army round and marched east to dislodge 
the Uzbeks from the cities and fortresses they had seized. In June, in 
the midst of the monsoon, the emperor reached Manikpur on the bank 
of the rain-swollen Ganges. The Uzbeks were encamped across the 
river and unaware that the royal army had arrived so quickly. Akbar 
led a surprise night river crossing and attacked the rebels at dawn. In 
the ensuing fracas Akbar’s troops killed or captured for execution the 
Uzbek nobles who had opposed him. In the closing phase of the revolt, 
the emperor drove the dispirited Mirzas and their followers south to 
take refuge with the Sultan of Gujarat. 



Somehow the young emperor survived one of the most dangerous 
episodes in his career. Throughout this three-year period he relied as 
much on negotiation and diplomacy as on force to deter the rebels. His 
Timurid ancestry was an asset, but it alone could not ensure fidelity 
from all his nobles. In the end, battle decided the issue. 


The Uzbek revolt underscored Akbar’s vulnerability vis-a-vis his 
nobles. These warrior-grandees drew upon inherited positions of 
power, authority, and influence with their kinsmen. The amirs were 
heirs to bellicose martial traditions that emphasized personal honor, 
dignity, and bravery on the field of battle. Always armed themselves, 
they commanded varying numbers of personal slaves, dependent 
kinsmen, and paid retainers. 

The small cadre of fifty-one nobles who returned to India with 
Humayun in 1555 were nearly all foreign-born Muslims.* Twenty- 
seven, or over half, were from Central Asia. These were high-status 
chiefs from Chaghatai Turkish or Uzbek Central Asian lineages. By 
this time members of both lineages could claim varying degrees of 
blood relationship with Humayun. All were imbued with the egalita- 
rian and divisive attitudes of the Central Asian Turkish tribes. And 
they were well aware that Mirza Muhammad Hakim offered a legiti- 
mate alternative to Akbar’s rule. A second group consisted of sixteen 
Persian Shi'ite nobles, including Bairam Khan, who formed the 
primary counterweight to the Turanis or Central Asian beks. The 
Iranis were more willing to accede to the notion of an unchallenged pad 
shah or emperor in the Persian imperial tradition. 

Akbar recruited new nobles to serve the needs of his enlarging 
empire. In the course of twenty-five years the imperial elite had grown 
six-fold to 222 amirs. The emperor’s fixed goal was to reduce the 
relative numbers and influence of his Central Asian nobles. To do so, 
he vigorously recruited Persian entrants into the service. By 1580 
Persians numbered forty-seven; Chaghatai and Uzbek Turanis forty- 

Beyond this, however, the young leader recruited new men from 
4 Iqtidar Alam Khan, “The Nobility Under Akbar and the Development of His Religious 

Policy, 1560-1580,” Jonrnal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1968), pp. 29-36. Data on the 
composition and numbers of nobles are taken from this source. 



Indian, rather than foreign, racial, and religious backgrounds. Many 
Indian Muslim warriors had become landed aristocrats as they put 
down local roots and seized lands from Rajputs and other Hindu 
groups in North India. Afghans, probably the most numerous body of 
Indian Muslims, were necessarily excluded. Continuing bitterness and 
resistance among Afghan grandees in the east meant that Afghan 
recruitment was not a feasible option for the Timurids, 

Other Muslims long resident in North India, but rarely favored with 
access to political power at the court of the Delhi Sultans, were more 
pliable. Such, for example, were the Sayyids of Baraha, invariably 
referred to as brave warriors, whose names begin to appear in imperial 
annals in the early 1560s. Their ancestor, claiming descent from the 
Prophet Muhammad, had migrated from Iraq during the thirteenth 
century and settled in Sirhind near Delhi. From this original settlement 
numerous descendants proliferated and peopled other villages and 
lands in the region. Proverbially loyal, the Sayyid leaders could muster 
several thousand of their bellicose kinsmen for service under Akbar. 
Other Indian Muslim nobles enlisted to the point that, by 1580, 
forty-four men (16 percent) of the enlarged nobility were indigenous 

More significant was Akbar’s recruitment of Hindu Rajput leaders 
into the Mughal nobility. During the fifteenth century Indo-Muslim 
rulers of regional kingdoms (but not the Sultans of Delhi) had accepted 
unconverted Hindu warriors into their elite cadres. Even the Surs had 
benefited from the services of Hemu, a Vaisya administrator and 
general. Nevertheless, although scarcely unprecedented, this was a 
major step for the Timurids. In 1561 , a minor Rajput chief, head of the 
Kachhwaha clan of Amber, sought the emperor’s intervention in a bid 
to keep his power against an unfriendly Mughal governor. Bharamall, 
the Kachhwaha raja, had actively supported Humayun in the conflict 
with the Surs. When Akbar was marching near Jaipur, the Rajput 
suppliant offered one of his daughters in marriage to the young 
monarch. Akbar agreed, the marriage was performed, and the emperor 
accepted Bharamall, his son, and géandson as amirs in imperial service. 
The Kachhwaha raja retained his seat at Amber.> 

Over the next two decades, Akbar demonstrated the reality of 
Mughal power by repeated campaigns in Rajasthan. Other Rajput 

5 Kunwar Refagat Ali Khan, The Kachhwahas Under Akbar and Jahangir (New Delhi: 
Kitab Publishing House, 1976). 



chiefs negotiated entry into the imperial elite and offered their daugh- 
ters as marriage partners for the Mughal emperor. By the sixteenth 
century a diffuse political system based on the obligations of patrilineal 
kinship and marriage alliances was ripe for political centralization. 
Several generations of settlement and frontier expansion, driven in 
large measure by Islamic conquest in the Gangetic valley, resulted in 
increased productivity and population densities in Rajasthan. Akbar 
generally recruited Rajput clan heads who either claimed royal blood, 
or who were the scions of great noble houses. These thakurs or masters 
were the aristocrats of Rajput society in contrast to the more obscure 
bhumiya warriors who possessed only modest power, land and status. 

By 1580, Rajputs (and a few other non-Rajput Hindus) numbered 
forty-three members of the nobility. Each raja was awarded high rank, 
pay and perquisities. His adult sons, and other close male relatives and 
kinsmen, obtained lesser mansabdari rank as well. In conformity with 
imperial regulations, Rajput noblemen organized their kinsmen and 
non-kin retainers into cavalry contingents armed and equipped for 
active military service. Rajputs were required to serve the emperor 
personally wherever he might be sent. At court, Rajputs publicly 
acknowledged the authority and supremacy of the emperor and 
became conversant with Persian and imperial manners and etiquette. In 
so doing they were assured that they could retain their beliefs, customs, 
and honor as Hindu warriors. 

In return for imperial rank and privileges the rajas conceded tight 
Mughal domination over Rajasthan. By placing a tika or vermillion 
mark on the new raja’s forehead in court, the emperor legitimized his 
position. Simultaneously Akbar stipulated rank and precedence and 
gave the new nobleman valuable ceremonial gifts. The new raja was 
expected to offer a substantial tribute or pishkash as his part of this gift 
exchange. The emperor conferred the ancestral lands (watan) of the 
raja as his non-transferable holding. These lands were not subject to 
tribute but their estimated revenues were applied to the pay expected 
for imperial service. When Bharamall, the Kachhwaha raja, submitted 
to Akbar, his domain lands consisted of the villages and towns of 
Amber pargana in eastern Rajasthan.* The administration estimated 
Amber’s annual revenues and applied them to the pay and perquisites 
of the raja according to his rank as a Mughal nobleman. Revenues from 

© Satya Prakash Gupta, The Agrarian System of Eastern Rayasthan (c.1630-c.1750) (Delhi: 
Manohar, 1986), p. 5. 



several additional parganas within and, in some cases, outside 
Rajasthan, were assigned to Bharamall as a transferable salary assign- 
ment. The number and location of these additional lands fluctuated as 
the rank and pay of Bharamall and his successors varied. The net effect 
was to secure the Kachhwaha ancestral lands in Amber from external 
or internal threats and to make available revenues from other lands to 
the raja. The intent was to thwart any attempt to enlarge the Amber 
domains and create a larger state. The emperor made similar arrange- 
ments with other Rajputs as they submitted to him. 

Akbar clamped tight imperial control over the Rajputs and the new 
province of Rajasthan. The Rajput lands did not become a set of 
autonomously ruled tributary kingdoms. Instead, Mughal governance 
of the province was very similar to other directly administered 
provinces in the Gangetic plain. A Mughal governor with substantial 
numbers of troops occupied a newly built imperial fortress at Ajmer, 
which became the provincial capital. Only imperial currency could 
circulate; only imperial tolls could be levied on the overland caravan 
traffic to the Gujarat ports. The standard Mughal revenue system, 
complete with detailed assessments, land survey and registration, and 
cash payments for each village became the standard. Those areas not 
held by Rajput amirs were routinely assigned as transferable revenue 
producing areas to non-Rajput mansabdars. A mixed stratum com- 
posed of Rajput bhumiyas, Jat and other dominant castes continued to 
act as intermediaries between the imperial claimants and the producing 

Submission to the Timurid dynasty did not violate the Rajput 
dharma or inherited code for moral conduct as set out in the bardic 
literature of the period. The Mughal tie initially encouraged, rather 
than disrupted, kinship solidarity. Each Rajput nobleman relied 
heavily upon his kinsmen for military service and advice and counsel. 
His immediate coterie was formed from his “brotherhood” (bhai- 
bamdh) consisting of all males tracing shared patrilineal descent up to 
six generations.” Each brotherhood formed a kinship unit holding 
intrinsic power to rule its homelands won by colonization, conquest, 
and settlement. The larger sphere for recruiting lay in the patrilineal 
clan, composed of several brotherhoods of varying status and power 

7 Norman P. Ziegler, “‘Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties During the Mughal Period” in J. F. 
Richards, ed., Kingship and Authority in South Asia, (Madison Wisconsin, South Asian 
Studies No. 3, 1978), pp. 231-232. 



who together claimed descent from a common male eponymous 
ancestor. The brotherhood and the clan rose in prestige and power as 
warriors in Mughal service. 

Rajput thakurs who offered their daughters for marriage created a 
powerful bond between themselves and the Timurid house. The 
second primary unit of recognition for each Rajput was the 
brotherhood to which he gave daughters and from which he received 
wives. Marriage created an alliance with his wife’s male relatives that 
could be called upon at any time for support and assistance. Although 
not reciprocal, since no women came from the Mughal side, marriage 
became an important strand in the ties that bound the Rajputs to the 
empire. For many thakurs, notably the Rana of Mewar, supplying 
Rajput noblewomen for the emperor or princes was seen as a dis- 
graceful submission. Those houses who offered brides had made the 
critical gesture of subordination. 

Mughal service was compatible with the ethos of the warrior in 
service to a great master. Rajputs were enjoined to fight and die in 
battle in the service of a master. A warrior’s service was expressed in 
acts of complete self-sacrifice and devotion for the earthly master and 
for god. Salvation for the warrior was the result of such devotion. The 
Rajput master or thakur acquired his power to conquer and rule by 
devotion to his god or goddess. The thakur then transmitted the 
essence of his power and authority to lesser men, also thakurs, who 
could rule smaller domains within his own. In accepting Akbar’s 
service Rajput thakurs thereby accepted him as a Muslim Rajput who 
possessed far greater power and sovereignty than even the greatest of 
Rajput masters. The bardic traditions from this period often “equate 
[Akbar] with Ram, the pre-eminent Ksatriya cultural hero of the 
Hindu Rajput.”? 

Both sides benefited by this arrangement. The Timurids won the 
loyalty of thousands of Rajput warriors, generation after generation. 
The publicly proclaimed devotion of these prestigious chiefs had its 
impact on hundreds of lesser Rajput lineages who controlled localities 
across northern and central India. Akbar preempted the possibility 
of the rise of another Rajput coalition similar to that which his 
grandfather had faced at Kanua in 1527. The Rajputs in turn placed 
themselves within a much wider political arena. Instead of being caught 
up in local internecine conflicts, they became imperial generals, 
® Ibid. p. 224. Ibid., p.235. 



statesmen, and high administrators. Instead of being content with the 
produce of the semi-arid lands of Rajasthan, they diverted streams of 
wealth from the largess of the empire toward their homelands. Further 
reinforced by a powerful dynastic appeal, Akbar forged a political 
bond that would endure for nearly two centuries between Rajput and 


Akbar had created a complex, heterogeneous nobility with divergent 
experience and cultural expectations. But how could he cope with this 
diversity? The young emperor resorted to a system of honorific ranks 
or mansabs derived from his Mongol background. These assigned a 
numerical rank to each officer in imperial service. Each mansabdar or 
“rank-holder’s” status, pay, range of official assignments, and titles 
were defined by his personal (zat) rank. The emperor was the source 
of all rankings and changes in rankings. As the ranking system evolved, 
the graded ranks became a supple, powerful instrument to reward or to 
punish military and civil officers in imperial service. 

The decimal ranking order had its origins in the system employed by 
the Mongols for military commanders. The latter were graded from 
commanders of ten to those of a hundred, a thousand, and ten 
thousand troops. The later Timurids continued to employ the termin- 
ology although the actual number of troops was often less than the 
nominal figure in the title. Even the Sur dynasty had employed a 
similar rank order for its military commanders. From these precedents 
Akbar created a comprehensive system in which every officer or 
official was ranked. 

In theory, personal rank could be any one of sixty-six even 
numbered ranks from twenty to five thousand zat (or even ten 
thousand for princes of the blood). In practice only thirty-three ranks 
were actually in use. Soldiers and bureaucrats alike were mansabdars 
although higher ranks tended to fall to military commanders rather 
than financial or judicial specialists. Increases or decreases in rank 
followed no set rules but were dependent upon royal favor. Especially 
meritorious service — such as great courage and devotion in battle — 
resulted often in large increases in rank. Emigré aristocrats from Persia, 
Turan or elsewhere were given higher ranks as were Rajput chiefs and 

other powerful local lords who enlisted with Akbar. But these ranks 



did not transfer directly to sons and heirs. A mansabdar could see that 
his son was enrolled in Mughal service, frequently as a member of his 
own contingent, but the young aspirant obtained a modest rank in 
relation to that of his father. 

Later in the reign, by the 1590s a second decimal ranking came into 
use. The sawar or “trooper” ranking denoted the number of armed 
heavy cavalrymen each mansabdar was required to recruit, train, 
command, and pay. In succeeding reigns virtually all mansabdars held 
suwar ranks expressed in even numbers from as little as ten to as high as 
five thousand. Numerical trooper rank determined the additional 
funds paid the mansabdar to permit him to maintain his military 
contingent. In Akbar’s time the trooper rank matched the number of 
cavalry mustered. The latter varied from a small band of ten retainers 
led by a petty officer to a field army of five thousand horsemen 
organized by an amir or noble. All cavalry commanded by mansabdars 
were at the disposal of the emperor. All had to meet strict imperial 

This approach fell short of a centrally recruited and paid, bureau- 
cratic, standing army. Instead, organization by military captains and 
their followers shifted the burden of recruitment, pay, and command 
to individual mansabdars. By imposing uniform royal standards, 
Akbar secured the benefits of a large central army without the crushing 
financial and administrative burden such an entity usually carried 
with it. 


Rajput willingness to accept Mughal hegemony was not won without 
force. In the early 1560s the most prestigious Rajput ruler, the Rana of 
Mewar, remained defiant. Udai Singh (1540-1572) was descended from 
the Sisodia ruler Rana Sanga who had died fighting Babur at the battle 
of Kanua in 1527. As head of the Sisodia clan he possessed the highest 
ritual status of all the Rajput rajas and chiefs scattered across the 
landscape of North and Central India. Unless Udai Singh were reduced 
to submission, the imperial authority of the Timurids would be 
lessened in Rajput eyes. Akbar, at this early period, was still enthusias- 
tically devoted to the cause of Islam and sought to impress the 
superiority of his faith over the most prestigious warriors in Brahmini- 
cal Hinduism. 



Udai Singh’s son was in uneasy residence in Akbar’s court. When 
asked by Akbar (in jest as Abul Faz! claims) as to whether he would 
support his father or the emperor in a confrontation, the young Rajput 
prince fled back to Mewar. Akbar was enraged and determined on war. 
In September, 1567, the emperor led his armies in a holy war or jihad 
toward Chitor, the capital of Mewar, a fortified city rising 200 meters 
above the Rajasthan plain.'° As the imperial armies approached, Udai 
Singh’s advisers in council concluded that the Sisodia army could not 
face the Mughals in open battle. Instead, Udai Singh left a 5,000 man 
garrison in Chitor with supplies to withstand a protracted siege and 
retreated to a subordinate fortress in the hills. Within a month Akbar 
laid his siege lines completely around Chitor. His raiding parties 
devastated the countryside and captured Udaipur, the other leading 

After initial assaults on the walls failed, taking heavy casualties, the 
besieging army set up three large batteries to bombard the fort. 
Simultaneously, imperial sappers commenced digging tunnels for two 
mines and an approach trench (sabat). The artillerymen cast a large 
siege cannon on site to be used for breaching the walls when the sabat 
reached its objective. At this point the garrison tried to negotiate a 
surrender on terms; Akbar rejected this overture. 

Fifty-eight days into the siege, the sappers had reached the walls and 
exploded the first of the mines. When the second mine went off it killed 
about 200 of the assault force caught in the breach. The defenders 
sealed up the walls. Akbar then pushed ahead with his covered trench 
to bring his siege cannon within range of the walls. On the night of 22 
February, the Mughals made several breaches in the wall and began a 
general assault. During the melee, Akbar killed Jaimal, the Rajput 
commander of Chitor, with a well-aimed musket shot, whose death 
broke the morale of the defenders. Rising pillars of smoke soon 
signalled the rite of jauhar as the Rajputs killed their families and 
prepared to die in a supreme sacrifice. In a day filled with hand-to- 
hand struggles virtually all the defenders died. The Mughal troops 
slaughtered another 20~25,000 ordinary persons, inhabitants of the 
town and peasants from the surrounding area on the grounds that they 
had actively helped in the resistance. Only an audacious body of one 
thousand musketeers, men of Kalpi who had done much damage to the 

19 Abul Fazl, The Akbar-Nama (Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 3 vols., 1907, 1912, 
1939), translated by H. Beveridge 11, 464-477. 



Mughals in the siege, managed to escape Akbar’s wrath. They bound 
their wives and children and marched them right through the imperial 
lines as if they were Mughal troops carrying off prisoners. 

Although the imperial armies found little treasure to seize, the 
fortress was destroyed to the point that it remained deserted thereafter. 
A victory proclamation (fath nama) issued in early March celebrates 
the successful prosecution of the holy war against the polytheists by 
the Timurid ruler.'! Udai Singh, however, remained at large, uncap- 
tured by the Mughals until his death four years later. Akbar, for his 
part, fulfilled an earlier vow by marching on foot to Ajmer in 
pilgrimage to the shrine of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti. There, during 
the month of Ramazan, Akbar circumambulated the shrine, gave gifts 
to the poor and pious, and after ten days returned to Agra. 

The next year, in February, 1569, Akbar led his army to an assault on 
the massive fortress at Ranthambor which, together with Chitor, 
controlled the major trade corridor to the sea. Rai Surjan, of the Hada 
lineage, held the fort and its territory as a vassal of Udai Singh. At 
Ranthambor, the Mughals employed hundreds of bullocks and dozens 
of elephants to drag fifteen massive siege guns to a hill overlooking the 
fortress. When, after only a month, these guns started bombarding the 
fortress and the covered way had reached the walls, the garrison 
surrendered on terms. Rai Surjan accepted imperial service in return 
for retention of his ancestral holdings. 

The sieges of Chitor and Ranthambor were spectacular public 
events. The fall of these great forts demonstrated the reality of Mughal 
power for every warrior in North India. Outright defiance to the 
Mughal emperor was not possible; submission or death was the only 


At the same time that he was demonstrating the inability of any 
fortress, however strong, to defy his assaults, Akbar was busily 
engaged in constructing his own strategic network of strongholds. His 
first concern was to fortify his capital at Agra, “which by position is 
the centre of Hindustan.” In 1565 after “lofty minded mathematicians 
and able architects laid the foundations” the massive walls and four 
gates of the fort began to rise on the banks of the Yamuna river:!? 

1 K. A. Nizami, Akbar and Religion (Delhi, 1989), pp. 383-399. 2 Ibid., p. 372. 



Every day 3 to 4,000 active builders and strong-armed labourers carried on the 
work. From the foundations to the battlements, the fortress was composed of 
hewn stones, each of which was polished like a world-revealing mirror, and was 
ruddy as the cheek of fortune. And they were so joined together that the end of 
a hair could not find a place between them. This sublime fortress ... was com- 
pleted with its battlements, breastwork, and its loop-holes ... in the space of 
eight years under the faithful superintendence of Musim Khan Mir Barr u Bahr. 

The massive red fortress contained over five hundred buildings 
when completed. Still standing today it “was to be stable like the 
foundation of the domination of the sublime family and permanent like 
the pillars of its fortunes.”3 

Over the next two decades, Akbar, as part of his grand strategy, 
erected two other huge palace fortresses. Allahabad (formerly the 
Hindu city of Prayag), guarded the conjunction of the Ganges and 
Yamuna rivers in the eastern Gangetic plain. Lahore, the capital of the 
Punjab, was the first line of defense against an assault over the 
northwest passes from Afghanistan or Central Asia — the classic 
invasion route. These three large fortress and palace complexes, 
defended by heavy cannon, were virtually impregnable to direct 
assault. The emperor further anchored this defensive line by building a 
strongly defended castle (begun 1570) at Ajmer, the gateway to the 
Rajasthan corridor. He strengthened the strategically placed frontier 
strongholds in the northwest at Attock and Rohtas on the Indus. In the 
east the bastion of Rohtas in Bihar stood guard. 

The Lahore, Agra, Allahabad, Ajmer quadrilateral formed a protec- 
tive framework for Mughal imperial power. The great walls of these 
bastions secured growing hoards of imperial treasure and massive 
arsenals, and provided ultimate safety for the person of the emperor 
and his court and household. Fortress commanders, who received their 
appointments directly from the emperor, were responsible directly to 
the imperial court. To ensure their autonomy the custom grew up of 
assigning revenues from those villages and lands surrounding each 
fortress to meet the needs of the garrison. The Mughals occupied and 
garrisoned many other famous strongholds as they expanded, includ- 
ing Gwalior, and the great forts of Rajasthan —- Chitor, Ranthambor 
and Mirtha — as well as Asirgarh (near Burhanpur) and the massive hill 
forts of the Deccan provinces. Nevertheless, imperial security rested 
on the great strongholds in Hindustan — the very center of the empire. 

» Ibid, p.372. 




In 1571 Akbar moved twenty-six miles from Agra to Fatehpur Sikri, a 
newly built city that would be his capital until 1585. During his fifteen 
year residence at Fatehpur Sikri Akbar directed major conquests and 
surmounted his most dangerous political crisis. The new city was also 
the site of significant organizational and administrative initiatives — 
measures that put an indelible stamp upon the Mughal imperial system. 
Brilliant innovations in land revenue, coinage, military organization, 
and provincial administration emerged from the Fatehpur Sikri years. 

Why Fatehpur Sikri in preference to the great Indo-Muslim political 
capitals like Delhi, Agra, Lahore, and Jaunpur? Why remove to the 
village of Sikri at a hard day’s march from Agra?! Agra and Fatehpur 
Sikri were in reality joint capitals. For security the bulk of the imperial 
treasure hoards as well as arsenals and other reserves were kept in Agra 
fort. The court, harem, and treasury could be quickly removed to Agra 
for safety. 

The newly constructed city bore a similarity to the movable imperial 
encampment also designed by Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri was an urban 
form in transition between camp and imperial metropolis. Akbar 
recreated his camp in stone within the boundaries of Fatehpur Sikri. 
The facades of the buildings strongly resembled the great wood and 
canvas structures erected in the imperial encampment. Like the camp, 
the capital gave the Mughal emperor a disciplined, controlled 
organism from which to write, rehearse, and play out the drama of 
imperial rule. 

Fatehpur Sikri was also a refuge, a courtly city whose architecture 
and public spaces were very much an expression of the young ruler’s 
passion for building and design. Here Akbar satisfied those creative, 
aesthetic impulses typical of the Timurids. Music was already well 
established under Tansen’s leadership. In addition painting, calligra- 

‘ For a full treatment of Fatehpur Sikri see Michael Brand and Glenn D. Lowry, eds., 
Fatehpur Sikri (Bombay: Marg Publications, 1987). 

2 Irfan Habib, “The Economic and Social Setting,” in Brand and Lowry, Fatehpur Sikri, 
p. Bo. 



phy, poetry, history, comparative religion, architecture all flourished 
in an urbane and sophisticated setting. 


Akbar employed the design and construction of Fatehpur Sikri to 
symbolize, in those early years, the regime’s Islamic foundation. Two 
nested sacred buildings dominated the city. The great congregational 
mosque and the tomb (dargah) of a widely revered and worshipped 
Sufi saint were the binary institutions of legal and mystic Indian Islam. 
The elegant marble tomb housed the remains of Shaikh Salim Chishti 
(d. 1571) from whom the young ruler frequently sought spiritual 
advice. Shaikh Salim’s blessing and prophecy regarding the birth of 
Akbar’s long-awaited male heir, Sultan Salim, caused the emperor to 
locate his new capital at the village of Sikri. By placing Shaikh Salim’s 
tomb inside the great mosque, Akbar was able to draw upon the 
palpable sanctity adhering to it and assimilate this to his own authority. 

The emperor encouraged the sons and grandsons of Shaikh Salim to 
enlist as high-ranking officers in the imperial service rather than to 
remain at the shrine as heirs to their familial tradition. Incorporation of 
the Chishti mystical aura into Fatehpur Sikri and its eventual subordi- 
nation to the Emperor was an essential part of the religiosity Akbar 
claimed for the regime. It is important to keep in mind, however, that 
Akbar made his appeal cloaked in the symbols of the broadest, most 
appealing, form of Sufi devotionalism possible. The Chishtis were 
esteemed for their austerity and rejection of secular power and 
influence. It is noteworthy that the young emperor did not choose to 
so identify himself with the Naqshbandis of Northern India despite his 
family’s long association with that orthodox Central Asian order. 

Akbar juxtaposed this appeal with an unambiguous affirmation of 
the orthodox Muslim foundations of his regime. The great congre- 
gational mosque at Fatehpur Sikri is the largest and certainly the 
dominant building in the city. For nearly a decade after its erection the 
emperor took an active interest in the operation of the mosque. His 
devotional acts — under the tutelage of Shaikh Abdul Nabi, the chief 
jurist of the empire — included sweeping the floor of the mosque and 
acting as prayer leader. 

During this period Akbar gave further evidence of Islamic piety by 
actively organizing and sponsoring an official pilgrimage to Mecca 



each year. After 1574 the conquest of Gujarat permitted direct access 
to the Holy Cities from the west coast port of Surat across the Arabian 
Sea to Jiddah. The emperor enlarged the pious trust (waqf) established 
by the last Sultan of Gujarat which sent the revenues of several coastal 
villages as donations to Mecca and Medina. In 1576 the first Mughal 
pilgrim caravan, under the command of a specially appointed Mughal 
officer known as the Mir Haj, left Agra for Surat port. There a special 
pilgrim ship, the //ahi waited. All expenses were paid entirely by the 
emperor who also sent large sums for charity and several thousand 
honorific robes of honor for the pious. The first party included 
Gulbadan Begam, Akbar’s aunt, the Empress Salima Sultan Begam 
and other high-born women. Akbar himself was dissuaded from 
travelling only by the pleas of Abul Fazl.3 

The emperor further underscored his piety by travelling on foot 
from Fatehpur Sikri on an annual royal pilgrimage to the tomb of 
Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti at Ajmer. Regular visits to Ajmer, the 
strategic site for imperial dominance over Rajasthan, served also to 
remind the Rajputs of Timurid power. At the beginning of his 
nineteenth regnal year:* 
[Akbar] took the generous-hearted and noble minded prince Sultan Salim, 
with himself for the circumambulation of the auspicious and heavenly 
illuminated tomb at Ajmer. When the eye of that fortunate, God-gifted and 
successful prince fell on the tomb of the great Khwaja, he, following the 
example of his illustrious father, bowed with great humility to the noble tomb 
and sacred threshold, and performed the ceremony of circumambulation, and 
the duty of pilgrimage. 
Immediately thereafter followed the ceremony of weighing both ruler 
and prince against gold and silver and other precious commodities. 

We cannot find a clearer statement of the spiritual reference point 
sought by Akbar for his rule than in this episode. In addition to his 
own prostration and public worship at the tomb the emperor pro- 
claimed his son Salim’s devotion as well. These recurring ceremonies 
acted out the same devotional message expressed in stone within 
Fatehpur Sikri. Royal heirs, royal victory, and royal authority flowed 
from devotion to the Chishti saints. 

> N. R. Faroogi, “Mughal-Ottoman Relations: A Study of Political and Diplomatic 
Relations Between Mughal India and the Ottoman Empire, 1556-1748,” unpublished 
Ph.D. dissertation (University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1986), pp. 191-196. 

4 Nizam-ud-din Ahmad, Tabagat-i Akbari, English translation by B. De and Baini Prashad, 
(Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 3 vols., 1927-39) 11, 429. 




Akbar’s new capital became headquarters for a new phase of expansion 
southwest toward Gujarat and the Arabian Sea. The appeal of Gujarat 
to Akbar, as it was to his father Humayun before him, is not difficult to 
discern. The coastal region possessed areas of rich agricultural pro- 
duction in its central plain; an impressive output of textiles and other 
industrial goods; and the busiest seaports of the Indian subcontinent. 
To link this maritime kingdom with the massive resources of the 
Indo-Gangetic plain would greatly strengthen Akbar’s growing 

Akbar could take advantage of Gujarat’s political troubles. A weak 
king, Muzaffar Shah 11, had lost control of his kingdom to several 
parties of Muslim nobles engaged in continuing conflict. The Timurid 
Mirzas, having found refuge in Gujarat in the past several years, had 
seized power in the southern portion of the kingdom. The opportunity 
to put a final end to the sedition of these rebels was appealing. The 
threat of Christian intervention by sea also existed. The Portuguese in 
Goa, who already dominated sea traffic in the Arabian Sea, might try to 
seize the west coast ports if political fragmentation continued. When a 
Habshi (Abyssinian) noble who headed one of the losing factions 
invited Akbar to intervene and annex the kingdom, the emperor did 
not hesitate. 

In July, 1572, Akbar occupied Ahmadabad, the capital, and other 
northern cities and was proclaimed the lawful sovereign of Gujarat in 
the Friday prayers. The puppet king, Muzaffar Shah, submitted readily 
as did virtually all the Muslim nobles of the north. By January, 1573, 
Akbar had driven out the Mirzas. who, after offering only token 
resistance, fled to refuge in the Deccan. The emperor left the new 
Mughal province in the hands of an imperial governor and returned to 
Fatehpur Sikri. 

Suddenly, within three months, the nobles of Gujarat, disgruntled 
by their exclusion from imperial service, joined together in an attempt 
to drive the Mughals out of the kingdom. Husain Mirza retook 
Cambay, Broach, and Surat, the major ports. Afghan nobles supported 
by the Rajput ruler of Idar were advancing on the Mughal governor at 
Ahmadabad. Akbar responded immediately to this crisis by mustering 
a stripped-down 3,000 man field army. Mounted on the swiftest female 
camels he and his followers covered the 800 kilometers to Ahmadabad 



in just eleven days — on a route that caravans required two months to 
traverse. Akbar’s smaller imperial army crushed the rebellion by 
soundly defeating 15,000 rebels in a bloody cavalry engagement. The 
victorious emperor, reassured by the death or flight of the rebel 
leaders, returned to Fatehpur Sikri forty-three days after his departure. 
The reconquest of Gujarat was the most dramatic episode of Akbar’s 
long career. Speed, decisiveness, and luck were with him. His repu- 
tation for invincibility, already rising, swelled even further. 


The Timurid ruler’s second major objective lay in Bihar and Bengal 
where nominally tributary Afghan rulers and nobles still controlled the 
riverine domains of northeastern India. Akbar could not afford to leave 
his long-standing enemies, the Afghans, in power in an area so 
productive and strategic. In 1574, the young Sultan of Bengal, Daud 
Karrani, repudiated Akbar’s nominal sovereignty by having his own 
name and titles read in the Friday prayers. After a Bengali raid into 
Mughal territory, Akbar himself led his armies in a difficult siege and 
assault of the Afghan-held fortress at Patna. The Afghan armies 
retreated before the Mughal onslaught until Daud was forced to take 
refuge in Orissa. Akbar returned to Fatehpur Sikri and left command 
of his armies in the east to his celebrated confidant and revenue 
minister, Todar Mal. 

Todar Mal, commanding the Mughal army in the east, pursued the 
Afghan king until he forced a battle at Tukarori, near Midnapur. A 
ferocious elephant charge by the Afghans would have nearly destroyed 
the Mughal army had not Todar Mal held firm and rallied the left wing. 
This victory permitted Akbar to formally annex Bengal, Bihar, and 
Orissa to the Mughal empire, but Daud remained at large, although 
nominally a Mughal fief holder with lands in Orissa. When the Mughal 
troops stationed in Bengal suffered epidemic disease and retreated 
from Bengal, Daud reasserted his control. In 1576 a relief force sent 
under the command of Khan Jahan, governor of the Punjab, forced a 
decisive battle at Rajmahal where the Afghans were routed. Daud was 
finally captured and killed. 

Continuing warfare and reverses followed the hard-won Mughal 
victory in 1576. Bengal remained a region controlled by Afghan nobles 
and Hindu rajas who deeply resented the Mughal military occupation. 



Dwindling numbers of bitter Afghan commanders fought rear-guard 
actions against the superior Mughal armies. Finally, by the late 1580s 
virtually all overt resistance ended. Akbar sent Raja Man Singh, one of 
his most capable Rajput nobles, to set up a regular system of imperial 
administration in Bengal and Orissa. 


The overall cultural and religious climate of sixteenth century India 
was more open and tolerant of change. Mughal expansion occurred as 
Indian society and culture was experiencing a richly creative phase. 
Several centuries of dominant Indo-Muslim power had forced Hindu 
institutions to adapt to that reality by strengthening popular devotional 
expression. Generations of Muslim life in north India and the Deccan 
had gradually shaped accommodation and sympathy to Indian society 
and even to Hinduism. 

In both Hinduism and Islam many mystics, scholars, intellectuals, 
and more ordinary folk were actively seeking some form of synthesis. 
Kabir and other poet-saints in the popular devotional bhakti tradition 
of Hinduism offered a middle ground where Ram/Rahim could be 
worshipped freely in a rejection of the formalism of both religions. 
Others such as Daud Dayal (1544-1603) shared devotional beliefs and 
practices with sympathetic Sufis. An avowedly synthetic movement 
led by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) began in the Punjab. In folk culture 
there was substantial sharing of customs, ceremonies, and beliefs 
between ordinary Muslims and Hindus. Such practices as the worship 
of the smallpox goddess Sitla were often practiced as ardently by 
Muslims as Hindus in the countryside. 

Throughout his residence in Fatehpur Sikri, Akbar engaged in a 
systematic study and discussion of comparative theology and religion. 
In 1575, he constructed a large hall to house debates in religion and 
theology. His personal inquiry into religion grew out of his own 
disquiet and ongoing spiritual quest. The emperor suffered from a 
recurring spiritual and personal crisis. At times he was subject to 
trances which were probably a mild form of epilepsy. Signs of chronic 
depression were also reported by observers close to him. 

At first the debates were confined to issues of Islamic theology, but 
later, after 1579, participants included learned Jains, Hindu saints, and 



Parsi priests. In 1580 the emperor enrolled two Jesuit priests, Aquaviva 
and Monserrate, who had travelled from Goa at Akbar’s invitation to 
instruct him and his entourage in Christianity. 

Akbar’s active intellectual role is the more remarkable because he 
was illiterate. Although brought up in a highly literate family culture, 
at least four tutors tried and failed to teach the young prince to read. 
His son Salim, later Jahangir, commented:> 

My father always associated with the learned of every creed and religion, 
especially with the Pandits and the learned of India, and although he was 
illiterate, so much became clear to him through constant intercourse with the 
learned and wise ... that no one knew him to be illiterate, and he was so 
acquainted with the niceties of verse and prose compositions that his defi- 
ciency was not thought of. 

A recent analysis suggests that Akbar was probably dyslexic and thus 
physically unable to read. Because he was deeply interested in the 
contents of manuscripts, Akbar developed the practice of having 
himself read to daily. Possibly because of his affliction he possessed a 
truly remarkable memory. 

Father Monserrate gives a vivid picture of a series of bitter dispu- 
tations with the ulema at the Mughal court. On these occasions, from 
the Jesuit viewpoint at least, Akbar was noticeably sympathetic to the 
Christian point of view and impatient with the inability of the Muslim 
theologians to argue effectively against them.” As his inquiries pro- 
ceeded Akbar seems to have become less and less enchanted with 
orthodox Islam and its defenders. His own religious views matured as 
he interrogated holy men; listened to heated religious disputes; and 
learned the doctrines of each sect. Increasingly, Akbar moved away 
from his former devotion to Islam and toward a self-conceived eclectic 
form of worship focused on light and the sun. In so doing he became 
more tolerant of non-Muslim practices and less inclined to insist on 
rigorous enforcement of discriminatory practices aimed at non- 

5 Jahangir, Tuzuk-i Jabangiri (Delhi, 2 vols. in one, reprint edition, 1968), translated by 
‘A. Rogers and edited by H. Beveridge, 1, 33. 

© Ellen Smart, “Akbar, Illiterate Genius,” Kaladarshana (1981), pp. 99-107. 

7 Monserrate, Antonio, The Commentary of Father Monserrate, S. J., On his Journey to the 
Court of Akbar (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), translated by j. S. Hoyland; 
annotated by S. N, Banerjee, pp. 50-51. 




The young Timurid monarch presided over a predominantly non- 
Muslim society. By the mid-sixteenth century it was clear that no 
reasonable prospect existed for large-scale conversion of large numbers 
of Hindus to Islam. Already deeply immersed in his own speculative 
inquiries, Akbar faced a familiar political problem: how could he 
maintain his status as a Muslim ruler worthy of support by the faithful 
without engaging in such harsh and repressive measures against his 
Hindu subjects that they were disaffected and rebellious? More 
importantly, how to elicit active, as opposed to merely passive, 
political support from non-Muslims? Was the test for full political 
participation in the imperial system to be the Islamic profession of 
faith, or could Akbar open a broader, more flexible, notion of the 
political community of early modern India? 

As Akbar’s piety and reverence for the leading imperial jurists of the 
day declined, tension between him and the men learned in the sacred 
law of Islam, the ulema, grew into a full-blown political conflict. Partly 
as a result of this struggle, Akbar formulated a new, broad-based 
political appeal centered on a radically new dynastic ideology. At 
Fatehpur Sikri the free-thinking emperor and his clutch of radical 
advisers devised a coherent political doctrine for the empire. 

Conflict between the ulema and Akbar fell into several areas. First, 
the learned men of Islam looked to the Timurid prince to display those 
qualities of piety and devotion that would serve as a model for the rest 
of his subjects. Akbar must do all in his power to ensure that Muslims 
could live a godly life in conformity with the Sharia in a land that could 
truly be called the Dar-al Islam. The piety and zealousness of the ruler, 
whose every statement and action was scrutinized and reported daily, 
determined the behavior of his officers and set the tone of the 
relationship between Islam and the state in Mughal India. 

Linked with the above was the question of active leadership and 
patronage. Would Akbar furnish Muslim theologians and jurists with 
jobs and grants? The ulema depended upon the state to fund, organize, 
and manage the mosques, charitable trusts, and seminaries as well as 
the annual pilgrimage to the Holy Cities. The state relied upon the 
ulema to staff its law courts and to exercise social and moral leadership 
in local Islamic communities. 

The young emperor became increasingly unsympathetic toward 



worldly ulema. Most Mughal theologians and jurists were neither 
speculative intellectuals nor serious religious thinkers. Many were 
corrupt and worldly. Maulana Abdullah, the chief patronage officer 
(sadr) of the empire, possessed a large estate near Lahore. He avoided 
paying the one-fortieth obligatory charitable tax on property levied 
on Muslims each year (zakat) by the device of assigning the estates to 
his wife’s ownership for a part of each year when the tax came due. 
When Akbar discovered this deception he was unimpressed by the 
piety or sincerity of one of his leading ulema. 

As his inquiries progressed, Akbar discovered that Muslim learned 
men held a large proportion of the lands of the empire as tax-exempt 
religious grants. Many grants were obtained illegally or fraudulently. 
Large numbers of these holdings, originally dispensed for the lifetime of 
the beneficiary, had been allowed to transfer illegally to heirs. Further- 
more, a sizable number of pious grant-holders were Afghans who had 
obtained their holdings from the Sur or the Lodi rulers. This was especi- 
ally true in the Punjab where they formed a majority of grant-holders. 

By 1578 Akbar was confident enough to undertake a series of 
sweeping reforms. He ordered a wholesale inspection and verification 
of titles for all pious land grants. All those that could not be 
authenticated were immediately resumed. Thereafter he sharply con- 
stricted the area and number of grants and strictly prohibited the 
practice of unchallenged inheritance. Heirs had to apply for the 
benefice; their request might be granted or more likely not. But the 
most bitter blow was to dispense pious grants of land to learned and 
religious men of all religions — not just Islam. Yogis living in mon- 
asteries (maths) received lands. Zoroastrian divines (Parsis) obtained 
lands. Even Brahmin priests enjoyed Akbar’s largess. 

A second set of issues emerged from tension between freethinking 
and orthodoxy in medieval Islamic India. The most narrowly funda- 
mental of Islamic orthodox leaders in Akbar’s reign shared the view 
that the Sharia must be rigorously enforced. Flexibility or concessions 
were weaknesses to be avoided. All those who might be suspected of 
heresy were to be brutally suppressed. For example, many Sufis or 
mystics tended to express views in their trances or later recollections of 
these states that were close to, if not, monist. Most Sufi masters were 
therefore suspect. Heterodox Shia, whether of the Persian brahch or 
the Ismailis found in the coastal cities of Gujarat, were targets for 



Muslims in India were subject to rising chiliastic emotions as the 
Islamic millennium — the thousandth year of the Hijra beginning 
September 27, 1592 —drew closer. A tradition attributed to the Prophet 
Muhammad that he would only remain in his grave a thousand years 
and return as the Mahdi gained currency. During the fifteenth century 
a heretical sect based on this tradition emerged. The founder, Sayyid 
Muhammad Jaunpur (b. 1443) who claimed to be the Mahdi, won large 
numbers of disciples and followers during his lifetime. Mahdawis, as 
they were known, were especially strong in Gujarat and western India 
and seemed to have a special appeal to Afghans of varying stations in 
life. Sayyid Muhammad rejected the legalism and formalism of the 
contemporary ulema and of the four schools of law. Instead he 
prescribed ardent devotion, renunciation, and meditation for his 
followers. Despite recurring persecution by orthodox ulema, Sayyid 
Muhammad and his sons and other successors continued to preach and 
found new circles of followers in Gujarat, Sind, and northern India.® 

Akbar, who came in direct contact with Mahdawis after his conquest 
of Gujarat, did not persecute either leaders or followers of this heretical 
sect. Instead he permitted the Mahdawi saints to explain and defend 
their doctrines in religious discussions held at court in Fatehpur Sikri. 

Third, citing Sharia provisions for treatment of dhimmis, the ulema 
expected to exert direct influence over official policies toward the 
non-Muslim majority. Faced with the plasticity and resilience of 
Hinduism, the Mughal ulema rightly feared blurring of boundaries and 
loss of the community’s identity and strength. Therefore, doctrinal 
purity demanded harsh treatment for idolaters in all spheres of life. 

Akbar’s conflicts on this question with the Muslim religious estab- 
lishment began early. In 1563 the young emperor abolished the 
practice of collecting a heavy tax from Hindu pilgrims when they 
gathered on festival occasions. In contravention of the Sharia, the 
emperor also granted non-Muslims permission to repair aging temples 
or to build new structures. In another controversial measure orders 
were issued that former Hindus who had been forcibly converted to 
Islam should be allowed to apostasize and escape the death penalty of 
the Sharia. He prohibited enslavement of war captives and the common 
practice of involuntary conversion of non-Muslim slaves. 

* S.S, A. Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the Sixteenth and 
Seventeenth centuries (Agra, 1965), pp. 68-134. See also K. A. Nizami, Akbar and 
Religion (Delhi, 1989), pp. 42-51. 



The most sweeping policy change, which had a direct impact on 
nearly all Hindus, occurred in 1579.9 Akbar abolished the graduated 
property tax levied exclusively on non-Muslims, the jiziya. This was an 
annual tax imposed on the property of individual non-Muslims, who 
were legally classified as dhimmis or client groups tolerated and 
protected by Muslim rulers. State officers, usually ulema, collected 
sums based upon the wealth or possessions of the individual rate- 
payer. Only the indigent were exempted from payment. The regressive 
scale placed a real burden on the poorest taxpayers who paid an annual 
sum equivalent to a month’s wages for an unskilled urban laborer. 

The symbolic value of this measure was very great. The jiziya 
defined the status and public obligations of non-Muslims protected by 
the Islamic community. Payment entitled dhimmis to a peaceful 
existence under state protection and exempted them from military 
service. Terminating this tax implied that the unequal compact 
between Muslims and non-Muslims was also abolished — hence 
Akbar’s action was bitterly resented by orthodox Muslims. 

Other symbolic statements aimed at the political inclusion of 
non-Muslims. Emperor and courtiers celebrated the most important 
Hindu festivals such as Diwali, the festival of lights. The emperor 
adopted the Hindu custom of giving alms to the poor by having 
himself weighed against gold, silver, grains, and other commodities. 
Once or twice a year on auspicious dates the proceeds of these 
ceremonies were distributed to the destitute and needy. An especially 
dramatic political statement was employment of Rajputs and other 
high-caste Hindus in critical military/administrative roles (see above). 
Actions such as these touched some of the deepest sensibilities of 
members of the Muslim community. 

Strains in the relationship between Akbar and the Muslim religious 
elite came to the fore in 1578. In that year the chief imperial qazi, 
Abdul Nabi, tried a Brahmin accused of insulting the name of 
Muhammad ~ a capital offense under the Sharia. Finding him guilty, 
the imperial qazi sentenced the priest to death. Abdul Nabi carried out 
the sentence even in the face of Akbar’s express disapproval. 

Finally, in 1579, Akbar assumed sweeping powers in matters of 
Islamic doctrine. An imperial edict publicly stated the Mughal emper- 
or’s prerogative to be the supreme arbiter of religious affairs within his 

° Nizami, Akbar and Religion, pp. 107-108. Nizami concludes that mention of abolition of 
the jiziya earlier in 1364 by Abul Fazl in the Akbar-Nama is erroneous. 



realm — above the body of Muslim religious scholars and jurists. In this 
edict Akbar stated that if leading scholars disagreed on a point of 
religious law, the Timurid ruler would decide which opinion would be 
authoritative and binding upon all Muslims. The edict also sought to 
claim for Akbar authority as Khalifa in preference to the Ottoman 
Sultan who had claimed that title since seizing control of the Holy 
Cities in 1517.!9 Under heavy pressure from the throne, the chief 
judge, the imperial sadr, and several other eminent scholars signed the 
document before it was published. The only person who signed 
willingly was Shaikh Mubarak, a distinguished liberal theologian. The 
declaration was a stunning defeat for the powerful religious hierarchy 
of the empire. 

THE REVOLT OF 1579-1580 

Embittered and humiliated, the imperial qazi and sadr took sanctuary 
in a mosque, and claimed publicly that they had been coerced into 
signing. Simultaneously a truculent group of imperial officers stationed 
in the eastern provinces of Bihar and Bengal went into rebellion. Never 
all that happy with Mughal domination, these fiercely orthodox 
officers, who counted many Afghans among them, were upset by the 
recent decree. They were also provoked by tightening administrative 
controls over the army. A new order commanded that all cavalrymen 
bring to the muster mounts meeting imperial specifications for size and 
quality. Once inspected and approved the mounts were to be certified 
by branding with an imperial mark. This would mean a considerable 
expense for those commanders whose mounts were deficient. 

Mughal nobles of the Central Asian Qaqshals, a Turkish tribal 
group, led the Bengal rebels. They crossed the Ganges, joined with the 
Bihar nobles, and defeated the remaining Mughal loyalists in open 
battle. They captured and killed Shah Muzaffar, the governor of 
Bengal. The rebel leaders then arranged for a prayer leader to pro- 
nounce the name of Mirza Muhammad Hakim of Kabul as the 
legitimate Muslim ruler of the empire in the Friday congregational 
prayers. At the same time, the Islamic judge in the city of Jaunpur in 
the eastern Gangetic plain issued a ruling (fatwa) requested by the 
nobles that enjoined all good Muslims to rise in revolt against Akbar. 
According to this judgment, the emperor had become an infidel who 
was hostile to orthodox Islam and should be deposed in favor of his 

10 Nizami, Akbar and Religion, pp. 177-178. 



half-brother, the king of Kabul. The Afghan aristocracy of Bengal 
seized this opportunity to join the rebels and fight the Timurid 
conqueror. Their ongoing resistance thus fused with and gained a new 
impetus from the revolt of the imperial officers in the east. 

Akbar sent a relief army to Bihar under the command of Raja Todar 
Mal, the imperial financier. The loyalist forces retook Bihar’s major 
forts and cities. He himself brought a large well-equipped army to 
Kabul and deposed his half-brother. This effectively ended the threat 
posed by Mirza Muhammad Hakim’s claim to the throne. Harsh 
punitive measures against the Muslim jurists and theologians who had 
supported the rebels quieted the ideological challenge. Nevertheless, 
five years elapsed before Mughal field generals were able to reassert 
their control over west Bengal and put the remaining rebels and their 
Afghan allies into flight. 

At Agra the emperor put a definitive end to further religious 
opposition by appointing Shaikh Abdul Nabi and Malauna Abdulla as 
joint leaders of the Haj caravan for 1579. They were to remain in exile 
at Mecca in order to oversee the orderly distribution of Timurid largess 
every year. One additional caravan set out for the Hijaz in 1580, but 
thereafter Akbar, despite a written promise to the Sharif of Mecca, sent 
no further caravans from India. In this area, as in many others, Akbar’s 
ardent profession of orthodoxy had waned. 


Assigned to tutor Prince Murad, Akbar’s second son, the Jesuit priest, 
Father Antonio Monserrate became a part of the imperial household 
after his arrival. Present during the lengthy march to Kabul in 1581 he 
had an unusual opportunity to observe the emperor during a crisis.!" In 
his extended Latin report sent back to Rome, Monserrate described 
and evaluated Akbar’s qualities as a war leader. 

When news arrived of the revolt in the east and his brother’s invasion 
of the Punjab, Akbar left his mother in charge at Fatehpur Sikri with a 
garrison of 12,000 cavalry. He sent Raja Todar Mal at the head of a 
large army to quell the rebellion in Bihar and Bengal. In February, 1581 
the emperor “gave instructions for a great quantity of gold and silver 
and of other stores” to be loaded on camels and elephants, selected a 

5 Monserrate, Antonio, The Commentary of Father Monserrate, S.J. On his Journey to the 
Court of Akbar (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), translated by J. S. Hoyland; 
annotated by S. N. Banerjee, p. 99. 



few of his principal wives and his other daughters, and moved to his 
“immense white pavilion” in the great camp set up four miles outside 
the city.!2 The symmetry and disciplined order of the massive encamp- 
ment “made in the traditional Mongol style” thoroughly impressed 

The ancient custom is that the royal pavilion . .. should be placed in a pleasant 
open space, if such can be found. On the right are the tents of the King’s eldest 
son and his attendant nobles; these are placed next to the royal pavilion. On 
the left are those of the second son and his attendants. ... the most important 
nobles .. . have their quarters to the right and left in the second line, next to the 
King’s pavilion. Behind these come the rest of the troops in tents clustered as 
closely as possible round their own officers, To avoid crowding and confusion 
they are divided into messes, each with its own location. A separate bazaar is 
established for the King and each of the princes and the great nobles, ... Those 
of the King and the princes are very large and very well-stocked, not only with 
stores of grain and other provisions, but also with all sorts of merchandise, so 
that these bazaars seem to belong to some wealthy city instead of to a camp. 
They are always made on one plan, so that anyone who has spent a few days in 
camp knows his way about the bazaars as well as he does the streets of his own 
city ... During the advance for a campaign the artillery is grouped together in 
front of the camp, opposite the entrance to the royal quarters, in the broadest 
part of the open ground. 

At the center of this great assemblage “every night a flaming torch 
[was] erected on the top of a tall mast, to act as a guide for stragglers.”"'4 
Despite its size the Mughal encampment was designed to be trans- 
ported with the entire army on march. The emperor possessed two 
identical pavilions “which are employed for alternate marches, one 
being carried on ahead, while he occupies the other.” 

Similar descriptions of the Great Mughal’s encampment became a 
staple for later observers.!6 Estimates of the size of the imperial camp 
frequently went as high as 100,000 persons. Precisely replicated at site 
after site, this huge movable city was visible testimony to the authority 
and power of the emperor. In this fashion at least, the Turco-Mongol 
heritage continued to wield a powerful influence over Akbar and his 

The discipline and organization of the Mughal army was as 
2 Ibid. p. 75.1 Ibid., pp. 75-76. Ibid.,p. 76. *5 Ibid., p. 77. 

16 M. A. Ansari, “The Encampment of the Great Mughals” in Islamic Culture, 37 (1963), 

15-24. N. Manucci, Storia do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8), translated 
by William Irvine, 11, 62-80. 



impressive as that of the imperial camp. For this campaign Akbar had 
mustered 50,000 cavalry, 500 war elephants, and “‘an almost countless 
number of infantry.”!7 The Jesuit was quick to notice the hetero- 
geneity of the cavalry. Mughal horsemen ranged from Rajputs who 
typically dismounted their small horses to fight, to Central Asian 
Turks and Persians who “are most dangerous when they seem to be 
flying in headlong riot [retreat].”!® His artillery consisted only of 
twenty-eight field guns too small for siege work. These were always 
parked in front of the king’s pavilion at each stop. 

Marching in a crescent formation with the emperor at the head, the 
army soon “extended over the breadth of a mile and a half, covering the 
fields and filling the woods.””'? Despite its size this vast assemblage was 
kept well supplied and watered. Akbar directed the army toward the 
foot of the mountains to best afford access to streams for water. 
Monserrate “was astonished by the cheapness of grain amongst so 
great a multitude.” Royal agents combed the countryside to purchase 
provisions and to encourage traders to come to the travelling bazaars. 
Beyond the imperial boundary the emperor sent “heralds” to the petty 
chiefs and kings along the route with publicly proclaimed promises and 
threats. If they did not take up arms against the Mughals they would 
suffer no harm and would be amply rewarded when he returned from 
his certain victory. If they brought supplies to the camp these could be 
sold freely, without paying taxes. However, if these local rulers 
disobeyed him they would be severely punished. Overawed by the size 
of the army and gratified by Akbar’s generosity, all obeyed the 
emperor “out of self-interest.” 

Beyond the imperial frontier Akbar sent out 300 scouts who were 
posted at a distance of eighteen miles from the army in every direction. 
When approaching narrow defiles the emperor sent out outposts “all 
around.” Consequently, “the army, when on the march, spread itself 
as freely abroad, in the search for shade and water, and slept as securely 
at night, as if it had been in its own country.”?! Sappers and miners 
went on ahead to level roads and to build temporary boat bridges for 
river crossings. Strict rules forced men and animals to cross the bridges 
in single file to prevent disaster in mid-span. 

Monserrate illustrates Akbar’s command of his troops by describing 
his reaction to an order disobeyed. An officer was sent north along the 

” Tbid.,p.83. Ibid p.85. Ibid, p. 79. 2° Ibid, p. fo. 
21 Tbid., p, 82. 



Indus river bank to a particular spot to see if the river could be forded 
by cavalry. After travelling twenty-five miles, but not reaching the spot 
named, the officer was told by the local inhabitants that no such ford 
existed. He returned to report that a bridge must be built across the 
Indus. When the emperor learned that his scout had stopped short of 
his destination :?? 

the King ordered him to be seized, dragged to the place which he had told him 
to go to, bound prostrate on an inflated bag of ox-hide, and launched upon the 
river. When the report of this was spread through the camp, almost the whole 
army flocked to the river-side to see this strange sight. The officer was being 
carried hither and thither in the middle of the river at the mercy of the current. 
He was weeping, imploring pardon with miserable cries, and trying to move 
the King to mercy. As he was carried past the royal pavilion, the King gave 
orders for him to be rescued from the river, entered in the inventories as royal 
property, exposed for sale in all the bazaars, and finally auctioned as a slave. 

The bedraggled offender was bought by one of his friends for eighty 
pieces of gold and Akbar thereafter pardoned him. Monserrate com- 
ments Akbar “showed by this example how much store he set by 
military discipline and obedience.”?) At the same time, Akbar did not 
indulge in gratuitous cruelty in this incident. The dramatic impact of 
this incident was sufficient to make his point. 


From his early youth Akbar displayed an extraordinarily appealing 
personality. He possessed all the desired qualities of the warrior-hero. 
He was brave, athletic, generous, and likable. He combined powerful 
charismatic qualities with exceptionally acute organizational and 
strategic abilities. Akbar’s persona was imposing and attractive beyond 
the usual hagiography and image-making clinging to any ruler or 
leader. One of his greatest admirers, his eldest son, Salim, later 
Jahangir, described his father’s appearance in the following terms:?4 

In his august personal appearance he was of middle height, but inclining to be 
tall; he was of the hue of wheat; his eyes and eyebrows were black, and his 
complexion rather dark than fair; he was lion bodied [i.e. thin-flanked], with a 
broad chest, and his hands and arms long. On the left side of his nose he had a 
fleshy mole, very agreeable in appearance, of the size of half a pea. ... His 

2 Ibid.,p. 82-83. Ibid.,p. 83. Jahangir, Tuzuk,1, 35. 



august voice was very loud, and in speaking and explaining had a peculiar 
richness. In his actions and movements he was not like the people of the world, 
and the Glory of God manifested itself in him. 

Other contemporary descriptions are similar. Monserrate, who first 
met Akbar when the emperor was thirty-eight, mentioned that “His 
forehead is bright and open, his eyes so bright and flashing that they 
seem like a sea shimmering in the sunlight.”?5 Monserrate noted that 
Akbar generally wore uncut hair bound in an Indian turban “as a 
concession to Indian usages and to please his Indian subjects.”26 The 
Jesuits were also struck by Akbar’s openness: 

It is hard to exaggerate how accessible [Akbar] makes himself to all who wish 
audience of him. For he creates an opportunity almost every day for any of the 
common people or of the nobles to see him and converse with him; and he 
endeavors to show himself pleasant spoken and affable rather than severe 
toward all who come to speak with him. 

Akbar’s personal qualities enabled him to be as successful as he had 
been in politics and war. However, in the latter half of his reign, new 
advisers, themselves attracted to Akbar’s persona, began to build a 
larger ideological structure centered on their master. 

In the Fatehpur Sikri years, Abul Fazl’s breadth of vision and 
political acuity brought him to prominence as the leading Timurid 
ideologue and propagandist. In his new capacity, Akbar’s intellectual 
began to erect a scaffolding for a Timurid dynastic ideology ~ an edifice 
aimed at establishing a new legitimacy for Akbar and his successors. In 
discussions at court, in a wide-ranging official and private correspon- 
dence, and in eulogistic poetry Abul Faz! and his brother, the poet 
Faizi, began to assert Akbar’s divinely illumined right to rule lesser 
human beings.?” The most systematic expression of this doctrine is 
found in the Akbar-Nama, the voluminous annual recounting of 
events for forty-seven years of Akbar’s reign, with the bulky Ain-i 
Akbari appended as a manual. At the core of this work, permeating 
every passage, Abul Fazl embedded ultimate legitimacy for Akbar that 
transcended the accidents of conquest, coup, or succession. 

The Akbar-Nama portrays Akbar as a superior being, existing closer 
to God, to true reality. Akbar was the recipient of the hidden light 

25 Monserrate, Commentary, p.196. _ Ibid., p. 197. 

27 The discussion following is based upon J. F. Richards, “The Formulation of Imperial 
Authority Under Akbar and Jahangir” in J. F. Richards, ed., Kingship and Authority in 
South Asia (Madison Wisconsin, South Asian Studies No. 3, 1978), pp. 260-267. 



whose ineffable radiance emanating from his brow was perceptible 
only to superior men. Only an elect group could pierce the veil which 
guarded the outpouring of light from the Timurid brow. Akbar had 
esoteric knowledge and authority greater than the recognized inter- 
preters of the Sharia, the Mujtahid of the Age, than the most saintly of 
Sufi masters (Pirs) or the eagerly anticipated charismatic savior (Mahdi). 
The more than fifty paintings illustrating the manuscript now in the 
Victoria and Albert museum in London (probably the original pre- 
sented at court) contrast the divine order, harmony, and self-control of 
the emperor’s person with the turgid, struggling disorder of those 
unwieldy masses of men and beasts surrounding him. The emperor’s 
will calmed and directed the energies of his subjects and all of mankind. 
The illuminationist theme is borrowed directly from the Eastern 
school of Persian Neoplatonic philosophy found in the teachings of 
Shihabuddin Suhrawardi Maqtul (d. 1191). Suhrawardi argues that all 
life is given existence by the constant blinding illumination from the 
East of the Light of Lights or God. All men possess a divine spark, but 
only the highest of three grades of men are the true theosophists or 
masters of the age — men such as Suhrawardi himself, Plato, or in Abul 
Fazl’s interpretation, Akbar. A chain of dazzling angels was the means 
for revealing God’s illumination to man. At their head was the Angel 
Gabriel, identified with the true spirit of the Prophet Muhammad. 
Abul Fazl explicitly states the central provisions of this ideology in 
the introductory passages describing Akbar’s ancestry. Beginning with 
Adam, the ancestor of all men, the eulogist follows the passage of the 
hidden divine refulgence until it reaches and illumines the spirit and 
intelligence of Akbar in 1556. From Adam through the Biblical 
prophets, Abul Faz! traces this illumined descent through the Biblical 
prophets to Joseph who fathered Turk, ruler of Turkestan. Turk’s son 
Mughal Khan was the first of nine generations of Turco-Mongol kings. 
The last ruler in the line was defeated and dispersed by an enemy. 
The ruler and his tribe retreated in confusion to Mughalistan where 
they remained in obscurity and seclusion for two millennia. Finally, in 
a mountain valley far to the east, a most important event occurred: 
Alanquwa, a Mughal queen married to the king of Mughalistan, 
became a childless widow when her husband died prematurely. But 
Alanquwa was a woman of the utmost purity from whose brow the 
divine light shone. As she lay sleeping in her tent one night, a ray of 
light miraculously entered her body and impregnated her. 



The three brothers, triplets, born of this event were called the 
Nairun or “light-produced.” From the eldest the hidden light passed 
through nine Turco-Mongol rulers including Chingiz Khan to ulti- 
mately reach Amir Timur Gurgan, the great fourteenth-century con- 
queror. Formal legitimacy for the Timurids began when in April, 1370, 
Amir Timur crowned himself in Samarkhand. The long narrative 
descent passes through four generations to Babur, Humayun, and then 
to Akbar. Humayun was granted a majestic night vision which assured 
him that “an illustrious successor whose greatness shone from his 
forelock” would be bestowed upon him. Akbar would be the recepta- 
cle for this hidden illumination that had passed from generation to 


Drawing upon the newly articulated imperial idiom, Akbar and his 
advisers devised an esoteric means to bind leading nobles to him. In 
part this appeal emerged naturally from Akbar’s own intense spiritual 
quest that found its fullest expression at Fatehpur Sikri. In the early 
1580s the emperor began openly to worship the sun by a set of rituals 
of his own invention. Four times a day he faced the east and prostrated 
himself before a sacred fire. Simultaneously, Akbar engaged in absti- 
nence from excessive meat-eating, sexual intercourse, and alcohol 
consumption. These were all rites and practices much in evidence in the 
daily world of Hinduism in north India. Worship of the sun and moon 
with its images of light was easily compatible with the myths of origin 
and descent central to the ethos of his Rajput nobles. 

Shortly thereafter the emperor began to enlist selected members of 
the nobility as his disciples in association with the worship of sun and 
light. At noon on Sundays before the sacred fire the emperor presided 
over an initiation ceremony. Groups of twelve neophytes entered the 
body of disciples on these occasions. Each initiate swore to accept 
four degrees of devotion to Akbar: the unhesitating willingness to 
sacrifice one’s life (jan), property (mal), religion (din), and honor 
(namus) in the service of the Master, i.e. Akbar. Muslim initiates signed 
a declaration agreeing to repudiate the bonds of orthodox Islam and to 
worship Allah directly, without intermediaries. Throughout the cere- 
mony the neophyte placed his head on Akbar’s feet in an extreme 
form of prostration known as sijdah. At the close of the ceremony 



Akbar raised up each supplicant, placed a new turban upon his head, 
and gave him a symbolic representation of the sun embossed on a 
medallion. Each new disciple also received a tiny portrait of Akbar to 
wear upon his turban as well as a set of pearl earrings crafted for the 

The number of disciples grew rapidly - to perhaps a majority of the 
Mughal amirs. Discipleship was an extremely effective means to 
assimilate a heterogeneous body of nobles and bind them to the throne. 
Akbar’s own charismatic personality and the solemnities of the oaths 
taken were designed to create a new identity for Mughal amirs. The 
master-disciple relationship thus established bridged kinship, ethnic, 
and religious distinctions among the nobles. Oaths bound the disciples 
to their fellows and committed them to cast aside their former enmities 
and factional conflict. Even religious beliefs were to be directed to the 
service and worship of the emperor. 

Akbar drew upon several widely accepted institutions for his notion 
of discipleship and membership in an order. For centuries military 
slavery in Islamic India, Central Asia, and the Middle East had 
developed its own norms of behavior. The slave soldier owed obedient 
submission and profound loyalty to his military commander as long as 
the latter met minimal standards of good treatment and sympathy for 
his men. Military slaves in direct service to a royal master felt these 
obligations even more keenly. 

Another model for imperial discipleship was that of the Sufi master 
(pir or Shaikh) with his devotees. The specific terms of this relationship 
varied from order to order. In general, however, devotees placed the 
responsibility for their physical and spiritual well-being completely in 
the hands of their chosen Sufi Shaikh. The latter was to lead them along 
the upward stages of the mystical path (tariga) to true knowledge of 
God. As a symbol of complete devotion to their master Sufi disciples 
put their heads on his feet in exactly the same prostration (sijdah) 
adopted by Akbar. This latter form of submission to a fellow human 
being was seen as blasphemous by pious Muslims. Akbar, without 
question, was deeply influenced by his earlier devotion to the 
now-dead Shaikh Salim, the famed Chishti saint. The emperor had cast 
himself in the role of an ardent disciple whenever he made the long 
pilgrimage to the rocky hillock at Fatehpur Sikri where Salim lived. 

Finally, ready at hand was the Indo-Persian model of courtly 
behavior and submission to the monarch by the nobility. Court ritual 



with its rigid protocol was designed to evoke feelings of awe, 
unworthiness, and to emphasize the distance between ruler and even 
the grandest of his subjects. The discipline of movement, speech, and 
etiquette demanded in public audiences reinforced obedience to the 
royal will. Rigid assignment of place — whether closer or further from 
the throne — graphically demonstrated royal preferment. Command 
appearances before the throne demanded presentation of a suitable gift. 
These ranged from 100 gold coins to more valuable jeweled objects or 
even elephants. Court ritual culminated in the symbolic incorporation 
of the servant in the body of his royal master. Thus the Mughals, 
following long precedent, used the device of elaborately ornamented 
robes of honor, brocaded in gold and silver, as a staple reward for 
valuable service. The ruler first placed the robes on his own body and 
then personally draped them on the recipient. The person so favored 
responded with a ritual gift — usually of gold or silver coin. By these 
devices the notion of one body in service to the state — ruler and nobles 
— was promulgated. 


In 1585 Akbar transferred his capital to Lahore in the Punjab at the 
death of his half-brother, Mirza Muhammad Hakim, at Kabul. The 
Uzbek ruler, Abdullah Khan, who had annexed Badakhshan in 1584, 
was a possible threat to Kabul. The Uzbeks were subsidizing the 
Afghan tribes in their continuing defiance of the Mughal regime at 
Kabul. Akbar immediately sent an army under Raja Man Singh to 
occupy Kabul and then brought the city and its surrounding districts 
under direct imperial administration. This task completed, Akbar 
stayed on in Lahore for thirteen years in a successful effort to clamp 
imperial Mughal power over the entire northwest. 

At Lahore the emperor kept a border watch on Abdullah Khan 
Uzbek. In 1586 Akbar and the Uzbek Khan negotiated a pact in which 
Akbar agreed to remain neutral during the Uzbek invasion of Safavid- 
held Khurasan. In return, Abdullah Khan agreed to refrain from 
supporting, subsidizing, or offering refuge to the Afghan tribes. Thus 
freed, Akbar began a series of pacification campaigns directed against 
the Yusufzais and other tribal rebels. He was also free to round out the 
empire by annexing Kashmir and Sind, the two remaining kingdoms 
not fully incorporated into the empire. 



An important consideration in this period was the busy overland 
caravan trade. The overland route from Kabul through the Khyber 
Pass and Peshawar fed the markets of Lahore with horses from Central 
Asia, fruits, silks and porcelain (from China), precious metals, and 
many other valuable commodities. Indian spices, textiles, and other 
goods travelled outward in a lucrative commerce that sent Indian 
merchants into the markets of Central Asia and Iran. The Punjab was a 
major industrial center in which thousands of weavers produced 
specialized cotton cloth for various markets in Central Asia, the 
Middle East, and beyond. The scale of this traffic may be judged by the 
effect of a single accidental fire in Peshawar fort in 1586. The disaster 
destroyed one thousand camel loads of merchandise belonging to the 
merchants who had sheltered there when the route was temporarily 

The caravan trade was vulnerable to banditry or even complete 
blockage by the Afghan tribes. Keeping trade flowing was a perennial 
concern for rulers on both sides of the passes. In recent years the 
powerful Yusufzai tribal group had seized control of Swat and Bajaur 
and threatened to move further south. The Yusufzai had gained control 
of the Khyber routes and frequently blocked the roads and plundered 

In late 1585 Akbar marched from Lahore to Attock fort (built by 

. him in 1581). From Attock he sent an army under Zain Khan Koka to 
subdue the Yusufzai tribal confederation in the valleys of Swat and 
Bajaur. The emperor pitted Mughal centralized state power against the 
Yusufzai, the most aggressive and powerful tribal confederation in 
northern Afghanistan. The Mughals estimated that the confederation 
numbered 100,000 households in which every male member was armed 
and battle-ready. Their tribal chiefs had not offered formal submission 
to the Mughals since Babur received a Yusufzai daughter into his 
harem in 1519. 

The Mughal army forced the submission of many Yusufzai chiefs in 
Swat and Bajaur. But a relief force on its way to Swat through the 
difficult mountain terrain met disaster. Split command between a royal 
favorite, Raja Bir Bar, the court wit, and Zain Khan Koka, an ordinary 
field general, weakened the usually careful deployment of Akbar’s 
armies. A reckless attack on the Yusufzais exposed the royal army to 
ambush in the mountain passes. About 8,000 imperial soldiers, includ- 
28 Ahmad, Tabagak-i Akbar: (Eng. trans.), 11, 602. 



ing Raja Bir Bar, were killed in the greatest disaster to Mughal arms in 
Akbar’s reign. 

Akbar immediately fielded two new armies to reinvade the Yusufzai 
lands. Over the next six years, the Mughals contained the Yusufzai in 
their mountain valleys. The imperialists built and occupied a dozen 
forts to secure the country and protect the caravan trade. Tribal levies 
could not withstand Mughal cavalry in the open field; they could not 
protect their crops or their villages from destruction; nor could the 
Afghans hold their forts against determined imperial assaults. Akbar’s 
demonstrated ability to clamp firm military control over the turbulent 
Afghan tribes is an impressive testimonial to the reach of his empire. 

In 1585 Akbar dispatched an army north to invade Kashmir when 
Ali Shah, the current ruler of the Chak dynasty, refused to send his son 
to the Mughal court. The Kashmiri ruler surrendered immediately, but 
his son, Yaqub, crowned himself and led a dogged resistance to the 
imperial armies. Finally, in June, 1589, Akbar himself travelled from 
Lahore to Srinagar to receive the surrender of Yaqub and his rebel 
forces. The emperor’s visit began the Timurid interest in the beauties 
of Kashmir and the construction of the numerous royal gardens laid 
out in that mountain kingdom. 

In 1586 Akbar turned his attention to the lower Indus valley. The 
imperial governor of Multan had failed to secure the capitulation of 
Jani Bek, the ruler of Thatta (Sind). Akbar responded by sending 
another large Mughal field army to besiege Sehwan, the river capital on 
the Indus, Jani Bek mustered a large army and numerous armed river 
boats to resist. The outnumbered Mughal general defeated the Sind 
forces in a hard-fought battle on the river. After suffering further 
defeats, the Sind ruler surrendered and, in 1593, paid homage to Akbar 
at court in Lahore in person. Jani Bek became a Mughal mansabdar, 
accepted discipleship under Akbar and was appointed to the gover- 
norship of Multan. His former kingdom became the Mughal province 
of Thatta, divided into three districts under an imperial governor. 

The conquest of Sind strengthened Akbar’s resolve to retake Qanda- 
har fort and town which had long been in Safavid hands. In 1595 the 
Persian commandant of Qandahar, having fallen into disgrace with 
Shah Abbas, defected to the Mughals and surrendered the fortress to a 
Mughal force. But Shah Abbas chose not to go to war over this 

When the death of Abdullah Khan Uzbek in 1598 eased the threat of 



invasion from that quarter, Akbar moved his capital once again to Agra 
—not to Fatehpur Sikri. From Agra he could devote his energies to that 
most intractable and difficult frontier: the Deccan. 

Why did the emperor not return to the delights of Fatehpur Sikri 
rather than Agra? One reason lay in the increasingly difficult problem 
posed by his son Salim’s rebelliousness. Residence in Agra’s more 
defensible citadel might well have been preferable to the insecurity of 
Fatehpur Sikri. Relative to the annual income of the empire, the cost of 
building Fatehpur Sikri, estimated recently at 3.5 million silver rupees, 
was not consequential. Akbar’s desert city was in fact a disposable 
capital in view of his immense wealth.” 

These are partial answers, but for a fuller explanation we must look 
to ideology. Abruptly in 1585 the pilgrimages to Ajmer and veneration 
of the Chishti saints ended. The emperor did not engage in any public 
worship at other Sufi tombs. The royal weighing ceremonies were 
detached from pilgrimage. The silence of the chronicles suggests that 
Akbar ceased regular worship in the congregational mosque at either 
Lahore or Agra. He was no longer anxious to display his Islamic piety 
in public. At Fatehpur Sikri royal heirs, royal victory, and Timurid 
authority flowed from devotion to Chishti saints properly enclosed 
within the framework of orthodox Islamic institutions. After 1585, 
Agra, rather than Fatehpur Sikri was the proper urban setting for the 
new imperial court.3° 


The remaining external frontier lay in the Deccan, the domain of 
centuries of epic Muslim wars against the infidel. The Deccan land- 
scape, although less hospitable to large-scale military operations than 
the Indo-Gangetic plain, was certainly less daunting than the moun- 
tains of the northwest or the riverine jungles of Assam. Moreover, the 
existence of large Muslim-ruled kingdoms encouraged the thought of 
conquest. What the Sultans of Delhi had accomplished surely their 
heirs, the Timurids, could surpass. Here were five Muslim Sultanates 
to be ground down and either conquered and annexed or brought 
under Mughal hegemony: Khandesh, under the Farruqi dynasty; 
Abmadnagar, under the Nizam Shahs; Berar under the Imad Shah 

29 Habib, “Economic and Social Setting,” p. 74, in Brand and Lowry, eds., Fatehpur Sikri. 
30 Richards, “The Imperial Capital”, p. 72. 



dynasty; Bijapur, under the Adil Shah rulers, and Golconda, under the 
Qutb Shahs. (See map 1). Apart from the Sultan of Khandesh, who 
intermittently paid tribute, none had submitted to the Mughals. 

The social landscape, however, was less propitious to Mughal 
aggression than it might seem. Over the two centuries since the 
break-up of the Delhi Sultanate, a distinctive Deccan Muslim political 
culture had evolved in this region. The Muslim elites in each state were 
predominantly either Shia Persian nobles or Sunni Afghans along with 
less powerful Indian Muslim converts. Neither of these groups was 
especially fond of the Timurids — the Afghans least of all. 

A further complication lay in the composition of the regional landed 
aristocracies. Below Khandesh, Rajput domination over the land came 
to ahalt. Instead, in the western Deccan, Marathi-speaking members of 
the Maratha caste were the heirs of the Yadavas and earlier Hindu 
kingdoms defeated by the Muslims. In the east, Telugu warriors 
controlled rural society. The latter could look back to centuries of 
successful resistance to the Muslims by their forbears in Vijayanagar 
and its successor states. Gradually, these aristocrats had assimilated to 
the imposed political order of the Deccan Sultanates. In each case, 
whether Maratha or Telugu, it is reasonably certain that the thinly 
populated, largely urban, Muslim elites depended heavily upon an 
alliance with these rural aristocracies to rule effectively. 

The Deccan Sultans imposed few restrictions on the expression of 
local religious and cultural life. Rarely, if ever, had they demanded 
conversion to Islam as a condition of high rank in the state. Indeed, 
Ibrahim Qutb Shah (15 50-1580) of Golconda and Ibrahim Adil Shah 
11 (1580-1626) of Bijapur, both engaged in broad-ranging attempts to 
reduce barriers between Hinduism and Islam within their states in 
much the same fashion as Akbar in the Mughal dominions. Akbar’s 
new policies and ideological stance might well appeal to the landed 
aristocracies of both halves of the Deccan, but this linkage was 
something that would have to be created and sustained by careful 
statesmanship and administration. The Mughals did not easily or 
readily obtain the allegiance of either Maratha or Telugu chiefs. 

In 1591 Akbar sent embassies to each of the Deccan Sultans to 
demand submission to Mughal overlordship. On this occasion the 
ruler of Khandesh sent his daughter to be married to Prince Salim and 
the Sultans of Bijapur and Golconda sent gifts, but rejected the 
emperor’s demand for formal submission. Burhan Nizam Shah un, 



the ruler of Ahmadnagar, treated the Mughal envoys with studied 

In 1595, while still at Lahore, Akbar ordered an invasion of 
Ahmadnagar Sultanate - then undergoing a succession crisis after the 
death of Burhan Nizam Shah 1. A large imperial force jointly com- 
manded by Prince Murad (Akbar’s second son) and the Khan Khanan, 
son of Bairam Khan, besieged Ahmadnagar, the royal capital. The 
Mughals coerced reluctant participation in the imperial army by Raja 
Ali Khan the ruler of Khandesh. The defending ruler was Chand 
Sultan, sister of the deceased Sultan and guardian of the infant heir to 
the throne. The princess held the fortress until a relief army sent by the 
Sultans of Bijapur and Golconda threatened the imperial armies. A 
negotiated truce resulted in Mughal withdrawal from Ahmadnagar in 
return for cession of the province of Berar (the former kingdom 
annexed earlier by Ahmadnagar) to the Mughal emperor. In 1586 Berar 
became the first of the Deccan provinces to be brought under direct 
imperial administration. 

Continuing tension and intermittent battles between the Mughals 
and the defiant Deccan Sultanates marked the next several years. Even 
the Sultan of Khandesh withdrew to his massive hill fortress at 
Burhanpur and refused to assist the Mughals. In 1599, Prince Murad, in 
command of the Mughal Deccan armies, died prematurely from 
alcoholism. Akbar turned over command in the Deccan to his third 
son, Daniyal. But in September, 1599, the emperor left Agra at the head 
of an 80,000 man army for the Deccan to direct operations in person. 

Under the emperor’s energetic command, Mughal forces stormed 
the fortress of Ahmadnagar in August, 1600. The Nizam Shahi princess 
Chand Sultan died at the hands of a dissident mob before the fort fell. 
Akbar himself led a Mughal army marching into Khandesh. Bahadur, 
the Sultan of Khandesh, had repudiated his allegiance to the Mughals 
and had taken refuge in the massive hill fortress of Asirgarh near 
Burhanpur, capital city of the kingdom. In the last major military 
command of his life, Akbar directed the siege from his camp at 
Burhanpur. Relentless Mughal pressure drove Bahadur into face-to- 
face negotiations with Akbar from which he was not allowed to return 
to the fortress. Finally, the fort defenders, faced with Mughal capture 
of two of Asirgarh’s outlying citadels, surrendered in early January, 

Khandesh and a large portion of Ahmadnagar joined Berar as new 



imperial provinces in the Deccan. Akbar assigned the three provinces 
to Prince Daniyal to administer as the viceroy of the Deccan. On April 
11, 1601, the emperor left Burhanpur on the return journey to Agra. 


When Akbar departed for the Deccan, he left his eldest son in charge of 
the capital. In July, 1600, Salim tried unsuccessfully to seize control of 
Agra fort,>! and appointed his own officers in the province. There he 
remained in defiance of his father’s orders sent from the Deccan. When 
Akbar arrived at Agra, Salim marched on the capital with a force of 
30,000 horsemen. Akbar sent a stiff letter to him ordering the prince to 
halt and return to the east where he offered Salim the governorship of 
Bengal and Orissa. Salim brushed aside this offer, but did return to 
Allahabad. In May, 1602, he had his name read in the Friday prayers 
and had coins struck as emperor in his own name. 

Akbar recalled his trusted adviser, Abul Fazl, from the Deccan in 
order to send him to deal with Salim. Fearing the stern presence of 
Abul Fazl, Salim commissioned Bir Singh, the Bundela raja of Orchha, 
to intercept Abul Fazl on his return journey. The Bundela raja 
overpowered the minister’s small escort, killed Abul Fazl, and brought 
his severed head to Allahabad. 

The grief-stricken emperor finally was reconciled to his son by his 
wife Salima Sultan Begam who, along with several of the other 
noblewomen, acted as peacemaker between the two. Salim appeared at 
court, with proper deference, was embraced by Akbar, and designated 
heir-apparent. Thereafter, he returned to Allahabad against his father’s 
wishes and indulged in a period of excessive intake of opium and wine 
as well as in public displays of cruelty. After the death from alcoholism 
of Daniyal, Akbar’s third son, in 1604, Salim returned to court. In part 
he was worried by the maneuvering of the partisans of his own son 
Prince Khusrau. The powerful Raja Man Singh, among others, urged 
Akbar to set aside Salim’s claims in favor of his grandson. After Salim 
submitted to the emperor, he was confined briefly in the palace in the 
final episode of this rebellion. 

Just under a year later, Akbar fell ill with dysentery, weakened and 
lay dying. Salim escaped the plots of his enemies in the nobility and 

51 Fort garrisons were under the command of independent officers appointed directly by the 
emperor and would be unlikely to submit to even a royal prince without express orders. 



visited his father who placed the imperial turban on the prince’s head 
and gave him Humayun’s sword as heir. During the night of October 
25, 1605, Akbar died and was taken to be buried in the mausoleum 
which he had built for himself at Sikandra, near Agra. 


When the emperor died in 1645, his legacy was a multi-regional 
empire, which, in the course of his half-century of rule, had become the 
dominant power on the Indian subcontinent. Beginning in his ado- 
lescent years, Akbar directed a continuing series of remarkable military 
campaigns in which Mughal armies won victory after victory on the 
field of battle. No single kingdom or coalition of regional kingdoms 
could stand against the Mughal armies. Each victory added money, 
men, and weapons to the imperial armies. Each campaign, battle, and 
siege was a public event, widely reported and discussed throughout the 
subcontinent. Year after year, as the Timurid armies proved invincible 
and as revolts and resistance failed, Akbar’s reputation soared. He and 
his immediate confidants became figures of enormous popular interest. 
Folk tales about him based on well-known incidents in his life began to 
circulate. The Mughal emperor acquired an aura of near-divinity and 
mystery which further reinforced popular perceptions of Mughal 

After conquest followed annexation. Once-proud rulers were 
deposed and killed or accepted personal service with the Mughal 
emperor. Once-independent kingdoms became provinces of the 
expanding empire. Akbar forcibly unified the collection of regional 
states in North India into a single, centralized political system. Within 
this system the Mughal emperor was the single source of political 
legitimacy and authority. No sultan, raja, or other ruler could devolve 
legitimate authority without reference to the emperor. All became 
“landholders” (zamindars) in the emperor’s eyes, who relied upon a 
patent of office (sanad) to secure their hereditary seats. Military power 
permitted him to impose a stringent degree of administrative control 
over each new territory as it came into the empire - and to retain this 
control despite resistance. The Mughals imposed a new level of public 
order on the tumultuous society of India. 

Akbar deployed overwhelming numbers of heavy cavalry, armored 
men and horses with bow, lance, and sword, war elephants, 



musketeers, and artillery. In his many battles and campaigns the 
Mughal ruler made effective use of the new gunpowder weaponry — 
more so than his opponents. But gunpowder had become widely 
available by the mid-sixteenth century. Akbar’s string of victories 
depended upon organizational prowess, not technology. In tracing the 
sequence of these campaigns, it is important to realize that the Mughal 
emperor met determined enemies who commanded substantial, well- 
equipped, well-motivated armies. Most battles were desperate and 
bloody; the sieges difficult and lengthy. On numerous occasions, 
Akbar could have been wounded or killed when leading his troopers in 
battle. Luck and his military skills saved him. The builder of the 
Mughal empire was undoubtedly a superb military commander in a 
generally bellicose society. 




Buoyed by conquest and plunder, Akbar and his advisers built a 
centralizing administration capable of steady expansion as new 
provinces were added to the empire. The Mughal emperor presided 
over a system that moved money, commodities, men, and information 
freely throughout the empire. The emperor and his advisers were 
vigorous managers who creatively adapted and'responded to changing 
circumstances. Building on this foundation, Akbar’s successors 
oversaw steady growth in imperial effectiveness, power, and resources 
throughout the seventeenth century. 

Akbar drew upon the rich Persian-derived administrative tradition 
of the Indo-Muslim states and the hard-edged, extraction-oriented, 
organizational tradition of the Turkic-Mongol conquest empires from 
the steppe. Within this context the emperor shaped a vertebrate 
structure characterized by centralized, hierarchical, bureaucratic 
offices. Filling these offices were technically qualified officials, func- 
tioning within standardized rules and procedures, who generated 
copious written orders and records. At the apex of this system the 
emperor acted as a vigorous and informed chief executive. 

The first critical step occurred when Akbar allowed the position of 
chief minister or vakil to lapse and gathered all executive power in his 
hands. Thereafter he appointed four nearly co-equal central ministers. 
These officers occasionally came together as an advisory body, but 
they were in fact independent of each other within their own spheres. 
Their responsibilities were divided according to the most basic 
administrative functions as perceived by the emperor: finance and 
revenue; army and intelligence; the judiciary and religious patronage; 
and the royal household, with its central workshops, and buildings, 
and roads, and canals throughout the empire. Any omitted functions 
were left to the emperor and specially appointed officers. Thus, 
diplomacy and external affairs, often placed under a minister in charge 
of the chancery or official correspondence in earlier Muslim states, 
stayed under the emperor’s personal control. These ministers and their 
higher-ranking assistants and specialized officers were drawn from the 



body of imperial servants or mansabdars. Each branch maintained a 
large support staff of clerks, accountants, auditors, messengers, and 
other functionaries. 

The division of functions established at the center was duplicated in 
the provinces. At each provincial capital a governor, responsible 
directly to the emperor, shared power with a fiscal officer or diwan 
reporting to the wazir; military paymaster and intelligence officer or 
bakhshi, reporting to the central inspector general of the army; and a 
sadr reporting to the minister for religious and charitable patronage. 
The governor was responsible for the overall peace, security, and 
tranquillity of his province. In this capacity he supervised the military 
intendants or faujdars and the commanders of military check points 
(thanas) who were deployed with contingents of heavy cavalry and 
musketeers throughout each province. The provincial diwan managed 
imperial revenues, expenditures, and the provincial treasuries. The 
separation of powers between the governor and diwan was an 
especially significant operating principle for imperial administration. 


Cutting across this bureaucratic structure was another, more diffuse 
institution. The emperor commanded the services of a body of 
warrior-aristocrats comprised of the mature royal princes and several 
hundred amirs (nobles) and higher ranking mansabdars. These officers 
served as provincial governors or filled other higher administrative 
positions throughout the empire. Alternatively they were employed as 
military commanders for armies in the field or as part of the central 
military. In their military capacity amirs or mansabdars also served as 
commanders of strategic fortresses reporting directly to the emperor. 
Paid lavishly, these grandees headed households and troop con- 
tingents ranging in size from several hundred to several thousand 
persons. When transferred from one posting to another, their estab- 
lishments moved with them. The imperial system depended heavily 
upon the martial qualities, administrative skills and political and 
entrepreneurial strengths of this body. From this perspective one 
might well term the empire a “patrimonial—bureaucratic” system.! 
Members of this cadre and their privately employed officers and 

1 Stephen P. Blake, “The Patrimonial-Bureaucratic Empire of the Mughals”, Journal of 
‘Asian Studies, 39 (November, 1979), 77-94. 



servants carried out other major administrative tasks. Acting as mili- 
tary commanders the nobles recruited, trained, and equipped the bulk 
of the heavy cavalry which formed the main striking arm of the 
Timurid armies. They employed bodies of skilled musketeers both 
mounted and on foot. At its core each military contingent relied on a 
body of closely related kinsmen and more distantly related lineage 
mates. Additional manpower was readily recruited by turning to the 
vast military labor market in northern India and the Deccan. Well 
trained, professional cavalrymen, infantry, and gunners were available 
for employers prepared to offer cash. 

As recipients of jagirs or salary assignments on the land revenue the 
nobles filled a critical role in tax collection from the countryside. Amirs 
and upper mansabdars employed their own staffs to collect the greater 
part of the massive land tax. Some of this went to pay their own 
generous salaries, but the greater share went to pay cash salaries to their 
troopers. The organization of that considerable effort was left up to the 
nobles themselves. The role of the central administration was confined 
to inspection, monitoring, and auditing. 

As we have seen, Akbar took pains to recruit his nobility from 
diverse sources, The Mughal nobility became and remained a hetero- 
geneous body of free men, not slaves, who rose as their talents and the 
emperor’s favor permitted. Rajputs, Afghans, Indian Muslims, Arabs, 
Persians, Uzbeks, Chaghatais were some of the ethnic groups repre- 
sented. Some nobles were natives of India; many were not. Most were 
Sunni Muslims; many were either Shi'ite or Hindu in religion. This 
flow of new recruits helped to prevent the growth of dissident cliques 
and factions within the nobility. No single ethnic or sectarian group 
was large enough to challenge the emperor. Instead much of the 
dynamism of the empire can be traced to newly recruited, capable, 
energetic men who sought the power, wealth, and high reputation 
possible in service to the Timurid dynasty in India. The service 
nobility’s entrepreneurial drive and spirit was of inestimable value to 
Akbar and his successors. 

Rewards and incentives rather than force and coercion were Akbar’s 
preferred approach. Mansabdars were free men who enlisted volunta- 
rily in the emperor’s service. Most servants, craftsmen, soldiers, 
professionals, and lesser imperial officers were also free workers who 
were well-paid for their services. Numerous domestic and personal 
slaves were employed, but they were outnumbered by free employees. 



Apart from harem guards no military slaves served the emperor. The 
system offered generous money rewards as well as lavish honors and 
preferments to those who performed well at all levels. 

Possessing great wealth and power, these grandees were highly 
visible public figures. Their personalities, habits, and movements were 
the topic of endless rumor and speculation. The greatest amirs were 
objects of empire-wide attention. News of royal favor or disfavor, of 
illnesses, heirs, marriages, postings, and other information formed the 
stuff of countless reports that flashed across the empire. Lesser nobles 
were the objects of local and regional scrutiny. At the upper reaches of 
imperial society merchants and rival nobles employed spies and agents 
to obtain reliable information from the entourages of the great men. At 
the lower levels, in the bazaars and coffee houses of urban India, stories 
and gossip, often extremely accurate, chronicled the lives of these 
celebrities. Sexual habits and scandalous behavior were obviously 
staple fare. Those nobles known to be avaricious, capricious, and cruel 
were widely condemned for these traits; those known to be muni- 
ficent, responsible, and humane were praised. 

Wherever they were posted, whether at court or in the provinces, the 
patrimonial households of the nobles were a focal point for aristocratic 
life and culture. To the extent his resources permitted, each nobleman 
emulated the style, etiquette, and opulence of the emperor. Each held 
near-daily audiences or durbars, essentially public events, seated on his 
elevated cushion in the royal style, in which all manner of business was 
conducted. Officers and staff were publicly commended or rebuked 
for their performance. Supplicants and visitors, who surmounted the 
barriers imposed by the nobleman’s officers, appeared in front of the 
great man to seek his favors or good will. As great men do who dispose 
of vast resources, nobles turned their attention to patronage. Artists 
and craftsmen found lucrative employment and presented their pro- 
ducts to their patron in his audience hall. Noble households were the 
setting for lavish banquets and other gatherings where the male guests 
were offered a wide variety of music, dance, poetry, or other enter- 
tainments. For some nobles such occasions were the venue for poetry 
recitations; for some wine and opium were the main attractions. 

Noble households were divided into the external, more public areas 
dominated by men and the interior, secluded space reserved for 
women. Behind the stone screens of the harem quarters was a domestic 
world with its celebration of births, marriages, and deaths, religious 



festivals, and social occasions. The wives, concubines, and female 
relatives of the master were ranked by seniority, blood ties, and favor 
in a strictly prescribed hierarchy. Hundreds of female maidservants, 
often slaves, were employed. The harem was an ordered community 
with its own decorum and gentility. Ideally, the harem provided a 
respite, a retreat for the nobleman and his closest male relatives — a 
retreat of grace, beauty, and order designed to refresh the males of the 

The Mughal household was also a world of domestic slavery. 
Numerous male and female slaves were maintained. Their status and 
tasks varied from the most mundane to those requiring skill, tact, and 
intelligence. Younger slaves of both sexes were available for discreet 
sexual services to their masters or mistresses. Slave-eunuchs, usually 
obtained as castrated young boys from the slave markets of Bengal, 
moved between the external and internal life of the household. They 
acted as guards, servants, and often as business agents for high-born 
women immured in the harem. Mughal noblemen also employed 
slave-eunuchs as personal confidants and assistants. These favored 
slave-eunuchs held the utmost confidence of their masters. Not 
infrequently, despite official and public disapproval, such relationships 
involved a sexual relationship between master and slave. 

In Agra, Delhi, Lahore, Burhanpur, and other major cities, the 
morphology of urban life was determined by the settlement patterns of 
the Mughal nobility. The mansions of the higher nobles were the foci 
for urban quarters as lesser staff and troops built houses and straw huts 
nearby and vendors of goods and services clustered around a dependa- 
ble market. Architects and builders found permanent employment in 
noble entourages. Mughal officers, and, frequently, their women-folk 
spent large sums of money for the construction of mosques, sarais, and 
other buildings. Stone bridges and wells were also favorite projects. In 
nearly every urban center such constructions served as testimonial to 
the wealth and charitable impulses of these grandees. 

The origins of dozens of new towns and villages throughout north 
India can be traced to investment by Mughal nobles in the facilities for 
local markets. Seen as an act of public spirit and religious merit, these 
emporia also served the needs of each nobleman’s entourage and 
increased his earnings from his jagir lands. In a less benign mode, less 
scrupulous princes or nobles ignored imperial regulations and inter- 
vened forcefully in local markets under their jurisdiction. Using the 



weight of state power they were able to buy up goods at distress prices 
and sell them at exorbitant monopoly rates. More entrepreneurial 
nobles invested their money in commercial ventures: financing traders 
in the long-distance trades overland or by sea. Increasingly nobles 
began to lease or buy mercantile vessels and try their hand at the 
highest level of overseas trade. 


All nobles held mansabs; but all mansabdars were not nobles. Gen- 
erally officers bearing personal decimal ranks of 500 zat or above 
ranked as nobles during Akbar’s reign. By the seventeenth century 
nobles were officers with personal ranks of 1,000 zat and higher. 
Nobles and lesser-ranked officers or mansabdars filled a variety of 
posts, but all were required on occasion to act in a military capacity. All 
maintained a contingent of mounted armored troopers specified by 
their suwar rank. In 1595, a total of 1,823 men held mansabs and 
commanded a minimum of 141,053 followers serving as heavy cavalry 
with their own horses and equipment.? Nobles were also required to 
support a specified number of war horses, war elephants, and transport 
animals and carts on a formula based upon their personal rank.> This 
obligation was separate from that specified for their troopers. Toward 
the end of the reign mansabdars and their followers consumed 82 
percent of the total annual budget (81 millions from a total budget of 99 
million rupees) of the empire for their pay and allowances. 

In their military role mansabdars fell under the jurisdiction of the 
army minister or mir bakhshi. Akbar structured the duties of the office 
so that the army minister was not chief commander of the Mughal 
armies. Instead he himself directed overall strategy and assigned field 
commanders for specific campaigns. The chief bakhshi was responsible 
for recruitment, recommendations for proper rank and assignment of 
correct pay and allowances (in cash or assignments on the revenues) for 
all mansabdars appointed. 

The imperial bakhshi stood in open court at the right hand of the 
emperor. He presented all candidates for appointment, promotion or 

2 Shireen Moosvi, The Economy of the Mughal Empire c. 1595 (Delhi, 1987), pp. 214-219. 
Her estimate of the minimum cavalry is given in Appendix 12A. The maximum is 188,070. 
> K.K. Trivedi, “The Share of Mansabdars in State Revenue Resources: A Study of the 
Maintenance of Animals”, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 24 (1987), 




commendation in the higher ranks of the mansabdars. The imperial 
bakhshi’s office prepared and recorded written orders of appointment 
and transfer bearing his ink-stamp imprint which were signed by the 
emperor. The bakhshi was responsible for inspections of the mansab- 
dars and their troopers, mounts and equipment. His certification was 
necessary to release cash payments or jagir assignments. Failure to pass 
inspection meant loss of pay and allowances for any mansabdar. 

Each amir headed a cluster of kinsmen, salaried troops, and even 
slaves. Often, the private officers of higher-ranking mansabdars, 
although not members of the imperial cadre, held responsible, well- 
paid, military and administrative positions. Some of the men attached 
to a nobleman, especially his close relatives, bore ranks and titles as 
mansabdars obtained directly from the emperor. They, in turn, com- 
manded their own, smaller, clusters of officers and troops. Generally, 
his entire entourage accompanied the nobleman from post to post. 
Stripped of dependents and servants they formed one unit of any army 
in the field. 

All cavalry and musketeers commanded by mansabdars were at the 
disposal of the emperor. All had to meet strict imperial standards. Each 
officer was required to ensure that his troopers were properly equip- 
ped with weapons and chain-link armor. Mounts were to be larger 
horses of standard Central Asian or Persian breeds ~ not the scrub 
mounts of most of the subcontinent. A specified number of the 
commander’s troopers had to bring an additional horse to the muster 
to serve as a remount. Horses found acceptable were branded on the 
flank by the imperial mark (dagh). 

Each mansabdar was free to recruit men of his own ethnicity and 
religion. Later regulations tended to codify this by stipulating that 
commanders might not employ more than a fixed proportion of men 
outside their own group (e.g. Rajputs were to primarily employ 
Rajputs; Indian Muslims to employ their fellows). Apart from 
kinsmen, each commander found experienced and proficient troops, 
whether mounted or foot, available for hire in any sizable town or city. 
It was up to the mansabdar to negotiate pay and conditions with these 
men. Salary payments for horsemen were usually stated and paid in 
cash, The imperial administration calculated the average rate of pay for 
each horseman at twenty silver rupees per month.‘ But the actual salary 

+ Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, p. 216. 



received by the horseman varied according to the bargain struck with 
his employer. 

The dual zat and suwar numerical ranking system formally 
expressed the uniformity, discipline, and cohesiveness of the corps of 
mansabdars. In the historical chronicles of the time nobles and 
higher-ranking mansabdars are invariably identified by their titles and 
their two-part numerical rank. Ranked nobles became reliable instru- 
ments of the imperial will. The emperor personally reviewed all 
changes in rank, titles, and official postings for all save the lowest 
ranked officers. Changes in rank could come at any time — without 
reference to procedure or rules. The sole criterion remained the 
emperor's favor. Whenever possible, high-ranking officers appeared in 
person to express submission to the emperor in the public audience hall 
of palace or camp. Petty mansabdars received written orders in the 
name of the emperor, relayed through the office of the mir bakhshi. 
Only the emperor could confer and change rank; and no other person 
held the loyalty of this corporate body. 

Written rules and procedures applied to all parts of the empire and to 
all servants — unless exempted for some special reason. Especially 
effective was the discipline of daily life at the imperial court, whether at 
the capital or in the mobile encampment. As that careful observer 
Antonio Monserrate noticed:5 

(1Jn order to prevent the great nobles becoming insolent through the unchall- 
enged enjoyment of power, the King summons {them] to court .., and gives 
them many imperious commands, as though they were his slaves - commands, 
moreover, obedience to which ill suits their exalted rank and dignity. 

Rigid rituals of submission were acted out daily as the body of imperial 
officers stood in rows by rank-order in the public audience hall before 
the seated emperor. Forms of address, titles, and carefully circums- 
cribed speech at court ~ even in less formal circumstances — constantly 
conditioned noble behavior. Nobles resident at court shared the 
responsibility for night and day guard of the emperor and his house- 
hold. Each week a noble mounted guard in person with troops from his 
own contingent at the palace or in the encampment. Whether at court 
or on distant service, all mansabdars worried about their rank, their 
jagirs, and their favor with the emperor. 

5 Monserrate, Commentary. 



All officers were subject to assignment in any part of the empire. 
Akbar’s nobles and mansabdars grew accustomed to frequent assign- 
ments to far distant provinces punctuated by periods of residence at the 
capital or at the imperial camp. The Timurid monarch aimed to divorce 
his imperial elite from local or regional power as much as possible. This 
was considerably easier to accomplish with the heterogeneous body of 
foreign recruits to Mughal service. Persian, Arab, Turkish, or Central 
Asian nobles were necessarily cut off from their native societies. They 
banded together with fellow countrymen, but had no direct access to 
home territory. Rajputs, Indian Muslims, and even Afghans (in small, 
but growing numbers) were a different matter. These men had multiple 
connections with kinsmen who controlled local domains as zamindars 
in the provinces. For them a policy that stressed active service outside 
their native regions was absolutely essential. 


The Mughal jagir traces its institutional lineage back to the medieval 
Islamic igta or fief in India. Conquering Turkish rulers parcelled out 
tracts of land of varying size — some as large as a province — to be 
administered by their nobles and generals as the need arose. These 
igtadars were responsible for maintaining ordér and collecting taxes 
within their domains. After meeting necessary expenses any surplus 
funds were to be returned to the central treasury. In theory the 
igtadars held their fiefs at the pleasure of the ruler. In practice the 
dynastic shifts and political turmoil permitted iqtas to remain with 
their holders over generations. Under the Lodis, and to a lesser extent, 
the Surs, the Afghan nobility held fiefs that permitted them local 
residence, local resources, and local identities. 

Akbar’s innovations reversed this trend. Unlike the iqta the jagir of 
the Mughals separated political and administrative responsibility from 
rights of tax collection. A mansabdar receiving lands in a salary 
assignment obtained only the right to collect the taxes assessed on that 
stipulated area. A jagir might consist of fields in a portion of a village; 
the entire lands of one or more named villages; or as much as one or 
even more subdistricts (parganas). The diwan-i tan (minister for 
salaries) matched assessed taxes with the specified salary and allow- 
ances of the mansabdar and issued an official jagir document in 
multiple copies. 



Only mansabdars could hold jagirs. All other imperial staff were 
paid in cash. Receipt of a written assignment permitted a mansabdar to 
collect the taxes assessed on his lands in quarterly installments each 
year. Most save the lowest-ranking mansabdars sent personal agents to 
carry out this task on their behalf. 

A jagir-holder possessed only fiscal rights stripped of rights of 
land-ownership, occupancy, or residence. This was not a fief. It was 
purely a fiscal instrument designed to meet a narrowly defined end. 
Only Rajput mansabdars were given more extensive rights of residence 
and local power within their homelands in Rajasthan. By special 
dispensation they received patrimonial (termed watan) lands as a part 
of the jagirs assigned them. 

In theory the location of a jagir bore little relationship to the official 
posting or service of the holder. In practice, however, the mature 
system tended to assign jagirs either within or adjacent to the province 
of posting. Jagirdars frequently held more than one jagir. These were 
not necessarily contiguous. For example an amir of high rank might 
receive as many as two dozen separate jagir assignments scattered over 
several provinces. 

The financial ministry further diluted ties between imperial officers 
and their assigned lands by means of frequent transfers. Deaths, 
transfers, promotions, and demotions in the imperial cadres necessi- 
tated continuing transfer of jagirs. Assigned lands could be transferred 
from one serving officer to another as often as every two to three years. 
But the higher ranked jagirdars tended to obtain and hold entire 
parganas for ten years or even more before transfer. 

The financial ministry exerted strict controls over methods and 
levels of tax collection. Officers of the provincial diwan obtained 
information from the local intelligence-writer who sent near-daily 
reports to the provincial capital. They also relied upon complaints and 
petitions from aggrieved subjects to identify brutal or excessive 
collection of the revenues. Obviously imperfect, this system did 
prevent the worst abuses and kept a generally uniform standard for 
revenue collection in the areas under the regulation system. 

The mature system of tax collection and salary payments was one of 
flexibility and efficiency. Some of the largest tasks of the imperial 
administration were thereby placed in the hands of the mansabdars 
themselves who were forced to become capable managers on their own 
behalf. The system also relied upon private agency in the form of 



assistance from local moneylenders and currency dealers (sarrafs) who 
often advanced money to mansabdars pending arrival of funds from 
their jagirs. Local bankers also assisted jagirdars’ agents to remit 
collections by means of private bills of exchange rather than cash 
shipments. The vast empire of the Timurids rested upon active central 
control over an essentially decentralized fiscal structure. 


The chief bakhshi generally remained in personal attendance on the 
emperor. He arranged for the security of the emperor’s person, the 
imperial household, and the palace-fortress. Under Akbar, royal guard 
troops included over twelve thousand musketeers and several thousand 
more swordsmen and archers. Four to five thousand gentlemen 
troopers (ahadis) acted as household cavalry for the emperor. The 
bakhshi was responsible for the system by which nobles on week-long 
rotation personally commanded their troops on twenty-four hour 
guard at the emperor’s palace or tents in camp. 

The bakhshi and his assistants organized the sizable military units 
directly employed by the emperor. These included artillery men 
serving the central artillery park; companies of pioneers and sappers; 
infantry armed with matchlocks; companies of archers; handlers of 
war elephants and various laborers and porters. Artillery and infantry 
posted as permanent garrisons to strategic fortresses scattered around 
the empire were also the responsibility of the bakhshi. All central 
troops received cash salaries direct from the treasury. The army 
minister advanced funds against anticipated expenses to nobles desig- 
nated as field commanders by the emperor. The bakhshi, in concert 
with the imperial fiscal minister, arranged to send treasure when 
needed to armies on campaign. 

Provincial bakhshis, who were generally higher-ranked, but not 
noble, officers, conducted inspections to certify fitness for mansabdars 
and their contingents on duty in that province. Inadequacies turning 
up in the muster were penalized by partial deductions of pay and 
allowances, or in the case of jagirs, by claims imposed by the provincial 
diwan against the delinquent commander’s treasury accounts. 

The chief bakhshi supervised the corps of public newswriters who 
sent near-daily reports to provincial bakhshis from every sizable town 
in the empire. Secret observers reported clandestinely to the provincial 



bakhshis who forwarded their observations to the center as well. News 
reports and important official documents travelled rapidly by imperial 
post. Relays of foot-runners, posted at intervals along the main roads, 
carried papers rolled up in bamboo containers at a rapid pace around 
the clock. The emperor received reports from even distant provincial 
capitals within a few days. The most important news reports were read 
out daily in the public audience hall. Agents of nobles posted outside 
the capital or Rajput princes and tributary rulers all assiduously copied 
these announcements and sent their contents by messenger back to 
their masters. The empire was connected by a surprisingly rapid 
information loop for public news. 


Rapid imperial expansion meant that growing revenues from plunder, 
tribute and taxation poured into the imperial treasuries every year. The 
imperial finance minister, the wazir or diwan-i kul, was responsible for 
all revenues, the treasury system, the mints and currency, and, directly 
or indirectly, all expenditures. The first wazir under Akbar was 
Muzaffar Khan, who had been serving as chief fiscal officer of the 
imperial household when he became imperial diwan. Towards the latter 
part of Muzaffar Khan’s eight-year term a small group of extra- 
ordinarily talented financial officers emerged at Akbar’s court. Khwaja 
Shah Mansur, Mir Fathullah Shirazi, and one Hindu of great ability, 
Raja Todar Mal, became dominant figures in the Mughal fiscal system. 
Each served as imperial finance minister for one or more periods, but, 
more importantly, worked closely with the others to find creative 
solutions to problems encountered. 

When Mir Fathullah Shirazi died Abul Fazl recorded the emperor’s 
mourning for his servant:® 

[Akbar] grieved at the departure of this memorial of former sages. He often 
said that the Mir was his vakil, philosopher, physician, and astronomer, and 
that no one could understand the amount of his grief for him. “Had he fallen 
into the hands of the Franks, and they had demanded all my treasures in 
exchange for him, I should gladly have entered into such a profitable traffic, 
and have bought that precious jewel cheap.” 

© Abul Fazl, The Akbar-Nama, translated by H. Beveridge (Calcutta, 1907-39) 111, 848. 



This utterance reflects more than conventional panegyric. The emper- 
or’s lamentation suggests the intensity with which he and his closest 
advisers collaborated. It suggests also the high degree of intimacy and 
emotional ihvolvement between Akbar and his most valued officers at 
court. We can sense only dimly the exhilaration produced among the 
architects of the new empire. Much of this intense organizational work 
occurred in the Fatehpur Sikri years (1571-1584). 

Under these men the Indo-Muslim fiscal system inherited by Akbar 
became a powerful, flexible instrument. Mounting burdens on the 
central ministry encouraged division of labor in the office. The finance 
minister himself assumed direct responsibility for the operation and 
staffing of the central, provincial, and local treasuries. (In his capacity 
as administrator of the central treasury and mints the minister of the 
imperial household or mir saman reported to the diwan.) Three 
principal officers served as his direct assistants, The minister of crown 
revenues (diwan-i khalisa) took responsibility for all lands and tax- 
producing entities whose revenues were reserved for direct deposit in 
the central treasury. The minister for compensation (diwan-i tan) was 
responsible for all salary drafts or jagir assignments. Finally, the 
auditor general commanded a body of auditors who continually 
monitored and reviewed the records of fiscal transactions. 

Akbar’s finance ministers took great pains to develop a smoothly 
functioning pyramidal treasury system. The base was formed by 
treasuries at the leading towns of larger parganas. At the next level 
treasuries were located in each provincial capital, and finally central 
treasuries at the apex of the pyramid. At each level salaried officials — 
treasurers, accountants, cashkeepers, clerks — presided. The treasuries 
were more than safety deposit vaults for currency or other valuables. 
They were vital nodes for the intake, reporting, transfer, and disbur- 
sement of funds. Akbar tapped ample reserves and moved funds 
quickly from his chain of treasuries to support his field armies. On 
more than one occasion swift dispatch of treasure gave his armies the 
means and morale for victory. Mughal treasure, effectively deployed, 
was one of the most potent weapons the emperor possessed. Imperial 
field commanders were virtually invulnerable to bribery or purchase. 

The Mughal system imposed strict accountability on its officials. 
Treasurers reported their balances in writing every fifteen days and 
gave written receipts for deposits and demanded written receipts for 
disbursements. The regime made firm distinctions between private and 



state funds for all save the emperor. Access to imperial funds was only 
by written authorization — even for royal princes. Mansabdars 
obtained cash advances from treasuries, but they had to clear their 
balances and at times pay interest under the terms of a complicated set 
of regulations. Their accounts were rigorously audited at death and 
monies owed the treasury were seized. 

The financial administration was run by a cadre of technically 
proficient officials and clerks. By the sixteenth century Hindu service 
castes — Khatris, Kayasths, Brahmins, and others — had learned Persian 
and become indispensable in the operation of government. These caste 
and family networks came to monopolize the subordinate, but lucra- 
tive, positions in all ministries save that of the Muslim sadr. They 
supplied young recruits to serve as apprentices who already, through 
training in the family, had been schooled in official Persian termin- 
ology, accounting, and reporting methods as well as the difficult 
chancery script. Generally these Hindu clerks and secretaries were 
efficient, reliable and loyal.” 

These family groups, anxious to retain their prosperous circum- 
stances, were the primary means by which the newly forged adminis- 
trative traditions of the finance ministry were transmitted and refined 
over time. As the empire added territory, members of these groups 
formed the cadres that set up regulation fiscal administrations in the 
conquered kingdoms. 


In 1556 Bairam Khan, acting for his young Timurid charge, struck new 
Mughal coin in the Indian silver and copper types favored by the 
defeated Sur dynasty. Bairam Khan adopted the monetary policies of 
the Surs instead of the Central Asian traditional Timurid style of 
coinage. By the early 1560s the new regime possessed a fully function- 
ing trimetallic currency: silver, copper, and gold. 

Akbar’s first silver rupees, similar to the thousands of Sur rupees still 
in circulation, issued from central mints at Lahore, Delhi and Agra. 
The new Timurid rupees bore the title “Jalal-ud-din Muhammad 
Akbar Badshah, Ghazi” on the reverse. The front displayed the Islamic 

7 See John F. Richards, “Norms of Comportment among Imperial Mughal Officials” in 
Barbara Daly Metcalf ed., Moral Conduct and Authority (Berkeley, California: UC 
Berkeley Press, 1984), pp. 267-281 for a description of Bhimsen, a prominent member of 
such a service family. 



statement of faith “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his 
Messenger” bordered by the names of the four Companions of the 
Prophet. The legends were struck only in Arabic script, not in the dual 
Devanagari and Arabic style employed by the Surs.* In the public 
display of his coinage, the young Akbar presented a conservative, 
Muslim profile. 

Akbar’s moneyers decided to continue the 21 gram copper paisa 
coins of the Surs, now called dams, as the primary issue for ordinary 
transactions. These coins, bearing only the date of issue and mint name 
in Persian, were struck at the imperial capital, at mints adjacent to 
copper mines in Rajasthan or at several towns serving as entrepots for 
the overland Nepal trade in copper.? Shortly after he had asserted his 
independent rule, in 1562, Akbar revived a gold issue, called a mubr, 
weighing 10.9 grams, based upon the old Delhi Sultanate standard. 
This marked the first issue of gold coins in Hindustan since the 
mid-fifteenth century.!° 

In the late 1570s Akbar undertook monetary reforms coinciding 
with his revenue reforms. In 1577-78 the emperor appointed the 
mintmaster at Fatehpur Sikri executive officer in charge of all the 
imperial mints. The well-known calligrapher, Khwaja Abud-us Samad, 
assumed these new responsibilities.!! Gold and silver issues were 
confined to the Fatehpur mint and mints in Punjab, eastern UP, Bihar, 
Bengal, and Gujarat, to which senior financial officers were sent as 
mintmasters. For a brief period the emperor and his moneyers flirted 
with a dramatic style of square coins in a tradition indigenous to 
western India. In 1580-81 the number of mints striking gold and silver 
coin was further reduced to two: the mint at Ahmadabad in Gujarat 
and the Urdu or mint of the imperial camp — the seat of the sovereign. 
Copper issues continued uninterruptedly from several mint-towns 
located next to the source of supply of the metal. The intent of these 
measures was to consolidate imperial control over the minting process. 

In 1584 Akbar ordered a new coinage to reflect the ideological and 
political changes underway in his reign. The new coins bore the single 
legend: “God is great, splendid is His Glory” (Allabu akbar jalla 
jalalubu) with the ambiguous play on the emperor’s name and titles. 
The date was stamped with solar, Ilahi years under the new era with the 

# John S. Deyell, “The Development of Akbar’s Currency System and Monetary Integration 
of the Conquered Kingdoms” in John F. Richards, ed., The Imperial Monetary System of 
Mughal India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987) p. 19. 

9 Ibid.,p.22. ° Ibid.,p.23. "Ibid. p. 30. 



old Persian names of the months added. Calligraphy, dies, and 
stamping all improved visibly on the new coin. Floral decorative 
touches appeared on the borders. Special issues with portraits of 
wildlife were struck.'? In short, the coinage ceased to be indisputably 
Islamic in its design. The new Ilahi coins, however, remained conserva- 
tive in reverting to the round shape and customary weights. 

Throughout these changes Akbar’s minters were careful to maintain 
a high-quality coinage in each of the three metals. Gold was nearly 
pure; silver never dropped below 96 percent pure and copper coins 
remained of high purity. This was a free or open minting system in 
which anyone willing to pay the prescribed mint charges could bring 
metal or old or foreign coin to the mint and have it struck. Mints were 
widely distributed. In 1595 four mints produced gold coins, fourteen 
produced rupees and forty-two copper coin. 

Millions of coin were produced by this system. Minting expenses 
determined the premium by which coin was valued over bullion - 
ranging from a high of 10.77 percent for copper to a low of 5.63 percent 
for silver bullion.!3 Newly minted rupees (sikka) circulated at an 
additional premium of 5 percent over older rupees. Mughal treasuries 
willingly accepted out-of-date Suri and other coin in payment of taxes, 
but at a discounted rate that pushed its value down to that of bullion. 
As a result the huge corpus of Afghan coinage flowed into Akbar’s 
mints, was demonetized, melted down, and reissued as new Timurid 

During Akbar’s reign the heavy copper dam was the coin of ordinary 
exchange and the preferred metal in the trimetallic system. Copper 
coins were issued in enormous quantities. The regime set its land 
revenue demand in terms of copper dams. Purchasers when acquiring 
zamindari rights paid for them in copper coin. Prices for ordinary 
commodities in city markets and wages for laborers, soldiers, and 
artisans were expressed in copper coin.'* 

Extension of the uniform coinage accompanied imperial conquest. 
Some newly conquered kingdoms did not immediately adhere to the 
new standards. Some anomalies were permitted for a transitional 
12 Ibid., pp. 36-37. 

‘3 Marie Martin, “The Reforms of the Sixteenth Century and Akbar’s Administration: 

Metrological and Monetary Considerations” in J. F. Richards, ed., The Impenal Mone- 

tary System of Mughal India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 71. 

4 Irfan Habib, “The Economic and Social Setting” in Michael Brand and Glenn D. Lowry, 
eds., Fatehpur Sikrs (Bombay: Marg Publications, 1987), pp. 144-147. 



period. But the imperial financiers insisted on a centralized, uniform, 
monetary system. For any particular type of coin, the design, weight 
standard, and fabric was identical from one end of the empire to the 
other. Moreover imperial coins travelled from one end of the empire to 
the other in rapid fashion. Copper coin found in coin hoards circulated 
from the heartland of the empire to the frontier in the year of their 
manufacture. In John Deyell’s apt phrase “Mughal currency had 

Throughout his reign Akbar seized older silver and gold coin found 
in the treasure hoards of dozens of Indian dynasties. Mughal mintmas- 
ters thereby had ample supplies necessary to expand silver and gold 
currency in normal types. They also cast giant coins and ingots for 
Akbar’s fast-swelling monetary reserve — his central treasure described 

Paradoxically, although it did not lack for stocks of gold and silver, 
India produced only minimal amounts of gold from alluvial sources in 
the northeast. The silver mines of Mewar found in the early sixteenth 
century were rapidly exhausted. In spite of this disability, unlike 
contemporary rulers in other parts of the world, Akbar did not have to 
worry about a trade deficit or bullion famines. Quite the contrary, for 
the strength of the Indian economy drew a steady stream of precious 
metals to pay for Indian industrial and agricultural exports. In the 
medieval and early modern worlds, whatever the available sources of 
gold and silver, India was the ultimate sink for these metals. When 
minted, Mughal silver and gold coin did not circulate beyond the 
Indian subcontinent — not because of inferior quality, but because 
foreign traders needed Indian coin to pay for exports. 

By the latter years of the sixteenth century surging imports of New 
World silver offered new sources of supply for the Timurid mints. The 
copper price of silver rose from 48 dams to the rupee early in the reign 
to as high as 35 dams to the rupee in the late 1580s.'© The copper price 
of silver continued to rise throughout the early seventeenth century as 
new industrial uses for copper in bronze cannon and brass utensils 
increased its value as well. In succeeding reigns the silver rupee, 
supported by new fractional anna (sixteenth part) coins, replaced the 
copper dam as a common medium of circulation for most of the 

5 Deyell, “Akbar’s Currency System, p. 45. 
16 Habib, “Economic and Social Setting,” p. 141. 




Akbar’s advisers did not have to overcome budget deficits. The 
imperial reserves of the Mughals — in currency, precious metals, and set 
and unset gems — swelled during Akbar’s half century. In 1605, the 
imperial treasuries contained gold, silver, copper coin, and uncoined 
bullion valued at between 139 million to 166 million silver rupees.'” 
The mass of set and unset precious stones in the treasury and other 
precious objects was probably as valuable. 

Continued territorial expansion and good management ensured that 
revenues exceeded expenditures. Plunder from victory swelled the 
imperial reserves. In 1556 the Mughals at Panipat seized dozens of 
elephants laden with gold as the wife of the defeated general Hemu 
tried to flee the battlefield. This was just the first of many such 
treasures that more than repaid the costs of military conquest. There- 
after additional taxes levied within a more rigorous imperial assessment 
brought fresh revenue streams into the imperial treasuries. Shireen 
Moosvi’s recent estimate of Akbar’s revenues for 1595-96 puts the 
total at just under four billion copper coins (dams) or the equivalent of 
99 million silver rupees per year.'8 

Certain features of this financial reconstruction are immediately 
apparent. First, an annual surplus of between four and five million 
rupees was generated late in the reign. Second, expenditures made 
directly by the emperor were relatively small. The annual expense of 
the imperial household with its conspicuous display and thousands of 
dependents was less than five percent of the total budget. The central 
military establishment, including stables and artillery, as well as the 
corps of musketeers and ahadis consumed less than ro percent of the 
total. Lastly, by far the largest item of expenditure, 81 million rupees, 
was allotted to the mansabdars. Of this just over half of imperial 
expenditures, 51 million rupees, supported the cavalry and musketeer 
contingents of the mansabdars. In other words by far the greater part 
of this budget was devoted to supporting a massive military estab- 

17 Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, pp. 198-200. 

1 Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, p. 195. This is the jama from the Ain-i Akbari 
revised downward to reflect revenue-free land grants and areas whose revenues were listed 
but not fully subjugated at this date. It also adjusts for costs of revenue collection to arrive 
at net revenue realization. 



Table 119 Imperial revenue and expenditure, 1595-96 

Income Millions Millions 
dams rupees 
Effective jama 1595-96 3960.3 99.01 
Expenditure: salary bill of mansabdars 
Zat salaries 827.5 20.69 
Animal allowance 371.4 9.29 
Suwar payment 2038.9 50.97 
Total 3237.8 80.95 
Central military establishment 
Cavalry and foot 142.9 3-57 
Animals/stables 194.0 4.85 
Arsenal and armor 22.1 S$ 
Total 359.0 8.97 
Imperial household (including harem/building construction) 
Total 187.4 4.69 
Total expenditures 3784.2 94.6 
Balance 176.1 4-41 
Grand total 3960.3 99.01 


Crownlands (khalisa) under the direct administration of the imperial 
finance minister generated funds that flowed directly to the central 
treasury. Revenues from these crownlands as well as from a pool of 
temporarily unassigned jagir lands referred to as paibagi were the 
mainstay of the center. From these returns the emperor defrayed the 
costs of his central household, military, diplomacy, and the cash 
salaries of the lesser mansabdars. Plunder, ceremonial gifts, and 
escheat from estates of deceased nobles constituted substantial, but 
irregular, alternative sources of income for the central treasury. A 
recent estimate for the latter years of Akbar’s reign puts khalisa 
revenues at between 24 and 33 percent of the total assessed revenues.?° 

1 Adapted from Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, Table 11.5, p. 270. 
2 Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, p. 197. 



All remaining revenues were shunted directly to the holders of salary 

The minister of crownlands (diwan-i khalisa) presided over a 
sophisticated fiscal device. No specific lands adjacent to the capital 
were demarcated for the khalisa. The Mughal khalisa was instead a 
fiscal mechanism, a pool of sequestered revenues, that set aside tax 
collections from designated villages or parganas scattered throughout 
the empire. Khalisa tracts, usually designated in fertile and untroubled 
areas, were found in nearly every province of the empire. Cadres of 
salaried revenue officers directly employed by the minister of crown- 
lands collected crown revenues. The proportion of revenues placed in 
the crown treasury accounts varied according to the perceived needs of 
the central treasury. In effect the emperor was awarded a set of jagir 
assignments, larger than, but comparable to those given great nobles. 
The emperor’s own agents were sent to make collections just as the 
jagirdars did from their jagirs. 

By 1605 Akbar and his advisers had created an autocratic and centra- 
lized system. A half-century long territorial build-up brought 
resources to the center far greater than those available to any regional 
ruler or provincial governor. The emperor routinely deployed tens of 
thousands of men, millions of silver rupees, and vast quantities of 
material throughout his domains. Orders from the emperor or his 
immediate subordinates flowed outward from the center; written and 
verbal reports regularly flowed in to the imperial capital. Akbar, the 
epicenter, actively absorbed reports and issued orders on a daily basis. 
Relatively quick official communications were essential to centralized 

Although clearly centered on Akbar, to an outside observer the 
imperial structures and procedures were complex and confusing. From 
one perspective the Mughal empire appeared to be a properly bureau- 
cratic system, fully centralized and run by technically proficient 
bureaucrats moving vast amounts of paper in well-regulated trans- 
actions. From another perspective, however, the empire appeared as a 
series of great patrimonial households dominated at its apex by the 
massive establishments of the emperor. Akbar drew upon vast revenue 
to build up his treasure and to support his lavish expenditures on 
luxurious display. It is equally clear, however, that the great amirs of 
the empire absorbed a huge proportion of official revenues — monies 



which were directed, but not directly received by the center. To an 
unprecedented degree the centralized, autocratic system created by 
Akbar relied upon private organizational skill, entrepreneurial spirit 
and energy to carry out the vital tasks of ruling a multi-regional 
empire. The Timurid empire was both centralized and decentralized, 
both bureaucratic and patrimonial in its structure and operation. 




Despite centuries of Muslim dominance in the Indo-Gangetic plain, 
Akbar’s officials found consolidation of state power incomplete. In the 
second half of the sixteenth century both force and diplomacy were 
needed to subdue and pacify rural society. Even within the zone of 
direct administration, in the most fertile hinterlands of the towns, 
supposedly inhabited by subjects regulated by a tax system, the 
Mughals confronted only partially subdued local polities. In more 
distant regions were barely tributary areas that had been recently 
settled and colonized by Hindu and Muslim armed warrior-pioneers. 
Extension of centralized administrative control over these areas would 
be unprecedented. 

In one pargana after another armed, potentially hostile, warrior 
lineages —Rajputs, Jats, and other locally rooted caste elites — ruled the 
cultivating peasantry. These local aristocratic lineages and their lineage 
heads or chiefs dominated individual parganas, or segments of parga- 
nas by virtue of conquest, migration and colonization. Parganas in the 
north were miniature kingdoms containing from as few as twenty to as 
many as two hundred contiguous villages. These were the primary 
building blocks of political control in Indian rural society — not 
individual villages.' 

Local elites had performed a key role in organizing, financing, and 
leading peasant-cultivators in a process of jungle-clearing and settle- 
ment. Often this expansion required armed battle with indigenous 
“tribals” or non-Hindu groups who cultivated and settled much less 
intensively than the newcomers. This same militance that drove 
agricultural expansion also drove lineage leaders into bloody, treacher- 
ous episodes of local warfare. The question for the state was how to 
channel energies for expansion that would yield increased revenues 
without permitting internecine warfare in the countryside. 

The boundaries of most parganas defined the limits of domination 

* See Richard Fox, “Rajput ‘Clans’ and Urban Centers in Northern India,” in Richard G. 
Fox, ed., Urban India: Society, Space and Image, and Richard G. Fox, Kin, Clan, Raja and 
Rude, (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1971). 



for each Rajput, Jat, Indian Muslim, or even Afghan lineage. At the 
center lay a larger village or smallish town in which resided the lineage 
head. Often this was the original settlement when the lineage forbears 
had colonized the area. The chief’s town found protection behind 
scrub jungle, bamboo hedges, ditches, mud or stone walls. Within 
these defenses, the chief or lineage heads built their residences, held 
miniature court in a rustic aristocratic style and maintained armories, 
treasuries and lineage temples. The town itself served as a central 
market place for the pargana. Other lesser towns served as similar 
headquarters for subordinate chiefs and dependent kinsmen of the 
petty raja or lineage head. 

These chiefs or zamindars as the Mughals called them, maintained 
substantial military forces. A small raja might have under his immedi- 
ate command a mixed body of several hundred armed kinsmen, slaves, 
and free, paid retainers. He could also call upon his subordinate lineage 
mates for troops in an emergency to defend the subdistrict or lineage 
interests. Zamindari contingents were almost entirely infantry for most 
local lords could afford few horses or elephants. They were also 
deficient in artillery. Muskets were available, but the Mughals made 
every effort to discourage gun-casting or procurement of artillery by 
local aristocrats. 

Zamindars claimed the hereditary right to collect a share of the 
harvest. They cultivated private land holdings using tenants or laborers 
in their employ. Generally such lands were exempt from the normal 
state revenue demand. In addition these chiefs exercised claims to a 
whole series of taxes and cesses on the peasants, craftsmen and 
merchants within the pargana. A multitude of market taxes, poll taxes, 
feudal taxes on production (e.g. an implement or weapon each year 
from a blacksmith) flowed into their coffers and storehouses each year. 
Some payments were in coined money; some in kind. Within tradi- 
tional limits forced labor could be demanded from lesser castes in the 

The Rajput, Jat, Gujar lineage heads and their kinsmen or Afghans 
or other Indian Muslim lineages retained power partly by weight of 
numbers, partly by armed belligerence, and partly by the inertia of 
long custom. In the majority of villages the most powerful and 
wealthiest peasants were members of the same caste and shared lineage 
ties with the lineage head at the headquarters town. These village elites 
cultivated the largest and most fertile tracts within the village. 



Untouchable landless laborers, craftsmen, traders, and priests served 
the dominant caste in an intricate network of hereditary service and 
exchange relationships. 

From the Mughal perspective in 1560 the rural landscape of North 
India was dotted with principalities of varying size and in varying 
degrees of subordination and control to the center. Some parganas 
adjacent to cities were inhabited by peasants lacking strong lineage 
organization and could be administered on a village by village basis. 
Most of rural society in North India lay under the tight control of 
zamindars. By the sixteenth century rural pacification had progressed 
to the point that no single zamindar or coalition of rural chiefs could 
withstand the full power of the Muslim state. Preceding Indo-Muslim 
regimes had begun to fix the boundaries of these tiny kingdoms and to 
limit internecine warfare among them. Indo-Muslim rulers had begun 
to determine successions to office by issuing official documents 
written in Persian and the local language which recognized favored 
heirs. Only in intervals of political disarray did local lineage elites or 
petty rajas freely engage in internecine warfare and conquest. Such was 
the case during the Afghan—-Mughal conflicts between 1530 and 1560. 

Rarely did local aristocrats engage in larger political ventures. By 
and large these men, subservient for generations to Indo-Muslim state 
power, retained foreshortened political horizons. Men like Sher Khan 
Sur were exceptional. Most local chieftains, whether Hindu or Muslim, 
did not conceive of or aspire to large-scale state-building. 

Nevertheless the relationship between Mughals and their new 
subjects in the 1560s resembled tribute rather more than taxation. 
Preceding states had identified and negotiated service agreements with 
leading lineage members or rajas in each pargana. These local officers, 
called chaudburis in the north and deshmukhs in the Deccan, retained 
much of their long-standing powers within the pargana in return for 
making regular monetary payments to central revenue officials. 
Pargana headmen received a fixed percentage, usually 5 percent, of the 
total revenues obtained from their subdistrict each year. They also 
controlled lands exempt from any form of taxation. Lifetime contracts 
executed in writing as sanads between the local chief and the Indo- 
Muslim ruler spelled out the terms of this relationship. Each recipient 
of a grant executed a written bond (muchalka) as a guarantee of good 
performance and paid a fee (pishkash) of six and one-half years’ 
allowances on the revenue in installments to secure this appointment. 



At the death of a chaudhuri his son and heir normally obtained a new 
patent of office from the ruler. The state could, however, depose a 
pargana headman at any time and replace him with a more satisfactory 
candidate — usually another kinsman from the dominant lineage and 
caste in the subdistrict. 

The Indo-Muslim state depended upon a local fiscal officer to serve 
as a counterpart to the chaudhuri. The ganungo was a record keeper or 
accountant whose task was to keep records of villages, land in 
production and taxes paid each year. He was appointed on terms 
similar to that of the pargana headmen except that his allowance on the 
revenue was usually 3 instead of 5 percent and his tax-free lands a 
smaller allotment than those given the chaudhuri. Qanungos were 
generally recruited from Hindu higher castes, often Brahmins, 
especially in the Deccan, but also Khatris, the north Indian trading 
caste, and Kayasths, the most prominent Hindu secretarial caste in 
service to Indo-Muslim states. Indian Muslims also assumed this role 
as they did that of the pargana headman. Occasionally appointments as 
qanungos or chaudhuri were shared between two or more individuals. 

These two positions together constituted a locking device between 
state and pargana. Through these hybrid offices the ruler extracted 
revenues, obtained information, and mobilized support from North 
Indian rural society. In the mid-sixteenth century, however, state 
access to these miniature polities was limited. By and large these were 
still tributary relations rather than assessment and collection of taxes. 
Save for easily accessible parganas the state did not attempt a careful 
inventory of lands in order to measure agricultural productivity. 
Instead the annual revenue figure emerged from a bargaining process in 
which payment only crudely reflected the resources of the pargana. 
The negotiating skills, truculence, location, and natural defenses of 
each lineage determined annual payments of revenue. 

The state did not penetrate far below the surface of the average 
parganas prior to the mid-sixteenth century. Strong Muslim sultans 
managed to freeze pargana boundaries; to reduce the political preten- 
sions of the Hindu zamindars and to restrain inter-lineage warfare and 
aggression. But in most localities they had little to do with individual 
village headmen and village elites. 

Penetration of the defenses of rural society was the great task for the 
Mughal administration in the post-1560 period. Imperial admini- 
strators worked tirelessly to crack into these hard-shelled structures. 



To obtain accurate information and the fullest possible revenues in 
taxes, rather than negotiated tribute, the empire had to come to terms 
with armed rural aristocracies. The zamindars were gradually reshaped 
into a quasi-official service class in the countryside - or they were 


Sher Shah Sur had demonstrated the basic approach that would enable 
the state to pull greater resources from agricultural production. The 
Afghan ruler drew upon his personal experience as the revenue 
administrator of a pargana under the Lodis, and upon the accumulated 
knowledge of generations of Indo-Muslim revenue collectors dealing 
with the dense fabric of rural society in North India. In his short-lived 
package of revenue reforms we find: demand for cash payment from 
the peasants — not produce rent; cadastral surveys of agricultural land; 
surveys of crops grown; assessment of land revenue by expected 
yields; conversion of those anticipated harvest rates to cash values 
keyed to prevailing market conditions. All data were to be gathered 
carefully, systematically, and checked at intervals. 

Sher Shah perceived that the state in its own interest should assume 
greater responsibility for encouraging productivity.? Those cultivators 
who reclaimed land from the forest or scrub woodlands for production 
should be favored with exemptions or reduced tax burdens in the first 
few years of production on the new lands. Similar incentives should be 
given for those who sunk wells and increased the cultivable area. 
Collections should be made systematically and firmly. Measures 
needed to be taken to ensure reliable handling of funds and strict 
accountability on the part of officials. A reliable, standardized, high 
quality coinage must be available. These measures were backed up by 
flexible armed force effectively deployed. The whole in turn rested 
upon the ruler’s willingness and ability to invest in a major administra- 
tive effort in the countryside. 

In practice, however, the Sur revenue measures were flawed by 
excessive uniformity. When Afghan officials tried to fix near-uniform 
rates of assessment on the harvest across the entire Sur domain, they 
2 See Iqtidar Husain Siddiqi, “The Agrarian System of the Afghans” in Seudies in Islam, 11 

(January, 1965), 229-253, and Iqtidar Husain Siddiqi, Afghan Despotism in India (Aligarh: 
Three Men Publication, 1969), pp. 136-168. 



generated considerable resistance. Converting harvest rates into cash 
with a single schedule for a large portion of North India simply was 
impracticable and created enormous inequities. Even within the mono- 
tonous reaches of the North Indian plain great differences existed in 
fertility between localities. 

Todar Mal, Akbar’s famed Hindu revenue minister, understood and 
addressed this problem. When he began revamping the Mughal agrar- 
ian system in the early 1560s, Todar Mal first pressed to obtain more 
complete area and production statistics from the subdistrict account- 
ants (qanungos). Officials under his command began to compile lists of 
minimum and maximum market prices. At the same time Akbar 
enforced standardization of highly variable customary weights and 
measures. The imperial yard (gaz) set at the equivalent of 31.92 inches 
helped to establish a uniform unit of land area. The customary bigah 
was fixed at a unit 60 gaz square equivalent (about three-fifths of an 
acre). The unit of weight for measuring yields, the man, was stan- 
dardized at 51.63 Ibs. avoirdupois. 

Despite these measures continuing problems remained. Zamindars 
protested vigorously when imperial officers or mansabdars tried to 
collect what in their view were exorbitant assessments. The critically 
important system of salary assignments (jagirs) was faltering. In 1580 
Todar Mal began a drastic experiment designed to completely restruc- 
ture the Mughal agrarian revenue system. The emperor resumed all 
jagirs or salary assignments for his officers in the North Indian 
provinces. All lands now fell under the control of treasury officials 
who would administer them directly. 

Todar Mal proceeded to group contiguous subdistricts into revenue 
circles with similar, shared climate and soil fertility. He placed a 
revenue officer (karuri) in charge of each circle. Under this officer’s 
direction surveying parties moved steadily from pargana to pargana 
and village to village. They used new bamboo rods with iron joints 
marked for the imperial yard rather than older hempen ropes that 
stretched with varying moisture. In the course of five years these 
survey parties measured and recorded the fields and land holdings of 
nearly all villages located within that revenue circle. 

Other officials, travelling with the survey parties, collected detailed 
data on average yields and harvests by cultivator and village for the past 
ten years. They also collected local market prices for all crops, for both 
the spring and fall harvests, over the same ten year period. 



With land measurements, yield and price data in hand the karuri in 
charge of the revenue circle compiled long, detailed, tables of data. 
From these tables he was able to calculate a standard assessment for that 
revenue circle for each crop. This meant that the revenue ministry could 
demand its appropriate share of each harvest from each field, cultivator, 
and village in that revenue circle. This demand could be expressed in 
money terms that bore a realistic relationship to prices paid in local 
markets. The final assessment was an average struck on the ten-year 
record of yields and prices for each field and crop. Rice, millets, and 
wheats were generally assessed at a one-third equivalent of the harvest. 
Other, more valuable, crops were assessed more lightly, e.g. as low as 
one-fifth or less for cash crops such as indigo or sugar. Imperial officers 
assessed fruit trees at so much per tree and cattle at so much per head. 

The revenue ministry under Todar Mal established a fresh, accurate 
revenue assessment to be placed against each village, pargana, revenue 
circle, district, and province. The new system allowed for variations in 
agricultural yield between regions. The assessed demand was firmly 
linked to past average yields and prices. This was, moreover, a cash 
nexus. The state expressed its demand in copper coin (dams) and 
expected to be paid in coin. The peasants had to enter the market and 
sell their produce in order to pay the assessed revenue demand. In 
future years, revenue officers simply referred to written tables that set 
out a standard assessment for each crop per bigah or unit of cultivation 
for that locality. The total assessment for each peasant, village, or 
pargana could be determined by multiplying the crop rate against the 
area under cultivation each year. 

In the areas of the new “regulation” (zabt) assessment imperial 
officers imposed written demands for tax payment and obtained 
written acceptances in turn from the village headmen and dominant 
peasants in each village. The village community remained liable for the 
entire annual tax assessment and for its prompt payment in four 
installments. After the initial rigorous survey and establishment of the 
new system, revenue assessments in North India were only obliquely 
linked to actual harvests and market prices. In some localities, imperial 
officers actually sent out survey parties to measure the area under 
cultivation in various crops twice a year. In others, revenue officers 
used the established ten-year average with any estimated additions to 
arrive at the area under cultivation. Whether measured by actual 
survey or based upon the previous year’s total, they multiplied the 



cropped area by the standard rate per crop to calculate current revenue 

After initial establishment of the zabt system pargana accountants 
annually assembled current data on cultivated area, yields, and prices 
from the village accountants and their own records. These data were 
listed as the most recent entry in a register showing returns for the past 
ten years. The record also showed actual collections for each field, 
village and the pargana as a whole, Revenue collectors (amins) obtained 
these data to collate with their own records kept at the office of the 
provincial revenue officer, the diwan. Periodically, the revenue minis- 
try used these ten-year-average data series to revise and update the 
revenue assessment. Only occasionally, at twenty, thirty year or more 
intervals, would a systematic land survey and reassessment of a 
province be judged necessary. 

After five years of direct administration and experimentation Akbar 
was able once again to place the lands of North India with the mansab- 
dars. The jagir system was reestablished with a more accurate base. The 
state achieved its end. Akbar’s treasuries obtained augmented revenues 
derived from the new assessment (in those lands kept directly under 
control of the central revenue ministry). His nobles could count on 
increased revenues to meet their expenses. State revenue demand acted 
like a giant pump to draw foodgrains and other crops out of the 
countryside into the towns and cities by a market mechanism. Sale of 
these foodgrains transferred coin back to the moneylenders and grain- 
dealers at a descending series of markets. This supplied funds to offer 
credit to the peasantry for the next year’s cultivation. Obviously, the 
new system encouraged rapid expansion of the rural to urban grain 
trade. Graindealers and moneylenders became much more active and 
visible in the countryside. The Mughal state came much closer than its 
predecessors to making good its claim for a massive share of rural 
productivity. A claim of one-third of all foodgrain production and 
perhaps one-fifth of other crops represented a massive expropriation of 
rural savings and profits. Much of this sum was collected at the expense 
of the older claims and perquisites of the zamindars. 


Timurid centralization and rationalization of the land tax system, 
while certainly impressive, did not inaugurate a full-blown system of 



direct rural taxation. The new Mughal administration was unable to 
carry out those drastic measures necessary to place itself in a direct, 
unimpeded relationship with each producing peasant in the country- 
side. In order to do so, Mughal forces would have been forced to 
disarm the dominant chiefs and leading Rajput, Jat, Indian Muslim, 
Afghan, and other lineages who controlled the land. Effective control 
might have called for deportation, enslavement, or imprisonment of 
many of the most determined leaders of local society in North India. 
These men would have to be replaced by more compliant lineage- 
mates, or by new cadres imported by the administration. Disarming 
and subduing regional aristocracies, or converting them into officials 
was a formidable task that was rarely accomplished by early modern 
states. The Timurids were not prepared to execute policies more 
reminiscent of various Ottoman efforts than those characteristic of 
Indo-Muslim regimes. 

Nevertheless, imposition of the zabt system made it possible for the 
Mughal administration to launch a long-term strategy aimed at eventu- 
ally reconstituting the rural aristocracy. Under the zabt system, the 
Mughals cracked the hard cyst of the countryside — the pargana. 
Imperial revenue officers or agents of mansabdars no longer dealt only 
with the pargana headmen, or select numbers of village headmen. For 
the first time a majority of villages included within the Mughal zabt 
system were placed in direct relationship with revenue officers of the 
state. The pargana was changing from a miniature tributary kingdom 
to a petty revenue and administrative unit existing at the convenience 
of the Mughal empire. 

If backed by sufficient force, over time the new regulation system 
would gradually convert the zamindars to a service class of quasi- 
officials, dependent upon the state. The new order forcefully appro- 
priated the right to determine that share of his produce to be given up 
by each peasant. Local lords formerly had paid a species of tribute to 
the state, when forced to do so, and levied their customary heavy cesses 
in goods and labor on the peasant. Under the new system they were 
reduced to receipt of a fixed allowance, usually 10 percent, of the total 
revenue collected each year. The state more firmly arrogated to itself 
the right to determine legitimate holders of zamindar’s rights. Like the 
chaudhuri individual zamindars received a written patent of office 
from the provincial fiscal officer (the diwan). Like the chaudhuri they 
paid an appointment fee and signed a bond for performance. They were 



enjoined to increase cultivation and to hand over the stipulated revenue 
in the required installments for the area under their jurisdiction. 

In the refined zabt system, ancient rights of landed dominance 
obtained by previous generations who colonized, conquered and 
settled, were transformed into the right to a share of agricultural 
production. Only those constricted “homelands” personally occupied 
by the zamindar remained of the unfettered domain held before. These 
zamindari rights became a form of private property, which, when 
ratified by the state, could be passed on to heirs and alienated to others. 
Inheritance recognized by the state conformed to the provisions of 
both Islamic and Hindu personal law which provided for equal shares 
to heirs of the same sex. Only chiefs in tributary relationship to the 
emperor were permitted to keep their patrimonies intact for a single 
heir. In this attenuated form of property, zamindari claims could be 
sold or leased to other kinsmen or even to outsiders. Surviving sale and 
lease documents testify to widespread adoption of the practice - 
although not to its true intensity or frequency. 

Prising open the defenses of local society in the parganas of North 
India required forceful determination. Armed warrior elites scarcely 
looked with a kindly eye upon petty revenue officers and survey 
parties entering their villages. Only the promise of overwhelming 
force, ruthlessly applied, curbed violent resistance. Imperial faujdars at 
the head of several hundred mailed cavalry were posted at intervals 
throughout each province to ensure that the reality of imperial power 
was not overlooked by those zamindars who might be reluctant to 
hand over the stipulated revenue proceeds each season. 

However necessary, force alone was inadequate. A stable agrarian 
order required some recognition of the zamindar’s interests under a 
generally accepted notion of legitimate royal authority. Akbar recog- 
nized this fact early in his reign and set about trying to elicit the willing 
cooperation of leading chiefs, lineage elites and other zamindars. The 
general tone of the new imperial administration was critical. Would 
compliance be rewarded, or was the new order to be unrelievedly 

Some evidence for the latter approach exists in the detailed archives 
of the Jat clan (khap) Baliyan in Muzaffarnagar District near Delhi. 
Migrating from the Punjab in the twelfth century, the founders of this 
clan established the hereditary seat of the clan headman (chaudhuri) at 
Sisauli village. From this headquarters “territorial expansion, conquest 



and colonization” of the clan continued until the first decades of the 
sixteenth century. But “expansion stopped at the establishment of 
Mughal rule, when law and order were more effectively imposed on 
northern India.” By the late sixteenth century clan members ruled 
pargana Sisauli numbering the traditional eighty-four villages through 
their own system of headmen and councils.* They were linked to other 
Jat and non-Jat Hindu lineage groups who met periodically in regional 
councils (sarv-khap). 

The record of resolutions preserved in the clan archives shows a 
pattern of remarkable collective action by a coalition of castes and 
clans. When state power at Delhi faltered, the allied clan council raised 
a large militia to mount a defense against banditry. When the Delhi 
regime was strong, the clan council met to insist on recognition of the 
legitimate autonomy of the clan councils and to protest excessive and 
discriminatory taxation such as levies imposed on pilgrims and the 
jiziya. If relief were not forthcoming, the Jat clans and their allies 
mustered their militia and threatened outright revolt. In 1490, Sikandar 
Lodi’s administrators chose not to test these resolutions and failed to 
press their demands according to the clan records.’ In 1527, when the 
possibility of resurgent Rajput power was at hand, the allied council 
sent 25,000 soldiers under the command of the Raja of Dholpur to fight 
the Mughals. At the battle of Kanua several thousand soldiers from 
this force were killed.6 

Suddenly, under Akbar’s regime, the tension and conflict found in 
the allied clan council resolutions stretching across nearly four cen- 
turies abated:7 

A sarv-khap panchayat meeting was held in Shoron [khap Baliyan] in 1631 s.B. 
[a.p. 1574] under the presidentship of Rao Landey Rai of Sisauli village, to 
consider the changed political conditions in the country resulting from the 
advent of Mughal rule. Akbar’s recent royal proclamation had given full 
freedom to religious faith and to the khap panchayats. 

The thousands of persons assembled ratified a series of resolutions 
which called for royal recognition of each of the eighteen constituent 
clan councils represented, for freedom to conduct religious affairs, and 

3 M.C. Pradhan, The Political System of the Jats of Northern India (Bombay, 1966), p.95. 
4 Pradhan, Political System, Appendix 3, p. 251 lists these villages. 

5 Pradhan, Political System, Case 45, pp. 256-257. 

© Pradhan, Political System, Case 47, p. 257. 

7 Pradhan, Political System, Appendix 4, Case 48, pp. 257-258. 



for the right to have clan officers make revenue collections within the 
clan areas. 

Six years later another allied council meeting passed a resolution to 
express its appreciation for a recent edict from the Mughal emperor 
which granted religious freedom and internal autonomy to the clans. 
The order, preserved in the Baliyan archive, reads:® 

By the present firman ..., certain community councils in India which during 
the reign of the Muslim sultans, before my reign, were charged certain taxes, 
are now being excused. Each community council has my permission and is free 
to carry on its traditional functions, in my reign. Both Hindus and Muslims 
are one in my eyes, so I give freedom [of action] to these councils. They are 
exempt from the payment of jazia [religious tax] and other taxes. 

Issued in the reign of emperor of India, Emperor Akbar, 11th Ramzan, 989 
Hijri [a.p. 1580]. Mandate issued by grand wazirs, Abul-Fazel and Raja Todar 

Another edict, issued two years earlier, makes similar statements, and 
is addressed specifically to the two Jat clan chaudhuris of clan Baliyan.? 

As these exchanges reveal, Akbar made several concessions to the 
local clans of the upper Doab region between Ganges and Jumna. The 
councils were to carry on as before without interference. Imposts that 
the Jats had resisted for centuries were to be waived. In return, 
however, the clan councils accepted the new revenue system. Measured 
lands are recorded for all sub-districts in the imperial district of 
Saharanput which included the lands of the Baliyan and their allied Jat 
and Gujar clans.!° They asked for local agency in collection, but did 
not quarrel with its implementation. In this region at least, imperial 
policy relied both upon force and conciliation. 

In forcing its agrarian system upon the variegated aristocracy of the 
North Indian plain, the Mughals began to compress and shape a new 
social class. The latter, despite resistance, found itself becoming more 

* Pradhan, Political System, p.97. The royal order is reproduced as Mandate No. 1 inset of 
plates between pages 96 and 97. Although the seal is indecipherable, the text is accurately 
translated by the author. 

9 Ibid. The text seems to have been addressed in general to four Jat khaps and one Gujar 
Ithap, but the copy preserved is addressed to “Chaudhury Pacchu Mal, Shoron, and 
Chaudhury Lad Singh, Sisauli 

10 These figures are recorded in the Ain-i Akbari tables under Delhi province. Abul Fazl 
Allami, The Ain-i Akbari, translated by H.S. Jarrett, second edition, corrected and 
annotated by Jadunath Sarkar (Calcutta, 1949), pp. 296-97. 



dependent upon the state for its prosperity and for an essential aspect 
of its identity, 


Mughal success in the countryside relied upon the services of numer- 
ous local members of what may be termed a gentry class whose 
interests and activities were both rural and urban. That is, these were 
men who filled specialized niches in the local economy and administra- 
tion and whose skills were absolutely essential to the Mughal agrarian 
order. Among them were members of the literate, trading castes of 
Hindu India, or in a minority, Muslim traders. These mahajans bought 
grain and other agricultural products for cash from the villages, carried 
their goods to the nearest market or pargana town, and from there to 
larger urban markets. Rural traders advanced loans against the harvest 
to the peasant farmers. In the larger towns various groups of traders 
were organized into markets whose headman was recognized by the 
state, These functionaries made regular reports on prices, scarcities, 
and other relevant market information. 

Another source of rural credit was the body of Hindu moneylenders 
and moneychangers who were active throughout the market towns and 
larger villages. In addition to lending and converting currencies, they 
issued discounted bills of exchange for the transfer of funds or for 
short-term commercial credit. Men drawn from these castes occupied 
positions as clerks, agents, collectors, and managers at all levels of the 
local and provincial revenue system. They served as amins or collectors 
for sub-districts; as clerks for treasuries; as agents for jagirdars; or as 
qanungos. In this capacity their roles intersected with local Muslim 
secretarial and trading groups who were their competitors for official 
posts of this type. 

As the imperial revenue system took hold and expanded its reach, 
the fortunes of this gentry class improved. Although only the outlines 
of these processes can be discerned, the numbers and resources of the 
town-based gentry grew steadily in tandem with the prospering 
market towns. Other forms of imperial patronage contributed to the 
rise of the gentry class and urban prosperity in this period. 

Early on, in Muzaffar Khan’s administration, distinction was estab- 
lished between revenue-paying lands and assets and alienated revenue 
lands and assets. The latter were a means of offering patronage or 



paying for services by allocating the normal revenues to privileged 
recipients. Lands given as revenue grants (madad-i ma’ash) were often 
those for which the ruler permitted pious and worthy persons to collect 
the state’s tax revenues for their own support. Previous Indo-Muslim 
rulers and their nobles had conferred benefits on a primary Muslim 
clientele of Sufi masters and devotees and worthy and pious members 
of the ulema. The praises uttered daily for the ruler by this “Army of 
Prayer” was one of immeasurable, but significant, sources of political 
support for any ruler in medieval India. Administration of these grants 
was the primary obligation of the chief ecclesiastical officer, the sadr. 

When Akbar began his revenue reforms in the 1570s he discovered 
many abuses and many grants held by Afghans who were inimical to 
his regime — especially in the Punjab. The emperor abrogated grants 
lapsed illegally into hereditary holdings and resumed others that were 
gained fraudulently. The new policy forced grantees to shift their 
holdings to selected parganas and districts within the central provinces 
of North India where these tax-free grants could be better managed 
and controlled. This new policy was one of the sources of the 
discontent which culminated in the revolt of 1579 discussed earlier. 

Another sore point was Akbar’s inclusion of non-Muslim grantees 
as objects of state largess. More than any previous Indo-Muslim ruler, 
Akbar conferred madad-i ma’ash grants on many saintly individuals 
and institutions. Two surviving documents preserved in the Saivite 
shrine at Jakhbar, sixteen miles from Patankot in the Punjab, confirm 
this new departure. In the late sixteenth century, as it is today, this 
institution was the seat of a ruling Mahant (Master) of the Kanphatha 
sect of Saivite Jogis. A copy of an imperial farman issued in 1581 
added fifty bigahs of tax-free land to the parcel of madad-i ma’ash lands 
obtained ten years earlier in order to compensate for the loss of lands 
inundated and made useless. Since the Jogi Udant Nath had been 
“honored with admittance to the imperial court,” he obtained con- 
firmation of the earlier largess and the additional lands. In return he 
was to “remain occupied with praying for the permanence of the 
Conquering Dynasty while sustaining himself year after year with the 
entire produce from that (land).”!! The revenue collectors of the 
treasury or the jagirdars of that pargana were enjoined to hand over the 
stipulated lands without hindrance. 

11 B, N. Goswamy and J. S, Grewal, The Mughals and the Jogis of Jakbbar (Simla, Indian 
Institute of Advanced Study, 1967), pp. 1-52. 



A second, later, document is an original farman bearing the stamp of 
Akbar’s iron seal (listing his ancestors back to Timur) dated the 
forty-first regnal year. This order confirms the grant once again, but 
reduces the amount by eighty bigahs.!? The same injunctions and 
formulas to local officers were repeated in this order. The personal 
attendance of the Jogi leader at the imperial court is consistent with 
Akbar’s interest in interviewing noted spiritual leaders. 

In absolute terms such grants provided a living to a substantial 
number of Muslim and non-Muslim gentry. Moosvi estimates that the 
overall total largess for twelve provinces amounted at a minimum to 2.2 
million rupees each year or the equivalent of 2.38 percent of the total 
revenues.'? Moreover the political effect was accentuated by con- 
centration. Outlying provinces — Bengal and Orissa to the east, Kabul 
and Kashmir to the northwest — did not receive any grants. Over half of 
the grants were located in the four heartland provinces: Agra, Delhi, 
Awadh, and Allahabad. And certain parganas within these provinces 
were favored. The highest percentage of grants seems to have come in 
four blocks of territory in which there was a high concentration of 
bigger towns.'* 

The structures created by Akbar and his administration survived with 
surprisingly little change until the early years of the eighteenth 
century. Operating jointly, the regulation revenue system and the 
system of jagirs had a powerful impact on rural society in North India. 
Imposed and backed by overwhelming Mughal power, this structure 
intruded beneath the tough defenses of rural life and reshaped the 
economy, culture, and society of Mughal India. 

12 Goswamy and Grewal, The Mughals and the Jogis, pp. 59-63. 

13 Shireen Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, c.1595 (New Delhi: Oxford University 

Press, 1987), p.159 and Appendix 1.A. 
44 Ibid. 162-165. 



JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

As Akbar lay ill and dying in 1605, Jahangir, then Prince Salim, nearly 
lost the throne to Khusrau, his seventeen-year-old eldest son. Raja 
Man Singh Kachhwaha of Amber and Mirza Aziz Koka (whose 
daughter was married to the young prince) failed to persuade a 
majority of the nobles to support this coup. Instead, an opposition 
party, led by the Sayyids of Baraha, brought Salim safely to the dying 
emperor, who, before he succumbed, invested the heir with a turban, 
robes, and Akbar’s own dagger. After a week of mourning, Salim 
mounted the throne in Agra fort, placed the throne on his own head, 
and took the title Nur-ud-din Jahangir Padshah Ghazi. A confront- 
ation had occurred, but not a war for the succession. 

Apparently reconciled to the new regime, Man Singh went to Bengal 
as the governor, while Khusrau, seemingly restored to favor, resided 
under semi-confinement at Agra fort. Six months later in April, 1606, 
Khusrau, on the pretext of visiting Akbar’s tomb, fled toward the 
Punjab with several hundred followers. Quickly assembling an army 
of 12,000 (paid for from 100,000 rupees seized from an imperial 
treasure caravan), Khusrau besieged the governor of the Punjab at 
Lahore. Jahangir, attempted negotiations with his son failing, sent a 
relief army which engaged the prince outside the city. The short, 
bloody, battle ended in a rout. Khusrau tried to flee toward Kabul, but 
the whole countryside was alerted for him through the network of 
pargana headmen and city provosts. He and his officers were captured 
when they tried to seize a ferry to cross the Chenab river. 

Jahangir, freshly arrived in Lahore, sentenced most of Khusrau’s 
captured followers to impalement before the eyes of their erstwhile 
leader. The nobles who had led the successful campaign against the 
rebels obtained increases in rank and new jagirs. To every pargana 
headman in the lands between the Jhelum and Chenab rivers went 
tax-free lands for their loyalty in suppressing this revolt. 

When Jahangir moved north to Kabul to direct the defense of 
Qandahar fortress against the Safavids, Khusrau, left under arrest in 
Lahore, engaged in a plot to kill his father. Four hundred young 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

noblemen and mansabdars swore personal fealty to the prince and 
received the badge of discipleship in return. An informer revealed the 
plot to the emperor who swiftly executed several ringleaders and 
ordered the blinding of his son (who, somewhat later, was able to have 
his sight partially restored), The maimed Khusrau’s more rigorous 
imprisonment put an end to this succession struggle. 


Within the formal boundaries of the empire, tightening and deepening 
imperial domination resumed. For Jahangir, the most irksome internal 
problem was that of the Rana of Mewar, head of the Sisodia clan of 
Rajputs at Udaipur who had successfully defied Akbar.! 

The real point was that as Rana Amar Singh and his fathers, proud in the 
strength of their hilly country and their abodes, had never seen or obeyed any 
of the kings of Hindustan. 

One of Jahangir’s earliest acts was to send his son Prince Parwaz on 
campaign against Mewar. This failed in the face of the evasive tactics of 
the Sisodia ruler as did nearly annual campaigns thereafter. In 1613, 
Jahangir himself moved from Agra to Ajmer. Equipping his son Prince 
Khurram with a new army the emperor sent him into the hills of 
Rajasthan. Khurram set up a series of military checkpoints in the hills 
at points thought inaccessible by Mughal commanders; sent one after 
the other columns of cavalry to harry the Rana and his commanders; 
and made hostages of the families of the most prominent Sisodias. 
Finally, unable to discourage the grimly determined Mughal prince, 
Amar Singh capitulated. 

The Rana “chose obedience and loyalty” and Jahangir, who 
“forgave the Rana’s offences, and gave a gracious farman ... impressed 
with the mark of my auspicious palm.”? Amar Singh presented himself 
in person to Khurram and formally submitted. Pleading old age, he 
asked that his son and heir Karan travel to Jahangir’s court and be 
enrolled as an imperial amir in his place. Delighted by this victory, 
Jahangir agreed and Khurram returned to a great celebration in Ajmer. 
The emperor set about wooing his new servant: “As it was necessary to 

1 Jahangir, Tuzuk-t Jahangir: (Delhi, 2 vols. in one, reprint edition, 1968) translated by 
‘A. Rogers, edited by H. Beveridge, 1, 274. 
2 Ibid, 



win the heart of Karan, who was of a wild nature and had never seen 
assemblies and had lived among the hills, I every day showed him some 
fresh favour.”? The emperor did indeed lavish expensive gifts, includ- 
ing five elephants, upon the young Sisodia prince; permitted him a 
private audience in the women’s apartments; and even took him on a 
tiger shoot. Enriched and undoubtedly bedazzled, Karan returned to 
Mewar with the rank of 5,000 zat 5,000 suwar. In further celebration 
Jahangir ordered his stone cutters to carve life-sized figures of Amar 
Singh and Karan Singh. These were placed outside the viewing window 
of Agra fort where the emperor displayed himself publicly every 

The capitulation of the Rana of Mewar signalled that resistance to 
the Mughal was futile. No mountainous or desert refuge was safe. 
Proud Rajas such as the Jam of Kathiawar, the remote peninsula in 
Gujarat, who had never appeared in person at the court of the Sultans 
of Gujarat or of Akbar, prudently decided to prostrate themselves 
before Jahangir. No powerful chief could claim long-standing pre- 
scriptive rights without a written patent or sanad from the emperor and 
expect to remain unchallenged. 

In hundreds of localities rajas or lineage heads who had experienced 
only sporadic encounters with Indo-Muslim rulers now found them- 
selves faced by forcible demands for ritual submission and payment of 
annual tribute. Long-tributary zamindars coped with greater political 
and economic pressures from imperial officials. If tensions grew too 
great, various forms of resistance or even outright rebellion occurred. 
Some negotiation was always possible, but if compromise failed, the 
outcome was harsh: a punitive expedition in massive force. If fortu- 
nate, the offending ruler might retain his life and title; if unfortunate, 
another claimant to the local gaddi would occupy the throne. Or, 
outright annexation was always an option. With annexation came 
administration by the usual cadres of imperial officials. Formerly 
dominant rajas became mere zamindars within their former domains. 


During Khusrau’s ill-fated coup in 1605, the rebel prince had a brief 
encounter with Arjun, the fifth Sikh Guru. At Goindwal, one of the 
2 Ibid. p.277.  ¢ Ibid., p. 332. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

prosperous Sikh towns in the Punjab, Arjun made the mistake of 
offering his blessing to Khusrau. Jahangir seems to have been consist- 
ently hostile to popularly venerated religious figures. In the emperor’s 
memoir he comments:5 

In Gobindwal, which is on the river Biyah (Beas), there was a Hindu named 
Arjun, in the garments of sainthood and sanctity, so much so that he had 
captivated many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus, and even of the ignorant 
and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners, and they had loudly 
sounded the drum of his holiness. They called him Guru and from all sides 
stupid people crowded to worship and manifest complete faith in him. For 
three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they had kept this shop 
warm. Many times it had occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or to 
bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam. 

Simply by making a finger-mark of saffron on Khusrau’s brow as an 
auspicious sign, Arjun suffered a fate similar to most of Khusrau’s 
followers. Jahangir “ordered them to produce him [Arjun] and handed 
over his houses, dwelling places, and children to Murtaza Khan, and 
having confiscated his property commanded that he should be put to 
death,Ӣ Arjun thereby became the first Sikh martyr to fall before the 

Arjun’s young son, Hargobind, survived to assume his father’s role 
as the sixth Sikh Guru. Partly in reaction to Arjun’s persecution, the 
adolescent Hargobind adopted a new quasi-regal style. He wore two 
swords, held court, hunted with his retainers and built a fort at 
Amritsar as if he were a raja or prince. Jahangir, apprised of this, moved 
to squash the young Sikh leader’s pretensions by arresting and 
imprisoning him in the state prison at Gwalior fort for two years 

Upon his release, Hargobind shifted his household and the central 
institutions of Sikhism north to the Himalayan foothills. Here, at 
Bilaspur on the marchlands of Mughal power, the young Sikh leader 
established his court as a zamindar in circumstances similar to those 
Rajput rulers who had survived in the hills. A network of supporters 
continued to send offerings from the plains. The retreat to the hills 
ended further Mughal persecution of the Guru and his followers in 
Jahangir’s reign. 

5 Jahangir, Tuzwk, 1,72. Ibid., p. 73. 




The harshness with which Jahangir treated the Sikh Guru appears to 
have stemmed more from Arjun’s perceived political threat than from 
hostility to his religious doctrines as such. Religious leaders who 
cultivated large popular followings suffered persecution; their quietist 
colleagues did not. Like Akbar, Jahangir sought out eminent holy men 
like the widely venerated Vaishnava ascetic, Gosain Jadrup of Ujain, 
whom Akbar had also visited. Several invitations to the imperial court 
at Agra failed. Finally, in 1616, Jahangir visited the saint at his 
residence, a hole dug in the side of a hill near Ujain. Emperor and holy 
man talked for several hours and the emperor returned for later visits 
over the years. Of his last interview in 1620 Jahangir commented:” 

On Monday, the 12th, my desire to see Gosain Jadrup again increased and 
hastening to his hut, without ceremony, I enjoyed his society. Sublime words 
were spoken to between us. God Almighty has granted him an unusual grace, a 
lofty understanding, and excellent nature, and sharp intellectual powers, with 
a God-given knowledge and a heart free from the attachments of the world, so 
that putting behind his back the world and all that is in it, he sits content in the 
corner of solitude and without wants. 

Jahangir’s meetings with Gosain Jadrup were frequently portrayed by 
court painters who found the juxtaposition of worldly magnificence 
and holy renunciation a powerful theme. 

A widely-known Muslim religious figure, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi 
did not fare so well with Jahangir. Although he was a dominant figure 
in the orthodox Naqshbandi Sufi order, which stressed obedience to 
the Sharia, Sirhindi had adopted a radical, some might even say 
heretical posture. In what came perilously close to heresy, Sirhindi, 
while admitting that prophecy had come to an end with Muhammad, 
the Seal of the Prophets, claimed that certain believers with prophetic 
proficiency continued to have direct experience of divine inspiration. 
Sirhindi asserted that he was a present-day manifestation of the 
Companions of the Prophet who shared in the prophetic qualities of 
Muhammad. He had direct access without prophetic mediation to 

7 Tuzuk-i Jahangiri, translated in Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in 
the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, 1965), p. 328. 

* Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Abmad Sirbindi: An Outline of His Thought and a Study of 
His Image in the Eyes of Posterity (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971), 
P. 40. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

divine inspiration. Sirhindi could therefore offer guidance to the 
Islamic community. His numerous letters and treatises claimed that in 
the second millennium of Islam, begun in 1592-93, he would be the 
“Renewer of the Second Millennium” (mujaddid-i alf-i thani). In the 
second millennium he could help to reverse the downward descent of 
Islam and the growing separation of the Prophet Muhammad from his 

Sirhindi wrote hundreds of letters to lay disciples, fellow Naqshban- 
dis, and, on occasion, to Mughal nobles and the emperor. Those letters 
addressed to Mughal amirs often denounced the participation of 
Hindus in the regime. Several years of service as a protégé of Abul Fazl 
at Akbar’s court had convinced Sirhindi that the emperor was opposed 
to the true path of Islam. He hoped for reversal of Akbar’s policies and 
a change in tone under Jahangir. In a few letters Sirhindi called for the 
humiliation of Hindus and their false religion. Sirhindi vented his deep 
frustration and anger in bitter comments on the execution of the Guru 
Arjun — seen as a Hindu — by Jahangir:? 

These days the accursed infidel of Goindwal was very fortunately killed. Itis a 
cause of great defeat for the reprobate Hindus. With whatever intention and 
purpose they are killed, the humiliation of infidels is for the Muslims life itself. 

Sirhindi was expressing anger shared by many Muslim learned men. 
Those theologians, judges, Sufis, and others who relied on state 
patronage were especially troubled by Akbar’s policies. At this point in 
time a substantial, vocal gentry class of ulema was entrenched in the 
towns of northern India. Such men were in fact extremely numerous in 
Shaikh Ahmad’s home of Sirhind in the Punjab. Fears for material loss 
were intermixed with fears for spiritual loss and the weakening of the 
community of Indian Muslims. There is no question that Shaikh 
Ahmad articulated and responded to these concerns. 

Not all theologians supported Shaikh Ahmad, however. Abd-al Haq 
Dihlawi, the most respected Muslim scholar of his time, directly 
challenged Sirhindi’s views. In a surviving letter Abd-al Haq den- 
ounced Shaikh Ahmad’s pridefulness and his claim to “share in the 
wealth” of the Companions of the Prophet.'° To claim that no 
mediation was required between himself and God was disrespectful to 
the Prophet and heretical. 

° Translation and text given in Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhinds, p. 75. 
‘9 Friedmann, Shaykh Abmad Sirhindi, pp. 88-89. 



In 1619 Shaikh Ahmad’s growing notoriety and popular following 
attracted the attention of Jahangir who summoned him to an imperial 
audience. In his memoirs Jahangir commented that Sirhindi “had 
spread the net of hypocrisy and deceit,” enlisted disciples, and was 
leading Muslims to false belief and heresy. The emperor was especially 
incensed by Sirhindi’s claim to have surpassed the spiritual stage 
attained by the rightly-guided Companions of the Prophet.'! At the 
audience Shaikh Ahmad was “extremely proud and self-satisfied with 
all his ignorance.””!? Shaikh Ahmad’s arrogance earned him imprison- 
ment in the state prison at Gwalior fort to permit his own confusion 
and “the excitement of the people” to subside.'3 Released after a year 
and restored to favor, Shaikh Ahmad travelled with the imperial 
encampment on Jahangir’s tour to the Deccan. 

Sirhindi’s impact on Indian Islam is controversial. His letters, 
compiled in three volumes by disciples, continued to be widely read in 
Mughal and post-Mughal India. After his death in 1624 his followers 
composed a hagiographic literature that glorified Sirhindi’s role as a 
persecuted champion of Islam. He is portrayed as a leader in the 
struggle to return the Timurid regime to its proper conduct of the 
Sharia. His concern for Islamic revivalism and his anti-Hindu senti- 
ments undoubtedly contributed to the sharpening division between the 
Islamic community and the Hindu community in the seventeenth 


Unlike his father, Jahangir was not a great general, a great organizer, or 
a great builder. Much of his energy was devoted to the courtly culture 
of the Mughals. The court with its great palace and household and the 
satellite palaces of the great nobles were glittering ornaments of life in 
the capital. Court ceremonial and conspicuous display served to 
impress all those in submission to the Timurid ruler. However, in 
Jahangir’s reign and thereafter, ossifying ceremonial immobilized the 
principal actors. The emperor especially was encased in a daily round 
of ceremony. The muffling effect of court life made it more difficult for 
Jahangir to engage in decisive action in person and more likely that he 

4 Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements, p. 287 gives a full translation of this passage. 
2 Ibid. 
» Ibid. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

would delegate active military command. As he lost dynamism, 
however, the emperor gained in sacral qualities. The aura surrounding 
his person became more pronounced. 

Jahangir did not build a new capital but treated Agra as the imperial 
center. For extended periods to meet urgent strategic concerns, he 
moved from Agra to Kabul, Ajmer, or Mandu and the great encamp- 
ment became temporary imperial headquarters. Jahangir’s one attempt 
to establish a new city near the hills along the Ganges ended because of 
his illness.'* Instead the emperor devoted his creative energies to a 
number of building projects indelibly stamped by his own pronounced 
aesthetic sensibility. 

Notable among these were the great imperial _gardens of North India 
and Kashmir. Charmed by the coolness and ambience of Kashmir, 
Jahangir made several trips to that mountain valley during the hot 
seasons on the plains. His urges toward building were consumed in 
planning and laying out four magnificent outdoor gardens — Shalimar 
Bagh, Achabal, Vernag, and Nishat Bagh — whose attenuated remains 
can still be seen today.'5 The use of watercourses, pools, summer 
pavilions, shade trees and plantings of flowers and shrubs created 
patterns and designs, which, despite their scale, even today display an 
appealing delicacy and order. 

Jahangir regularly withdrew from the public face of rulership to a 
more private, circumscribed, arena created by his lavish patronage and 
inspired connoisseurship. In miniature painting he found a congenial 
aesthetic form. The emperor was a demanding critic who obtained bold 
innovation from his painters in techniques of modelling and spatial 
depth. The talented artists of the imperial workshops painted a wide 
range of subjects at Jahangir’s direction. Studies of animals, flowers, 
and other natural motifs were painted because of their intrinsic interest 
to the patron and his immediate circle. Under Jahangir naturalist trends 
in Mughal painting reached their apogee.'* 

Certainly, for Jahangir, as for Akbar, painting remained a political 
weapon. Numerous examples of political iconography focused upon 
the emperor survive. Many paintings from this period ~ such as that by 
Abul Hassan showing Jahangir embracing a diminutive Shah Abbas, 
14 Beni Prasad, History of Jabangir (London: Oxford University Press, 1922), p. 32 
45 Sylvia Crowe, et al., The Gardens of Mughul India (New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House 

Pvt Ltd, 1972), pp. 90-120. 

16 Milo Cleveland Beach, The Grand Mogul: Imperial Painting in India 1600-1660 
(Williamstown, Massachusetts: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1978), p. 25. 



the Safavid ruler, over a globe — display the public face of painting.” 
Nevertheless, Jahangir as patron seems to have been more stimulated 
by connoisseurship. 

Frequent withdrawal to a private sphere of life was partly a reflection 
of Jahangir’s indolence, brought on by his increasing addiction to a 
potent daily dosage of opium and wine. In a strange, somewhat 
paradoxical way, Jahangir’s passivity strengthened two interfolded 
motifs within Timurid political culture: the familial claim of the 
Timurids and especially the descendants of Babur, Humayun, and 
Akbar to the Mughal throne; and the increasing inviolability of the 
person of the ruler. Together these two motifs placed a crushing weight 
upon any challenger or usurper — Timurid or not. 


In 1611 Jahangir met, wooed, and married the young widow of a 
Mughal officer slain in Bengal. Mehrunissa, who was serving in the 
entourage of one of Akbar’s widows, was a classic Persian beauty, 
thirty years of age. Her father, titled Itimad-ud-daulah, was a high- 
ranking nobleman at Jahangir’s court. The new queen rapidly became 
Jahangir’s favored wife (from among a total of twenty) under the title 
Nur Jahan or “Light of the World.” Nur Jahan’s beauty, her great love 
for the emperor, her strong personality, and her abilities which ranged 
from fashion design to hunting gave her unusual influence over 
Jahangir. Her father became the imperial diwan or chief minister. Her 
brother, Asaf Khan, rose quickly in rank to become one of the leading 
noblemen at court. 

Nur Jahan formed an alliance with Jahangir’s second son, Khurram, 
who, as heir-apparent, held the jagir of Hissar pargana in the Punjab 
and the right to pitch crimson tents. In 1612 Khurram married 
Arjumand Banu, later Mumtaz Mahal, the daughter of Asaf Khan. 
After this marriage, celebrated both by the prince and by Asaf Khan 
with ostentatious splendor, the alliance was sealed. 

Together these four persons — Nur Jahan, her father, Itimad-ud- 
daulah, her brother, Asaf Khan, and Khurram, the Timurid prince — 
exerted enormous influence over Jahangir. Imperial rescripts were 
sometimes issued in Nur Jahan’s name. Most startling, however, are 
the silver rupees minted bearing Jahangir’s titles on the obverse and the 

17 Bamber Gascoigne, The Great Moghuls (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971), p. 130. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

legend “‘struck in the name of the Queen Begam, Nur Jahan” on the 
reverse.'® By adding her name to his coins, Jahangir publicly pro- 
claimed Nur Jahan’s sharing of his authority in a prerogative central to 
Islamic kingship. For over a decade, between 1611 and 1622, Jahangir 
relied heavily upon advice from Nur Jahan and her colleagues. 

Predictably a rival faction left outside the charmed circle of the 
emperor’s favor emerged. Opposition nobles, headed by Mahabat 
Khan, also an Iranian amir, looked to the blinded Prince Khusrau as a 
symbol of their resistance to the domination of Jahangir by Nur 
Jahan’s clique. Khusrau universally was seen as a tragic and popular 
royal figure both by the populace at large and by the royal harem 
women who resented Nur Jahan’s power. Popular opinion also held 
that he was Jahangir’s real favorite instead of the proud overbearing 
Khurram. The Nur Jahan group waited to claim the throne for 
Khurram when the emperor died — a not unlikely scenario in view of 
his excesses. 


Jahangir, torn between emulation and rejection of his father, accepted 
his inherited role as the light-suffused monarch capable of greater 
knowledge and power than ordinary men. By the emperor’s own 
statement his new title of honor, Nur-ud-din, “light of the faith” 
linked him with the “great light” the sun.?° 

Jahangir continued to enroll royal disciples from among his nobles 
and, it would seem, guarded his authority over his disciples more 
vigorously than Akbar thought necessary. Khwaja Khawand 
Mahmud, a popular master of the Naqshbandi order, had enrolled a 
number of nobles as his disciples during Akbar’s reign. Much of his 
appeal consisted of his attachment to the forms and beliefs of orthodox 
Sunni Islam — consistent with the tenets of the order. Shortly after 

8-H, Nelson Wright, Coins of the Mughal Emperors of India (New Delhi: Deep Publi- 
cations, 1st Indian reprint edition, 1975), p. 93. Originally published-by the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal, Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, 111, “Mughal 
Emperors of India,” 1908. 

\% The following section is adapted from J. F. Richards, “The Formulation of Imperial 
Authority Under Akbar and Jahangir” in Richards, ed., Kingship and Authority, 
pp. 268-277. 

2 Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements, p. 221. 



Jahangir’s accession a high-ranking nobleman complained that Khwaja 
Khawand Mahmud had pressed him to become his disciple (murid) 
even though the Khwaja knew that he was already the disciple of the 
emperor. The master responded that he was a disciple of the Holy Law 
who was enjoined to obey those in authority. Therefore, he, the 
Khwaja, was himself a murid of the emperor. Only this adroit reply 
saved the Naqshbandi from the emperor’s anger.?! 

Significant direct testimony to continuing royal discipleship 
comes from the letters and journals of Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador 
to the Mughal court from King James of England. Roe was in near- 
daily attendance in the court and camp of Jahangir for nearly three 
years (1615-1618). He established an affable relationship with the 
emperor by becoming one of Jahangir’s favorite drinking com- 

Like Akbar, Jahangir selected and initiated disciples from among his 
favored nobles “who [are] worthy of receiving shast wa shabab,” i.e. 
the seal or ring and the imperial likeness which were the symbols of 
discipleship. In his own journal the emperor describes the details of the 
enrollment ceremony.?? Roe himself, although he was not aware of the 
full significance of the event, became a disciple of Jahangir. In August 
1616, Jahangir favored the ambassador by enacting, without warning, 
the ceremony of initiation:?3 

August 17 ~ I went to visit the King, who, as soone as I came in, called to his 
woemen and reached out a picture of himselfe sett in gould hanging at a wire 
gould Chaine, with one pendant foule pearle, which he delivered to Asaph 
chan, [Asaf Khan, the wazir] warning him not to demand any reuerence of 
mee other than such as I would willingly giue, it beeing the Custome, when 
soever hee bestowes any thing, the receiuer kneeles downe and putts his head 
to the groun ... So Asaph Chan came to mee, and I offered to take it in my 
hand; bet hee made signe to putt of my hatt, and then putt it about my neck, 
leading mee right before the king. I understood not his purpose, but doubted 
hee would require the Custome of the Country called Size-da [the full 
prostration or sijdah of discipleship]; but I was resolved rather to deliuer up 
my present. Hee made sign to mee to giue the king thancks, which I did after 
my owne Custome. 

21 Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements, p. 184. 

2 S.A. A, Rizvi, Religious and Intellectual History of the Muslims in Akbar's Reign (New 
Delhi, 1975), p. 400 quotes the full text of this passage. 

2 William Foster, ed., The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 
1615-1619 (London: Hakluyt Society, new series, 2 vols., 1894) 1, 244-45. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

Roe commented that although the actual money value of his token 
from the emperor was trifling it was an eagerly sought preferment:?* 

held for an especiall favour, for that all the great men that weare the kings 
Image (which none may doe but to whom it is given) receiue noe other than a 
meddall of gould as bigg as sixpence, with a little chayne of 4 inches to fasten it 
on their head, which at their own Chardge some sett with stones or garnishe 
with pendant Pearles. 

Selection as a royal disciple was a signal honor. Those who wore the 
tiny portraits of the emperor were an elect group of imperial servants. 

Jahangir in turn behaved as a disciple to the deceased Khwaja 
Muin-ud-din Chishti whose intercession, he believed, had given him 
life and Akbar a son and heir. In contrast to his father who seems to 
have abandoned his own worship of the Chishti saint, Jahangir publicly 
displayed his veneration. At Ajmer in 1614 the emperor visited the 
tomb and distributed lavish gifts to the devotees and descendants of the 
Shaikh. During this residence, Jahangir fell ill with a prolonged fever. 
After several weeks, the weakened emperor finally went to the 
mausoleum of the Chishti saint and prayed for health. When his 
prayers were granted, Jahangir decided that “inasmuch as I was 
inwardly an ear-bored slave of the Khwaja” he would have holes made 
in his ears and place a lustrous pearl in each.?> As soon as the news 
spread, Jahangir’s own disciples and admirers adopted the same 
fashion and placed pearls in their ears. Jahangir distributed 732 pearls 
to those officers who had made this gesture. The links of discipleship 
reached from the Chishti saint, to the emperor, and from there to his 
own disciples. Timurid and Chishti sanctity were conflated. 


Under Jahangir the empire continued to be a war state attuned to 
aggressive conquest and territorial expansion. In the northeast, after 
weary campaigns to subdue the Afghans, the Mughals clashed with a 
new enemy, the Ahoms. This hardy, aggressive, Shan people had been 
moving from their home in upper Burma slowly down the Brahmapu- 
tra valley since about 1400. As they did so, they defeated. and 
assimilated or drove off the indigenous tribal and Hindu peoples of the 

2 Ibid. 25 Jahangir, Tuzuk, 1, 267. 



region. The Ahoms gradually came under Hindu religious and cultural 
influence as they progressed along the Brahmaputra river. 

Ahom determination shaped the limits of Mughal power in the 
northeast. Unlike many Indian regimes, the Ahoms were not worn 
down by centuries-long struggles against encroaching Muslim power. 
Like their opponent they looked back on a history of victorious 
aggression. Unconstrained by caste, ethnic, or religious barriers, 
Ahom rulers mobilized virtually all adult male subjects for military 
service or forced labor when campaigning. They carried on a sys- 
tematic program of building roads, embankments and irrigation tanks 
in lands seized and occupied. The Ahom state taxed and organized 
people by labor levies and produce rather than land in the Indo- 
Muslim structures. If policy dictated, the Ahom kings forcibly 
uprooted and moved entire local populations to another habitation. 
The Mughals found this Southeast Asian style of organization and 
warfare extremely difficult to combat. 

During Jahangir’s reign Mughal and Ahom armies battled nearly 
every year in the riverine and jungly tracts of the northeast. Ahom 
commanders threw up bamboo stockades, dug traps and pits, and 
employed their musketeers with great skill. They made surprise night 
attacks on the Mughal encampments that demoralized and slowed 
imperial advances. Lahori, the mid-seventeenth century chronicler, 
recorded the unflattering view of the Ahoms held by the Mughal 
armies on campaign in this riverine land:?6 
The inhabitants shave the head and clip off beard and whiskers. They eat 
every land and water animal. They are very black and loathsome in appear- 
ance. The chiefs travel on elephants or country ponies; but the army 
consists only of foot soldiers. The fleet is large and well fitted out. The 
soldiers use bows and arrows and matchlocks, but do not come up in 
courage to the Muhammadan soldiers; though they are very brave in naval 
engagements. On the march they quickly and dexterously fortify their 
encampments with mud walls and bamboo palisades, and surround the 
whole with a ditch. 

From sheer necessity the Mughals learned to employ river boats with 
bow-mounted cannon and matchlockmen as well as cavalry and 
elephants in the watery reaches of Bengal and Assam. 

26 As cited in E. A. Gait, A History of Assam, 3rd revised edition (Calcutta, 2 vols., Thacket 
Spink, 1963), 1, 124. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 


Younger men, members of a new generation come to maturity since 
Akbar’s death, were inducted into the order of royal disciples. The 
autobiographical memoir of Ala-ud-din Isfahani, a Persian nobleman 
known as Mirza Nathan, testifies to the continuing appeal of this 
institution.?” In 1607, the youthful Mirza Nathan accompanied his 
father, Ihtimam Khan, commanding the imperial flotillas of armed 
river boats, to the eastern frontier. Soon after his arrival in Bengal, 
Mirza Nathan became seriously ill and lapsed into a fever. On the 
seventh day of his illness he had an awesome vision. In his feverish 
sleep “the king of the spiritual and temporal domain” [i.e. Jahangir] 
appeared and addressed him:?8 

“© Nathan! Is this the time for a tiger to lie down? Arise, we have granted you 
security from pain and trouble by our prayers to the Almighty and Omni- 
present Lord. Be quick, and placing the foot of manliness and sincerity in your 
devoted work be a comrade to your great father and be his support.” 

Nathan awoke fully cured of his fever and convinced of his mission. 
With the help of his father and Islam Khan Chishti (a member of the 
Fatehpur Sikri Sufi family), the governor of Bengal, Nathan sent a 
petition to the emperor describing his holy vision and begging for 
enlistment as one of the royal disciples. In reply, an imperial messenger 
returned bearing a tiny portrait of Jahangir “adorned with a genealogi- 
cal tree” of the Timurid dynasty. Although he was not summoned to 
court for a personal ceremony, by placing this image in his turban 
Mirza Nathan openly displayed his devotion and membership in the 
elect body of disciples. 

Mirza Nathan’s night vision of the emperor and his eagerness to act 
upon this occurrence undoubtedly derived from his birth and upbring- 
ing within the royal household. When Prince Khurram arrived in 
Bengal in the course of his rebellion, he referred to the Mirza as “one of 
the special servants of our Court, ... who was brought up from 
childhood under our feet.”2 Nathan was in fact a khanazad (lit. “son 
of the house”), which in Jahangir’s time seems to have connoted actual 

2 Mirza Nathan, Baharistan-i Ghaybi, edited and translated by M. I. Borah (Gauhati, 2 
vols., 1936). The Baharistan-i Ghaybi, completed by Mirza Nathan in 1632 A.D., contains 
a full account of his career as a military officer in service on the marches of Mughal 
expansion in eastern Bengal and Assam » daring Jabangir’s reign. 

28 Nathan, Baharistan, 1, 17, 74. 29 Nathan, Baharistan, U1, 702. 



residence in or connections with the imperial household during 
childhood and adolescence. Later the term took on the wider meaning 
of hereditary imperial service. This status and whatever preferment it 
might bring intersected with the institution of discipleship for Nathan. 

Sustaining these bonds of discipleship and hereditary family service 
posed no difficulty in the imperial court or camp. Patrimonial relation- 
ships were reaffirmed daily at the array of audiences presided over by 
the emperor. During the large court audiences formal rituals of 
authority and submission were enacted by gift exchange: the emperor 
bestowed offices, titles, increases in rank, as well as honorific clothing, 
horses, jeweled weapons, or even money. His subordinates invariably 
made an offering of gold coins or other suitable gifts of value. The most 
potent of these gifts were full or partial robes of honor worn momenta- 
rily by the emperor or brushed across his shoulders. Thomas Roe 
received from Jahangir “‘a cloth of gould Cloake of his owne, once or 
Twice worne, which hee caused to bee put on my back, and I made 
reverence ..., it is here reputed the highest of fauor to give a garment 
worne by the prince, or, being New, once layed upon his shoulder.””° 
Contact with the sacred person of the emperor was an affirmation of 
his care and regard for his servants. 

How were these personal ties between emperor and disciple sus- 
tained, when as in the case of Mirza Nathan, nobles remained on 
campaign? One tangible means lay in the exchanges necessary for 
promotion. From his first elevation in rank in 1612 to 500 zat, 250 
suwar Mirza Nathan progressed upward until in 1621, as reward for his 
role in the suppression of a rebellion by a Muslim zamindar, he became 
an amir at 1,000 zat, 500 suwar. The imperial rescript sent to the Mirza, 
signed jointly by Jahangir and Nur Jahan, stipulated his new rank and 
gave the Mirza a new title, Shitab Khan. The new nobleman also 
received a full robe of honor. To complete the transaction Nathan sent 
a gift of 42,000 rupees back to the Empress Nur Jahan.*! Alll the critical 
elements of the personal exchange were carried out at a distance. 

Other gift exchanges helped to maintain this illusion. On various 
occasions special imperial envoys delivered a set of soft shawls; a shield 
sent directly from the hand of the emperor; and two sets of pendant 
pearl earrings (with their connotations of discipleship). To reciprocate, 
Nathan organized wild elephant hunts and sent his choicest captives 
back as personal offerings to the emperor. 

% Foster, Embassy, 1,334. >! Nathan, Baharistan, 11, 666. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

Mirza Nathan, in common with other imperial officers, occasionally 
received written orders or farmans bearing the great seal of the Timurid 
emperor. Such special rescripts were carried from court by one or two 
imperial macebearers or by royal troopers (ahadis). Protocol on these 
occasions demanded that the recipient act as if the emperor himself 
were arriving. The noble rode several miles to greet the messenger; 
performed the sijdah or full-length court prostration; placed the order 
on his head and eyes and even kissed it before opening its container. 

The emperor used a more dramatic form of communication. A 
messenger of considerable rank could be sent to recite orders or 
exhortations verbatim from the lips of the emperor.>? To end the 
notorious factiousness of Qasim Khan, governor of Bengal succeeding 
Islam Khan Chishti, Jahangir sent a revenue officer titled Ibrahim Kalal 
with written orders of censure for the governor of Bengal, the 
provincial fiscal officer, the provincial military inspector and pay- 
master (bakhshi), and the news-writer. When the envoy arrived at the 
provincial capital, the governor met him, performed the proper 
obeisances, and received the written farman. 

The next morning when the Bengal governor, his three principal 
officers, and all his leading army commanders were assembled in the 
audience hall, Ibrahim Kalal solemnly delivered from memory 
Jahangir’s verbal rebuke to each of the four chief officers in turn. 
Without waiting for a reply he left the audience hall and set out 
immediately on his return journey.>3 Rituals of obedience and respect 
were repeatedly enacted even in the absence of the ruler. 


To the north, in the Himalayan foothills, the Mughals had an easier 
time than in Assam. By the 1590s Akbar had established his suzerainty 
over most of the Rajput rulers whose modest mountain valley king- 
doms cordoned the Himalayan foothills from Kashmir to the border of 
Bengal. Although left internal autonomy, these chiefs were forced to 
acknowledge the emperor’s supremacy, pay annual tribute, send 
troops for imperial purposes if requisitioned, and send their sons to 
serve at the imperial court or daughters to enter noble marriages. The 
Mughal emperor reserved the right to intervene in successions to the 
ruling seat. A few hill rajas were offered personal service as mansab- 
32 See ibid., 11, 307-310 for an example of this practice.» Ibid. 



dars by the emperor on terms similar to their fellow Rajputs in 
Rajasthan. Akbar also began the practice of locating faujdars or 
military governors in the hills to keep the Himalayan princes under 
surveillance. These officers administered tracts of territory forced from 
the tributary rajas and annexed as directly administered imperial lands. 

The Himalayas permitted passage by traders and nomads over 
mountain paths, but rendered improbable an armed invasion. The 
Mughal emperor’s main goal here was to extend formal domination to 
all the petty kings in the region. This could be done without fear of 
reprisal from a neighboring great power. Jahangir’s primary goal in the 
hills was subjugation of the Raja of Kangra. The latter relied upon the 
legendary strength of his massive fortress to protect him as it had his 
ancestors. Mughal operations began as early as 1615 against the capital, 
but without notable success until finally Prince Khurram took the 
fortress in 1618. The next year Jahangir travelled in person to celebrate 
his victory by erecting a mosque in the courtyard of Kangra fort. 


The Islamic lands to the northwest of Mughal India - Persia and 
Central Asia — posed a knotted complex of problems for Akbar’s 
successors. Jahangir was well aware that this region was the source of 
great danger. From Mahmud of Ghazni to the founder of his own 
dynasty, raiders and conquerors had marched into North India from 
the northwest. A fixed aim of Mughal policy was to deflect possible 
invasion by well-led, massed steppe cavalry. Kabul and Peshawar must 
be held at all costs, and, if possible, Qandahar and Ghazni. To make 
matters more difficult, the northwest frontier could only be sealed for 
very short intervals of great border tension. Rulers on both sides of the 
frontier profited from the bustling caravan trade. 

The symbolic weight of these regions was even more burdensome. 
Samarkhand was Timur’s capital lost to the Shaibanid rulers of the 
Uzbeks. The latter were inveterate enemies of Babur, the Chaghatai 
Turks, and his royal descendants. Bukhara, Balkh, and Badakhshan 
were the lands of Turan that long ago should have been restored to 
Mughal sovereignty. These regions were also the homeland for the 
Nagshbandi Sufi order and the ardent Sunni Islam that was part of the 
Timurid heritage. Jahangir’s stated goal was “the conquest of 
Mawara’a-n-nahr (Transoxania) which was the hereditary kingdom of 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

my ancestors.”3+ Central Asian conquest was always an enticing 
prospect for the Mughals. 

Persia in the 1600s presented more difficult problems. Mughal 
diplomatic relations with Safavid Persia varied with the ideological/ 
political stance adopted by each ruler. Apart from the carefully defined 
clashes over Qandahar, growing hostility never became unlimited war. 
Under Shah Abbas the Safavi state, although smaller in territory, 
population, and resources, readily met any military challenges offered 
by the Mughal empire. Each state threatened the other by aggressive 
diplomacy and intervention in neighboring regions. The Safavids were 
vulnerable in Turan or the Uzbek lands and the Mughals uneasy over 
the Shi'ite rulers of Golconda in the Deccan. 

The Safavids held one grave threat over the Timurids that could not 
be countered. Persian nobles and administrators, forming one of the 
largest ethnic groups in the Mughal nobility, kept up close ties with 
their homeland. Given sufficient encouragement, it was conceivable 
that Persian mansabdars might revolt, and bring on Safavid interven- 
tion. No Indians held similar posts in Safavid Persia. 

The Mughals suffered from the long-standing Persian claim of 
cultural superiority over the colonial Islamic lands in India (or for that 
matter over Turan). The Timurids accepted this judgment even as they 
chafed under it. To this imbalance can be added the fierce sectarian bias 
of the Safavis as ardent Shi'i and their contempt for the Sunni ortho- 
doxy generally accepted by the Timurids. Much to their chagrin, the 
Mughals owed their survival to the sanctuary provided first Babur, 
then Humayun by the Safavis. More humiliating than the aid itself was 
that public adherence to Shi'ite Islam demanded of each by Shah Ismail 
and Shah Tahmasp. 

The complex interaction between Safavis and Timurids was also a 
product of intimacy. In a strange, and often bizarre, fashion, Safavid 
and Timurid emperors looked to their opposites for affirmation of 
their grandeur and worth, In their own eyes, they had no other peers 
save the Ottoman Sultan. Frequent exchanges of letters, embassies, 
gifts, and portraits marked what was an extraordinary ‘personal 
relationship between the two emperors — conducted without ever 
meeting in person. 

Royal attraction and royal competition found tangible expression in 
the disputed possession of Qandahar fortress, town, and province. 

M4 Jahangir, Tuzuk, 1, 89. 



Akbar had recovered Qandahar in 1595 when two Safavid princes 
defected. As soon as Jahangir became emperor, the Safavid governors 
of Herat and other border areas organized an abortive assault on 
Qandahar. After this failure, Shah Abbas patiently ignored this irritant 
in favor of cultivating warm diplomatic and personal relations with 

By 1620, when Jahangir had fallen seriously ill, his queen Nur Jahan, 
and Prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan) were locked in an intricate 
struggle for dominance at the Timurid court (see below). Taking 
advantage of these distractions, Shah Abbas personally led a Persian 
army against Qandahar in the winter of 1622. Before a relief army 
could be assembled the ill-prepared 300 man Mughal garrison surren- 
dered and handed Qandahar back to Persian control. 


At Akbar’s death the Mughals were poised to expand south against the 
remaining Muslim Sultanates. Khandesh, Berar, and the northernmost 
portion of Ahmadnagar were firmly under imperial control. Incom- 
plete Mughal assimilation of Ahmadnagar and Akbar’s preoccupation 
with the rebellion of Prince Selim permitted a resistance movement to 
flare up in that kingdom. Malik Ambar, a “habshi” or Abyssinian 
military slave officer, established a capital for Sultan Murtaza Nizam 
Shah (1599-1631) at Khadki (later renamed Aurangabad) fifteen 
kilometers distant from the great hill-fort at Daulatabad. 

Soon after beginning his reign, Jahangir resumed military operations 
against Ahmadnagar. Unenthusiastic campaigns by a succession of 
imperial officers produced little result for nearly a decade. Malik 
Ambar had obtained support from the Jadavs and several other 
Maratha aristocratic families of the region. Finally, in 1616, the Mughal 
prince Parwiz commanded a reinforced army that crushed the Ahmad- 
nagar forces in a major battle near Jalna. The imperial armies looted 
and razed Malik Ambar’s capital city at Khadki (or Khirki). Malik 
Ambar fled to shelter in Daulatabad fort and resumed guerrilla 
resistance when the Mughals withdrew. 

At this juncture the Deccan campaigns became intertwined with the 
intricate pattern of dynastic politics at the court. When Jahangir 
ordered Prince Khurram to replace his brother Parwiz in the Deccan, 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

Khurram refused to set out for the Deccan campaign and leave the only 
partially disabled Khusrau behind. He and Nur Jahan persuaded 
Jahangir to transfer custody of Khusrau to Asaf Khan, Nur Jahan’s 
brother. Thus reassured Khurram led a massive army against the 
dwindling forces of Ahmadnagar. Jahangir travelled in person with his 
court to Mandu to supervise the operations. Faced with defeat, Malik 
Ambar offered full control of Berar and Ahmadnagar to the Mughal 

The Nur Jahan group reached the height of its power with Khur- 
ram’s victories in the Deccan and Jahangir’s prolonged tour to Mandu 
and the sea at Gujarat. When, after an absence of five-and-one-half 
years, the emperor returned to Agra in April, 1619, the political 
kaleidoscope shifted within a year. Jahangir’s health deteriorated to the 
point that Nur Jahan took active charge of the day-to-day running of 
the empire. Tensions between Nur Jahan and Khurram rose as the 
prince looked forward eagerly to his patrimony and acted more and 
more as a ruling sovereign. In response, in 1620, Nur Jahan arranged a 
marriage between Shahryar, Jahangir’s youngest son, age sixteen, with 
her daughter Ladili Begam. She would then have a living male heir to 
the throne under her control when her husband died. The rupture 
between Nur Jahan and Khurram was complete. This bold action 
established three royal princes - Khurram, Khusrau, and now Shah- 
ryar — as contenders for the throne. Each found noble factions 
coalescing around them. 

Shortly after the emperor’s return to Agra, however, unrest in the 
Deccan flared up again. Malik Ambar renounced the treaty imposed 
upon his kingdom and encouraged Bijapur and Golconda to send 
forces to help him drive out the Mughals. Jahangir ordered Khurram to 
head a relief army, but the prince refused to act unless he could take 
Khusrau with him. Accordingly, Jahangir reluctantly handed over 
Khusrau to his brother. 

Khurram’s dazzling six-month campaign ended with restoration of 
imperial control in Ahmadnagar and heavy indemnities paid by 
Bijapur and Golconda. Throughout this period Ahmadnagar was 
neither fully conquered and annexed, nor neatly assigned tributary 
status. For at least three decades a common pattern of Deccan 
diplomacy persisted. Violent resistance to the Mughals alternating with 
temporary submission was imprinted on the political culture of the 
Western Deccan. Not least of the participants in this interaction were 



the leading Maratha captains of the west. They gained autonomy, 
plunder, and wealth from the inability of the Mughals to impose a 
definitive political solution in their homeland. 

In mid-1621 word arrived at Burhanpur that Jahangir was seriously 
ill. Khurram had the unfortunate Khusrau secretly killed and then 
reported his brother’s concocted illness and subsequent death to 
Jahangir. In January 1622, the wazir, Itimad-ud-daulah died suddenly 
to leave his grieving daughter, Nur Jahan, deprived of his advice and 
support. Nur Jahan began construction of her father’s tomb in a garden 
along the bank of the Jumna at Agra. Completed six years later, the 
elegant mausoleum, built of white marble with rich inlaid colored 
traceries, became one of the architectural treasures of the Mughal 


Suddenly, in March, 1622, while the imperial court was in Kashmir, 
Shah Abbas besieged and captured Qandahar fort. Despite a direct 
order, Prince Khurram refused to leave the Deccan to join the relief 
army unless he were given full command. In the end Jahangir, reacting 
to Nur Jahan’s suggestions, permitted his son to remain in the south 
and send some of his nobles north. Jahangir appointed the youthful 
Shahryar commander of the entire Qandahar expedition (with an 
experienced noble as deputy commander). Some of Khurram’s jagir 
holdings (including Hissar pargana) were transferred to Shahryar. 
Mahabat Khan, one of the most powerful nobles in the empire returned 
from Kabul to strengthen the Nur Jahan/Shahryar party. 

Convinced that he had lost the political struggle, Khurram rebelled 
and marched with the Deccan army north from Mandu. Virtually all 
the amirs and offficers stationed in the Deccan, Malwa, and Gujarat 
remained loyal to his cause. Mahabat Khan assumed command of the 
loyalist army which joined battle with the rebel Deccan forces outside 
Fatehpur Sikri. Suffering a bloody defeat, Khurram retreated back to 
Malwa. Here he received one million rupees in cash from the provincial 
treasury of Gujarat to resupply and reman his army. Moving 
aggressively to Ajmer, Jahangir and Nur Jahan directed the loyalist 
armies who recovered control of Gujarat and drove Khurram from 
Malwa. Plagued by desertions from among his officers, Khurram 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

retreated with a small force to Asir, the great hill fortress just outside 
Burhanpur, the capital of Khandesh, whose commander surrendered 
to him. 

Forced into flight once more, the rebel prince took refuge in 
Golconda with his family and a dwindling group of followers. Heart- 
ened by discreet aid from Abdullah Qutb Shah, Khurram made his way 
to the northeast through Orissa. A military victory gave him control of 
Bengal and Bihar. With fresh funds, artillery, horses, and new recruits 
Khurram placed his forces on river boats and moved upriver on the 
Ganges. Defeated near Allahabad, Khurram fled toward Bengal where 
rebellious zamindars forced him south. Leaving his wife and his newly 
born fourth son, Murad Bakhsh, in the great citadel at Rohtas on the 
Ganges, Khurram found a strange refuge in the camp of his old 
adversary Malik Ambar. The latter was engaged in a war with the 
Sultan of Bijapur and his new ally, the Mughal emperor. 

Khurram, at the head of a combined Nizam Shahi and rebel Mughal 
force, directed a series of assaults on Burhanpur. These failed and the 
prince fell ill ~ perhaps due as much to depression as anything else. 
New negotiations resulted in terms dictated by Nur Jahan. Khurram 
agreed to remain in the south as governor of the Deccan provinces and 
to send his two young sons, Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb, as hostages 
to the court. 

Jahangir and Nur Jahan succeeded in quelling this revolt by the 
heir-apparent only after several difficult battles and campaigns stretch- 
ing over thousands of miles. Despite the outcome the most serious 
weakness of the Timurid system was painfully apparent. Mature royal 
princes of ability and ambition were a continuing threat to the 
occupant of the throne and were a continuing focus for factional 


One unexpected result of Khurram’s rebellion was the emergence of 
Prince Parwiz, hitherto seen as a drunken mediocrity, as a serious 
contender for the succession. Mahabat Khan became Parwiz’s backer 
and manager. Together they threatened Nur Jahan’s plans for Shah- 
ryar. An open clash came when Nur Jahan called attention to the fact 
that Mahabat Khan had not obtained the emperor’s approval custom- 
ary for the betrothal of his daughter to a Mughal nobleman. This 



resulted in the arrest, beating, and imprisonment of Mahabat Khan’s 
prospective son-in-law. The dowry that Mahabat Khan had paid was 
seized by treasury officials. 

In March, 1626, Mahabat Khan chose to confront Nur Jahan and 
Asaf Khan directly by marching north to the court at the head of four 
to five thousand Rajput troops. The defiant general reached the 
imperial camp on the banks of the Jhelum river where he made captive 
the lightly guarded emperor. Nur Jahan was forced to give herself up to 
Mahabat Khan. Now in control, Mahabat Khan restored Jahangir to 
his daily routine as the camp proceeded on its journey. After arriving at 
Kabul the general, who seems to have had no clearly conceived plan, 
continued to guard the person of the emperor and to direct imperial 
business. Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan succeeded in mobilizing anti- 
Rajput sentiment among the imperial troopers (ahadis), other nobles 
and the urban population of Kabul. Violent clashes resulted in large 
numbers of casualties for the Rajputs. 

Jahangir, carefully coached by Nur Jahan, acted out a pose of 
cheerful compliance with the demands of his faithful servant and 
captor, Mahabat Khan. Supervision of the emperor grew more lax. In 
June on the return march toward Lahore, near Rohtas fort, the 
emperor called for a muster and review of his own royal troopers and 
those of the mansabdars. He asked Mahabat Khan to keep his Rajputs 
separate. As soon as the royal troopers formed up, Mahabat Khan, 
recognizing the inevitable, fled the camp to take shelter with Prince 
Khurram in the Deccan. 

Throughout this strange episode it is noteworthy that Mahabat 
Khan made no attempt to harm the emperor or to replace him on the 
throne by another Timurid male, or even by himself. Instead, when he 
first seized Jahangir, Mahabat Khan claimed that he was acting only 
out of desperation since he feared death or imprisonment from the 
plots against him. In his desperation he had “boldly and presumptuou- 
sly thrown myself upon Your Majesty’s protection.”35 The Timurid 
ruler remained a potent symbol of authority to all concerned. 


In October, 1626, Prince Parwiz died of the effects of alcoholism at age 
thirty-eight at Burhanpur in the Deccan. Some suspicions that 
38 Cited in Beni Prasad, History of Jahangir, p. 404. 


JAHANGIR 1605-1627 

Khurram had hastened the death of his brother were alive at the time. 
This left only Prince Shahryar, married to a daughter of Nur Jahan and 
her current favorite, and Prince Khurram as mature candidates for the 
throne. During the hot weather of 1627 Jahangir had travelled one 
more time to his beloved Kashmir. Within days Jahangir became 
seriously ill. The badly enfeebled emperor died October 28, 1627, on 
the return journey, some distance from Lahore. Neither of his two 
sons was with him when he died. Shahryar, who suffered from a rare 
form of leprosy marked by complete hair loss, had been advised to 
precede the emperor back to the Punjab in the hope that the warm 
climate of the plain would be curative. Khurram was on duty a 
thousand miles to the south in the Deccan. 

As soon as Jahangir expired, the wazir Asaf Khan, who had long 
been a quiet partisan of Prince Khurram, acted with unexpected 
forcefulness and determination to forestall his sister, Nur Jahan’s plans 
for Shahryar. He placed Nur Jahan under close confinement with the 
body of Jahangir in the camp. He obtained control of Shah Jahan’s 
three young sons who were under her care. The wazir sent an imperial 
messenger on the thousand mile journey south to bring Khurram back 
from the Deccan. At the same time Asaf Khan obtained the agreement 
of a majority of the nobles in the camp to proclaim Dawar Bakhsh, the 
young son of the deceased Khusrau, emperor. The unfortunate young 
prince was selected solely as a pawn to be sacrificed in Khurram’s 

Asaf Khan thereby forced Prince Shahryar, then at Lahore, to fight 
as a usurper against his cousin. Shahryar used the seven million rupee 
treasure in Lahore fort to mobilize a large, disheveled, army of hastily 
assembled mercenaries. He was easily defeated by Asaf Khan just 
outside Lahore. Captured alive in Lahore fort, Shahryar was made to 
submit formally to Dawar Bakhsh and then imprisoned and blinded. 

Within twenty days imperial runners reached Khurram and the 
prince started north immediately. Mughal officers along his route 
presented themselves and received ranks and honors from Khurram, 
who was seen as the leading contender for the throne. This supposition 
became a certainty when news of Shahryar’s defeat by Asaf Khan 
intercepted the prince as he crossed the Narmada river. Khurram sent a 
farman ahead to Asaf Khan who had brought the imperial entourage to 
Agra asking him to blind, and, if necessary, kill Shahryar, the puppet 
emperor Dawar Bakhsh, and other mature male Timurid cousins. On 



January 19, 1628, Asaf Khan imprisoned Dawar Bakhsh. He then 
proclaimed Khurram emperor under the title of Shah Jahan by having 
his name read in the Friday prayers. Two days later, when Shah Jahan’s 
letter arrived, the wazir ordered the execution of Shahryar, Dawar 
Bakhsh and his brother, and two sons of Prince Daniyal, Jahangir’s 
brother. On January 24, 1628, Shah Jahan entered Agra and was hailed 

as emperor. 



SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

At his accession, Shah Jahan, the dominant ruler on the subcontinent, 
controlled vast territories, unmatched military power, and massive 
wealth. He was heir to an ancient and impeccable royal lineage. The 
new emperor’s pride in these circumstances and in his own strengths 
was manifest — verging on arrogance by contemporary view. Shah 
Jahan’s confidence was not unfounded. His abilities had been tested 
over long years of military campaigning, diplomatic negotiation, and 
political maneuvering. In 1628, at his official coronation, this 
aggressive, able man assumed the identity for which he had been 
training all his life. Empire and emperor were well fitted to each other. 

Shah Jahan established his capital at Agra in the great fortress built 
by Akbar. Agra remained the capital until 1648 when the court, army 
and household moved to the newly completed imperial capital, Shahja- 
hanabad, at Delhi. The spirit and form found in the new capital differed 
noticeably from that of Fatehpur Sikri. Like the man, Shah Jahan’s new 
city was appropriate to a more formal, more forbidding, and grand 
monarchy and empire. 


In 1629, Khan Jahan Lodi, an Afghan noble ranked among the highest 
in the empire at 6000 zat and 6000 suwar, fled Agra and sought refuge 
with the Nizam Shah ruler of Ahmadnagar in the Deccan. This act of 
defiance, unprecedented since Akbar’s days, was the more sensational 
because of Khan Jahan Lodi’s privileged relationship with Jahangir. It 
was ominous in that the possibility of a widespread Afghan uprising 
could not be excluded and could have been the signal for a crisis in the 
loyalties of the nobility. Khan Jahan, however, rebelled reluctantly, for 
survival and with little hope of overthrowing his royal master. In many 
ways his response was a response to a new, less-congenial style of royal 

The youthful Khan Jahan Lodi, originally named Pir Khan, had 
joined Akbar’s forces under Raja Man Singh in the last stages of the 



Bengal conquest.! The personable young Afghan mansabdar quickly 
became a royal favorite of Prince Daniyal, and, after his death, of 
Jahangir. Like the emperor Pir Khan was deeply interested in Sufism 
and mysticism. Retitled Salabat Khan at 3000 zat he was included in the 
trusted few nobles who met regularly with the emperor in the inner 
audience chamber of the bath (the gusalkhbana). The emperor even 
talked of having his protégé married into the royal family. 

Khan Jahan Lodi retained Jahangir’s complete confidence even 
though his accomplishments were minimal. He led a failed Deccan 
campaign; served as governor of Multan province in the midst of the 
loss of Qandahar; was recalled to guard Agra fort during the revolt of 
Prince Khurram; and finally became governor of the Deccan. In the 
latter capacity he.colluded with the Nizam Shah ruler of Ahmadnagar 
and handed over to him a large tract of the Deccan known as the 
Balaghat. Just prior to Jahangir’s death on Khan Jahan’s orders, 
faujdars and other Mughal officials in this territory gave up their posts 
to Ahmadnagar officers and retired to Burhanpur. Khan Jahan Lodi 
was widely reported to have received 300,000 gold hun as payment for 
this notorious transaction. 

When Jahangir died Khan Jahan Lodi made the mistake of rebuffing 
an overture from Shah Jahan for support in the succession. For a time it 
appeared that he would even resist the new ruler. Finally, however, 
Khan Jahan Lodi came to court, but remained under a heavy burden of 
suspicion — in sharp contrast to his role with Jahangir. The emperor 
asked him to disband part of his followers and some of his jagirs were 
resumed, After eight months of increasing tension, in October, 1629, 
Khan Jahan Lodi secretly fled Agra with his family and followers 
toward the Deccan. Pursued by a party of loyal officers, led by one of 
the formidable Baraha Sayyids, Khan Jahan survived a desperate battle 
at the bank of the rain-swollen Chambal river near Dholpur. His two 
sons, two brothers, son-in-law, and sixty of his retainers were killed 
and many of his women and dependents were left behind. Aided by 
Jujhar Singh Bundela, Khan Jahan and his two surviving sons managed 
to reach the welcoming court of Murtaza 1, Nizam Shah and was given 
command of the Ahmadnagar armies. 

Shah Jahan sent three separate armies south and followed them by 

1 Shah Nawaz Khan and ‘Abdul Hayy, The Maathir-ul-Umara (New Delhi, 1st reprint 
edition, 1979), edited and translated by H. Beveridge and Baini Prashad, 3 vols.,1, 795-804 
for his biography. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

shifting his court to Burhanpur in early 1630. Over the next year a 
series of inconclusive clashes followed. Both the Nizam Shahi and 
Mughal armies looted, burnt and devastated the countryside as they 
marched. This simply added to the plight of the population who were 
beginning to suffer from a prolonged drought and dearth. The famine 
conditions of 1630 would be remembered as the worst for a century or 
more in the Deccan and Gujarat. Depressed and demoralized, Khan 
Jahan Lodi proved to be an ineffective commander, and late in 1630 
suffered a disastrous defeat. He fled with several hundred horsemen 
north through Malwa toward the Punjab where he hoped to raise 
support from the Afghans in that province. Harried by a net of Mughal 
parties, he was finally trapped and killed. His severed head went south 
to Shah Jahan who received his trophy in a pleasure boat on the Tapti 
river at Burhanpur. One of the most dramatic, and potentially serious 
rebellions by a high-ranking amir was successfully suppressed. Khan 
Jahan Lodi drew no substantial support from the remainder of the 


Under Shah Jahan, for the first time, the results of an orthodox Muslim 
reaction to the policies of Akbar and Jahangir had an effect on official 
policy. Prominent leaders in the Naqshbandiya Sufi order were in the 
forefront of a widespread revivalist reaction among orthodox Sunni 
Muslims in India. Prominent charismatic teachers in this order, like 
Khwaja Baqi Billah (d. 1603) stressed the overwhelming importance of 
adherence to the Sharia and discouraged extreme forms of mystical 
devotion among their followers? More controversial figures like 
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (see Chapter Five) and his sons and disciples 
took a vigorous anti-Shia, anti-Hindu stance in their adherence to the 
norms of the Sharia.» Obviously concerned to guard the Sunni 
community against heresy and against the assimilative capacity of 
Hinduism, the Naqshbandiya Sufis were spokesmen for a broader shift 
in attitude among Indian Muslims. This was not confined to the 
Naqshbandiya; the Shattari, Chishti, and other prominent Sufi orders 
were increasingly affected by revivalist sentiments. Multiple affili- 
2 Sayyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India (New Delhi: Munshiram 
Manoharlal, 1983) 11, 185-193. 
9 Ibid., pp. 225-241. 



ations and membership in several orders by Sufis and laypersons alike 
in this period ensured rapid diffusion of attitudes and beliefs among the 
devout Sunni communities of the empire. 
Shah Jahan’s attachment to orthodox Islam mirrored a hardening, 
more formal delineation of Islamic community in the subcontinent. 
The new emperor’s explicitly Islamic idiom was a pronounced depart- 
ure from the inclusive political appeal made by his father and grand- 
father. The cumulative effect of ‘these changes on Mughal political 
culture was substantial. For all pious Muslim rulers the Sharia, as 
interpreted by one of the four legal schools, was the only acceptable 
touchstone for official policy. Shah Jahan cautiously began to test 
Mughal policy against this standard. Some new polities adopted as 
canonical reversed Akbar’s generally liberal treatment of non- 
Muslims. In 1633, his sixth regnal year, Shah Jahan began to impose the 
Sharia provisions against construction or repair of churches and 
temples. When he learned that wealthy Hindus wished to complete 
construction of several unfinished temples at Benares, he ordered that 
all recently built temples in the city be torn down.‘ After this initial 
flurry of destruction only prominent shrines encountered in the course 
of military campaigns suffered damage.* 
Shah Jahan celebrated Islamic festivals with an enthusiasm unfami- 
liar to his predecessors. For example, to mark the birthday celebration 
(Milad) of the Prophet Muhammad, on September 16, 1633, the 
emperor staged a pious celebration featuring recitation of the verses of 
the Koran in the great hall of public audience.* Gifts of money were 
distributed to worthy ulema and Sufis there assembled.” 
Long-dormant royal interest in the Holy Cities revived. Shah Jahan 
resumed sponsorship of the annual Haj caravan to the west coast ports 
under the direction of a Mughal officer, the Mir Haj. Every year two 
Mughal ships sailing from Gujarat to the Hijaz carried Indian pilgrims 
whose expenses were met by the state.® To fulfill a vow that he had 
made upon his coronation, Shah Jahan sent two scholars on the Haj 
laden with Indian goods to be sold for the benefit of the poor in Mecca 
+E. Bedley and Z. A. Desai, eds., The Shab Jaban Nama of 'Inayat Khan, (Delhi, 1990), 
p. 154. Sti Ram Sharma, The Religions Policy of the Mughal Emperors (London: Asia 
Publishing House, Inc., 2nd edition, 1962), pp. 86-87. 

5 Sharma, Religious Policy, pp. 86-87. © ‘Inayat Khan, p. 207. 

7 Sharma, Religious Policy, p. 81. 

«N.R. Faroogi, “Mughal Ottoman Relations: A Study of Political and Diplomatic 

Relations Between Mughal India and the Ottoman Empire: 1556-1748,” unpublished 
Ph.D thesis, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1986, p. 208. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

and Medina.? '° Eight similar missions followed during his reign.'! In 
1643 the Sharif of Mecca, Zaid bin Muhsin (1631-1666) sent a warmly 
received diplomatic mission to the Timurid court. In 1650 the head of 
the earlier mission, Shaikh Abdus Samad, who had been dazzled by the 
wealth and power of the Mughal court, returned to India and was 
enrolled as a Mughal mansabdar and made chief judge of the army.!? 


Shah Jahan’s confident sense of Mughal grandeur found creative 
expression in monumental building at various scales. His first commis- 
sioned work, the Peacock Throne, set the tone for a new era of 
ceremonial display. At his coronation the emperor set aside diamonds 
and other precious stones worth 10 million rupees for use on the new 
throne. The empire’s most skilled craftsmen labored seven years on the 
intricate design. Every possible surface was covered with motifs 
formed by hundreds of beautifully set rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and 
pearls, Above the canopy was the famed “peacock with elevated tail 
made of blue sapphires and other colored stones, the body being gold 
inlaid with precious stones, having a large ruby front of the breast, 
from whence hangs a pear-shaped pearl of 50 carats ...”!3 Shah Jahan 
occupied his new seat in a grand audience in Agra fort in March, 1635. 

The Taj Mahal was his second, larger, project - one which has been 
greatly admired as one of the triumphs of monumental building in 
world history. On June 17, 1631, Mumtaz Mahal, beloved wife of Shah 
Jahan, died in childbirth (her fourteenth) at Burhanpur in the Deccan. 
The emperor was devastated by grief and went into prolonged mour- 
ning for her. The dead queen’s body was temporarily interred at 
Burhanpur before being brought to Agra by her son, Prince Shuja. On 
a plot of land on the bank of the Yamuna river, Mumtaz Mahal was 
buried. At Shah Jahan’s orders, imperial architects and builders began 
to erect the marble plinth for a tomb over the grave that would be 
known as the Taj Mahal. 

The tomb itself, with its great bulbous dome of white marble flanked 

» Faroogi, “Mughal-Ottoman Relations,”p. 204. "© Ibid. p. 206. 

1 Ibid, pp. 208-209. 

2 Ibid. p. 208. 

‘3 Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Travels m India (London: Macmillan and Co., 2 vols. 1889) 1, 
381-384. The throne itself has not survived its removal from India in 1739 by the Persian 
invader Nadir Shah. 



by four slender minarets, is merely the central feature of a larger walled 
complex comprising some forty-two acres. An imposing set of gate- 
ways and courts offers access to the walled garden with a view of the 
entrance to the tomb at the far end. The gardens themselves are laid out 
in a four-part pattern divided off by two intersecting water channels. 
The entire complex, the product of intense creative effort and great 
expenditure, required seventeen years to complete. 

Shah Jahan did build a mausoleum for his beloved wife. Tran- 
scending his grief, however, the tomb-complex affirms the emperor’s 
religious faith in Islam and the centrality of Islam to the Timurid 
empire. The Taj “was conceived as a vast allegory of the Day of 
Resurrection, when the dead shall arise and proceed to the place of 
Judgment beneath the Divine Throne.”4 Every feature of the Taj, 
from the tiniest detailed embellishment to the largest structural 
element, forms part of a unified whole designed to support this 

The gateways and gardens of the Taj are “symbolic replicas of the 
gateway and gardens of the celestial Paradise.”!5 The main entrance 
represents the gateway by which Muhammad entered Paradise during 
his miraculous heavenly ascent known as the Mi'raj. The four water 
channels of the gardens represent the four Rivers of Paradise. The 
raised marble tank in the center signifies the celestial tank of abundance 
(Al-Kawthar). The marble tomb itself with its bulbous dome is a 
replica of the heavenly Throne of God. God sits in this throne above 
Paradise to tender judgment on the Day of Resurrection. The four 
minarets can be seen as the four supports of the throne of God referred 
to in popular medieval cosmology. 

The allegory is made explicit by careful placement of lengthy carved 
inscriptions containing Koranic verses. The design and execution of 
the inscriptions was the work of Amanat Khan, the imperial calligra- 
pher, who carried out a similar task on Akbar’s tomb. The south facade 
of the main gateway displays the entire Sura 89, “The Daybreak” 
whose theme is that of the Day of Judgment. In the most awesome 
imagery, the Sura promises that God will punish the wicked and the 
thoughtless. Finally, however the Sura ends with God’s promise to the 

\ Wayne E. Begley, “The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of Its Symbolic 
Meaning,” The Art Bulletin, March, 1979, pp. 7~37- 
5 Tbid.,p.13. '* Begley, “Taj Mahal,” p. 13 and n. 34. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

O thou soul at peace, 

Return thou unto thy Lord, well-pleased and well Pleasing unto 

enter thou among My servants — 

And enter thou My Paradise! 

The Taj is that paradise. Mumtaz Mahal and, beside her, Shah Jahan lie 
in graves buried beneath the Throne of God. In the epitaph inscribed 
on his grave below, Shah Jahan is described as Rizwan, the gatekeeper 
of Paradise. His was a profound attempt to create an image of God’s 
majesty and power — a profoundly Islamic vision. 


In 1639 Shah Jahan launched his most ambitious building project: 
construction of a new capital. Agra’s palace fortress was cramped and 
the city itself overcrowded. A task force of architects, builders, and 
astrologers recommended a site just south of Delhi on a bluff over- 
looking the Yamuna River.!7 Delhi was especially fitting as the old 
Indo-Muslim center of empire in North India. The author of an early 
eighteenth century geographical compendium observed, “[Delhi] was 
always the dar al-mulk [seat of the empire] of the great sultans and the 
center of the circle of Islam (markaz-i dairah Islam].’”8 The tombs and 
monumental buildings of the early conquerors of Hind were to be 
found there. 

Delhi was also a religious center of great sanctity for pious Muslims. 
The tombs of dozens of revered saints and Sufis could be found in the 
city and its adjoining countryside. On the death anniversary of each 
saint, thousands of pilgrims travelled to Delhi to participate in the urs 
festival celebrating his entrance into paradise. Redolent memories of 
Muslim victory and piety were firmly embedded in the new capital. 
Akbar had rejected the symbolic associations of Delhi as the redoubt of 
Muslim conquest; Shah Jahan returned eagerly to these associations. 

At an auspicious moment, on April 29, 1639, excavations began.'? 
Construction proceeded steadily for nine years. The fort and its 
buildings consumed 6 million silver rupees in their construction. 

17 Stephen P. Blake, “‘Cityscape of an Imperial Capital, Shahjahanabad in 1739” in R. E. 
Frykenberg, Delhi Through the Ages (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 153. 

© From “Bahjat al-Alam” of Hakim Maharat Khan Isfahani, Persian Manuscript Collection 
Ethe 729, India Office Library, folio 34a quoted in Blake, “Cityscape,” p. 155. 

19 Blake, “Cityscape,” p. 155. 



Finally, all was ready, and on the auspicious day of April 19, 1648, 
Shah Jahan formally entered Shahjahanabad and took up residence. 
Days of grand celebration and royal largess followed as nobles, 
scholars, and dignitaries assembled under a great canopy of 
embroidered velvet in the hall of public audience. 

Shahjahanabad was a carefully designed courtly city. The emperor 
placed the great palace fortress, the “Auspicious Fortress’ (Qila 
Mubarak) on the river bank at the meeting place of the two major 
thoroughfares. The fortress, still standing today, with its broad, 60 to 
75 ft. high walls of red sandstone forms an uneven octagon nearly two 
miles in circumference. A stone-faced, water-filled moat protected the 
land side; the Yamuna river the other. 

The southern half of the fort contains the principal palace and an 
array of living quarters and apartments for the emperor, the harem and 
household. The largest of these mansions belonged to Jahan Ara 
Begam, Shah Jahan’s favorite daughter. The northern half of the 
fortress enclosed two large gardens intersected by tanks and water 
courses. Around the outer walls were offices, storerooms, the mint, 
and dozens of workshops and the royal stables. 

Opposite the fortress on a hillock stood the enormous communal 
mosque — the Jama Masjid — the largest such mosque in India with 
space for thousands of worshipers. The Jama Masjid was flanked by a 
hospital offering free care of the sick and a madrasa or religious school. 
In its scale and placement the Jama Masjid offered a symbolic 
counter-weight to the great fortress. 

The massive palace-fortress was the terminus for two straight broad 
thoroughfares which framed the city. From the fort’s Lahori gate ran a 
broad avenue with a covered arcade housing over fifteen hundred 
shops and porticoes. The avenue and shops were designed and paid for 
by Jahan Ara Begam, one of Shah Jahan’s wives. A branch of the city’s 
canal flowed down the middle of the street. The first of several squares 
called the Kotwali Chabutra, or magistrates’ platform, centered on the 
public area where the city magistrate tried and punished criminals in 
public. The second great square centered on a large pool. A sarai or inn 
built by Jahan Ara Begam stood at the north end of the square; a 
hammam or public bath at the other. The reflection of the moon by 
night from the pool gave the square the name Silver or Moonlight 
square (Chandni Chawk). 

The other main thoroughfare extended due south from the Akbara- 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

badi (Agra) gate of the fort over a kilometer to the Akbarabadi gate of 
the city walls. A branch of the canal flowed down the center of the 
avenue. Another of Shah Jahan’s wives, Nawab Akbarabadi Begam, 
constructed a double row of shops. Just south of the fort gate Nawab 
Akbarabadi Begam had designed a broad square. At one end she 
constructed an imposing mosque, adjacent to it an inn for travelers or 
sarai, and opposite a public bath. 

Within the city walls, framed by the canals and central avenues, the 
remainder of Shahjahanabad took shape in quarters (havelis) defined by 
the mansions, mosques and gardens of the nobility. The walled and 
guarded establishment of these grandees included private living quarters 
for the noble and his harem, his officers and clerks, his slaves, servants, 
and soldiers. The largest might house 5,000 persons. Around these sites 
clustered the dwellings of hundreds more traders, servants, and other 
urban folk dependent upon the great man’s largess and patronage. 

Shahjahanabad, the emperor’s “abode” or “mansion,” was a splen- 
did urban creation. Every day the lavish rituals of imperial audiences 
were imitated on a lesser scale by nobles holding court in their 
mansions throughout the city. Every day the public rituals of Islamic 
secular and religous life were enacted in the bazaars, baths, sarais, 
gardens and mosques of the great city. At its height Shahjahanabad was 
the pulsating heart of a grand empire. 

In addition to these three projects, Shah Jahan kept his architects and 
builders engaged in a constant series of endeavors throughout his reign. 
These ranged from Jahangir’s mausoleum, completed in 1637, to 
extensive renovations and additions on Lahore fort, and to Shalimar 
Garden in Kashmir, completed 1641-2. Shireen Moosvi has estimated 
that Shah Jahan’s expenditure on buildings over his three-decade reign 
totalled at least 28.9 million rupees.?° Imposing as is this figure, it was 
but a small portion of the monies devoted to war and attempted 
territorial expansion. 


Under Shah Jahan’s vigorous direction the empire continued its 
expansion. Mughal power realigned political relationships and political 

20 Shireen Moosvi, “Expenditure On Buildings Under Shabjahan — A Chapter of Imperial 
Financial History,” Proceedings of the Indian Historical Congress 46th Session (Amritsar, 
1985), pp. 285-299. 



culture in every region of the subcontinent. Even previously remote 
refuge areas felt the imprint of imperial power. 

The small Rajput kingdom of Baglana sitting astride the main route 
from Surat and the western ports to Burhanpur in the Deccan had been 
tributary to one Muslim ruler or another for centuries. In 1637, 
however, Shah Jahan decided on complete annexation. Mughal armies 
under Prince Aurangzeb easily overran the kingdom. The Baharji, the 
Raja of Baglana, became an amir of 3,000 zat in Mughal service, but he 
did not retain his former kingdom as a watan jagir. Instead Baglana was 
attached to Khandesh province and administered by a Mughal faujdar 
and representatives of the provincial diwan. The empire began to 
collect its standard revenues with the aid of deshmukhs and other local 
notables, The Baharji died soon after the conquest. His son converted 
to Islam and received the title of Daulatmand Khan, 1,500 zat rank and 
control of a pargana as a watan jagir in Khandesh province. 

In Sind, the northwestern border province straddling the lower 
Indus river, weak political authority and extremely fragmented tribal 
polities meant that the Mughals were forced to build an authority 
structure before they could impose a standardized imperial administra- 
tion. By Shah Jahan’s reign this process was well advanced. Mughal 
administrators pressed hard against the turbulent horse, cattle, sheep, 
and camel raising pastoralists of that arid region.?! From fortified 
urban bases at Sehwan in the north downriver to Nasapur, and the 
provincial capital at Thatta in the Indus delta, Shah Jahan’s governors 
and faujdars mounted punitive expeditions against the Baluch and 
other tribes. Despite occasional setbacks, thousands of tribesmen were 
killed or sold into slavery. A network of Mughal small forts or thanas 
manned by cavalry and musketeers was established. These policies 
discouraged raiding and plundering of sedentary cultivators settled 
near the towns and rendered caravans and river traffic more secure 
from tribal banditry. 

Mughal policy also attempted, with some success, to obtain either 
taxes or services from the Sind tribesmen. Provincial revenue officials 
tried to collect revenues from each body of pastoralists on a regular 
basis. These revenues were demanded in cash, not in animals. If unpaid, 
a punitive expedition resulted. Occasionally, revenue demands were 
reduced or eliminated in return for protection of trade or travelers. 

2 Sunita Zaidi, “The Mughal State and Tribes in Seventeenth Century Sind,” The Indian 
Economic and Social History Review, 26 (1989), 343-362. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

Lineage heads were taken hostage to ensure good behavior on the part 
of their followers. Many Sind chiefs received payments, honors, and 
areas as “jagirs” from which they received Mughal support in collect- 
ing revenues. Some were even given small mansabs as recognition of 
their goodwill. Muslim Sufis whose control of tombs and other holy 
places allowed them to mediate tribal disputes, obtained tax-free land 
grants and cash allowances to bind them to the imperial cause. 

More obscure Rajput houses were subject to new pressures. The 
Bundelas, a relatively low status clan of Rajputs, had forcibly estab- 
lished a capital at Urchha on the Betwa river in 1531.72 Over several 
generations cadet lineages of Bundela Rajputs founded other clan 
centers in what had come to be known as Bundelkhand. Early in 
Akbar’s reign a Mughal army forced the Bundela ruling house to 
submit and pay tribute. 

In 1595, Bir Singh Dev, a member of the Bundela royal lineage, 
arranged the assassination of Abul Fazl at Prince Salim’s request. On 
gaining the throne Jahangir intervened to set aside other more likely 
candidates to place Bir Singh Dev on the Bundela gaddi. Simultane- 
ously, the Bundela ruler became a high ranking Mughal amir and 
retained control over his kingdom as a watan jagir under terms similar 
to those of the greatest Rajput nobles. Under these favored circum- 
stances Bir Singh built up a vast fortune and unchallenged domination 
of Bundelkhand before he died in 1627, the same year as Jahangir. 

When Bir Singh’s son and heir, Jujhar Singh, presented himself at 
Shah Jahan’s court, the emperor initiated an official enquiry into the 
estate of the dead Bundela amir. This inquiry may have been prompted 
by the deceased Raja’s vigorous role in the suppression of Shah Jahan’s 
revolt against Jahangir. Alarmed by this prospect Jujhar Singh fled 
Agra for Urchha without permission. Shah Jahan sent a 34,000 man 
army in pursuit, The imperial troops devastated the countryside 
around Urchha before storming the city’s fortress. Three thousand 
Bundela troops died in the battle. Badly defeated, Jujhar Singh abjectly 
asked for a pardon. Shah Jahan extracted a 1.5 million rupee indemnity, 
forty war elephants (a regional export), and the annexation of one 
district to imperial administration. The emperor also insisted that 

22 Kolff refers to the Bundelas as a “‘spurious” Rajput clan whose members could not 
intermarry in the larger network of byeceaaoue Rajput alliances. Dirk H. A. Kolff, 
Nauher, Rejpat and Sepoy: The Etbnobsory of the Mltary Labour Market in Hindw- 
stan, 1450-1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 120-143. 



Jujhar Singh personally serve with his sons and military contingent as a 
Mughal nobleman in the ongoing Deccan campaigns. 

When he finally returned to Urchha in 1634, Jujhar Singh violated 
imperial rules by leading an illegal raid on his neighboring ruler, the 
Gond raja, Bhim Narayan. The Bundelas attacked and captured 
Chauragarh, the ancient town and fortress of the Gonds, killed Bhim 
Narayan and seized the one million rupee hoard found in the fort. Shah 
Jahan, acting upon a complaint of the dead raja’s son, demanded that 
Jujhar Singh vacate the lands that he had occupied, return the treasure 
to the emperor, and pay a fine. 

Jujhar Singh’s outright defiance of this order inflamed Shah Jahan. 
He sent another large army under the nominal command of the 
sixteen-year-old Prince Aurangzeb to invade Bundelkhand. The 
Mughal troops quickly overran Urchha again and installed a more 
pliant ruler. Devi Singh Bundela, head of the senior Bundela lineage 
and a Mughal mansabdar, (whose line had been set aside by Jahangir 
in favor of Bir Singh Dev) became raja at Urchha. 

Mughal cavalry pursued Jujhar Singh, his family and fragments of 
his army into the forested lands of Chanda, another Central Indian 
Gond kingdom, which had not yet acknowledged imperial suzerainty. 
When overtaken by Mughal troops, Jujhar Singh’s principal queens 
were killed by their attendants, but the remaining royal women were 
sent to join the Mughal harem. Two very young sons and a grandson 
were converted to Islam. Another older son who refused to convert 
was killed outright. Jujhar and his eldest son, driven into the jungle, 
were caught and killed by a party of Gonds. 

At Chanda, the Mughal commanders compelled the unfortunate 
Gond raja to pay a large indemnity and agree to an annual tribute of 
80,000 rupees or twenty elephants. At Urchha an intensive search for 
the Bundela treasure turned up money and precious objects valued at 
ten million rupees. Shah Jahan himself journeyed to Urchha to see the 
picturesque waterfalls and hills and palaces of the region. At Urchha, 
“the Islam-cherishing Emperor demolished the lofty and massive 
temple of Bir Singh Dev near his palace, and erected a mosque on its 
site.”23 Aggressive action on the internal frontier in Central India 
imposed a new, more intense, level of Mughal political domination in 
Bundelkhand and Gondwana. 

23 Abdul Hamid Lahori, The Padshah Nama (Calcutta: Bibliotheca Indica, 2 vols., 1867), 1, 
121-122. Quoted in Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzib (Calcutta, 5 vols., 1912-1924), 
I, 29. 


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Shah Jahan tested the limits of Mughal power in the 1640s by trying to 
recover the Timurid homelands in Central Asia then ruled by his 
ancestral enemies, the Uzbeks. Uzbek territory included Bukhara and 
Samarkhand north of the Oxus River and the provinces of Balkh and 
Badakhshan to the south. Possession of Kabul and Peshawar helped to 
secure the Mughal northwest frontier, but a steppe power like the 
Uzbeks remained an unpredictable and formidable threat to northern 

Shah Jahan had long maintained diplomatic communications with 
the Khan of Bukhara in order to obtain a flow of intelligence about the 
political situation in the Khanate. The most useful emissaries used by 
both sides were Naqshbandiya Sufis. The latter played a central role as 
members of the political and economic elites of the Central Asian states 
at this time. The Mughal emperors tried to make use of their long- 
standing family connection with the order. 

During the mid-1640s an opportunity appeared. On the losing end 
after a year-long civil war with his son Abdul Aziz, the Uzbek ruler 
Nazar Muhammad Khan sent an envoy to the Mughal court to plead 
for aid. Shah Jahan, citing their long-standing friendship and religious 
affinity as fellow Sunni Muslim rulers, responded favorably. 

The emperor assembled a 60,000 man army with field artillery under 
the command of Prince Murad. Murad was ordered either to restore 
Nazar Muhammad Khan as a tributary ruler or, alternatively, to annex 
the kingdom. In July, 1646, Prince Murad, and his co-commander, Ali 
Mardan Khan, occupied Balkh against minimal resistance. The 
imperialists seized the Khan’s treasury containing 12 million rupees, 
but failed to capture Nazar Muhammad Khan who fled the city and his 
rescuers. Within a month, Prince Murad, dismayed by the dour, 
inhospitable landscape of Balkh, pressed to return to India. Shah Jahan 
called on his wazir, Sa’dullah Khan, to relieve the disgraced prince and 
to organize the occupying army. 

In preparation for a spring campaign against Abdul Aziz and the still 
unpacified Uzbeks, Shah Jahan recalled his second son, Aurangzeb, 
from Gujarat and sent him to Balkh as the new imperial governor. Shah 
Jahan himself followed to provide support from Kabul. Aurangzeb 
found himself embroiled in a difficult war as he fought his way into 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

Balkh. The Uzbeks discovered at considerable cost the effects of the 
Mughal field artillery and musketeers. But they could outmaneuver the 
Mughals in fast-moving skirmishes to create a stalemate. During the 
summer of 1647 the Mughals sat at Balkh and engaged in a protracted 
series of negotiations with Abdul Aziz at Bukhara. 

To its dismay the imperial army discovered that it could not live 
off the land. In this harsh mountainous land the Mughals found no 
equivalent to the Indian grain carriers, the banjaras, who normally sup- 
plied them. Foraging was nearly futile because the generally productive 
irrigated fruit orchards and grain fields of Balkh were devastated by the 
war. Under straitened circumstances, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb nego- 
tiated a settlement, not with Abdul Aziz but with his father. Finally, in 
October, 1647, threatened by the onset of winter, Aurangzeb handed 
over the city and adjacent districts of Balkh to Nazar Muhammad Khan 
in exchange for a treaty offering nominal submission to the Mughal 
emperor. Harassed by Uzbek troops and marauding Turkoman 
tribesmen, the retreating Mughal army suffered several thousand 
casualties on the difficult return through snow-bound passes to Kabul. 

At the end of two years of sustained effort the Mughal-Uzbek treaty 
of 1647 extended the imperial frontier north from Kabul by about forty 
to fifty kilometers. For the remainder, Shah Jahan had to settle for the 
dubious satisfaction of receiving formal recognition of his sovereignty 
from Nazar Muhammad Khan at Balkh. At no time did his forces 
seriously threaten the Uzbek capital at Bukhara or come close to 
seizure of Samarkhand. 

The two-year Uzbek campaign demonstrated the true costs of 
reasserting Timurid domination over the sparsely populated, impover- 
ished lands in Central Asia. Shah Jahan, by official tally, spent forty 
million rupees in an attempt to conquer kingdoms whose total annual 
revenues were no more than several million rupees. The Mughal search 
for familial vindication in this region crashed against the harsh realities 
of distance, scanty resources, and determined local resistance. In one 
sense the Mughal Chaghatais had failed once again to defeat the 
Uzbeks and Turkomans, their inveterate adversaries. 


One of Shah Jahan’s fixed goals was recovery of Qandahar fort from 
his Safavid rival. Finally, in 1638, an opportunity came when the 



Persian commander, Ali Mardan Khan, rightly fearing his execution by 
the capriciously crue] Shah Safi (1629-1642), surrendered Qandahar 
fortress to the Mughals. Shah Jahan welcomed the distinguished and 
highly regarded Safavid noble with rank of 5,000 zat and 5,000 suwar 
and immediate appointment to the governorship of Kashmir. 

A decade passed before Shah Abbas 11 (1642-1666) decided on a 
major military effort against Qandahar. Taking advantage of Shah 
Jahan’s failure in Balkh, the Safavid armies set out under the young 
Shah in the winter of 1648. Shah Jahan, although warned of the move, 
allowed himself to be dissuaded from a relief expedition by his nobles 
who argued that a winter campaign was unthinkable. The demoralized 
governor of Qandahar surrendered within two months. 

Safavid victory brought an immediate response from the enraged 
Mughal emperor. Over the next four years, Shah Jahan mounted 
three major campaigns against Qandahar. Each failed ignominiously. 
In 1649, moving to Kabul, Shah Jahan organized a 50,000 man army 
commanded by Sadullah Khan, the wazir, and his most capable son, 
Aurangzeb. This force reached Qandahar but failed to break ‘the 
fort’s defenses and withdrew before the winter season. Three years 
later, in 1652, another Mughal army under Aurangzeb also failed to 
take the fort before winter set in. The Mughals did beat off a Persian 
relief force in a pitched battle but could not break the fortresses’ 

Mughal failure here was partly a measure of the length of the supply 
line from Kabul, itself at the extremity of the empire. Partly this was a 
measure of Safavid determination to hold Qandahar. To a considerable 
extent, however, Mughal siege artillery simply was inadequate to the 
task. Safavid artillerymen inflicted continuous casualties on the 
besiegers. The less-accurate Mughal artillery was unable to direct 
effective covering fire. Many Mughal guns burst with damaging effects 
when overloaded. 

Between April and September, 1653, Shah Jahan made one last 
attempt to break Qandahar’s defenses. He sent his favorite son Dara 
Shukoh to command a larger siege force. The latter commissioned three 
specially cast large guns for the task. When they finally arrived, the 
new siege guns did manage to breach some of the fortress walls, but not 
in time. Dwindling supplies and the season forced a return to Kabul. 
Shah Jahan contemplated yet a fourth attempt in 1656, but his advisers 
persuaded him to abandon the idea. Qandahar remained a Safavid 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

‘possession until the dynasty itself faltered in the early years of the 
eighteenth century. 

Two attempts to invade Balkh and Badakhshan and three closely 
spaced sieges of Qandahar consumed Mughal resources and attention 
for nearly a decade. In the end Shah Jahan failed completely. He did 
not reach Samarkhand, nor did he retain possession of the gateway to 
India at Qandahar. The cost was heavy. As the Mughal historian Sadiq 
reviewed the second Qandahar campaign: “nothing resulted from this 
expedition except the shedding of blood, the killing of thirty to forty 
thousand of people, and the expenditure of three crore and fifty lac [35 
million] rupees.” 


In the Himalayan foothills Garhwal, a remote Rajput hill state, 
successfully fought off a Mughal army which tried to impose tributary 
status in 1635. So badly mauled were the Mughals that it was nearly 
twenty years before Shah Jahan sent another strongly equipped 
expedition against Srinagar, the capital. After this army was forced to 
withdraw, the emperor assembled a 4,000 man force with artillery to 
march laboriously into the hills and threaten the Garhwal capital. At 
this point, in 1656, the Raja submitted, agreed to pay tribute and sent 
his son to serve at the imperial court. 

Elsewhere the Mughals did succeed in thrusting beyond the moun- 
tain ranges bounding the subcontinent. In the difficult high mountain 
country north of Kashmir a small Muslim population subsisted in the 
valleys known as Lesser Tibet or Baltistan. Beneath the shadow of the 
Balti range the inhabitants extracted modest amounts of gold from the 
rivers, raised sheep for wool, carried on limited sericulture, and grew 
fruits, wheat, and barley.26 The Muslim ruler of Lesser Tibet had given 
refuge to the last Shia Muslim Chak ruler of Kashmir when that 
kingdom fell to Akbar’s army. The princes of that house occasionally 
led raids back into Mughal Kashmir. This provocation was the 
immediate source of Mughal interest in what in their view was a 
2 Muhammad Sadiq, “Shahjahan-Nama,” British Museum, Oriental 174. Folio 173a. As 

translated and quoted in Islam, Jndo-Persian Relations, 114. 

25 Banarsi Prasad Saksena, History of Shab Jaban of Delhi (Allahabad, reprint of 1932 

edition, 1973), p. 123. Begley and Desai, eds., ‘Inayat Khan, eighth regnal year, 1, 269. 
26 Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982), map 3B 35+ 75+ for products of the 




“barren and impoverished region,” which yielded barely 100,000 
rupees in revenues to its ruler each year.”” 

In 1634 the Abdal formally acknowledged the Mughal emperor’s 
sovereignty by having Shah Jahan’s name read in the khutba or Friday 
prayers in his capital. When he lapsed in this observance Shah Jahan 
ordered Zafar Khan, governor of Kashmir to invade Lesser Tibet. In 
the spring of 1637 Zafar Khan led a Mughal army of 2,000 cavalry and 
10,000 infantry 150 miles north in a daring expedition over difficult 
mountain passes. The army could count on no more than two months 
of summer weather before the passes were blocked. Because the entire 
route was virtually uninhabited, the invaders carried all their pro- 
visions for the campaign. 

When the Mughal army arrived it encountered stiff resistance. The 
Abdal’s armies defended their two principal mountain forts with great 
stubbornness against sustained assaults by Mughal musketeers and 
dismounted cavalry. Only after the Mughals overran the forts did the 
Abdal capitulate. Zafar Khan squeezed an indemnity of one million 
rupees from the Abdal’s treasury, had Shah Jahan’s name proclaimed 
in the Friday prayers and brought the Abdal and one of the Chak 
princes back to Kashmir as captives.’® This episode illustrates the 
extended reach of the emperor and the skill, tenacity, and effectiveness 
of Mughal military commanders and their troops at their best. 


In the riverine terrain of the Brahmaputra valley Shah Jahan was 
content at first to leave the boundary of effective imperial control at 
Kuch Bihar and Kamrup.2? At Hajo, capital of Kamrup, a Mughal 
faujdar guarded the frontier approach to the Brahmaputra valley. 
Across the frontier, Bali Narayan, brother of the deposed raja of 
Kamrup, built up a strongly fortified and militarized buffer state at 
Darrang as a tributary of the Ahom king. Both sides enjoyed the 
benefits of a brisk trade. Captured elephants, gold from river wash- 
ings, pepper, and lignum wood were in demand in India and quantities 

® Ibid. 28 Saksena, p. 114. 

2 The following is based upon Sudhindra Nath Bhattacharyya, A History of Mughal 
North-east Frontier Policy (Calcutta: Chuckervertty, Chatterjee & Co. Ltd., 1929), 
pp. 256-286 and S, C. Dutta, The North-east and the Mughals (1661-1714) (Delhi: D. K. 
Publications, 1984), pp. 23-28. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

of Indian textiles were readily sold at markets up the Brahmaputra 

In early 1636, however, slowly building tensions culminated in an 
Ahom-Mughal war. The conflict was provoked by the murder of a 
Muslim Assamese trader sent as an emissary to the Ahoms by the 
Mughals. In the opening episode of the conflict, Bali Narayan and the 
Ahoms invested Hajo and forced its garrison to surrender. The next 
year, a Mughal amphibious force sent from Bengal recovered the 
initiative. At the climactic land and river battle of Burpetah in 
November, 1637, Mughal cavalry, artillery, muskets, and war-boats 
destroyed an Ahom army and drove Bali Narayan back to Darrang. 
The Mughals followed up by administering a sharp defeat to the Ahom 
river flotilla and seized the river fort of Kajali on the Brahmaputra. The 
capture and killing of Bali Narayan completed Mughal reoccupation of 

The Ahoms responded by sending their full battle fleet and army. In 
1638 near Kajali the Ahom army and river fleet drove the Mughals back 
with severe losses. At this point the Ahom king and Mughal faujdar 
negotiated a treaty. The Ahoms formally recognized Mughal control 
of Kamrup and the Mughals agreed to the independent status of the 
Ahom monarchy. Restoration of the boundaries brought stability in 
the region for the next two decades. In signing this treaty, Shah Jahan 
formally conceded the complete independence of the Ahoms. Like the 
Safavids in the west, the Ahom rulers remained outside the Indian 
Mughal political system. 


Shah Jahan, who had been in charge of the Deccan at Jahangir’s 
death, wasted little time in organizing diplomatic and military pressure 
against the remaining Muslim states of the Deccan. The emperor’s 
pursuit of Khan Jahan Lodi brought a major Mughal campaign against 
Ahmadnagar in 1630-31 at the height of the great famine. As soon as he 
obtained the rebel’s head, Shah Jahan, then at Burhanpur, renewed the 
campaign. The Mughal governor of the Deccan, Mahabat Khan, led an 
army in the successful siege of Daulatabad fort in 1632. This was the 
final episode in the conquest of Ahmadabad, the western Deccan 
Sultanate. The young Nizam Shahi prince who had served as a puppet 
for the Maratha commander, Shahji Bhonsla, became a state prisoner 



for life in the fortress-prison of Gwalior just south of Agra. Many 
Abmadnagar Muslim noblemen and a few Maratha captains entered 
imperial service. In the territories annexed, an imperial governor, 
diwan, and other officers imposed standard Mughal revenue and 
administrative practices in the new province. 

Ebullient with this newest triumph, Shah Jahan turned his attention 
to the two remaining Muslim Sultanates: Bijapur, in the Marathi and 
Kannada speaking portions of the western Deccan, and Golconda in 
the Telugu-speaking eastern Deccan. In 1635 the emperor sent a 
peremptory demand to each Sultan for recognition of Mughal hege- 
mony. Each must strike coins with Timurid titles and have read the 
emperor’s name as ruler in the Friday prayers. Also demanded was 
payment of annual tribute and the presence of a Mughal diplomatic 
officer at the Adil Shahi and Qutb Shahi courts. 

The Qutb Shah ruler of Golconda quickly complied with these 
demands, When the Adil Shah did not, Shah Jahan sent three Mughal 
armies to converge on Bijapur and lay waste the countryside. Faced 
with certain defeat, the Sultan quickly capitulated. The imposed 
settlement placed both kingdoms firmly within the Mughal sphere of 
influence. The southern imperial frontier was thereby stabilized for 
several decades. 


Shah Jahan’s buildings celebrated the expanding territories, growing 
wealth, and stability of the Mughal empire. In 1647, the historian 
Abdul Hamid Lahori, closing his enormous chronicle of the first two 
decades of Shah Jahan’s reign, summarized the salient features of 
Timurid rule.3° One was simply the sheer size of Shah Jahan’s empire. 
Mughal dominion stretched from Sind in the far northwest to Sylhet on 
the Brahmaputra and from newly conquered Balkh south to the 
southern boundary of the Deccan provinces. Twenty-two provinces 
contained 4,350 parganas — the basic unit of administration. So exten- 
sive was the empire that many large parganas in Agra or Lahore 
provinces generated revenue collections each year of more than one 
million rupees. This sum, Lahori proudly pointed out, was greater than 
the total budget for the entire country of Badakhshan. 

Secondly Lahori stressed the extent of imperial revenues. The jama 

%© Lahori, Padshah Nama t1, 709-716. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

or assessed annual revenue of the empire was 8,800 million dams — a 
sharp increase from the 7000 million dams assessed under Jahangir just 
twenty years before. Lahori attributes part of this increase to growth in 
population and cultivation under Shah Jahan. Recovery had been 
especially dramatic in the four provinces of the Deccan and Ahmada- 
bad (Gujarat) which had been desolated by warfare. Recently (after the 
Mughal victories and Deccan diplomatic settlement of 1636) these 
regions were restored to their original prosperity. 

Thirdly, Lahori extolled the wealth and financial skill of his royal 
patron. During his fifty-one-year reign Akbar had amassed large 
amounts of treasure, but Jahangir had expended most of that reserve 
during his twenty-two-year reign. Shah Jahan had overcome this 
difficulty and succeeded in bringing great prosperity to the empire. To 
build up his reserves the emperor stipulated that the imperial khalisa 
should be set at 1200 million dams equivalent to 30 million rupees. This 
meant that nearly one-seventh of the annual revenues were funneled 
directly into the imperial treasury. This was a greater sum than had 
ever before been made available for the central treasury. 

Despite large expenditures on the military and for benefactions, 
Shah Jahan, since ascending the throne, had accumulated reserves 
worth 95 million rupees — half in coin and half in jewelry and other 
valuables. And he had spent 25 million rupees in the construction of 
grand buildings such as masjids, palaces, forts, tombs, hunting retreats, 
and gardens in Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Kabul, and other parts of the 

Fourth, Lahori stressed the military strength of the empire. Stipen- 
diary cavalrymen numbered 200,000. This figure did not include local 
troops recruited for, revenue collection by faujdars and amils. The 
mansabdars themselves numbered 8,000 horsemen. Seven thousand 
gentlemen-troopers (ahadis) and mounted musketeers served at court. 
The remaining 185,000 cavalry comprised the mounted contingents of 
the princes, the great nobles and other mansabdars. According to 
regulations promulgated in the ninth regnal year, the number of 
horsemen mustered was calculated at one-fourth the nominal suwar 
ranking. The central army counted 40,000 unmounted musketeers, 
gunners, bombardiers, and rocketeers. From this total, 10,000 foot 
were posted with the emperor and the remainder stationed in the 
provinces and forts. Cash salaries paid mounted troops and infantry 
directly employed by the emperor totalled 640 million dams or 16 



million rupees per year. The salaries paid mansabdars for their con- 
tingents were set by their assigned ranks. 

Lahori’s summary implies that the core institutions created by 
Akbar, which had so successfully driven expansion, were not drasti- 
cally altered by his son and grandson. Instead, the technicians of 
empire refined and systematized procedures and policies. The imperial 
revenue system continued to extract vast sums from the production of 
Indian agriculturists, craftsmen and traders. Assessed revenues 
doubled in a half century. In Akbar’s fortieth regnal year (1595-96) the 
total jama was 4061.1 million dams compared to 8,800 million dams in 
1647.>! Part of this increase can be attributed to added territory. Four 
new Deccan provinces and the kingdom of Baglana added 1,840 
million dams to the imperial assessment as did the 180 million dams 
claimed for the central Asian territories. However a substantial 
increase in the jama must be attributed to enhancements based upon 
increased cultivation and production in the older provinces. Mughal 
revenues were sufficient to enable Shah Jahan to spend lavishly on the 
military, building and courtly style, while simultaneously adding to his 
central reserves. 

The area covered by the regulation (zabt) revenue system expanded 
in the first half of the seventeenth century. Detailed records surviving 
from the late seventeenth century testify to imposition of the standard 
revenue system in the Deccan provinces. Murshid Quli Khan, diwan of 
the Deccan provinces under the viceroyalty of Aurangzeb, was the 
architect of a survey and assessment of the revenue-producing lands in 
the four Deccan provinces.>? 

To aid recovery after the ravages of war and famine, Murshid Quli 
Khan set in motion a vigorous program. He recruited headmen and 
settlers for deserted villages; granted loans for seed and cattle; gave 
loans to dig wells or build river embankments for irrigation; and he 
assured the peasantry of continued peace and security. Parties of 
revenue surveyors and assessors carefully recorded holdings, irrigation 
facilities, and arable and waste lands. More remote, hilly villages were 
left to lump-sum payments per plough or allowed to pay the revenue 

31 Total given by Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, p. 1941s slightly higher than the 
jama given in ch. 3 above. 

22 Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, 1, 189-193; Shah Nawaz Khan and ‘Abdul Hayy, 
The Maathir-ul-Umara (New Delhi: 1st reprint edition, 1979), edited and translated by 
H. Beveridge and Baini Prashad, 3 vols., 11, 1, 304-309. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

by a share of the crops. But the majority of villages underwent a 
revenue survey and were assessed in cash according to the zabt 
regulations. Murshid Quli Khan’s system formed the basis for all 
subsequent Deccan revenue assessments — Mughal and Maratha — until 
the British conquest in the early nineteenth century. 

The jagir system retained its central fiscal and military importance, 
but technical problems developed in matching assessed revenues to the 
salary needs of the jagirdars. Peasant resistance, bad harvests, and 
outdated land measurements and assessments all contributed to short- 
falls in actual collections from the original assessment figures for each 
village and pargana. Rather than update the jama figures every year the 
administration adopted a new expedient. Based upon the ten-yearly 
record, villages and subdistricts were classified on a “‘month-scale” to 
show the ratio of actual collections to assessment. Stable, productive 
areas, often reserved for the khalisa or princely jagirs, were termed 
“twelve-monthly” if collections approximated assessments. Those 
desolated tracts, primarily in the Deccan, with collections at one- 
fourth of assessed revenues were labelled “four-monthly.” In between, 
other fractional equivalents based on the month-scale were possible. 
When mansabdars obtained salary assignments rated at less than 
“twelve-monthly,” the numbers of cavalry they were required to 
recruit and pay were diminished accordingly.> 

Shah Jahan also dealt with a growing discrepancy between the 
nominal suwar ranks and the actual contingents mustered by his nobles 
and mansabdars. In part this occurred because the pay for both zat and 
suwar ranks was gradually reduced from Akbar’s scales. Rather than 
raise the rate of pay and demand one to one ratios between the 
numerical rank and actual contingents, Shah Jahan fixed the ratios at 
less than one. Officers serving in the same province in which they held 
their jagirs were to muster fully equipped horsemen at one-third of 
their rank; those serving outside the province in which their jagirs were 
located were to muster one-fourth the rank; and those sent on distant 
campaigns, such as to Balkh, were to muster one-fifth.* These 
measures do not imply any weakening of the Mughal military in an 
absolute sense. Lahori’s total of 200,000 armed horsemen for the 
empire is considerably more than the 147,000 plus cavalrymen 

% M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb (Aligarh, 1966), pp. 45-48. 
™ Lahori, Padshah Nama, 11, 506-507. 



supported by Akbar in 1595-6.°5 His figure for the mansabdari 
contingents relied on the one-fourth formula to arrive at its total. 

Shah Jahan’s military concerns did not extend to weaponry. Unlike 
Akbar, who took an intense interest in muskets and cannon, none of 
his successors paid much attention to technical improvements in 
firearms. Improved flintlock muskets were very slow to penetrate the 
Indian military market. Sebastian Manrique, the Franciscan Friar who 
travelled through India in Shah Jahan’s reign, comments that “most of 
the Mogol militia use bows and arrows. Those who carry fire-arms in 
their army are matchlock men and people of no rank, known as 
tufangis. They carry arquebuses, which being poorly made, are, as it 
were, awkward arms.”>¢ The emperor and his commanders seem to 
have been content to employ musketeers recruited from those men 
readily available in the military labor pool. To a certain extent bowmen 
were still favored by the Mughals as past of their Central Asian 
tradition. In any event we notice no thrust toward better weapons or 
more effective deployment of musketeers. 

Artillery was another difficult area. Since Babur first employed field 
guns at Panipat in 1526, obvious technical progress had occurred. By 
the time of Shah Jahan the Mughals boasted heavy guns firing balls of 
sixty to 120 pounds; lighter-weight field guns firing balls of eight to 
twelve pounds weight; and swivel guns mounted on camels firing a 
three to five ounce ball.3” But progress was slow as the Persian and 
Central Asian campaigns revealed. When stung into action by superior 
Safavid gunnery, Shah Jahan succeeded in having formidable siege guns 
cast and transported to Qandahar fort. 

Neither the emperor nor his nobles fostered research and develop- 
ment in the science of ordnance. Gunfounding was the province of 
immigrant Europeans or Ottoman Turks who were largely left to their 
own devices. Indian techniques for cast-iron were generally back- 
ward.?® The Mughals also relinquished gun-laying skills to a motley 
cadre of highly paid European and Turkish artillerymen. Some were 
38 Moosvi, Economy of the Mughal Empire, lists 1,823 mansabdars in all ranks from ten to 

10,000, p. 204; 4,441 gentlemen troopers and 141, 053 horsemen mustered by mansabdars, 

Appendix 12-A, p. 296. 

36 Sebastian Manrique, Travels of Fray Sebastian Manrique 1629-1643 (Cambridge: 

Hakluyt Society, and. series, No. 51, 1927), 11, 125. 

3 Manucci, Storia'do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8), translated by 

William Irvine, 1, 265-66 and 316. 

o Tapan Raychaudhurs and Irfan Habib, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of India 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 1, 293. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

well qualified; some were certainly not. No systematic efforts were 
made to train Indian gunners. 


Lahori closed his history with a listing of the notables of the empire. 
He mentions a handful of Muslim shaikhs, ulema, physicians, and 
poets, and avoids any reference to non-Muslims. His primary 
concern however, is to identify those amirs and mansabdars bearing 
ranks of 500 zat and above who served Shah Jahan. Since this is one of 
the very few extant systematic lists of the Mughal nobility, consider- 
able modern scholarly effort has been put into its analysis. 

In 1647-8 Lahori named a total of 578 men of whom 133 were 
deceased and 445 officers were still on active service. He listed each 
officer by strict numerical rank order to reflect precedence at court 
and in the esteem of the emperor. Zat rank was usually assigned in 
increments of 1,000 at the highest level; increments of 500 below 
3,000; and by units of 100 below 1,000 zat. Lahori supplies the 
second suwar or trooper rank, which could not exceed the zat rank, 
and, if granted, additional “two-horse, three-horse” ranking. The 
latter conferred greater pay and troop responsibilities on the 

From this list, and other compilations of data on the nobility, it is 
certain that the corps of mansabdars increased steadily in number and 
in resources as the empire expanded. Even after adjusting for inflation 
in rankings, the imperial cadre had nearly doubled from 283 officers 
at the end of Akbar’s reign to 445 in 1647.39 What had not changed is 
the extraordinary concentration of power, military command, and 
wealth in this small contingent of officers. The inner circle of the 
princes and the great amirs ranked at 2,500 zat and above, some 
seventy-three men, were truly the fulcrum of empire. 

The list begins with the four princes, the sons of Shah Jahan. Dara 
Shikoh, the eldest son and heir apparent, held the highest rank in the 
empire at 20,000 zat, 20,000 suwar, 15,000 two-three horse. Shah 
Shuja, Aurangzeb and Murad Bakhsh are listed in descending order 
by age and rank. As the accompanying table shows, the four Timurid 
princes together were entitled to 724 million dams or 8.2 per cent of 

% M. Athar Ali, The Apparatus of Empire: Awards of Ranks, Offices and Titles to the 
Mughal Nobility (1574-1658) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985), xx. 



the current assessed imperial revenues in personal and trooper pay.‘° 
They mustered 28,000 cavalry troopers with horses and equipment up 
to official standards — calculated at one-fourth their trooper rank. In 
general the princes were assigned only the most productive “twelve- 
month” jagirs in which tax collections approximated assessments every 

Table 2 The imperial elite: nobles 2,500 zat and above*! 

Dams Zat (No.) Suwar  Two-three horse Troopers 
% rule 
724 Princes 4 42,000 35,000 28,000 
400 7,000 4 21,000 15,000 12,700 
88 6,000 2 8,000 2,000 
929.7 5,000 15 74,000 23,500 30,250 
336.8 4,000 10 29,400 7350 
743-4 3,000 33 66,500 41500 18,875 
87.2 2,500 5 8,500 2,000 3,128 
3309.1 73 249,400 80,000 102,303 

The four highest ranking nobles in the empire, by comparison, were 
Ali Mardan Khan, Zafar Jang, Islam Khan, and Sa’adullah Khan who 
each held 7,000 zat, and 7,000 suwar. All save Sa’adullah Khan held 
5,000 two-three horse rank. All were Muslim: two were Iranian in 
origin, one Turani (of Central Asian descent); and one Indian Muslim. 
Together they were entitled to 400 million dams or 4.5 percent of the 
total imperial revenues and mustered 12,700 cavalry troopers. 

The seventy-three members of the inner elite received and disbursed 
3,309.1 million dams or a staggering 37.6 percent of the entire assessed 
annual revenues for the empire. They mustered (by the one-fourth 
rule) 102,303 horsemen for military service. Pay for their personal rank 

“© A. Jan Qaisar, “Distribution of the Revenue Resources of the Mughal Empire Among the 
Nobility” in Proceedings, Indian Historical Records Commission, 1965, 27th session, 
PP. 237-243. 

*\ Calculated from Lahori’s listing. An English version of the list is compiled in Athar Ali, 
Apparatus, pp. 212-226. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

alone was 643.5 dams or 7.3 percent of total jama’. From these funds 
and any surplus squeezed from the employment of their mounted 
contingents, these grandees supported numerous wives, concubines, 
and slaves; servants, craftsmen; administrators; and musicians, poets, 
and holy men. They gave lavishly to good works; built on a grand scale 
and made the requisite gifts to the emperor. Each of these noblemen 
headed a cluster of other, lesser mansabdars.‘? Often these were sons, 
nephews, uncles, and other kinsmen who themselves held relatively 
high rank but who were generally affiliated with and served with their 
kinsman. Other, non-kin, patron-client ties bound the greater nobles 
with lesser men. 

Table 3 Mansabdars above 500 zat, 1647-48" 

Category Number Percentage 
Princes 4 9 
Tranis 126 28.4 
Turanis 103 23.3 
Afghans 26 59 
Indian Muslims 65 14.7 
Other Muslims 29 6.6 
Total 353 79.8 
Rajputs 73 16.5 
Marathas 10 23 
Other Hindus 7 1.6 
Total ge 20.3 
Total 443 100.0 

Muslim officers constituted four-fifths of the higher mansabdars 
(see Table 3); Hindus were only one-fifth in number. Muslim nobles of 
Persian and Central Asian origins (Turanis) continued to predominate 
42 See J. F. Richards, “Norms of Comportment among Imperial Mughal Officers” in 

Barbara Daly Metcalf, ed., Moral Conduct and Authority (Berkeley and Los Angeles: 

University of California Press, 1984), pp. 260-261 for a later illustration of such clustering 

in Aurangzeb’s reign. 

#2 Calculated from Lahori, Padshah Nama, ut, 715-752. 



in numbers and power at all levels of the officer corps. Just over half 
belonged to these two groupings. (See Table 3). Nevertheless, member- 
ship in this elite became more heterogeneous as the Timurids incorpo- 
rated more indigenous regional aristocracies. This trend had the effect 
of tying the regime to local society as expansion occurred. Distrusted 
and sharply limited in number and power for their role in the great 
struggle for northern India under Akbar and Jahangir, more Afghan 
officers obtained higher ranks under Shah Jahan. Twenty-six Afghan 
nobles, just over 5 percent of the total, were listed. These men had direct 
ties to colonies of Afghan zamindar groups who controlled strategic 
parganas across northern India from Kabul to Dacca and even more 
important links with Afghan tribes in the northwest mountain passages. 

The two counter-balancing groups originally added by Akbar 
sustained their positions. Sixty-five indigenous or Indian Muslim 
officers, including the Sayyids of Baraha, formed just under 15 percent 
of the total. They too, had close connections with Muslim zamindars in 
north India. 

Seventy-three Rajput officers were slightly more numerous. The 
highest ranking Rajputs held ranks of 5,000 zat and 5,000 suwar, in the 
third tier of great nobles below the princes and six nobles of 7,000 and 
6,000 rank. They were the heads of the largest Rajput kingdoms: 
Jaswant Singh, the Rathor Raja of Marwar; Jai Singh the Kachhwaha 
Raja of Amber; Rana Jagat Singh, the Sisodia Rana of Mewar; and 
Bethal Das, the Raja of Gaur. Another five Rajputs, including the 
heads of the Bundela and Hada clans, were included in the great amirs 
of 2,500 and above. Generally, at this level when the emperor approved 
succession to the raja’s seat, confirmation of rank was automatic. A 
large portion of jagirs assigned the Rajput heads were given in watan 
jagir within their own kingdoms. Higher status Rajput officers tended 
to serve in military roles as field commanders or in quasi-military roles 
as faujdars. Virtually no Rajputs served as provincial governors, for 
example. Nor were they employable in administrative posts demand- 
ing technical non-military skills. 

Less powerful Rajputs either served directly with their master and 
kinsman or held imperial rank but remained part of the cluster attached 
to their raja. Combined suwar and two-three horse ranks for the 
Rajputs in this year puts their required contingents at about 23,500 
men from the total mansabdar contingents.“ 

4 Calculated from Athar Ali, Apparatus, pp. 212-226. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

The most significant additions were a product of southward expan- 
sion. Two groups of officers carried the epithet “Deccani” at the end of 
their titles. A handful of Muslim nobles formerly in service to one of 
the Deccan Sultans was now enrolled in the Mughal nobility. Eight 
men bearing ranks from 4,000 to 1,500 zat were readily merged into the 
various groups of Muslim nobles. 

Ten Maratha officers, ranked from 1,500 to 5,000 zat made the same 
transition to imperial service. The most successful was Maluji Bhonsla 
Deccani, who held the rank of 5,000/5,000; his brother Parsuji was 
ranked at 3,000/2,000. Formerly a high officer in the Ahmadnagar 
Sultanate, Maluji Bhonsla enlisted in Timurid service along with his 
two brothers early in Shah Jahan’s regime.45 When Maluji’s eldest 
brother returned to fight the Mughals under Sultan Adil Shah of 
Bijapur, Maluji and Parsuji were rewarded for remaining loyal. They 
served actively with their contingents in the siege of Daulatabad fort, 
the conquest of Baglana, and other campaigns in the Deccan. None 
obtained major administrative assignments, but were kept in the field. 
The brothers “always behaved prudently and cleverly and pleased all 
the governors of the Deccan. Maluji was possessed of some urbanity 
and gentleness, and ... he was faithful in his friendships.” Parsuji was 
noted for his fondness for Mughal customs in his life style. 

Unlike the Rajputs, subordinates and kinsmen of these ten comman- 
ders were not favored with direct mansab rank. As a result the 
Marathas, who remained in private service to their commanders, were 
more segregated and less fully incorporated into Timurid service than 
their Rajput peers. Restricted deployment in the Deccan further 
suggests limited acceptance by the emperor. 

Nevertheless, Marathas were a totally new Hindu and zamindar 
element in the nobility. Even at the end of Akbar’s reign no Maratha 
aristocrats had been accepted into imperial service and only one in 
Jahangir’s reign. Such assimilation was a vital step in creating linkages 
with local society in the Deccan. This was especially critical in a region 
where Muslims formed only a tiny minority of the total population. 

In the Deccan, unlike North India, the Mughals did not find 
indigenous Muslim warriors controlling peasants on the land. 
Throughout the western Deccan tracts, formerly belonging to Ahmad- 
nagar, Mughal officers were struggling to restore stable, contractual 
relationships with the Maratha intermediaries, the deshmukhs who 

#3 Shah Nawaz Khan, Maathir-sl-Umara, 11, 42-5, translation; text U1, 520-24. 



controlled the revenues and local power in each subdistrict. If, like the 
Deccan Sultans, the Timurids could recruit and employ representatives 
of the Maratha zamindars at the higher reaches of imperial administra- 
tion, the task of restoring centralized state power in the region would 
be substantially eased. 


The changing composition of the Mughal nobility coincided with 
changes in the Timurid court culture and the ethos of the nobility. The 
relationship of the ruler to his elite became less fervent, and more 
formal - expressed more in the idiom of quasi-kinship than of 
discipleship. In an early decree immediately after his enthronement, 
Shah Jahan abolished the extreme prostration (sijdah) for presentation 
in formal court audiences favored by Akbar and Jahangir. Most pious 
Muslims thought the sijdah sacrilegious — such extreme submission 
should be made by the believer only to God Himself. By ending this 
practice Shah Jahan placated orthodox sentiment and served notice that 
discipleship with its pledges of fealty and symbols of membership was 
ended as well. 

Jahangir often employed the term khanazadgi meaning devoted, 
familial, hereditary service in his memoirs. Rajputs, Turanis, Iranis, 
Indian Muslims, and even some Afghan amirs who termed themselves 
khanazads (“born to the house”) formed a large component of the 
nobility, if not quite a majority. All viewed Mughal service and 
preference within that service as their prerogative. Khanazadgi retained 
the central values of discipleship: loyalty, devotion, and sacrifice in the 
emperor’s service, but lacked its intensely emotional aspect. From 
boyhood each khanazad was imbued with a code of aristocratic and 
military honor. The honor of the warrior was compatible with 
dignified subordination to the emperor. Buttressing this ethos was the 
dynastic ideology of the Timurids which still continued to shape and 
influence the sacreal qualities ascribed to the Mughal emperor.** 

Khanazads were fully assimilated to the polish and sophistication of 
Indo-Persian courtly culture in its elaborate Mughal version. The ideal 
khanazad was dignified, courteous, and well-mannered. He under- 
stood the intricate rules for comportment in all social encounters — 
from the most informal gathering of friends engaged in drinking wine 

4 See Richards, “Norms of Comportment among Imperial Mughal Officers”. 


SHAH JAHAN 1628-1658 

to the most rigid of grand public ceremonies at court. He valued and 
often quoted Persian and perhaps Hindustani or Turki poetry, and 
appreciated Hindustani music, painting, and the other arts nurtured at 

Punctuating the life and career of each khanazad were moments of 
personal attention by the emperor. On more formal occasions he 
received praise, new titles, honors, and promotion in rank in open 
court. On other occasions worthy officers were favored with intimate 
meetings in the monarch’s less-public audience chambers. Rebukes and 
punishment were also possible and frequently occurred. But Shah 
Jahan and -his successors were relatively mild and humane in their 
treatment of their officers. Mughal grandees were not subject to the 
gratuitous cruelties inflicted by the Safavid rulers. Attendance at court, 
certainly stressful, was not a daily exposure to physical danger. 
Attenuated and changed, nevertheless, an emotional bond did persist 
between emperor and imperial servant. 

Cognizant of its value, the emperor nurtured and rewarded khana- 
zadgi. Nobles, on the birth of a son, sent a gift to the emperor with a 
request that he name the child. The emperor was informed of and gave 
his approval for the marriage of the children of his nobles. At maturity 
all sons of an amir were enrolled as mansabdars in the emperor’s 
service. They did not obtain their father’s rank and titles, or indeed 
more than a portion of his estate, but they were marked for promotion 
and rapid advancement. 

Khanazadgi, and the values of hereditary service associated with it, 
applied to officers serving as diwans or other posts in the fiscal sphere. 
But skills in finance and bureaucratic management, while necessary, 
and often rewarded, were certainly seen as lesser attributes compared 
to those of the commander and soldier. A renowned revenue admini- 
strator like Murshid Quli Khan rose only to 3,000/s00 at the height of 
his career. Provincial diwans routinely held lower ranks than did 
provincial governors or even some city prefects or faujdars. Neverthe- 
less the ethos of service did extend to subordinate officials. 

The memoir of Bhimsen Saxena, a Hindu mansabdar from the 
Kayasth caste, reveals the degree to which the ideal of khanazadgi had 
permeated the ranks of the technical officers employed in the various 
administrative posts of the empire. For Bhimsen the Mughal emperor 
was “the true servant of God and his agent” who tries “to foster peace 
and prosperity.” The “fruits of the empire” were human happiness and 



well-being. Bhimsen, whose family had an extensive tradition of 
administrative service to the empire, portrays himself as a khanazad. 
He saw himself as an indispensable part of the imperial structure 
without whose humble, but necessary, services the system could not 

The notion of hereditary familial service combined with assimilation 
to the Mughal aristocratic life style offered wider application to men of 
higher and lower ranks and statuses. Khanazadgi, in contrast to 
discipleship, evoked loyalty and obedience but did not exact expres- 
sions of dramatic personal loyalty to a charismatic master. In some 
ways reversion to hereditary familial service was a reaction to success. 
Shah Jahan, unlike Akbar, did not have to induce extraordinary effort 
and unflinching devotion from his nobles. He did expect routine 
display of courage in battle, the stock in trade of professional soldiers, 
But success in the nobility also demanded personal affability, attention 
to ritual and decorum, and those political and organizational skills 
necessary for grandees everywhere. Those Hindu nobles and comman- 
ders willing to adapt to these requirements could gain acceptance. 

By mid-century the Mughal empire was expansive, invincible, and 
wealthy on a scale scarcely dreamed of by the Sultans of Delhi. 
Shahjahanabad was a fitting new capital for a great empire. Imperial 
symbolism and ideology was slowly returning to Islamic orthodoxy. 
By the end of Shah Jahan’s reign, however the empire was moving 
towards its greatest political crisis. 




During the last half of Shah Jahan’s reign a long-standing political and 
intellectual conflict in the Mughal empire polarized around the two 
most able and forceful Mughal princes. The liberal party found an 
articulate and influential spokesman in the eldest son of Shah Jahan. 
Prince Dara Shukoh attracted those nobles, imperial officers, schol- 
ars, intellectuals, and others who remained committed to Akbar’s 
eclectic ideology and policies. The conservative party found its cham- 
pion in Shah Jahan’s third son. Aurangzeb drew to him Muslim 
nobles, officers, theologians, official ulema who wished to shift the 
empire toward a more properly Muslim state in conformity with the 
Sharia. The latter drew their confidence from an increasingly visible 
revivalist movement within Indian Islam. By the 1640s and 1650s 
other major policy issues such as the question of Deccan conquest 
and Mughal relations with Bijapur and Golconda were drawn into 
this rivalry. 

The two princes emerged as spokesmen in part because of their 
high rank, status, and patronage they disposed. In reality, however, 
Dara Shukoh and Aurangzeb were important because of the future. 
One of Shah Jahan’s four sons, all mature men, would win the 
inevitable struggle for succession and Dara and Aurangzeb were the 
most likely candidates to prevail. Murad and Shuja, the other two 
brothers, while competent administrators and generals, were gen- 
erally seen as weaker candidates for the throne. Neither had adopted 
such pronounced ideological positions as did Dara or Aurangzeb. 

Dara Shukoh remained at court in close personal contact with the 
emperor. As the favorite and heir-apparent, he greatly influenced 
the emperor. His greatest ally was his eldest sister the princess Jahan 
Ara, who served as mistress of the royal household after the death of 
her mother, Mumtaz Mahal. 

In his intellectual curiosity, his open-mindedness, and his mystical 
interests Dara was in many ways a throwback to his great- 
grandfather, Akbar. He was an active disciple of Mulla Mir (d. 1635) 



and Mulla Shah Badakshi (d. 1661) two leading Shaikhs of the Qadiri 
order of Sufis.! In the earliest phase of his mystical studies the prince 
compiled a hagiography of Sufi saints and a recounting of orthodox 
mystical beliefs. 

Beginning in 1641 the maturing scholar, following the Koranic 
injunction that no land has been left without prophetic guidance, 
became convinced that the Vedas and the Upanishads constitute the 
concealed scripture mentioned in the Koran. He regarded the 
Upanishads as the ultimate source of all monotheism, including Islam. 
With the aid of Brahmin scholars in his employ, Dara translated the 
fifty-two Upanishads into Persian in a work titled Sirr-i Akbar. In a 
subsequent Persian work titled Majma’ al-babrayn “The Mingling of 
the Two Oceans,” the scholar-prince argued that the essential nature of 
Hinduism was identical to that of Islam. Using techniques of lexical 
similarity Dara posited that the cosmologies and mystical practices of 
Muslim Sufis and those of the Upanishads correspond. For example, 
ruh or “soul” in Islam is equivalent to atman in Vedantic Hinduism. 
The Sufi concept of love is the same as the Hindu notion of maya or 
illusion. Dara had “The Mingling of the Two Oceans” translated into 
Sanskrit under the title Samudra Sangam to make it accessible to 
Hindu scholars. 

The prince only succeeded in persuading most Indian Muslims that 
he was an apostate who cavalierly ignored the obligatory prayers and 
other rituals of Islam. Extended discussions with and patronage of 
three Jesuit priests who formed part of his household confirmed this 
impression. Conversations with the Hindu Bhakti saint Babalal Vairagi 
had a similar effect. Although it is likely that Dara remained a 
convinced monotheist, the appearance of apostasy left him politically 
vulnerable to attack by the ulema. 

Despite his intellectual gifts, Dara Shukoh was a mediocre general 
and an insensitive leader who failed to strike the right air of authority 
and sympathy with nobles. The most powerful amirs of the realm were 
reportedly insulted by his excessive pride and haughtiness.? 

Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan’s third son with Mumtaz Mahal, was of an 

* The following discussion of Dara Shukoh is drawn from Aziz Ahmad, “Dara Shikoh and 
Aurangzeb” an essay appearing in Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian 
Environment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 191-200. 

2.N, Manucci, Storia do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8), translated by 
William Irvine; 1, 221-226 for an account of Dara’s flaws and the enemies he made. 



entirely different personality. Niccolao Manucci’s eyewitness descrip- 
tion is apt:> 

This prince was very different from the others, being in character very 
secretive and serious, carrying on his affairs in a hidden way, but most 
energetically. He was of a melancholy temperament, always busy at something 
or another, wishing to execute justice and arrive at appropriate decisions, He 
was extremely anxious to be recognized by the world as a man of wisdom, 
clever and a lover of the truth. He was moderately liberal, distributing rewards 
and conferring gifts wherever suitable. But above all, for a long time he 
pretended to be a faquir (fagir), a holy mendicant, by which he renounced the 
world, gave up all claim to the crown, and was content to pass his life in 
prayers and mortifications. 

Aurangzeb obviously was a man of extreme piety, who punctiliously 
observed the public rituals of Islam. He did not drink wine or take 
opium. Engaged in his own spiritual quest, Aurangzeb held long 
discussions with members of the ulema or shaikhs from the orthodox 
Nagshbandi order. He avidly read the Koran, treatises on the law, and 
the works of Al-Ghazzali and other prominent Islamic scholars. But 
Aurangzeb’s piety, as suggested by Manucci, did not interfere with his 
worldly ambition or continual maneuvering in the high politics of 

An experienced military commander and administrator, Aurangzeb 
served as governor of the Mughal Deccan for eight years; as governor 
of Gujarat for three years, and then as commander of Mughal armies in 
the invasion of Balkh and the first two sieges of Qandahar fort. Despite 
his devoted and able performance in these offices, Aurangzeb’s 
relationship with his father was acrimonious and distant. Shah Jahan, 
encouraged by Dara Shukoh and Jahan Ara, rebuked his least favourite 
son frequently, and often unfairly, for a variety of shortcomings. 
Aurangzeb’s principal ally in the imperial household was his elder 
sister Raushan Ara Begam, the fourth child of Mumntaz Mahal. She 
sent him a constant flow of information about the emperor and court 

In 1652, after the third Qandahar campaign ended ignominiously 
under Dara’s command, Shah Jahan assigned Aurangzeb to administer 
the Deccan provinces once more. For the next five years polarized 
tensions in the empire centered on the political struggle between Dara 
at court and Aurangzeb in the Deccan. 

3 Manucci, Storia, 1, 229. 




Shah Jahan sent Aurangzeb to the south enjoined to reform and restore 
an effective imperial administration. Since Aurangzeb’s departure in 
1644, a succession of ineffective governors, corrupt officials, destruc- 
tive military campaigns, and poor agricultural seasons had reduced the 
productive capacity of the region. Many villages were deserted and 
areas formerly cultivated were now forested. Every year a shortfall in 
imperial revenues forced Shah Jahan to send a subsidy to meet the 
expenses of the Deccan military and administrative establishment. 

Under Aurangzeb’s capable direction the famed revenue officer 
Murshid Quli Khan restored order and predictability to the imperial 
agrarian system (see above). To stimulate cultivation Murshid Quli 
Khan advanced large loans in Khandesh and Berar for peasants to 
repair and expand riverine irrigation. In all four provinces he induced 
energetic men to become headmen and settle abandoned villages by 
making various tax concessions.* 

Imperial revenues began to increase, but not enough to compensate 
for the deficit. Aurangzeb and Shah Jahan wrangled continually over 
Aurangzeb’s request for additional funds to be transferred from Malwa 
and Gujarat. In an increasingly acrimonious correspondence, Aurang- 
zeb claimed the 800,000 rupee annual tribute from Golconda as well. 
Caught in his budgetary difficulties Aurangzeb pressed his father for 
permission to invade and annex the Sultanate of Golconda. Golconda 
was renowned in the seventeenth century world for its wealth and 
especially for its rich diamond mines. Shah Jahan, who still bore 
friendly feelings toward Abdullah Qutb Shah for refuge taken during 
his own revolt as a prince, ruled out invasion. Undeterred, however, 
Aurangzeb began a secret exchange of letters with Muhammad Said, 
Mir Jumla, the Qutb Shahi conqueror of the Karnatak. This initiative 
brought together two of the most remarkable figures of the seven- 
teenth century. 


The tributary status imposed on Bijapur and Golconda in 1636 

stabilized the northern frontier of those states and brought a respite 

from Mughal invasion. A fixed policy aim of the Adil Shahi and Qutb 
4 Jadunath Sarkar, History of Awrangzib (Calcutta, 5 vols.,'1912-1924), f, 187-194. 



Shahi rulers was to prevent by persuasion or bribery an aggressive 
Mughal forward policy in the Deccan. Their northern frontiers secured 
by treaty, each ruler was free to expand to the south. 

In the southeastern plain and upland area called the Karnatak, 
political power was fragmented among a number of Telugu and Tamil 
nayaks who were the descendants of the great warrior nobles of 
Vijayanagara. Bijapur armies under Shahji Bhonsla, now in Adil Shahi 
service, and other Afghan and Maratha generals forcibly annexed lands 
from the Palar river, sixty miles south of Madras, to the Kaveri river in 
the Chola heartland. The latter became a province known as the 
Bijapur Karnatak. These conquests extended the frontier of Muslim 
power five hundred kilometers toward the tip of the subcontinent. 

In the 1640s large armies from Golconda battered down local 
resistance and conquered the Karnatak between the Krishna river in 
the north and the Palar river. This rich, fertile area, also known as the 
Coromandel coast, was the center of a burgeoning textile industry. 
Thousands of weavers, dyers, and other craftsmen produced millions 
of yards of cloth for growing overseas markets. 

The architect of this triumph was Muhammad Said, a man of 
extraordinary talents. Born the son of an oil merchant in Iran, the 
young Muhammad Said migrated to Golconda in the employ of an 
Iranian trader. Soon the young entrepreneur obtained a lucrative 
diamond mining concession at the famed Golconda mines and rapidly 
became a prominent member of the group of Persian traders and 
shipowners in Golconda. Domiciled in either Hyderabad or the chief 
port, Machhilipatnam, these men were closely linked with their fellow 
Persians in the ruling elite of Golconda and held a commanding 
position in the kingdom’s maritime trade.> 

By 1634 Muhammad Said, who is credited with unusual organi- 
zational skills and personal appeal, had opted for the larger prizes 
associated with official power in Golconda. Under what has been 
called a system of “political capitalism” Muslim officials in Golconda 
at all levels were heavily involved in commerce and shipowning.® They 
used political power to improve their commercial interests by a variety 
of monopoly devices. Within a short time, Muhammad Said became 
governor of the port of Machhilipatnam and other coastal territories. 

5 Jagdish Narayan Sarkar, The Life of Mir Jumla (Delhi: Rajesh Publications, 2nd. revised 
edition, 1979), pp. 4-5- 

© Sinnappah Arasaratnam, Merchants, Companies, and Commerce on the Coromandel Coast 
1650-1740 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 225-225. 



Retaining these offices under his agents, in 1638 he rose to chief 
minister of the kingdom and received the title of Mir Jumla. 

In his handling of the Karnatak invasion in the early 1640s Mir Jumla 
proved to be a talented military strategist and diplomat. For ten years 
(1642-1652) his armies were engaged against the citadels of decentral- 
ized Hindu warriors and their troops. His formidable cavalry, infantry 
and artillery stormed even the most forbidding fortresses of the Hindu 

By 1652, Mir Jumla governed for Golconda the Hyderabad Kar- 
natak — a kingdom nearly 40,000 square kilometers with annual 
revenues equivalent to four million rupees a year. His military role 
added greatly to his wealth. Plunder from looted Hindu temples and 
diamonds from the newly conquered alluvial diamond workings at 
Kullur (the richest in the world at the time) swelled his trading capital.” 
Although he sent regular revenue payments north to Hyderabad a 
large share of the profits from the Golconda style tax farming system 
remained with him. The agents of Mir Jumla’s growing commercial 
empire were found throughout the markets of the Mughal empire, in 
Persia, Mocha, Burma, Arakan, and Pegu. In addition to large herds of 
pack animals employed in the overland trade, Mir Jumla kept at least 
ten merchant vessels in commission plying between ports in the Bay of 
Bengal and in the Red Sea. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mir Jumla ran afoul of his royal master, 
Abdullah Qutb Shah. Escaping an assassination plot by the Qutb Shah 
king, Mir Jumla turned to Bijapur and the Mughal empire to negotiate 
a position for himself and his newly founded domains in another state 


Always alert to opportunity Aurangzeb opened a correspondence with 
Mir Jumla. The Deccan governor proposed to Mir Jumla that he hand 
over the Hyderabad Karnatak to Mughal rule and then attack Gol- 
conda from the south while Aurangzeb’s armies invaded from the 
northwest. Mir Jumla accepted Aurangzeb’s offer and became a 
collaborator in a plan to invade Golconda. 

When in November, 1655, Abdullah Qutb Shah lost patience with 
Muhammad Amin, Mir Jumla’s boorish son, his envoy at the Gol- 

7 Sarkar, Mir Jumla, p.77. 



conda court, and placed him in confinenent; this provided the pretext 
Aurangzeb needed to move Shah Jahan to action. The emperor 
enrolled Mir Jumla and his son as high-ranking Mughal amirs and 
ordered Abdullah Qutb Shah to release Muhammad Amin. Before the 
Golconda ruler received Shah Jahan’s order, however, Aurangzeb had 
already sent an invading army into Golconda. The Mughal army easily 
occupied Hyderabad city while the Qutb Shah ruler and his court took 
refuge in Golconda fort where they were besieged by the Mughal 
army. Within two months Mir Jumla and his force arrived from the 
Karnatak to join Aurangzeb, 

In the interim, Dara Shukoh and Jahan Ara had been approached at 
the Delhi court by agents of Abdullah Qutb Shah. The heir-apparent 
intervened and persuaded Shah Jahan to force Aurangzeb to withdraw. 
The Qutb Shah ruler would be forced to pay a large war indemnity, 
lose some border territory and give up a daughter for marriage to 
Muhammad Sultan, Aurangzeb’s son. A peremptory order from the 
emperor left Aurangzeb, despite his protests, to withdraw. 

By mid-year Mir Jumla had brought his entire establishment north 
to the imperial court at Shahjahanabad. At the unexpected death of the 
Mughal wazir, Shah Jahan conferred that office upon the newcomer 
with a one thousand zat increase in rank. Shah Jahan also agreed to 
treat the entire Hyderabad Karnatak as the jagir of his new minister 
and to send imperial officers to seize it from Golconda. For the first 
time Aurangzeb was favored with a powerful friend and advocate who 
rapidly obtained great influence over Shah Jahan. With this advocate 
Aurangzeb’s policy of imperial aggression won the emperor’s 

In November, 1656, Muhammad Adil Shah, who had been ill for a 
decade, died. His eighteen-year-old son, Ali Adil Shah 11, faced a 
factious nobility and rebellious zamindars. Aurangzeb and Mir Jumla 
had for some time worked up a plan for the invasion of the kingdom as 
soon as the long-anticipated death of Muhammad Adil Shah occurred. 
Aurangzeb had been busy in suborning many of the nobles and 
military commanders in Bijapur service. 

Shah Jahan approved an invasion and sent Mir Jumla with troops to 
assist. In mid-1657, as the Mughal army was poised to take Bijapur, the 
capital city, Shah Jahan, again urged by Dara Shukoh, ordered Aurang- 
zeb to refrain from a final conquest. Instead he was forced to accept a 
large war indemnity and cession of the lands occupied to date. The 



emperor ordered Mir Jumla to return to Delhi. In the midst of 
Aurangzeb’s forced withdrawal, Shah Jahan fell ill in September, 1657. 
The first act of the great Mughal war of succession had begun. 


Shah Jahan’s magnificent reign ended in a long-anticipated, convulsive 
political crisis. When the emperor fell ill, pent-up tensions between the 
mature Timurid princes exploded into a four-sided war of succession. 
The war pitted Dara Shukoh, resident at court as the designated heir, 
against his three younger brothers: Muhammad Shuja, governor of 
Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa; Aurangzeb, governor of the four Deccan 
provinces; and Murad Bakhsh, governor of Gujarat and Malwa. All 
were sons of Mumtaz Mahal and therefore full, rather than half 
brothers. Despite Shah Jahan’s expressed preference for his eldest son, 
Dara Shukoh, the Timurid appanage system offered no clear precedent 
for succession. 

This was a bloody struggle fought by formidable opponents. Dara, 
Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad battled each other with that intensity 
and intimacy reserved to brothers with differing personalities. Each 
prince shared in the Timurid familial charisma and royal authority 
which gave all an undisputable claim on the throne. Each brother 
claimed long experience in war, statecraft, and administration and 
could draw upon the services of extremely able military and adminis- 
trative staffs. Each commanded a power base, Possessed ample treasure 
and could muster large, well-equipped armies. Only one contender 
could claim the throne; the others faced the grave. 

When Shah Jahan failed to hold daily court audiences the news 
immediately swept to all parts of the empire. In Delhi the shops 
remained closed in the bazaars and public anxiety was at a high pitch 
for several days.§ Within the palace only Dara, his physicians, his 
daughter Janan Ara, and a few trusted officers were permitted to see the 
emperor. Dara quickly assumed command. He seized the agents and 
spies of his brothers and censored all communications between them 
and their masters. Shah Jahan’s seclusion and Dara’s censorship raised 
speculation that the emperor was either dead or completely helpless. 
After a month the emperor recovered sufficiently to appear in public. 

* Manucci, who served Dara Shukoh as a young gunner, gives a full description of the war 
from the viewpoint of a participant. Manucci, Storia, 11, 229-386. 



Thereafter the depressed and ailing emperor journeyed slowly to Agra 
to be near his wife’s tomb. 

In Bengal Prince Muhammad Shuja immediately crowned himself 
king at Rajmahal and brought his cavalry, artillery, and river flotilla 
upriver toward Agra. Near Varanasi his forces confronted a defending 
army sent from Delhi under the command of Prince Sulaiman Shukoh, 
son of Dara, and Raja Jai Singh. In mid-February, 1658, a well- 
executed early morning surprise attack routed the Bengal.troops. Shuja 
and his surviving men fled downriver to Monghyr. 

To the south, in Gujarat, Murad Bakhsh immediately sent a 6,000 
man force to extort a half-million rupee forced loan from the mer- 
chants of Surat and to besiege the fort whose commander (appointed 
independently by the emperor) refused to surrender. Rejecting reports 
of his father’s recovery, on December sth Murad crowned himself at a 
public ceremony. In early January Surat fort fell with its treasure and 
supplies and Murad prepared to march north. 

In the Deccan the news reached Aurangzeb just as he was complet- 
ing peace negotiations with the Sultan of Bijapur after a successful 
invasion of that kingdom. (see above).? Between October and early 
January of 1658 Aurangzeb tried simultaneously to impose the 
punitive terms of the peace treaty on Bijapur and to position himself 
for a run for the throne. In contrast to Shuja and Murad, however, 
Aurangzeb did not take the irrevocable step of crowning himself. 
Instead, he engaged in a busy secret correspondence with Murad, and, 
to a lesser extent, with Shuja. Letters written in cipher encased in 
bamboo tubes passed from runner to runner over special relay posts 
newly established between Ahmadabad and Aurangabad. Within a few 
weeks Aurangzeb and Murad had agreed on a plan for joint action. If 
they defeated their brothers, Aurangzeb would leave to Murad the 
Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Sind to rule as an independent king 
and he would rule the remaining territories. Simultaneously, carrying 
on a wide-ranging correspondence, Aurangzeb induced most of the 
higher ranking nobles of the Deccan to join him. 

In early February 1658, Aurangzeb set his army marching north. 
He joined forces with Murad at the village of Dharmat on the 
Ghambira river. Here they met Shah Jahan’s army under the command 
of Jaswant Singh Rathor. In the ensuing battle Aurangzeb’s well- 

9 Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, 11, 278-79. 



handled guns and cavalry outfought the imperial army whose survivors 
fell back on Delhi in disarray.1° 

At Delhi Dara rebuilt a 50,000 man army and awaited his brothers at 
defensive positions on the Chambal river south of Agra. Aurangzeb 
outflanked him by finding an unguarded ford. The armies met on a 
broad plain at the village of Samugarh on the Yamuna near Agra. On 
29 May, in the blazing heat of Indian summer, the climactic battle of 
the succession struggle took place. Aurangzeb’s superior tactics and 
better disciplined artillery and cavalry prevailed against the valor of 
repeated Rajput cavalry charges. Finally, toward the end of the day, 
Dara dismounted from his war elephant and fled the field on 
horseback. A full-scale rout began. 

About nine in the evening Dara and a small group of his followers 
reached his mansion in Agra fort. Unwilling to face his father, he rested 
a few hours then fled toward Delhi accompanied by his family and a 
few retainers carrying his treasury. Avrangzeb occupied Agra city and, 
when negotiations failed, besieged his father in Agra fort. Deprived of 
access to water from the river, Shah Jahan surrendered on June 8, 1658 
and became his son’s prisoner. The vast treasuries and magazines of 
Agra fort fell into Aurangzeb’s hands. 

Dara stayed only briefly in Delhi before moving on to Lahore. When 
Aurangzeb resumed the pursuit, tension between him and Murad 
grew. Despite warnings, Murad entered his brother’s camp for a dinner 
on 25 June. Here he was disarmed, made captive and quietly sent off to 
prison along with his son. Aurangzeb enrolled Murad’s leaderless 
soldiery into his service the next day. 

Aurangzeb paused in Delhi long enough to crown himself on 21 July 
in Shalimar gardens with the title of Alamgir or “world-seizer.” This 
action marks the end of the first phase of the war of succession when 
the outcome was really in doubt. Thereafter Aurangzeb dealt with his 
brothers from an overwhelmingly strong position. 

When Aurangzeb’s army crossed the Sutlej river, Dara panicked and 
fled south down the Indus river with part of Aurangzeb’s army in 
pursuit. At Bhakkar, a river fortification, he abandoned part of his 
troops, heavy guns, much of a ten-million rupee treasure, and many 
dependents. Dara fled south with a few retainers to the Arabian Sea 
where he finally took refuge in Gujarat. 

By the end of September Aurangzeb left the tracking of Dara to his 

10 Ibid., pp. 20-25. 



officers to meet a new threat: his brother Shuja. Shuja, rejecting 
Aurangzeb’s promises of unthreatened rule in the east, mustered a 
force of 25,000 cavalry and a flotilla of river boats and marched upriver. 
In late December Aurangzeb joined his son Muhammad Sultan for 
battle against Shuja. Despite the last-minute defection of Jaswant Singh 
Rathor with his Rajput cavalry to Shuja, Aurangzeb‘s army greatly 
outnumbered and outgunned the Bengal army. Defeated and routed, 
Shuja fled with the remnants of his army. 

In the interim Dara had regained his courage, acquired funds, 
recruited a 20,000 man army in Gujarat, and marched north to liberate 
his father. When he reached Ajmer in Rajasthan the thousands of 
Rajput warriors promised to his cause by Jaswant Singh Rathor did not 
appear. Instead, Dara faced a large, well-equipped army commanded 
by his nemesis, his brother Aurangzeb. In mid-March, 1659, Aurang- 
zeb’s army overran Dara’s forces in a bloody three-day battle fought in 
the hills outside Ajmer. Dara survived but fled once again. 

On his return to Delhi Aurangzeb felt confident enough to arrange 
for a properly grand second coronation. On June 5, 1659, at an 
auspicious time, Aurangzeb sat on the throne in the Hall of Public 
Audience in the fortress at Shahjahanabad. A reciter read his names and 
titles as part of the khutba and newly struck coins were distributed. 
Only the aftermath of the war of succession remained. 

Dara, put to flight again, spent the next three months as a wanderer 
trying to evade capture. From Gujarat, to the Rann of Kutch, to 
Seistan, to the Bolan Pass, he found little aid or comfort. Finally, he 
sought assistance from Malik Jiwan, an Afghan chief whose life he had 
saved from execution in Delhi some years before. His devoted wife, 
Nadira Banu, a Timurid princess, died of dysentery when they arrived. 
Dara sent her body off with most of his escort to be interred in Lahore. 
As soon as he did so, Malik Jiwan arrested Dara and sent word to his 
pursuers on the Indus. 

When Dara Shukoh arrived at Delhi as a prisoner, Aurangzeb first 
had him paraded in public humiliation through the streets of the city. 
His appearance and his past generosity aroused much public sympa- 
thy. That evening in council Aurangzeb, his sister Raushan Ara, and 
his advisers, decided on a death sentence. The official ulema con- 
demned Dara to death on grounds of apostasy from Islam and idolatry. 
On the night of August 30, 1659, two slaves killed Dara and his 
youngest son Sipihr Shukoh. 



There followed a year-and-a-half-long, grim, water-borne campaign 
in pursuit of Prince Shuja by an imperial army under Mir Jumla. Shuja 
fought, retreated east and fought until, finally, at Tanda his army was 
decisively beaten and broken. In early May, 1660, Shuja left Dacca by 
boat with his family and a few faithful troops to take refuge with the 
raiding king of Arakan. Here, suspected of a plot against the king, he 
met his death, 

Only Murad Bakhsh remained alive as a captive of Aurangzeb in the 
state prison at Gwalior fortress. In early 1661 a planned rescue by some 
of Murad’s loyal Mughal officers failed, but he remained a threat. 
Rather than simply have Murad killed, Aurangzeb arranged a murder 
accusation. At the start of the war of succession, enraged with the 
suspicion that the diwan of Gujarat was an adherent of Shah Jahan, 
Murad had killed his fellow-officer with a spear-thrust. At Aurang- 
zeb’s instigation, the diwan’s second son demanded justice under the 
Sharia for his father’s death. The qazi of Gwalior fort tried the case and 
convicted Murad. The son refused to accept payment but asked for 
retribution. On December 4, 1661, two slaves carried out the exe- 

The succession crisis reaffirmed the unity of the empire and the 
authority of the victorious Timurid monarch. Partition of the empire 
into two or more appanages did not take place. Division of the empire 
was a bargaining point, nothing more. The principals knew that 
whoever acquired the imperial capital and throne would not rest until 
the partitioned territories — be they in the east or west or south — were 
recovered. Ultimately the prize was access to a throne ruling a single, 
unitary empire. 

Throughout Mughal India the succession struggle was high public 
drama. Movements of armies, alliances, battles, and skirmishes, the 
emperor’s health, flights, and in the end, executions — all were of the 
most intense interest. Rumor and gossip darted across the bazaars of 
every town and city. Intelligence networks maintained by sarrafs, 
merchants, Sufi orders, and Hindu maths strained to obtain and 
transmit timely news. Relays of messengers on foot and horse 
traversed the roads of the empire. European traders collated and sent 
back reports to Europe on the crisis. Events thus shared suggest the 
degree to which the empire had become linked into a unified social 



The 1658-59 war stretched the resources of a militarized state and 
society. The crisis disgorged a sizable portion of the great hoarded 
wealth of the empire found in the provincial and central treasuries and 
the personal holdings of nobles and officials. Spending on military 
needs soared as commanders on each side enlisted additional soldiery 
and bought supplies and munitions. Temporarily, at least, the civil war 
reversed the flow of revenues and accumulation of reserves. The 
normal flow of tax collections to the imperial center or to the 
designated jagir holders virtually dried up in the course of the war. 

There were no noticeable or widespread uprisings by zamindars or 
peasants. Most of the countryside waited and watched for the outcome 
of events, Aurangzeb’s early victories seem to have discouraged direct 
challenges to the regime. However, local revenue administration 
functioned but feebly for the duration of the conflict. The revenues of 
jagirdars and the imperial khalisa dried to a trickle. Agricultural 
production faltered as well when campaigning armies marched through 
the countryside. Unfortunately the ravages and dislocation of war 
were exacerbated by several years of scanty monsoon rains beginning 
in 1658, Throughout north and central India a general scarcity, 
amounting to famine conditions in many places, accompanied the 
political crisis. At Delhi, Agra, and Lahore drought-stricken peasants 
from the surrounding countryside descended on each city. The 
emperor and the amirs opened free kitchens to dispense cooked food in 
each city. Scarcity and the vast influx of dishoarded funds pressed 
prices to famine levels in the cities.!1 

Timurid royal blood and ample funds were sufficient to recruit 
equipped, trained soldiers and obtain arms, animals, and military 
supplies in any part of the subcontinent. When in early 1659, Dara 
Shukoh arrived at Ahmadabad in Gujarat after his flight from Samu- 
garh, his sympathizer, Shah Nawaz Khan, gave him one million rupees 
from Murad’s treasury. With these funds Dara recruited some 20,000 
cavalry and obtained forty artillery pieces within a month’s time.!? 
Everywhere soldiers and suppliers were fully employed. 

By and large allegiances in this war were not determined by-broader 
issues, but by pragmatism or personal loyalties. For the nobles and 
higher ranking mansabdars allegiance was often determined by the 
11 Shireen Mosvi, ‘“Scarcities, Prices and Exploitation: The Agrarian Crisis, 1658-1670,” 

Studies in History 1 (1985), 46-47. 

12 Sarkar, History of Aurungzib, 11, 164-65. 



vicissitudes of imperial posting. The degree of enthusiasm displayed by 
each noble might be determined by the personal appeal of the prince in 
question. For officers and men in private employment allegiance was 
determined by loyalty to one’s salt or by lineage or clan loyalties to 
one’s commanders. For those thousands of men in the floating pool of 
military manpower allegiance was a matter of payment and perform- 
ance an amalgam of professional pride and the circumstance of battle 
and campaign. 

The succession conflict did bring into the open serious political and 
religious divisions. At every opportunity Aurangzeb proclaimed his 
horror at Dara’s apostacy from Islam and his idolatry. When Aurang- 
zeb and Murad agreed to act jointly to divide the empire, the public, 
written statement affirmed that the proposed campaign was not simply 
a matter of personal power. Instead they had a more, lofty aim: “to 
uproot the bramble of idolatry and infidelity from the realm of Islam 
and to overwhelm and crush the idolatrous chief [Dara] with his 
followers and strongholds.”!3 doubtful whether Aurangzeb’s religious appeal swayed Muslim 
nobles to support him or caused Hindu nobles to turn.against him. 
What we can assert, however, is that it did make a difference to the 
empire and its inhabitants which of the four contenders triumphed. 
Had Shuja or Murad won it is likely that they would have followed 
Shah Jahan’s policies with few dramatic changes. Had Dara won, it is 
likely that a broader political appeal would have marked his reign. 
Whether he could have sustained this program in the face of a more 
conservative climate in both the Muslim and Hindu communities is 
another question that cannot be answered. Instead, Aurangzeb 
imposed a narrow, Islamic character on to the political culture of the 
empire. It was Aurangzeb’s insistence on Islamic exclusivity that 
shaped imperial policy over the next half century. 

' Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, 1, 335-337- 



AURANGZEB 1658-1689 

Aurangzeb remained a remarkably vigorous ruler for a half century 
(1658-1707) before he died at age ninety. During the first twenty years 
of his reign the emperor kept his capital at Shahjahanabad Delhi. In the 
next decade the grand encampment became the movable capital of the 
empire as the emperor campaigned actively in Rajasthan and the 
Deccan. Throughout the first thirty years of his reign Aurangzeb, who 
had added “Alamgir” or “world-seizer” to his titles, dedicated himself 
to fostering a more properly Islamic regime and to aggressive expan- 
sion on the empire’s frontiers. However, several unrewarding cam- 
paigns in the 1660s and 1670s beyond the mountain rim of the 
subcontinent graphically revealed the harsh costs to further expansion 
in the north. These campaigns reinforced the emperor’s pronounced 
inclination to move south — to conquer lands long accustomed to 
Islamic rule. 


To the northeast, Bengal’s growing export economy and Muslim 
settler frontier seemed a likely area for aggressive campaigning. 
Imperial authority still rested lightly in this region. When Prince 
Shuja’s governorship of Bengal was interrupted by the succession war, 
zamindars like Prem Narayan, the ruler of Kuch Bihar, rebelled. 
Simultaneously, Jayadhwaj Sinha, the Ahom king, sent an army to 
invade and annex Kamrup, the Mughal border district on the Brahma- 
putra river.! 

In mid 1660, Aurangzeb, determined to regain control of the 
northeast, appointed Muhammad Said Mir Jumla, his collaborator in 
the Deccan, to be governor of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. During his 
first year in office, Mir Jumla restructured the provincial administra- 
tion, restarted the flow of revenue and generally imposed Mughal 
authority in all three regions. He shifted the provincial capital from 

1 Irfan Habib, An Atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982), maps Assam 13A and 13B 
display the boundaries of the empire and the Asham or Ahom state in the 1660s. 


Vir «(2961 Typeq) aaduy poy8ny aga fo sei uy “qIqeH “| 2020S 
uessy £ 




Rajmahal east to Dacca, to better reflect the eastward shift in Bengal’s 
population and economy. He also invested heavily in various trading 
ventures with his own agents and with the European trading com- 

By November, 1661, Mir Jumla was prepared to move to the frontier 
in “a holy war with the infidels of Assam” according to his official 
newsreporter.? For this venture the Mughal governor assembled a 
force of 12,000 cavalry, 30,000 foot, and a flotilla of several hundred 
armed vessels. The latter included ten ghurabs or floating batteries 
carrying fourteen guns which were towed by four rowing boats.4 Mir 
Jumla marched directly to Kuch Bihar, entered Kathalbari, the forti- 
fied capital, unopposed by the Kuch Bihar ruler who had fled, and 
annexed the kingdom to the empire. The raja’s son, newly converted to 
Islam, joined the Mughals. The conqueror appointed a temporary 
faujdar and diwan, changed the name from Kuch Bihar to Alamgirna- 
gar, and set up an imperial mint. 

Immediately thereafter the Mughal forces set out for Kamrup. 
Brushing aside Ahom opposition the Mughals quickly retook Gauhati, 
the capital of Kamrup. Moving upriver the invaders crippled the Ahom 
river fleet in a decisive naval battle. By March, 1662 the Mughal army 
left the fleet and marched inland to seize Garghaon, the capital from 
which the Ahom ruler and his court had fled. The spoils of war 
included considerable treasure, hundreds of tons of rice stored in 
granaries, guns and munitions and dozens of armed river boats. 

At this point the rains began and Mir Jumla went into garrison near 
the capital. The Ahoms cut off the line of Mughal outposts (thanas) 
leading back to the fleet on the Brahmaputra. Between May and 
October the Mughal army at the capital and the river fleet at Lakhau 
survived near-famine conditions, epidemic disease, continuous Ahom 
attacks, and desertions. When the rains ended supplies and reinforce- 
ments permitted the Mughal army to engage the Ahoms once more. 
Finally in early 1663, the Swargadeo (Heavenly King) and his nobles 
sued for peace. The Ahom ruler agreed to become a Mughal vassal, to 
send a daughter with a dowry for marriage to the imperial court, to 
surrender large amounts of treasure and elephants, and tq give up 
2 Jagdish Narayan Sarkar, The Life of Mir Jumla (Delhi: Rajesh Publications, 2nd revised 

edition, 1979), p. 278. 
> As quoted in Sarkar, Mir Jumla, p. 287. 

+ The following description is taken from Sarkar, Mir Jumla and Jadunath Sarkar, History of 
Aurangzib, m1, 146-182. 



extensive territories in Darrang and western districts. Mir Jumla was 
arranging a phased withdrawal and the administration of the new 
districts when he became seriously ill and died in March, 1663. 

Aurangzeb failed to send another commander of Mir Jumla’s stature 
and abilities to consolidate imperial control of the Brahmaputra valley. 
Instead, when conflicts over the peace treaty renewed the Mughal— 
Ahom conflict, successive Ahom kings confronted Mughal faujdars 
largely unsupported by Delhi. In the end, Gauhati, having changed 
hands several times, fell under Ahom control in the 1680s and Kamrup 
was lost permanently to the empire. 

The emperor scored an important success on Bengal’s coastal 
frontier. From Chatgaon, a fortified port on the east coast of the Bay of 
Bengal, the Maghs of Arakan and a community of long-domiciled 
Portuguese engaged in piracy and slave raiding against the coastal 
inhabitants of Bengal. Potentially rich deltaic tracts were systematic- 
ally depopulated as Bengali peasants fled the slave-raiders. In 1664 
Shaista Khan, the newly arrived Mughal governor of Bengal, commis- 
sioned a flotilla of armed coastal vessels to carry a Mughal assault force 
against Chatgaon. Shaista Khan formally annexed the Magh head- 
quarters, renamed Islamabad, as a district within Bengal and sent home 
thousands of freed Bengali slaves. The governor reported to Aurang- 
zeb’s query about the new revenues to be gained from the conquest: 
“In truth, its revenue (jama) is the composure (jamait) of the minds of 
the Muslims [with regard to the pirates]. We can easily imagine how 
fast cultivation will increase in Bengal, now that Magh violence has 
been put down.” 


The remote chiefdom of Palamau (Palaun) was a forested, hilly tract 
located just south of Bihar between Chota Nagpur and the hills of 
Central India. Its sparse population engaged in a mixture of sedentary 
and shifting agriculture in the intermittent valleys of the hills. The 
Cheros, a tribal people, had retreated to Palamau in the face of rising 
Rajput power early in the seventeenth century. By the mid 1620s 

5 Quoted in Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, 1x, 212. Sarkar has translated excerpts from the 
Persian account of Shihabuddin Talish in Fathiyyab-i-ibriyyah which describe this 
campaign, Jadunath Sarkar, Studies in Mughal India (Calcutta and Cambridge: M. C. 
Sarkar and W. Heffer, 1919). 



Raja Medini Rai extended the bounds of the Chero domains into Chota 
Nagpur and the southernmost portions of Bihar province. Friction 
between the imperial administration and the Cheros grew as the latter 
raided for cattle in the neighboring Mughal districts. 

In 1641, the Mughal governor of Bihar, acting under direct orders 
from Shah Jahan, led a punitive expedition into Palamau. Faced with 
this threat, Pratap Rao submitted and paid an indemnity of 80,000 
silver rupees. The Mughals annexed Devgaon fort and its environs, one 
of the three principal fortified towns in the kingdom. Two years later, 
an attempt by members of Pratap’s family to dethrone him permitted 
the Mughals to intervene. Zabardast Khan, the Mughal field comman- 
der, cleared a path through the forest and marched in force from 
Devgaon to Palamau fort and town. He forced Pratap Rao to surrender 
in person and sign a tributary agreement. Not content with this, 
Zabardast Khan carried the Chero Raja back to the governor’s 
audience hail at Patna as a prisoner. At Patna, Pratap Rao accepted a 
mansab of 1000 zat in service to the emperor, but retained his kingdom 
as watan jagir in return for an annual tribute of 100,000 rupees. 

As the official Mughal estimate of the Palamau Raja’s total annual 
cash revenues was only 250,000 rupees, Mughal tribute soon fell into 
arrears. Ongoing Chero cattle raids further increased tensions. Shortly 
after his accession, Aurangzeb ordered Daud Khan Panni, the gover- 
nor of Bihar, to conquer the chiefdom. In early 1661 Daud Khan, 
accompanied by several of his faujdars and assisting zamindars, 
occupied the northernmost forts in Palamau. After the rainy season, he 
pushed his 6,400 man force directly through the jungle to the capital. 
The Mughals overwhelmed the defenders in two sharp engagements 
before storming the walls of the fortress. Pratap Rao fled and lived to 
rule over a remote corner of his kingdom. Daud Khan Panni appointed 
a Mughal faujdar to administer the kingdom as a district of Bihar 

Over two decades, recurring Mughal punitive campaigns brought 
this small, forested chiefdom firmly into the imperial political system. 
By this time, the emperor, his advisers, and the governor of Bihar saw 
little value in political conciliation. The attempt to assimilate Pratap 
Rao into the cadre of imperial amirs was perfunctory. On the first 
plausible pretext, Aurangzeb commanded the Bihar governor to lead 
an army in an assault on the Palamau Raja. A short, bloody, but futile 
resistance ended with annexation. 




The Mughal governor at Kabul ruled over a vast semi-arid mountai- 
nous domain on the vulnerable northwestern frontier of the sub- 
continent. This was a cosmopolitan zone through which a brisk traffic 
in goods, animals, people, and ideas passed over the Khyber, Bolan and 
other well-known mountain passes. The inhabitants of the region 
formed a complex mosaic of lineages and tribal groupings defined by 
mountain valleys suitable for limited cultivation and grazing. The 
larger, shared Muslim culture divided into two: that of the dominant 
Pathans, speaking Pashtun, who were generally tent-dwelling pastoral 
nomads and traders, and that of the subordinate Tajiks, speaking 
Persian, who were sedentary cultivators living in mountain villages. 

The Pathans were organized into stratified patrilineages formed into 
named tribes — Yusufzai, Afridi, Wazirs — ruled by tribal councils 
(jirgas) and headed by chiefs or khans. In addition to pastoral noma- 
dism the Pathan nomad-traders brought caravans of horses into India 
and carried Indian goods to Central Asia and Persia. Other Pathans 
preyed upon the caravans as bandits — or offered protection if bought 
off by political subsidies. In addition, thousands of Pathans or, as they 
were known in India, Afghans served as soldiers, traders, and higher- 
ranking administrators in the Mughal empire and other Indo-Mughal 
states. Many Afghans had settled into roles as zamindars with varying 
degrees of wealth and power in pockets of the north Indian country- 
side. These emigrés kept close contact with their lineage and tribal 
fellows in the mountains and often sent home remittances. 

Control of Kabul and the northwestern border regions was of great 
strategic concern to the Mughals. When a series of Pathan tribal revolts 
against Timurid rule broke out Aurangzeb reacted quickly and deci- 
sively. In 1667, a Yusufzai chief and self-proclaimed king in the Swat 
valley led allied Yusufzai lineages in pitched battles against Mughal 
detachments in Attock and Peshawar. Unrest continued until Muham- 
mad Amin Khan, the imperial mir bakhshi, brought a 9,000 man army 
from Delhi to suppress further resistance. 

More serious was the rising of the Afridis in 1672. The Afridi chief 

© This description is based upon Joseph Arlinghaus, The Transformation of Afghan Tribal 
Society: Tribal Expansion, Mughal Im and the Roshaniyya Insurrection 1450- 
1600 (Durham, NC: Duke University Ph.D dissertation, 1988). 



Acmal Khan crowned himself king, struck coins in his own name, 
declared war against the Mughals and closed the Khyber pass to 
caravan traffic. The Afridis surprised and massacred an imperial army 
between Peshawar and Kabul. Other Pathan tribes, including the 
Khataks under Kush-hal, the celebrated anti-Mughal poet, joined the 
revolt. The next year the Mughals lost another large army to Afridi 
ambush in the snowy mountain passes in mid-winter. Finally, in June, 
16745 Aurangzeb himself brought another imperial army into the 
mountains. The emperor sent out well-equipped and supplied columns 
to open the Khyber and other passes. Another imperial army was 
ambushed and badly mauled in Bajaur, but the Mughals regained 
control of the main trade routes. Simultaneously, Aurangzeb offered 
gold, honors, and other rewards to induce rebel tribal leaders to submit 
and end the rebellion. 

Leaving newly fortified and garrisoned posts behind, Aurangzeb 
returned to Delhi by the end of 1675. Thereafter, a new governor at 
Kabul, Amir Khan, involved himself heavily in Pathan tribal politics 
and supported factions sympathetic to imperial policies. Lavish subsi- 
dies were paid as protection money to keep the passes open. Individual 
chiefs received frequent payments. Other Pathans were given appoint- 
ments in Mughal service. Amir Khan proved to be so adroit that no 
further large tribal rebellions flared up during the two decades he 
remained as governor at Kabul. 

A sympathetic, flexible policy toward local warrior aristocracies, if 
backed by sufficient force, could counteract the tendency toward 
lineage alliances, monarchy, and state building seen in both the 
Yusufzai and Afridi revolts. The effort involved in suppressing these 
risings gave Aurangzeb little incentive to imitate his father’s campaigns 
into Central Asia. 


Aurangzeb completed that transformation of Akbar’s ideology and 
inclusive political culture begun by Shah Jahan. The goals of thenew 
Islamic ideologies were simply defined: the Mughal empire must 
become a Muslim state governed by the precepts of the-Sharia for the 
benefit of the Indian Muslim community. The regime would make 
every possible effort to encourage conversion of the infidel population. 
And, failing that, would rule fairly but sternly over the majority 



population. Increasingly the political culture of the empire would be 
defined in exclusive Muslim terms. 

Aurangzeb’s goals for the empire were completely consistent with 
his own ardent piety as a follower of the Hanafi school. In his later 
years Aurangzeb exceeded the bounds of normal devotion. Even as 
emperor he devoted seven years to memorizing the entire Koran.” An 
initial embarrassment, however, was his need to legitimate Shah 
Jahan’s forced deposition and imprisonment. Rebellion against his 
father placed Aurangzeb in the awkward position of violating both the 
Sharia and strongly held norms of filial piety for Muslims. In 1659, the 
emperor sent a richly laden mission to Sharif Zaid, ruler of the holy 
cities in the Hijaz, to obtain formal recognition. Rebuffed on this 
occasion, a second mission returned with holy relics sent to celebrate 
the emperor’s ascent to the Timurid throne. Thereafter Aurangzeb was 
a generous patron of the Holy Places:® 

[Aurangzeb] used to send large amounts of money, for some years annually, at 
others once in two or three years, to the pious men living in retreat in those 
Holy Cities, and a large number of men in those Holy Places were permanen- 
tly employed by him on daily stipends to act as his deputies in walking round 
the Ka'ba, bowing to the Prophet’s tomb, reading the two copies of the Quran 
written by this pious Emperor with his own hand and presented to Medina. 

Having placated his own conscience and, to some extent public 
opinion, Aurangzeb was free to fulfill his Islamic vision of the Mughal 

Aurangzeb’s zealousness was tempered by highly developed poli- 
tical and diplomatic instincts as with measured speed, he pressed 
toward his ultimate goal. Aurangzeb retained pride in the Timurid 
genealogy — but as a descendant of Muslim conquerors, not the heir to a 
divinely inspired radiance and knowledge. For example, in his eleventh 
year, the emperor ended as un-Islamic the practice begun by Akbar of 
appearing on a balcony at sunrise for all who wished to worship or take 
darshan from him.? Like his father he turned toward the notion of 
khanazadgi rather than discipleship to define the ideal relationship 

7 Ibid., p. 314. 

* Sagi'Mustald Khan, Maasiri'Alamgiri, p. 525 a8 quoted in N.R. Faroogi, “Mughal- 
Ottoman Relations: A Study of Political and Diplomatic Relations Between Mughal India 
and the Ottoman Empire: 1556-1748,” unpublished Ph.D dissertation, University of 
Wisconsin, Madison, 1986, p. 210. 

° Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, 111, 89. 



with his nobles and imperial officials. Aurangzeb further narrowed the 
notion of hereditary service by his pronounced preference for Muslim 

Aurangzeb’s anxiety to conform more strictly to the Sharia closed 
off several important modes of expression for Mughal political ideol- 
ogy. He ended patronage of the combined art of chronicle writing and 
book illustration. He stopped the detailed annals of his reign, the 
Alamgir-Nama, after the tenth regnal year. Only privately written, 
clandestine histories survive. Imperial ateliers were closed and dozens 
of master painters and their assistants dismissed. Very little monumen- 
tal building occurred — nothing which would match the gardens of 
Jahangir or the palaces of Akbar or Shah Jahan. Only properly Islamic 
forms and idioms were encouraged in the arts. As a result the entire 
political culture of the empire was narrowed and, in the end, 

The eclectic, inclusive court culture suffered. Un-Islamic ceremonies 
were banned as a new moralistic and legalistic tone pervaded court life. 
Right after his second coronation the emperor abolished celebration of 
the Iranian New Year or Nauroz festivities at the start of the solar year. 
In the same year Aurangzeb dismissed the court musicians and énded 
that imperial patronage responsible for the brilliant development of 
Hindustani music. Wine-drinking and opium consumption were pro- 
hibited. Less-formal socializing between nobles and emperor associ- 
ated with their use no longer occurred. While this ban probably 
extended the lives of the emperor and many of his closest intimates 
(who lived to considerable ages) it did inhibit relations between the 
emperor and his senior officers. Considering the vital importance of 
the emperor-noble link in the Mughal system, this was a serious 

Aurangzeb’s aesthetic impulses and patronage were confined to the 
Islamic arts and sciences. His greatest achievement was the legal text 
known as the Fatawa-i ‘Alamgiri. When requested, independent 
jurisconsults gave written opinions, called fatwa, on points of interpre- 
tation of the sacred law of Islam. These rulings were often obscure, 
frequently contradictory, and at times based on weak legal scholarship. 
Therefore since Aurangzeb aimed at “making the general Muslim 
public act according to the legal decisions and precedents of the 
theological scholars (ulema) of the Hanafi school, ...” he commis- 
sioned a board of scholars to compile authoritative and reliable rulings 



in a single work.!© The Fatawa-i 'Alamgiri won rapid acceptance 
within India and elsewhere in the Islamic world as a guide to correct 
action for orthodox Muslims. 

Other measures directly enhanced the status, power and income of 
the ulema and the Islamic institutions they served. Under Aurangzeb 
the fortunes of the ulema returned full circle to what they had been 
before Akbar stripped them of their influence and power in the 1580s. 
The chief judge or qazi and the supervisor of pious charity, the sadr, 
ranking as nobles, were in constant attendance upon the emperor. 
These men controlled lavish patronage. Appointments to paid employ- 
ment for supervisors of pious trusts, preachers, judges, and other posts 
throughout the empire lay in their hands. 

Aurangzeb further gratified the ulema by spending liberally to repair 
and maintain mosques and to support religious charity. His most 
important concession for the ulema and the larger group of Muslim 
gentry throughout the empire was in regard to tax-free land grants. 
Aurangzeb reversed Akbar’s policy when in 1672 he resumed all grants 
held by Hindus. Although not completely enforced in practice, the 
new policy was a sweeping victory for the Muslim ulema of the empire 
who could see themselves dividing an increased pool of lands. In 1690 
Aurangzeb made all such land grants fully hereditary in another major 
concession to the ulema."! 

For many senior nobles, the rise of the theologians and jurists, who 
generally had limited military and administrative experience, was a 
disturbing trend. Often ulema were simply greedy and corrupt. Abdul 
Wahhab Bohra, chief qazi for sixteen years, was notorious for accept- 
ing bribes to appoint imperial judges. He retired with a fortune 
estimated at 3.3 million rupees and other valuables.!2 One of the most 
outspoken nobles of the period, the Persian umir Mirza Lahrasp, 
Mahabat Khan, protested against making “sparrows into huntsmen” 
and relying too heavily on the opinions of the theologians in matters of 

At his second coronation in 1659, Aurangzeb created a new office, 
the muhtasib or censor, appointed from the ranks of the ulema. This 
10 Sagi Mustaid Khan, Maasir-i Alamgiri (Calcutta, 1947), translated by Jadunath Sarkar, 
11 ftan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (London, 1963), p. 311. 

12 Sarkar, History of . ‘Aurangzib, MI, 75. 

© Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb (Aligarh: Asia Publications, 1966), 



peculiarly Islamic officer regulated urban markets to prevent disorder 
and fraud on the public. The muhtasib also enforced Sharia pro- 
hibitions against blasphemy, wine-drinking and gambling, and other 
heretical or idolatrous behavior in public. Previously unknown in 
Indian Muslim regimes, the muhtasib assumed some of the duties of 
the indigenous Indian city magistrate, the kotwal. Aurangzeb 
appointed Mulla Auz Wajih, Shah Jahan’s former jurisconsult (mufti), 
a prominent Muslim theologian from Samarkhand, chief muhtasib 
bearing the rank of an amir at Delhi.* Other muhtasibs commanding 
bodies of officers and troops were posted in the major towns and cities 
of the empire. 


Aurangzeb’s revivalism forced him to confront imperial policies 
toward non-Muslims. His edict of 1669 ordered that all temples 
recently built or repaired contrary to the Sharia be torn down.!5 
Throughout the empire many, although certainly not all, such temples 
were ruined by official action. The emperor’s special targets were the 
renowned stone temples in the holy cities of Mathura and Varanasi. 
The great Kesev Rai temple at Mathura built at a cost of over three 
million rupees by Bir Singh Bundela (responsible for Abul Fazl’s 
death, see above) was pulled down. The golden bejewelled idols were 
taken to Agra and buried under the steps of Jahan Ara’s mosque. A new 
mosque was erected on the site of the razed temple.'® Admittedly, this 
action was an explicit statement of the emperor’s view of idolatry; it 
was also a rebuke to the Bundelas and their troublesome allegiance to 
the empire (see above). The emperor’s message was simultaneously 
political and religious. 

During his reign Aurangzeb issued a stream of discriminatory edicts 
and regulations. A tax levied on pilgrims travelling to the numerous 
Hindu shrines and periodic festivals, abolished by Akbar, was rein- 
stated. In 1665 the emperor decreed that Muslims should be taxed at 
2.5 percent of value on internal customs duties and Hindus ¢ percent. 
A general edict addressed to provincial governors and revenue officers 
commanded the dismissal of Hindu officers and their replacement by 

Xs Sarkar, History of Awran naib 11, 77 

15 Sri Ram Sharma, The Religious Policy of the Mughal Emperors (London: Asia Publishing 
House, Inc., and edition, 1962), pp. 130-131. 

‘6 Ibid, p. 133. 



Muslims.'7 Often not fully enforced, these and other measures never- 
theless were widely known and disliked by the majority population.'8 

Zealous imperial officers had considerable power to enforce the 
new edicts, especially among urban non-warrior groups. At Surat in 
1669 the qazi terrorized the entire Bania or Hindu merchant commu- 
nity of that city. He pressured several members of the community to 
convert to Islam and threatened others with forcible conversion unless 
they paid ransom money. He extorted other sums to prevent 
defacement of the Hindu temples and shrines in the city. The qazi 
forcibly circumcised and converted a Bania serving as a Persian writer 
or clerk, who then killed himself. At this point there was a mass 
protest: “all the heads of the Banian families of what condition 
whatsoever departed the Town to the number of 8,000 leaving their 
wives and children in Surat under charge of their brothers or next of 

More pragmatic imperial officials failed to support the qazi. And, 
the emperor himself, if political loyalties were not involved, would 
compromise. The governor of Surat refused to stop the mass exodus 
on the grounds that the Banias were the emperor’s subjects and 
“might travel in his country where they pleased.” The Banias pro- 
ceeded to nearby Broach where they remained for three months in 
defiance of the qazi’s threats. They were under the protection of the 
city prefect of Ahmadabad, who tried to entice the protestors to his 
city. Finally with the commerce of the port frozen, the Banias agreed 
to return after receiving letters from the emperor bearing “some 
assurance of their safety and more freedom in their religion.”20 
Aurangzeb also replaced the over-zealous qazi with a more moderate 

Aurangzeb announced his most controversial measure in 1679 
when he revived the jiziya, a graduated property tax levied on non- 
Muslims. The court theologians urged this course of action; many of 
his nobles seem to have argued against it.?! Cadres of lower ranking 
mansabdars became special jiziya collectors in cities and towns 
” §, Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan’s History of Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 

1975), translation of Muhammad Hashim Khaf Khan, Muntakhab-al Lubab, p. 252. 

1 These measures are given in great detail in Sharma, Religious Policy, pp. r42ff. 
19 Sushil Chaudhury, “The Surat Crisis of 1669: A Case Study of Mercantile Protest in 
3 eel ae Calcutta Historical Journal, 5 (129-146), 1983. 

21 N, Manucci, Storia do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8), translated by 
William Irvine, 1 288. 



throughout the empire. In rural areas, the provincial diwans were 
adding a 4 percent increment to the assessed land revenue each year.” 

The new tax provoked heated protests in Delhi. Thousands of 
Hindus from the city and its surrounding districts gathered at the 
Yamuna river in front of the emperor’s balcony on the Delhi fort wall 
to protest the new tax. When Aurangzeb rode out from the fort to 
attend weekly prayers at the Jama Masjid:?3 

... the Hindus crowded from the gate of the fort to the Jama Masjid in such a 
large number for imploring redress that the passage of the people was blocked. 
The money-lenders, cloth-merchants and shopkeepers of the camp Urdu 
Bazar (Army Market) and all the artisans of the city abandoned their work and 
assembled on the route of the Emperor . . . [Aurangzeb], who was riding on an 
elephant, could not reach the mosque. Every moment the number of those 
unlucky people increased. Then he ordered that the majestic elephants should 
proceed against them. Some of them were killed or trampled under the 
elephants and horses. For some days, more, they assembled in the same way 
and requested for remission (of the jiziya). At last they submitted to pay the 

The jiziya collectors generally encountered sullen resistance to 
payment nearly everywhere — at least initially. 

Aurangzeb’s ultimate aim was conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. 
Whenever possible the emperor gave out robes of honor, cash gifts, 
and promotions to converts.”* It quickly became known that conver- 
sion was a sure way to the emperor’s favor. In many disputed 
successions for hereditary local office Aurangzeb chose candidates 
who had converted to Islam over their rivals. Pargana headmen and 
qanungos or recordkeepers were targeted especially for pressure to 
convert. The message was very clear for all concerned. Shared political 
community must also be shared religious belief. 


Aurangzeb’s new policies increased tensions with the still-expanding 
Sikh community in the Punjab plain and foothills. Before his death 
Guru Hargobind bypassed the claims of his two living sons to name 
Hari Rai, son of his prematurely deceased eldest son, as his successor. 
22 Sharma, Religious Policy, pp. 52-158. 2? Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan, pp. 258-59. 

26 Sharma has culled a list of the converts from the official newsreports from court. Religious 
Policy, pp. 70-174. 



During the great Mughal war of succession, Hari Rai offered support 
and aid to Dara Shikoh. Consequently, after his victory, Aurangzeb 
demanded that Hari Rai send his eldest son, Ram Rai to the Mughal 
court as a hostage. By this time-honored device Aurangzeb aimed to 
socialize the young Sikh heir to the values and institutions of the 
Mughal court. Aurangzeb also planned, as he did with many other 
zamindars, to control the Sikh succession. One faction of the Sikh 
community supported Ram Rai and favored his candidacy.” 

The aging and ill Hari Rai rejected the claims of his eldest son and 
nominated instead a younger son, Hari Krishan, as his successor. The 
emperor then summoned the Guru and his young heir to Delhi where 
in 1664 Hari Rai died of natural causes. Before Aurangzeb could 
determine the succession one faction of the Sikhs elected as their new 
guru, Tegh Bahadur, the brother of Hari Rai and youngest son of Guru 

Generally recognized as the new Sikh leader, Tegh Bahadur spent 
the next decade in vigorously organizing and proselytizing throughout 
the Punjab and as far east as Bengal and Assam in North India. It is in 
this period that substantial numbers of Jats, members of the most 
numerous cultivating caste group in the Indo-Gangetic plain, began to 
convert to Sikhism in large numbers. Everywhere Tegh Bahadur 
travelled large crowds greeted him and his preaching was met with 
enormous enthusiasm. 

By the early 1670s the Sikhs ran foul of Aurangzeb’s iconoclastic 
policies. Imperial officers received orders to demolish Sikh Gurdwaras 
as well as Hindu temples. At the same time several instances of 
Muslims being converted to Sikhism by the Guru were reported to 
Aurangzeb who ordered Tegh Bahadur’s arrest. In Agra, the Guru and 
five companions were captured, arrested and taken to Delhi. There the 
qazi’s court tried and convicted the Sikh leader for blasphemy, 
sentenced him to death and carried out the execution in November, 
1675. After this second martyrdom the annual spring Baisakhi congre- 
gation of Sikhs in the hills acclaimed Gobind Singh, the young son of 
the slain leader, as the new Guru.?6 At one stroke Aurangzeb earned 
the bitter hatred of thousands of Jat and Khatri Sikhs living in the 
North Indian plain. 

25 JS. Grewal and. S. Bal Guru Gobind Singh, A Biographical Study (Chandigath: Punjab 
University, 1967), p. 
26 Grewal and Bal, Ghre Gobind Singh, PP. 44-47 




The most sensitive test for the new militant orthodoxy lay in the 
emperor’s relationship with his Rajput nobles. On the surface the 
Rajputs had no immediate grounds for complaint. They still formed 
an influential group within the imperial nobility.2” Indeed, the highest 
ranked noble in the empire, was Mirza Raja Jai Singh Kachhwaha of 
Jaipur (7,000 zat 7,000 suwar) who had been Aurangzeb’s most faith- 
ful supporter in the war of succession. In 1665 Jai Singh became 
viceroy of the Deccan provinces, a position usually held by an adult 
Timurid prince. After 1679 all Rajputs in imperial service were 
exempt from payment of the jiziya — although their subjects at home 
were not. 

Nevertheless, Rajput nobles as a group were squeezed by what 
appears to have been deliberate policy. The percentage of Rajput 
nobles to the total number of nobles dropped noticeably as did their 
aggregate ranks.2® The emperor curtailed imperial jagirs assigned 
outside of Rajasthan and thus reduced the imperial subsidy obtained 
by these warriors for their barren homeland.?? The fortunes of the 
Rajput nobles, who with their followers had for so long been a vital 
striking arm for the empire, were newly reduced. 

Wealth and power derived from imperial service supported and 
made possible the creation of a locally dominant state structure using 
the Mughal administrative model within the raja’s ancestral domains 
in Rajasthan. Some lands were directly administered in a form of 
crownlands or khalisa. The remaining lands were assigned as jagirs to 
loyal kinsmen or other retainers. The great rajas recruited a service 
nobility consisting of Rajputs who did not belong to the ruling clan 
and served as a counter-weight to the claims of equality and 
brotherhood put forward by the fellow-clansmen of the ruler. Each 
of these constituencies had a vital interest in increasing the rank, 
wealth, and status of their Rajput patron. 

The death of the ruling raja was a crisis point for all concerned. The 
Mughal emperor was free to choose any of the raja’s sons, or any 
other close male relative as the new clan head. Normally this choice 
was made promptly and met no resistance. The various Rajput and 

2 Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility, p. 35, Table 2 (a). 

28 Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility, pp. 23-24. 
2 ‘Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility, p. 100. 



non-Rajput factions made the best accommodation they could to the 
new order. 

In the previous reign in 1638, Gaj Singh Rathor, Raja of Marwar in 
western Rajasthan and Mughal. amir, died after an illustrious career 
while serving at court in Agra. His youngest son, Jaswant Singh 
Rathor, immediately marched to Agra for his father’s cremation. In 
May, 1638, Shah Jahan, ignoring arty claims of Gaj Singh’s eldest son 
then at court, placed the red tika mark of investiture on Jawant Singh’s 
forehead. The emperor gave Jaswant Singh, now Raja, a mansab of 
4,000/4,000, a fully decorated robe of honor, a jeweled dagger, a flag, a 
kettledrum, a war horse, and an elephant.>° Shah Jahan assigned 
Jodhpur and four other parganas in Marwar as his jagir. The emperor 
also named a non-Rathor Rajput as Jaswant Singh’s chief fiscal officer 
(diwan) during his minority. Several days later, Jaswant Singh pre- 
sented six elephants to the emperor as pishkash. For the next year and a 
half the young Raja and his Rajput cavalry remained constantly in 
attendance on the emperor as the latter travelled to Lahore and 
Peshawar. On several occasions he received further honors and gifts 
from Shah Jahan. It was only in early February, 1640 that the new Raja 
returned to Marwar to formally celebrate his accession with his Rathor 
kinsmen at Jodhpur fort.3! 

Forty years later, in December, 1678, Maharaja Jaswant Singh 
Rathor died while on duty in near-exile as military commander 
(thanadar) at Jamrud, in Afghanistan. At his death he had no living son 
as male heir. Two of Jaswant Singh’s wives were pregnant and thus 
spared the funeral pyre.?? Aurangzeb, upon receiving the news from 
Jamrud, immediately took the bureaucratic step of formally trans- 
ferring all of Marwar to the status of imperial crown territories 
(khalisa). This was not annexation, but simply a measure necessary to 
reallocate the kingdom in jagirs. The emperor brought his court to the 
Mughal capital at Ajmer to supervise officials and troops sent to take 
over the kingdom. When it occupied Jodhpur, the army engaged in 
considerable temple and idol smashing in the Marwar capital. 
%V.S. Bhargar Marwar and the Mughal Emperors (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1966), 

pp: 80-81 
32 Me stherwise noted, the following description of the Rajput war is based upon Sarkar, 

Anrangzib, 111, 322-375; V.S. Bhargava, Marwar and the Mughal Emperors (Delhi: 

Munshiram Manoharlal, 1966), pp. 115-166; Robert C. Hallissey, The Rajput Rebellion 

Against Aurangzeb (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1977); and 
Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan, pp. 263-281. 



Returning to Delhi, Aurangzeb invested another Rajput amir, Indra 
Singh Rathor, son of Jaswant Singh’s deceased elder brother, as ruler of 

The aftermath of these events did not follow the usual script. Rathor 
dissatisfaction with the Aurangzeb’s decisions flared up into a full- 
scale revolt in Marwar. By investing Indra Singh Rathor, a nephew of 
Jaswant Singh, the emperor chose to ignore the fact that on the 
much-delayed return journey from Jamrud to Delhi, the two Rajput 
queens each bore live sons. The elder boy named Ajit Singh was born 
to a Sisodia Rajput rani from Mewar. By June 1679, Durgadas Rathor, 
Jaswant Singh’s senior officer, brought his troops and household to the 
Rathor mansion in Shahjahanabad. At a court audience, Durgadas and 
the senior Rathor officers pleaded the case for making Ajit Singh, the 
elder infant, the new ruler of Marwar. Aurangzeb refused but said that 
he would rear Ajit Singh in the imperial harem and confer the title of 
raja and noble rank when he came of age. This was conditional, 
however, on the infant being raised as a Muslim. The Rathor officers, 
led by Durgadas Rathor, flatly rejected this proposal. 

At this point the youngest infant died. Aurangzeb sent an armed 
detachment under the Delhi magistrate (kotwal) to the Rathor mansion 
to seize the two Ranis and the surviving heir. Durgadas’ refusal to turn 
over the Raja’s widows and son touched off a musketry exchange. As 
mounted Rajput lances charged the imperial detachment, Durgadas put 
the Ranis disguised in male clothing on horses and, carrying the infant 
himself, rode on a desperate flight out of the city. A slave girl with her 
infant posed as the Rani and remained behind to be captured. Twice 
parties of Rajputs fell back to sacrifice themselves and slow the pursuit. 
In the end Durgadas reached Jodhpur with his prizes and entrusted 
Ajit Singh and his mother to a safe refuge with sympathetic Rathor 
lineage mates. 

Aurangzeb claimed that the slave baby captured was the true Ajit 
Singh and turned him over to be raised in the harem as a Muslim Rajput 
prince. In his next move, Aurangzeb sent a Mughal army commanded 
by Prince Muhammad Akbar, his youngest son, to occupy Marwar. 
Stubborn, suicidal stands by Rathor defenders did not stop the 
invaders from seizing Jodhpur. At this point the neighboring Rana of 
Mewar intervened. The Rana was moved by the pleas of his kins- 
woman, the Sisodia princess who was the mother of Ajit Singh, and 
fearful that Mewar would next be invaded. Even the combined 



Rajputs, who had no field artillery, could not hold against the main 
Mughal battle force. By the end of the year the Mughal army had 
occupied Udaipur, the capital of Mewar. Great and small temples in 
and around the city fell to the iconoclasm of the Mughals. The Rana 
and his surviving horsemen retreated to the hills and began a guerrilla 

In early 1680 Aurangzeb returned to Ajmer and left the suppression 
campaign in the hands of Prince Azam, recalled from the governorship 
of Bengal, and his two brothers Muazzam and Muhammad Akbar. For 
nearly a year the Mughals had only mixed success in dealing with the 
harassing activities of the Rajputs in each kingdom. The death from 
natural causes of the ruling Rana and the accession of his son, Jai Singh, 
did not interrupt the resistance. Aurangzeb sent reinforcements and 
sharply reprimanded each of his sons for lack of success. 


Throughout this period a continuing series of secret Rajput emissaries 
entreated Prince Akbar to rebel against his father. They argued that 
Aurangzeb’s religious bigotry and his anti-Rajput bias would be the 
destruction of the empire. With Rajput support, he could seize the 
throne and reverse these erroneous policies. The Mughal princess 
Zeb-u-nissa, allied with Akbar, also supported this policy in a copious 
secret correspondence with her brother. Finally persuaded, on January 
1, 1681, Akbar crowned himself emperor and conferred titles on his 
immediate officers. 

Akbar took a full two weeks to lead his combined army 120 miles to 
Ajmer where Aurangzeb was encamped with only a modest contingent 
of troops. Akbar’s dilatory pace revealed the enormous psychological 
cost of rebellion against his father’s awe-inspiring authority. Finally on 
15 January the rebel prince confronted Aurangzeb outside Ajmer. That 
same evening Prince Muazzam reached his father after a strenuous 
forced march with troops that doubled the size of Aurangzeb’s army. 

As usual Aurangzeb was busily engaged in his own form of 
psychological warfare. A false letter addressed to Akbar praised him 
for fulfilling the emperor’s plot to slaughter the Rajputs between his 
and Akbar’s forces. The document reached Durgadas Rathor who was 
unable to gain access to the sleeping Timurid prince. Fearing treachery, 
he and his Rajput horsemen quietly mounted and fled in the night 



toward Marwar. Most of Akbar’s Mughal officers and troopers 
surrendered to the emperor. The prince could only muster a handful of 
men from his personal guard to join him in a hasty flight. 

Aurangzeb immediately sent Prince Muazzam in pursuit. The 
Rajputs, who had discovered Aurangzeb’s plot, kept Akbar safe in the 
hills. Finally, after several months Durgadas led the prince by a long 
evasive route to the court of Shambhaji, the new Maratha ruler. 
Contemporary opinion held that Prince Muazzam and Khan Jahan 
Bahadur, the governor of the Deccan provinces, were quietly sympa- 
thetic to Akbar and, in fact, did not capture him when they could have 
done so.33 Akbar’s flight suddenly converted what had been merely an 
awkward rebellion by the Rathors to a full-blown imperial crisis. 

Akbar’s defection immediately reduced imperial pressure on the 
Rajputs. After several months of desultory campaigning the Rana of 
Mewar agreed to a negotiated peace in which he surrendered three 
parganas to direct Mughal administration and agreed to permanent 
payment of the jiziya for Mewar. The Mughal armies withdrew and 
Aurangzeb sent a robe of honor to recognize Rana Jai Singh’s 
succession to his father’s throne. 

In Marwar, however, resistance to the Mughals continued for a 
generation. Aurangzeb left it to the faujdar of Jodhpur to direct 
punitive campaigns against the rebels. The young fugitive raja Ajit 
Singh, who was spirited from one refuge to another, remained the 
symbolic focus of the Rathor guerrilla war. It would be a full twenty 
years before a settlement was negotiated between the emperor and a 
now mature Ajit Singh. For this critical period the Timurids lost the 
services of most Rathor Rajputs. 

Whether the rupture with the Rathor and Sisodia clans was avoida- 
ble is difficult to assess. Had Aurangzeb been more willing to consider 
Rajput sensitivities the revolt might not have occurred. Aurangzeb was 
obviously irritated with Jaswant Singh over his support of Dara in the 
war of succession and his reported complicity in the escape of Shivaji 
from Puna (see below). But this should not have interfered with a 
smooth succession in keeping with Jaswant Singh’s own investiture 
forty years earlier. 

Aurangzeb’s new emphasis on Islam as a major strand in the political 
relationship strained the Rajput-Timurid bond. Many Rajputs were 
deeply disturbed by the new climate as the appeal directed to Prince 

>> Moinul Haq, Khafi Kban, pp. 279-280. 



Akbar before his revolt suggests. Aurangzeb’s attempt to place a 
Muslim convert on the Marwar gaddi reveals the importance he 
attached to this issue. Aurangzeb’s new hard line did make it more 
difficult to resolve these issues peacefully. Both Rajput and non-Rajput 
retainers of Jaswant Singh obviously felt their interests to be jeopard- 
ized by the emperor’s actions. After the first violent clash, and as the 
conflict widened to Mewar, opposing idioms of resistance and sup- 
pression increasingly found expression in religious imagery. This 
militant imagery frayed the bond of emotion and interest that tied the 
Rathors, Sisodias, and other Rajputs to the empire. 




Aurangzeb’s Deccan victories depended as much upon Timurid wealth 
as his generalship and military skills. After more than a century of 
conquest and territorial expansion the Mughal emperor possessed 
enormous resources. From Akbar’s annexation of Malwa in 1561 till 
the fall of Golconda in 1687, every victory generated large amounts of 
plundered treasure from the hoards of defeated rulers — often sufficient 
to repay the costs of conquest. Ordinary revenues obtained through 
taxes on agricultural production and trade poured into the emperor’s 
coffers. In 1689 Aurangzeb had no reason to anticipate revenue 
shortfalls. Whether for war or for routine costs of administration the 
empire was self-financing from its own resources. 

If a deficit year were to occur the central treasury guarded an 
enormous hoard of coined and uncoined gold and silver. Millions of 
rupees in liquid wealth held by several hundred Mughal nobles and 
higher-ranking mansabdars must also be viewed as a supplementary 
reserve. Unlike contemporary early modern European kings, the 
Mughal emperors did not depend upon loans from private financiers to 
meet routine expenditures or to pay for even the most expensive 
military campaigns.’ Military commanders on campaign who needed 
funds often were authorized to collect large sums from the ordinary 
holdings of provincial treasuries. 


At the heart of Mughal finance was the revenue system which taxed 
agricultural production and urban trade. By its insistence on cash 
payment, the regime forced foodgrains and other commodities from 
the countryside to be sold in an ascending hierarchy of markets. 
Mughal revenue collectors for khalisa lands and collection agents for 
jagirdars received regular payments in copper and silver coin in 
installments every year. 

1 J, F. Richards, “Mughal State Finance and the Premodern World Economy,” Comparative 
Studies in Society and History, 23 (1981), 285-307. 



The state revenue demand more than doubled between Akbar and 
Aurangzeb. The jama or combined one-tenth urban imposts and 
nine-tenths land revenue (mal) grew from 5,834.6 million dams in the 
last years of Akbar’s rule to 13,339.9 million dams just after the death 
of Aurangzeb in 1709.2 Some of this increase derived from lands added 
by conquest; some by rising tax demands. In either event the revenues 
accruing to the emperor and the imperial elite rose substantially over 

Evaluating this revenue increase is complicated by the secular trend 
in prices over the seventeenth century. Some economic historians have 
suggested that a doubling of prices in silver currency occurred in the 
first sixty years of the century followed by stability until another 
fifty-year rising trend began in 1700.> Therefore, from one perspective, 
imperial revenues barely kept pace with inflationary trends in silver 
currency over the long term. More recently Sanjay Subrahmanyam 
argues that long term price data for the subcontinent in the seventeenth 
century are both fragmentary and inconclusive: “Overall then, the 
Indian evidence suggests that price inflation was at best sporadic, and 
limited to specific regions and specific commodities ...””4 It is also 
possible, in view of the scantiness of long term quantitative data, that 
the silver influx was absorbed for use by an expanding Indian currency 
system and economy. And that the rate of silver increase was matched 
by increases in productivity and in the demand for money which 
slowed or even prevented price inflation. 

Nevertheless, for any fiscal administration to adjust upward its 
assessment decade after decade is a formidable prospect. To attain this 
degree of success bespeaks a well-run, confident structure capable of 
responding to changing economic circumstances. Whether Mughal 
fiscal officers actually noticed and acted upon a long-term upward 
trend in prices is another question. That they successfully raised taxes 
is clear. 

If the presumed rise in prices did occur and arable lands did grow in 
area, the total state-imposed burden on agriculture was reduced 

2 Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (London, 1963), p. 399. 

> Irfan Habib, “Monetary System and Prices” in Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib, eds., 
The Cambridge Economic History of India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 
1982), 2 vols., 1, 376. 

+ Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Precious Metal Flows and Prices in Western and Southern Asia, 
1500-1750: Some Comparative and Conjunctural Aspects,” Studies in History, 7, n.s. 
(1991), 79-105. 



accordingly. That is, the tax load imposed in 1700 fell on more 
cultivators working a larger arable area than that same tax burden 
expressed in real terms in 1600. Necessarily, therefore, the same tax 
demand must have rested more lightly on at least some parts of rural 
society in this region. Given the provisions of the Mughal revenue 
regulations favoring lands newly brought into cultivation, pioneering 
peasant-cultivators or zamindars and their tenants probably benefited 

The zabt revenue system gave Mughal administrators a means to 
impose higher taxes by intensifying imperial control over rural society. 
Resting firmly on annual collection of data on cultivated area, crops, 
prices, and collections, the regulation revenue system was a precise tool 
for taxing agricultural production. When backed by sufficient force, 
land surveys and data collection permitted the administration to move 
from tribute-taking or pishkash from local lords to taxation or mal. 
Under the zabt system each zamindar was reduced to conveying a 
pre-set tax for each cultivator and village to imperial officials. In some 
areas the revenue administration could bypass the zamindar and deal 
directly with dominant peasant-cultivators (raiyati zamindars) in 
individual villages. 

Akbar’s agrarian order was not a static entity. A succession of 
imperial diwans extended the territory covered by the regulation 
system. Between 1595 and the end of the seventeenth century lands 
surveyed and recorded increased from 201.6 million to 284.8 million 
bigahs, An undetermined, but probably smaller, part of this increase 
recorded the extension of cultivation in resurveys of villages and 
parganas already brought into the system. A larger proportion, 
however, resulted from incorporating new parganas into the regulation 
system. In either circumstance, the net growth in measured lands was 
an impressive organizational feat. 

The pattern of change was not uniform. A minority of provinces 
remained exempt from the new order. The northwestern frontier - 
Kabul, Thatta — fell outside the regulation agrarian system, as did 
Kashmir. Similarly, Bengal and Orissa on the northeastern riverine 
frontier were not subject to measurement. Some provinces showed a 
decrease in the measured area. Lahore and Multan posted slight 
declines. Ajmer and Gujarat showed larger reductions. 

Nine provinces recorded increases in zabt lands. In these total lands 
surveyed rose by 110.8 million bigahs. This figure commands our 



attention. Even extended over the century it implies that the imperial 
administration planned, executed and recorded surveys for over one 
million bigahs in an average year. An administrative effort of this 
magnitude testifies to the tenacity and purposefulness of the Mughal 
revenue administration. If, in addition, we assume that periodic, fresh 
surveys were undertaken of previously measured lands. For example, 
in the mid-1670s Aurangzeb ordered a fresh survey and measurement 
of Bihar province. Only five of the eight districts were resurveyed 
before the emperor moved to the Deccan after 1680. Expansion of the 
zabt system occurred in two regions: Hindustan, the heartland of the 
empire, and the four older Deccan provinces in the south. 

In the course of the seventeenth century the Gangetic plain 
provinces of Delhi, Bihar, Allahabad and Awadh all showed sub- 
stantial rises in lands classified as zabt. Agra, if adjusted for the loss of 
two districts to Delhi, added modestly to the total. In these five 
provinces land surveyed, measured and assessed rose by 42.3 million 
bigahs. By 1700 the lands of 181,300 villages were measured — nearly 
four-fifths the total recorded. In Delhi, Agra, and Allahabad measured 
villages exceeded 90 percent at the century’s end. Clearly, the admin- 
istration’s goal was to obtain saturation coverage of lands in Hindustan. 

The assessed revenue demand in the five provinces doubled over one 
hundred years from 1,784 million to 3,584 million dams. Steady 
growth in the measured area helped the Mughal state to keep pace with 
rising agricultural production (and rising prices) over the century. 
When cultivators cleared new lands and occupied new villages these 
could be surveyed and recorded for revenue assessment. Similarly, 
when cultivators turned to more valuable cash crops such as sugarcane 
or cotton, the revenue system extracted increased returns. 

In the Deccan provinces, Khandesh, Aurangabad, Bidar, and Berar 
listed 60.3 million bigahs of arable under measurement by 1700. From a 
total of 30,006 villages identified in these provinces, 82 percent (24,637) 
were subject to measurement.® At the end of Akbar’s reign, none of the 
portions of the Deccan under firm Mughal administration contained 
measured lands. Aurangzeb, who as prince governed the Deccan, 
commissioned his talented fiscal officer, Murshid Quli Khan, to 
implement the zabt system in the south. The initial, massive surveying 
S Muzaffar Alam, “Eastern India in the early eighteenth century crisis,” Indian Economic 

and Social History Review, 28, January-March 1991, 62. 
© Habib, Agrarian System, p. 4. 



effort took place from 1652 to 1656 during Aurangzeb’s second tenure 
of office. After 1689 the regime faltered in that neither Bijapur nor 
Golconda (Hyderabad) were subjected to the regulation land revenue 

The ratio of zabt to unmeasured lands serves as a plausible index of 
imperial centralization. As the Mughal teams of surveyors and record- 
ers progressed from village to village and pargana to pargana, local 
Rajput, Afghan or other aristocrats lost power and autonomy. The 
chaudhuri of a pargana recently surveyed and assessed became a 
functionary subject to a new level of discipline and control. Great 
zamindars whose ancestors had paid tribute (pishkash) for generations 
to Indo-Muslim states now became mal-wajib zamindars who col- 
lected scheduled revenues in return for tax-free home lands and a fixed 
percentage of the returns. To retain a semblance of former power, these 
local leaders could contract to pay the revenue as a talugdar 
collecting from lesser zamindars for a fee. The latter were frequently 
retainers or kinsmen now subject to intervening control by the state. 

Equipped with detailed, comprehensive data, provincial fiscal 
officers reduced the negotiable terrain possible for each zamindar. 
They turned to their schedules of revenue rates and cultivated area 
tables to settle upon a reasonable demand. Zabt expansion increased 
the administration’s ability to deal directly with village elites. The 
diwan could better locate and define raiyati areas in which village 
zamindars contracted to pay the stipulated taxes rather than zamin- 
dars. Increasing areas in raiyati status enlarged the area in which salary 
assignments could be freely made to smaller mansabdars. Under the 
village-wise arrangement smaller officers did not have to worry about 
the refractory responses of troublesome (zor-talab) local aristocrats. 
The zabt system generally eased the problem of making collections for 
both agents of the imperial crown lands (the khalisa) or salary assignees 

The system certainly did not hinder, and may have in some ways 
encouraged, expansion of productive capacity in these regions — 
especially in higher value cash crops. The diwans used these added 
revenues partly to strengthen and improve the imperial fiscal structure. 
Intensified administrative pressure acted to weaken and undercut the 
dominant social class in the countryside. At the same time peace, order, 
and new market opportunities, as well as state encouragement, 
increased the surplus to be shared between producer, middlemen 



(traders, brokers, moneylenders), zamindars, and the state. The result, 
by the end of this century, was a rural society entered into a quickening 
process of change. 


Repressive on occasion, the Mughal revenue system nevertheless did 
not stifle agricultural investment’ or inhibit population growth. A 
recent, conservative estimate by Irfan Habib suggests that the total 
population of India increased slowly throughout the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries from just under 150 million in 1600 to about 200 
millions in 1800.7 Even recurring periodic heavy mortality from dearth 
and disease when the monsoon rains failed for two years or more 
slowed, but did not stop, population growth. The overall trend lay 
upwards — toward greater human numbers supported by intensifying 
agricultural production in the countryside. 

For the century under review the rural economy of Mughal India 
prospered. In agriculture the peasantry continued to produce its 
surplus. If anything, agricultural capacity improved over the long 
term. Indian peasants in the seventeenth century grew a large number 
of food and industrial crops efficiently and well. The Mughal revenue 
system was biassed in favor of higher value cash crops like indigo, 
cotton, sugar-cane, tree-crops, or opium. State incentives plus rising 
demand thereby stimulated cash crops grown for the market. 

Indian peasants were quick to seize upon profitable new crops. 
Between 1600 and 1650 two new world crops, tobacco and maize, were 
widely adopted by cultivators throughout Mughal India.* Bengali 
peasants rapidly learned techniques of mulberry cultivation and seri- 
culture as Bengal became a major silk-producing region for the world.? 
In the eastern Gangetic plain, after the mid-seventeenth century, a 
rapidly expanding export trade driven by new European trading 
centers at Patna stimulated expansion of cotton, opium, and sugar as 
cash crops.!° 

In nearly every region within the Mughal empire the settler frontier 
of sedentary agriculture moved forward at the expense of pastoralists 
in the plains or shifting cultivators in wooded areas. To the northeast 

7 Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of India 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). 1, 167. 

* Raychaudhuri and Habib, Economic History, p.217. ? Ibid., p.217. 

1 Alam, Eastern India, p.68. 



along the terai or foothills of the Himalayas and in eastern Bengal and 
Assam energetic Muslim peasants reclaimed large tracts from the 
jungle for wet rice cultivation.'! To the northwest state revenues in the 
Punjab doubled in a century. The recently settled, formerly nomadic 
Hindu, and increasingly, Sikh Jat peasantry vigorously expanded 
cultivation in the rich river basins of the Punjab. The high fertility of 
the soil repaid an intensive investment in well-digging to grow wheat, 
cotton, oil seeds, and other crops. Cash crop demands intensified as 
market towns sprang up to meet the needs of a booming overland trade 
in the region.!2 

Fertile soils and relatively easy access to irrigation encouraged rural 
expansion in the eastern Gangetic plain. In Awadh, Rajputs 
aggressively settled new lands to expand their zamindari holdings." In 
Gorakhpur district the extensive forests of Akbar’s period gave way to 
settled agriculture by the early eighteenth century. The administration 
took special measures to encourage land clearing and settlement. 
Revenues assessed on Gorakhpur rose 267 percent in that period.'* 

In Bihar in Shah Jahan’s reign, the imperial administration bifur- 
cated the old Rohtas district and detached a new district, Shahabad 
Bhojpur. Partly this change reflected tighter administrative control 
over the region settled by the Ujjainiya Rajput zamindars in Bhojpur 
on Bihar’s western border. Partly, however, the change reflected 
considerable expansion of cultivation at the forest frontier — expansion 
that was actively promoted by the state. A later eighteenth-century 
account of Shahabad and the origins of its zamindaris states: “most of 
the zamindaris during the reign of Shahjahan originated in bankatai or 
populating land after clearing forests. Those who did so became 
zamindars and obtained nankars (part of the revenue as zamindari 
right) for their lifetime. After the death of such zamindars, their sons 
obtained sanads for the rights held by them on condition of continued 


In the hundred years elapsed between imposition of Akbar’s new 
revenue system in the 1580s and Aurangzeb’s departure for the Deccan 

4 Tid. 225. 
12 Muzaffar Alam, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi: Oxford University 

Press, 1986), pp. 139-145. 7 
13 Ibid, p.99.. Ibid, p.103. "8 Quoted in Alam, Crisis of Empire, pp. 65-66. 



in 1680, a composite intermediary social class emerged in outline in the 
countryside. The growing domain of the zabt system helped to break 
away the cyst-like defenses of those warriors who dominated each 
pargana. Local chiefs or lineages no longer could add to their domains 
by small, vicious, wars against their neighbors. Although still armed 
and occasionally violent, Mughal zamindars at all levels had to carry 
out contractually defined tasks for the state or their sanads were not 
renewed. At the same time buoyant local and regional markets, 
stimulated by imperial demand, placed new, or at least enhanced, 
sources of wealth within the reach of every local lord and dominant 

Over time the stability of the Mughal agrarian system strengthened 
the contractual position of zamindars at all levels. That agreed upon 
share of the annual land revenue guaranteed to the zamindar by the 
empire became a form of property that could be sold, inherited and 
even mortgaged.'® Obviously, if the rural economy were in crisis — 
whether from natural calamity or from excessive taxation — there 
would be no point to a market in such property rights. Numerous 
seventeenth-century sale deeds for zamindari rights are consistent with 
a growing rural economy. 

Other zamindars contracted for the right to collect the revenue for 
the state over lands beyond their original zamindari holding. For this 
service these taluqdars obtained compensation, but they did not 
possess full rights and the full share of the revenue of a zamindar.'7 
Under normal conditions of peace and security this was not an over- 
whelmingly risky proposition in most districts. 

Prosperity and stability benefited smaller village or khud-kasht 
zamindars. Village zamindars were members of the village elite who 
held ownership rights which permitted them to bequeath, sell or 
transfer their land. They could not be evicted by revenue officials as 
long as they paid their share of the village land revenues and continued 
to cultivate their holdings. These peasants who cultivated their own 
holdings were also distinguished by ownership of draught cattle and 

Village zamindars, acting as a corporate body, jointly managed the 
financial affairs of the village. They were collectively responsible for 

6 Raychaudhuri and Habib, Economic History, pp. 176-77, 246. 
17 Habib, Agrarian System, pp.171-72. 



the payment of the land revenue and the village headman came from 
their number. At the same time they paid revenue at concessionary 
rates fixed by custom which were less than those paid by tenants or 
migrant cultivators. These dominant peasants also administered the 
communal pastures, woodlands, and ponds and other shared resources 
of the village.'8 

Within the class of khud-kasht cultivators we find considerable 
evidence of inequality and internal stratification. Data from eastern 
Rajasthan for the late seventeenth century reveal that the wealthiest 
peasants, perhaps two to five big men per village, owned six to eight 
plows and bullock-teams which they let out on share-cropping terms 
to their less-wealthy fellows.!? These elite peasants built up profits 
from investing in cash crops and in extension of cultivation. Often they 
engaged in moneylending within and without the village. 

Detailed testimony from eastern Rajasthan suggests that cultivation 
was expanding steadily in the late seventeenth century and that the 
wealthier land-owning peasants put their capital into this effort. Elite 
peasants universally paid less in revenues than the body of tenant 
farmer (pai) cultivators in northern India who did not share in the 
corporate privileges of the village. Often wealthier peasants possessed 
surplus funds sufficient to lend at interest. They retained profits from 
expanding arable and the increases in cash crops. 

In the 1680s state warfare on local aristocracies receded to be 
replaced by more routine revenue administration and occasional 
punitive actions. A slow process of converting Rajputs, Jats, and 
other local warrior groups into quasi-officials was well underway. 
Nevertheless, the task remained incomplete. Local zamindars were 
only partially controlled, disarmed, or displaced by more docile 
newcomers. A growing cash economy offered them opportunities to 
profit from both moneylending and cash crops. The Mughal tax 
demand, while heavy, left substantial assets with zamindars and elite 
peasants. In accumulating resources, both rural lords and village elites 
were accumulating the means for defiance — should local rebellion seem 


4 Satish Chandra, “The Structure of Village Society in Northern India” in Satish Chandra, 
Medieval India (Delhi: Orient Longman, 1982), p. 33. 

h Chandra, “Role of the Local Community, the Zamindars and the State in Providiny 

tal Inputs for the Improvement and Expansion of Cultivation” in Chandra, Medi 

India, pp. 171-72. 




By the 1680s hundreds of prosperous market towns (qasbas) had 
proliferated in northern India. In each pargana the central town served 
as principal market for grains sold to meet imperial taxes and as a center 
for moneylenders and grain traders. The qasbas fostered a growing 
gentry class. Agents for jagirdars, grain traders, moneylenders, zamin- 
dars, retired petty officials, and retired military officers built residences 
and established households. Many religious figures and other 
recipients of subsistence grants or tax-free lands (madad-i mash) 
settled in market towns. Often the grantees amassed wealth and 
purchased zamindari rights over additional lands. 

New towns were often founded or moribund settlements revived by 
entrepreneurial action. Mughal jagirdars, zamindars, religious figures, 
or even court eunuchs acted to improve the economic potential of their 
holdings or, in many cases, for personal renown. Relatively modest 
funds were required to build a sarai, to dig a well, or to establish a 
market (ganj). In the generally peaceful and buoyant conditions of the 
Mughal century these efforts flourished. For example the town of 
Shahjahanpur, now the district town of the same name, resulted from 
Shah Jahan’s grant of fourteen villages to two of his Afghan officers, on 
condition that they create a settlement and build a fort. The officers 
imported fellow Afghans from beyond the Indus to settle the town and 
placed them in quarters according to their lineage and tribal affili- 

Town life was especially attractive to Muslims who were the 
dominant group in many north Indian qasbas. Generally, in north 
India, Muslim gentry benefited substantially from official largess. 
Aurangzeb’s policies aimed at restricting these local tax-free grants to 
Muslim recipients added appreciably to the fortunes of local town- 
based Muslim elites in the countryside. Pargana qazis (judges) by the 
mid to late seventeenth century had become conspicuous in this 
process.?! The extent to which many qasbas were Muslim-dominated 
is revealed in the chronicler’s descriptions of the defense mounted 
against assaults by Banda Bahadur’s forces in the Sikh revolt of the 
early eighteenth century (see below, Chapter 12). 

Batala town in the Sutlej-Chenab doab northeast of Lahore in the 

2 Raychaudhuri and Habib, Economic History, p. 443. 
21 Alam, Crisis of Empire, pp. 110-119. 



Punjab is typical of such a qasba. Batala was founded on an ancient 
village mound in 1465 by Ram Dev, a Bhatti Rajput newly converted to 
Islam, who was the revenue contractor for the Punjab under Sultan 
Buhlul Lodi’s governor. After decades of flooding and warfare, the 
entire region was depopulated. Ram Dev actively encouraged settle- 
ment and reclamation to the point that many villages sprang up around 
Batala. By the end of the Lodi period Batala had become a pargana 
headquarters town with a resident revenue collector.22 

Batala endured several years of warfare and disruption when Babur 
raided from Kabul into the Lodi-ruled Punjab, but in 1527, the town 
and its surrounding hinterland was fully incorporated into the new 
Mughal regime. By the early eighteenth century Batala’s population is 
estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 persons. Each Muslim occu- 
pational or sectarian group or each Hindu caste lived in neighbour- 
hoods (mohullas) with well-known names and boundaries. Various 
functionaries were appointed by the state. Generations of revenue 
collectors and locally recruited qanungos accepted Mughal appoint- 
ments. Generations of Muslim qazis, appointed by the provincial sadr, 
resolved disputes, tried criminals, and protected persons and property 
in the town. 

For nearly 200 years Batala’s inhabitants experienced uninterrupted 
peace until the Sikh attack in 1709. The greater part of the cultivable 
land surrounding Batala was irrigated by many wells. Later a branch of 
the Shah Nahr, the canal bringing water to Lahore ordered built by 
Shah Jahan, carried irrigation water to Batala. Much of the land was 
intensively cultivated for market gardens by Arain Muslim Rajputs and 
their tenants. Wheat, raw sugar, and other surplus produce gathered to 
the town markets was sent on to Lahore. Weavers, dyers, iron-smiths, 
leatherworkers, carpenters, and other artisans, almost entirely Muslim, 
were present in Batala in large numbers. Ordinary cotton cloth for 
lungis and other clothing; saddles, shoes and decorated leatherwork, 
and wood carvings were among the manufactured goods exported. 
Hindu Khatris, the dominant commercial caste of the Punjab, con- 
trolled the commercial life of the town. As many as thirty subcastes of 
Khatri traders, shopkeepers, and moneylenders owned residential and 

22 The following description of Batala is taken from J.S. Grewal, In the By-Lanes of History: 
a Persian Documents from a Punjab Town (Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced 
Study, 1975). 



commercial property. Other commercial castes served as sarrafs 
(moneychangers) and goldsmiths. 

The majority population in Batala, however, was Muslim. The town 
was a vital Islamic center which benefited directly from official 
patronage. Shamshir Khan, a converted Rajput who was revenue 
collector of Batala in Akbar’s reign, built a large reservoir or tank 
with an adjoining garden, a mosque, and his own tomb completed in 
1588-89. The collector’s tomb became a monument to his benevolent 
activity for Batala Muslims who, if literate, left graffiti in ink on its 
walls with their names, parentage, and occupations. At the collector’s 
request, Akbar gave lands yielding one hundred thousand dams to the 
noted Sayyid Muhammad Shah of Bukhar, who used the funds to 
maintain a large charitable kitchen (langarkhana) for residents and 

Royal gifts and grants to the saintly and pious continued in Jahangir 
and Shah Jahan’s reigns. Aurangzeb’s long reign saw the construction 
of a congregational mosque, supported by a fixed allowance set by the 
emperor. Towards the end of the reign, a Qadiri Sufi master, Muham- 
mad Faziluddin, founded a hospice and a theological college, both of 
which received revenue free lands from Aurangzeb’s successors. 


During the seventeenth century economic growth in Mughal India was 
stimulated by the growing importance of a new, external connection: 
the link between Mughal India and early modern Europe. The 
northern Europeans — Dutch, English, French, and even Ostenders — 
organized into joint-stock trading corporations, shunted aside the 
Portuguese as the dominant naval powers and traders in the Indian 
Ocean. Each trading concern operated under a royal charter which 
granted it exclusive national rights to carry out the India trade. The 
most powerful entities were the Dutch East India Company (founded 
1602) and the English East India Company (founded 1600). These 
proved to be long-lived, highly profitable, long-distance trading 
corporations. (The French East India Company was a late entrant and 
suffered erratic management as a royal trading corporation.) These 
East India Companies created and nurtured a steadily enlarging 
economic, political and cultural tie with the Indian subcontinent. 
East India Company trade exported Mughal India’s industrial and 



processed goods to Europe able to pay for these goods with New 
World specie. Each region benefited from this exchange. As the 
century progressed with swelling trade profits came a larger 
European presence. Profitable trading also encouraged and, in fact, 
relied upon strong royal support at home. The East India Companies 
were very much an expression of the national interest of England and 

Under the northern Europeans the scale and range of Indian exports 
brought directly to Europe increased dramatically. The East India 
Companies made sharp inroads in black pepper, the Portuguese staple 
obtained in the pepper-growing regions of the southwestern peninsula, 
As mass-consumption demands for pepper grew in Europe, EIC 
imports from India rose accordingly. In 1621 the Directors of the 
Dutch East India Company put the annual European import of pepper 
at 7 million Ib. of which the Portuguese brought in 1.4 millions and the 
English and Dutch Companies shared the remaining 5.6 million lb. 
By 1670 annual imports of both companies combined peaked at 13.5 
million lb. 

Other Indian commodities such as indigo, grown and processed at 
Bayana near Agra, and in Gujarat enjoyed a steady and lucrative 
market in Europe. Relatively fast and inexpensive compared to woad, 
indigo from India was an important export until cheaper New World 
sources displaced it in the eighteenth century. Raw silk, produced in 
mulberry plantations in Kasiambazar and its hinterlands in northern 
Bengal, became a new source of supply for the silk-weaving industry in 
Italy and France after 1650. Saltpeter, much in demand for the 
European munitions industry, also served as a ballast for East India 
Company ships returning to Europe. 

A more significant advance lay in the adoption of Indian textiles as 
an export commodity. Early in the century the East India Companies 
had entered the long-established trade in Gujarat and southeastern 
Coromandel cotton cloths to Indonesia. Profits from this trade helped 
to offset the costs of spices and the Dutch, already settled at Batavia, 
had an immediate advantage in this trade. Trial shipments soon created 

23 K. N, Chaudhuri, “Foreign Trade with India” in Raychaudhuri and Habib, eds., The 
Cambridge Economic History of India, 1, 399. 

4 KN. Chaudhuri, The European Trading World of Asia and the English East India 
Company 1660-1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), Table C.14, 
p-$29; and Chaudhuri, “Foreign Trade with India,” p. 399. 



a market for cheaper Indian cotton cloth which undercut woolens and 
linens for the poorer ends of the market. By the 1620s the English East 
India Company was selling a quarter million pieces or lengths of Indian 
cloth at auction in London. Dutch shipments soon rose sharply as 
sales in Amsterdam grew. By mid-century the comfort and washability 
of Indian cotton body linen and clothing was widely known in Europe. 
More costly styles of cotton such as patterned calico and chintz started 
to penetrate the luxury ends of the market. Indian silk was also much in 

Between 1660 and 1689 European demand for Indian textiles soared 
as prices and demand rose steeply. In 1664 the English East India 
Company imported 273,746 pieces of cotton cloth from India 
(approximately 4.2 million sq. meters). The rising trend culminated in 
1684 at 1,760,315 pieces (or 26.9 million sq. meters).?¢ Dutch imports, 
although somewhat less, followed a similar trend. The saturated textile 
market in Europe slumped abruptly in 1689 to be followed by a rising 
trend at the turn of the eighteenth century. 

The return trade from Europe was nearly confined to shipment of 
precious metals from the New World, or for a time, from Japan. For 
the entire period, the English could only look to modest sales of 
broadcloth and woolens, unworked metals such as tin, lead, and 
copper, and some European luxury goods. The Dutch could offer 
spices obtained in the Moluccas and Ceylon which had fallen under 
their control. For both companies, however, purchasing power for 
Indian commodities rested upon shipments of bullion. In the century 
after 1660, as textile exports accelerated, the Dutch and English 
companies together shipped an average of over 34 tons of silver and 
nearly half a ton of gold every year?” In the Mughal dominions 
imported bullion and coin went directly to the imperial mint to be 
melted and struck as rupees or gold muhrs. Only then could they be 
used to pay Indian brokers and traders supplying cloth and other 
commodities. Often boxes of silver reales minted in Peru were 
transshipped through Amsterdam or London unopened until they 
reached the Mughal mints at Surat. 

25 Chaudhuri, “Foreign Trade with India,” p. 401. 

2% Chaudhuri, Trading World, Table C.24, p. $47. 

27 J. F, Richards, ed. Precious Metals in the Later Medieval and Early Modern World 
(Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 1983), p.24. These annual averages were 
calculated on the century from 1660 to 1760 for both companies. 




In the extreme south of India and in Southeast Asia, the Dutch could 
freely establish their own fortified trading bases and hope to coerce 
producers as had the Portuguese. On the Coromandel coast they had 
little trouble gaining permission from the fragmented Hindu nayak 
kingdoms of the south to establish their own settlement at Pulicat by 
1610. Within the territory of the larger, more powerful states of the 
subcontinent, however, they had to take a different approach. The 
overall objective was access to Machhilipatnam (Masulipatnam) at the 
mouth of the Godavari river in the Sultanate of Golconda and Surat, 
the west coast port in Mughal Gujarat. In 1605 and 1606 a Dutch factor 
visited Machhilipatnam to negotiate trading entry with the Qutb Shahi 
ruler of Golconda. This was a prime production area for fine chintz 
much in demand in Southeast Asian markets. A royal order permitted 
the Dutch to establish a trading station (factory) at Machhilipatnam 
port and gave the Dutch a lower export duty. Ten years later, the 
Dutch received permission to open a permanent factory at Surat.?8 

The English East India Company did not invest in its own settle- 
ments in India at first. Instead, in 1611 the English factory at 
Macchilipatnam was founded; in 1613 a similar trading station became 
permanent at Surat. In 1615 the Company arranged to have James I 
send Thomas Roe as a royal ambassador to the court of Jahangir. Roe’s 
success in this mission further solidified the English position at Surat 
and permitted them to send factors inland to set up trading posts at 
Agra, Burhanpur, Patna, and other trading centers. 

At these trading centers, bodies of Dutch or English factors who 
were employees of their respective companies sold European goods 
and purchased supplies of Indian textiles and other export commodi- 
ties. The trading centers or “factories” were self-sufficient communi- 
ties of European traders who lived under communal discipline and 
maintained their own cultural traditions. In the fashion of the time the 
walled factory compounds served as living quarters and as secure 
storage for valuable goods. The East India Companies engaged Euro- 
peans to serve as armed guards and also hired Indians as well. Larger 
stations, especially those in the south like Fort St. George, developed 
early into nearly autonomous city-states. 

The Indian trading stations stood at one end of a directly admin- 

28 Chaudhuri, “Foreign Trade with India,” p. 388. 



istered trading system with London or Amsterdam at the other end. 
Only two markets existed: the procurement market in each region in 
India for each commodity and the sales market in Europe for each 
import. The Companies owned and shipped these goods under their 
ownership and control throughout. As has often been suggested they 
were indeed the precursors of the modern multi-national corporation. 

The East India Company directors and owners — the Court of 
Seventeen in Amsterdam and the Court of Proprietors in London — 
presided over newly evolved complex organizations capable of great 
efficiency and stability in their operations. Each company employed a 
system of specialized committees at home for matters like accounts, 
buying, warehousing, shipping, bullion procurement, and other func- 
tions. Through issue of capital stock, loans, and bonds, they mobilized 
large amounts of short and long-term capital to send in the form of 
specie to Asia. They kept meticulous accounts which included profit 
and loss statements for commodities, ship voyages, trading stations 
and trading seasons. 

Practices first perfected by trial and error were codified into decision 
rules to be applied consistently over time. Company officers organized 
an intricate shipping schedule to service their far-flung trading stations. 
Scheduling had to account for close to two years’ elapsed time between 
India and Europe for each trading voyage. All purpose-built EIC ships 
were either owned outright or leased for the trade and manned by 
Company staff. All were armed and fully capable of defending 
themselves against all vessels save European warships. 

In Europe the companies stored Indian goods in warehouses and sold 
them on monopoly terms. In so doing the companies were able to 
minimize swings in prices and profits. In India, the Dutch and English 
companies worked very hard to rationalize procurement of Indian 
goods. Textile produced by individual artisans in sequence — spinners, 
weavers, dyers, bleachers, and printers — required special efforts at 
standardization. EIC factors gave out contracts to Indian middlemen/ 
wholesale merchants for delivery of thousands of pieces of cloth of 
specified quality and style some eight or ten months later. Cash 
advances committed the merchants and their weavers to deliver the 
cloth on schedule and acted as a deposit on orders for the producers. 

By mid-century the effects of this new trade channel were beginning 
to be felt in Mughal India. Four coastal zones produced the greater part 
of textile exports: the area surrounding Surat in Gujarat; the area 



between Krishna and Godavari in northern Coromandel adjacent to 
Machhilipatnam; the southern Coromandel between Pulicat and 
Madras; and the Ganges delta forming a hinterland for the port at 
Hughli in Bengal.29 Within each region bullion imports converted to 
imperial currency paid customs duties, the local expenses of the 
factors, bribes and presents for officials, and put new income into the 
hands of weavers and profits into the coffers of Indian wholesalers and 

European activities reached deeply into the countryside in these 
regions. In northern Coromandel during the latter half of the century, 
the Dutch at Machhilipatnam expanded their purchases beyond the 
expensive patterned cloth traditionally exported from the region 
between the Krishyna and Godavari rivers. They created a new market 
for plain white cotton cloths or calicoes.*° The variety known as 
longcloth or guinees were 35 yard pieces primarily used in the West 
African slave trade. In the early 1680s the Dutch East India Company 
purchased 4 to 5 million yards of calicoes each year. Half of these 
pieces were shipped directly to Holland; half were consigned to 
Batavia for resale in Southeast Asia. The English factory at Machhili- 
patnam shipped a like quantity of calicoes for the European market. 

The VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) placed resident 
Dutch factors at its head trading station, the port of Machhilipat- 
nam, and three subordinate trading stations inland. These stations were 
actually markets at which the European factors met twice a year with 
Telugu merchants of the Komati caste. From June to August they 
placed orders with cash advances with these middlemen. The Komati 
wholesalers then executed their contracts with head weavers who 
controlled the output of dozens of their fellows and who undertook to 
guarantee delivery of acceptable cloth. Between September and Novem- 
ber, the prime sailing season, the Dutch factors received delivery of the 
woven pieces which had to be checked for general quality, and 
standardized dimensions and thread count. 

In this region the weavers were not concentrated in towns, but rather 
dispersed in industrial villages scattered throughout the coastal dis- 
tricts. In the eastern portion of the East Godavari delta the Dutch 
station at the village of Draksharama drew its supplies from a catch- 

2 Chaudhuri, Trading World, “India: Main Textile Weaving Areas 1600-1750,” p. 244. 

20 The data on northern Coromandel are drawn from Joseph J. Brennig, “The Textile Trade 
of Seventeenth Century Northern Coromandel: A Study of a Pre-Modern Asian Export 
Industry” (Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Ph.D. dissertation, 1975). 



ment area of sixteen villages. A Dutch census in 1682 revealed that 
5,960 households operated 6,930 looms in these sixteen villages for an 
average of 373 weaving households per village. In the typical northern 
Coromandel industrial village, weavers, cloth washers, and dyers 
constituted more than half the households and far outnumbered 
cultivators.3! Each household operated by adult male weavers pro- 
duced between 1,300 and 1,500 yards of cloth per year. At the prices 
prevailing in the 1680s a weaver paid in cash could purchase foodgrains 
and meet other subsistence needs and generate a surplus at the end of 
the year. Head weavers and those with two or more looms did even 

Cash advances to the weavers travelled down the social hierarchy to 
reach lower caste women who spun cotton yarn and sold it directly to 
the weavers. And Dutch advances reached out beyond the region to 
pay the banjara wholesaler/transporters who used thousands of pack 
bullocks to carry raw cotton to the weaver. The best quality cotton was 
not grown in northern Coromandel but came from the black cotton 
tracts of Khandesh and Berar five hundred kilometers to the west. 
These carriers were given tax-free status by the king of Golconda and 
later by the Mughals. 

There is no question that the East India Companies’ activities 
directly stimulated the economy of each coastal region and the empire 
as a whole. Bengal offers the most dramatic example of export- 
stimulated economic growth. After Shah Jahan expelled the Portu- 
guese from their trading station at Hugli in 1631, the way was cleared 
for Dutch, English, and French merchants to place their factors at that 
port. Dutch activities in Bengal grew rapidly. In 1663 the VOC 
imported treasure worth 903,953 florins into Bengal to pay for its 
purchases; by 1707 treasure imports had increased to 3.2 million 
florins. The total value of exports followed a similar upward path.3> 
From Bengal the Dutch procured growing quantities of saltpeter, 
shipped primarily to Europe, opium, sold in Indonesia, raw silk 
divided between Japan and Holland; and woven cotton and silk textiles 
divided between Europe, Indonesia, and Japan. These were all either 
enlarged or new markets for Bengal’s producers. 

A recent analysis concludes that the Dutch trade, which primarily 
31 Brennig, “Textile Trade,” p. 292. 

22 Om Prakash, The Dutch East India Company and the Economy of Bengal 1630-1720 

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), 66-67. 
23 Prakash, Dutch East India Company, p.70. 



imported precious metals, caused a real increase in Bengal’s output and 
income. The export surplus was generated by fuller utilization of 
existing productive capacity and a reallocation of resources to meet 
European demand. Dutch and English procurement of textiles by the 
end of the century employed nearly ten percent of the full-time 
weavers and other workers in the textile sector of Bengal.** For Bengal, 
the growing export market in Europe added another impetus to a 
steadily enlarging regional economy. This long-term trend, already 
well underway, continued well into the British colonial period. 

Trading company investments in Bengal directly benefited the 
imperial exchequer and indirectly enhanced the incomes of high- 
ranking Mughal officers. The stream of silver pouring into Bengal was 
a mainstay of the copious output of the imperial mints located at 
Rajmahal, Dacca, Patna, and Balasore.35 Cash crops like poppy and 
mulberry flourished. Bengali peasants shifted sizable areas of lands 
from rice to mulberry in response to market incentives for silk 
production. Each bigah of land (3/5 acre) in mulberry paid Rs. 3 per 
year; each bigah in rice paid Rs. 0.75. When in 1706 the Mughal 
authorities prohibited Dutch trade for nearly a year, provincial rev- 
enues suffered as peasants reverted to rice production.** The Mughal 
khalisa (crownlands) received revenues from eleven of the twenty- 
eight parganas in Bihar which were the primary production areas for 
saltpeter. A number of amirs, including Asaf Khan, the wazir, held the 
others in jagir. In the late 1680s VOC factors bought 1,310 tonnes 
amounting to thirty percent of the total output of refined saltpeter.>” 
The crown and prominent nobles held similar interests in the opium 
tracts in Bihar.3® 

The Mughal empire actively encouraged European trading in Bengal 
as it did elsewhere. Beginning in the mid-1630s the Dutch obtained 
from Shah Jahan exemption from payment of transit-tolls (which were 
the perquisite of local jagir holders) in Bengal.>° Customs duties, at 3 to 
4 percent, remained in force since these were collected by the imperial 
treasury. A Dutch embassy to Aurangzeb in the early 1660s succeeded 
in having these privileges continued. The English enjoyed similar 
4 Prakash, Dutch East India Company, p.242. 
38 Om Prakash, “Foreign Merchants and Indian Mints in the Seventeenth and the Early 

Eighteenth Century,” in Richards, ed., Imperial Monetary System, p. 171-192. 
36 Prakash, Dutch East India Company, p.238n. 7 Ibid., pp. 58-60. 
38 Ibid., pp. 57-58 
» Ibid. p.42. 



concessions. The English as well as the Dutch and French made regular 
gifts in cash and kind to keep local officials sympathetic to them and to 
be sure that royal exemptions were obeyed. 

Still incomplete, but persuasive evidence exists to argue that the secular 
trend for Mughal India was that of economic growth and vitality. The 
state placed few constraints on economic activity. The state delivered 
numerous services and incentives to foster internal trade at all levels. 
Even European trading companies were permitted great freedom to 
drive a steadily growing export trade and to import precious metals. 
The cultivated area underwent noticeable expansion in a number of 
provinces. Imperial tax collections rose accordingly. Mughal taxes on 
agricultural production could be onerous in specific areas and periods, 
but the overall impression is that neither the level of assessment nor the 
forms of collection were sufficient to deter continued growth. The 
question of which classes and groups were the beneficiaries of that 
growth is yet to be fully answered. 




Shortly after Aurangzeb’s accession a surprising new source of resist- 
ance to Mughal political domination appeared. In the hilly areas of the 
western Deccan, around Puna, the Maratha leader Shivaji Bhonsla 
(1627-1680) was carving out a self-sufficient state within the enfeebled 
shell of the Sultanate of Bijapur. The Bhonsla regime offered a new 
option for ambitious and aggressive men from both the Maratha 
warrior caste and literate Maratha Brahmin castes. So successful was 
Shivaji that by the 1660s he seriously threatened Mughal prestige and 
domination in the south. 

Shivaji was the second son of Shahji Bhonsla, a Maratha general and 
aristocrat, and Jija Bai, daughter of one of the great Maratha noblemen 
in the Sultanate of Ahmadnagar. In the early 1630s Shahji had led an 
ultimately futile attempt to set up a young Nizam Shah ruler as his 
puppet. When Ahmadnagar was swallowed up by the Timurids, Shahji 
took service in the Karnatak campaigns of the Sultan of Bijapur. Shahji 
retained control of his large fief in the western Ghats near Puna, The 
Sultan of Bijapur had de facto ceded political control of much of the 
western Ghats to the powerful Maratha chiefs or deshmukhs in that 
remote area. 

Shivaji was raised by Jija Bai, Shahji’s estranged wife, at Puna as a 
rustic Maratha aristocrat. Unlike Shahji’s other sons, Shivaji was not 
indoctrinated into the Persianate high culture of the Bijapur court. At 
age eighteen Shivaji seized control over his absentee father’s estate. He 
attracted several able young Maratha hill chiefs and their retainers to 
his service. Partly in response to Bijapur’s weak hand and partly in 
rebellion against his father, Shivaji began to expand his domain in the 
western hills. 

In 1646 the Sultan of Bijapur, Muhammad Adil Shah, fell ill and 
remained incapacitated for a decade. Shivaji grasped this opportunity 
to enlarge his power. By the late 1650s the young Maratha leader was 
independent of Bijapur. He had repudiated the foreshortened political 
vision of a Maratha deshmukh or rural aristocrat. He was no longer 
caught within the Indo-Muslim political culture defined by Bijapur. 


4 The Western Deccan in 1707 
Source: I. Habib, An atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982), 14A 



He had become a ruler free to choose his own affiliations and course of 

Shivaji’s remarkable achievements in these early years are often 
ignored. With incessant negotiation, threat, and, on occasion, fero- 
ciously applied violence, the young Bhonsla chief established domi- 
nance over other long-established Maratha deshmukhs in the region. 
By the same means he took control of nearly forty hill-fortresses from 
their Bijapur-appointed commanders. These he garrisoned with com- 
manders and troops loyal to him. An impressive cadre of young 
Maratha warriors and Brahmin administrators organized and ran the 
army and administration of his growing kingdom. Directly paid 
infantry and cavalry totalled as many as 10,000 horsemen and 50,000 
infantry by the 1660s. 

Judicious plunder of government treasure, extortion, and, increas- 
ingly, levying of taxes on the populace of the region gave Shivaji 
sufficient funds to recruit and pay his followers. With these growing 
resources Shivaji developed a network of interlocking, well-sited and 
easily defended fortresses in Maharashtra. Rajgarh, designed and built 
by him, served as the Bhonsla capital. At Pratapgarh, another great 
mountain keep, he installed a large shrine dedicated to his patron, the 
goddess Bhawani. 

Shivaji extended his domain into the fertile coastal districts of the 
northern Konkan. His army seized Kalian, a rich trading town, and 
drove off the officers of the Bijapuri nobleman who held jagirs there. 
With access to the sea, Shivaji acquired several ships and began to trade 
with the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Other armed coastal vessels in his 
employ sailed on plundering expeditions into the Arabian Sea. He 
garrisoned several coastal or island fortresses in the Konkan. 
Throughout this period the youthful raja negotiated with the Portu- 
guese and British for guns, naval supplies, and technical assistance. 

In this early phase, Shahji’s prominence and influence at the Bijapur 
court helped to deflect punitive actions against his son. Even in 1649, 
when the Bijapur Sultan seized and imprisoned Shahji in an attempt to 
force the general to control his son’s activities, powerful friends 
induced Shahji’s release. For several years thereafter Shivaji was rela- 
tively quiescent. During Aurangzeb’s invasion of 1656, the Sultan was 
able to call upon his rebel zamindar and send him to plunder Mughal 
lands as a diversion. This accommodation ended with the death of 
Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah. 



In 1657, the new sultan, Ali Adil Shah, sent Afzal Khan, one of his 
most capable commanders, with a 10,000 man army to subdue Shivaji. 
Along the route the Bijapur troops profaned the shrine of Bhawani at 
Tuljapur as well as several other major Hindu shrines in Maharashtra. 
After a series of negotiations marked by suspicion on both sides, Afzal 
Khan persuaded Shivaji to meet to negotiate a settlement with the 
Sultan. Shivaji and Afzal Khan confronted each other in the Bijapur 
commander’s audience tent on a site near Pratapgarh fort. Within the 
tent an initial embrace of greeting between the two principals abruptly 
became a mortal struggle in which Afzal Khan tried to strangle Shivaji. 
The latter used his concealed iron “tiger claws” to disembowel his 
larger enemy. At their commander’s signal hidden Maratha troops 
surrounding the site attacked and slaughtered the confused Bijapur 

Afzal Khan’s death and the rout of the Bijapur army was widely 
celebrated in the Maratha country.! The enraged Sultan of Bijapur 
personally led a new force into the west and reoccupied the southern 
coastal districts before difficulties elsewhere forced him to retire. The 
notorious incident ruptured Shivaji’s already dubious subordination to 
the Sultan of Bijapur. As an unattached Maratha chief, he was then 
forced to come to terms with that Mughal advance that had long 
enervated the Deccan Sultanates. 


During the second phase of his career, between 1660 and 1674, Shivaji 
wavered between acceptance and repudiation of imperial authority. 
For the first time the young ruler faced the full weight of Mughal 
power. In 1660, Shaista Khan, new governor of the Mughal Deccan, 
swept aside Maratha resistance, occupied Puna and garrisoned the 
northern portion of Shivaji’s territories. After a four month siege and 
heavy losses, the Mughals captured Chakan, one of Shivaji’s hill forts 
near Puna. The costs of attacking even one of Shivaji’s strongly 
defended hill forts dissuaded Shaista Khan from further sieges. Instead, 
he deployed flying columns of Mughal cavalry to ravage the country- 

! Harry A. Acworth, Ballads of the Marathas, “The Death of Abdul Khan at the Hands of 
Shiwaji Maharaha” (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1894). 



side. Aurangzeb sent reinforcements including a 10,000 man Rajput 
force under Jaswant Singh Rathor. Shaista Khan took up residence in 
the town of Puna itself which served as the central garrison and 
command post. 

On the night of April 5, 1663, Shivaji infiltrated Puna’s defenses with 
400 of his men. He and a raiding party entered Shaista Khan’s mansion, 
hacked their way to the nobleman’s bedchamber and wounded but did 
not succeed in killing him. Shaista Khan’s son, several of his wives, and 
dozens of his servants and soldiers died in the melee. Shivaji and his 
troops escaped with only minimal casualties. This exploit delighted the 
Marathas who celebrated the near-superhuman feats of their hero. 
Suspicion of pro-Maratha sympathies fell upon Jaswant Singh Rathor 
whose Rajput troops guarded the outskirts of the city. Shaista Khan, 
dishonored and humiliated, was recalled and replaced by Prince 
Muazzam as governor of the Deccan. 

A few months later, in January, 1664, Shivaji led 4,000 cavalry on a 
raid north to Surat, the busiest trading port in western India. The 
Mughal governor left the unfortified city of 200,000 defenseless and 
fled to the shelter of Surat fort. Shivaji ignored the fort but spent six 
days ina leisurely plunder of the town. Among his victims was Baharji 
Borah, the Ismaili trader reputed to be the richest merchant in the 
world, whose mansion was virtually destroyed in the search for 
treasure. Only the Dutch and English merchants, who stubbornly 
defended their walled compounds with musket fire, escaped the 
general looting. Finally, Shivaji’s troops rode off carrying with them 
cash and valuables valued at over 10 million rupees. In the aftermath of 
this raid Shivaji’s armed fleet seized Mecca-bound ships and exacted 
ransoms from the pilgrims on board. His horsemen also raided the 
outskirts of Aurangabad, capital of the Mughal Deccan while Prince 
Muazzam, notoriously indolent, did little to stop him. In the same 
period Shivaji’s forces beat back an assault by the Bijapur army and 
continued to raid freely in that kingdom. 

Enraged and disturbed by these insults Aurangzeb sent his most 
capable general with orders to first destroy Shivaji and thereafter 
invade and annex Bijapur. Mirza Raja Jai Singh Kachhwaha, a sixty- 
year-old veteran commander, assembled a large army and relieved 
Jaswant Singh Rathor at Puna in March, 1665. The dispatches of Jai 
Singh, preserved by his private secretary, display in almost text-book 
fashion the skill and resources brought to bear by a high-ranking 



Mughal field commander.? In a preliminary diplomatic thrust, Jai 
Singh sent emissaries to Bijapur to warn the Sultan against any effort to 
combine with Shivaji; agents to the European coastal settlements to 
insist that they obstruct any sea-borne activity by the Maratha fleet; 
and Brahmin emissaries to those numerous Maratha deshmukhs who 
bore long-standing grudges against Shivaji. From the latter he enlisted 
cadres of Maratha auxiliaries. Promises of high rank and money were 
made to all of Shivaji’s chief officers to undermine their loyalty. 

Military operations began immediately. Jai Singh marched due south 
from Puna, established his base at the town of Saswad, set out outposts, 
and fought his way to the great hill fortress of Purandhar. For two 
months the besiegers remorselessly ran trenches, brought up their 
guns, and assaulted one line of defense after another. Jai Singh sent out 
cavalry to engage the Marathas and to forage and burn the countryside. 
Shivaji was unable to relieve the fort or to prevent the devastation of his 
kingdom. The goddess Bhawani warned him in a dream that he could 
not successfully oppose a Hindu prince.> Demoralized, Shivaji opened 
negotiations with Jai Singh. Assured of his safety by Jai Singh’s sacred 
oaths, Shivaji, attended only by six Brahmins, came to Jai Singh’s 
audience tent pitched just behind the siege lines. 

Convinced that he could not save Purandhar or drive the Mughals 
out, Shivaji capitulated. Under the treaty of Purandhar Shivaji surren- 
dered twenty-three of his fortresses and the lands they commanded to 
the empire but retained twelve fortresses and their lands as his estate. 
He became a vassal of the Mughal emperor, paying tribute, but 
exempted from personal service as a mansabdar. Instead his young son, 
Shambhaji, granted the rank of 5,000 zat, would be sent to the imperial 
court. Finally, Shivaji agreed to lead his troops as part of the Mughal 
force expected to invade Bijapur. In return he was promised additional 
lands to be seized from Bijapur. Shivaji surrendered his independence 
and entered the imperial system as a chief or, in the imperial parlance, a 
zamindar — the fate of dozens of powerful regional chiefs and kings 
before him. 

Between mid-November, 1665 and February, 1666, Shivaji, with 
11,000 troops, accompanied Jai Singh during the abortive Mughal 
campaign into Bijapur. Before the war concluded in negotiations 

2 Jagadish N. Sarkar, The Military Despatches of a Seventeenth Centwy Indian General 
(Calcutta: Scientific Book Agency, 1969). 

> James Grant Duff, History of the Mabrattas (New Delhi, 2 vols. in one, reprint edition, 
1971); I, 110. 



Shivaji allowed himself to be persuaded by Jai Singh to journey 
northward to the imperial court. Leaving his mother as regent, Shivaji, 
his son Shambhaji, seven of his principal officers, and 4,000 men left for 
the north. He was advanced 100,000 rupees for the journey from the 
imperial Deccan treasury. 

At Agra his host and patron was Kumar Ram Singh, Jai Singh’s son 
and his agent at court. On May 12, 1666, the date of Aurangzeb’s 
fiftieth lunar birthday, Shivaji offered gifts of submission and bowed at 
the foot of the Timurid throne. Aurangzeb made a cursory acknow- 
ledgement of his presence but delayed presenting return gifts or other 
response till later in the ceremony. Shivaji suddenly found himself 
standing in line behind rows of nobles as the elaborate court audience 
proceeded. Outraged, Shivaji protested audibly then fell to the floor in 
a fainting fit. He was hustled out of the audience hall to Kumar Singh’s 
mansion. The suspicious emperor placed Shivaji under house arrest 
despite his pleas to be allowed to return home, but did permit Shivaji’s 
troops to leave Agra for the Deccan. Aurangzeb refused a private 
audience and withheld the elephant, jewels, and robe of honor 
intended for Shivaji. 

Feigning illness, Shivaji took to his bed and called for physicians. 
Over several weeks, he contrived to find a way to escape. This may well 
have been with the connivance of Kumar Ram Singh or by bribing his 
guards. Shivaji slipped out of the mansion and was gone far before his 
absence was discovered and the word sent to Mughal road guards, city 
prefects, faujdars, and other imperial officers. Arriving safely at 
Mathura the next day, Shivaji took refuge with a family of Maratha 
Brahmins who helped to disguise him as a wandering Hindu monk to 
evade Mughal patrols. Travelling on foot over a long circuitous route 
to the east he and Shambhaji arrived back at Raigarh in December, 

Aurangzeb, somewhat unexpectedly, failed to send an invading 
army against Shivaji. Apparently the Yusufzai rising in the northwest- 
ern mountains distracted his attention. Two years later, in 1668, 
Shivaji’s frequent petitions to Aurangzeb for pardon were answered. 
The emperor recognized his title as Raja and restored Chakan fort, but 
not any of the other twenty-two occupied by the Mughals to Shivaji. 
Shambhaji, his rank of 5,000 zat restored, went to Prince Muazzam’s 
court at Aurangabad, the Deccan capital, at the head of a thousand 
Maratha horsemen. The latter were supported by jagirs assigned in 



Berar province. Shambhaji and Prince Muazzam formed a congenial 
bond during the two years in which the young Maratha heir served the 

Soon however, a rupture occurred. Mughal treasury officers tried to 
recover from Shambhaji’s jagirs the 100,000 rupees Shivaji had drawn 
for expenses on his trip to Agra. Incensed, Shivaji recalled his son and 
seized a number of his former strongholds. Mughal retribution was 
hindered by internecine conflicts between Prince Muazzam and his 
most powerful subordinate, the Afghan nobleman Dilir Khan. The 
latter accused the prince of collusion with Shivaji in a plot to seize the 
throne. The crisis was eventually resolved and Muazzam exonerated, 
but the immediate pressure on Shivaji lifted. 

In October, 1670, Shivaji assembled a 15,000 man army and marched 
north toward Surat. The Mughal governor offered only nominal 
resistance at the city walls (recently erected by Aurangzeb’s order) and 
the Marathas plundered the city again. After several days of looting the 
raiders carried off cash and goods worth over six and a half million 
rupees ~ less than before. Trade at Surat went into decline for the next 
several years as it became clear that the empire was no longer able to 
defend its most lucrative ocean port.‘ After further raiding in Mughal 
Khandesh, Shivaji fought a pitched battle with a 5,000 man Mughal 
army before returning to Raigarh. 

For the next four years Shivaji’s Marathas raided and plundered to 
the northeast in Khandesh in Mughal territory and southeast into 
Kanara in Bijapur lands. Both Bijapur and imperial armies pursued the 
raiders and often engaged them, but with mixed success. Shivaji’s 
commanders discovered that they could meet Mughal armies in the 
field on equal terms. The weight of Mughal heavy cavalry and field 
artillery were canceled out by greater mobility and higher morale on 
the part of the Maratha troops. 


Buoyed by these victories and by the ever-increasing flow of plunder 
and taxation coming into his coffers, Shivaji took a momentous step. In 
June, 1674, he had himself crowned as an independent Hindu 

4 M.N. Pearson, “Shivaji and the Decline of the Mughal Empire,” Journal of Asian Studies, 
35 (1976), 221-235. 



monarch.5 Many months of preparation preceded the ceremony. 
Shivaji immersed himself in a period of intense prayer and worship at a 
number of temples and shrines. In the meantime his Brahmin advisers 
persuaded Gagga Bhatta of Varanasi, the foremost Hindu theologian 
of his day, to declare that Shivaji was not a mere Shudra of the Maratha 
caste, but a lapsed Kshatriya, a Rajput, whose ancestors could be traced 
back to the solar line of the Ranas of Mewar. Gagga Bhatta travelled to 
the Maratha capital where he first purified Shivaji and then invested 
him with the sacred threat and Vedic verses of the twice-born castes. 

On June 6, 1674, after a night of fasting, Shivaji underwent the San- 
skritic royal consecration (abisheka) ceremony. Seated on a gold stool 
with his wife, Sorya Bai, beside him he was bathed with Ganges water 
poured from gold jugs. After changing to a royal scarlet robe, he then 
sat upon a newly built, gold-covered throne. To the accompaniment of 
Brahminical chants and artillery salvos, Gagga Bhatta raised the royal 
umbrella over his head and hailed him as Siva Chhatrapati. Thereafter 
followed lavish gifts to thousands of Brahmins, officials and other 
dignitaries and a royal procession through the streets of the city. The 
entire ceremony was estimated to have cost five million rupees. 

Shivaji’s coronation, widely reported throughout the subcontinent, 
was one of the most important political acts of the seventeenth century. 
Within his kingdom’s borders the coronation ceremony impressed his 
legitimate authority over even the oldest of Maratha aristocratic 
houses. Beyond his borders it established the Bhonsla ruler and his 
descendants as a ruling house the equal of any other. More startling, 
however, was the fact that for the first time in generations a regional 
monarch claimed royal authority without reference to the Timurid 
emperor. With this dramatic act Shivaji, unlike his father, asserted his 
independence from Indo-Muslim authority and political culture. In an 
avowedly revivalist ceremony he created a militantly Hindu 
monarchy. The new ruler was a Chhatrapati; not a Padshah. Insur- 
gency against Mughal rule had acquired a new rallying point. 


Within two years the new monarch revealed a bold new strategy. 

Shivaji first negotiated a truce with the badly harassed Mughal gover- 

5 ‘Phe coronation ceremony is described in detail in Jadunath Sarkar, Shivaji and His Times 
(Calcutta: M. C. Sarkar & Sons, Sixth edition, revised and enlarged, 1961), pp. 201-215. 



nor of the Deccan provinces. Then he agreed to a defensive alliance 
against the Mughals with Madanna Pandit, the Telugu Brahmin who 
was chief minister of the kingdom of Golconda. Under the terms of 
this agreement Golconda, the wealthiest and most stable of the Deccan 
states, agreed to an annual subsidy to support Shivaji’s campaigns 
against the Timurids. Thus encouraged, in January, 1677, Shivaji led a 
60,000 man army eastward to Hyderabad, the capital of Golconda. 
Here he held a series of meetings with Abul Hasan, the Qutb Shah 
Sultan and Madanna Pandit, along with his brother Akkanna, the 
commander in chief of the Qutb Shah army. In these meetings the two 
rulers negotiated a military alliance aimed at conquest and joint 
annexation of the lands of the Bijapur Karnatak. This wealthy, 
prosperous area along the southeastern Coromandel coast was current- 
ly ruled by nearly independent Bijapur governors or by tributary 
rulers. The latter included Shivaji’s half brother, Vyankoji Bhonsla, 
who had carved out a kingdom around Tanjore on the Kaveri river. 
The Qutb Shah Sultan, heavily influenced by his two Brahmin officers, 
agreed to supply a large monthly cash subsidy and an auxiliary five 
thousand man force with artillery to accompany the Marathas, 

En route to the Karnatak, Shivaji left his army at Anantapur, and 
made a pilgrimage to the famous Siva temple of Shri Shaila on the 
Krishna river. At this sacred site the royal worshiper spent ten days in 
devotion before the image of Siva’s consort. At one point Shivaji tried 
to commit suicide in front of the goddess, but was restrained by his 
attendants. On departing, he gave funds sufficient to build a bathing 
ghat on the river, a monastery, and a guesthouse for pilgrims.° 

A year-long campaign sufficed for the Maratha ruler to take posses- 
sion of Jinji and Vellore, the two commanding bastions of the Bijapur 
Karnatak. Vellore surrendered only after a fourteen month siege. 
Victory permitted Shivaji’s officers to occupy and annex territory 
yielding revenues of two million gold hun per year. In Tanjore, 
however, his half-brother Vyankoji rejected Shivaji’s claim for half 
their patrimony, defended that position with his army and eventually 
paid Shivaji 600,000-rupees to be left undisturbed. Shivaji proved 
unwilling to give up any portion of his new possessions to Golconda. 
But this sticking point did not terminate the defensive alliance between 
him and the Qutb Shah. 

© Sarkar, Shivaji, pp. 291-292. 




Upon his return to Raigarh in early 1678, Shivaji faced the problem of 
contriving an orderly succession to the Bhonsla throne. The Maratha 
ruler and his council of ministers formally proposed a division of the 
kingdom between his two sons to take place after Shivaji’s death. 
Rajaram, the youngest, would receive the home territories to rule; and 
Shambhaji, then a turbulent youth of nineteen, would be given the 
newly acquired lands in Mysore and Jinji. 

Shambhaji’s publicly expressed dissatisfaction with this arrangement 
became widely known. Dilir Khan, the Mughal governor of the 
Deccan, wrote secret letters to the young prince offering Mughal aid to 
win his patrimony if he agreed to an alliance. In December 1678, 
Shambhaji, in disgrace for the rape of a respectable Brahmin woman, 
escaped his father’s surveillance and fled. Accompanied by his pre- 
sumably forgiving wife Yesu Bai he rode to the camp of Dilir Khan on 
the border of Bijapur. When notified, the delighted Aurangzeb made 
the young fugitive prince a Mughal noble with the title of Raja and 
seven thousand zat — an extremely high rank. 

For nearly a year Shambhaji served with Dilir Khan in a series of 
campaigns against the combined forces of Bijapur and Shivaji. The 
gradual dissolution of central political authority in the Sultanate 
encouraged intervention by both the Mughals and Shivaji. Shambhaji, 
however, became increasingly disillusioned and unhappy with his 
Mughal associates. In November, 1679, Shambhaji and Yesu Bai, 
responding to frequent overtures, returned to the Bhonsla court. 

During this interval Shivaji issued a long public letter to the Emperor 
Aurangzeb which eloquently rebuked him for reversing the wise 
policy of Akbar and Jahangir by imposing the jiziya on Hindus. Shivaji 
chided Aurangzeb for adding the hardship of this tax to his already 
over-burdened subjects. And, he pointed out that in the Koran God is 
styled Lord of all men, not simply of Muslims and that both Muslim 
and Hindu worshipped God in their own way.” 

Shivaji returned from a great plundering raid into Mughal territories 
in Khandesh and Aurangabad to meet his repentant son. In late March, 
1680, the Bhonsla ruler, whose health had been declining for some 
time, developed fever and dysentery which ended a few days later in his 
death at age fifty-three. 

7 Sarkar, Shivaji, pp. 320-323. 



Three days after Shivaji’s death, his eldest wife Sorya Bai proclaimed 
her son, Rajaram, king at Raigarh fort. Shambhaji rejected this and 
openly assumed regal powers. Quickly gaining overwhelming support 
among the Maratha officers, he occupied the capital at Raigarh without 
resistance. The deposed Rajaram was unharmed, but his mother and 
about two hundred of her followers were executed. Shambhaji carried 
out a full-blown coronation in February of 1681 to fully legitimize his 
role as Shivaji’s successor. The Bhonsla dynasty had survived its first 
test: one of Shivaji’s sons became undisputed ruler of the Maratha 


Shivaji’s legacy included a compact unitary state. Within the western 
Ghats and the littoral districts of the Konkan, Shivaji constructed an 
effective civil administration supported by a firmly controlled network 
of scores of massive hill-fortresses and strongly sited island coastal 
strongholds. His insistence on strict discipline and accountability, on 
cash payments rather than fiefs, and efficient, uncluttered organization 
greatly impressed contemporary observers. He also made surprisingly 
effective use of access to the sea for trading and plundering from his 
coastal ports. Shivaji’s unexcelled strategic and diplomatic skills — 
based firmly upon timely access to information — were also widely 
admired and feared. In this respect he was a worthy match for 
Aurangzeb, his greatest enemy. 

Shivaji’s successes shaped a new mode of aggressive political and 
military action against the Indo-Muslim powers. Reassertion of 
imperial Mughal power against the Deccan Sultanates in the 1650s 
created circumstances favorable to Shivaji’s rise in the western Deccan. 
His insurgent state gained resources and confidence as it challenged 
imperial might. By the early 1660s the Maratha had adopted a new style 
of wide-ranging predatory raiding into Mughal and Bijapur lands. By 
the 1670s Maratha forces in Baglana seriously constricted, if they did 
not cut off altogether, the important overland caravan routes running 
from Surat to Burhanpur in Khandesh. The raids produced a steady 
flow of plunder or, in later years, extorted payments in return for 
immunity. The latter was often expressed as chauth, the 25 percent of 
the revenue traditionally left to zamindars by Indo-Muslim states in 
Gujarat and Khandesh. It was the annual profits from raiding beyond 



his borders that sustained the home territories. Shivaji could pay and 
pay well because he tapped the productive resources of a much larger, 
and more productive catchment area surrounding the western Ghats. 

The unitary state died quickly. But the tradition of aggressive 
Maratha predation against the empire continued unabated. Once 
released, the organizational and martial energies of the hill Marathas 
surged outward into the wider world of the Mughal Deccan. No longer 
merely zamindars engaged in petty local skirmishes or hired captains 
employed by Muslim Sultans, Maratha commanders raided and con- 
quered in the name of the Bhonsla dynasty. Timurid officers in the 
Deccan encountered a new, unsettling type of resistance — a resistance 
that could not be swept aside by the usual repertoire of Mughal 
diplomatic and military tactics. Mughal administrators found them- 
selves ruling lands devastated and disrupted by incessant Maratha 
raiding and plundering. Maratha deshmukhs could look to a power- 
fully appealing alternative to submission to the empire. 


In the desert outside Ajmer, Prince Muhammad Akbar came very close 
to dethroning Aurangzeb in one quick stroke. In exile at the Bhonsla 
court, he posed a less immediate, but no less serious, threat to 
Aurangzeb. Akbar’s familial charisma as a Timurid prince gave him a 
potent political appeal. Akbar could become the catalyst for an alliance 
between Shambhaji, Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, the ruler of Golconda, 
and even Sikandar Adil Shah, the young king of Bijapur. Since the 
wealthiest and most powerful Muslim kingdom, Golconda, was now 
under the effective domination of two Telugu Brahmins and the 
aggressive Maratha kingdom was an avowedly resurgent state, restored 
Hindu domination of the Deccan was not such a far-fetched possi- 
bility. Especially worrisome was the continuing factionalism and 
weakness of Sultan Sikandar Adil Shah’s regime in Bijapur. If Akbar 
were to ride north at the head of combined Maratha/Sultanate armies 
would the rebellious Rajputs of Marwar and Mewar hesitate to join 
them? And, if the balance of power began to shift how long would it be 
before other Mughal nobles transferred their allegiance to a younger, 
more vigorous sovereign? 

Akbar also posed a larger challenge to those policies most deeply 
cherished by his father. Partly by circumstance and partly by personal 



inclination Akbar became a rallying point for those unhappy with 
Aurangzeb’s treatment of non-Muslims and especially with his reim- 
position of the jiziya. Many nobles were dismayed by the rising power 
of the Muslim ulema and the constricting of the open political culture 
of Akbar and Jahangir. These views converged with a growing 
uneasiness over Aurangzeb’s unrelenting aggressive posture in the 
Deccan. Accommodation with Bijapur and Golconda and the new 
Maratha state seemed the better course to many of Aurangzeb’s nobles. 
Just as Dara Shukoh was symbol and spokesman for similar policies a 
generation earlier, so Akbar became a focal point for opposition in the 
1680s. The costs of Aurangzeb’s policies were starting to become 
apparent to those within the inner circles of the empire and to external 
observers as well. To Aurangzeb, therefore, the danger posed by 
Akbar’s presence in the Deccan was grave and required immediate 

Hard on the news that Akbar had proclaimed himself emperor, in 
late January, 1681, Shambhaji led 20,000 Maratha horsemen deep into 
Khandesh. At Bahadurpur, a prosperous trading suburb of Burhanpur, 
the raiders seized the Mughal jiziya collector and leisurely plundered 
the town for three days. Due to the large numbers of bankers and 
traders who lived in the town, Bahadurpur had “a large quantity of 
precious metals and every kind of merchandise belonging to the seven 
climes, huge quantities of other goods from every sea port, valued at 
lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of rupees ... stored in its shops.”8 
Shambhaji, in contrast to his father’s practice, condoned casual rape 
and violence by his troops. The reduced Mughal garrison of Burhanpur 
remained penned up in the citadel as the raiders burnt, looted, raped 
and tortured. The Marathas “plundered lakhs of rupees in cash from 
the bankers and merchants of every Purah [quarter], and set fire to 
them. Some men of noble birth killed their women and received 
martyrdom as they fell in fighting ... ””? 

As Shambhaji’s army withdrew toward Baglana, Khan Jahan 
Bahadur, the governor of the Deccan provinces, missed intercepting 
the Marathas by just a few kilometers. Popular rumor had it that Khan 
Jahan Bahadur had been bribed by emissaries from Shambhaji to avoid 
contact with the Marathas. Public outrage was great. Plundering on 

8 §, Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan’s History of Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 
5 ep P- 277. 



this scale would jeopardize the long-distance overland trade and 
exchange for which Burhanpur was such a critical node. But the protest 
to the Mughal emperor took a narrower, more sectarian view:!° 

The learned and pious persons [i.e. the ulema] and the nobles of Burhanpur, 
sent a petition to the Court describing the domination of the infidels, the 
destruction of the property and honor of the Muslims and the discontinuance 
of the Jum'ab prayers in future. 

For the dominant notables of Burhanpur, Shambhaji’s raid was not 
simply an outrage against public order, but it was a blow directed 
against the Muslim community by an infidel. If the Mughal empire 
could not safeguard Muslim lives and property, the Friday congre- 
gational prayers could not include Aurangzeb’s titles as ruler. 

Stung by this appeal and dismayed by his son’s rebellion Aurangzeb 
marched south as soon as he concluded a peace with Mewar. From 
north India Aurangzeb brought the entire central army directly under 
his command; those of the three remaining princes, and the con- 
tingents of his best generals. Accompanying the army was the imperial 
harem and household and the central administration with its atten- 
dants, clerks, and officers. Tens of thousands of artillerymen, 
musketeers, and pioneers; artists and craftsmen; clerks and scribes; 
physicians, artists, and musicians, and a staggering array of servants 
and menials marched in their allotted places and sheltered within or 
beside the great encampment every night. A well-organized bazaar 
with its traders and their dependents trailed the official establishment. 

For the first time since his reign began the emperor committed his 
full resources to stabilize the southern frontier of the empire. This 
momentous decision shifted the center of imperial power from Shahja- 
hanabad south to the tented, movable, capital in the Deccan. 

Despite the high drama of Akbar’s flight and Aurangzeb’s pursuit a 
curious stalemate marked the next several years. Shambhaji had 
prevaricated and avoided a joint military thrust north to restore Akbar 
to the throne. Akbar became increasingly frustrated as Shambhaji 
ignored his pleas for joint action. Caution, indecision, or fear preven- 
ted Shambhaji from a bold assault on one of the Mughal armies in the 
Deccan. Akbar argued that victory in such an encounter would clear 
the way for a victorious march to Delhi. Instead, Shambhaji diverted 
his attention to the coast where for four years he engaged in two 

19 Ibid., p. 279. 



furious little wars: first with the Siddis of Janjira (a small piratical 
maritime state tributary to the Mughals) and the English East India 
Company at Bombay, and second with the Portuguese at Goa. Each 
conflict ended in weary stalemate. Dispirited, Akbar made several 
attempts to charter or build a ship that would take him to refuge in 

Aurangzeb positioned strong defensive forces at a number of strate- 
gic points in the Mughal Deccan to fend off Maratha raids. For the 
next four years he sent two or more field armies into the Maratha 
kingdom every year. One after the other his commanders found that 
they could maneuver freely, plunder and burn villages and towns, and 
return. Mughal commanders found it too expensive to assault the 
dozens of hill and island fortresses of the kingdom. Shambhaji relied 
upon his father’s decentralized network of strongpoints to shelter 
much of his population and to resist all but the most determined 
imperial sieges. Nor were they able to draw Shambhaji to a main force 
battle that would decide victory or defeat. In short, the emperor could 
discourage Shambhaji from following Akbar to a northern filibuster 
by keeping up steady military pressure on his home territories. He 
could discourage large scale Maratha raiding in the Mughal Deccan by 
keeping sizable armies in the field. But total conquest of the Maratha 
kingdom demanded a much greater commitment of imperial resources 
and determination than Aurangzeb had previously thought necessary. 


Frustrated in his Maratha campaigns, Aurangzeb turned to a goal 
which had long eluded him: the final conquest of the two Deccan 
Sultanates. His first target was Bijapur. The youthful Sultan, Sikandar 
Adil Shah, continued to offer clandestine military aid to Shambhaji 
despite Mughal pressure. In the early months of 1685 a Mughal army 
of nearly 80,000 men, commanded by Prince Azam and Prince Shah 
Alam, laid siege to the massive city walls of Bijapur. For fifteen 
months Sikandar Adil Shah commanded the 30,000 man garrison in a 
stubborn defense against Mughal trenches and artillery. The Mughals 
held on despite dearth in the countryside and pestilence and near- 
starvation in the imperial lines. Aurangzeb countered threatened 
reinforcements from Golconda by sending Prince Shah Alam to 
invade that kingdom. Finally, in September, 1685, when Mughal 



trenches reached the fort walls, Sikandar Adil Shah surrendered his 
much-depleted garrison. 

Aurangzeb annexed Bijapur as a province within the Mughal empire. 
The deposed Sultan was kept under confinement in the imperial 
encampment. Most of the leading Afghan and Indian Muslim nobles of 
Bijapur who had survived were assimilated into the Mughal nobility. 
The emperor appointed a governor, a provincial fiscal officer, faujdars, 
and fortress commanders so that a standard Mughal provincial admin- 
istration could be created in the new province. 

Golconda was next. In 1685, during the siege of Bijapur, Aurangzeb 
had sent a large army under Prince Shah Alam to invade Golconda. The 
invaders fought their way past numerous Qutb Shah cavalry to the 
vicinity of Hyderabad. Qutb Shah resistance collapsed when Mir 
Muhammad Ibrahim, a Persian noble commanding the defenders, 
defected to the Mughals. Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, the royal household, 
military, and thousands of panic-stricken residents of Hyderabad fled 
to the great fortress of Golconda several kilometers outside the city. 
Before the Mughals entered Hyderabad the urban mob looted and 
raped indiscriminately as all order in the city broke down. 

Negotiations began immediately between Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, 
penned up in Golconda fort, and Prince Shah Alam, commanding the 
occupying army in Hyderabad and Aurangzeb, near Bijapur. The 
helpless Sultan agreed to dismiss his two Brahmin ministers, to pay a 
huge war indemnity, and to cede some border territory to the Mughals. 
Before Abul Hasan could remove Madanna and Akkanna from office, 
however, a Muslim court faction arranged the murder of the two 
Brahmins by a party of armed palace slaves. Rustam Rao, their nephew 
and a high-ranking military commander, and numerous other Telugu 
Brahmins and their servants were also slain. The conspirators sent the 
severed heads of the hated Brahmins directly to Aurangzeb. Thus 
satisfied, the Mughal army withdrew to Bijapur. 

After the fall of Bijapur, Aurangzeb spent a week in devotion at the 
Gulbarga tomb of Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Gesu Daraz, one of the 
most revered Sufi saints in the Deccan. In mid-January, 1687, Aurang- 
zeb led his grand army directly toward Hyderabad. Abul Hasan and 
his court and army once again retreated to Golconda fort. The Mughals 
completely invested the four mile length of the outer wall of the 
massive stronghold. Aurangzeb pressed the siege stubbornly against a 
well-supplied, well-armed, garrison. Two mines driven under the walls 



exploded prematurely and killed several thousand imperial troops. 
Aurangzeb issued a proclamation annexing the entire kingdom of 
Golconda, which was largely under Mughal control. 

The end came by betrayal. An opened gateway permitted a surprise 
assault on September 21, 1687. Taken captive, Abul Hasan joined his 
colleague Sikandar Adil Shah in the imperial encampment. The fabled 
treasury of the Qutb Shahs, now depleted, yielded gold and silver coins 
valued at over sixty million rupees along with vast quantities of 
jewelry, gold and silver utensils, and other valuables.'! 

Aurangzeb repeatedly stated that he could not forgive the willing- 
ness of both Sultans to ally themselves with the perfidious infidels. In 
response to the plea of a deputation of Muslim ulema from Bijapur 
who asked him how he could justify making war on fellow Muslims, 
Aurangzeb replied that the Sultan had sheltered and assisted Shambhaji 
who harassed Muslims everywhere. The same stern judgment applied 
to Abul Hasan who had committed the additional crime of handing 
over control of his state to his two Brahmin ministers. During the 
Golconda siege Aurangzeb appointed a muhtasib in Hyderabad with 
orders to demolish Hindu temples, build mosques, and put down all 
forbidden deviations from proper Islamic practice. 

Aurangzeb’s zealousness even began to arouse resistance among his 
strongest supporters. The chief sadr, Qazi Abdullah, begged the 
emperor to accept Abul Hasan’s capitulation after the sack of Hyder- 
abad and allow him to renew Golconda’s tributary status. Other senior 
ulema protested the continued assaults on fellow Muslims. 

As in most policy issues, resistance centered on Prince Shah Alam 
who was widely known to favor a conciliatory attitude toward both 
Deccan Sultans. At Bijapur Shah Alam negotiated secretly with 
Sikandar Adil Shah to arrange a surrender in return for concessions. 
Aurangzeb, discovering this, sharply rebuked his son and pressed 
ahead with the siege. When at the Golconda siege, Shah Alam opened 
similar negotiations with Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, Aurangzeb swiftly 
arrested Shah Alam and confined him, his wife and four sons in the 
imperial encampment. This proved to be a captivity lasting seven years. 
Any possibility of an informed discussion of Deccan policy among the 
imperial elite vanished. If even theologians and princes were stifled, 
then ordinary nobles could hope for little. 

‘1 Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan, p. 366. 



With the fall of the two Deccan Sultanates, Aurangzeb then turned 
his attention to the Marathas. His son Akbar was no longer a threat. 
Unsupported by Shambhaji, the rebel prince and a few dozen fol- 
lowers chartered a ship for Persia where they obtained refuge at the 
Safavid court. During this period Shambhaji was preoccupied with 
internal politics and not with external raiding. His harsh ruling style, 
offensive womanizing, and erratic administration had aroused the 
Maratha deshmukhs to great hostility. By popular report he spent 
considerable time in drinking and debauching instead of on state 

Right after the fall of Golconda fort Aurangzeb sent one of his amirs 
on a special mission. Mugarrab Khan, a Golconda nobleman of 
recognized ability, had deserted to the Mughals in return for appoint- 
ment as a Mughal noble. Muqarrab Khan was to lead his 25,000 cavalry 
to the Maratha kingdom. Ostensibly he was to besiege Panhala fort, 
but his real task was to hunt down Shambhaji. Late in 1688, Mughal 
spies discovered that Shambhaji was relaxing in the gardens and 
mansions of his pleasure palace at Sangameshwar, in the hills thirty- 
five kilometers northeast of Ratnagiri. Mugarrab Khan immediately 
made a forced march across the western Ghats and captured both 
Shambhaji and his Brahmin chief minister alive. 

The two captives were brought to the imperial encampment beside 
the Bhima river. Shambhaji, although a monarch, was not treated with 
the dignity permitted the Bijapur and Golconda rulers. Dressed as 
buffoons he and his minister were presented to Aurangzeb who knelt 
in thanksgiving prayer. During interrogation by Mughal officers, 
Shambhaji sealed his fate by insulting both the emperor and the 
Prophet Muhammad. A panel of ulema sentenced him to death for 
having slain and captured good Muslims. After a fortnight of torture, 
Shambhaji and his companion were hacked to death and the pieces 
thrown to the dogs. 

In 1689 Aurangzeb had surmounted the crisis created by Akbar’s 
rebellion seven years earlier. His son was a refugee at the Safavid court. 
Bijapur, Golconda, and the Maratha state were safely conquered and 
annexed. Everywhere Mughal power was triumphant. The new acqui- 
sitions added 221,107 square miles to the empire — an increase of over 
one-quarter. Four new provinces were added: Bijapur and the Bijapur 
Karnatak, and Hyderabad and the Hyderabad Karnatak. The Maratha 



lands were divided between Aurangzeb province in the north and 
Bijapur in the south. The Mughal frontier in the south was now 
coterminous with the farthest extent of Indian Muslim domination on 
the subcontinent. 




Aurangzeb’s triple victory — Bijapur, Golconda, and the Maratha 
kingdom - should have been the prelude to a new era of peace, 
prosperity, and political stability in the Deccan and southern India. 
With the exception of the Tamil regions of the Golconda and Bijapur 
Karnatak, but recently conquered in the 1640s, the western Deccan of 
the Marathas and the eastern Deccan of the Telugus had long been 
accustomed to Indo-Muslim rule. After a brief period of overseeing 
initial arrangements, the emperor would lead his grand encampment 
and central army triumphantly north back to Shahjahanabad. As they 
had dozens of times in the past cadres of imperial administrators could 
assume those powers exercised by their defeated counterparts in each 
of the three kingdoms. Surplus revenues from the new provinces 
would flow northward to enrich treasuries in Delhi and Agra. Instead, 
the reverse occurred. Aurangzeb remained in the Deccan, year, after 
year, fighting an endless war and hoping to reverse a descending spiral 
of public order and imperial power in that region. 

The insurgent Maratha state did not die with Shambhaji. His 
younger brother Rajaram, hastily crowned, fled to the extreme south 
to take refuge in Jinji fortress. Maratha officers left in the north 
directed an intensifying campaign of predatory raiding against the 
Mughals. Imperial officials faced enormous difficulties in defending 
their districts and in collecting revenues. 

Grimly determined to stamp out this rebellion, Aurangzeb made the 
great imperial encampment his capital. For six years the emperor’s 
camp occupied several sites between Puna and the city of Bijapur. In 
1695, he selected a permanent location at Brahmapuri, renamed 
Islampuri, on the southeast bank of the Bhima river. At this site 
Aurangzeb lived uninterruptedly under tents for nearly five years. In 
1699 the emperor ordered Islampuri to be completely walled round 
with earthen defenses. He placed Asad Khan, his chief minister (wazir) 
in charge of the court, the emperor’s household and those of his nobles. 
Departing the encampment, Aurangzeb led his weary army in 
a strenuous six-year-long campaign against the hill-fortresses of 



5 South India, 1707 
Source: I. Habib, An atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982), 16A 



Maharashtra. Finally, gravely ill and worn out, he retreated to the city 
of Ahmadnagar for a year before he died in early 1707. 


Mughal annexation and administration of Golconda proceeded 
smoothly in the years immediately after the conquest. For the majority 
of Golconda’s population, absorption by the Mughals did not mean 
radical changes in their lives and fortunes. After the fall of Golconda 
fort and capture of the king, little further resistance occurred. At a 
festive grand audience held in Golconda fortress, the emperor gave 
robes of honor, promotions, and other rewards to his two sons, Prince 
Azam and Bidar Bakht, and the amirs who had participated in the 
siege. Soon thereafter imperial officials began inventorying and 
packing the enormous treasure of the Qutb Shahs for shipment north 
to the imperial vaults in Delhi. 

Abul Hasan was not killed, but languished as a state captive. His 
three daughters were placed in honorable marriages with Mughal 
nobles. His adoptive son, Abdullah, and other male relatives and at 
least twenty-four Muslim nobles (largely of Turco-Persian descent) 
became Mughal nobles.' Other mid-level Muslim functionaries, artists 
and craftsmen, and military officers were offered and accepted similar 
posts in the imperial administration as lower-ranking mansabdars. 

The Hindu officials of Golconda fared less well. Several Brahmin 
governors still in office did not reemerge as Mughal grandees, but 
disappeared into obscurity. Those Telugu nayaks recruited by the 
Qutb Shahs from the Kamma, Valama, Kapu, and Razu warrior- 
peasant castes, who served as military commanders, found themselves 
redundant after 1687. Only one officer, Yacham Na’ir, who served in 
the Karnatak with Mughal field armies at Kinji, became a Mughal amir 
before he was beheaded for treason by his new employer.? 

Golconda had been annexed and retitled Dar-al Jihad, Hyderabad. 
The lands to the south were detached to form a separate province 
known as the Hyderabad Karnatak. In 1688 Aurangzeb transferred a 
cadre of experienced Mughal officers into the new provinces. The 

' This discussion of post-conquest Golconda is drawn from J.F. Richards, Mughal 
Administration in Golconda (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 52-214. 

2 See J. F. Richards, “The Hyderabad Karnatak, 1687-1707” in Modern Asian Studies, 1x 
(1975), 241-260. 



Mughal governor, Jan Sipar Khan, and his son Rustam Dil Khan, were 
Irani amirs, of long familial service. Nine mansabdars and their 
contingents were stationed as faujdars or military intendants across 
Hyderabad. Twelve mansabdars assumed independent command of 
the greatest fortresses in the former kingdom. A similar clutch of 
officers took charge of the newly constituted Hyderabad Karnatak. 

Before conquest the ongoing alliance between the Bhonsla rulers and 
Golconda had ensured that the eastern Deccan was free from Maratha 
raids. This immunity ended with Mughal annexation. Between 1688 
and 1692, the Marathas made several sweeping long-distance plunder- 
ing raids into Hyderabad. Maratha raiding bands generally outnum- 
bered the provincial detachments of Jan Sipar Khan. The latter did little 
to confront or drive off these invaders. The Marathas held up traders 
on the roads and freely entered the smaller market towns to plunder, 
but did not engage in a full-scale assault or siege on either Hyderabad 
or Machhilipatnam, the major coastal port. After 1692, the Mughal 
siege of Jinji to the far south diverted Maratha attention from 

Despite the weak Mughal response, few, if any, of the local Telugu 
warrior aristocrats either joined or supported the Marathas. The 
nayaks did not share in the insurgent tradition of the Maratha Bhonslas 
of the western Deccan. 

In spite of occasional Maratha incursions, the new regime wasted 
little time in adapting the Golconda revenue system to Mughal 
practice. A technically competent mansabdar, Muhammad Shafi, 
became the first Mughal diwan or provincial fiscal officer of Hyder- 
abad. The new diwan negotiated written agreements with the Telugu 
warrior chiefs who had served the Golconda state as pargana headmen 
and Brahmins who served as local accountants throughout the new 
province. Almost immediately taxes began to flow into the provincial 

A systematic review revealed the pre-conquest revenues for Hyder- 
abad proper to be 13.7 million rupees per year and that for the 
Karnatak 8.3 millions. A full-scale regulation survey and reassessment 
zabt of the new lands was not done. Instead, the Mughals left the old 
Qutb Shah totals intact since these alone added 12 percent to the 
overall revenues of the empire. The only new burden imposed was the 
capitation tax on non-Muslims, jiziya which returned about a million 
rupees per year. Additional revenues — and occasionally a spectacular 



diamond - came from the famed Golconda diamond mines in the 
Karnatak whose operation was now an imperial, rather than a Qutb 
Shah, monopoly. 

The regime imposed the imperial monetary system on Golconda. 
The diwan established a central mint at Hyderabad and subordinate 
mints in the major trading centers to strike copper, silver, and gold 
currency. The eastern Deccan began to shift toward a silver standard in 
place of the older Deccani gold standard based upon the gold hun or 


To the west, in Bijapur, the central state had been wracked by factional 
struggles and a weak monarchy for nearly two decades. The entire 
political structure of the western Deccan was in disarray and required 
systematic reconstruction by the Mughals. This Aurangzeb attempted 
to do. Just as he did with Golconda the emperor sent reliable nobles 
and mansabdars to serve as provincial governor, faujdars, and fortress 
commanders and their troops. A diwan and his staff restored Bijapur’s 
revenue system. Jagirs were assigned to support them. Unfortunately, 
establishing political ties between the new regime and Bijapur’s 
zamindars in the countryside was far from easy. The Maratha desh- 
mukhs of Bijapur faced a more treacherous political context than that 
presented to their Telugu counterparts in the east. Bhonsla power and 
authority still challenged that of the Timurids. 

Immediately after receiving the news of Shambhaji’s capture the 
senior commanders at Raigarh fort, the Maratha capital, turned to 
Shambhaji’s younger brother Rajaram instead of his young son. In 
February, 1689, they conducted a hasty coronation ceremony for 
Rajaram, the third Bhonsla ruler. When, within days a Mughal army 
arrived and besieged the capital, Rajaram secretly fled. The Mughals 
did capture Shambhaji’s principal queen, Yesu Bai and her nine-year- 
old son Shahuji, the putative heir to the Bhonsla throne. Three other 
royal wives and four other children were taken as well.? Aurangzeb 
decided to raise Shambhaji’s heir as a member of his own household 
within the red canvas screen marking his living quarters and harem 
(gulalbar). The emperor kept his young captive strictly confined, but 

3 Jadunath, Sarkar, History of Aurangzib (Calcutta, 5 vols., 1912-1924), V, 203-207. 



well-treated, and free of pressure to convert to Islam. Shahuji was to be 
raised as a Maratha princling who was also a khanazad. 

The Bhonsla monarchy had a competing claimant who was free of 
Mughal control. Shahuji’s uncle, Rajaram, fled disguised as a Hindu 
religious mendicant (yogi), accompanied only by a few of his closest 
officers. The small band made its way 800 kilometers on foot to Jinji, 
the enormous triple hill-fortress, on the southeastern coast. Here a 
Maratha governor still controlled part of the Bhonsla domains on the 
southern boundary of the Bijapur Karnatik. 

For the next eight years the southeastern coast became a principal 
arena for the Mughal-Maratha struggle.* At Jinji, Rajaram took full 
charge of the Maratha districts still under Bhonsla control and encour- 
aged a general uprising against Mughal authority in the Karnatak 
districts. Aurangzeb sent Zulfikar Khan, the son of his chief minister, 
south with a sizeable army in pursuit of Rajaram. 

The siege of Jinji lasted until the fortress finally fell to a Mughal 
assault in 1698. Throughout the siege the emperor kept a large army 
supplied with treasure, fresh troops, and military supplies. The supply 
line stretched from the imperial encampment near Bijapur, through 
Cuddapah as a base, to the Mughal siege camp outside Jinji. Rajaram 
obtained substantial assistance from his cousin, Shahji 11, the Raja of 
Tanjavur. More important were reinforcements from the Bhonsla 
kingdom. As Maratha raiding bands grew in size and confidence in the 
Deccan they periodically were recalled to attack the Mughals in the 

Prince Kam Bakhsh, the emperors’ youngest (and dearest) son, and 
the imperial wazir, Asad Khan, joined Zulfikar Khan with another 
large army as the siege ended its first year. Despite these reinforce- 
ments, the imperial army was still unable to completely cut off the 
stubbornly defended fort. At the end of the second year, two celebra- 
ted Maratha generals, Dhana Singh Jadev and Santa Ghorpare, com- 
manding an army of 30,000 horsemen, arrived from the Deccan. These 
troops, after capturing and holding for ransom the local Mughal 
faujdar, severed all supply and communication links for the besieging 
army. Plentiful foodstuffs carried cheaply in bulk by the active 
coasting trade had supplied the besiegers from the European ports at 
4 The following is largely based on Sarkar, History of Aurengi, v, 5-109; and G. T. 

Kulkarni, The Mughal-Maratha Relations: Twenty-Five Fateful Years (1682-1707) (Pune: 
Deccan College Post-Graduate Research Institute, Department of History, 1983). 



Madras and Negapatnam. This flow ended. All communication and 
funds from the emperor’s camp were also cut. 

At this point a familiar scenario played out. Persuaded by false 
rumors that Aurangzeb had died, Prince Kam Bakhsh secretly tried to 
arrange a peace settlement with Rajaram. He also plotted to take over 
supreme command of the Mughal army in preparation for the 
inevitable war of succession. The wazir and Zulfikar Khan, finding the 
Mughal position untenable, had already burst their cannon and begun 
to withdraw from the siege lines when they learned of the plot. They 
arrested Kam Bakhsh and made a fighting withdrawal fifty kilometers 
north to Wandiwash, a Mughal-held fortress. Finally a strong relief 
force with supplies and letters arrived from the north. 

In the second phase of the Jinji campaign, Asad Khan returned to the 
imperial court with Kam Bakhsh. At the court, Aurangzeb reluctantly 
received the errant prince at an informal audience in the harem. He did 
so at the plea of his daughter, Zinat-un-nissa, who was a partisan of 
Kam Bakhsh. The emperor uncharacteristically forgave his youngest 
son his transgressions at the siege and did not confine him to the camp. 

For the next four years, Zulfikar Khan used Wandiwash as a base to 
engage in a forcible restoration of Mughal authority in the area around 
Jinji. A campaign against Tanjuvar forced Shahji 11 to pay tribute and to 
agree temporarily, at least, to stop supplying aid to Rajaram. Aurang- 
zeb sent men and treasure to support Zulfikar Khan, but long periods 
frequently intervened between shipments. Often short of funds, 
Zulfikar Khan foraged and exacted taxes and tribute in practices little 
different from the Maratha armies. The unfortunate inhabitants of the 
southeastern coastal districts found themselves in a continuing war 
zone. Many refugees took shelter in the fortified European city-states 
of the coast. 

Zulfikar Khan’s next foray against Jinji in 1694-95 was so half- 
hearted that popular opinion had it that the Mughal general was in 
collusion with Rajaram. It was rumored that Zulfikar Khan, anticipat- 
ing Aurangzeb’s death from old age, planned to carve out an indepen- 
dent kingdom for himself on the southern coast during the war of 

Aurangzeb rejected overtures from Rajaram for a negotiated settle- 
ment and, in 1697, finally ordered Zulfikar Khan to an all-out assault 
on Rajaram. Forced into action, the Mughal army scaled a wall and 
took the lower citadels and fought their way through to the highest 



citadel in the fortress. Apparently warned by Zulfikar Khan, according 
to rumor at least, Rajaram hastily fled Jinji just before the final 
assault. When the much-reduced garrison of the citadel capitulated in 
February, 1698, the Mughals captured unharmed four of Rajaram’s 
queens, three sons, and two daughters who were sent to Aurangzeb’s 
grand encampment to join Shahuji. 

WAR IN THE DECCAN 1689-1698 

In the Maratha homeland Raigarh and most of the Maratha forts were 
quickly taken and manned by Mughal garrisons.> From Jinji, Rajaram 
sent a stream of letters, robes of honor and golden bangles to his 
remaining fortress commanders, other officers and to deshmukhs 
throughout the Maratha Kingdom. He urged them to reject Mughal 
authority and to ravage and plunder imperial territory. 

Maratha resistance to the Mughals in the western Deccan took on a 
decentralized character which proved to be extraordinarily effective. 
Santa Ghorpare, Shana Singh Jadev, and several other of the most able, 
battle-tested Maratha commanders rapidly built up armies that often 
swelled to 30,000 men. Their troops were minimally armored Maratha 
light horsemen with lances, swords, and occasionally muskets. Nearly 
equal in numbers were large contingents of “Karnataki” musketeers 
renowned for their marksmanship. Except for the rainy season, each 
Maratha band campaigned continuously in raids or battles with the 

Deprived of Bhonsla funding, these commanders plundered or 
exacted a form of protection levy called chauth from each locality. 
Chauth or one-quarter was the customary share the zamindar retained 
from the land revenue in Gujarat and the western Deccan. The Maratha 
captains demanded chauth from village or pargana headmen, or from 
the town notables as an option to being raided. Regular payment of this 
levy, computed on the established Mughal assessment (jama) provided 
steady support for the irregular Maratha raiding forces. Such an 
arrangement became, in effect, a rudimentary revenue system albeit 
shared with Mughal authorities. 

Individual Maratha horsemen were no match for determined 
Mughal cavalrymen whose chain-link armor, lances, muskets, and 

5 Description based on Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, 20-49, 110-137; and Kalkarni, 
Mughal-Maratha Relations, pp. 135-166. 



heavy battle horses made them formidable fighting units. In larger 
battles, Mughal heavy cavalry supported by effective field artillery was 
superior to the Maratha horsemen. But in mobility, leadership, sup- 
plies, and certainly in morale, Maratha irregulars were the equal of 
imperial troops. Able commanders like Santa Ghorpare out- 
maneuvered and captured several high-ranking Mughal noblemen with 
many of their troops. The luckless amirs paid high ransoms from their 
own resources for their eventual freedom.® 

Throughout the Jinji siege, Maratha commanders alternated 
between expeditions to the south to assist Rajaram and spells of 
campaigning in the western Deccan. An extraordinarily effective 
Mughal faujdar, Matabar Khan, succeeded in taking the Maratha hill 
forts in the Konkan, the fertile coastal strip, in 1689-90.” Thereafter, 
Matabar Khan successfully beat off Maratha raiders until his death in 
1704. But in the interior districts of the Maratha homeland, in Bijapur, 
and in Khandesh, the Mughal imperial troops did not succeed in 
stopping the raiders. Maratha mobility, decentralized authority, and a 
steadily growing system of parallel or shadow government prevented 
Aurangzeb from devising an effective strategy to contain the 


After his escape from Jinji, Rajaram returned unscathed to the Maratha 
homeland and set up his court and residence in Satara, a strong hill fort. 
Within the imperial encampment at Islampuri, Aurangzeb received his 
news with dismay and made a momentous decision:® 

As the reports of the enemy’s daring raids and ravages in the Imperial 
territories and his increasing strength were being received successively, the 
Emperor resolved to start jihad against them and to capture the forts which 
were places of their refuge and thus to uproot entirely those accursed people. 

At the age of eighty-one Aurangzeb declared a holy war against the 

Marathas. He took personal command of the grand army in a con- 

tinuing assault on the hill fortresses of Maharashtra. The princes, all 

6 §, Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan’s History of Alamgir (Karachi: Pakistan Historical Society, 
1975)> P. 414. 

? Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, 138-158. 

& Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan, p. 453. Khafi Khan, Muntakbab al-Lubub (Calcutta: Asiatic 
Society of Bengal, Bibliotheca Indica, 1874), Part 1, 459. Khafi Khan uses the term jibad in 
the text. 



senior officers and nobles were ordered to leave their families and 
households at Islampuri, now walled round, and set out on campaign.? 
His first target was the fort of Vasantgarh to be followed by Satara. 

Rajaram left Satara to lead a large Maratha field army on a devastat- 
ing campaign into Khandesh and Berar. In the latter province he 
planned to join forces with the Gond raja of Deogarh, now in rebellion 
against the Mughals. Mughal spies gave Aurangzeb information soon 
enough for him to send Prince Bidar Bakht with a large army to 
intercept Rajaram. Near Ahmadnagar a bloody battle resulted in a 
decisive defeat for the Marathas. Rajaram survived to lead his 
remaining troops in a running flight to safety to Singugarh fort. A few 
months later, the third Bhonsla ruler became seriously ill and died 
March 2, 1700. 

Since December, 1699, Aurangzeb was deeply engaged in the 
investment and siege of Satara fortress, the Maratha capital. Ignoring 
all difficulties Aurangzeb pressed forward with an attempted mining of 
the fortress. Finally, in mid-April when the mines blew a breach in the 
walls, the assault failed. The first mine explosion burst outward killing 
2,000 Mughal troops waiting to attack. After news arrived of Rajaram’s 
death, Subhanji, the Maratha fort commander, surrendered on terms. 
Subhanji and his officers and relatives were taken into Mughal service. 

With scarcely a pause, the emperor led his army directly to the attack 
against the nearby Parligarh fortress. Six weeks into the siege, the 
Maratha fort commander surrendered the fort in return for his life and 
a large monetary payment. Aurangzeb placed a garrison in the fort and 
then led the Mughal grand army into a well-deserved rest for the rainy 

Shortly after Rajaram’s death, his senior widow, Tara Bai, success- 
fully maneuvered to place her four-year-old son, Shambhaji 11, on the 
throne. Tara Bai was to act as regent. In this capacity she made a peace 
overture to Aurangzeb who was encamped before Satara fortress.!° 
The Maratha queen proposed formal submission to Mughal authority. 
She offered to cede Satara, Panhala, and five other of the most imposing 
hill fortresses, and to send 5,000 Maratha horsemen to serve the 
governor of the Deccan. In return her son would be recognized as the 
Maratha ruler, given the rank of 7,000 zat as a Mughal amir, and 

9 Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, 159-235 and Kulkarni, Mughal-Maratha Relations, 
Pp. 169-259. 
19 Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, 136. 



exempted from personal service at the imperial court as his great- 
grandfather Shivaji had been. Tarabai also stipulated that Shambhaji 
m should be made the sardeshmukh or head deshmukh of the 
Mughal Deccan provinces. In effect, this was a new position which 
would have given the Maratha ruler 10 percent of the imperial 
revenues in return for his assistance in revenue collection and 
maintenance of order. The proposal would have Shahji become 
simultaneously a Mughal nobleman and the dominant zamindar of the 
entire Deccan. If consummated, this proposal would have reinserted 
the Bhonsla monarchy within the structure of Timurid authority at 
two levels. Aurangzeb, distrustful as ever, rejected Tara Bai’s proposal 
outright, and put all his attention into his campaign against the hill- 

Between 1700 and 1705 another eleven strongholds fell to the 
imperial armies — among them those offered up by Tara Bai. Aurang- 
zeb persotially led his weary army into the field after each rainy season 
and commanded most of the sieges himself. In most instances the 
emperor resorted to bribery to persuade the Maratha commanders to 
surrender on terms. Large Maratha armies hovered, harassed and 
sometimes defeated Mughal cavalry beyond the imperial lines. They 
were never sufficiently strong to defeat the Mughal grand army in a 
fixed battle or to drive off Aurangzeb’s besieging forces. Aurangzeb 
took heavy losses in men and animals every year from battle casualties 
and disease. He drafted levies of troops from provincial governors 
around the empire; called for drafts of horses from Kabul and Surat; 
and received regular shipments of treasure from the north. 

During this last phase, Aurangzeb maintained two highly mobile, 
aggressive, field armies. Each was headed by experienced noblemen 
who regularly pursued and defeated even the strongest Maratha forces. 
The first battle group was commanded by Zulfikar Khan Nusrat Jang, 
returned from his victory at Jinji in the south, along with Daud Khan 
Panni, a former Bijapur officer of Afghan descent, and two Rajputs, 
Dalpat Rao Bundela and Ram Singh Hara. In 1701-02 Zulfikar Khan’s 
troops fought nineteen major battles with the Marathas in a six-menth- 
long campaign of constant movement.'! After 1702 Zulfikar Khan was 
appointed bakhshi of the empire and worked more closely with his 
father Asad Khan, the imperial wazir. He and his commanders 

41V, G, Khobrekar, ed., English translation of Tarik-i Dilkasba (Bombay: Govt. of 
Maharashtra, 1972), p. 233. 



alternated between service at the sieges and forays to pursue the 
Maratha raiders. These troops frequently escorted treasure caravans 
from North India and goods caravans from Burhanpur to the imperial 

The Turani nobleman Ghazi-ud-din Khan Firuz Jang commanded the 
second battle group. Surrounding him was a familial cluster consisting 
of his sons Chin Qilich Khan, Hamid Khan and Rahim-ud-din Khan, 
and a cousin, Muhammad Amin Khan, with their followers. Firuz Jang 
served as governor of Berar and took an active role in the defense 
against Maratha incursions from that province. Each amir and subord- 
inate officer in these two groups took great pride in keeping his cavalry 
contingents at full strength. 

On at least two occasions the emperor half-heartedly experimented 
with negotiations that would make use of Shahuji Bhonsla, the 
Maratha prince who was still a captive in the imperial encampment. 
Now mature, the 21 year-old Shahuji had a claim to the Maratha 
throne fully as strong as that of Rajaram’s young son. 

In 1703, Aurangzeb first offered freedom to Shahuji Bhonsla in 
return for converting to Islam. When he refused, Aurangzeb tried to 
arrange a settlement with the leading Maratha generals. He recruited 
Raibhan Bhonsla, son of Vyankoji, Shivaji’s brother who had been 
Raja of Tanjavur, into Mughal service as a high-ranking amir. Raibhan 
was to act as an intermediary between Shahuji and the Maratha 
generals. Shahuji would be released to become ruler of the Marathas 
and given the right of collecting chauth or 25 percent of the Mughal 
revenues for the Deccan. The negotiations failed due to mistrust on 
both sides. The emperor feared Maratha trickery. The Marathas 
themselves had not all that much to gain by making a settlement. In 
1706, the year before he died, the emperor again tried to arrange a peace 
by offering again to release Shahuji. This also fell through. 


Aurangzeb’s final campaigns further weakened imperial authority 
elsewhere in the Deccan provinces. Declining personal and corporate 
security hurt productivity in trade and agriculture. These problems 
were heightened by the failure of monsoon rains throughout the 
Deccan in 1702-04. The entire region was hit by the scarcity and 



soaring prices of famine conditions. The usual outbreak of plague and 
other epidemic disease added to mortality figures. 

Rebuffed in her diplomatic initiative, Tara Bai immediately shaped 
an energetic military response. The Mughal historian Khafi Khan 
reported that:!? 

[Tara Bai] started an endeavour to ravage Imperial territories. She engaged 
herself in arranging and posting her forces in the six [provinces] of the Deccan 
up to the frontiers of ... Malwa, with the object of ravaging the territories and 
in winning the loyalty of her officers in a way that all the efforts and the 
conquests of the forts by ‘Alamgir failed to keep them in proper check; until 
the end of her regime the rebellions of Marhatas continued to gain strength 
every day. 

Under Tara Bai’s aggressive policies, Maratha attacks resumed in the 
east as well. In 1702, an enormous army estimated at 50,000 horse and 
foot attacked and looted Hyderabad city. The Mughal governor 
simply took refuge in his fortified mansion." In 1704, in the midst of 
general dearth and scarcity, the Marathas paused to plunder Hyder- 
abad city before ranging as far as Machhilipatnam on the coast. Some 
Telugu zamindars joined the invaders or plundered on their own. Most 
did neither, but waited for the intruders to leave. Other ruthless, 
ambitious men, who were not zamindars, took advantage of the 
dislocation caused by the raids to attract armed followers and plunder 
on their own.!* 

Long-distance caravan trade out of Hyderabad city to Gujarat or 
northern India was shut down completely between 1702 and 1704.15 
The main artery leading from Hyderabad to Machhilipatnam was 
blocked as well. Caught in a cycle of disorder and dearth, peasants and 
zamindars no longer paid Mughal revenues to the dismay of Mughal 

Imperial authority in the western Deccan faced a different and, 
ultimately, a graver threat. In the 1699 campaign just prior to his death, 
Rajaram and his leading commanders marched confidently into Khan- 
desh and Berar. Instead of raiding, they demanded regular payment of 
25 percent of the imperial revenues for chauth and an additional 10 

12 Moinual Haq, Khafi Khan, p. 508. © Richards, Mughal Administration, p."218. 

\ Richards, Mughal Administration, pp. 219-220; and J. F. Richards with Velchuru Nar- 
ayana Ras, “Banditry in Mughal India: Historical and Folk Perceptions,” The Indian 
Economic and Social History Review, 17 (1980), 95-120. 

45 Ibid,. pp. 225-229. 8 Ibid., p. 221. 



percent based upon the fiction that the Maratha ruler was the heredi- 
tary head deshmukh of all the Deccan provinces. This was no longer a 
simple plundering expedition:!7 

All who submitted to the payment of [Rajaram’s] demands were protected, 
and the Mughal garrisons that remained passive spectators were not molested, 
but such as made unsuccessful opposition were put to the sword. On this 
occasion the Mahrattas were more systematic in their exactions than they 
before had been; where they could not obtain ready money they took 
promissory notes from the Patells [village headmen] ... 

Tara Bai regularized these arrangements to create a dual or parallel 
administrative structure. For each province she appointed a Maratha 
commander as governor, who headed a field army of seven or eight 
thousand horsemen. The governor built a small fortress to use as his 
headquarters and deployed collectors to receive payments of chauth 
and sardeshmukhi in various parts of the province. If chauth were not 
paid because of opposition from imperial faujdars or from local 
zamindars still loyal to the Mughals, the governor “rushed to their help 
and surrounded and plundered that place.”!® The governor also 
deputed officers to guard the main routes. Any merchants who wished 
to travel safely had to pay a fixed sum per cart or laden pack bullock. 
The Maratha road tax was set at an amount three to four times that 
which the Mughals levied on merchants. In some villages headmen 
who were Maratha sympathizers had constructed small forts. With the 
aid of Marathas they resisted the Mughals when they came to collect 
the revenues. 

Mughal governors and faujdars and many zamindars still remained 
stubbornly opposed to the Marathas. But a growing number of 
zamindars, town notables, and village headmen had openly sided with 
the raiders. In 1702, when a Mughal field army under Nusrat Jang 
appeared in Khandesh and Berar, the Maratha governors assembled 
60,000 horsemen with the aid of zamindari levies.!9 As this process of 
slow permeation occurred, the frontier line of Maratha raids moved 
north. The Marathas crossed the Narmada river, the traditional 
boundary between the Deccan and north India, in 1700. Soon they were 
mounting raids in force into Gujarat (Ahmadabad) and Malwa provinces. 
17 James Grant Duff, History of the Mabrattas, as quoted in John F. Richards, “Official 

Revenues and Money Flows in a Mughal Province,” in John F. Richards, ed. The Imperial 

Monetary System, of Mughal India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 222. 
8 Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan, p. 508. Khobrekar, Dilkasha, p. 228. 




Slowly, decade after decade, as the Timurid regime was embroiled in 
the Deccan wars, the English, Dutch, and French East Indian Com- 
panies developed the capacity to challenge the authority of the Mughal 
emperor and to negotiate with imperial authorities from a position of 
growing strength. To some extent European confidence grew out of 
improved information and experience in dealing with the Mughals as 
well as a carefully nurtured constituency of sympathetic Mughal 
officials. But much more was involved, The East India Companies 
were always conscious of their superiority at sea. Indian shipping of 
any sort was vulnerable to seizure by well-armed Dutch, English, or 
French merchant vessels. In extremities, the East India Companies 
could carry out a naval blockade of any of the Mughal ports. Or, they 
could seize Indian vessels at sea as reprisals for maltreatment on the 

Along the coasts, wherever gaps in strong indigenous state power 
occurred, the European trading companies built autonomous city- 
states similar to Portuguese Goa. As early as the 1620s the English 
factors at Surat had urged that Bombay island and its magnificent 
natural harbor, then virtually unused, be acquired from the Portuguese 
and used to build a secure base for their operations. Finally after 
prolonged negotiations the East India Company Court of Directors 
received the grant of Bombay as part of a marriage settlement between 
Charles 11 of England and Catharine of Aragon.?° For three decades 
successive governors of Bombay encouraged trade and settlement and 
built up the defenses of the island. 

In 1689-90 the autonomy of Bombay was severely tested. Due to a 
miscalculation by John Child, the governor of Bombay, the English 
East India Company became involved in a brief war with the Mughals. 
Child was a leading spokesman for a more aggressive English policy in 
India. Troubled by unauthorized English private traders operating in 
India, Child tried to put pressure upon the imperial authorities at Surat 
to stop their trading. East India Company vessels captured and held 
eighty Indian vessels sailing to Surat. Aurangzeb, angered by this, 
stopped all English trade and ordered his local officers to seize all 
English trading missions. At Hughli, in Bengal, the English factors fled 

29 M.D. David, History of Bombay, 1661-1708 (Bombay: University of Bombay, 1973), 
p. 26. 



down the river to a site which became the town of Calcutta. At 
Bombay, the Mughals ordered the Abyssinian sea lord, the Siddi, who 
was tributary to the Mughal emperor, to attack Bombay. The Siddi’s 
troops succeeded in occupying most of the island, but did not capture 
the city and its citadel. In the end frantic negotiations and offers to pay 
reparations by the English ended the imbroglio. 

Over the next few decades Bombay’s defenses became more for- 
midable and its population and trade grew steadily. Strong traditions of 
internal order, religious toleration, modest customs and other taxes, 
and other inducements brought thousands of migrants to Bombay. By 
the early eighteenth century, Bombay had begun to challenge Surat’s 
role as the leading port of trade for western India.?! 

Along the southeastern coast of India, in the Hyderabad and Bijapur 
Karnataks, an area marked by fragmented and shifting political auth- 
ority, the three East India Companies founded and nurtured several 
enclaves. By the 1680s these city-states served as the headquarters to 
their respective companies for trading activity to the north in Gol- 
conda. The Dutch controlled the port of Pulicat and protected it with 
the guns of Fort Geldria. Forty kilometers to the south the English had 
built a busy port on the open roadstead at Madras protected by Fort St. 
George. Still further south the French occupied Pondicherry, another 
bustling trade center, protected by state-of-the art fortifications and a 
French garrison. 

At the Mughal conquest of Golconda, the French and Dutch factors 
came to terms with Aurangzeb and obtained permission to trade in 
Golconda’s former territories much as before. Madras was threatened 
with Mughal attack in 1689~90, but pressing needs for support in the 
campaign against the Marathas at Jinji diverted the attention of Mughal 
commanders. Madras supplied munitions, foodgrains, and even 
gunners to the Mughal army besieging the Maratha fortress.?? Pondi- 
cherry and Madras flourished as thousands of migrants fled to seek the 
security offered by these enclaves in the midst of devastating warfare in 
the region. By the turn of the century the former sheltered some 60,000 
inhabitants and the latter well over 100,000. 

By the 1690s the Mughal emperor began to pay considerably more 
21 Ashin Das Gupta, Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat c. 1700-1750 (Wiesbaden: 

Franz Steiner Verlag, 1979), pp. 7-8. 

2 J. F. Richards, “European City-States on the Coromandel Coast” in P. M. Joshi and 

M. A. Nayeem, eds., Studies in the Foreign Relations of India (Hyderabad: Government 
of Andhra Pradesh, State Archives, 1975), p. 511. 



attention to the East India Companies. The main issue was that of 
uncontrolled European piracy in the Indian Ocean for which the 
emperor tried to hold the East India Companies responsible. Tensions 
soared over the capture of the Ganj-i Sawai, the largest vessel in the 
Surat mercantile fleet. Every year, protected by its eighty guns, this 
great vessel transported high status pilgrims to Mecca and then 
travelled to Mokha to trade in Indian goods. In 1695 the ship was 
returning to Surat from Mokha with a full load of passengers and 
treasure worth 5.2 million rupees. Off the Indian coast Henry 
Bridgeman on the ship Fancy and another pirate ship attacked, 
dismasted, and boarded the Ganj-i Sawai against feeble resistance. For 
three days the pirates raped the women and plundered the ship. When 
the vessel finally reached Surat public outrage was very great. The Surat 
governor occupied the East India Company factory and jailed all the 
occupants. The atrocities committed against high-born Muslim 
women and against pilgrims returning from the Haj were deeply felt 
and blamed on the English.23 

At this point in time the emperor’s attention was drawn to the 
English minting of rupees at Bombay. These were coins adhering to 
Mughal standards for fineness and weight but bearing the insignia of 
the English monarch on them. When some of the survivors of the 
pirate attack and some of the offending rupees were exhibited in open 
court, Aurangzeb authorized an attack on Bombay by the Mughal 
tributary, the coastal chieftain, Siddi Yaqut Khan and his fleet. This 
attack faltered against the fortifications of Bombay. 

Piracy persisted despite protests of innocence and promises by the 
Dutch and English to help in its suppression. In 1702 Aurangzeb 
reacted to the depredations of European pirates by interdicting all 
trade with the Dutch, English, and French companies in the empire. 
The Mughal faujdar of the Hyderabad Karnatak, Daud Khan Panni, an 
amir who was a confidant of Zulfikar Khan, took the opportunity to 
demand payment of large arrears of presumed revenue from the 
English at Madras. He also announced that his officers would inven- 
tory and survey the East India Company lands in and around the city 
and send troops to occupy the unfortified Indian quarter of Madras. 
The British resisted and a siege ensued. Continuing negotiations ended 
with the lifting of the siege after three months. Daud Khan Panni 
received a large monetary payment from the English and in return 

23 Sarkar, History of Aurangzth, v, 343-351. 



publicly proclaimed the independence and autonomy of Madras.” 
Pondicherry, under the governorship of Francois Martin, survived a 
similar set of threats to make a similar settlement with the faujdar.25 
Mughal failure to seize Bombay and Madras was a direct result of 
Aurangzeb’s overwhelming preoccupation with the Maratha problem. 
The emperor was unwilling and increasingly unable to bring sufficient 
military weight to bear to occupy these ports. After Aurangzeb’s death 
none of his immediate successors was prepared to pursue the matter. 
Bombay and Madras continued to flourish as autonomous trading 
centers in the years that Surat and Machhilipatnam were in decline. 


The never-ending Deccan war battered at the cohesion and morale of 
the imperial elite. Long-serving Mughal amirs and mansabdars became 
disillusioned with imperial service. Aurangzeb’s military impotence in 
the Deccan was more obvious every passing year. The hardships and 
danger of life in the imperial encampment in the Deccan continued 
without relief. Maratha raiders rode boldly close to the encampment 
and cut off supplies of foodgrains during the sieges. As Bhimsen, who 
wrote from personal experience, commented:26 

Ever since His Majesty had come to the throne, he had not lived in the city, 
and adopted all these wars and hardships of travel, that the inmates of his 
camp, sick of long separation, summoned their families to the camp and passed 
their time; a new generation was thus born (in the camp). 

After 1689 the Mughal elite divided into those men committed to 
service in the Deccan and those fortunate enough to be deputed 
elsewhere. As Bhimsen’s passage suggests, nobles in the Deccan rarely 
left it. Whereas officers who proved to be reliable and competent on 
provincial assignment in the north tended to remain. 

Aurangzeb undercut that critical process by which the responsible 
officers of the empire received rewards and reprimands directly from 
the throne. Amirs posted to the north rarely participated in the 
ceremonial enactment of the emperor’s authority at court audiences. 
Those officers in the Deccan who did attend audiences in the emperor’s 
camp were forced to confront the dissonance between the still-grand 

26 Richards, “European City-States,” p. 516. 8 Ibid., p. 512. 
2 Khobrekar, Dilkasha, p. 233. 



ceremonies within the encampment and the hollowness of imperial 
power without. 

In an unprecedented development, many Mughal mansabdars in 
the Deccan routinely shirked their duty as warriors. Governors and 
faujdars in every province often kept their troops safely locked up in 
their forts rather than challenge large bodies of Maratha raiders. 
Aurangzeb increasingly failed to punish or even admonish those 
officers who failed to engage the enemy. 

By its length and inconclusiveness, the Deccan war fostered con- 
siderable interaction between Mughal and Maratha commanders. 
Many Mughal officers spent time in Maratha camps waiting for ransom 
payments to be made. Some Maratha commanders had been in imperial 
service. Violent, bloody battles certainly occurred, but an equal, if not 
greater, number of clashes were avoided by intense unofficial nego- 
tiation and clandestine agreements. Increasingly anxious for their 
future in Aurangzeb’s waning years, many imperial governors and 
faujdars negotiated immunities for themselves, their followers and the 
areas they administered or their jagir lands. Some offered outright 
payments in cash; others offered services. 

Part of the reluctance to do battle displayed by a growing number of 
Mughal commanders can be traced to deficiencies in their contingents. 
Increasingly Mughal mansabdars in the Deccan failed to maintain the 
full number of properly mounted and armed cavalrymen stipulated by 
imperial regulations. So widespread was this abuse and so inept were 
the imperial inspections that it became a commonplace observation in 
every bazaar. 

Aurangzeb contributed to demoralization by inflating Mughal ranks 
and honors. At the fall of Bijapur and Golconda, Aurangzeb enrolled 
sixty-four Muslim nobles from those states as high-ranking amirs. 
Thirty-two of these “Deccani” nobles as they were termed, were given 
ranks of 5,000 zat or more. They constituted 40 percent of all nobles 
with the highest ranks.?”7 Although most were able warriors and 
administrators and fully fluent in the shared Indo-Persian courtly 
culture of India, they still encountered considerable resentment from 
Mughal nobles who were khanazads. 

Marathas, appointed for political reasons by Aurangzeb, constituted 
the other category of Deccani nobles. In the last half of the reign, 

2 M. Athar Ali, The Apparatus of Empire: Awards of Ranks, Offices and Titles to the 
Mughal Nobility 1574-1658 (Delhi: Oxford University Press), pp. 26-27. 



ninety-six Marathas were enrolled as Mughal amirs.?* They comprised 
16.7 percent of the total nobility. Most (sixty-two) were ranked below 
3,000 zat in contrast to the Deccani Muslims. Nevertheless this was a 
large and unsettling element to force into the Mughal nobility. Some 
Marathas enlisted with the Mughals out of enmity against the Bhonsla 
dynasty.?? Kanhoji Shirke, who had been badly treated by Shambhaji, 
joined Mughal service with his family members and rose to the rank of 
6,000 zat. Others, driven by expediency, vacillated in their allegiances. 
Virtually all the Maratha nobles were employed as auxiliary field 
commanders with their troops and proved to be of doubtful reliability. 
Ranks and honors bestowed upon the Marathas as political rewards 
were viewed with great cynicism by the long-serving Mughal nobles in 
the Deccan. 

Aurangzeb’ was not in a position to devise a new “Maratha policy” 
similar to Akbar’s “Rajput policy” a century earlier. Neither his 
personality or his reputation for piety lent themselves to a warm 
welcome for Maratha chiefs. Few, if any, of these Maratha comman- 
ders had a substantial exposure to Indo-Persian high culture, or indeed, 
could communicate freely in Persian. For them to be assimilated fully 
into the imperial elite required a systematic, conscious effort that 
Aurangzeb was certainly not prepared to make. Nothing analagous to 
the political marriages arranged between the Rajputs and Timurid 
house seemed feasible for improving relations with the Marathas. At 
best, the emperor could hope that the years invested in nurturing and 
socializing the young Shahu might be rewarded by placing him on the 
Bhonsla throne. And, as long as other descendants of Shivaji occupied 
that throne, the Mughals had difficulty in matching incentives for 
raiding and plundering offered by the insurgents. 

Accommodating Deccani Muslim and Maratha nobles put strains on 
imperial resources. Khanazads serving in the Deccan complained 
bitterly about an emerging shortage of jagirs:2° 

At last, things reached such a state that the whole country was assigned to the 
new recruits from the Deccan and their agents, through bribery, obtained the 
choicest (jagirs) yielding the highest revenue for the Deccanis, and it was plain 
for all to see that the ranks and numbers of the new and unknown mansabdars 
went on increasing while the mansabs of the old mansabdars went on declining. 
28 Athar Ali, Apparatus, pp. 29-30. 29 Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, pp. 207-213 

30 Abul Faz! Mamuri, Tarskh-i Aurangzeb, ff. 156b-157a, translated excerpt from Athar Ali, 
Mughal Nobility, p. 29. 



The number of claimants for jagirs began to exceed the lands in the 
temporary pool (paibaqi) awaiting assignment.>! 

The most obvious response to this situation would have been to 
assign productive lands in Golconda and Bijapur to jagirdars. Instead, 
Aurangzeb appears to have made a deliberate policy decision to favor 
the needs of the central treasury over those of mansabdars claiming 
their pay. Most of the lands in Hyderabad province, formerly Gol- 
conda, were kept in khalisa earmarked for the central treasury. Other 
lands stayed in the temporary pool of lands for extended periods of 
time.>? Similar policies seem to have prevailed in Bijapur and the 
Maratha lands. 

The shortfall in jagirs in the Deccan proved to be more than an 
artifically created problem. As the Deccan wars continued the Maratha 
style of predatory raiding and Mughal reprisals drove greater and 
greater numbers of peasants off the land. Burnt villages and towns and 
butchered traders and caravans hindered production. Embittered men 
joined the Marathas or groups of bandits as public order declined.33 
Under these conditions jagirdars holding lands in the Deccan 
provinces found it more difficult to collect even reduced revenues. 
Mughal officers clashed with one another over access to those tracts of 
land where revenues could be reliably collected. By the early 1700s 
many Mughal officers in the south suffered real impoverishment as 
they failed to obtain paying jagirs. 

Doubt, uncertainty, and frustration led to widespread unhappiness 
with Aurangzeb’s policies. At the highest levels of the nobility, one 
group of nobles aligned themselves with Zulfikar Khan Nusrat Jang 
and his father the wazir, Asad Khan, at the head of a mixed coterie of 
nobles (see above). These men favored some form of negotiated 
settlement with the Marathas that would end the drain of imperial 
resources in the Deccan. Zulfikar Khan was directly involved in several 
offers and counter-offers between Aurangzeb and the Bhonsla rulers. 
Despite his aggressive military role, Zulfikar Khan remained in conti- 
nual contact with his adversaries throughout this period. 

Others supported Ghazi-ud-din Firuz Jang and his son Chin Qilich 
Khan, who headed a family group of Turani Muslim amirs. One 
3 Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility under Aurangzeb (Aligarh, 1966), pp. 92-94. 

32 J, F. Richards, Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 

PP. 157-162. 
2 For details of these years in Hyderabad province see Richards, Mughal Adminstration, 

PP- 215-235. 



member of the group, Muhammad Amin Khan, had served as chief 
religious officer (sadr) briefly for Aurangzeb. Members of this faction 
insisted on a hard line. They felt that the full weight of imperial military 
power should be brought to bear on the Marathas to end the war and 
that no settlement was possible with these infidels.>+ 

All of these men shared two or more decades of Deccan service. All 
were deeply involved in trying to stabilize imperial rule in the south. 
They might differ over the means, but the end was unarguable. 
Aurangzeb’s prolonged stay in the Deccan had succeeded in turning 
imperial priorities upside down for the officers who surrounded him in 
his last years. The Deccan, not the north, was the center of their 


After 1680 imperial administration in the north was subordinated to 
the emperor’s involvement in the south. Aurangzeb kept up a brisk 
exchange of reports and orders between himself and his administrators 
and commanders in the north but his absence demanded careful 
management. On the whole, by using his sons and grandsons and his 
most capable nobles, the emperor kept intact imperial institutions and 
order in the northern plains. Crises did occur and were dealt with 
efficiently. Diversion of the empire’s core military to the south did 
make the frontiers, revenues, and supply lines vulnerable to disruption. 

To the northwest, the Afghan revolts of the 1670s had shown the 
importance of firm, personalized, and flexible imperial policies. Amir 
Khan, an extremely able Shi'ite Irani officer, assumed the governorship 
of Kabul at the close of the Afghan campaigns. For twenty years, Amir 
Khan’s shrewd interventions into the internal politics and rivalries of 
the Yusufzais, Afridis, and other Afghan lineages kept the northwest 
relatively peaceful. In large measure this stability was secured by large 
subsidies paid in cash from the Kabul treasury to various chiefs and 
factions. The caravan trade continued to move large quantities of goods 
across the mountain passes with little interference. 

In 1698, when Amir Khan died, his wife Sahibji, an aristocratic 
Mughal woman who had advised him closely, assumed full charge of 
the frontier administration for nearly two years. Finally Aurangzeb’s 

» Athar Ali, Mughal Nobility, pp. 106-111; Satish Chandra, Parties and Politics at the 
Mughal Court, (New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, znd. edn., 1972), pp. 1-10. 



new governor, his son Prince Shah Alam, arrived at Kabul. Only then 
did the much-admired noblewoman return to the south, send on Amir 
Khan’s sons to court for appointments, and then proceed on a 
pilgrimage to Mecca. The prince kept a firm hand on the frontier until 
his father’s death in 1707. 

On the northeastern frontier, along the Brahmaputra, Gadadhar 
Singh, a new, vigorous monarch of the Hindu Ahom kingdom, 
ascended the throne in 1681. At a conference of his nobles in 1682 the 
Ahom ruler set out his plans to retake Gauhati and to force the 
Mughals back down the river. The Ahom flotillas drove back the 
Mughal frontier posts (thanas) and engaged Mansur Khan, the faujdar, 
at an island garrison in the river opposite Gauhati. At the battle of 
Itakhuli, in September, 1682, the Ahom forces chased the defeated 
Mughals nearly one hundred kilometers back to the Manas river. The 
Manas then became the Mughal-Ahom boundary until the British 
occupation.°6 War booty taken from the discomfited Mughals 
included much treasure, war boats, arms, munitions, and elephants. 

Itakhuli was the last main force battle to occur between the two 
powers in the northeast. Thereafter Gadadhar Singh and his son and 
successor Rudra Singh (1696-1714) devoted their energies to consoli- 
dation of royal power under a newly proclaimed form of officially 
sponsored Sakti Hinduism. Mughal expansion in the northeast had 
ground to a standstill, and the Ahom rulers had become so confident 
that by the end of Aurangzeb’s reign they were preparing to invade 
Mughal Bengal. 

Aurangzeb was dependent upon peace and order in the north to 
supply surplus revenues to pay for his incessant campaigning. Bengal, 
which regularly delivered a large surplus of revenues over expendi- 
tures, was a matter of special concern. In 1696-97 a dramatic revolt 
underscored the difficulties of absentee rule from the Deccan. Ibrahim 
Khan, the governor of Bengal, faltered badly in responding to a serious 
revolt. Sova Singh, a zamindar of Midnapur district in the far south- 
west corner of Bengal, had allied himself with Rahim Khan, leader of 
those Afghan zamindars in Orissa who were discontented with 
Mughal rule. The allied rebel forces killed Raja Krishna Ram, the 
38 Shah Nawaz Khan and Abdul Hayy, The Maathir-ul-Umara (New Delhi, 1st reprint 

edition, 1979), edited and translated by H. Beveridge and Baini Prashad, 3 vols., 1, 

PP. 246-253. 
3 S.C. Dutta, The North East and the Mughals (1661-1714) (Delhi: D. K. Publications, 

1984), Pp. 154-156. 



Khatri revenue collector of the district, seized his family and treasure, 
and occupied Burdwan town. The rebels then routed the Mughal 
faujdar in western Bengal and Rahim Khan, the Afghan chief, led 
troops to occupy Nadia and Murshidabad. Ibrahim Khan remained 
inactive at Dacca while that portion of Bengal west of the Ganges was 
left for plunder by the increasing numbers of rebels. 

Ac that juncture, the daughter of Raja Krishna Ram killed Sova Singh 
with a dagger when he tried to assault her. Rahim Khan, the new 
leader, titled himself Rahim Shah to proclaim his regal aspirations. His 
rapidly growing force had reached 10,000 horse and five to six times as 
many infantry. Aurangzeb dismissed Ibrahim Khan from his post, 
appointed his own grandson, the Timurid prince Azim-ud-din to the 
governorship, and ordered Zabardast Khan, son of the dismissed 
Bengal governor, to take the field immediately. Zabardast Khan, using 
his cavalry and field artillery effectively, drove the rebels into retreat 
for the rainy season. By early 1698 Prince Azim-ud-din arrived and 
confronted Rahim Shah and his revived rebel force near Burdwan. Ina 
brief, hard-fought battle the imperial troops killed Rahim Shah and 
crushed the rebellion. 

Aurangzeb’s main concern was to restore the Bengal revenues which 
had plummeted during the revolt and not revived under the manage- 
ment of his grandson. Azim-ud-din was fully engaged in sequestering 
all possible revenues to himself and his followers in Bengal as he 
prepared for the war of succession soon to come. Regular surplus funds 
shipped from Bengal to the Deccan faltered. In 1701, Aurangzeb 
selected one of his most capable financial officers to become chief fiscal 
officer of Bengal. Kartalab Khan was a young Brahmin slave purchased 
by a prominent Irani Mughal officer, Haji Shafi Ibrahimi, who served 
Aurangzeb as diwan of the Deccan provinces. Converted to Islam, the 
young boy was treated as a son by his patron and painstakingly trained 
in the clerical and fiscal arts necessary for Mughal service.>” In 1701 
Kartalab Khan transferred from Hyderabad, where he served as diwan, 
to Dacca where he became imperial diwan of Bengal and Orissa. 

The new diwan, who, in the Mughal system, held nearly equal and 
independent powers from the governor, immediately took fiscal 
control away from Prince Azim-ud-din. He discovered after compil- 
ing an up-to-date revenue roll for Bengal that the crown revenues had 

°7 Abdul Karim, Murshid Qul: Khan and His Times (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 
1963), Pp. 15-26. 



dwindled, the jagirdars were appropriating more than their stipulated 
salaries, and that only the relatively small customs duties found their 
way to the provincial treasury. Embezzlement of revenues by imperial 
officers was pervasive. Kartalab Khan increased the khalisa lands by 
confiscating some jagirs and by transferring others from Bengal to less 
productive areas in Orissa. He employed a number of Hindu subord- 
inate revenue officers, largely Khatris from the Punjab, to take charge 
of various parts of the province on farming terms. That is, they put up 
security bonds for the assigned collections in their area and were paid a 
percentage of the proceeds.>8 

Rigorous attention to receipts and brutal imprisonment and torture 
for defaulting zamindars, chaudhuris, or other local officials and for 
the collectors themselves brought fast results. Kartalab Khan was so 
successful that in the first year he generated a ten million rupee surplus. 
In 1702, the diwan sent this treasure south to fill Aurangzeb’s nearly 
empty treasury. By this time the prince’s jealousy and rage had grown 
to the point that he tried to have Kartalab Khan killed. The diwan 
survived the attempt and shifted his offices from Dacca to Makhsuda- 
bad, a trading center on the Ganges, where he had been appointed 
faujdar as an additional charge. When reports of the fracas reached 
Aurangzeb, the emperor reprimanded his grandson and forced the 
prince to leave Bengal and take up residence at Patna in Bihar as 
provincial governor. 

Azim-ud-din retained the absentee governorship of Bengal, but 
Kartalab Khan was left the most powerful imperial officer in the 
province. The young Brahmin slave boy was fast becoming an imperial 
grandee. In 1703, the Bengal diwan travelled to Aurangzeb’s court in 
the Deccan and presented another large remittance and his accounts as 
well as lavish gifts for his sovereign and superiors. At that audience, 
Aurangzeb gave his favored officer a full robe of honor, a kettledrum, a 
standard, a promotion to 2,000 zat and 1,000 suwar, and a new title: 
Murshid Quli Khan. The title was a direct reference to the deceased 
Murshid Quli Khan who had carried out the Deccan revenue settle- 
ment some fifty years earlier. Aurangzeb permitted Murshid Quli 
Khan to rename his headquarters Murshidabad and to open an imperial 
mint in that city. Murshid Quli Khan also assumed the duties of 
governor of Orissa (removed from Azim-ud-din), and faujdar of 
28 Jadunath Sarkar, ed., History of Bengal: Muslim Period 1200-1757, (Patna, 1973), 

PP. 408-410. 



Sylhet, Midnapur, Burdwan, and Cuttack in. Orissa. On his return he 
also became diwan of Bihar. The emperor permitted Murshid Quli 
Khan to select his own deputies for these posts. And, in 1704, fourteen 
members of his adoptive kin from Iran arrived in Bengal and were 
given mansabs and postings under him. Murshid Quli Khan remained 
in office and kept up annual shipments of treasure to Aurangzeb and 
his successors in Delhi for over two decades. In so doing, he became 
the de facto ruler of Bengal as the imperial structure collapsed. 


Aurangzeb relied upon the great royal road running from Delhi to 
Agra, through Dholpur, and past the great prison-fortress at Gwalior 
to Burhanpur as the central conduit for fresh treasure, supplies, 
animals, and troops. Unfortunately this route passed through the 
Chambal river ravine country and other stretches of more desolate hills 
and forests. Year after year as the rich traffic along this route expanded, 
the temptation for banditry and plundering grew accordingly. 

In the districts of Kol (present-day Aligarh), Agra, and Sahar, 
straddling the Yamuna river, Jat peasants and zamindars proved to be 
especially troublesome.°? In 1685, Rajaram, a Jat zamindar at Sinsini, 
eighty kilometers west of Agra, strengthened a strongly defended 
fortress of hardened mud. Shielded by difficult terrain and bamboo/ 
scrub forests these forts could beat off all but the most determined 
assaults. Already refusing to pay the revenue, Rajaram led his Jat 
clansmen to plunder traffic on the royal road. They even attempted to 
enter Sikandra to despoil Akbar’s tomb, but were driven back by the 
faujdar. Soon the overland route to the Deccan was virtually closed. 
Even great nobles travelling with their entourages were not safe. In 
1686, a Turani amir, Aghar Khan, who was marching from Kabul to 
Bijapur with his troops and household, tried to pursue the Jats who 
had plundered his baggage train. Outside the Jat fort he was killed 
along with his son-in-law and eighty of his followers. In the face of this 
palpable threat imperial revenue collectors and other officials either 
fled the districts or remained penned up in the towns. 

In late 1687, Aurangzeb sent Bidar Bakht, his young grandson, 
north with troops to suppress the Jats. In the interim the newly 
appointed governor of the Punjab, Mahabat Khan, a former Hyder- 

2 Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, v, 296-303. 



abad officer, had encamped near Sikandra on the Yumuna river. The 
Jats boldly attacked his camp in force and only retired after losing four 
hundred casualties. 

Rajaram’s Jats outmaneuvered the local imperial forces and occupied 
Sikandra where they succeeded in looting Akbar’s tomb. According to 

Already angered by the demands of the governors and faujdars for revenue, a 
great number of them [Jats] assembled and marched to the mausoleum of that 
great conqueror Akbar. Against him living they could effect nothing; they 
therefore wreaked vengeance on his sepulchre. They began their pillage by 
breaking in the great gates of bronze which it had, robbing the valuable 
precious stones and plates ... of gold and silver, and destroying what they 
were not able to carry away. Dragging out the bones of Akbar, they threw 
them angrily into the fire and burnt them. 

Whether the Jats actually seized Akbar’s remains, the desecration of 
the tomb was as Manucci puts it “the greatest affront possible to the 
house and lineage of Taimur-i lang (Timur].” After this incident 
Rajaram, the Jat leader, was killed by a Mughal musketeer in a 
subsequent clash, but the Jat stronghold at Sinsini was untouched. 

Aurangzeb responded to these events by commissioning the young 
Raja Bishun Singh Kachhwaha of Amber (Jaipur) as faujdar of 
Mathura and as jagirdar of Sinsini, the Jat stronghold. The new 
commander and his Rajput troops marched directly to the Jat strong- 
hold and besieged it. After a four-month siege, the Mughal troops laid 
a mine successfully, opened a breach, and stormed the small fort. 
Fifteen hundred Jat defenders died; nearly a thousand imperial troops 
were killed or wounded. Another small fortress at Sogar fell to the 
Mughals, By January, 1691 the Jat revolt around Agra was temporarily 

The Kachhwaha raja was given extensive holdings in jagir over the 
Jat territories and asked to restore normal administration. This he was 
unable to do and intermittent Jat resistance continued over the next 
fifteen years. After a brief interval, Churaman Jat, a nephew of the dead 
Rajaram, who proved to be exceedingly able, emerged as new militant 
leader who resisted any revenue demands. The Jat peasantry displayed 
a remarkable solidarity with their caste-fellows who were zamindars. 
In the Kol, Agra, and Sahar districts, a region stretching over approxi- 

“© Manucci, Storsa do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8), translated by 
William Irvine, 11, 320. 



mately forty parganas, village patels and the dominant elites in each 
village actively supported Churaman Jat with men and material.! 

Churaman Jat also joined forces with Rajput zamindars from the 
Naruka, Kilanot, and Chauhan clans, in nearby Alwar, Ajmer, and 
Ranthambor districts. The Rajputs were trying to resist the Kachhwaha 
Raja’s attempts to displace them from their holdings in favor of his 
own clan members. The rebel zamindars did not share caste identity 
with most of the peasants in these districts and did not enjoy anything 
near the same support that the Jats did. In many areas Rajputs were 
violating imperial regulations by trying to extend their limited lands to 
control peasant villages free of zamindar control. Nevertheless a united 
front against the Mughals and against the Kachhwaha regime success- 
fully denied revenues and any sort of control over these districts in the 
remainder of Aurangzeb’s regime. 

Despite his advancing age, Aurangzeb was an active, energetic chief 
officer of the Mughal empire in the last eighteen years of his reign. The 
centralized structures of the empire continued to function. But 
Aurangzeb’s long absence from the North Indian heartland of the 
empire and his obsession with the endless Deccan war strained imperial 
institutions and resources. Pouring treasure and manpower into the 
south prolonged rather than ended the war with the Marathas. A policy 
debate was muted. Thoroughly intimidated by their indomitable 
father, Aurangzeb’s sons found neither the means nor the courage to 
challenge the emperor’s plans. After 1689, in both newly conquered 
and older Deccan provinces public order, political stability, and 
agricultural and industrial production were in a descending spiral. 

4. RP. Rana, “Agrarian Revolts in Northern India during the Late 17th and Early 18th 
Century,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 28 (1981), 287-326. 




Aurangzeb died March 3, 1707, in his encampment at Ahmadnagar in 
the Deccan. In a written will the emperor made a futile attempt to 
divide the empire between his three living sons. Instead, the usual war 
of succession, so long delayed, broke out almost immediately. At the 
imperial encampment, Prince Azam Shah, supported by the imperial 
wazir, Asad Khan, adopted royal titles, struck coins and marched 
north toward Agra. At the frontier fortress of Jamrud, in the Hindu 
Kush, his elder brother Muazzam received the news of his father’s 
death twenty days later. Imperial messengers had averaged seventy 
miles per day to bring the dispatches over 1,400 miles.! Muazzam, who 
had been preparing his army for the inevitable war for well over a year, 
began a forced march south to Agra. 

Ata site just north of Lahore, Muazzam declared his accession to the 
throne and took the title of Bahadur Shah. By June rst the newly 
crowned emperor occupied Delhi. By June 12 he arrived at Agra where 
he met his son Prince Muhammad Azim, who had marched from 
Bengal and took possession of Agra fort and the central treasury. The 
imperial reserves at Agra proved to be little depleted by the Deccan 
wars. Bahadur Shah’s officers found coined and uncoined gold and 
silver totalling 240 million rupees — considerably greater than Akbar’s 
reserves at his death.2 Muhammad Azim brought additional funds 
from the Bengal treasury which further strengthened his father’s cause. 

In mid-June, 1707, the two contenders met just south of Agra at 
Jajau, near Samugarh, the site of the climactic battle between Aurang- 
zeb and Dara Shukoh. At Jajau, Azam Shah and his two sons were 
killed on the battlefield and his troops routed. On the victor’s return to 
Agra all nobles who made submission were welcomed and given 
appropriate postings. 

While Bahadur Shah was preoccupied with the Rajputs during 1707 
(see below), news arrived that his brother, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh, 

' The description of the war of succession is drawn from William Irvine, Later Mughals 
(New Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1971), 2 vols. in one; 1, 1-66. 

2 J.F. Richards, “Mughal State Finance and the Premodern World Economy”, Comparative 
Studies in Society and History, 23, (1981), 293. 



had crowned himself as an independent ruler at Bijapur. In response to 
this direct challenge, by May, 1708, Bahadur Shah marched south with 
an army of over 300,000 men. Prolonged negotiations with an increas- 
ingly despairing and unstable Kam Bakhsh ultimately failed. Outside 
Hyderabad in January, 1709, Bahadur Shah’s troops encircled Kam 
Bakhsh who was left with but a remnant of his army. He and his two 
sons were killed in the clash that followed. 

No sharp ideological cleavage divided Bahadur Shah from either of 
his brothers and:the new emperor was quick to pardon and accept any 
nobles who had supported his dead rivals. Despite the problems of 
Aurangzeb’s last years, the empire passed, seemingly intact, to his son 
and successor. Nevertheless, Bahadur Shah, who was considerably 
more moderate in his approach to doctrinal purity, was still hampered 
by the aftereffects of Aurangzeb’s unremitting insistence on Islam as 
the only touchstone for loyalty. He never formally abolished the 
jiziya, but the effort to collect the tax became ineffectual and dispirited. 

A serious financial crisis faced the new emperor. Revenue collections 
in the Deccan were squeezed by Maratha activity. In the northern 
provinces revenues interrupted by the 1707-1709 war did not regain 
their assessed level. The main source of funds remained Bengal. 
Treasure carts and bills of exchange continued to arrive at the capital 
from Dacca. Failure to assign fully productive jagirs strained the 
loyalties and reduced the effectiveness of members of the nobility and 
the corps of mansabdars. The regime’s inability to keep order in the 
countryside undercut long-standing agreements between the state and 
the zamindars. If the state could not fulfill its obligations, local 
aristocrats were not inclined to pay the land revenue. These strains in 
the imperial fabric found expression in the most important political 
crises to occupy Bahadur Shah: disaffection of the Rajputs, growing 
militancy among the Sikhs and Jats in the north, and continuing 
Maratha insurgency in the south. 


Since his dramatic escape in infancy, Ajit Singh, the Rathor prince, had 
survived to become the acknowledged ruler of Marwar and holder of a 
3,500/3,000 rank as a reluctant Mughal amir. Ajit Singh took advantage 
of the death of Aurangzeb, his life-long enemy, to drive the Mughal 
occupation force from Jodhpur and take full possession of his capital. 



He destroyed those mosques erected since the Mughal occupation and 
forbade Islamic prayers in the city.) After the climactic battle at Jajau, 
Ajit Singh failed to acknowledge Bahadur Shah’s authority. In this 
continuing defiance he was reportedly supported by his contemporary, 
Jai Singh Kachhwaha of Amber, who had first aligned himself with 
the Azam Shah then deserted him at the climactic battle, and by the 
young Rana Amar Singh Sisodia, who ruled Mewar from Udaipur. 

Bahadur Shah personally commanded a large royal army which, by 
January 1708, occupied Amber, the Kachhwaha capital. The emperor 
conferred the Kachhwaha gaddi on Jai Singh’s brother, Vijai Singh, 
who had actively served Bahadur Shah earlier. However, a Mughal 
faujdar and his troops continued to garrison the city after the royal 
army marched on. The Udaipur Rana averted Mughal invasion by 
sending an envoy with lavish gifts while he and his family fled to the 
sanctuary of the Mewar hills. 

Mughal troops easily brushed aside Ajit Singh’s clansmen and seized 
Jodhpur, capital of Marwar. Shortly thereafter, Ajit Singh surrendered 
and appeared in person before Bahadur Shah’s durbar. The emperor 
restored noble rank to Ajit Singh, granted him the title of Maharaja, 
and gave generous mansabs to two of his sons. For his part, Ajit Singh 
had to swallow the indignity of having an imperial qazi and mufti 
placed on duty in Jodhpur. These officers were “to rebuild the 
mosques, destroy the idol-temples, enforce the provisions of the 
Shari‘at about the summons to prayer and the killing of cows, to 
appoint magistrates and to commission officers to collect jiziyah.’”* 
Mughal occupation of both Jodhpur and Amber was a further tighten- 
ing of imperial domination over Rajasthan. 

Ajit Singh Rathor and Jai Singh Kachhwaha, forced to accompany 
the distrustful emperor on his Deccan campaign against Kam Bakhsh, 
managed to effect their escape and return to Rajasthan. With assistance 
from the Rana of Mewar each rebel prince recovered control of his 
capital. Together they joined forces to besiege the Mughal redoubt at 
Ajmer, but were repulsed by the imperial faujdar. In a conciliatory 
measure supported by many nobles, the emperor affirmed the mansabs 
of the errant rajas, but refused to grant them their capitals under the 
watan jagir arrangement. Whether or not to negotiate a further 

> Satish Chandra, Parties and Politics at the Mughal Court 1707-1740 (New Delhi: People’s 
Publishing House, and. ed., 1972), p. 29. 
4 Khafi Khan, pp. 606-607 quoted in Chandra, Parties and Politics, p. 33. 



reconciliation with the Rajputs or to brutally suppress them was a 
matter of intense debate among the emperor’s advisers and nobles. In 
the end the question was resolved by the Sikh revolt at the close of 
1709. A hurriedly cobbled agreement gave Ajit Singh and Jai Singh 
their homelands and capitals as watan jagirs and six months leave to 
return to their kingdom. 

This hasty compromise did not‘ entirely restore the Rathors and 
Kachhwahas to the fully committed, zealous warriors for the Timurid 
cause that they had once been. A consistent, firm, but sympathetic 
policy was necessary to return the emperor—Rajput relationship to its 
former intensity. Unfortunately, Bahadur Shah and his successors 
were never given the opportunity to rebuild this imperial asset. 


The tenth Sikh Guru, Govind Singh, who had supported Bahadur Shah 
in the war of succession, joined the royal entourage as the emperor 
marched to confront Kam Bakhsh in the Deccan. Govind Singh’s 
mission was to obtain redress against Wazir Khan, the faujdar of 
Sirhind whose brutal execution of Govind Singh’s two youngest sons 
was the latest Mughal-inspired Sikh martyrdom. Despairing of justice, 
the Guru sent an emissary back to the Punjab to bring the Jat peasantry 
to revolt against tyranny if his mission failed. That emissary, Lachman 
Das, an ascetic renamed Banda or the “slave” of Govind Singh, was 
armed with the Guru’s standard and kettledrum. While Banda and a 
small band of followers paused at Delhi, news of Govind Singh’s 
assassination reached the capital. The most plausible explanation for 
the assault is that the young Pathan assassins were hirelings of Wazir 
Khan who was threatened by Govind’s accusations. Just before he died 
Govind Singh informed his followers that he was the last of the line of 
true Gurus and that henceforth they were to look upon the Granth 
Sahib or holy book as their true and constant guide.5 

Banda immediately began to assemble hundreds of Sikhs at his camp 
under the dead Guru’s standard. In what rapidly became a millenial 
resistance movement, he preached sermons, gave benedictions, wel- 
comed converts to Sikhism, and freely gave out any offerings he 
received. Banda issued proclamations offering refuge to anyone 

5 Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), 2 
vols., 1, 95- 



“threatened by thieves, dacoits or highway robbers, troubled by 
Mohammedan bigots, or in any way subjected to injustice or ill- 
treatment.” Banda’s primary appeal lay in those parts of the sub- 
Himalayan interfluvial zones in the Punjab and Delhi provinces where 
formerly pastoralist, recently settled, Jat peasants, anxious for recogni- 
tion, responded to Banda’s egalitarian appeal. They, and numerous 
lower-caste or untouchables — scavengers, leather workers — travelled 
to Banda’s camp, converted, and took the name Singh as members of 
the Khalsa.” All were prepared to fight for the new faith. 

In November, 1709, Banda’s army stormed, leveled, and massacred 
Samana, a prosperous, Muslim-dominated Punjab town. A half dozen 
Punjab towns shared a similar fate before the Sikhs reached Sirhind 
where they aimed to revenge themselves on Wazir Khan. After a 
winter of preparation on both sides, in May, 1710, Banda led thousands 
of badly armed peasants against Wazir Khan’s artillery, Mughal 
cavalry and cohorts of volunteer Muslim ghazis. Despite their lack of 
firearms, or horses, the Sikh army overran the Mughals and killed most 
of them in desperate hand-to-hand fighting. Two days later the Sikhs 
stormed Sirhind, massacred those inhabitants who did not hastily 
convert to Sikhism, looted the city and destroyed the buildings. After 
Sirhind, Banda adopted the title of padshah, started a new calendar and 
issued coins bearing the names of Gurus Nanak and Govind. Each coin 
displayed the cauldron of the Sikh communal kitchen and the sword of 
the Khalsa. By this time, in the style of a millennial leader, Banda was 
reputed to deflect bullets from their course and protect his men from 
swords and spears by his spells. 

In the next few months, Banda’s armies had overrun the Punjab plain 
between the Yamuna river to the Ravi and beyond. Only Lahore, 
Delhi, and a few Afghan towns held out:* 

For eight or nine months, and from two or three days march from Delhi to the 
environs of Lahore, all the towns and places of note were pillaged by these 
unclean wretches, and trodden under foot and destroyed. Men in countless 
numbers were slain, the whole country was wasted, and mosques and tombs 
were razed. 

Bahadur Shah hurried north to the Punjab to organize a fastmoving 
drive against the rebels. By the end of 1710 Mughal commanders had 

© Singh, Sikbs, 1, 103. 

7 Muzaffar Alam, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India (Delhi: Oxford University 
Press, 1986), pp. 144-145. 

* Khafi Khan quoted in Singh, Sikbs, 1, 109 n. 



pushed Banda’s peasant forces from the plain to Mukhlisgarh, a 
fortified refuge in the hills. Banda escaped capture in the final assault 
and remained free to rally new followers in another attack on the 
Punjab plains in early 1711. Bahadur Shah moved to Lahore in order to 
better command the campaign, but remained frustrated as Banda 
stayed at large. In February, 1712, Bahadur Shah died of natural causes 
and a new war of succession immediately broke out. 

The Sikh rebellion was a dramatic testimonial to severe disaffection 
in the provinces of north India. For well-equipped Mughal troops to be 
routed by ill-armed peasant infantry was a shocking and nearly 
unprecedented development. Only a religious appeal rooted in class 
hatred could so galvanize these disparate bands of rebels. Banda’s 
millennial message focussed long-standing peasant and lower-caste 
rievances against the regime and its allies, the qazis and other 
prosperous Muslim gentry who were grant-holders under the regime 
and Afghan, Rajput, and other non-Jat zamindars. In the savage battles 
fought over several years, Muslim solidarity typified by the emergence 
of armed ghazis was an important element in the resistance to the 
Sikhs. The Muslim populations of the Punjab towns fought desper- 
ately to save themselves. Banda, on the other hand, appealed to the 
Sikh version of martyrs for the faith who would be protected in battle 
by his own extraordinary powers. The Muslim chroniclers all decry the 
ascendance of low-caste or even untouchable Hindus to positions of 
power under the Sikh regime. 

Imperial forces under Bahadur Shah swept the Sikh armies from 
the plains back into the hills. But they had less success in squelching 
what had become strong guerrilla movements resting on wide 
popular support. Unlike the Rajput zamindars of the plains, many of 
the Rajput hill chiefs were secretly in sympathy with any resistance 
against Mughal power and supplied Banda with information, 
material and refuge when needed.? Only in 1715, in Farrukhsiyar’s 
reign, was the Punjab governor able to surround Banda and his 
followers in his hill fortress. After an eight month siege, the Mughals 
captured Banda and his starving garrison alive. Gory public execu- 
tions followed of Banda, the self-proclaimed ruler, and hundreds of 
his followers. 

° Alam, Crisis of Empire, pp. 155-164. 




In October, 1707, in the confusion surrounding Aurangzeb’s demise, 
an important event occurred. Prince Azam Shah permitted Shahuji, the 
son of Shambhaji Bhonsla, to leave the imperial encampment where he 
had been confined since infancy. The young Maratha prince was free to 
seize leadership of the badly disunited Maratha chiefs and generals. He 
was pitted against Tara Bai, the widow of Rajaram (d.1701) who 
claimed the Bhonsla throne on behalf of Rajaram’s son Sivaji 1. By 
releasing Shahuji, Prince Azam opted for a conciliatory policy with the 
Marathas. Aurangzeb’s endless war had failed. 

If Shahuji could ascend the Bhonsla throne with Mughal support, he 
would be the first Maratha ruler thoroughly socialized into imperial 
culture. Aurangzeb had treated Shahuji with warmth and generosity in 
the hope that he could be useful in the future. Shahuji was not forced to 
convert to Islam, and was given proper Brahminical instruction in the 
Hindu faith. His attitudes toward the Timurid empire were consider- 
ably more sympathetic than most Marathas. In the last phase of the war 
of succession Bahadur Shah conferred high Mughal rank upon the 
freed Bhonsla prince and obtained the services of Nimaji Sindhia with a 
large Maratha contingent for the campaign against Kam Bakhsh. 

The question of a Deccan settlement arose immediately after the 
death of Kam Bakhsh. Zulfikar Khan, who had survived the war of 
succession by deserting to Bahadur Shah at a critical moment in the 
battle of Jajau, became absentee governor of the Deccan provinces as 
well as head bakhshi of the empire. Daud Khan Panni served as 
Zulfikar Khan’s deputy in the south with his headquarters at Auranga- 
bad. Continuing to favor a soft line with the Marathas, Zulfikar Khan 
wasted little time in presenting Shahuji’s emissary to Bahadur Shah 
with a proposed settlement. Shahuji asked that he be made head 
deshmukh of the Deccan provinces with an allowance of 10 percent of 
the imperial revenues. He should have authority to divert an additional 
25 percent of the Deccan revenues as chauth. In return Shahuji would 
restore order and prosperity to the war-ravaged provinces. Simultane- 
ously, a counter-proposal came via Munim Khan, Bahadur Shah’s 
wazir and rival of Zulfikar Khan. An emissary from Tara Bai asked 
only for a 10 percent share of the imperial revenues and appointment as 
head deshmukh of the Deccan. She too offered to put down insurgency 
and renew prosperity. 



Formally at least, both offers, if accepted, placed the Bhonsla ruler in 
a subservient position to the Mughal emperor by seeking appointment 
as a deshmukh and zamindar. Shahuji and Tara Bai thereby hoped to 
strengthen their claim to sovereign power over the splintered Maratha 
chiefs and armies. Shivaji had founded his dynasty on rejection of 
imperial authority; his two descendants were seeking that recognition 
by the emperor as local rulers. 

In the end Bahadur Shah equivocated and granted a sanad as head 
deshmukh to each claimant but did not concede the collection of 
chauth. This non-policy simply incited the two Maratha factions to 
fight for supremacy — a policy that could only be damaging to imperial 

During the last two years of Bahadur Shah’s reign massive Maratha 
armies only loosely tied to either Shahuji or Tara Bai raided and 
plundered in all the Mughal provinces in the south and ventured as far 
north as Malwa. So devastating were these raids and so ineffectual the 
Mughal defense that Daud Khan Panni, Zulfikar Khan’s deputy in the 
Deccan, negotiated a private agreement with Shahuji to turn over to the 
Bhonsla prince the full 35 percent of revenues he had requested from 
the emperor. In return Shahuji agreed to restrain the freebooting 
Maratha chieftains and restore order. This essentially temporary and 
private agreement did little to help Shahuji bring the numerous 
Maratha chieftains under his effective authority. During Bahadur 
Shah’s reign the umbrella of imperial authority in the Deccan became 
even more bedraggled and tattered than it had been in Aurangzeb’s last 
campaigns against the Maratha hill forts. 


In early January 1712, Bahadur Shah, then in his seventieth year, lay 
dying at Lahore. As was his invariable custom, he occupied the tents of 
the great imperial encampment rather than the royal quarters in Lahore 
fortress. Unlike his father, Bahadur Shah kept his four mature sons in 
close attendance on him, rather than permitting them to build regional 
power bases as provincial governors. Each prince remained alert with 
his troops in his own tented encampment on the outskirts of the city. 
The leading contender for the throne was Bahadur Shah’s second son, 
Prince Azim-ush-Shan, who had accumulated a vast fortune as 
governor of Bengal and Bihar 1695-1706, commanded a large army, 



and had come to be his father’s chief adviser. In a new departure, 
however, his opposition centered on an amir, Zulfikar Khan, who as 
chief bakhshi of the empire and viceroy of the Deccan, was the most 
powerful noble at Bahadur Shah’s court. 

Prior to Bahadur Shah’s demise, Zulfikar Khan negotiated an 
unusual agreement with the three remaining princes — each of whom 
viewed his chances of survival as nearly nil. Zulfikar Khan proposed 
that the three princes combine against their half-brother. If victorious, 
they would divide the empire: Jahandar Shah was to become emperor 
of Hindustan, Rafi-ush Shan to rule the northwest from Kabul, and 
Jahan Shah to take the Deccan. Zulfikar Khan would become the 
imperial wazir residing at Delhi whose deputies would act as chief 
ministers at the courts of each of the other brothers. This proposal, 
solemnly sworn on a Koran, centered symbolic unity upon the eldest 
prince, Jahandar Shah, whose titles would appear on a common 
coinage. Effective rule however, would fall to Zulfikar Khan as wazir. 

The battle for power erupted even before the emperor died on 
January 12, 1712. Ina three month struggle at Lahore, the most power- 
ful nobleman in the empire out-generaled and defeated the most 
powerful prince. Azim-ush Shan died caught in quicksand in the Ravi 
river trying to flee the victorious allied forces. Not surprisingly, Zulfi- 
kar Khan then shifted his support to Jahandar Shah, probably the most 
pliable of the three princes. Within a month he had defeated and killed 
Rafi-ush Shan and Jahan Shah. On March 29, 1712, Jahandar Shah 
enthroned himself as emperor on the field of battle outside Lahore. 

The new emperor found that he could not reward his long-standing 
confidant and assistant, his foster brother Kokaltash Khan, who was 
pushed to one side. Instead, Zulfikar Khan became wazir with the 
unprecedented rank of 10,000/10,000. His deputy, Daud Khan Panni, 
remained in charge as viceroy of the Deccan. Zulfikar Khan’s private 
fiscal officer, Sabha Chand, became diwan of the imperial khalisa. 

After the coronation, Zulfikar Khan actively persecuted dozens of 
those nobles who had supported the dead princes. Most were 
imprisoned in Delhi and their property confiscated. Two amirs, 
however, were publicly executed. This is the first time that nobles on 
the losing side were punished. In the past, only the royal contenders 
and their progeny were killed and their property seized. New dis- 
tortions in the system marked this second succession struggle to occur 
within five years. 



JAHANDAR SHAH, [712-1713 

Jahandar Shah moved his capital back from Lahore to occupy the 
fortress and palace at Shahjahanabad Delhi. This should have strength- 
ened the new emperor’s authority. Instead, in the few brief months of 
his reign the strongest aspects of Mughal centralized power suffered 
dramatic, debilitating changes - changes that would have to be 
corrected rapidly if the empire was to survive. First, the long-standing 
power and authority of the Timurid monarchy itself was weakened. 
The new wazir, by virtue of his role in the succession struggle, his 
reputation, and his political and military resources, assumed the 
executive direction of the empire. Zulfikar Khan, not the emperor, 
decided on appointments and imperial policy. For the first time since 
Akbar’s early years, the Timurid occupant of the throne had allowed 
day to day authority to slip into the hands of an overmighty minister. 

It was Zulfikar Khan who, consistent with his long-standing 
posture, pressed forward with a broad policy of conciliation for the 
emperor to promulgate. First, only nine days after the coronation, 
jiziya was abolished. Second, important concessions to the Rajputs 
followed. Ajit Singh Rathor received an enhanced rank, the title of 
Maharaja, and appointment as governor of Gujarat. Jai Singh Kachh- 
waha was given the same rank, the title of Mirza Raja, and gover- 
norship of Malwa. Other territorial additions to their hereditary 
domains brought an enthusiastic response from the two former rebels. 
Third, as a partial solution to the Maratha problem, the emperor 
granted a mid-level noble rank, the title of Anup Singh, and the 
deshmukhi of Hyderabad province to Shivaji 11, the son of Tara Bai and 
Rajaram. This was an attempt to divide the Maratha domains between 
Shahu and his cousin and to bring each figure into the Mughal system 
as a formally recognized feudatory.!° 

Unable to challenge Zulfikar Khan’s authority directly, Jahandar 
Shah resorted to conspiring with Kokaltash Khan and his clique to 
undermine the wazir’s position.!! This further inflamed factional 
resistance to Zulfikar Khan and damaged the emperor’s reputation. 

By his own behavior Jahandar Shah lowered the dignity of the 
monarchy. After his accession the emperor raised his favorite concu- 
bine, Lal Kunwar, to the status of a queen. The new queen was the 

10 Chandra, Parties and Politics, pp. 74-75. 
4 Chandra, Parties and Politics, pp. 67-82, forcefully makes this argument. 



daughter of a well-known court musician who, despite his talent, 
shared the demeaning status accorded all musicians by Mughal aristo- 
cratic culture. Lal Kunwar was widely disliked for her origins and her 
influence over the emperor. She and Jahandar Shah violated decorum 
by their display of drunkenness and amorousness. Royal frivolousness 
disturbed many at court as Lal Kunwar and the emperor devoted much 
time and energy to planning and arranging for lavish, expensive public 
festivals. Thrice-monthly city-wide illuminations at Delhi became 
excessively expensive. Unearned honors, ranks and titles given Lal 
Kunwar’s father and brothers further offended the nobles and their 

The fast-slipping authority of the emperor coincided with a severe 
administrative and fiscal crisis. The shortage of productive jagir lands 
begun in Aurangzeb’s reign did not abate but continued to plague the 
corps of mansabdars. At the same time the divergence between the true 
income from jagirs and that assigned on paper became wider. Inflated 
ranks given by Bahadur Shah and Jahandar Shah after each political 
struggle simply added to the demand placed on shrinking resources. 

The meticulous procedures of the zabt revenue system unraveled in 
the scramble to secure even partial revenues from the North Indian 
countryside. Zulfikar Khan and his officials ignored widespread viola- 
tions of imperial regulations. Officials at all levels became open to 
bribes and various forms of peculation. Middlemen seized the oppor- 
tunity to make their fortunes. Everywhere revenue farming became the 
practice. In place of carefully calculated assessments based on relative 
fertility and market prices, officials of the khalisa and agents of 
jagirdars settled for bids made by private revenue farmers. The sharply 
discounted revenues were collected immediately from the successful 
tax bidders and their bankers. 

The signs of imperial fiscal bankruptcy were obvious. Jahadar Shah’s 
Own troops remained unpaid from the time of his accession. The only 
revenues that could be counted upon with any certainty were the 
regular shipments of treasure from Bengal. Prices of foodgrains, 
vegetable oils, and other commodities rose to new heights as supplies 
dwindled in the markets of Agra and Delhi. When revenue collections 
no longer arrived at the capital, the stimulus for urban sales of 
foodgrains declined. Regional and local economies absorbed the flow 
of taxes, produce, and loans upon which the Mughal revenue system 
was based. 




Farrukhsiyar, the second son of the slain Prince Azim-ush Shan, began 
marching from his post as governor of Bengal when the war of 
succession began. Hearing of his father’s defeat and death, Farrukh- 
siyar, after vacillating, crowned himself at Patna as a contender for the 
throne. Virtually his only prominent supporters were two brothers: 
Sayyid Husain Ali Baraha, who owed his position as governor of 
Bihar to Azim-ush Shan, and his brother, Sayyid Abdullah Khan 
Baraha, who benefited from the same patronage to become governor of 

The Sayyid brothers looked to their kinsmen in the Baraha clan 
settled on the upper Doab region between the Ganges and Yamuna for 
their strength. The Barahas could field several thousand fighting men 
marked by their conspicuous bravery, kinship solidarity, and loyalty 
to the Timurid house. As Indian Muslims settled on the land tied into 
four linked patrilineages, they closely resembled Rajputs in their dual 
ties to locality and empire. They could recall the family tradition in 
which their ancestors were key players in the struggle to put Prince 
Salim, later Jahangir on the throne (see above). In return for Baraha 
support in what was a risky, even foolhardy, venture, Farrukhsiyar 
promised the brothers appointments as wazir and mir bakhshi, the two 
highest ranking posts available if he prevailed. 

In November, 1712, Jahandar Shah’s son, Prince Azz-ud-din, and 
two of the emperor’s chief officers, all inexperienced in military affairs, 
led a large army to try to stop the rebel advance from the east. Near 
Allahabad, the prince and his advisers, uncertain of their troops, broke 
and fled before giving battle. In the aftermath of this rout, ntore nobles 
and zamindars brought troops to align themselves with Farrukhsiyar. 
At Delhi, Jahandar Shah and Zulfikar Khan tried frantically to muster 
an army to meet the advancing rebels. The biggest problem was lack of 
money. The last imperial reserves had been consumed in organizing the 
large army sent east with Prince Azz-ud-din. The unpaid royal 
soldiery refused to march without pay. In desperation, Jahandar Shah’s 
officers broke up gold and silver vessels from the palace, passed out 
immensely valuable jewels and jeweled articles from the treasuries, and 
even ripped gold and silver from the walls and ceilings of the palace to 
meet this emergency. From these frenzied actions the bankruptcy of 
the Timurids was painfully apparent. 



Finally in early December, Jahandar Shah and Zulfikar Khan set out 
toward Agra at the head of 40,000 cavalry, as many musketeers and 
bowmen, and artillery. The emperor’s top commanders were faction 
ridden and demoralized. Newly recruited forces from Chin Qilich 
Khan and several Turani nobles, who had been out of favor since 
Aurangzeb’s reign, were regarded with considerable (and justified) 
suspicion by Jahandar Shah’s commanders. In mid-January, 1713, the 
two armies met at Agra in a desperately fought day-long battle. As 
agreed, the Turani contingents under Chin Qilich Khan betrayed 
Jahandar Shah and stood by without fighting. Before the battle was 
concluded Jahandar Shah dismounted the royal elephant and fled with 
Lal Kunwar into Agra. Hurriedly they set out as isolated fugitives to 
Delhi. In the aftermath of the battle, Zulfikar Khan also retreated with 
his surviving troops towards Delhi. 


At Agra Farrukhsiyar installed himself in Jahandar Shah’s duplicate set 
of royal tents, and caused his name and titles to be read in the Friday 
prayers at the great public mosque. As the new emperor marched 
toward Delhi he appointed Sayyid Abdullah Khan to be wazir or chief 
fiscal officer of the empire, and his brother Sayyid Hussain Ali Khan, 
still recovering from battlefield wounds, as chief bakhshi of the 

At Delhi, Jahandar Shah had sought refuge with Zulfikar Khan. The 
latter imprisoned his former sovereign and offered to hand Jahandar 
Shah over to Farrukhsiyar’s officers. When Farrukhsiyar arrived at the 
capital, he greeted an unsuspecting Zulfikar Khan effusively and 
warmly in an audience before leaving him to be brutally slain by a body 
of royal slaves. That same day Farrukhsiyar ordered the execution of 
Jahandar Shah who had been confined with Lal Kunwar in Delhi fort. 
Lal Kunwar was sent to that portion of the palace where widows and 
families of deceased emperors resided. Several other nobles and 
higher-ranking administrators were executed. To add to the general 
sense of insecurity, these slayings were carried out under the guise of 
normal, even cordial, audiences with the emperor or his highest 
officers, Suddenly the victims were seized and knifed or strangled by 
palace slaves. Farrukhsiyar completed this initial purge by ordering the 



three most capable Timurid princes, including his own twelve-year-old 
brother, blinded and confined in the state prison in Delhi fort. 

Still fearful for his throne, Farrukhsiyar, urged on by a court party of 
nobles dependent upon him, soon began conspiring to destroy the 
Sayyid brothers. The larger issue concerned the extent to which the 
wazir or the Timurid ruler would be the effective ruler of the empire. 
The emperor’s plotting launched a desperate struggle between Far- 
rukhsiyar and his two leading nobles. Between 1713 and 1719 the 
factional struggle at court was the single dominant political fact in the 
empire. Virtually all other policies and reforms were sacrificed to this 
conflict. Neither party could assemble enough military power and 
political support to readily destroy the other. Instead, the vital link 
between emperor and noble, which shaped the solidarity of the Mughal 
elite, was further shredded over the next six years. 

Tension between emperor and wazir was especially harmful in 
trying to formulate policy toward the Rajputs and Marathas. All the 
leading Rajput rajas sent letters of submission and felicitation to 
Farrukhsiyar, but refused to appear in person at a court audience. 
Trying to divide the Rajputs, Farrukhsiyar offered the governorship of 
neighboring Malwa to Jai Singh Kachhwaha, who accepted and left 
for his post. Appointment to the distant province of Thatta (Sind) was 
flatly rejected by Ajit Singh Rathor. 

In response Farrukhsiyar sent Sayyid Husain Ali Baraha in command 
of a large army to bring Ajit Singh back to court. As he departed, the 
emperor sent secret letters to Ajit Singh promising him imperial favor if 
he were to defeat and kill Husain Ali Khan. Ajit Singh opted to come to 
terms with the Sayyids rather than the emperor. In the course of a 
four-month campaign, more movable negotiations than battle, Ajit 
Singh and Husain Ali Khan agreed on a treaty. The raja promised to 
give his daughter in marriage to the emperor; to send his son Abhai 
Singh to court to serve as a Mughal noble, and to come himself when 
summoned. He also paid tribute and agreed to accept the governorship 
of Thatta. In a secret codicil, Husain Ali Khan promised that as soon as 
Ajit Singh had shown public compliance by marching toward Thatta, 
he would be reappointed governor of Gujarat. This was a first step in 
an emerging alliance between the Rathor ruler and the Sayyid brothers. 

Upon Husain Ali Khan’s return to the capital in mid-1714, the court 
struggle broke out into the open. Conflicts over appointments and 
maladministration by the wazir’s deputy, Ratan Chand, flared up. 



Farrukhsiyar diverted funds so that two of his courtiers, Khan-i 
Dauran and Mir Jumla, could assemble troops sufficient to attack the 
Sayyids. For their part, the Sayyids could not muster enough men from 
among their own kinsmen and dependents to prevail over the emperor. 
Considerable evidence exists that they were reluctant to violate long- 
standing norms of deference to the Timurid ruler — even if they had put 
Farrukhsiyar on the throne. 

In mid-1714, Abdullah and Husain Ali Khan, fully aware of the 
emperor’s plans, retired to their mansions in Delhi surrounded by the 
nearly ten thousand Baraha kinsmen and troops they commanded. 
From this redoubt they sent letters asking the emperor to allow them 
to retire from imperial service. Farrukhsiyar, fearing rebellion if they 
did so, tried to appoint a new wazir, but none of the emperor’s 
intimates were willing to confront the formidable Sayyids in direct 
combat in the streets of Delhi. Months of protracted negotiations 
between two armed camps finally produced a compromise. The 
emperor agreed to send Mir Jumla, his favorite seen as most hostile to 
the Sayyids, to Bihar as provincial governor. In return Husain Ali 
Khan would give up his post as mir bakhshi of the empire and take up 
the governorship of the Deccan provinces in person. The emperor’s 
man Khan-i Dauran became imperial bakhshi. Abdullah Khan would 
remain in Delhi as wazir. 

In May, 1715, Husain Ali Khan left for the Deccan. Husain Ali Khan 
carried with him several concessions wrung out of the emperor. The 
new Deccan governor carried the grand seal which gave him full 
authority to appoint and dismiss all office holders and to assign jagirs 
in the Deccan. In an unprecedented measure, Husain Ali Khan was 
given full authority to appoint, transfer and dismiss the commandants 
of the great fortresses. Prior to this all Timurid rulers had jealously 
guarded this power to provide a counterweight against overambitious 
provincial officials. 

Shortly after sending Husain Ali Khan to the Deccan, Farrukhsiyar 
transferred Daud Khan Panni from the governorship of Gujarat to 
Khandesh, one of the six provinces under the Deccan administration. 
In a secret dispatch, the emperor ordered Daud Khan Panni to attack 
and, if possible, kill Husain Ali Khan. If he were successful Daud Khan 
would become governor of the Deccan provinces. Instead, in a battle 
fought near Burhanpur, Husain Ali Khan easily defeated and killed 
Daud Khan Panni who had only a small cavalry force. Among the 



latter’s captured effects were the secret communications from Far- 

STRUGGLE, 1715-1718 

Immediately after the settlement, however, in Delhi there was a brief 
thaw. In December, 1715, the emperor celebrated his long-agreed 
marriage to the daughter of Ajit Singh Rathor, in an attempt to settle 
the long smoldering problem of Rajput loyalty. Sayyid Abdullah Khan 
participated fully in the elaborate ceremonies surrounding this great 
public event. 

News of Daud Khan Panni’s death and the emperor’s treachery soon 
restored mutual hostility. Emperor and wazir continued in a frustrat- 
ing stalemate over the next two years. The political climate of the 
capital remained tense and suspicious. Farrukhsiyar busied himself in 
several abortive plots to seize Abdullah Khan. The emperor fixed upon 
one noble after another as possible victors over Abdullah Khan and as 
putative wazirs. None could be persuaded to risk an armed showdown 
with Sayyid Abdullah Khan given the unreliable nature of the emper- 
or’s support. The wazir looked to his own security by keeping 
thousands of his Baraha kinsmen on armed alert. When he attended the 
daily audience he was accompanied through the streets of Delhi by 
three to four thousand armed cavalry. 

The financial crisis deepened. Abdullah Khan’s diwan, Ratan 
Chand, leased all revenues to the highest bidders. Even the khalisa 
(crownlands) were leased out to those collectors who submitted the 
best bids. Ratan Chand extracted a lease in writing and payment in 
advance from the collector’s backers. Small to middling ranked man- 
sabdars found it impossible to collect revenues from their assigned 
lands. The treasury began cash payments of fifty rupees monthly for 
many of these men. Even these payments were late and often not fully 
made. Larger jagirdars could only manage by obtaining heavily 
discounted payments from revenue farmers or their bankers. Their 
best opportunity for realizing funds was to obtain a jagir assignment 
uninterruptedly near their home territories. Under conditions of 
financial stringency, the emperor even tried briefly to revive collection 
of the jiziya — a measure which aroused intense opposition from Ratan 
Chand and other Hindu officers serving in the administration. 



In this period the emperor started to lose credibility with even his 
most loyal supporters. Even day to day administration in Delhi 
deteriorated. Violent affrays in the streets by frustrated and fearful 
armed men became common daily fare. Increasingly Mughal nobles 
had to look to their own armed strength and their diplomatic and 
political skills for sheer survival, not simply for the emperor’s pre- 
ferment as in past reigns. 

Despite the final suppression of the Sikh revolt and the public 
execution of Banda and his followers in Delhi in mid-1716, other 
localized resistance flared up. The Jats in and around Delhi and Agra 
had been armed and turbulent since the last years of Aurangzeb. 
During the battles of the 1708-09 war of succession, their leader, 
Churaman Jat, assembled large numbers of his kinsmen to pillage arms, 
money and other goods from both sides in the struggle. From Bahadur 
Shah he obtained forgiveness in the form of rank and titles as a Mughal 
amir. During the 1712-13 battles, the Jats once again looted and 
pillaged each side equally. In an effort to stop Jat robbery of merchants 
and travelers along the royal high road from Agra to Delhi, the 
imperial wazir made Churaman official road guard responsible for 
keeping order on that stretch of road. This appointment simply gave 
him an imperial mandate to plunder. 

The emperor pressured Jai Singh Kachhwaha to lead a punitive 
campaign against the Jats. A large, primarily Rajput, imperial army 
cut its way through the surrounding jungle and invested Thun, the 
Jat fortress. The siege dragged on for twenty months against the 
well-supplied and armed garrison. Jat robbery and rural guerrilla 
action outside the fortress increased during the siege. In the end 
Abdullah Khan negotiated a settlement over Jai Singh’s head. 
Churaman paid a substantial indemnity, gave a bribe to the wazir, 
surrendered his fortresses and agreed to serve wherever he was 

Meanwhile in the Deccan, Husain Ali Khan rejected Daud Khan 
Panni’s pact with the Marathas which gave them over a third of 
imperial revenues in return for keeping order. As a result Maratha 
raiding and indecisive open warfare continued. Husain Ali Khan’s 
difficulties were compounded by letters sent from the emperor to 
Shahuji Bhonsla and other Maratha chiefs urging them to oppose the 
Deccan governor’s forces. Maratha armies were steadily seizing full 
control of more and more territory in the northern Deccan. In the 



south the Deccan governor’s authority in Bijapur, Hyderabad, and the 
two Karnataka provinces were virtually nil. 

Under these dismaying conditions, the Sayyid brothers changed 
their policy to try and enlist the Marathas as their allies. Husain Ali 
Khan began negotiations with Shahuji in mid-1717 and finally arrived 
at a formal treaty in February, 1718. The boldness with which this 
treaty conceded Mughal failure and Maratha success is startling. The 
Sayyid brothers were prepared to admit Shahuji and the Marathas into 
partnership in the southern empire in return for their political and 
military support in the struggle at the center. The new agreement gave 
Shahuji unchallenged authority over Shivaji’s original swaraj lands in 
Maharashtra and coastal Konkan and, in addition, ceded recent 
Maratha conquests in Berar, Gondwana, and Karnatak. A critical 
concession was the right to employ Maratha agents to collect the 35 
percent share of imperial revenues from chauth and sardeshmukhi 
throughout the six provinces of the Deccan. In return Shahuji agreed 
to pay tribute of one million rupees and to maintain fifteen thousand 
Maratha troopers to be placed at the disposal of Husain Ali Khan. 
Shahuji also agreed to keep order and to refrain from levying duties or 
taxes beyond those in the imperial assessment. When Farrukhsiyar 
refused to ratify this agreement, Shahuji simply acted as if the treaty 
were formalized and proceeded to send his collectors out and attach a 
10,000 man cavalry force to Husain Ali Khan. 


By mid-1718 the enmity between emperor and minister, barely 
concealed beneath rigid Mughal norms of court civility and decorum, 
erupted as the balance of power began tilting toward the Sayyids. 
When the emperor made several appointments to the Deccan 
provinces in violation of the earlier agreement, the wazir simply 
voided them. Enraged, the emperor engaged in abortive plots to kill 
Abdullah Khan before he appealed to the three most powerful 
noblemen left in the empire. Ajit Singh Rathor, the Turani nobleman, 
Nizam-ul Mulk from Moradabad, and Sarbuland Khan from Bihar 
brought a total of 70,000 or more troops into Delhi. By his temporiz- 
ing and equivocation, the emperor alienated all three amirs. They 
either left the capital or aligned themselves with the wazir. Toward the 
end of 1718 the emperor could count on only Jai Singh Kachhwaha 



and his 20,000 Rajputs. The standoff continued until the end of the 

Earlier Abdullah Khan had written to his brother, Husain Ali Khan, 
asking him to return in force from the Deccan. In October Husain Ali 
left Burhanpur for the march north at the head of 15,000 cavalry, 
10,000 matchlockmen, and artillery. He was joined by Balaji Vishwa- 
nath, Shahuji’s Peshwa or chief minister, who brought 10,000 Maratha 
horsemen (paid a rupee a day from the Mughal treasury). The public 
reason for return, contrary to the emperor’s orders, was that Shahuji 
had offered an important exchange proposal. The Bhonsla ruler 
requested that his mother Yesu Bai and his younger brother, who had 
been held captive at the Mughal court since 1689, be released. In 
exchange he handed over the son of Akbar, the deceased Mughal rebel 
prince. Husain Ali Khan must bring the boy to Delhi in person. The 
supposed Timurid prince was in fact an imposter, the son of a Qazi 
who bore a resemblance to the Timurids. Husain Ali Khan supplied him 
with a scarlet tent, robes, and a crown as well as appropriate attendants 
on the march. The threat, plain for all to see, was that Farrukhsiyar 
could be readily deposed in favor of this claimant to the Timurid throne. 

In February, 1719, Husain Ali Khan entered Delhi with his drums 
beating and standards flying in defiance of imperial etiquette. Farrukh- 
siyar, anxious to conciliate the Sayyid brothers, agreed to dismiss all 
royal officers commanding Delhi fort and all officers who controlled 
access to court audiences. The emperor also dismissed Jai Singh 
Kachhwaha, who departed reluctantly from the capital at the head of 
his mounted Rajputs. When Farrukhsiyar delayed giving up control of 
the palace-fortress, Abdullah Khan met him in person in the audience 
hall. An angry and abusive exchange between emperor and minister 
occurred in which all decorum was lost and all the anger and fear of 
years of conflict released. The wazir stormed out of the audience and 
Farrukhsiyar retreated to the women’s apartments in the palace. 
Abdullah Khan then turned out all the imperial guards and seized 
control of the fort and palace. 

That night rumors as to the events in the palace spread throughout 
the city. The emperor refused to come out of the women’s quarters 
where he was guarded by armed female slaves. The next day, on 28 
February, several nobles and military commanders still loyal to 
Farrukhsiyar marched at the head of their troops toward the fortress. 
En route they clashed with the Maratha horsemen of Husain Ali Khan. 



Unprepared for street fighting nearly 2,000 Marathas were killed and 
stripped of their clothes and weapons by a mob of bazaar dwellers and 
unpaid soldiery. 

Threatened with the urban mob and the Rajputs of Jai Singh who 
were only a few miles distant, the Sayyid brothers opted for direct 
action. They could not reasonably depose Farrukhsiyar and replace 
him by one of themselves — the sentiments for a Timurid ruler were still 
too deeply embedded. But they could depose Farrukhsiyar and replace 
him with a pliable young prince. First they tried unsuccessfully to seize 
Prince Bidar Dil, son of Bidar Bakht, who was regarded as the most 
able of the Timurid princes. But he, fearful of being killed, remained in 
hiding. In the end Abdullah Khan settled on Prince Rafi-ud-darjat, son 
of Rafi-ush-shan and grandson of Bahadur Shah, as the candidate. The 
startled youth was seated on the Peacock Throne and proclaimed 

An armed party burst into the women’s quarters, captured Farrukh- 
siyar, and brought the deposed ruler to the wazir. Abdullah Khan 
found in his own pen case a needle used for applying collyrium to his 
eyes and ordered the emperor thrown down and blinded immediately. 
Farrukhsiyar was then imprisoned in the fort. Public announcement 
of the new emperor ended the riots outside the fort. Two months later, 
the Sayyid brothers had Farrukhsiyar strangled in his prison cell and 
buried in a crypt in Humayun’s tomb. 

SAYYID RULE, 1719-1720 

The Sayyid brothers assumed stringent control over the new puppet 
emperor. Rafi-ud-darjat was guarded day and night by a select group 
of Baraha soldiers. All court audiences were played out to a script 
prepared by the wazir. In June, the ill-fated Timurid ruler died of 
tuberculosis. His brother, Raji-ud-daulah, fell victim to the same 
disease within weeks of replacing his brother on the throne. Finally, 
the Sayyids settled on the eighteen-year-old Prince Roshan Akhtar, son 
of Jahan Shah and grandson of Bahadur Shah. Roshan Akhtar, titled 
Muhammad Shah, became the new Timurid ruler in September, 1719. 

Under the Sayyids, imperial policy turned toward inclusive policies. 
Imperial seals confirmed the treaty with Shahuji and the satisfied 
Marathas left Delhi to return to the Deccan. They tried to conciliate 
Ajit Singh Rathor by allowing his widowed daughter, who had 



converted to Islam for the marriage to Farrukhsiyar, to renounce Islam 
and return to her father at Jodhpur. This was the first time a Rajput 
princess had been allowed to leave the imperial harem and return 
home. This concession aroused great indignation among the Muslims 
of the capital. Formal concessions were made to Churaman Jat as well. 

However, the Sayyids were not able to command the full loyalty of a 
demoralized and dispirited imperial nobility. Opponents found a 
leader in the Turani amir Nizam-ul Mulk who was given the gover- 
norship of Malwa. Released from the closest forms of surveillance, the 
young emperor had sent a plea to Nizam-ul Mulk to free him from his 
Sayyid captors. When the Sayyids tried abruptly to transfer him from 
Malwa the Nizam marched against Delhi. In his appeal for noble 
support, the Nizam deplored the ruin of the Timurid house and the 
monarchy; he protested that the Sayyids were intent on ruining all the 
old Irani and Turani families of the empire; and that they were 
following a disastrous pro-Hindu policy. The Nizam drew to him all 
those Irani and Turani commanders who were appalled by the depos- 
ition and slaying of Farrukhsiyar. They were especially dubious about 
full power in the empire going to a group of Indian Muslims, no matter 
how illustrious their familial service to the Timurids. From one 
perspective this split could also be seen as a division between foreign, 
more cosmopolitan officers and locally rooted cadres comprised of 
Indian Muslims, Rajputs, Marathas, and Jats. 

In August, 1720, the Nizam won a key battle at Shakarkhedla in the 
Deccan against a combined Maratha/Sayyid army. A successful plot 
secured the assassination of Husain Ali Khan while he was marching 
toward the Deccan with the emperor in his camp. Muhammad Shah 
then joined the insurgents in a campaign against Abdullah Khan. The 
latter was defeated and captured outside Delhi in November, 1720. 
After two months in captivity Abdullah Khan was executed. 


Between 1707 and the accession of Muhammad Shah in 1720, instabi- 
lity at court had its impact in every part of the empire. The carefully 
divided jurisdictions of governors, fiscal officers, faujdars, bakhshis 
(army paymasters and intelligence officers), and jagirdars blurred, and 
in some provinces, disappeared. Imperial orders which in the past had 
been executed unquestioningly were now ignored. Both public and 



secret news reports sent to the center declined in frequency and in 
quality. The regulations of the zabt revenue system elided into more or 
less open revenue farming. Jagirdars found that to collect their 
stipulated revenues from local authorities they had to assume full 
military and police powers over their holdings. Tax collections dim- 
inished and became erratic in most provinces due to local resistance. 
The level of internal violence undoubtedly increased in nearly every 
locality as zamindars and peasants rebelled. 

Weakened central authority in confused times created new opportu- 
nities for aggrandizement by provincial officers, During the first three 
decades of the eighteenth century, strong protodynastic figures devel- 
oped nascent regional kingdoms in several northern provinces. Under 
regional authority political conditions stabilized. These rajas, gover- 
nors, or diwans, putative rulers, intensified revenue collections, sup- 
pressed zamindari rebellions, and reorganized their administrations, all 
with the aim of strengthening their powers while still paying lip service 
to the emperor’s authority. The northern provinces were edging 
toward stability within a loosened, decentralized imperial structure. 

In Rajasthan, the leading Rajput amirs energetically subverted the 
intricate imperial administrative controls imposed on that province. 
Under existing arrangements the entire province fell under the control 
of the imperial revenue administration headquartered at Ajmer, the 
seat of the governor. Lands were assigned routinely as jagirs or retained 
in khalisa for the central treasury. Only the relatively limited home 
domains or watan jagirs of the rajas were left in their control. After 
settlement of the second Rajput war in 1708 (described above) the 
Rajputs devoted considerable effort to extending their watan or home 
territories in an attempt to build near-autonomous regional kingdoms. 

Jai Singh Sawai, the Kachhwaha head of Amber, used two methods 
to peacefully gain control of lands adjacent to Amber. First, his agents 
at court lobbied for and obtained temporary, regulation jagirs to 
support his pay claims.'? Second, Jai Singh’s agents actively offered 
written contracts by which they undertook to pay a fixed proportion 
of the official revenues for non-Rajput officers given jagirs in eastern 
Rajasthan. Lesser Rajput thakurs of various clans were then given 
revenue farming contracts to produce the money each year. For 
Mughal officers, beset by the factional conflict of Farrukhsiyar’s reign, 

12 Satya Prakash Gupta, The Agrarian System of Eastern Rajasthan (c.1650-c.1750), (Delhi: 
Manohar, 1986), pp. 1-37. 



even discounted revenues paid regularly were preferable to the expense 
of trying to collect revenues from turbulent Rajput bhumiyas. Those 
jagirdars who tried to collect their own revenues in this region found 
their agents hindered and harassed by Kachhwaha officers. 

As Farrukhsiyar’s authority weakened, Jai Singh simply assumed 
permanent powers over all his jagirs and revenue farms. By 1726, the 
six parganas adjacent to Amber had been absorbed into Sawai Amber 
as the core territory of the new eighteenth century state.!3 Six other 
contiguous subdistricts had been enlarged and added to the total. For 
the first time since Bharamall negotiated his daughter’s marriage to 
Akbar in the 1560s the Mughal emperor no longer controlled the lands 
and revenues of eastern Rajasthan. 

Some provinces experienced greater instability than others. For the 
thirteen year period, Awadh in the eastern Gangetic plain had a total of 
fifteen governors, some completely absentee. In response to disorder 
in Awadh later governors were given unprecedented powers, notably 
over the fiscal and revenue institutions managed by the provincial 
diwan. By 1714, the amir Chabele Ram, accepted the Awadh gover- 
norship on condition that one of his relatives become diwan.'* When 
the Sayyids appointed Girdhar Bahadur as governor in 1719 the new 
governor, who had been in revolt, named the province he wanted, 
demanded to be made diwan, and obtained an unprecedented appoint- 
ment as faujdar for the entire province.'S In 1722, a dominant proto- 
dynastic figure emerged. By that time there was ample precedent for 
Burhan al-Mulk, the founder of the kingdom of Awadh, to bundle all 
administrative authority in the province into his own grasp and to beat 
down resistance from the zamindars. 

In Awadh the majority of zamindars, whether Rajput or Afghan, 
were engaged in widespread defiance of Mughal authority and revenue 
demands. The Bais Rajputs of Baiswara, who had been turbulent since 
the last years of Aurangzeb’s reign, united under the banner of a single 
war leader and fought the Awadh governor in a three day battle at their 
central fortress. Temporarily beaten, they were forced to submit, but 
by mid-1715 they had launched another coordinated uprising. Once 
again Chabele Ram, the Awadh governor, defeated and dispersed the 
rebels. Afghan zamindars in Lucknow district remained in armed 
resistance to the governor and faujdar throughout 1714. The same year 

3 Ibid. p.26. 4 Alam, Crisis of Empire, pp. 64-65. 
15 Alam, Crisis of Empire, p. 69. 



virtually all the Rajput chiefs in Awadh district itself were in revolt.1¢ 
Lacking sufficient direction and support from Delhi, the governor was 
unable to muster overwhelming military strength to put an end to the 

Despite seizure of revenue powers by later governors, collections 
from Awadh were erratic and modest at best. Most of the lands in the 
province were allocated to jagirdars, many of whom were stationed 
outside the province. Local resistance made it difficult, and in some 
instances impossible, to collect the stated assessment. In Farrukhsiyar’s 
reign the Sayyid brothers began to assign jagirs in Awadh to Indian 
Muslim officers native to the province.!” The lands assigned were 
located in the home territories of each officer who received the 
assignment as watan jagir. An additional number of his kinsmen and 
private officers also received jagirs adjacent to his. These jagirdars were 
expected to keep the assignments for extended periods and to use their 
local kinship and patronage ties to build strength sufficient to collect 
revenues from the zamindars and peasants. The end result was to begin 
the process of converting jagirs in Awadh to fiefs held in perpetuity. 

The administrative and political circumstances in Bengal and Orissa 
were different. Under Murshid Quli- Khan, the efficient fiscal officer 
appointed by Aurangzeb, the two provinces were marked by stability 
and order after 1707. Reappointed diwan (after a two year transfer) by 
Bahadur Shah, Murshid Quli Khan resumed his post in 1710 with a 
new rank of 2,000 zat.'8 

In 1712, when Prince Farrukhsiyar was preparing to make his bid for 
the throne, he demanded the accumulated revenues of Bengal and 
Orissa. Murshid Quli Khan refused pointblank on the grounds that the 
prince was not yet emperor and had no legitimate claim to the funds. 
Farrukhsiyar sent a 3,000 man force to bring back the treasure or 
Murshid Quli Khan’s head. In a lengthy battle outside the plain at 
Murshidabad, the stubborn diwan’s troops killed Farrukhsiyar’s 
general and routed his army. When in early 1713, Farrukhsiyar 
crowned himself at Delhi, Murshid Quli Khan sent the Bengal 
surpluses to him without delay and was confirmed in his position.!9 
Farrukhsiyar also made Murshid Quli Khan deputy governor of 

16 Alam, Crisis of Empire, pp.96-97. "7 Ibid., pp. 124-129. 
18 Abdul Karim, Murshid Quli Khan and His Times (Dacca: Asiatic Society of Pakistan, 
1963), pp. 29-30. 

19 Jadunath Sarkar, History of Bengal: Muslim Period 1200-1757 (Patna, 1973), 407- 



Bengal (acting for the emperor’s infant son) and governor of Orissa.?° 
In 1717, to retain his support, Farrukhsiyar promoted Murshid Quli 
Khan to governor of Bengal. 

Murshid Quli Khan’s success was based on imperial loyalty and 
obedience in his accustomed role of careful fiscal manager. 
Throughout the twists of deadly factional politics at the center, 
Murshid Quli Khan retained his grip.on Bengal by faithfully sending 
Bengal revenues to a cash-starved monarch. Between 1712 and his 
death in 1727 during the reign of Muhammad Shah, Murshid Quli 
Khan sent an average of 10.5 million rupees per year to Delhi. These 
constituted the revenues of crownlands, tribute from zamindars, and 
miscellaneous funds for both Bengal and Orissa - all meticulously 
accounted for.?! 

Whether this annual drain harmed the economy of Bengal is difficult 
to determine. Internal peace and increased cultivation and trade were 
pushing expansion of the Bengal frontier to the east and the sea. 
Shipping ten million or so rupees in carts each year certainly put a 
strain on the provincial money supply. Ample imports of New World 
silver by the Dutch and English trading companies were converted 
immediately to new coin at the provincial mint. Whether severe 
methods of collection from intermediaries caused oppression of the 
peasantry is also difficult to decide. It is doubtful if Murshid Quli 
Khan’s total revenue demands were proportionately any greater than 
they had been under earlier administrations. Past surplus funds had 
gone to enrich a succession of seventeenth century Bengal governors. 

Although he used force ruthlessly and effectively when necessary, 
Murshid Quli Khan pared down his provincial army to 2,000 
horsemen and 4,000 infantry.2? No serious external threats menaced 
Bengal and Orissa during his administration. Nearly all the official 
revenues were shipped to the emperor. Murshid Quli Khan kept 
expenses to a minimum remarked upon by his contemporaries. His 
personal fortune, although large — six million rupees at his death — was 
not excessive. 

Paradoxically, however, as the center weakened, the Bengal gover- 
nor became more autonomous. More Bengali Hindu officers found 
2 Karim, Murshid Quli Khan, p. 48. 

21 Karim, Murshid Quli Khan, p. 85 n. Based on a total of 165.1 million rupees for fifteen 
years and nine months. This was from the fifth year of Bahadur Shah to the ninth year of 

Muhammad Shah, 
22 Sarkar, History of Bengal, 1, 412. 



employment in his administration and joined the relatives of Murshid 
Quli Khan and those North Indian officers who had already followed 
him to Murshidabad. By 1727 his son-in-law Shuja-ud-din Muham- 
mad Khan, then serving as deputy governor of Orissa, simply seized 
control of the two provinces in defiance of Murshid Quli Khan’s 
wishes in what amounted to a coup. The new administration was duly 
ratified by the emperor, Muhammad Shah. By this time Bengal and 
Orissa had become a regional state paying tribute to the Mughal ruler 
in Delhi. 


Virtual paralysis in Delhi eroded provincial administration in the 
Deccan as it did in the north. In the western Deccan, however, no 
strong, dominant governor emerged. Instead, Maratha raids enfeebled 
Mughal administration in Khandesh, Aurangabad, Berar, and Bijapur. 
Bereft of support from the emperor, provincial governors and their 
cadres either accommodated, sheltered in their fortified capitals, or fled 
outright. The Maratha style of repeated raiding and plundering fol- 
lowed by more formal tribute taking (chauth) was damaging and 
disruptive. In the aftermath of Maratha raids, dispossessed peasants 
and defeated soldiery turned to banditry in large numbers. Roiling 
conflict and confused claims and counter claims between Maratha 
intruders and Mughal authorities ruined many formerly prosperous 
areas. In Khandesh province the process of sorting out the dual shares 
of Mughal jagirdars and Maratha chiefs and their revenue collectors 
took years to resolve. Revenues remained low and were often paid in 
kind. Many villages were deserted by the 1720s.23 

Insecurity and disorder accompanying this conflict was especially 
damaging to the long-distance overland trade. Hard hit were those 
cities, like Surat, that had been the busiest entrepots of that trade. In 
1716, the Dutch East India Company was forced to close its trading 
station in Agra because it was impossible to buy Bayano indigo or 
specialized textiles and ship the goods reliably overland to Surat. 
Caravans organized by private merchants, even though protected by 
hired guards, could no longer travel safely from Agra to Surat. 
23 Stewart Gordon and John F. Richards, “Kinship and Pargana in eighteenth century 

Khandesh,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 22 (1985), 384; and 

Richards, Monetary System, pp. 225-224. 



Zamindars leading armed bands of peasants threatened and attacked 
even strongly armed parties headed by Mughal officials. It was not 
uncommon for bands of 5,000 men of whom 2,000 were carrying 
muskets to be reported.?* If these local rebels did not succeed, groups 
of Maratha horsemen were likely to intercept caravans. 

After 1707, Indian and European merchants at Surat could not 
obtain adequate supplies of textiles, indigo or other export commodi- 
ties from their normal production areas. They could not profitably 
transship imports like Mocha coffee or Indonesian spices to their 
normal markets. The cost of bills of exchange between Agra and Surat 
shot up to as high as 12 percent for a transaction that had formerly cost 
1 to 2 percent.25 For a time production within Gujarat helped to meet 
some of this demand, as the Dutch opened new trading stations in 
Ahmadabad and Broach. Textile prices rose and supplies dwindled in 
Gujarat as a reflection of rising insecurity from Maratha raids in the 

The money supply of the formerly prosperous port dried ap. The 
imperial mint shut down for several years and numerous money- 
changers went bankrupt.”6 After 1710 it became difficult to obtain cash 
for imported goods. Declining exports reduced bullion imports 
sharply at Surat. A drain of silver coin in payments to the imperial 
armies in the Deccan continued with no compensating payments in 

By the end of Farrukhsiyar’s reign, Surat, the principal Mughal west 
coast port, was cut off from its empire-wide trading hinterland and 
reduced to trafficking with a regional hinterland no greater than the 
boundaries of Gujarat. The relative security of British-controlled 
Bombay made it a rival port and entrepot rapidly surpassing Surat in 

The lands of the eastern Deccan’ suffered the same conditions as 
those in the west under Bahadur Shah and his immediate successors. 
Maratha raiding, banditry, and devastation were commonplace in 
Hyderabad province between 1707 and 1713.27 In 1708, the capable, 
long-serving governor of Hyderabad, Rustam Dil Khan, was killed by 
Prince Muhammad Kam Bakhsh in a clash over access to the provincial 
2 Gupta, Indian Merchants and the Decline of Surat, pp. 140-143 for the journey of the last 

Dutch trader to leave Agra in 1716. 

28 Ibid. p.152. 2 Ibid. 
2 J. F. Richards, Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 

PP- 264-305. 



treasuries. Over the next few years three successive governors were 
unable to cope with widespread disorder, insolvency, and army 
mutinies. Finally, in 1713 a new governor appointed by Farrukhsiyar 
arrived in Hyderabad. This was a turning point for regional political 

Both capable and determined, Mubariz Khan at once set about 
restoring order. He hammered any Maratha raiders and drove them 
decisively beyond his borders. At the head of several thousand Mughal 
heavy cavalry Mubariz Khan rode in repeated punitive raids against 
rebellious Telugu zamindars, bandit chiefs, and renegade Mughal 

In 1715, Mubariz Khan made an accommodation with Sayyid 
Husain Ali Khan, sent by Farrukhsiyar to be governor of the Deccan 
with powers of appointment for all provincial officers. At Aurangabad, 
Mubariz Khan aligned himself with the Sayyids and obtained 
reappointment to his post in Hyderabad. At this meeting, Husain Ali 
Khan appointed his new adherent provincial diwan as well as governor 
and authorized Mubariz Khan’s son to become commander of Gol- 
conda fort, the leading bastion of the province. These were both 
formerly independent assignments made by the emperor. After this 
meeting Mubariz Khan ignored the provisions of the 1717 treaty which 
conceded 35 percent of imperial revenues to be collected by Maratha- 
appointed agents. In the eastern Deccan these provisions did not apply. 
The Marathas were blocked from setting up a dual administrative 
structure in the eastern Deccan. 

Mubariz Khan also ignored his obligations to the emperor. He made 
few, token payments to the central treasury from the Hyderabad 
revenues. He freely confiscated the khalisa crown parganas in Hyder- 
abad and sent his own agents to collect the revenues. Virtually all 
official appointments or transfers to and from Hyderabad ceased after 
171}. The governor filled important provincial offices with his six sons, 
his uncle, his trusted slave-eunuch, and other members of his entou- 
rage. This became a system of regional officials, recruited within 

By the end of Farrukhsiyar’s reign, Mubariz Khan restored the 
authority exercised over the province by the governor or earlier by the 
Qutb Shah rulers. Relative peace and order permitted revenue collec- 
tion and greater stability for the inhabitants of the province. In so 
doing the imperial governor in reality became a regional king — not 



because he was disloyal, but rather because he had little choice. The 
emperor and the imperial wazir offered little support or encourage- 
ment to distant governors. Had the throne recovered power and 
strength it is likely that Mubariz Khan could once more have been 
brought into a revived empire. It did not, and in 1724, the Nizam-ul 
Mulk, who was trying to establish his own independent domain in the 
Deccan, defeated and killed Mubariz Khan at the battle of 

For over a decade, instability and weakness caused by the bitter 
conflicts over the throne wrenched at imperial authority and effici- 
ency. Revenues plummeted and the entire imperial structure entered a 
downward spiral. Perhaps if a strong Timurid monarch or, for that 
matter, a charismatic nobleman capable of founding a new dynasty, 
had occupied the throne, this descent might have been checked in the 
17208. Certainly, as the examples of both Murshid Quli Khan in Bengal 
and Mubariz Khan in Hyderabad illustrate, the habits and beliefs in 
imperial service could have been resurrected among Mughal nobles and 
technocrats. Instead, during Muhammad Shah’s lengthy reign, the 
empire slipped into a loosely knit group of regional successor states. 



During his half-century-long reign from 1556 to 1605, Akbar’s 
repeated victories enabled him to build a multi-regional empire from 
the territories of defeated kingdoms. He and his advisers devised 
innovative and durable centralized institutions. But dynamic expan- 
sion did not end with Akbar’s death. Instead, the Mughal empire 
continued to expand and to deepen its administrative control from 
1556 until 1689. 

Imperial dynamism was at its core military. The Mughal empire was 
a war-state. The dynasty and nobles were warriors governed by an 
aggressively martial ethos. By far the greater proportion of the state’s 
resources was devoted to war and preparation for war. Every year 
Mughal troops were engaged in active campaigning against foreign 
enemies or domestic rebels. The Mughal emperors made little apology 
for attacks on neighboring states and needed still less by way of 
provocation. In common with all imperial rulers, they regarded 
adjoining states as either tributaries or enemies —no other category was 

To the north it was only when Mughal arms reached the extremities 
of the Indian subcontinent that the limits of expansion were estab- 
lished. Beyond the subcontinent the physical and social landscape 
together presented overwhelming obstacles. In the mountainous zones 
of the north Mughal armies found themselves precariously extended 
on their supply lines. They had difficulties foraging for firewood and 
fodder for their animals and could not rely upon the Indian grain 
merchants who supplied their needs when campaigning in the sub- 
continent. The Mughals encountered strong resistance mounted by 
formidable rulers and peoples who were not assimilated into the 
Indo-Muslim political system and who were not especially impressed 
by Mughal imperial might. 

To the south the empire expanded slowly, but steadily. The physical 
terrain, although often difficult, did not stop military operations. 
Society in the Deccan and further south was well-instructed in the 
brutal truths of Indo-Muslim power. In these regions however, 



Mughal diplomatic pressures weakened the centralized control of the 
Deccan states. As a result Mughal generals and administrators found it 
difficult to conquer and rule regions in which political power was 
fragmented. Imperial policies also failed to fully adapt to the differing 
cultures and social structures of the dominant Maratha, Telugu, 
Kannada, and Tamil landed aristocracies. Conquest and political 
control became a time-consuming, and often frustrating task. It is in 
the south after 1689 that Mughal expansion faltered and ended. 

The sea blocked expansion to east and west. Mughal military power 
was land-based — not maritime. Unlike their contemporaries, the 
Ottoman Turks, the Timurid emperors never considered or pursued 
expansion by sea. The culture of seafaring was completely foreign to 
the Mughal elite. They were more than willing to invest in trade by sea 
and even own seafaring vessels, but this interest did not extend to 
placing themselves on board anything so unpleasant as a sea-going 
vessel. Pilgrims travelling to the holy cities for the annual Haj were the 
only exceptions to this rule. 

Intermittent internal warfare was also characteristic of the Mughal 
empire. Numerous kingdoms and chiefdoms not subject to direct 
administration by Mughal governors existed in the less accessible and 
fertile regions of the empire. Formal submission, payment of annual 
tribute, and the supply of troops or war elephants to the emperor 
sufficed initially to keep these rulers on their ancestral seats. The 
impetus for consolidation, for conquest on the internal frontiers of the 
empire was difficult to restrain. By and large tributary kings engaged in 
a constant political battle to survive. Lapsed payment of tribute 
brought warnings and a punitive campaign with the ever-present 
possibility of full-blown annexation to direct administration. 

After conquest and annexation an imperial peace prevailed. The 
Mughal empire sustained a relatively high level of public order. Towns 
and cities and their immediate hinterlands were generally free of 
organized predatory violence. The main roads were secure for traders 
and travelers. Mughal military governors (faujdars) city magistrates, or 
road commanders (rabdars) vigorously pursued and punished bandits 
and rebels. Elsewhere, like Europe in the same period, there were areas 
in the hills or the infamous sandy ravines of the Chambal river valley 
where the king’s writ ran weakly, if at all. Travelers ventured there at 
their peril. 

In the countryside Mughal dynamism found expression in an 



ongoing struggle with the lords of the land, or in Mughal parlance the 
zamindars. Imperial officials combined threat and reward to induce 
local warrior aristocrats or village lords to assist in the collection of 
imperial revenues. At times force was necessary. In some areas 
especially belligerent zamindars rebelled periodically and awaited the 
arrival of imperial troops with some zest. More frequently negotiation 
and persuasion sufficed for compliance. 

The Mughal revenue system was engaged in a continuing campaign 
of political socialization. Its aim was to transform armed, often- 
truculent, parochial warrior-aristocrats, into quasi-officials. By entan- 
gling local aristocracies in the revenue system imperial officials were 
also engaging the zamindars, even remotely, in a broadly shared 
imperial culture. For over a century this effort continued with notable 
success. As new lands came into the empire or tributary kingdoms 
were annexed, time-tested devices were employed to assimilate the 
local aristocracy and dominant peasant groups to the demands of the 
revenue system. After 1689, however, administrative momentum 
dwindled. The inability of Mughal officials to maintain the imperial 
peace in the Deccan provinces had its effect. Loss of morale and a sense 
of direction beset local officers elsewhere in the empire. Those 
zamindars who had been brought into a wider system in the course of a 
century were now confronted with new prospects and new hazards. 

Imperial expansion and consolidation before 1689 drew part of its 
dynamic energy from a radical political orientation put forward by the 
emperor Akbar. In his formulation the interests of the dynasty and the 
state were given precedence over narrowly defined interests of Islam in 
India. In a marked departure from previous practice active participa- 
tion in the imperial system was open to non-Muslims as well as 
Muslims. In every way possible the emperor tried to make the imperial 
system inclusive rather than exclusive. 

Despite large-scale conversions and immigration, Islam remained a 
minority religion in every region of the subcontinent. The resilience of 
Hindu caste-defined society made further mass conversions unlikely. 
In the sixteenth century, Indo-Muslim rulers faced a political dilemma. 
If they restricted the higher levels of political and military service to 
Muslims, they drew from a very narrow base of support. If they 
opened recruitment to all persons of talent and substance, there would 
be a strong reaction from the orthodox Muslim establishment. Akbar 
made a determined effort to break out of that dilemma by creating a 



new dynastic ideology that would appeal to his subjects of all religions 
and statuses. 

Akbar’s centralized empire successfully tapped into the rising 
productivity of the Indian economy in the early modern period. New 
world economic linkages were an important stimulus to economic 
activity. Portuguese trading in the Indian Ocean increased, rather than 
decreased, the overall demand for Indian goods and services. Flows of 
New World specie came pouring into the subcontinent ~ in a lesser 
portion through Goa and in a much greater stream through the normal 
sea and overland routes to India. Akbar’s state seized upon these 
abundant supplies of gold and silver to fashion its currency and to fill 
its treasuries. With the conquest of Gujarat in 1574 the Timurid empire 
became a coastal state with access to the new inflows of precious 
metals. In Gujarat could also be found the industrial production of 
cloth which could pay for these imports. Gold and silver were an 
indispensable resource as the empire expanded. 

The imperial economy expanded in tandem with centralized state 
power in Mughal India. Although hard quantitative evidence is scanty, 
the qualitative evidence suggests that the Mughal empire stimulated 
economic growth. State revenue and consumption demands encour- 
aged and shaped the growth of India’s varied and lively regional and 
subcontinental markets. Imperial insistence on payment of the land 
revenue in official coin forced the sale of food grains and other crops to 
local grain dealers who then responded to consumption demands for 
the towns and cities. The consumption demands of several million 
persons dependent upon state salaries or largess fostered markets for a 
vast range of manufactured and processed goods. 

In more specialized areas the emperors routinely looked to private 
markets and entrepreneurial activity to meet official needs. Some 
luxury goods and staple commodities were produced in the large 
household establishments of the emperor and nobles, but most goods 
and services were supplied from the private sector. Continuing mili- 
tary operations fostered a peripatetic bazaar sector geared to supplying 
food grains and other essentials to Mughal armies on the march. The 
emperors and their military commanders relied upon cash payments to 
mobilize troops at whatever location, numbers, skill, and equipment 
they needed. Similarly, for large-scale building projects, they would 
obtain cadres of highly skilled workers in ample numbers at any 



In general imperial integration seems to have fostered the growth of 
inter-regional trade and linkages. Much of this trade was in luxury 
goods, but not all. During the Mughal period provinces with food 
surpluses, such as Bengal, sent these goods to food-deficit areas like 
Gujarat by means of the active coastal shipping industry. The empire 
taxed overland and maritime trade, but at a modest, and generally 
predictable level. Increased security from banditry and arbitrary 
confiscation offset the costs of customs and other duties imposed. 


After Vasco da Gama’s voyage around Africa, India’s pepper and other 
spices and cotton textiles drew first Iberian, then Northern European 
traders to the subcontinent armed with plentiful supplies of gold and 
silver from the New World. Self-sufficient in most products and 
commodities save for precious metals, India eagerly accepted gold and 
silver as payment for a rising export to Europe. By 1600 the Dutch and 
English East India Companies had begun to exploit the commercial 
potential of the Cape route direct to South and Southeast Asia. This 
new sea link carried steadily expanding cargoes between Mughal India 
and Europe. European textile demand stimulated Indian cloth pro- 
duction throughout the subcontinent. Despite frequent strains, the 
interests of both the Mughal empire and that of the East India 
Companies were well served by this new connection. Beyond the 
economic effects, what were the cultural impacts of this change in 
Europe and Mughal India? 

By the first decades of the eighteenth century hundreds of European 
traders, seamen, diplomats, and adventurers had endured the long sea 
voyage to India. These men, and a few women, traversed the length and 
breadth of the subcontinent. Many were employed by Indians; more 
Indians were employed by them. Despite the lengthy delays, letters 
were exchanged regularly between India and Europe. Those who 
returned gave first hand accounts of India to those at home. Numerous 
collections of letters and travel accounts were published and dissemi- 
nated widely amongst the reading public of Europe. From this 
proliferating literature, Europeans obtained a detailed picture of early 
modern Mughal India. 

What of the return traffic? What sort of information did Mughal 
India receive about Europe? The most direct answer is, very little. 



Despite regular shipping between Indian and European ports, no 
Indians other than a few seamen made the voyage. Traveler’s accounts 
and letters describing Europe to a Mughal public simply do not exist. 

Europeans could travel freely in Mughal India because state and 
society were so remarkably indifferent. In China at the same period all 
foreigners were tightly controlled by imperial officers. Japan during 
the Tokugawa period excluded all Europeans from the islands. Only a 
handful of Dutch traders were permitted a tiny enclave at Dakshima 
from which they could carry on trade. By contrast, Mughal India was 
completely permeable to foreign visitors. Society, rather than the state, 
placed barriers against intruders in India’s compartmentalized society. 
After they had paid customs duties, all foreigners were free to travel 
anywhere and to remain as long as they wished. This resulted in a 
network of Europeans domiciled in every major town on the sub- 

Emigrés of higher status or ability occasionally developed friend- 
ships with Mughal officers or Indian merchants, but the impact of these 
relationships was minimal. Indians displayed little interest in European 
culture or society. As we have seen Akbar’s interest in Christianity 
moved him to entertain Jesuit missionaries at his court — a practice 
engaged in by his more inquiring descendants until the death of Dara 
Shukoh. After Akbar, however, none of the Mughal emperors had any 
appreciable interest in Europe. Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb 
all admitted envoys from the trading companies or their rulers, and 
displayed an intense interest in the types of presentations and gifts 
offered. Beyond this little notice was taken. In the historical writing of 
the period these curious foreigners were largely ignored — despite their 
depiction in paintings of the Mughal court. 

The Europeans carried with them a variety of technological 
advances. Some techniques and devices were widely accepted, used, 
and indigenous adaptations produced. For example, the use of the 
capstan (a wheel and axle on a vertical axis) for hauling heavy objects 
was adopted for launching ships at some ports.! Some techniques and 
devices were adopted but not produced locally. The use of hand-driven 
pumps to move standing water from boats was a technique readily 
accepted by Indian shipmasters in the seventeenth century. But there is 
no evidence of indigenous manufacture. Some innovations were seen 

1 Ahsan Jan Qaisar, The Indian Response to European Technology and Culture (A.D. 
1498-1707) (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 33- 



purely as a curiosity in spite of widespread practical application in 
Europe. Telescopes were used regularly as navigational aids and for 
long-distance observation in warfare in Europe. Examples were pre- 
sented to various Indian dignitaries but elicited no usage or pro- 
duction.? European mechanical clocks and watches used routinely by 
Europeans in India were ignored by Indian society. 

The question of technology transfer in regard to firearms is complex. 
The casting of cannon and manufacture of muskets was apparently a 
matter of routine and the technical skills and materials to accomplish 
this were widely available. Despite its importance, Mughal histories 
and other surviving documentation have little to say about the tech- 
nical side of weaponry. Those armorers, smiths and other technicians 
who actually cast cannon or fabricated muskets were mute. We have 
frustratingly little direct information about the production and distri- 
bution of firearms in Mughal India. 

Some innovations were adopted and diffused widely. Animal-borne 
swivel guns became a routine feature of Mughal warfare. These were 
guns with stocks often two or more meters in length which fired a ball 
perhaps 10-12 cm. in diameter.* Other developments such as the 
flint-lock musket widely used in Europe in the 1620s, lagged. Adop- 
tion of this device in Mughal India was much slower. For most of the 
century the matchlock or arquebus was the dominant weapon.’ Use 
and manufacture were two different spheres. Pistols were known and 
used on a wide basis in seventeenth century Mughal India, but were 
not commonly manufactured in India.® 

The apparent indifference of the Mughal elites to improved 
weaponry is striking. Official interest in weaponry was occasional and 
haphazard at best. As usual Akbar was exceptional in that he took a 
keen interest in trying to improve the quality of muskets. He kept a 
special collection of muskets and tested them himself for their firing 
qualities. After Akbar only occasional references to the technical side 
of weapons occur. Mughal artillery was certainly far superior to 
anything that could be deployed by regional rulers, tributaries, or by 
zamindars. Within the subcontinent the combined effect of Mughal 
artillery and well-handled heavy cavalry continued to be decisive. But 

2 Ibid. p. 35. > Ibid., p. 66. 

+ Surviving specimens may be seen in various museums or in the collections of forts such as 
that at Golconda outside of Hyderabad. 

5 Qaisar, Indian Response, p. 52. Ibid., p. 54. 



the Mughals may well have started to fall behind other contemporary 
powers in the seventeenth century. 

The emperor and his nobles employed a polyglot group of European 
soldiers and adventurers as artillerymen. In the last half of the 
seventeenth century European gunners, who were often deserters from 
the East India Company ships and garrisons, had a virtual monopoly 
on gunners’ positions. By falling back on this expedient, the military 
elites of Mughal India essentially abdicated any responsibility for 
technical improvements in gunnery. They left these matters up to small 
cadres of foreign specialists - most of whom had only the most 
rudimentary training and but limited experience. 

By the early years of the eighteenth century Mughal India was not 
keeping pace with Europe in field artillery. For example, in 1701, 
William Norris, the English ambassador to Aurangzeb’s court, finally 
obtained an audience with the emperor who was then engaged in the 
siege of Panhala fort near Kolhapur. So impressed was the Mughal 
chief of artillery with twelve light brass field guns that Norris brought 
in his entourage that the English ambassador was forced to offer them 
to the emperor at the court audience.” Norris also supplied six gunners 
to operate the guns in the siege. Even allowing for Mughal disorgani- 
zation in Aurangzeb’s last years, the gap between the artillery of early 
modern Europe and that of India was widening. Later in the century 
the Maratha, Mysore, and Mughal successor states made strenuous 
and largely successful efforts to overcome this disadvantage in their 
wars with the British. 

Perhaps the most puzzling cultural divide was to be found in 
differing approaches to writing and literacy. In common with much of 
the early modern Islamic world, Mughal India did not adopt movable 
type printing. The Portuguese operated a printing press with movable 
metal type at Goa in the 15 50s. Religious tracts in various south Indian 
languages were printed from fonts of Romanized script.? Akbar 
acquired a large number of printed European books for his library 
from the Jesuit missionaries. In 1606 the Jesuits showed Jahangir a 
copy of the Gospels printed in the Arabic script to verify that this was 
possible.? Nevertheless, despite this exposure, none of the emperors, 
intellectuals, or nobles showed any interest in printing. This is 

? HH. Das, The Norris Embassy to Aurangzib (Calcutta, 1959). pp. 293-94. 
® Qaisar, Indian Response, p. 58. 
» Ibid., p. 60. 



especially surprising in view of the enormous mass of written materials 
required to operate the imperial administration. Widespread adoption 
of mechanical printing only began in Bengal under British colonial 

Mughal civilization was far more outward looking than Tokugawa 
Japan. Certainly the emperor and the imperial elite were informed 
about its neighboring countries and regions. Elite and popular atten- 
tion was fixed primarily on the Islamic world to the west and especially 
on the Ottomans and Safavids. The Mughal emperors, measuring their 
success by wealth, victory, and grandeur, saw little to interest them in 
the politics and culture of Europe. 


It was only after Aurangzeb annexed the Sultanates of Bijapur and 
Golconda that the forward momentum of victory and centralized 
control slowed and reversed. The three decades from 1689 to the end of 
Farrukhsiyar’s reign in 1719 saw the deterioration and, in the end, the 
destruction of the centralized imperial system. An empire accustomed 
to never-ending expansion and victory could not adjust to losses and 
defeats. No longer confident and unassailable, the emperor, the 
princes, and the nobility of the empire struggled with shrinking 
resources, loss of control, and growing disorder. Aurangzeb’s rigid 
and imperceptive policies, especially in the Deccan, failed to respond to 
the growing crisis. 

Under Aurangzeb imperial policy reverted to the militance of 
Indo-Muslim frontier expansion. Under Aurangzeb political loyalty 
was increasingly seen as sectarian loyalty. Only Muslims could partici- 
pate fully in the Timurid empire. Religious sentiment did translate in 
complex and meaningful ways into political responses in Mughal India. 

High level policy debate — never a strong point within the system — 
was pallid and ineffectual. Unlike contemporary Ottoman practice, we 
find no examples of clearly stated memorials to the throne, written by 
high-ranking officers, that questioned the costs of Aurangzeb’s Deccan 
war. When such debate did occur, during the great sieges of Bijapur, 
Golconda, and Jinji, the princes were the locus. And, unfortunately, 
their role as loyal opposition encountered Aurangzeb’s fear and 
suspicion of his sons. Opposition or independent negotiation with the 
enemy was viewed as treasonous. 



Between 1707 and 1720 the centralized structure of empire broke 
apart. Four wracking, bitter, wars of succession occurred in this 
thirteen-year period. The bureaucratic edifice manned by skilled 
technical staff lost its efficiency and probity. The two central institu- 
tions managed by that bureaucracy — the zabt revenue system and the 
assignment of jagirs — degenerated to caricatures. The revenue system 
slid into tax farming and those jagirs assigned rapidly became local 
fiefs. Mughal officers maneuvered successfully to have jagirs assigned 
to their home localities and to keep the same assignments for extended 

This rapid collapse could have been an inevitable result of a “jagir 
crisis,” that is the widening gap between the salary demands of the 
mansabdars and revenue-yielding lands sufficient to meet those needs. 
Was it this crucial link between rural society, the regulation land tax 
system, and the military elites which faltered? Was the jagir crisis 
symptomatic of a mismatch between the ever-rising resource demands 
of the state and the capacity of Indian society to meet those demands? 
Irfan Habib has taken this view. 

In the well-known last chapter of his 1963 book, Habib argues that 
official revenue policy — driven by ever-expanding imperial expenses — 
appropriated the entire surplus produced by the peasantry. The jagir 
system itself inevitably drove up the revenue demand as time passed. 
This flaw did not show up in the nominal assessment, which increased 
roughly in tandem with prices, but rather in the behavior of the 
individual jagirdar. The latter, who held his lands for no more than 
three or four years before transfer, maintained no long-term interest in 
their prosperity. Hence each jagirdar’s need for money encouraged 
him to “sanction any act of oppression that conferred an immediate 
benefit upon him, even if it ruined the peasantry and so destroyed the 
revenue-paying capacity of that area for all time.’”!° Cultivation fell off 
as oppression increased and peasants left the land because they could 
not survive. Responding to this cycle zamindars squeezed between the 
jagirdars and the peasantry entered into armed revolts at the head of 
their rural dependents. In support of this argument Habib refers to the 
protracted revolts of the Jats and Sikhs. The most devastating zamin- 
dari rebellion flared up in the Maratha resistance in the Deccan. 

This powerful interpretation has colored virtually all recent popular 
10 Irfan Habib, The Agrarian System of Mughal India (London: Asia Publishing House, 

1963), p. 320. 



writing and most scholarly views of the Mughal empire. In recent years 
critics have become more vocal. Examination of post-conquest 
imperial policies in Golconda suggests that policy choices had a 
bearing on the severity of the jagir crisis. Aurangzeb seems to have 
decided to retain many productive tracts in Golconda and also in 
Bijapur under direct crown control. Thereby jagirdars serving in the 
Deccan were denied access to the new resources obtained by conquest 
and annexation.!! Other critics have pointed out difficulties in firmly 
identifying the links between oppressive jagirdars, agrarian resistance 
and imperial decline. Checks against abuse were built into the system. 
A plausible case can be made that agricultural production was increas- 
ing, not decreasing, and that peasants were not fleeing the land, but 
expanding the cultivated area. It is difficult to accept the notion that the 
imperial system itself either stifled or stagnated economic growth and 
social change. Quite the reverse. Evidence for a prosperous town 
gentry, well-to-do peasants, and a substantial commercial and trading 
community abounds. 

As Satish Chandra has pointed out transfers of jagirs for large 
holders may have not been as frequent as we have previously thought 
and many nobles may have held on to their lands for ten years or 
more. “In fact, not frequent transfers but the decay of the practice of 
periodic transfers of jagirs during the eighteenth century made the 
jagirs hereditary, and led to the further strengthening of the zamindars 
as a class.”!? In short, the jagir crisis, while certainly serious, was not 
the central reason for imperial decline. 

The revolts in northern India occurred partly because of inattentive 
and weak administration in those years when Aurangzeb was preoccu- 
pied in the Deccan. From one perspective, at least, the shortage of 
productive jagir lands can be located in official policy and in the 
devastation and dislocation wrought by the Deccan wars. Thereafter a 
series of political crises caused by struggles over the throne rapidly 
weakened the integrity of non-hereditary salary assignments and the 
regulation land tax system. 

Was there a structural disjuncture between Mughal state and society 
that led to long-term, unremedied, structural weaknesses? Two link- 
ages were essential for centralized Mughal authority. These were the 
ties of emotion and interest that bound the nobility to the throne and 

11 See Richards, Mughal Administration, for a full discussion of this issue. 
12 Satish Chandra, Medieval India (Delhi: Orient Longmans, 1982), p. 73. 



those contractual ties buttressed by self-interest that linked the rural 
warrior aristocracies to the empire. For nobles and zamindars the aim 
was similar: to convert armed warrior aristocrats into dependable 
imperial servants. Mughal expansion and dynamic growth was the 
impetus for a slow, but steady socialization and transformation of each 
group. Retreat on the frontiers, confusion, and loss of confidence 
halted this process. 

Both linkages came under intense strain in the years between 1689 
and 1720. Factional conflict, sinking at times to bitter fighting in the 
streets of Delhi, severely tested the loyalties of the nobility. Nobles and 
mansabdars discovered that personal ties to the emperor were atten- 
uated as the factional struggle proceeded. The emperor was less and less 
able to deploy and control amirs to meet imperial needs. Nobles 
managed their households, revenue collection, troops, and their 
assigned tasks to best serve perceived needs for survival — not royal 
favor and preference. In the provinces, impeccably loyal governors and 
diwans ignored regulations and taboos. To survive they shaped 
regional systems of power and authority which became Mughal 
successor states. Even a consummate technician like Murshid Quli 
Khan became a regional ruler in Bengal and Orissa despite his manifest 
loyalty to the Timurid throne. 

These problems were most severe with the two major groups of 
Hindu nobles. Aurangzeb proved unable to- repair his relationship 
with the Rajputs. Long-term trends within Rajasthan, such as the 
steadily centralizing authority and power of the great Rajput noble 
houses, may have demanded alterations in the Rajput-Timurid 
relationship. Since the Rajput war of 1679 the Mughal empire had 
suffered from the growing alienation of this important segment of the 
Mughal nobility. Aurangzeb and his immediate successors were unable 
to restore a relationship of affection, trust and dependence between the 
ruler and Rajput amirs. What proved to be half-hearted attempts at 
conciliation and reincorporation failed. 

Equally devastating was Timurid failure to incorporate Maratha 
rulers and commanders in the western Deccan as full participants in the 
governance of the empire. Crucial opportunities to enlist Maratha 
loyalties were lost. Those Marathas who accepted imperial mansabs 
were used primarily as troop commanders in the Deccan and were not 
rotated in service elsewhere in the empire. In the east, apart from one or 
two unhappy exceptions, no Telugu aristocrats were recruited as 



nobles and military commanders. The regime’s preoccupation with the 
Marathas prevented any attempt to incorporate this numerous and able 
warrior group into the imperial elite. 

The later Timurid regime did not succeed in converting armed 
zamindars into disarmed quasi-officials who would reliably carry out 
imperial policy. Instead, by the second decade of the eighteenth 
century, widespread violent resistance by zamindars occurred in every 
region of North India as well as in the Deccan. The Sikh, Beas Rajput, 
and Jat resistance are only three examples of widespread violence in the 
countryside. That intrusion into the hard-shelled pargana structures of 
the country begun by Akbar with the zabt system faltered during the 
Deccan wars. Across North India thousands of zamindars discovered 
that contractual agreements (sanads) made with the Mughal emperor 
possessed dwindling worth. The regime was failing to guarantee 
zamindari rights and failing to enforce zamindari obligations in the 

In the south the Mughals failed to reconstitute the agrarian system of 
the western Deccan. Decades of Mughal campaigns and diplomatic 
pressures on Ahmadnagar, Khandesh, and Bijapur weakened authority 
structures in the Muslim Sultanates of the western Deccan to the point 
that they could not retain the services and loyalties of Maratha 
deshmukhs and other landholders in the countryside. Inclusion in the 
emerging Bhonsla structure became a viable alternative to many, but 
not all, Maratha zamindars. In the eastern Deccan under the Sultanate 
of Golconda, the state retained coherent authority in the countryside 
over the Telugu aristocracy. After conquest the Telugu nayaks did not 
join the Marathas in rebellion and remained relatively quiescent under 
the new regime. 

Widespread violent resistance directed against the Timurid regime 
by zamindars and peasants can be explained simply as a predictable 
response to weakened imperial power. Oppressed and burdened by 
Mughal revenue demands local zamindars and peasants at the first 
opportunity joined in resisting the demands of the centralizing state. 
The difficulty with this analysis is that the secular trend between 
Akbar’s reforms in the 1580s to 1700 or thereabouts suggests that, 
although occasional episodes of brutal oppression can be identified, 
most zamindars and peasants were prospering. With the exception of 
war-torn regions in the Deccan, generally agricultural production 
seems to have increased and the area under cultivation grew steadily. 



Agricultural growth responded directly to expanding markets driven 
by the state’s revenue demands and by the demand impulses generated 
by new export markets. Networks of trading towns (qasbas) and larger 
villages grew more dense. These were inhabited by increasingly 
well-to-do traders and moneylenders like the Khatris in the Punjab. 

Under these circumstances cooperation with the regime could pay 
real dividends. The state by its contractual relationships with zamin- 
dars and elite peasants (often referred to as “village zamindars”) 
provided guarantees of security and stability. A market in the sale and 
lease of zamindars’ rights emerged. Consequently peaceful aggran- 
dizement began to supplant the aggression, colonization, and settle- 
ment of warrior/peasant lineages formerly engaged in miniature local 
warfare. Documented sales of zamindar rights supply powerful evi- 
dence that the centralizing Timurid regime successfully intervened in 
the arrangement and distribution of local power. 

Why then these revolts under the later Mughals? One answer is that 
the very success of the Timurid agrarian system brought about 
important changes in rural society. These changes required, but did not 
receive, recognition and adjustment by the regime. Under Shah Jahan 
and Aurangzeb sizable numbers of Muslim ulema and their dependents 
were given tax-free grants of land. Royal patronage provided the 
umbrella under which grant recipients took up residence in market 
towns or in larger villages. Returns from untaxed lands as well as 
frequent engagement in the trading life of these towns brought 
prosperity to a burgeoning class of Muslim gentry. In addition to 
tax-free lands they also enjoyed freedom from the burden of jiziya. If 
from these bases Muslim, or even Hindu trading groups, took the 
opportunity to obtain zamindari rights, their interests would 
inevitably clash with those of the zamindars. The current evidence, 
though sketchy, suggests a real cleavage between Muslim gentry ranks 
and those of the Jat peasantry in the Sikh rebellion, for example. 

Rising production and monetization of the rural economy put more 
resources at the disposal of both zamindars and peasants. Many 
successful local lineages, like the Beas Rajputs, growing in numbers, 
wished to expand their domains. If the Mughal agrarian order con- 
tinued strong and resilient, these groups could have used their profits 
to purchase or lease added rights in neighboring lands. Such expansion 
would have been an important step in demilitarizing these warrior 
lineages. On the other hand, if the state’s local control slackened as it 



did in Aurangzeb’s later years, prosperous zamindars could count on 
greater resources — money and men — by which to annex new lands 
with time-honored violent methods. Possessing ample funds they 
could obtain the services of non-kinsmen from the local military labor 
market. For such warrior elites the constraints of expansion by 
purchase may well have been irksome and the violent tactics of men of 
honor preferable. 

As yet unexamined is the extent to which local zamindars had slowly 
gained a military advantage vis-a-vis imperial forces. The growing 
popularity of improved muskets and greater proficiency in their use 
should have been advantageous to zamindars who relied primarily on 
foot soldiery. Better-equipped, more numerous, and better drilled 
musketeers might even the balance with imperial heavy cavalry. 
Certainly the Mughals themselves increasingly hired professional, 
specialized bodies of musketeers available for service from eastern 
Hindustan (Buxaris) and other localities in the subcontinent.’ If local 
elites could use their financial strength to hire large numbers of 
competent musketeers, they could have reduced the tactical disparity 
between themselves and Mughal contingents. 

Mughal intervention in rural Indian society, initially highly 
effective, hesitated at a critical juncture. If the agrarian system had 
remained intact, its effect would have been to slowly demilitarize 
cadres of local warrior aristocrats.'* Instead the long-term effect was to 
increase the confidence and the resources of the zamindars and to 
encourage conflict with more prominent gentry and trading groups. 
Perhaps the empire was not sufficiently flexible to deal with social 
change that its new order itself had helped to bring about. The 
Timurids failed to incorporate zamindars into the political life and 
culture of the Mughal empire nor did they have the resources and will 
to forcefully disarm and demilitarize these bellicose warrior groups in 
the countryside. Only their successors, the British, who were con- 
structing a rapidly modernizing colonial state, were able to reach that 
goal after decades of remorseless military campaigns. 

When the empire began to decline signs of economic decline in the 
subcontinental economy are noticeable. Growing disorder brought on 
by unchecked raiding and plundering in the Deccan did inhibit 

13 Dirk H. A. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 
1990), pp. 159-176. 

4 Barrington Moore, in his Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston, 1956), 
first articulated this vital point in a comparative assessment. 



economic activity. But in many regions, growth continued at a steady 
pace. The structural break-up of empire in the early eighteenth century 
did not necessarily force the complete dissolution of the inter-regional 
imperial economy. Instead, those forces for change already present 
responded to new incentives and growth continued. 

By the first decade of Muhammad Shah’s reign, money, information, 
orders, and men no longer moved from capital to province and from 
province to province at the emperor’s command. After 1720 the 
formerly centralized empire continued as a loosely knit collection of 
regional kingdoms, whose rulers, although styling themselves imperial 
governors, offered only token tribute and service to the Mughal 
emperor at Delhi. The Marathas, headquartered at Poona, were organ- 
izing a counter-empire, one less rigid, more flexible than the Mughal 
empire. The symbols and aura of Timurid authority continued to 
fascinate the hardened Indian and European politicians and generals of 
eighteenth century India. The Mughal empire was fast becoming 
merely the empty shell of its formerly grand structure. 





Dar-al Islam 

Dar-al Jihad 


the Brahminical coronation ceremony for Hindu 

cadre of high-status cavalrymen employed directly by 
the Mughal emperor. 

agents in charge of revenue collection. 

a revenue officer charged with revenue collection. 

a Mughal officer of high status and rank, a nobleman. 
one-sixteenth part of a rupee. 

a military paymaster also in charge of military inspec- 
tions and intelligence gathering. 

populating land after clearing the forests. 

itinerant traders employing thousands of pack oxen to 
transport salt, foodgrains, and other bulk commo- 

a Central Asian or Turkish term for a man of high 
status and rank. 

a Rajput patrilineage claiming shared descent up to six 
or more generations. 

popular devotional Hinduism centered on poet saints 
and their followers. 

warriors of the land, less powerful retainers of a 
Rajput thakur or chief. 

unit of land area standardized by imperial decree at 
approximately three-fifths of an acre. 

the raised platform found in city squares used for 
public executions and punishments. 

in North India quasi-official recognized as the 
headman of a pargana by the imperial authorities. 
traditional one-fourth portion of the land revenues 
claimed by zamindars and later the Marathas in 
western India. 

Sanskrit term for all-conquering ruler. 

a distinctive brand placed on the flank of horses 
meeting imperial standards. 

Mughal copper coin valued at one-fortieth of a rupee. 
the abode or land of legitimate Islamic rule and 

the land of war or unbelief. 

personal worship of a god. 





diwan-i khalisa 

diwan-i kul 
diwan-i tan 



fath nama 









in the Deccan a quasi-official recognized as the 
headman of a pargana by the imperial authorities. 
variable rights and duties associated with different 
castes in the Hindu social order. 

those non-Muslim peoples treated by Islamic rulers as 
dependent communities with fixed rights and obli- 


a fiscal or revenue officer within the Mughal admin- 

officer in charge of all lands and revenue producing 
units administered directly by the emperor. 

also wazir or chief imperial fiscal minister. 

Mughal minister in charge of salaries and perquisites 
for mansabdars. 

land lying between two rivers. 

a public audience held by an official or ruler. 

a formal, written, edict issued by the Mughal emperor 
under his personal seal. 

the victory proclamation issued by a Muslim ruler. 

a public ruling on a point of law issued upon request 
by a Muslim jurist or mufti. 

a Mughal officer given military and executive respon- 
sibility in a fixed area. 

Hindi term for the low cushioned seat of a ruler. 

a grain market. 

imperial measure of length roughly equivalent to a 

literally a step; used to refer to the bathing steps at a 

an armed warrior fighting for the faith of Islam, 

a shallow draft war boat carrying cannon for use in 
rivers and estuaries. 

the screened-off living quarters and harem of the 
Mughal emperor in camp. 

the personal bathing room, of the Mughal emperor, 
used for secret conferences with senior officers. 

a public bath. 

the quarters or urban areas surrounding noble 

a gold coin circulating in the Deccan and South India. 
provinces or other regions ruled in the name of 
medieval Indo-Muslim rulers by nobles or other 

holder of revenue-producing lands assigned for salary, 
Le. a jagir. 





bbud-hasht zamindar 

madad-i mash 


mal-wajib zamindar 


temporary fiscal right conferred by the Mughal 
emperor to collect the land tax from a specified village, 
pargana, or large area. 

total revenues or revenue demand. 

life or spirit 

killing of female dependents in a last rite of defeated 
Rajput warriors who then seek a suicidal death in 

striving on behalf of the Islamic faith in the conflict 
with unbelievers. 

an Afghan tribal council. 

an annual tax levied on protected non-Muslim com- 
munities by Islamic rulers. 

a revenue official under Akbar. 

the caliph or the secular successor to the Prophet 
Muhammad who assumes leadership of the entire 
Muslim world. 

lands or other entities producing revenue directly for 
the emperor and the central treasury. 

a Turkish and Central Asian honorific term for chief 
or nobleman. 

“son of the house”, an officer boasting hereditary 
family service to the Mughal emperor. 

an extended patrilineal Jat clan. 

smaller zamindars dominant within villages. 

prayers which acknowledge the legitimate ruler of the 
kingdom uttered at the time of the weekly congre- 
gational Friday prayers. 

a city magistrate. 

the Sikh charitable kitchen at which all comers are fed. 
cotton cloth used as a men’s loincloth. 

tax-free lands given to pious or otherwise worthy 
recipients as charity. 

school or seminary offering instruction in Islamic 
jurisprudence, theology, philosophy and similar 

traders in grain and other commodities. 

Muslim belief that the Prophet Muhammad will 
return as the savior of Islam or mahdi. 

property anid goods. 

term for revenues obtained from the land tax. 

a landholder who collected specified revenues for the 
Mughals in return for tax-free lands and a percentage 
of his collections. 

imperial unit of weight. 




mir bakhshi 

mir saman 










rank, status and position denoted by numerical rank 
and title. 

of or pertaining to mansabdars. 

officer holding a specified numerical rank and title 
awarded by the Mughal emperor. 

centers or hospices for Hindu orders of monks. 

a high-ranking officer reporting directly to the 
emperor in charge of military pay, inspections, 
recruitment, and intelligence. 

officer in charge of the royal household, palaces, 
treasuries, mints and royal construction projects. 

a town quarter or neighborhood. 

a bond drawn up to assure good performance. 

a Muslim jurist who issues public decisions on legal 

Mughal gold coin. 

Islamic official appointed to enforce the Sharia and to 
regulate markets and commerce. 

interpreter of the Holy Law of Islam. 

disciple who has sworn devotion to a Sufi master or to 
the Mughal emperor. 

the honor of the warrior. 

that portion of the revenue alloted zamindars for their 

local king or chief in South India. 

Persian term for emperor or great king. 

tenant farmers in Rajasthan. 

unassigned jagir lands managed temporarily by the 
diwan-i khalisa. 

copper coin of the Sur dynasty. 

asmall, named and bounded, rural administrative area 
containing between ten to over one hundred villages 
and one or more larger towns. 

a Sufi saint or master. 

tribute paid in money or goods to a superior. 
quasi-official recognized by the imperial administra- 
tion as the keeper of revenue records for a pargana or 
district in North India. 

a town, frequently applied to rural market towns. 

a judge charged with upholding the holy law of Islam 
and carrying out numerous civil functions. 

military commander assigned the task of road 

peasant held, not zamindari. 

Mughal term for peasants or rural subjects. 








shast-wa shabah 







a Spanish silver coin minted in the New World 
revenues in lieu of pay and perquisites. 

a covered approach way, often a trench, constructed 
to allow an assault on a besieged fortress. 

Muslim head of religious patronage for the Mughal 

worship of the energies of Kali or Devi, the great 
destructive female goddesses in Hinduism. 

a written document or ‘order conferring office or 

a public inn run for the benefit of travelers. 

chief of the deshmukhs within a province or region. 
that ten percent of the revenue allocated to the chief 
deshmukh or a region. 

a named territorial and administrative unit between 
the pargana and province. 

moneychangers and purveyors of short-term com- 
mercial credit in Mughal India. 

leader or head of a Sufi order or hospice. 

imperial seal and miniature portrait. 

the extreme form of ceremonial prostration favored 
by Sufi disciples before their masters and adapted by 
Akbar for his court. 

newly-minted coins circulating at a premium, 
numerical ranking denoting the number of armed 
heavy cavalrymen each Mughal officer was required 
to bring to the muster. 

refers to the original Maratha homelands under Shivaji. 
a zamindar who collected land revenues from his 
fellow zamindars in return for a commission from the 
imperial revenue ministry. 

the mystical path followed by all Sufis and other 
mystics in search of God. 

North Indian term for master or lord; used commonly 
by Rajput and Jat castes. 

a fortified military frontier checkpoint. 

commander of a military border post. 

the vermilion mark placed on the forehead of a Rajput 

men learned in the Sharia or Holy Law of Islam and 
the Islamic subjects of higher learning. 

the anniversary of the death of a revered saint. 
deputy or assistant, chief minister in Akbar’s early 

a trust for religious and charitable purposes founded 
by a Muslim. 


watan jagir 




ancestral lands held in the family of a Maratha chief or 


ancestral holdings assigned in jagir to Rajput Mughal 

chief fiscal minister for the Mughal emperor. 

the mature system of land tax assessment and collec- 
tion under the Mughals. 

obligatory tax levied on the property of Muslims 
every year for charitable purposes. 

landlords or landholders who controlled the 
peasantry directly. 

personal numerical rank held by a Mughal officer. 




The short narrative account of the Mughals in The Oxford History of India 
(Oxford, 3rd edition, 1958) is helpful for a quick overview. R. C. Majumdar, 
ed., The History and Culture of the Indian People, The Mughul Empire, 
although detailed, has a decidedly anti-Muslim bias. More readable, with 
superb illustrations, is Bamber Gascoigne’s The Great Moghuls (London, 
1971). Another popular narrative is Waldemar Hansen, The Peacock Throne 
(New York, 1972). A number of regional or provincial histories cover the 
entire Mughal period. Among these are Jadunath Sarkar, ed., History of 
Bengal: Muslim Period 1200-1757 (Patna, 1973) and B. C. Ray, Orissa Under 
the Mughals (Calcutta, 1981). 


Babur’s own memoir can be read in the A. S. Beveridge translation of his 
Babur-Nama (New Delhi, reprint edition, 1970). Stephen Dale discusses the 
intensely personal nature of this memoir in “Steppe Humanism: The Auto- 
biographical Writings of Zahir al-Din Muhammad Babur, 1483-1530,” Inter- 
national Journal of Middle East Studies 22 (1990), 37-58. The most recent full 
biography is Mohibbul Hasan, Babur, Founder of the Mughal Empire in India 
(Delhi, 1985). Still lacking is a first-rate study that places Babur intelligibly in 
both his Central Asian and North Indian worlds. Humayun’s reign is covered 
in Ishwari Prasad, The Life and Times of Humayun (Calcutta, 1955). 
Gulbadan Begam, in her memoirs, The History of Humayun (London, 1902), 
translated by A. Beveridge offers a noblewoman’s perspective on the dynasty 
and India. Thomas W. Lentz and Glenn D. Lowry, Timur and the Princely 
Vision (Los Angeles, 1989) argue that Timur and his successors refined a 
coherent aesthetic designed to buttress and support political domination. 

Iqtidar Alam Khan’s biography of Humayun’s brother, Mirza Kamran 
(Bombay, 1964) is also useful. One of the best treatments of the Surs is I. H. 
Siddiqi, History of Sher Shah Sur (Aligarh, 1971) and by the same author 
Afghan Despotism in India (Aligarh, 1969). 

The official history of the reign is by Abul Fazl, Akbar-Nama (Delhi, 3 vols., 
reprint 1977) in the Beveridge translation. Frequently cited is the accompany- 
ing imperial manual, the Ain-i Akbari translated by H. Beveridge (Lahore, 
reprint 1975). Distinctly unofficial is the unsympathetic Abdul Qadir 



Badauni, Muntahkhabu-t Tawarikh (Calcutta, 3 vols., 1864~9). A. Monser- 
rate Commentary ... on his journey to the Court of Akbar translated by J. S. 
Hoyland (London, 1922) is an informative visitor’s account. In a provocative 
synthesis, Douglas E. Streusand, The Formation of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 
1989) sets out a new interpretation of the evolution of Mughal political 
institutions under Akbar. K. A. Nizami, Akbar and Religion (Delhi, 1989) 
systematically analyzes. N. A. Siddiqi, Land Revenue Administration Under 
the Mughals 1700-1750 (Aligarh, 1970) treats the deterioration of the revenue 
system in north India. 


For administrative, political, and economic geography consult Irfan Habib, 
An Atlas of the Mughal Empire (Delhi, 1982). The atlas, the product of 
inspired scholarship, contains detailed political and economic maps of each 
province. For the revenue system and imperial institutions generally Irfan 
Habib’s The Agrarian System of Mughal India (London, 1963) is indispensa- 
ble. I. H. Qureshi, The Administration of the Mughul Empire (Karachi, 1966) 
is clear and concise. The most informative treatment of the Mughal nobility is 
M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility Under Aurangzeb (Aligarh, 1966) and 
consult also Athar Ali, The Apparatus of Empire (Delhi, 1985) an exhaustive 
compendium on the nobility prior to 1658. H. Beveridge and B. Prashad have 
translated the large biographical dictionary of the Mughal nobility, Shah 
Nawaz Khan, The Maathir-ul-Umara (New Delhi, 2 vols., reprint edition 
1979). See S. N. Sinha, Subah of Allahabad Under the Great Mughals (Delhi, 
1974) and B. C. Ray, Orissa Under the Mughals (Calcutta, 1981) for provin- 
cial administration. The excellent study by S. P. Gupta, The Agrarian System 
of Eastern Rajasthan (c. 1650 to c. 1750) (Delhi, 1986) is based upon analysis of 
the voluminous archival sources from this region. See also S. A. A. Rizvi, 
Religious and Intellectual History of the Muslims in Akbar’s Reign (New 
Delhi, 1975); J. F. Richards, “The Formulation of Imperial Authority Under 
Akbar and Jahangir” in J. F. Richards, ed., Kingship and Authority in South 
Asia (Madison, 1978) is also useful. Shireen Moosvi has intensively analyzed 
the statistical material found in the Ain-i Akbari and ancillary sources in The 
Economy of the Mughal Empire c. 1595 (Delhi, 1987). The question of Akbar’s 
illiteracy is discussed in an important article by Ellen Smart, “Akbar, Illiterate 
Genius,” Kaladarshana (1981), pp. 99-107. 


Anew critical study of Jahangir is badly needed. The standard biography, Beni 
Prasad, History of Jahangir (London, 1922) is outdated. Jahangir’s own 
account is to be found in the A. Rogers and H. Beveridge translation, The 
Tuzuk-iJahangiri (Delhi, 2nd. edn., 2 vols. in one, 1968). An excellent example 
of the Indo-Muslim “Mirrors for Princes” literature is Sajida Alvi’s Advice on 
the Art of Governance (Albany, 1989), the text and translation of a treatise 



written in Jahangir’s reign. A fascinatingly candid Mughal nobleman’s auto- 
biography is Mirza Nathan, Baharistan-i Ghaybi (Gauhati, 2 vols., 1936) 
translated by M. I. Borah. Thomas Roe gives us an astute foreign view of 
Jahangir and his court in W. Foster, ed., The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to 
India 615-1619 (London, rev. edn, 1926). 


The standard history of the reign, long out-dated, is Banarsi Prasad Saksena, 
History of Shah Jahan of Dili (Allahabad, reprint of 1932 edition, 1973). The 
massive official chronicles of Shah Jahan’s reign have not been translated, but 
W.E. Begley and Z. A. Desai, eds., The Shah Jahan Nama of 'Inayat Khan 
(Delhi, 1990) have published a translation of an abridged version of those 
histories. The better traveller’s accounts include Sebastian Manrique, Travels 
of Fray Sebastian Manrique 1629~1643 (Cambridge, 1927) and Peter Mundy, 
Travels, Vol. 2: Travels in Asia, 1630-1634, ed. R. C. Temple (London, 1914). 


The standard biography is by Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzib (Cal- 
cutta, 5 vols., 1912-24). This is still the most reliable full political and military 
narrative that we possess. S. Moinul Haq, Khafi Khan’s History of Alamgir 
(Karachi, 1975) translates the best narrative history of Aurangzeb’s reign. 
Jadunath Sarkar has translated Saqi Mustaid Khan, Maasir-i Alamgiri (Cal- 
cutta, 1947), a history of the reign that is more terse and official. $. C. Dutta, 
The Northeast and the Mughals (1661-1714) (New Delhi, 1984) is an 
evenhanded treatment of the political and military history of this neglected 
region. See also Gautam Bhadra, “Two Frontier Uprisings in Mughal India” 
in Ranajit Guha, ed., Subaltern Studies 11: Writings on South Asian History and 
Society (Delhi, 1983). Provincial studies include Anjali Chatterjee, Bengal in 
the Reign of Aurangzib 1658-1707 (Calcutta, 1967) and J. F. Richards, 
Mughal Administration in Golconda (Oxford, 1975). Satish Chandra, Medi- 
eval India, Society, the Jagirdari Crisis and the Village (Delhi, 1981) brings 
together a set of powerful essays touching major themes and issues in later 
imperial history. 

The half century of Aurangzeb’s reign is rich in descriptive accounts by 
European sojourners and residents in India. A fascinating, and generally 
reliable, history of Aurangzeb’s half century by a participant is N. Manucci, 
Storia do Mogor or Mogul India (Calcutta, 4 vols., 1907-8) translated by 
William Irvine. The best-known European account is that of Francois Bernier, 
Travels in the Mogul Empire ao 1656-1668 (Delhi, reprint of rev. 2nd. edn, 
1968) translated by A. Constable. H. H. Das, The Norris Embassy to Aurang- 
zib (Calcutta, 1959) summarizes and quotes extensively from the journals of 
the English ambassador to the Mughal court at the turn of the century. Jagdish 
Sarkar’s The Life of Mir Jumla (New Delhi, 2nd rev. edn., 1979) has a detailed 
description of a remarkable career. 




The best narrative is still William Irvine, Later Mughals (New Delhi, 2 vols. in 
one, reprint edition, 1971). Bengal in this period is covered in Abdul Karim, 
Murshid Quli Khan and His Times (Dacca, 1963). Satish Chandra, Parties and 
Politics at the Mughal Court, 1707-1740 (New Delhi, 2nd. edn. 1972) analyzes 
the politics of the center. A brilliant, incisive discussion of imperial decline in 
this period is Muzaffar Alam, The Crisis of Empire in Mughal North India 
(Delhi, 1986). See also Muzaffar Alam, “Eastern India in the Early Eighteenth 
Century ‘Crisis’: Some Evidence from Bihar” in The Indian Economic and 
Social History Review, 28 (1991), 43-72- 

One of the few works to analyze the Mughal military system is that of Dirk 
H. A. Kolff, Naukar, Rajput and Sepoy: The Ethnohistory of the Military 
Labour Market in Hindustan, 1450-1850 (Cambridge, 1990). For an un- 
equalled perspective on Mughal military operations see Jagdish Sarkar, The 
Military Despatches of a Seventeenth Century Indian General (Calcutta, 

Mughal relations with the other two large early modern Islamic states are of 
great interest. Most recently we have the excellent study by N. R. Faroogqi, 
Mughal-Ottoman Relations (Delhi, 1989) and Riazul Islam, Indo-Persian 
Relations: A Study of the Political and Diplomatic Relations Between Mughal 
Empire and Iran (Tehran, 1970). 


The first volume of Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib, eds., The 
Cambridge Economic History of India (Cambridge, 1982) is largely devoted to 
Mughal India. John F. Richards, ed., The Imperial Monetary System of 
Mughal India (Delhi, 1987) is a useful approach to questions of money and 
coinage. A seminal article on Mughal commerce is B.R. Grover, “An 
Integrated Pattern of Commercial Life in the Rural Society of North India 
During the 17th-18th Centuries” in Proceedings, Indian Historical Records 
Commission, 37 (1966), 121-53. Ashin Das Gupta, Indian Merchants and the 
Decline of Surat c. 1700-1750 (Wiesbaden, 1979) is a scholarly, gracefully 
written analysis of the decline of the great Mughal port. 

For urbanization see the relevant sections in Raychaudhuri and Habib, 
above. Systematic excavation of potentially rich urban, town, and village sites 
has only begun for medieval and Mughal India. The benefits of intense, 
cooperative research may be seen in the essays in Michael Brand and Glenn D. 
Lowry, eds., Fatehpur Sikri (Bombay, 1987). Stephen P. Blake, Shahjahana- 
bad: The Sovereign City in Mughal India, 1639-1739 (Cambridge, 1990) 
provides an excellent analysis of Shah Jahan’s new city and its evolution over a 
century. Much descriptive material from the major histories and European 
travelers has been assembled in H. K. Naqvi, Mughal Hindustan: Cities and 
Industries 1556-1803 (Karachi, 1958) and by the same author Urbanization 
and Urban Centers Under the Great Mughals (Simla, 1972). Gavin Hambly, 



Cities of Mughal India: Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri (New York, 1968) is a 
readable, well-illustrated volume. 

The India trade has been an important field within the massive academic 
industry devoted to the study of early modern Europe. Many able scholars 
have made good use of the copious sources found in the archives of Europe. 
For the Portuguese, the best recent synthesis is M. N. Pearson, The Portu- 
guese in India (Cambridge, 1987), vol. 1.1 in The New Cambridge History of 
India. The definitive work on the English East India Company is K. N. 
Chaudhuri, The European Trading World of Asia and the English East India 
Company 1660-1760 (Cambridge, 1978). For a broad synthesis see by the 
same author, Asia Before Europe: Economy and Civilization of the Indian 
Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge, 1990). For a review of the 
Dutch from the perspective of the metropolis, see Jonathan I. Israel, Dutch 
Primacy in World Trade 1585-1740 (Oxtord, 1989). An invaluable regional 
study is Om Prakash, The Dutch East India Company and the Economy of 
Bengal, 1630-1720 (Princeton, 1985). See also Susil Chaudhuri, Trade and 
Commercial Organization in Bengal, 1650-1720 (Calcutta, 1975). An 
excellent study of the southeastern trade under the Mughals is $. Arasaratnam, 
Merchants, Companies, and Commerce on the Coromandel Coast 1650-1740 
(Delhi, 1986). For an earlier period see Sanjay Subrahmanyam, The Political 
Economy of Commerce: Southern India, 1500-1650 (Cambridge, 1990). 
Edward Alpers points out the importance of maritime trade between western 
India and eastern Africa in this period in “Gujarat and the Trade of East 
Africa, c. 1500-1800,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 
9 (1976), 22-44. 


S. A. A. Rizvi, Muslim Revivalist Movements in Northern India in the 
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Agra, 1965) is a detailed study of 
religious change in Indian Islam. Rizvi’s two-volume A History of Sufism in 
India (Delhi, 1983) is a comprehensive treatment of the Sufi orders in Mughal 
India. Yohanan Friedmann, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi (Montreal, 1971) adopts a 
revisionist approach to Sirhindi. See also Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic 
Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford, 1964). Asim Roy, The Islamic 
Syncretistic Tradition in Bengal (Princeton, 1985) highlights the distinctive 
character of the expansive, rice-growing, frontier-settling Bengali Islam in this 

Phe literature on the Sikhs is extensive. The most recent overview can be 
found in J. S. Grewal, The Sikhs in the-Punjab in The New Cambridge History 
of India. See also by the same author, Guru Nanak in History (Chandigarh, 
1969) and W. H. McLeod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford, 1968). 
An excellent biography of the last Sikh guru is J. S. Grewal and S. S. Bal, Guru 
Gobind Singh (Chandigarh, 1967). 

Newly invigorated historical studies on the Rajputs have begun to meld 
detailed information from archival sources with the Rajput chronicles and 



bardic poetry. Kunwar Refagat Ali Khan, The Kachhwahas Under Akbar 
and Jahangir (New Delhi, 1976) has compiled useful data on the Jaipur 
house. Richard Fox, Kin, Clan, Raja, and Rule (Berkeley, 1971) has 
modelled the life cycle of Rajput lineages in the Gangetic plain. See Norman 
P, Ziegler, “Some Notes on Rajput Loyalties During the Mughal Period” in 
Richards, ed., Kingship and Authority. Satya Prakash Gupta, The Agrarian 
System of Eastern Rajasthan (c. 1650-c. 1750) (Delhi, 1986) is a convincing 
example of the value of the archival sources preserved in various Rajput 
capitals. See also R. P. Rana, “Agrarian Revolts in Northern India during the 
Late 17th and Early 18th Century,” The Indian Economic and Social History 
Review 28 (1981) 287-326 for a valuable case study. Robert C. Hallissey, The 
Rajput Rebellion Against Aurangzeb (Columbia, 1977) reinterprets the 
Rajput wars. 

The most entrancing history of the Marathas is that written by a British 
colonial officer in western India, James Grant Duff, History of the Mabrattas 
(New Delhi, 2 vols. in one, reprint edition, 1971) first published in the early 
nineteenth century and incorporating data from sources now lost. The best 
overview of the Marathas is to be found in Stewart Gordon, The Marathas, 
1600-1800 (forthcoming) in The New Cambridge History of India. For a full 
narrative see G. S. Sardesai, New History of the Marathas (Bombay, 3 vols., 
197). Jadunath Sarkar, Shivaji and His Times (Bombay, reprint edition, 1973) 
is still a useful narrative. A. R. Kulkarni, the distinguished Maratha historian, 
reviews the structures of society, state, and economy in Mabhrashtra in the Age 
of Shivaji (Poona, 1974). For details on a neglected period see A. R. Kulkarni, 
The Mughal-Maratha Relations: Twenty-Five Fateful Years (1682-1707) 
(Pune, 1983). See also Andre Wink, Land and Sovereignty in India: Agrarian 
Society and Politics Under the Eighteenth Century Maratha Svarajya 
(Cambridge, 1986). 

M. C. Pradhan’s anthropological study, The Political System of the Jats of 
Northern India (Bombay, 1966) points to the need for systematic research 
among lineage, clan, and family records. Two important documentary 
collections reinforce this point: B. N. Goswamy and J.S. Grewal, The 
Mughals and the Joghis of Jakhbar (Simla, 1967) and J.S. Grewal, In the 
By-Lanes of History: Some Persian Documents from a Punjab Town (Simla, 


The visual appeal of Mughal gardens, painting, and buildings has encouraged a 
large literature of handsomely produced volumes. Only a few can be men- 
tioned here. For gardens see Sylvia Crowe, et al. The Gardens of Mughul 
India (New Delhi, 1972). A stimulating interpretation of the changing uses for 
gardens is in James L. Wescoat, Jr., “Gardens Versus Citadels: The Territorial 
Context of Early Mughal Gardens” in J. D. Hunt, ed., Landscape and Garden 
History: Issues, Approaches, Methods (Washington DC, 1991). For painting 
under Jahangir and Shah Jahan see Milo Beach, The Grand Mogul: Imperial 



Painting in India 1600-1660 (Williamstown, 1978), also Milo C. Beach, 
Mughal Painting (forthcoming) in The New Cambridge History of India. 
Wayne Begley, “The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of Its 
Symbolic Meaning,” The Art Bulletin (March, 1979) offers a revisionist 
interpretation of the tomb complex. See also by Begley, “Ahmad, Ustad” in 
Adolf K. Placzek, Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects (New York, 1982). 
Catherine B. Asher, Mughal Architecture (forthcoming) in The New Cam- 
bridge History of India contains a complete treatment of Mughal building. See 
Ebba Koch, Shah Jahan and Orpheus (Graz: Akademische Druck-u. Verlag- 
sanstalr, 1988) for a stimulating analysis of European influences in Mughal 
architecture under Shah Jahan. 



Abbas, Shah, 51, 111, 112, 114 

Abbas II, Shah, 134 

Abd-al Haq Dihlawi, 99 

Abdul Aziz, 132, 133 

Abdul Nabi, 39, 41 

Abdul Wahhab Bohra, 174 

Abdullah Khan, governor of Malwa, 17 

Abdullah Khan, 270, 271, 272, 273 

Abdullah Khan Uzbek, 49, 51 

Abdullah Qutb Shah, 115, 154-5, 156 

Abul Fazl, 26, 31, 45, 5199) 129) 175 

‘Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, 214, 217, 221, 222, 

Acmal Khan, 171 

Adham Khan, 14, 15 

Adil Khan Sur, 16 

Adil Shah, Muhammad, Sultan of Bijapur, 
147, 205, 207 

Afghan coinage, 73 

Afghan nobility, 60, 66, 145, 146, 

Afghans, 6, 8, 16, 170 
and the caravan trade, 50 
conflict with Mughals, 10-11, 81 
exclusion from nobility, 20 
and land grants, 92 
and Mahdawis, 38 
and the revolt of 1579-80, 40 
under Akbar’s rule, 37 
Afridis, 170-1 
Afzal Khan, 208 
Aghar Khan, 250 
Agra, 11, 12, 13, 62 
fortress at, 27-8, 55 
under Jahangir’s rule, tor 
zabt lands, 188 
agricultural production, 4, 292 
in the Deccan, 236-7 
growth in, 190, 193 
and imperial decline, 294-5 
taxation of, 185, 186-90, 204 
occupation of, 32-3 
revenues, 139 
agar, $2) 54-52 119 
Jahangir's campaign, 112-13 
Ahoms, 105-6, 137, 167-8, 247 

Ajit Singh Rathor, 181, 183, 254~6, 262, 
266, 268, 270, 272-3 
Ajmer, 13, 28, 182 
Akbar, Jalal-ud-din Muhammad, 12-57, 98, 
139» 140, 284-5 
in Agra, 14-28, 52-5 
appearance, 44, 45-6 
centralized administration under, 56, 
death, 55-6 
and Europeans, 287, 289 
at Fatehpur Sikri, 29-49 
ideology centred on, 45-9 
and Islam, 25, 34-49, 52, 284~5 
at Lahore, 49-52 
looting of tomb, 250, 251 
as military commander, 41-4 
and the nobility, 16, 19-24 
ranking system under, 24-5 
sency period, 13-14 
ae the ulema, 16, 36-40 
and weaponry, 288 
Akbar, Muhammad, Prince, 181, 182-4, 
217-18, 219, 220, 223 
Akbar-Nama, 45-6 
Akkanna, 214, 221 
Alanquwa, queen, 46-7 
Ali Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur, 208 
Ali Adil Shah Il, 157 
Ali Mardan Khan, 132, 134, 144 
Ali Shah, 1 
Allahabad, 28 
zabt lands, 188 
Amanat Khan, 124 
‘Amar Singh, Rana of Mewar, 95, 96 
Amin, Muhammad, 156-7 
Amin Khan, Muhammad, 170, 236, 246 
Amir Khan, 171, 246, 247 
Amir Timur Gurgan, 47 
amirs, 143, 149 242 
under Akbar’s rule, r9 
Arab nobles, 60, 66 
Arjumand Banu, see Mumtaz Mahal 
Argun, Sikh guru, 96-7, 98, 99 
army, Mughal, 68-9 
expenditure, 75, 76 
and gunpowder weaponry, 57 



and the mansabdars, 63-6 
and the nobility, 60 
royal guard troops, 68 
salaries, 139-40, 141 
under Akbar’s rule, 42~4, 56 
under Shah Jahan, 139-40, 141-3 
weaponry, §7, 142-3, 288-90 
army ministers (bakbshi), 59, 634 
Asad Khan, 225, 230, 235, 245 
Asaf Khan, 102, 113, 116, 117-18, 203 
Asir, 115 
Asirgarh, 28, 54 
Askari, 9 
Aurangzeb, 115, 128, 151 
character, 152-3 
court culture, 173-5 
death, 253 
and the Deccan, 154, 220-5, 225-52 
and the English traders, 239 
and Europeans, 287 
and imperial decline, 290 
imperial expansion under, 165-84 
and the Marathas, 244 
and Mir Jumla, 156-8 
and Qundahar, 134 
rank, 142 
and Shahuji, 229-30 
and Shambhaji, 215 
and Shivaji, 211, 215, 216 
and the ulema, 174 
and the war of succession, 158-64 
zabt lands, 188 
Awadh, 188, 275-6 
Azam, Prince, 182, 220, 227 
Azam Shah, Prince, 253, 259 
Azim-ud-din, Prince, 248, 249 
Azz-ud-din, Prince, 264 
Azim-ush Shan, Prince, 260-1 

Babalal Vairagi, 152 
Babur, Zahir-ud-din-Muhammad, 6-9, 50, 
102, 110, 111, 142 
Badakhstan, 9, 110, 135 
Badakshi, Mulla Shah, 152 
Baglana, 128 
Baglana, Maratha forces in, 216 
Bahadur, Sultan of Khandesh, 54 
Bahadur, Tegh, 178 
Bahadur Khan, 16, 17 
Bahadur Shah (ruler of Gujarat), 10 
Bahadur Shah (Prince Muazzam), 253-4, 
2551 257-8, 259, 260-1, 276, 279 
adurpur, Maratha raid on, 218-19 
Baharji, the, 128 
Baharji Borah, 209 
Bairam Khan, 13-14, 16, 19, $4) 71 

bakhshi (army ministers), 59, 63-4 
Balaji Vishwanath, 271 
Bali Narayan, 136, 137 
Baliyan, Jat clan in, 88-90 
Balkh, 110, 132-3, 135, 141, 153 
Baltistan (Lesser Tibet), 135-6 
Banda (Lachman Das), 256-8 
Banda Bahadur, 194 
bankers, local, and the jagirdars, 68 
Batala town, 194-6 
Baz Bahadur, Sultan of Malwa, 14, 5 
Bengal, 115, 187, 247-50, 254, 290 
Dutch trade with, 202~3 
English traders, 239-40 
occupation of, 33-4 
revenues from, 276-7 
revolt of 1579-80, 40-1 
Sher Khan’s invasion of, 10 
silk industry, 190, 197 
under Aurangzeb, 165-7 
Berar, 52-3, 54~§, 113 
zabt lands, 188 
BethakDas, Raja of Gaur, 146 
Bharamall, 21-2 
Bhimsen, 242 
Bhimsen Saxena, 149-50 
» zabt lands, 188 
lar Bakht, Prince, 227, 234, 250 
idar Dil, Prince, 272 
Bihar, 12, 33, 15, 169 
zabt lands, 188 
Bijspar, $3> 113s 138, 1545 155, 156, 1575 

Maratha-Mughal conflict in, 209-12 
Mughal conquest of, 220-1 
Bijapur Karnatak, 155 
East India Companies in, 240 
Bir Narayan, 17 
ir Singh, raja of Orchha, 55 
Bir Singh Bundela, 175 
Bir Singh Dev, 129, 130 
Bishun Singh ‘Kachhwaha of Amber, 251 
Bombay, 220, 239, 240, 241, 279 
Brahmapuri (Islampuri), 225 
Brahmaputra valley, 105-6, 136-7, 168 
Bridgeman, Henry, 241 
budget, imperial, under Akbar’s rule, 75-6 
ful Lodi, 6 
Bukhara, 110, 132-3 
bullion, imports of, 198, 201, 279 
Bundelkhand, 130 
Burhan al-Mulk, 275 
Burhan Nizam Shahb Il, 53-4 
Burhanpur, 62, 114, 15, 12 

Calcutta, 240 


caravan trade, 50, 51 
cash crops, 189, 190, 193, 203 
caste elites, in rural society, 79-81 
in Batala, 195-6 
and ganungos, 82 
censor, sifice of, 174-5 
Central Asi is: 
Jahangir’s relations with, 110-12 
Shah Jahan’s campaign in, 132-3 
Central Asian nobles, 19, 66, 145-6 
Chabele Ram, 275 
Chad Sultan, 54 
Chaghatai nobles, 19, 60 
Chaghatai Turks, 19, 110 
Chakan, 208 

Spempenit, 10 

Chanda, 130 

Chandiri, 8 

Chandra, Satish, 292 

Chatgaon, 168 

chaudburis, 8-2, 87-8 

Chauragahr, 130 

Cheros people, 168-9 

Child, John, 29 

Chin Qilich Khan, 236, 245, 265 

China, 287 

Ming empire, 1 

Chingiz Khan, 9, 47 

Chistis, 30 

Chitor, capture of, 26-7 

Christianity, and Akbar, 35 

Chunar, 10, 16 

‘Churaman Jat, 251-2, 269, 273 

clan councils, 88-90 

coinage, 71-4, 102-3 

conservative party, and the succession to 
Shah Jahan, 151 

consumption demands, 285 

copper coins (dams), 72, 73, 74, 85 

Coromandel, trade, 199, 201, 202 


assessing value of, 85-6 

culture, 1 
under Akbar’s rule, 29-30, 34-5 
customs duties, 203 

Dalpat Rao Bundela, 235 
Daniyal, Prince, 54, 55, 118, 120 
Dara Shukob, Prince, 115, 134, 153. 1575 
178, 218 
character, 151-2 
rank, 143 
and the war of succession, 157, 158, 
160-1, 163, 164 

Daud Dayal, 3. 
Daud Kavrani Sultan of Bengal, 33 
Daud Khan Pani, 169, 235, 241-2, 259, 
260, 261, 267-8, 269 
Dawar Bakhsh, Prince, 117-18 
Deccan, the, 2, 282-3 
administration, 278-81 
Akbar’s military operations in, 52-5 
eastern, under Mughal rule, 227-9 
and imperial decline, 294, 296 
Jahangir’s campaign, 112-14 
and Khan Jahan Lodi, 119-21 
Maratha-Mughal conflict, 205-24, 
and the Marathas, 53, 114) 147-8 
revenues, 139, 140, 141 
under the Farrukhsiyar, 269-70 
under Shah Jahan, 137-8 
and the war of succession, 154-6 
western, government in, 236-8 
Deccan wars, 225-§2 
and the nobility, 242-6 
Delhi, 2, 12, 13, 62, 125 
zabt lands, 188 
Delhi, Sultans of, 2, 52 
Devi Singh Bundela, 130 
Deyell, John, 74 
Dhana Singh Jadev, 230 
Dilir Khan, 212, 215 
diwan-i-tan (minister for salaries), 66 

provincial, 59, 67, 149 
Durgadas Rathor, 181, 182-5 
Durgavati, Rani, 7 
Dutch East India Company, 196-8, 199, 
2014, 239, 241, 278, 286 

East India Comy 

economic gro 

economy, 4 

rural, 190-1, 283-4, 294-6 

English East India Company, 196-8, 
199-201, 2034, 220, 239-41, 286 

eunuchs as slaves, 62 

European influence, in Mughal India, 


expenditure, imperial, under Akbar’s rule, 

75-6, 77-8 
exports, 202-3 

ani 196-204 

famine, 164, 237 

Farrukhsiyar, Prince, 264, 265-72, 268, 
273, 274-5, 276, 280 

Fatawa'i Alamgini, 173-4 

Fatehpur Sikri, 12, 29-30, 31, 36, 451 471 



faujdars (military intendants), 59 
Faziluddin, Muhammad, 196 
Firuz Jang, 236 
fiscal administration, 69-71 
decline in control of, 273-4 
under Aurangzeb, 185-90 
under Farrukhsiyar, 268 
under Shah Jahan, 138-41 
fiscal officers (qanungo), 82 
French East India Company, 239, 241 

Gadadhar, Singh, 247 
Gagga Bhatta of Varanasi, 213 
Gaj Singh Rathor, raja of Marwar, 180 
gardens, imperial, 101 
Garghaon, 167 
Katanga (Gondwana), 17 
Garhwal, 155 
Gauhati, 168 
gentry class, 91, 194 
Ghaziuddin, Khan Firuz Jang, 236, 245 
Ghazni, 110 
Girdhar Bahadur, 275 
Goa, §, 32, 285, 289 
Gobind Singh, 178 
Golconda, 53, 111, 113, 138, 154-5, 156, 
156-8, 217 
Dutch trade with, 199 
Mughal conquest of, 221-2 
Mughal rule in, 227-9 
and Shivaji, 214 
and trade, 240 
gold coins, 72, 74 
Gondwana, 130 
yur, agricultural production, 191 
Gosain Jadrup of Ujain, 98 
governors, provincial, 59 
Govind Singh (Sokh uri), 256 
Gujarat, 10, 17, 31 
reconquest of (1572), 32-3 
Gulbadan Begum, 31 
Guru Nanak, 34 

Habib, Irfan, 190, 291 

Haji Shafi Ibrahimi, 248 
Hamid Khan, 256 

Hamida Begam, 14 

harems, 61-2 

Hargobind, Sikh guru, 97, 177 
Hari Krishan, 178 

Hemu, 13, 20 

Himalayan foothills, Jahangir’s expansion 
into, 109-10 

Hindal, 9 


Satki, 247 
under Akbar’s rule, 34, 36, 38-9 

in Batala, 195-6 

in government administration, 71 

and Indian Muslim rulers, 2-3 

officials of Golconda, 227 

Rajput nobility, 20-4, 60, 66, 145 

Shivaji as Hindu monarch, 213 

and Sikhs, 258 

taxes on, 175-7 

under Jahangir’s rule, 99 

under Shah Jahan, 122 

and the war of succession, 164 
Hindustan, 13 
Humayun, emperor, 6, 8, 9-12 
Husain Ali Khan, 269, 270, 271, 273 
Husain Mirza, 32 
Hyderabad, East India Companies in, 240 
Hyderabad Karnatak, 156, 227-9 

Ibrahim (Sur prince), 13 
Tbrahim Adil Shah 53 
Ibrahim Kalal, 109 
Ibrahim Khan, 247, 248 
Ibrahim Lodi, Sultan of Delhi, 8 
Tbrahim Qutb Shah, 53 
Thtimam Kham, 107 
Ilahi coins, 72-3 
Indian Muslims 
and Dara Shukoh, 152 
nobility, 19-20, 60, 144, 145, 146, 148, 
as ganungos, 82 
as rulers, 2-3 
Indian Ocean, 5, 241, 285 
Indra Singh Rathor, 181 
industrial production, 4 
inheritance law, 88 
international trade, 196-204, 239-42, 286 

and Akbar, 25, 34-40, 52, 284-5 

and Aurangzeb, 153, 164, 165, 171-2, 
173-7, 183-4, 218, 222 

and Dara Shukoh, 151-2 

in the Deccan, 53 

and Indo- Muslin rulers, 2-3 

in Safavid Persia, 111 

and Shambhaji, 222, 225 

and the Taj Mahal, 124-5 

under Jahangir’s rule, 9-100 

under Shah Jahan, 121-3 

see also Indian Muslims 

Islam Khan, 144 
Islam Khan Chishti, 107, 109 



Islam Shah Sur, 11-12 
Islamabad, 168 

Ismail, Shah, 121 

Itakhuji, battle of, 247 
Itimad-ud-daulah, 102, 114 

Jagat Singh, Rana, 146 
Jagirs, 60, 66-8, 141, 144, 146, 179 
in Awadh, 276 
in the Deccan, 244-5 
and imperial decline, 291-2 
Jahan, Khan, 33 
Jahan Ara, Princess, 151, 153, 158 
Jahan Bahadur, Khan, 183 
Jahan Shah, 261 
Jahan Ara Begam, 126 
Jahandar Shah, 261, 262-5, 264-5 
Jahangir (formerly Prince Selim), 94-118 
character, 100-1 
death, 117 
disciples, 103-5, 107-9 
id Europeans, 287 
and imperial culture, 100-2 
and religion, 98-100 
Jai Singh, Raja, 146-159 
Jai Singh, Rana, 18 
Jai Singh Kachhw 

Jai Singh Kachhwahs of Amber, 255-6, 
262, 266, 269, 270-1 

Jai Singh Sawai, 274-5 

Jaimal, commander of Chitor, 26 

Jama Masjid, 126, 177 

Jan Sipur Khan, 228 

Mirza Raja, 179, 

Jani Bek, 51 

Janjiri, 220 

Japan, 287-2: 

Jaswant Singh Rathor, 146, 159, 161, 180, 
181, 183, 184, 209 

Jats, 178, 250-2, 269 

Jaunpur 3 

radhwaj Sinha, 165 


Maratha-Mughal conflict in, 229-32 
Joghi Udant Nath, 92 
Jujhar Singh Bundela, 120, 129-30 

Kabul, 2, 18, 110, 170, 171, 187 
under Aurangzeb, 246-7 
Kalian, 207 
Kam Bakhsh, Muhammad, Prince, 230, 
231, 2534, 255, 256, 259 
Kamran, 9, 11 
Kamrup, 137, 165, 167 
Kangra, Raja of, 110 

Kanhoji Shirke, 244 
Kanua, battle of, 8, 89 
Karan Singh, ars 
eenk, 155,156 
Kartalab Khan, see Murshid Quli Khan 
Kashmir, 49, 51, 187 
imperial gardens of, 101 

Khan Jahan Bahadur, 218 

Khan Jahan Lodi, 119-21, 137 

Khan-i-Dauran, 267 

Khanan Khan, 54 

khanazads/khanazadgi, 148-50, 172-5 

Khandesh, 52, 53, 115 

‘Akbar's operations in, 54-5 
zabt lands, 

Khatri Sikhs, 178 

Khurram, Prince, 95, 102, 107, 110, 
112-14) 113, 114-15, 117, 118, 1203 see 
also Shah Jahan 

Khusrau, Prince, 55, 94-5, 96-7, 103, 113, 
114, 117 

Khwaja Abud-us-Samad, 72 

Khwaja Baqi Billah, 121 

Khwaja Khawand Mahmud, 103-4 

Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti, 31, 105 

Khwaja Shah Mansur, 69 

Khyber Pass, 50 

Kokaltash Khan, 261~262 

Kuch Bihar (Alamgirnagar), 167 

Kumar Ram Singh, 211 

Ladili Begam, 113 
Lahore, 11, 12, 193 28, 62, 187 

as Akbar’s capital, 49-52 
Lahori, Abdul Hamid, 106, 138-41, 143 
Lal Kunwar, 262-3, 265 

imperial crown lands, 76-7 
measurement, 187-9 

in Awadh, 276 
measurement, 84-6 
patrimonial (watan), 67 

in Rajasthan, 274-5 
revenue, 79-93, 187-90 

land grants 
under Akbar’s rule, 37, 91-3 
under Aurangzeb, 174 
land tax, 60 
Lesser Tibet (Baltistan), 135-6 
and the succession to Shah Jahan, 151 
local markets, intervention by nobility in, 
Lodi dynasty, 6, 66 



Machhilipatnam, 228, 237, 242 
Dutch trade with, 199, 201 
Madanna Pandit, 214, 221 
Madras, 240, 241, 242 
Mahabat Khan, 103, 114, 115-16, 137, 
Mahdawis, 38 
Mahmud of Ghazni, 110 
Mahmud Shah, 10 
Malauna Abdulla, 41 
Malik Ambar, 112, 113, 115 
Malik Jiwan, 161 
Maluji Bhonsla Deccani, 147 
Malwa, 10, 14-15 
Man Singh, Raja, 119 
Man Singh, Kachhwaha, 94 
Manrique, Sebastian, 142 
mansabdars, 59, 60, 63-6, 71, 149 
in the Deccan, 243 
expenditure, 75, 76 
in Golconda, 228 
Persian, 111 
salary assignments (jagirs), 60, 66-8 
under Shah Jahan, 141, 142, 143, 145 
and the war of succession, 163-4 
and the zabt system, 87 
Mansur Khan, 247 
Manucci, Niccolao, 153 
Maratha caste, 3, 205-16 
and conflict in Jinji, 229-32 
conflict with Mughals, 205-24, 269-70, 
in the Deccan, 53, 114, 205-24, 225, 252, 
259-60, 278, 279, 280 
and Hyderabad, 228 
and imperial decline, 293-4, 297 
imperial officers, 147-8 
nobles, 243-4 
under Farrukhsiyar, 269-70 
and war in the Deccan, 232-6 
market towns (qasbas), 194-6 
Marwar, 183 
A eb’s ign in, 180-2 
Maubar Khan,233 
Maulana Abdullah, 37 
measures, standardization of, 84 
Mecca, pilgrimages to, 30-1 
Medini Rai, Raja, 169 
Mewar, 183, 184 
central, 58-9 
of crownlands, 77 
finance, 69, 70 
for salaries, 66 
see also diwans 
mints, 72, 73, 229 

Mir, Mullah, 151 
mir bakhshi (army minister), 65-4, 65 
Mir Fatullah Shirazi, 69 
Mir Haj, 122 
Mir Jumla (Muhammad Said), 154-8, 163, 
165, 167, 168 
Mir Muhammad Ibrahim, 221 
Mirtha, 28 
Mirza Aziz Koka, 94 
Mirza Lahrasp, Mahabat Khan, 174 
Mirza Muhammad Hakim, 18, 19, 41-1, 49 
Mirza Muhammad Sultan, 18 
Mirza Nathan, 107-9 
Mirza Sulaiman, 9 
money supply, 71-4 
English minting of rupees, 241 
moneychangers, in rural areas, 91 
moneylenders, 194 
and the mansabdars, 68 
in rural areas, 91, 193 
Monserrate, Father Antonio, 35, 41, 42, 
434 45> 65, 
Moosvi, Shireen, 93, 127 
Muazzam, Prince, 182, 183, 209, 211, 212 
Mubariz Khan, 280-1 
Mughal Khandesh, 212 
Mughalistan, 46 
Mughal Khan, 46 
M ad Adil Shah, 157 
Muhammad Shafi, 228 
Muhammad Shah (Roshan Aktar), 272, 
273, 277, 281, 297 
Mulla Auz Wajih, 175 
Multan, 187 
Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu), 102, 
12}, 12§, 151, 152, 153, 158 
Munim Khan, 259 
Mugarrab Khan, 223 
Murad, Prince, 41, 54 
Murad Bakhsh, Prince, 153, 115, 132, 1435 
IST, 1$9; 160, 162, 163, 165 
Murshid Quli Khan (Kartalab Khan), 
140-1, 149, 154, 188, 248-50, 276-8, 

Murtaza Khan, 97 

in Batala, 195, 196 
conflict with Sikhs, 258 
and Delhi, 125 
and land grants, 92 
nobility, 19-20, 60, 66, 147, 227 
officials of Golconda, 227 
Pathans and Tajiks, 170 
taxes on, 175-6 
and town life, 194 



traders (mabajans), 91 
and the war of succession, 164 
see also Indian Muslims 
Mutaza Nizam Shah, 112 
Muzaffar Khan, 69, 91 
Muczaffar Shah III, 32 

Nadira Banu, 161 
Nagqshbandi Sufi, 110 
Narayan, Bhim, 130 
Nawab Akbarabadi Begam, 127 
‘Nawaz Khan, Shah, 163 
Nazar Muhammad Khan, 132, 133 
flews reports, 68-9 
Nimaji Sindhia, 259 
Nizam-ul Mulk, 270, 273, 281 
nobility, 19-24, 59-63 
Af an, 60, 66, 145, 146, 21 
Bairam Khan, 14 
Central Asian, 19, 66, 145-6 
and the Deccan wars, 242-6 
Hindu, see Rajput 
households, 61-2 
and imperial decline, 292~4 
Indian Muslim, 19-20, 60, 144, 145, 146, 
148, 221 
Tranian, 144, 145, 148 
Marathas, 145 
Muslim, 19-20, 60, 144, 145-6, 147 
Persian, 19, 60, 66, 145-6 
Rajput, 20-4, 60, 66, 145, 146, 148, 179 
ranking, 24-5, 65, 143-8, 243-4 
relationship with the emperor, 148-50, 
revenue, 144-5 
Turani, 145, 148 
under Shah Jahan, 143-50 
Unbek, 16, 17-19, 60 
and the war of succession, 163-4 
Norris, William, 289 
Nur Jahan, 102-3, 108, 112, 113, 114, 
115-16, 117 

Orissa, 33, 34» 187, 247, 248, 249, 250, 
Ottoman Turkey, 1 

paintings, 101-2 

Palamau (alana), 168-9 

Panipat, battle of, 8 

Paper, use ot 4 

Parganas, 79-82, 87, 192, 194 

Parsuji, 147 

Parwiz, Prince, 95, 112-13, 115, 116-17 
Pathans, 170, 171 

Peacock Throne, 123 

seers Bo, 85, 190, 191, 192 

Pohang s relations with, 110-12 

see also Safavid Persia 
Persian nobility, 19, 60, 66, 145-6 
Peshawar, 50, 110 
pilgrimages, 30-1, 122-3 
Pir Muhammad Khan, 14, 15 
Piracy, 241 
Pondicherry, 240, 242 
population growth, 190 
Portuguese traders, 196, §, 32, 197; 1995 

202, 220, 239, 285 
+ 207 

Prem Narayan, 165 
prices, 186 
Printing, 289-90 
private property, 88 
property rights, 88 
property tax, under Akbar’s rule, 39 
provinces, administration of, 59 
Puna, 208, 209 
Punjab, the, 12, 34, $0, 92 

Sikh rebellion in, 257-8 
Purandhar, treaty of, 210 

Qandahar, 51, 110, 111-12, 114, 142, 

Shah Jahan’s campaign, 133~5 
qasbas (market towns), 194-6 
Qasim Khan, 109 
Qazi Abdullah, 222 

Rafi-ud-darjat, Prince, 272 
Rafi-ush Shan, 261 
Rahim Khan, 247, 248 
Rahummuddin Khan, 236 
Rai Surjan, 27 
Raibhan Bhonsla, 256 
Raja Ali Khan, 54 
Raja Bir Bar, 50, 51 
Raja Krishna Ram, 247-8 
Raja Man Singh, 34, 49, 55 
Raja Todar Mal, 41, 69 
Rajaram, 215, 216, 225, 229, 230, 231, 232) 
234, 237-8 
Rajaram (Jat leader), 250, 251 
Alber cape 
’s campaigns in, 20-2 

fiscal administration, 274 

and imperial decline, 293 
Nee deci, Prince, «72 
Rajmahal, battle of, 

Rajput nobility, 20-4, 60, 66, 145, 146, 148, 


agricultural production, 191 
and Aurangzeb, 183-4 
in Batala, 195 
conflict with Mughals, 6, 8 
in the Mughal army, 43 
rebellion, 179-82 
under Farrukhsiyar, 266 
under Jahandar Shah, 262 
under Jahangir’s rule, 109-10 
under Shah Jahan, 128-9 
zamindars, 252 
Ram Chant, 16 
Ram Dey, 195 
Ram Rai, 178 
Ran Singh Hara, 235 
ranking system 
under Akbar’s rule, 24-5, 65 
under Shah Jahad, 143-8 
Ranthambor, siege of, 27 
Ratan Chand, 266, 268 
Raushan Ara Begam, 153, 161 
religion, under Akbar’s rule, 34-40 
revenue, imperial, 284 
from Awadh, 276 
from Bengal, 248-9, 254, 276-7 
from crownlands, 76-7 
from the Deccan, 232, 237-8, 254, 278 
from Golconda, 228-9 
from land, 79-93 
and imperial decline, 291-2 
ee Akbar’s nies 75-6, 77-8 
under Aurangzeb, 185-90 
under Bahadur Shah, 254 
under Farrukhsiyar, 274-5 
under Jahandar Shah, 263 
under Shah Jahan, 138-41 
Roe, Sir Thomas, 104-$, 108, 199 
Roshan Aktar, Prince, 272-273 
see also Muhammad Shah 
Rudra Singh, 247 
Rupamati, queen, 14 
rural economy, 190-1, 283-4 
and imperial decline, 294-6 
and land revenue, 79-83 
Rustam Dil Khan, 228, 279-80 
Rustam Rao, 221 

Sadullah Khan, 132, 134, 144 
Sabha Chand, 261 
Safavid Persia, 1, 111-12 
and Qandahar, 133-5 
Safi, Shah, 134 
Sahibji, 246-7 
salary assignments, see jagers 
salary payments, for horsemen, 64-5 


Salim, Prince (later Jahangir), 30, 35 44-5, 
48; $2; 53, 55-6 

Salima Sultan Begum, 31, 55 

Samarkhand, 110, 132, 133, 135 

Sanga, Rana of Mewar, 8 

Santa Ghorpare, 230, 232, 233 

Sarbuland Khan, 270 

Saswad, 210 

Satara fortress, 234 

Sayyid Abdullah Khan Baraha, 264, 265, 

Sayyid Husain Ali Khan, 264, 265, 266, 
267, 280 
Sayyid Muhammad Jaunpur, 38 
Sayyid Muhammad Shah, 196 
Sayyids of Baraha, 20, 120, 146, 264, 266, 
270, 271, 272-3, 276 
seafaring, 283 
Sehwan, 51 
Shafir Zaid, 172 
Shah Abbas, 51, 111 
Shah Alam, Prince, 220, 221, 222, 247 
Shah Jahan (formerly Prince Khurram), 
building by, 125~7 
and Europeans, 287 
and Islam, 121-3, 124-5 
and Shahjahanpur, 194 
and the war of succession, 153, 158-64 
Shah Muzaffar, 40 
Shah Nahr, 195 
Shah Shuja, 143 
Shahabad Bhojpur, 191 
Shahjahanabad, 119, 125-7, 150, 157, 165 
Shahjahanapur, 194 
honsla, 137, 155, 205, 207 
Shahji Il, Raja of Tanjavur, 230, 251 
Shahryar, Prince, 113, 115, 117, 118 
Shahuji Bhonsla, 229-30, 232, 236, 259, 

Shaikh Sayyid Muhammad Gesu Daraz, 

Shaikh Salim Chishti, 30 

Shaista Khan, 168, 208-9 

Shalimar Garden, Kashmir, 127 

Shambhaji, 210, 211, 212, 215, 216, 217, 
218-20, 222, 223, 225, 229 

Shambhaji (Maratha ruler), 183 

Shambhaji II, 254-5 

Shamshir Khan, 196 

Shana Singh Jadev, 232 

Sheikh Abdus Samad, 123 

Sher Khan Sur, 10, 11, 16, 81 

Sher Shab Sur, 12, 83 

Shihab-ud-din, 14 



Shivaji II, 259 

Shivaji Bhonsla, 205-16, 217, 235, 260, 270 

Shri Shaila temple, 214 

Shuja, Muhammad, Prince, 123, 151, 158, 
159, 161, 162, 165 

Shuja-ud-din Muhammad Khan, 278 

Siddi Yaqut Khan, 241 

Sikandar Adil Shah, 217, 220-1, 222 

Sikandar Lodi, 89 

Sikander Shah Sur, 12 

Sikh-Mughal conflict, 96-7 

Sikhs, 256-8 

revolt of, 194 
under Aurangzeb, 177-8 

silk production, 203 

eC TUPCES, 71-2, 74 

Sind, 49, 51, 128-9 

Sipihr Shukoh, 162 

Sirhindi, Shaikh Ahmad, 98-100, 121 

Sirr-i-Akbar, 152 

slaves, 60-1, 62, 64 

Sorya Bai, 213, 216 

Sova Singh, 247, 248 

Subhanji, 234 

Subrahmanyam, San, 186 
Suhrawardi Maqtul, 46 
Sulaiman chine: Prince, 159 
Sultan, Muhammad, 157, 161 
Sur dynasty, 66, 71 

Surat, 239, 241 

decline of, 249, 242, 278-9 
persecution of Banias in, 176 
Shivaji’s raid on, 209, 212 
trading stations, 199 

Tahmasp, Shah, 11, 111 

Taj Mahal, 1, 123-5 

Tajiks, 170 

Tansen, 16-17 

Tara Bai, 234-5, 237, 238, 259, 260 

on agricultural production, 204 
collected by zamindars, 80-1 
in the Deccan, 238 
from Golconda, 228 
and the jagir, 66-8 
and land revenue, 8 
on Muslims and non-Muslims, 175-6, 

Te and 
tax grants, 91-3, 174 
under Akbar’s rule, 39, 60 
zabt system of, 85-8 
technological innovations, 287-90 
‘Telugu warriors, 3, 53, 228, 293-4 
textiles, 4, 155, 286 
export of, 197-8, 200-2, 203 

thanas (commanders of military check 
points), 59 

‘Thatta, 187 

Timur, 9 

Todar Mal, 33, 84 

towns, market towns (qasbas), 194-6 

trade, 196-204, 239-42, 286 

stations, 199-200 

Transoxania (Mawaraa-n-nahr), 

Tukarori, battle of, 33 

Turan, 110, 111 

Turco-Mongol kings, 46, 47 

Turk, ruler of Turkestan, 46 

Turkish nobles, 66 

2 a 

nobles, 1617-19, 60 
vitae 8, 110 
revolt of (1564), 17-19 
jahan’s campaign against, 132-5 

Vellore, 214 
Vijai Singh, 255 
village zamindars, 192-3, 295 

Po 201-2 

revenue payments, 140-1 
VOC (Verenigde Oostindische 
Compagnie), 201, 202 

Vyankoji Bhonsla, 214 

Wazir Khan, 256, 257 
women, in noble households, 61-2 

Yacham Nair, 227 
Yaqub, 51 

Yesu Bai, 215, 229, 271 
Yusufzai, 49, 50-1 

Zabardast Khan, 169, 248 
zabt system of tax assessments, 85-8, 
187-90, 263 
Zafar Jang, 144 
Khan, 136 
Zaid bin Muhsin, 123 
Zain Khan Koka, so 
Zaman Khan, 16, 17 
zamindars, 80, 81, 83, 84, 86, 87-8, 96, 187, 
189, 190, 191-3, 284 
1, 146, 170 
in Awadh, 275 
in the Deccan, 216, 217, 238, 279 
and imperial decline, 291, 294-6 
mal-wajib, 189 



Raipur 252, 258 Zinat-un-nissa, 231 
in the towns, 194 Zulfikar Khan, 230, 231-2, 235-6, 241, 245, 
Zebunissa, Princess, 182 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265