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The death of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 generally marks the end of the era of the great Mughals, and this was sensed by ambitious men who had worked for them as deputy officials. As his sons became increasingly impotent, independent rulers — like in Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad — established themselves in states around the periphery of empire.
After Aurangjeb, chaos of temporary pleasures with music, women, eunuchs, and other luxuries took the Mughal Empire to the abysmal darkness where they could only imagine their grand and glorious past. The later Mughals fell an easy prey to the intrigues from within and the foreigners who took advantage of their weaknesses and internal conflicts. The Empire became a tale of the bygone lanes and political and social anarchy encouraged the foreigners to occupy India. The traders to India became the master of India in the long run. With the passing away of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal Empire functionally breathed its last though it continued till the War of Independence in 1857 when Bahadur Shah Zafar was the last emperor of the great Mughal Dynasty. With his removal (he was exiled to Rangoon) the title of Emperor of India was taken by Queen Victoria.
In the Northern and eastern sectors of India, two major powers — Awadh and Bengal — began to emerge after the death of Aurangjeb in 1707. In the west and the south another four great powers — Hyderabad, Mysore, the Marathas, and the Carnatic — began to emerge.
Awadh was one of major states to emerge between 1717 and 1724 as the central Mughal government ruled by Aurangjeb’s sons began to lose real authority.
Bengal was the first, in 1717 under Murshid Quli Khan ( Shia Islam), the founder of a short-lived dynasty, whose successors were to be emasculated by the east India Company forty years later at the Battle of Plassey.
The second was Awadh, which became virtually autonomous in 1722 under Burhan-ul-Mulk, who had been appointed deputy minister (nawab wazir) to deputise for the emperor, and who generally assumed his master’s role. His sixth–generation descendant was Wajid ‘Ali Shah, the subject of this book. Awadh survived for alittle over 130 years before its annexation, subject to increasing interference from the Company. In 1856, the Company annexed Awadh [Oudh] on the grounds that the native prince was of evil disposition, indifferent to the welfare of his subjects.
The third state was Hyderabad, established under Asaf Jah in 1724; it survived the fate of Bengal and Awadh by remaining Hyderabad, established under Asaf Jah in 1724; it survived the fate of Bengal and Awadh by remaining more or less independent until 1948. (The ruler of Hyderabad since 1762 was Asaf Jah II (also known as Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Nizam ‘Ali Khan Bahadur, Fath Jang, Sipah Salar, better known to the British simply as Nizam Ali. His ancestor, the Turani noble Qamar-ud-din, received the title Nizam-ul-Mulk from the emperor Farruksiyar for helping him to gain the throne of Delhi. Uniting with another powerful Mughal noble, Sa’adat Khan, Nizam-ul-Mulk overthrew the infamous Sayyid brothers, the “kingmakers” who had deposed and killed Farruksiyar in 1719 in order to put a series of their puppets on the throne. Sa’adat went on to found the Awadh dynasty which, perhaps because of its proximity to Delhi, maintained some ties to the Mughals, although by 1780 it was autonomous in all but name.)
Rosie Llewellyn-Jones in The Last King in India: Wajid Ali Shah
Read Oudh and the East India Company by Purnendu Basu
The West and the South: Hyderabad, Mysore, Marathas, Carnatic
In the power vacuum that appeared in India mid-18th-century owing to the weakening of Mughal control, the four great powers in the south and in the west — Hyderabad, Mysore, the Marathas, and the Company with its ally the Carnatic — began jostling each other in a series of wars over boundaries and lands.
All four were evenly matched in strength–with armies of between 80,000 and 100,0007–and in training, with the Indian states having acquired Western methods and instruments of war.In 1788 another independent ruler, Tipu Sultan, son of the long-time foe of the British, Haidar Ali, ruled Mysore. Theirs was a new dynasty even by the lenient standards of a continent in flux.
The last great Indian power on the subcontinent in 1788 were the Marathas, the warlike peasant caste of Maharashtra, who had obtained coherence under the leadership of the famous “mountain rat,” Shivaji Bhonsle (1627-80). After Aurangzeb’s death, the leadership of the Marathas passed to a pentarchy consisting of four powerful generals–Gaekwar at Baroda, Holkar at Indore, Sindhia at
Gwalior, and Bhonsle at Nagpur–who were technically united by allegiance to the
peshwa of Poona, the chief minister of the raja of Satara. By the 1760s the Marathas,
under the peshwa’s leadership, controlled a vast area spreading from the Indus river to the far south of India, and even their loss at the battle of Panipat in 1761 to the Afghans over control of Delhi was not the disaster it first appeared.
Aurangjeb Conquering the Deccans
Location of Qutb Shahi Dynasty in South at Golkunda. The other Deccan sultanates are also shown here.
Apart from Awadh, Bengal and Hyderabad, the Deccan Sultanates were there to contend with.
The Deccan was coveted territory. Located on east-west trade routes, it was rich in natural resources and fine products, and it attracted people from across the Middle East and Europe, making it a cultural melting pot if not always a political one. Its golden age began toward the end of the Bahmani Empire, which broke away from the Delhi Sultanate to the north in 1347 and ruled over the entire Deccan with decreasing power until around 1538. By then the governors of the five Bahmani states had rebelled, declaring themselves sultans of individual kingdoms. The greater were Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Golconda, the lesser Bidar and Berar.
Over the next 150 years, the sultans and their successors built palaces and cities, established workshops and reached out to artists, writers and composers, especially from the centers of Islamic creativity in Persia, Turkey and Africa.
In 1574, Mutaza I , sultan of Ahmadnagar annexed Berar to his sultanate. In 1619, the last ruler of the Bidar, sulatante Amir Barid Shah III, fell to Bijapur and Bidar thereafetr merged with the Bijapur Sultanate. In 1636 Aurangzeb, then Mughal viceroy of Deccan finally annexed the Ahmadnagar sultanate to the Mughal empire.
So, among all Deccan Sultanate, only Bijapur and Golconda remained to be annexed by Aurangjeb.
To contain the Marathas Aurangzeb invaded Bijapur (under Sikandar Adil Shah) and annexed it in 1686. This brought an end to Adil Shahi dynasty. Bijapur became the seat of the Mughal provincial governor.
Then Aurangzeb ordered attack against Abul Hassan Qutub Shah of Golconda. In 1687 the Mughal army entered the Golconda fort and Golconda was annexed by the Mughal Empire. Thus fell the last of the Deccani sultanates to Mughal Empire.
After the downfall of Bijapur and Golconda Aurangzeb concentrated all his forces against the Marathas.
East India Company and the Deccan Sultanate
Clickable Map of India in 1804
Map of India after the Second Anglo-Maratha War, 1805
The first Governor-General of India was Warren Hastings. Under his dispensation, the expansion of British rule in India was pursued vigorously, and the British sought to master indigenous systems of knowledge. Hastings remained in India until 1784 and was succeeded by Cornwallis, who initiated the Permanent Settlement, whereby an agreement in perpetuity was reached with zamindars or landlords for the collection of revenue. For the next fifty years, the British were engaged in attempts to eliminate Indian rivals, and it is under the administration of Wellesley that British territorial expansion was achieved with ruthless efficiency. Major victories were achieved against Tipu Sultan of Mysore and the Marathas, and finally the subjugation and conquest of the Sikhs in a series of Anglo- Sikh Wars led to British occupation over the entirety of India.
Map of India after the Third Anglo-Maratha War, 1819
1765 Treaty Of Allhabad
Seventeen sixty-five marked the origin of empire with Robert Clive’s attainment of the diwani of Bengal from Mughal Emperor Shah Alam (See above) , which conferred the right on the Company to collect the revenues and to administer one of the most fertile regions in India for the Mughal emperors. As Mughal hegemony was quickly becoming an anachronism, the Company found itself virtually
sovereign over the breadbasket of India, the traditional starting point for conquest from
the time of the Mauryas to that of the Mughals themselves. However, the problems that
accompanied even the early stages of empire-building soon caused consternation in
Britain. The “nabobs,” men who had left England paupers and returned from the East as
millionaires, flaunted their successful plunder of the subcontinent by purchasing titles,
grand mansions and seats in parliament, while their wives glittered through the London
social scene in maharanis’ jewels. Tales of corruption, financial peculation and
mismanagement flowed back with the golden tide from India, along with news of a
seemingly never-ending succession of wars–first against the French, then with numerousIndian rulers. This culminated in 1787 with the sensational trial of Warren Hastings forfraud and unnecessary aggression while governor-general. Edmund Burke, a prominentMP, made long speeches during Hastings’ impeachment, decrying the governor-general’sactions and contrasting them with those of the Indian rulers, who were portrayed asenlightened monarchs with beneficial practices.
In 1766, the first trickle of what would become a great wave of publicity began when
the British government conceived a case for abolishing the Company and taking control
of its Indian possessions–including the £2 million a year in estimated tax revenue gained
with the diwani of Bengal. This may have been less a serious suggestion than an attempt
to appropriate a portion of the Company’s new found wealth to pay down the national
debt; if so, it was a successful tactic. The Company reluctantly agreed in 1767 to pay the
staggering sum of £400,000 a year in return for continued independence.
It can be argued that 1783 was the real beginning of British imperialism on the sub-continent: the end of the American war turned British eyes towards India as a substitute for the empire they had lost; Warren Hastings’ actions as governor-general publicized the affairs of the Company to a degree unknown before and led to furious debates over the proper role of the British in India; and William Pitt’s East India Act was being formulated, which would culminate the next year in the British government attaining a significant amount of control over the Company’s affairs. The Company then changed from a mercantile association based in North India and a few coastal stations to an empire spanning the sub-continent. Eighteen-eighteen (1818) witnessed the Company’s final victory over the Marathas, the last great, independent Indian power. Between 1783 and 1818, the mercantilists in the Company’s service became functionaries of the new empire: diplomats, administrators, statesmen and spies replaced in importance the bookkeepers and accountants of the previous age. There was no precedent for what they were called upon to do, and no guidelines on how to build an infrastructure capable of ruling a land far larger and more diverse than Britain. Although few of them had prior training for the task, they built a workable system that endured under the Company’s rule until 1858, and became the basis for every subsequent Indian
Murshid Quli Khan died on 30 June 1727. He founded the city Murshidabad. Alivardi Khan became the Nawab of Bengal during 1740–1756. After him, Siraj ud-Daulah reigned from 9 April 1756 – 23 June 1757.
In the period 1722-75 three nawabs reigned through several phases of state formation in Awadh. The. state has been described as “a distinct realm of structured political relations that is defined by contention along its boundaries and among politicians and bureaucrats who, in competing for office and influence, rework social and economic conflict into political terms,” and emphasis has shifted in the scholarly study of state making from static institutions to the “structured relations between the state and other spheres of society.” The question arises of what social forces influenced the rise of the nawabs to regional autonomy in Awadh. As Iranian Shi‘is, the nawabs, originally temporary Mughal appointees, seem at first glance an elite group unlikely to assert strong authority over the Hindu peasants and Sunni townsmen of Awadh. How they made Shi‘i rule at all palatable to Awadh’s population must occupy us as a central question. Moreover, it might be asked if there arc any parallels between the rise of Shi‘i rule in Awadh and that of the Safavids earlier in Iran.
The emergence of the province of Awadh as a Shi‘i-ruled state depended in part on developments at the Timurid court, where the Mughal administrative elite allowed Iranian Shi‘i immigrants to rise as provincial governors. On the one hand, pohtical instability in Iran encouraged large numbers of Iranian notables to go to India; on the other, the mood at court after the passing of Awrangzib (d. 1707) grew decidedly more tolerant of Shi‘ism. Awrangzib’s successor, Bahadur Shah (d. 1712), leaned heavily toward Shi‘i Islam. The Shi‘i Barhah Sayyids, mere Delhi courtiers, made and unmade Mughal emperors, further demonstrating growing Shi‘i power. Greater tolerance at court allowed more elite recruitment of avowed Shi‘is to high office,
The Iranians made an impact, not only on the Delhi court, but on North India as a whole. Mir Muhammad Amin Nishapuri (d. 1739), the first nawab of Awadh, began a dynasty that ruled for 136 years. Nishapuri. known as Burhanu’l-Mulk, derived from a family of Islamic judges (qazis ) in Khurasan, whom Shah Ismacil Safavi of Iran transplanted there from Najaf as part of his campaign to make Iran Shi‘i. Nishapuri came to India in 1708, where he worked himself up the bureaucratic ladder to emerge as a power broker in Delhi. He helped free the Mughal emperor, Muhammad
He had four sons: Azam, Moazzam, Akbar and Kambakhsh who were waiting to ascend to the throne.
Moazzam became the ruler of Agra February 1708 after defeating all his brotheers and began an exclusive rule
with the title of Bahadur Shah l or Shah Alam l till his death in February 1712. His death again gave birth to the
war of accession among his sons: Jahandar Shah and Farrukhsiyar. Jahandar Shah succeeded to access the throne but
after a few months Farrukhsiyar snatched the throne.
Shi‘i dynasty ruled the state of Awadh
Awadh was established as one of the twelve original subahs (top-level imperial provinces) under 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar and became a hereditary tributary polity around 1722 AD, with Faizabad as its initial capital and Saadat Ali Khan as its first Subadar Nawab and progenitor of a dynasty of Nawabs of Awadh (often styled Nawab Wazir al-Mamalik).
Saadat Ali Khan belonged to a dynasty of Persian origin from Nishapur, Iran.
From 1500 to 1600 the Ottoman Empire expanded from Anatolia into eastern Europe and conquered Syria (1516), Egypt (1517), and Iraq (1534). The Safavid Empire, based in Azerbaijan, subdued the Iranian plateau. The Mughal Empire reached from Kabul down into the Gangetic plain, uniting most of northern India. These three Muslim states, their power based partially on borrowed Chinese and European technical advances in artillery.
Ottoman Istanbul, Safavid Isfahan, and Mughal Agra dazzled travelers with their splendor in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Their wealth, based primarily on agriculture and only secondarily on trade and manufactures, is indisputable. But their rulers and craftsmen borrowed technology from Europe instead of innovating, so that they gave the world few new developments in weaponry or industry. From at least the fifteenth century, Europe produced more made goods, including, for instance, silk textiles, whereas the Middle East and South Asia sent raw materials (raw silk, spices such as pepper) to Europe. But the western European edge in mechanical inventiveness and the ability to accumulate capital only manifested itself with full force after 1760. Until the late eighteenth century, manufacturing and agricultural productivity, and transportation costs and speed, did not improve dramatically in Europe.
The political and economic flowering of the three sixteenth-century Muslim empires in South and Southwest Asia had a religious impact. The Ottomans promoted the Hanafi rite of Sunni Islam as their state religion, developing a highly institutionalized and bureaucratic religious establishment. The Safavids and their Shi‘i Turkoman followers from Anatolia made Twelver Shi‘ism the religion of state and heavy-handedly imposed it on Sunni Iran. They brought in Arab Shi‘i clerics from southern Lebanon and southern Iraq to man the fledgling religious institution and relied also on notable clerical families within Iran who embraced Shi‘ism. The Mughals, originating in largely Turkish-speaking Central Asia, promoted Hanafi Sunnism. Religious ideology and a corps of ulama organized around institutions useful to the state played an important political role in each of the three Muslim empires.
The southwestern Deccani kingdom of Bijapur also experienced Shi‘i rule and Iranian influence in the sixteenth century, 1502-34 and 1558-83, under the ‘Adil Shahi dynasty. Shi‘i Iranian merchants plied the horse trade from the Persian Gulf to Bijapur, and Shi‘i notables achieved high office there. Yusuf ‘Adil Shah (1489-1510), an Ottoman Turkish exile with tics to the Safavid Ismacil, proclaimed Shi‘ism the state religion in Bijapur in 1502, on hearing of the Safavid victory. This proclamation encouraged even more Iranians to immigrate, and the ‘Adil Shahis employed them as administrators or military men. The Shi‘i monarchs hired three hundred Iranians to curse the first three caliphs.
The Deccan Shi‘i States
Indian Ocean trade routes linked the Persian Gulf with southern India, encouraging a migration of people and ideas between the two areas. Iranian notables, administrators, military men, and literati flooded into southern India, or the Deccan, during the Mongol invasions of Iran in the thirteenth century, and thereafter. Especially after the Safavid victory, these Iranian elites often adopted Shi‘ism. Diplomatically and in its elite culture southern India became a dependency of Iran in the sixteenth century. Iranian notables carried with them their new conviction in Usuli Shi‘ism, providing patronage for Friday congregational prayer mosques and other Usuli Twelver institutions.
The longest-lasting of the Shi‘i-ruled states in southern India, the Qutb-Shahi (1512-1687), began with the political rise in Golconda of a Turkoman adventurer from Hamadan, Iran, named Sultan-Quli Qutbu’d-Din. The rulers in his line gave extensive patronage to Shi‘i ulama and built mosques, buildings (cashur-khanah ) for the commemoration of Imam Husayn’s martyrdom, seminaries, and Shi‘i burial grounds. They had the Friday prayer sermons said in the name of the Twelve Imams and of the Safavids.
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