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Mughal Empire - 1526-1857

The Mughal Empire was one of the largest centralized states in premodern history and was the precursor to the British Indian Empire. Mughal Empire [405,000], Mogul Empire [157,000], Moghul Empire [149,000] - a derivation of the word "Mongol" - were Turkic conquerors of India who established an empire that lasted from 1526 to 1857, but held only nominal power after 1803.

The word Mughal formerly and properly denoted the Tatar conquerors ot both Persia and India. But in the latter country it had for centuries been applied to the naturalized descendants of Persians as well as Tatars, of Iranians as well as Turanians. The Padshah Babar's mother was a Mughal, but throughout his memoirs Babar speaks with contempt and dislike of the race, by the name of which the Indians erroneously called his dynasty. Mughal is a generic term with them for a Muhammadan who enters India from beyond Afghanistan.

Babur Shah 1483 1530
Humayun Shah 1530 1540
Ekber Mirza Shah 1556 1605
Cihangir Shah 1605 1627
Shah-i Cihan I 1627 1658
Aurangzeb Alemgir Shah I 1658 1707
Bahadir Shah I 1707 1712
Cihahgir Shah 1712 1713
Ferruh-Siyer Shah 1713 1719
Refiudderecat Shah 1719
Shah-i Cihan II 1719
Muhammed Shah 1719 1748
Ahmet Shah 1748 1754
Alemgir Shah II 1754 1759
Shah-I Alem 1759 1806
Ekber Shah 1806 1837
Bahadir Shah II 1837 1858
In the early sixteenth century, descendants of the Mongol, Turkish, Iranian, and Afghan invaders of South Asia -- the Mughals -- invaded India under the leadership of Zahir-ud-Din Babur. Babur, descended from Timur on his father's side and from Genghis Khan on his mother's, was driven out of his father's kingdom in the Ferghana Valley (which straddles contemporary Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) by the Shaybani Uzbeks, who had wrested Samarkand from the Timurids. After several unsuccessful attempts to regain Ferghana and Samarkand, Babur crossed the Amu Darya and captured Kabul from the last of its Mongol rulers in 1504.

His determination was to expand eastward into Punjab, where he had made a number of forays. Then an invitation from an opportunistic Afghan chief in Punjab brought him to the very heart of the Delhi Sultanate, ruled by Ibrahim Lodi (1517-26). Babur, a seasoned military commander, entered India in 1526 with his well-trained veteran army of 12,000 to meet the sultan's huge but unwieldy and disunited force of more than 100,000 men. Babur defeated the Lodi sultan decisively at Panipat (in modern-day Haryana, about ninety kilometers north of Delhi). Employing gun carts, moveable artillery, and superior cavalry tactics, Babur achieved a resounding victory. A year later, he decisively defeated a Rajput confederacy led by Rana Sangha.

Babur became the first Mughal ruler (1526-30). Although the seat of the great Mughal Empire he founded was in India, Babur's memoirs stressed his love for Kabul--both as a commercial strategic center as well as a beautiful highland city with an "extremely delightful" climate. In 1529 Babur routed the joint forces of Afghans and the sultan of Bengal but died in 1530 before he could consolidate his military gains. He left behind as legacies his memoirs (Babur Namah ), several beautiful gardens in Kabul, Lahore, and Agra, and descendants who would fulfill his dream of establishing an empire in Hindustan.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most of the Hindu Kush area was hotly contested between the Mughals of India and the powerful Safavids of Iran. Just as Kabul dominates the high road from Central Asia into India, Qandahar commands the only approach to India that skirts the Hindu Kush. The strategically important Kabul-Qandahar axis was the primary forces of competition between the Mughals and the Safavids, and Qandahar itself changed hands several times during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Safavids and the Mughals were not the only contenders, however. Less powerful but closer at hand were the Uzbeks of Central Asia, who fought for control of Herat in western Afghanistan and for the northern regions as well where neither the Mughals nor the Safavids were in strength.

India History Map - 1707 Expansion Under AuragnzebAlthough Indian Mughal rule technically lasted until the nineteenth century, its days of power extended from 1526 until the death of Babur's great-great-great-grandson, Aurangzeb in 1707. The perennial question of who was the greatest of the six "Great Mughals" receives varying answers in present-day Pakistan and India. Some favor Babur the pioneer and others his great-grandson, Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58), builder of the Taj Mahal and other magnificent buildings. The other two towering figures of the era by general consensus were Akbar (r. 1556-1605) and Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707). Both rulers expanded the empire greatly and were able administrators. However, Akbar was known for his religious tolerance and administrative genius, while Aurangzeb was a pious Muslim and fierce protector of orthodox Islam in an alien and heterodox environment.

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