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Decline And Fall Of The Mughal Empire, 1751-1862

Sir William Hunter wrote in 1893 that the British "won India, not from the Mughals, but from the Hindus. Before we appeared as conquerors, the Mughal empire had broken up ; our conclusive wars were neither with the Delhi King nor with the revolted Governors, but with two Hindu confederacies - the Mahrattas and the Sikhs." Muhammadan princes fought against the British in Bengal, in the Karnatik, and in Mysore; but the longest opposition to the British conquest of India came from the Hindus. The last British-Maratha war dated as late as 1818, and the Sikh Confederation was overcome only in 1849.

India History Map - 1751In 1751 the Moghul Empire had crumbled to pieces. At this time three powers were making their influence felt in India:the Afghans, the French, and the Mahrattas. After Nadir Shah's assassination (1747) an Afghan chief Ahmad Shah Abdali became ruler over Afghanistan, Balkh, Sindh, and Kashmir. In 1751 the emperor ceded to him the Punjab.

Nizam ul Mulk (or Asaf Jah), whose independence in the provinces south of the Narbada had been acknowledged by the emperor, died in 1748. His death gave the French an opportunity of interfering in Indian affairs. Dupleix, who was then governor of Pondicherry (the chief French settlement in the south), managed so skilfully, that in 1751 he was acknowledged governor of all the country from the Kistna to Cape Comorin. The Nawab of Arcot was under his authority, and Bussy, with a French army, represented French interests at the Nizam's court at Aurangabad. Thus French influence was supreme in the south. At this time the English power was of but little account, being confined to the towns of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Fort St. David, and Devicota.

The Mahrattas had, especially under the vigorous administration of the Peshwas, extended their authority over the Konkan and the western part of the Dekkan down to the Tungabhadra. Berar, Gondwana, and Cuttack including Balasor (since 1751) were under the Mahratta chief Eaguji Bhonsle, who in 1751 occupied the territory as far south as the Godaveri. In Hindustan the territory of the Peshwa was bounded by the Ganges, while the Chambal formed the northwestern boundary of the country ceded by Nizam ul Mulk in the convention or Seronji (1738).

While the Mahrattas held the sovereignty over the countries just mentioned, they exercised another not less important influence over the whole of India. They had either obtained by imperial grant or assumed the right to collect chauth, i.e. the fourth part of the revenue, in Gujerat, the Dekkan, and the south of India, the provinces of Lucknow, Patna, and Bengal, Allahabad, Agra, and Ajmere.

Yet the Mahrattas, at this time, formed no united government. Earn Raja at Satara was a merely nominal raja, the actual power having been usurped by Balaji Baji Eao (1740-1761), his Peshwa or Prime Minister, who resided at Puna. Again the Peshwa's power was much curbed by powerful Mahratta chiefs, the principal of whom were Eaguji Bhonsle of Berar, Anand Eao Power of Dhar, Damaji Gaekwar, Mulhar Eao Holkar and Eanoji Sindia in Malwa. Thus the most that can be spoken of is only of a "Mahratta Confederacy".

At Mysore Nunjeraj, a Hindu minister, was the actual ruler, the raja being a mere figure-head. Its limits had by this time been extended towards the south. There remained under the emperor's direct authority - only the upper Doab or country between the upper courses of the Ganges and Jumna, the country between the Jumna and the Sutlej, and Gujerat, which was still under a dependent Moghul viceroy. The Rajputs were virtually independent under the leadership of the rana of Udaipur and the rajas of Jodhpur and Jaipur.

Oudh had become independent under Saadat Khan in 1724, Bengal and Behar under Aliverdi Khan in 1740, and Rohilkhand, the country east of the upper Ganges, was occupied by Ali Mahomed and his Afghans in 1744.

The Panjab was the scene of the struggles which first gave India to the Muhammadans, which in turn transferred the empire of Hindustan from the Lodi to the Mughal dynasty, and from the Mughals to the Mahrattas, which shook the power of the Mahrattas at Panipat, and finally crushed it at Dehli and made the British masters of northern India. Meanwhile Sikhism in its militant form was developing, and culminated in the chiefship of Maharaja Eanjit Singh, who died, in 1839, Lord of the Panjab from the Sulimani mountains to the Satlaj, and from Kashmir to beyond Multan. In 1849 the Panjab was annexed to the British Empire.

  • 1707. Succession contest between Muazzim and Alam, two sons of Aurangzeb ; victory of the former, and his accession with the title of Bahadur Shah; but under the complete control of his military prime minister, Zul-fikar Khan. Revolt of Prince Kambaksh ; his defeat and death.
  • 1710. Expedition by the Mughal emperor against the Sikhs.
  • 1712. Death of the emperor Bahadur Shah, and accession of his eldest son, Jahandar Shah, who only ruled as the creature of his prime minister, Zul-fikar Khan. Revolt of his nephew, Farukhsiyyar; and murder of the emperor, Jahandar Shah, and his wazir.
  • 1713. Accession of Farukhsiyyar as emperor under the control of the two Sayyid 'king-makers,' Husain Ali and Afodulla.
  • 1716. Invasion of the imperial territories by the Sikhs; their defeat, and cruel persecution.
  • 1719. Deposition and murder of the emperor Farukhsiyyar by the two Sayyids. They dominate in succession three boy emperors, the first two of whom die within a few months; the third, Muhammad Shah, commences his reign in September 1719.
  • 1720. Overthrow of the two Sayyids, the 'king-makers.'
  • 1720-1748. The Governor of the Deccan or Southern India, or Nizam-al-Ma1ik, establishes his independence at Haidarabad.
  • 1732-1743. The Governor of Oudh, who was also wazir or prime minister of the empire, becomes practically independent of Delhi.
  • 1735-1751. General decline of the empire ; revolts within it: invasion of Nadir Shah from Persia (1739). First invasion of India by Ahmad Shah Durani (1747). The Marathas finally secure the cession of Malwa (1743) ; and of Southern Orissa and tribute from Bengal (1751).
  • 1748-1750. Accession of the emperor Ahmad Shah, son of Muhammad Shah; disturbances by the Rohillas in Oudh, and defeat of the imperial troops.
  • 1751. The Rohilla insurrection crushed by the imperial troops, with the aid oi the Marathas.
  • 1751-1752. Second invasion from Afghanistan by Ahmad Shah Durani, and cession of the Punjab to him.
  • 1754. Deposition of the emperor, and accession of Alamgir II.
  • 1756. Third invasion from Afghanistan by Ahmad Shah Durani, and sack of Delhi.
  • 1759. Fourth invasion of Ahmad Shah Durani, and murder of the emperor Alamgir II. by his prime minister, Ghazi-ud-din. Maratha conquests in Northern India, and their capture of Delhi.
  • 1761-1805. Third battle of Panipat, and defeat of the Marathas by the Afghans (1761). The nominal emperor on the death of Alamgir II is Shah Alam II, who resides till 1771, at Allahabad, a pensioner of the British. The Marathas then practically become masters of the Delhi territories and of the person of the emperor. The emperor is blinded and imprisoned by rebels; rescued by the Marathas, but virtually a prisoner in their hands till 1803, when the Maratha power is overthrown by Lord Lake.
  • 1806-1837. Akbar II succeeds as emperor, under British protection, but only to the nominal dignity.
  • 1837-1862. Muhammad Bahadur Shah, the seventeenth Mughal emperor, and last of the race of Timur. For his complicity in the Mutiny of 1857 he was banished to Rangoon, where he died in 1862.



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