Sunday, August 19, 2018

Rise and Fall of the Mughal Empire

The Taj Mahal continued to dazzle millions of tourist with its white marble, minarets, and perfectcly shaped dome – a monumental reminder from one of India’s greatest Empire, the Mughal Empire.

Foundation of the Empire

The Mughal began in 1526 after an refugee ruler from the Central Asian kingdom of Fergana named Zahir un-din Muhammad defeated the ruling Sultan of Delhi Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Pannipat. Descending from the ruthless Mongol warlor Timur or Tammerlane, Zahir un-din Muhammad, established the Timurid Empire, later called the Mughal Empire by westerners. He took the regal name Babur or Tiger to mark the beginning of his rule.
With his superior cannons and guns, Babur destroyed his enemies who have superior number compared to his. He expanded his dominion throughout northern India giving him a population of diverse culture, language, and religion. Babur’s successors continued the Mughal’s military campaigns against enemies both within and without.

Akbar the Great
Akbar the Great

The Mughals truly consolidated its rule over India under the reign of Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 – 1605). Akbar continued to be a warrior ruler, expanding the domains of the Empire from all directions. A major factor in the Mughal Empire’s successful expansion was its diplomatic approach towards its opponents. The Mughals offered the rulers to keep their land, wealth, and power as long as they accepted Akbar as their overlord. Many complied and the Empire grew.

Though a successful military commander, Akbar proved himself as a renaissance man. To pacify his Empire’s diverse population, he began a policy of tolerance. Mughals belonged to Sunni Islam, yet under Akbar, he allowed Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and other sects of Islam to freely worship the religion they liked. Akbar even ordered the construction of temples and churches. He celebrated festivals of other religions and gave government positions to men of different religions. But most importantly, Akbar abolished the loathed jizya, the tax paid by non-Muslims. From then on, toleration became a major pillar for the Mughal Empire’s success.

Besides tolerance, Akbar also enacted successful administrative reforms. He turned once enemies into friends by giving them positions in the government. With his Mansabdari System, the ranking of government officials, nobility, and military command became organized and well-defined. Administrative procedures became standardized creating an efficient bureaucracy that centered around the Emperor.

Pinnacle of Power

After Akbar, the Mughal empire thrived and its culture and scientific achievements followed.

Mughals bathed with soap and shampoos which the British later adopted and proliferated throughout the world. Mughal’s also continued to baffle the modern world with the Kashmiri metallurgist Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman’s seamless globe, which many considered today as impossible.

Mughal engineers improved hydraulics to supply fields and gardens with flowing water. Mughal Emperors supported astrologers and study of astronomy by building observatories that helped in the composition of hundreds of treatises about the night sky.

Mughal blacksmiths developed new guns and cannons. Fathullah Shirazi invented in 1582 an auto cannon which fired multiple shots towards the enemy. New armors and swords forged with Damascus steel equipped Mughal warriors. War elephants contributed to the expansion of the empire. With wealth, Mughal Emperors paid to keep its army armed with the latest and best weaponry.

Most importantly, Mughal Empire met its peak of cultural height during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658). Shah Jahan continued his predecessor's military success, but he outdone them when it came to architectural marvels and opulence. He commissioned the creation of the legendary Peacock Throne studded with precious stones and gems. Under his reign, Mughal architecture reached its apex delivering to the world beautiful forts and tombs. The Red Fort in Delhi awestruck onlookers with its impregnable red sanstone wall and its opulent imperial pavilions, palaces, and gardens meant to emulate the paradise in Islam.
Shah Jahan
Most of all Taj Mahal became the greatest icon of the Mughal Empire and even for India today. It gained interest with it white marble facades, minarets, and magnificent dome that dominated the landscape. All meant to display the love of Shah Jahan for his most beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Decline and Fall

Yet, after the cultural vibrant and prosperity under Shah Jahan, his third son deposed him and reigned as Aurangzeb (r. 1658 – 1707). Aurangzeb ruled a vast Mughal Empire covering much of the Indian subcontinent that stretched from Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal and from the Himalayas right down south to the Decan Plateau.
Aurangzeb’s wars, though brought many lands conquered, drained the treasury of the Empire. Then, he turned against the policy of toleration from his predecessors and succumbed to bigotry and persecution. As a result of his intolerance, rebellions shattered the Empire and placed further strain to the already exhausted coffers. By the time of Aurangzeb’s death, the Mughal Empire’s expansion grinned to a halt, worse, they went into defensive as rebels weakened the Empire.

So much the weakness of the internal affairs of the Empire that they became vulnerable to a Persian invasion that led to the sacking of the Mughal capital of Delhi in 1739. The sacking of Delhi left the Mughal Emperors in a pathetic state of existence as mere princely figures without power and few lands, controlling only the area surrounding Delhi.

The conclusion of the Mughal Empire came in 1857 when Emperor Bahadur Shah II relinquished his throne and sent into exile to Burma (present day Myanmar) after being embroiled in a failed mutiny by British Indian soldiers. His abdication finally ended the Mughal Empire.

Summing Up

Though the Mughal Empire had disappeared for centuries, its legacy remained to this. Its monuments stood as a symbol of the opulence and diversity of the empire. It showed the importance of tolerance as a key establishing a successful diverse empire. Later, however, it also showed how intolerance and persecution resulted in disaster. Even today, the struggle between tolerance and bigotry remained as the world grapples with globalization and crisis.

1 comment:

  1. Many people will get lot of benefits by reading this kind of informational stuff .Thank you so much for this .