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In this article we will discuss the later Mughal rulers, the decline and disintegration of the dynasty during the first half of the 18th century.
Muhammad Shah :
After the end of Sayyid Brothers, the command of Mughal administration was in the hands of Mughal king Muhammad Shah. He made Nizam-ul-Mulk as his wazir in 1922.
1. Muhammad Shah neglected the administrative and economic needs of the empire. He was a weak king and focussed only on living a luxurious life, which earned him the pen name Sada Rangila (ever-joyous). He is thus commonly referred to as Muhammad Shah Rangila.
2. Not only was he was under the influence of corrupt nobles, he also shared the bribes they accepted. The Mughal empire thus worsened further under Shah’s command.
3. Nizam-ul-Mulk tried to save the empire from falling, however, the constant quarrels and suspicious nature of the emperor drove him to relinquish his post. He then marched south to found the state of Hyderabad in the Deccan.
4. In the absence of Nizam-ul-Mulk, the hereditary nawabs and local zamindars started to challenge the Mughal authority.
5. During this period, Marathas were gaining power and began their northern expansion by raiding Malwa, Gujarat and Bundelkhand.
Nadir Shah’s attack on the Mughal kingdom (1738):
1. Nadir Shah, the ruler of Persia, was attracted to the wealthy Mughal empire. His countless military campaigns had brought the Persian empire to the verge of bankruptcy and he needed large sums of money to keep his army afloat.
2. Nadir Shah acquired Kandahar and Lahore without any strong resistance from the Mughals as Muhammad Shah failed to comprehend the gravity of the situation and when he did, Nadir Shah’s forces had closed in on Delhi.
3. Eventually, Shah faced the Mughal army in the battle of Karnal in 1739 and attained an easy victory. Muhammad Shah was then brought back to Delhi as a prisoner.
4. Nadir Shah killed scores of citizens of Delhi. He also laid claim on the royal treasury and other property. Most importantly, he took away the Koh-i-Noor diamond and Shahjahan’s jewel-studded Peacock Throne back to Persia.
5.He made Muhammad Shah surrender all the provinces of the empire located west of river Indus. This created possibilities for Delhi’s invasion from the west.
Consequences of Nadir
1. Nadir Shah’s easy victory over the mighty Mughal empire shattered its prestige. The attack exposed hidden weaknesses of the empire to newly-rising powers like the Marathas and foreign trading companies in India.
2. Lack of firm administration made petty jagirdars and local kings more courageous and rebellious.
3. These jagirdars started to oppress peasants to accumulate wealth and also fought among themselves for jagirs and high positions in court.
4. Muhammad Shah died in 1748 keeping a rapidly deteriorating empire to fight for by power hungry nobles and princes.
Ahmad Shah Abdali’s invasions:
1. Ahmad Shah Abdali was the founder of Durrani empire in the modern state of Afghanistan. He was Nadir Shah’s general and succeeded in laying claim over Afghanistan after the latter was murdered in Persia in 1747.
2. During 1748 and 1767, Abdali raided India seven times. He defeated the Marathas in the third battle of Panipat and dealt a blow to their dreams of supremacy.
3. His invasion also ruined what was left of the Mughal empire to an extent that after 1761 it no longer was an all-India empire.
Shah Alam II:
1. Shah Alam II took over the command of the Mughal empire in
1759 and was raised to the throne by Sadashivrao Bhau, while Maratha forces
were marching to face Ahmad Shah Abdali’s army.
2. Alam joined forces with Mir Qasim of Bengal and Shuja-ud-Daula
of Awadh in the Battle of Buxar in 1764 against the East India Company. However,
after losing the battle, he lived in Allahabad on the East India Company’s
3. In 1772, he returned to Delhi under the protection of
Maratha Sirdar Mahadaji Scindia.
4. The East India Company took reins of Delhi’s administration
in 1803. Thus, from 1803 – 1857, the remaining Mughal emperors served only as
mere political front for the British.
5. The major consequence of the fall of the Mughals was the
rise of European political powers that also brought a new socio-economic order to
India. This was the beginning of imperialism in India.
To read the other articles in the series
Part 1 :
Part 2 :
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