References: Satish Chandra(Medieval India).Also minor facts from other books and figure and facts from verified Internet sources.
28.CLIMAX AND CRISIS OF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE
The Rise of the Marathas
The rise of Marathas, like that of the Rajputs, was a medieval (8th century onwards) phenomenon. Both
had mixed origins which have been discussed at length. It is clear that there was a definite process of
both Brahmanization and Kshtriasation in medieval India. Thus, those enrolled in service, particularly
military service, and in receipt of grants of land tended to become a separate group, marrying within
itself, following a certain code of conduct (such as giving up widow remarriage, certain foods, etc.) an d
claiming a higher status. However, unlike the Rajputs, the Marathas had not been able to set up well –
established independent states of their own. They were, hence, seen as powerful local chiefs and
potential allies with a following of loose auxiliaries termed bargirs, rather than autonomous rulers.
From the time of the Bahmani kingdom, as also under its successor states, Maratha chiefs or sardars
were employed in the service of the state, and many of them, such as the Mores, the Ghatges, the
Nimalkars etc. exercised local authority in many areas. The position of the Maratha chiefs improved
further as first Malik Ambar, and then the Mughals competed for their support.
The rise of the Marathas during the 17th century, and the establishment of an independent Maratha
state is closely associated with the family of Shivaji. Shivaji’s ancestor, Babaji, was the patel (headman)
of villages Hingani Beradi and Devalgaon in the Poona district. His sons, Maloji and Vithoji, settled in the
Daultabad district and served as petty horsemen under the Jadhavs of Sindkhed. However, another
branch of the family, the Ghorpades, were well established in the kingdom of Bijapur. Subsequently,
Maloji rose in the service of Malik Ambar. An important step in
the rise of the family was the grant by Malik Ambar of the parganas of Sholapur and Poona to Shahji,
son of Maloji, in 1622. These parganas were held at that time by Murari Pandit on behalf of Bijapur, and
Shahji earned his spurs by ousting Murari Jagdev from the area. In 1630, when Lukhaji Jadhav, father-inlaw of Shahji, was treacherously murdered at the Ahmadnagar court, Shahji defected to the side of the
Mughals, and was given the mansab of 5000 zat, 5000 sawar, and Poona as jagir by Shah Jahan. His
brother Minaji and elder son, Sambhaji, were also given mansabs. However, Shahji’s alliance with the
Mughals was short lived and he defected to Bijapur in 1632 when Fath Khan, the son of Malik Ambar,
agreed to surrender Daultabad, joined the Mughal service, and was awarded Poona in jagir.
Following the agreement with Fath Khan, the Nizam Shah was sent to prison at Gwaliyar. Shahji, with
the backing of Bijapur, now emerged as the champion of the Nizam Shahi dynasty. Following the
example of Malik Ambar, Shahji found a Nizam Shahi prince, and raised him up as a ruler at Shahgarh.
The Adil Shah sent a force of 7 – 8000 horsemen to aid Shahji. He also induced many Nizam Shahi nobles
who had assumed independent charge of their forts and territories following the end of the Nizam Shahi
rule to join Shahji. Many disbanded Nizam Shahi soldiers also joined Shahji whose forces swelled to
20,000 horse. With these he harassed the Mughals and took control of a large portion of the
Ahmadnagar state. We are told that out of a yield of 84 lakh huns, at this time Shahji held territory
worth 20 3/4 lakh huns, Bijapur worth 20 1/4 lakhs, and the Mughals 21 lakhs.
This background is important for understanding the subsequent rise of Shivaji and how under him the
Bhonsles moved from being king makers to being independent kings.
Early Career of Shivaji
After the treaty of Bijapur with the Mughals in 1636, Shahji had to give up the areas of Ahmadnagar he
dominated, and join the service of the Bijapur sultan who, according to agreement, posted him in the
Karnataka, far away from the Mughal frontier. Taking advantage of the unsettled conditions, Shahji tried
to set up a semi-independent principality at Bangalore just as Mir Jumla,
the leading noble of Golconda, tried to carge out such a principality on the Coromandal coast. A number
of other chiefs, such as the Abyssinian chiefs on the western coast, the Sidis, behaved in a similar
Shahji left the Poona jagir to his neglected senior wife, Jija Bai, and his minor son, Shivaji. Shivaji showed
his mettle when at the young age of 18, he overran a number of hill forts near Poona -Rajgarh, Kondana
and Torna in the years 1645-47. With the death of his guardian, Dadaji Kondadeo, in 1647 Shivaji
became his own master, and the full control of his father’s jagir passed to him.
There is no reason to believe that Shivaji acted in a manner which was contrary to the wishes of his
father. In fact, Shivaji acted in the same manner at Poona as Shahji at Bangalore. The reasons were to
some extent similar. Karnataka was a frontier area in which the Bijapur government was still struggling
to establish its control. The Poona region was a relatively neglected region because after the treaty of
1636 with Shah Jahan, Bijapur had shifted its interests to the south, and Shah Jahan was busy with
Central Asian and other matters.
In any case, the Bijapur government considered father and son to be one because afarman of 1644
addressed to Kanhoji Jedhe tells us that Shahji had been removed from the court and disgraced as his
agent Dadaji Kondadeva had committed rebellious activities at Kondana. Subsequently, a commission
consisting of Khandoji and Baji Ghorpade was appointed to proceed against Shahji. These proceedings
dragged on till 1649 when, following the death of his patron, Randaulah Khan, Shahji was imprisoned.
Shivaji interceded with the Mughals to get his father released.
In 1656, shortly before his death, Shahji visited Poona and toured the area under Shivaji’s control, and
presumably, advised him how to conduct its administration.
Shivaji began his real career of conquest in 1656 when he conquered Javli from the Maratha chief,
Chandra Rao More. The Javli kingdom and the accumulated treasure of the Mores were important, and
Shivaji acquired them by means of treachery. The conquest of Javli made him the undisputed master of
the Mavala area on the highlands and freed his path to the Satara area and to the coastal strip, the
Konkan. Mavali foot soldiers became a
strong part of his army. With their help, he strengthened his position by acquiring a further series of hill
forts near Poona.
The Mughal invasion of Bijapur in 1657 saved Shivaji from Bijapuri reprisals. Shivaji first entered into
negotiations with Aurangzeb, then changed sides and made deep inroads into Mughal areas, seizing rich
booty. When Aurangzeb came to terms with the new Bijapur ruler in preparation for the civil war, he
pardoned Shivaji also. But he distrusted Shivaji and advised the Bijapur ruler to expel him from the
Bijapur area he had seized, and if he wanted to employ him, employ him in the Karnataka, far away from
the Mughal frontiers.
The nature of Shivaji’s interaction with the Mughals during this period would be helpful in
understanding the nature of Shivaji’s ambitions. In 1648, when Shivaji had approached Prince Murad
Bakhsh, the Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan, to intercede on behalf of his father, Shahji and offered to
join the Mughal service. The prince had offered him a mansab of 5000, and restoration of Shahji to the
mansab of 5000 he had held earlier. Shivaji had also asked for the deshmukhi of Junnar and Ahmadnagar
parganas which Prince Murad had promised to try and secure after reaching the Emperor’s presence.
But Shahji was released before this, without Mughal intervention.
In 1657, at the time of the Mughal invasion of Bijapur, Shivaji had demanded, and Aurangzeb had
agreed, that all the forts and mahals pertaining to Bijapur which were in Shivaji’s possession be granted
to him, as also the port of Dabhol and its dependencies. But Aurangzeb had balked at his demand for the
cession of the forts and territories in the Adil Shahi Konkan, even though this was to be done “after the
imperialists had seized the old Nizam Shahi territory now in the hands of Adil Shah.” Taking advantage of
the Mughal civil war, Shivaji had conquered Purandar and seized north Konkan, including Kalyan and
It is clear that the Mughals were not keen to see the rise of an independent powerful Maratha state on
their frontier. Bijapur, too, was particularly concerned with Shivaji’s entry into North Konkan and his
conquest of Kalyan and Bhiwandi. The Konkan was not only an outlet for Bijapur exports, but Kalyan and
Bhiwandi ports were important for the import of war horses which the Portuguese were trying to
monopolize. This was the background to the despatch against him of an expedition led by Afzal Khan, a
premier noble of Bijapur, at the head of 10,000
troops, with instructions to capture him by any means possible. Treachery was common in those days
and both Afzal Khan and Shivaji had resorted to treachery on a number of occasions, Shivaji’s forces
were not used to open fighting and shrank from an open contest with this powerful chief. Afzal Khan
sent an invitation to Shivaji for a personal interview, promising to get him pardoned from the Bijapuri
court. Convinced that this was a trap, Shivaji went prepared, and murdered the Khan (1659) in a cunning
but daring manner. Shivaji put his leaderless army to rout and captured all his goods and equipment
including his artillery. Flushed with victory, the Maratha troops overran the powerful fort of Panhala and
poured into south Konkan and the Kolhapur districts, making extensive conquests.
Shivaji’s exploits made him a legendary figure. His name passed from house to house and he was
credited with magical powers. People flocked to him from the Maratha areas to join his army, and even
Afghan mercenaries who had been previously in the service of Bijapur, joined his army.
Meanwhile, Aurangzeb was anxiously watching the rise of a Maratha power so near the Mughal
frontiers. Aurangzeb instructed the new Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan, Shaista Khan, who was related
to Aurangzeb by marriage, to invade Shivaji’s dominions. At first, the war went badly for Shivaji. Shaista
Khan occupied Poona (1660) and made it his headquarters. He then sent detachments to wrest control
of the Konkan from Shivaji. Despite harassing attacks from Shivaji, and the bravery of Maratha
defenders, the Mughals secured their control on north Konkan.
But Shivaji was not the one to keep quiet. After the killing of Afzal Khan, Bijapur had launched another
campaign under Sidi Salabat, and wrested Panhala from Shivaji. Thereafter, the Bijapuri campaign had
slackened. In 1662, Shivaji made an agreement with Bijapur through its wazir, Abul Muhammad,
whereby his possessions in the north-west part of the kingdom were confirmed, and on his part, he
agreed not to invade the Bijapur territories. After securing his back, Shivaji was able to concentrate on
the Mughals. His most spectacular stroke was his night attack on Shaista Khan’s camp. He infiltrated into
the camp of the Khan at Poona, and at night attacked the Khan in his haram (1663), killing his son and
one of his captains, and wounding the Khan. This
daring attack put the Khan into disgrace and Shivaji’s stock rose once again. In anger, Aurangzeb
transferred Shaista Khan to Bengal, even refusing to give him an interview at the time of transfer as was
the custom. Meanwhile, Shivaji made another bold move. He attacked Surat, which was the premier
Mughal port, and looted it to his heart’s content (1664), returning home laden with treasure worth a
crore of rupees.
Treaty of Purandar and Shivaji’s Visit to Agra
After the disgrace of Shaista Khan, and Shivaji’s raid on Surat which caused great discomfiture to
Aurangzeb, he appointed Mirza Raja Jai Singh, who was one of his most trusted noble to lead the
campaign against Shivaji. He was given an army of 12,000 horse, and Diler Khan, another confidant of
Aurangzeb was placed under him. Jai Singh was not only given full military authority, but also the
administrative charge of allotting jagirs and making promotions and demotions, normally exercised by
the Viceroy of the Deccan. A little later, he was made Viceroy of the Deccan in place of Prince Muazzam.
Unlike his predecessors, Jai Singh did not underestimate the Marathas. He made careful diplomatic and
military preparations. He appealed to all the rivals and opponents of Shivaji and, in order to isolate
Shivaji, even tried to win over the sultan of Bijapur by dangling before him the bait of reducing his
tribute. He also induced some of the Maratha deshmukhs hostile to Shivaji to join him. Marching to
Poona, Jai Singh decided to strike at the heart of Shivaji’s territories – fort Purandar where Shivaji had
lodged his family and his treasure. Jai Singh closely besieged Purandar, (1665), beating off all Maratha
attempts to relieve it. With the fall of the fort in sight, and no relief likely from any quarter, Shivaji
opened negotiations with Jai Singh, After hard bargaining, the following terms were agreed upon:
(i) Out of 35 forts held by Shivaji, 23 forts with surrounding territory which yielded a revenue of four
lakhs of hurts every year were to be surrendered to the Mughals, while the remaining 12 forts with an
annual income of one lakh of hurts were to be left to Shivaji “on condition of service and loyalty to the
(ii) Territory worth four lakhs of hurts a year in the Bijapuri Konkan, which Shivaji already held, was
granted to him. In addition, Bijapur territory worth five lakhs of huns a year in the uplands (Balaghat)
which Shivaji was to conquer, was also granted to him. In return for these, he was to pay 40 lakhs huns
in instalments to the Mughals.
Shivaji asked to be excused from personal service. Hence, a mansab of 5000 was granted in his place to
his minor son, Sambhaji. Shivaji promised, however, to join personally in any Mughal campaign in the
Jai Singh cleverly threw a bone of contention between Shivaji and the Bijapuri ruler. But the success of
Jai Singh’s scheme depended upon Mughal support to Shivaji in making up from Bijapur territory worth
the amount he had yielded to the Mughals. This proved to be the fatal flaw. Aurangzeb had not lost his
reservations about Shivaji, and was doubtful of the wisdom of a joint Mughal-Maratha attack on Bijapur.
Aurangzeb wrote to Jai Singh:
“Tal-Konkan is granted to Shiva. But no order will be issued by me about Bijapuri-Balaghat being given to
him. If he can take it, let him wrest it from Adil Shah” (Haft Anjuman).
From the exchange of letters between Jai Singh and his son, Kr. Ram Singh, preserved in the State
Archives, Bikaner, it is clear that Aurangzeb was not alone in opposing an active alliance between the
Mughals and Shivaji against Bijapur. Diler Khan, who had been appointed by Aurangzeb to be with Jai
Singh, and to keep watch on him, said to Jai Singh :
“Maharaja, don’t invade Bijapur. You have conquered Shiva,, let him manage things in the Deccan, and
manage our business there”. Some of Jai Singh’s sardars also echoed Diler Khan’s views.
Jai Singh had larger ideas. His basic approach was to solve the Maratha problem in the context of a
forward policy in the Deccan. If Shivaji was left alone to fend against Bijapur, after losing territory worth
four lakh huns to the Mughals out of a total holding of nine lakhs huns in the Mughal and Bijapur
territory, he would hardly be enthusiastic in the Mughal cause. A fresh alliance between Shivaji and
Bijapur was not impossible. As Jai Singh explained to Aurangzeb, Bijapur had offered to cede
territory worth five lakh huns in Bijapur Balaghat if Shivaji would allow his brother to join the service of
Jai Singh wrote to Aurangzeb, “The conquest of Bijapur is the preface to the conquest of the Deccan and
Karnataka.” “What can be better than this that first we overthrow Bijapur with the help of Shiva.”
Bearing in mind Aurangzeb’s prejudice against Shivaji, Jai Singh added: “…now that we have hemmed
him in like the centre of a circle (with our possessions), if Shiva strays by a hair’s breath from the path of
obedience, he can be totally annihilated by us with the slightest exertion.”
Jai Singh exaggerated. The Mughals would have been able to hem Shivaji in “like the centre of a circle”
only if they were successful in conquering Bijapur. Aurangzeb agreed to the campaign against Bijapur
only reluctantly, without giving Jai Singh adequate forces for the purpose. As for Shivaji, the most that
Aurangzeb was prepared to concede was to allot him mahals yielding five lakh huns in Bijapuri Balaghat
“subject to the condition that you (Shivaji) conquer them before my (projected) campaign against
Despite Maratha support, the task of conquering Bijapur was a difficult one. Jai Singh’s hope of
surprising Bijapur proved illusory since preparations of his campaign had not remained a secret, and in
preparation of it, the Bijapuri ruler had adopted a scorched earth policy. Arrived at Bijapur, Jai Singh did
not have the heavy guns to engage in a siege, nor means to support or to gather provisions for the
besieging army. His difficulties were added to by Golconda sending an army of 12,000 sawars and
40,000 foot to aid Bijapur. As soon as Jai Singh received a set back, Diler Khan and the faction hostile to
Shivaji ascribed the failure to the lukewarmness and treachery of Shivaji, and demanded that he be
imprisoned. To keep him out of harm’s way, Jai Singh se nt Shivaji to besiege Panhala. But Shivaji failed.
Seeing his grandiose scheme collapsing before his eyes, Jai Singh persuaded Shivaji to visit the emperor
at Agra. If Shivaji and Aurangzeb could be reconciled, Jai Singh thought, Aurangzeb might be persuaded
to give greater resources for a renewed invasion of Bijapur. But the visit proved to be a disaster. Shivaji
felt insulted when he was put in the category of mansabdars of 5000 – a rank which had been granted
earlier to his minor son. Nor did the emperor, whose birthday was being celebrated, break protocol to
speak to Shivaji.
Hence, Shivaji walked off angrily and refused imperial service. Such an episode had never happened, and
a strong group at the court including Jahanara and Jaswant Singh argued that exemplary punishment
should be meted out to Shivaji in order to maintain and assert imperial dignity. Since Shivaji had come to
Agra on Jai Singh’s assurance, Aurangzeb wrote to Jai Singh for advice. Jai Singh strongly argued for a
lenient treatment for Shivaji. But before any decision could be taken, Shivaji escaped from detenti on
(1666). The manner of Shivaji’s escape is too well known to be repeated here.
Aurangzeb always blamed himself for his carelessness in allowing Shivaji to escape. There is little doubt
that Shivaji’s Agra visit proved to be the turning point in Mughal relations with the Marathas – although
for two years after his return home, Shivaji kept quiet. The visit proved that unlike Jai Singh, Aurangzeb
attached little value to the alliance with Shivaji. For him, Shivaji was just a “petty bhumia” (land-holder).
As subsequent developments proved, Aurangzeb’s stubborn reservations about Shivaji, refusal to
recognise his importance and attaching a low price to his friendship were among the biggest political
mistakes made by Aurangzeb.
In might be argued that the mansab of 5000 awarded to Shivaji was not a low one, the rank of 5000
being given to his son on his behalf since he was not willing to accept service at that time. Also, this was
the starting rank given by Shah Jahan to Shahji in 1629, and to Shivaji in 1648. However, these
arguments are extraneous. As Mamuri, a contemporary of Aurangzeb1 observes, since his minor son
had been given a mansab of 5000 in absentia, and his relative, Netaji, given the same rank, Shivaji had
hoped for a mansab of not less than 7000. The question is to what extent did Aurangzeb value Shivaji’s
friendship? If, like Jai Singh, he had considered it crucial in the larger context of the Deccan, he could
have dispensed with precedents, and gone out of his way to befriend him, just as Jahangir had done in
the case of Rana Amar Singh of Mewar in 1615.
1 The work of Mamuri was lifted bodily by Khafi Khan in his work written after the death of Aurangzeb,
Mamuri was a contemporary whereas Khafi Khan was born in 1663-64.
Final Breach with Shivaji—Shivaji’s Administration and Achievement
Aurangzeb virtually goaded Shivaji into resuming his career of conquest by insisting upon a narrow
interpretation of the treaty of Purandar, although with the failure of the expedition against Bijapur, the
bottom had dropped out of the treaty. Shivaji could not be reconciled to the loss of 23 forts and
territory worth four lakhs hurts a year to the Mughals without any compensation from Bijapur.
In order to consolidate his position, after his return from Agra, Shivaji had asked for the Emperor’s
pardon and entered into a treaty with him whereby Sambhaji was restored to the mansab of 5000,
awarded jagirs in Berar, and sent a contingent to serve the Mughal Viceroy at Aurangabad. But shortly
afterwards, Aurangzeb attached the Berar jagir to pay for a sum of rupees one lakh advanced to Shivaji
for his journey to Agra. This was just the excuse Shivaji was looking for. He launched a vigorous offensive
in 1670, recovering some of the hill forts, including Kondana, surrendered by the Treaty of Purandar in
1665. He attacked Surat a second time. He not only recovered the powerful fort of Purandar, but made
deep inroads into Mughal territories, especially in Berar and Khandesh. Mughal preoccupation with the
Afghan uprising in the north-west helped Shivaji. He also renewed his contest with Bijapur, securing
Panhala and Satara by means of bribes, and raiding the Kanara country at leisure.
In 1674, Shivaji crowned himself formally at Rajgarh. Shivaji had travelled far from be ing a petty jagirdar
at Poona. He was by now the most powerful among the Maratha chiefs, and by virtue of the extent of
his dominions and the size of his army, could claim a status equal to the effete Deccani sultans. The
formal coronation had, therefore, a number of purposes. It placed him on a pedestal much higher than
any of the Maratha chiefs, some of whom had continued to look upon him as an upstart. To strengthen
his social position further, Shivaji married into some of the leading old Maratha families – the Mohites,
the Shirkes, etc. A formal declaration was also made by the priest presiding over the function, Gaga
Bhatta, that Shivaji was a high class kshatriya. Finally, as an independent ruler, it now became possible
for Shivaji to enter into treaties with the Deccani sultans on a footing
of equality and not as a rebel. It was also an important step in the further growth of Maratha national
Although at the time of his accession, Shivaji assumed the title of haindava-dharmoddaraka” or
“Redeemer of the Hindu dharma, and “Kshatriya-kulavatansa” or the jewel of the Kshatriya clan, there is
no reason to think that Shivaji was setting himself as a champion of the Hindus, intent to fight the
narrow religious policies of Aurangzeb. Protection of dharma which was often interpreted as protecting
the four-fold division of varnas, as well of the brahmans and the territory (go-brahman-pratipalak,) was
the normal duty of a Hindu sovereign. There is a lot of controversy whether Ramdas who is conside red
Shivaji’s guru, had entrusted him with the mission of redeeming Hinduism. According to R.R. Ranade,
contact between Shivaji and guru Ramdas was established after his coronation, not before. However, in
a period when all struggles also assumed a religious character, Shivaji’s success was bound to be seen as
an assertion of the Hindu spirit of freedom against Muslim or Mughal encroachements.
In 1676, Shivaji undertook a bold new venture. He planned the invasion of Karnataka which was
considered a land of gold. Shivaji was also keen to claim the patrimony of his father, Shahji, at Tanjore in
eastern Karnataka which was at the time under the control of his half brother, Vyankoji. Before
undertaking the campaign, Shivaji guarded his rear by bribing Khawas Khan, the regent at Bijapur, and
making a formal peace with him. But Shivaji was aided greatly by the brothers, Madanna and Akanna,
who dominated Hyderabad at the time. Shivaji, was given a grand welcome by the Qutb Shah at his
capital and a formal agreement was arrived at. The Qutb Shah agreed to pay a subsidy of one lakh huns
(five lakhs of rupees) annually to Shivaji and a Maratha ambassador was to live at the Qutb Shahi court.
The territory and the booty gained in Karnataka was to be shared. The Qutb Shah supplied a contingent
of 5000 troops and artillery to aid Shivaji and also provided money at the rate of four and a half lakhs of
huns a month for the expenses of his army. The treaty was very favourable to Shivaji and enabled him to
capture Jinji and Vellore from Bijapuri officials and also to conquer much of the territories held by his
half-brother, Vyankoji. He also ousted Sher Khan Lodi from southern Karnataka. Although Shivaji had
assumed the title of haindava-dharmoddharakla (protector of the Hindu faith), he plundered mercilessly
the Hindu population of
the area. According to Sabhasad, Shivaji annexed territory worth 20 lakhs of huns a year, and captured
booty which was beyond computation. He left Santaji, a natural son of Shahji, in charge of the
territories, aided by a seasoned administrator, Raghunath Narayan Hanumante. Returning home laden
with treasure, Shivaji refused to share anything with the Qutb Shah, thus straining his relations with him.
The Karnataka expedition was the last major expedition of Shivaji. The base at Jinji built up by Shivaji
proved to be a haven of refuge for his son, Rajaram, during Aurangzeb’s all-out war on the Marathas.
Shivaji died in 1680, shortly after his return from the Karnataka expedition. Meanwhile, he had laid the
foundations of a sound system of administration. Shivaji’s system of administration was largely
borrowed from the administrative practices of the Deccani states. Although he designated eight
ministers, sometimes called the Ashtapradhan, it was not in the nature of a council of ministers, each
minister being directly responsible to the ruler. The most important ministers were the Peshwa who
looked after the finances and general administration, and the sar-i-naubat (senapati) which was a post
of honour and was generally given to one of the leading Maratha chiefs. The majumdar was the
accountant, while the waqe navis was responsible for intelligence, posts and household affairs. The
surunavis or chitnis helped the king with his correspondence. The dabir was master of ceremonies and
also helped the king in his dealings with foreign powers. The nyayadhish and panditrao were in charge of
justice and charitable grants.
More important than the appointment of these officials was Shivaji’s organisation of the army and the
revenue system. Shivaji preferred to give cash salaries to the regular soldiers, though sometimes the
chiefs received revenue grants (saranjam). Strict discipline was maintained in the army, no women or
dancing girls being allowed to accompany the army. The plunder taken by each soldier during campaigns
was strictly accounted for. The regular army (paga) consisting of about 30,000 to 40,000 cavalry was
supervised by havaldars who received fixed salaries.
In addition, there were silahdars or loose auxiliaries whose numbers varied from year to year according
to need, and their expectations of plunder. Local chieftains also joined along with their retainers for
plunder. He had a large infantry whose number is placed at one lakh. We do not know how many of
fighting men. He had guns mounted in the forts, and field artillery the strength of which is doubtful
because the Poona region was not known for a strong tradition of metallurgy.
The forts which were a major sources of strength for Shivaji were carefully supervised, Mavali foot
soldiers and gunners being appointed there. We are told that three men of equal rank were placed in
charge of each fort to guard against treachery.
Shivaji was one of the few Indian rulers who tried to develop a navy. His conquest of the ports of Kalyan,
Bhivandi and Panvel in North Konkan brought him adjacent to the Portuguese possessions at Goa. He
realized quickly that without a navy he would not be able to control the creeks on which places of trade
and commerce were located. Nor would he be able to defend the coast and areas from the
depredations of the Sidis of Janjira, an African group of people who dominated the island of Janjira and
its adjacent areas.
Using the timber which was available in plenty in the Kalyan-Bhiwandi area, Shivaji built a navy of
between 60 and 160 gunboats (ghurabs,) and a miscellaneous variety of ships – shibars, manchwas etc.
which were mainly used for trading purposes. Though most of Shivaji’s efforts at sea were confined to
battles to seize Janjira and its neighbouring areas from the Sidis who sometimes joined the Mughals to
harass his coastal areas, he did use his ships for plunder, including the pilgrim ships from Surat to Mecca.
He also used his ships for trade with Mocha. For sailors, Shivaji recruited the local traditional sea-farers,
such as the Kolis and Bhandaris. He also recruited Muslims, including the “infamous” Malabar pirates.
In short, in the picturesque language of Sabhasad, “The Raja put the saddle on the ocean”.
Shivaji’s revenue system seems to have been patterned largely on the system of Malik Ambar in which
an attempt was made to measure the land. For the purpose, Shivaji tried to establish links with the
village headmen. However, it is not correct to think that Shivaji tried to do away with the deshmukhs or
the zamindars of the area. Shivaji had to deal with an area where due to the neglect and weakness of
the Bijapur administration, the bigger deshmukhs had become very powerful. Sabhasad, who wrote in
the eighteenth century, describes the situation as follows :
“.. .the mirasdars grew and strengthened themselves by building
bastions, castles (vade) and strongholds in the villages, enlisting footmen and musketeers. They never
waited on the revenue officer of the government and resorted to fighting if he asked them to pay more.
This class had become unruly and seized the country.”
Shivaji’s early effort was to bring these sections under control, especially since many of them were in
close touch with the Bijapur government, and often joined them in their expeditions against Shivaji.
Sabhasad says that Shivaji demolished the bastions, castles and strongholds of the desais, and where
there were strong forts, he posted his own men. He also prohibited the illegal exactions of the
mirasdars, put a stop to ijara or revenue-farming and “fixed the dues of the zamindars from the villages
in cash and grain, as well as the rights and perquisites of the deshmukhs and the deshkulkarni, and the
patil (and) and the kulkarni” i.e. the hereditary officials at the district and pargana level.
Thus, it is clear that Shivaji’s efforts were to reform the existing system rather than try and create a new
one. It was only after he was able to control the powerful deshmukhs that Shivaji’s diwan was able to
produce an assessment based on measurement in 1679. While the deshmukhs were asked to cooperate,
measurement of laud would not have been possible without the help of village headmen.
Just as it has been imagined that Shivaji tried to do away with the zamindari system, it has been
postulated that he did away with the jagirdari system. This is largely based on a single statement of
Sabhasad who says that since the grant of mokasa (jagir) would have created disorder among the rayat
(cultivators or land-holders) “no mokasa was to be given to anyone” However, Sabhasad himself says
that after the defeat of Afzal Khan, many people were rewarded with the grant of villages in mokasa.
Mokasa mahals were also set apart for Godess Tulja Bhawani, the patron godess of Shivaji. There are
many other examples of this nature. Thus, after the Karnataka expedition, Santaji, the natural son of
Shahji, was given mokasa mahals.
Perhaps, what Shivaji was opposed to, and to which Sabhasad refers to vaguely, was the grant of a
mokasa mahal darobast, i.e. in entirety or as inam. This was a part of the Mughal system. Thus,
even Jaswant Singh, the ruler of Marwar, did not get all the villages in Jodhpur pargana in watan jagir.
It is difficult to form a precise idea of the actual land-revenue demand under Shivaji. Sabhasad says that
the state demand was two-fifth of the produce in grain. To this must have been added many cesses
which are described in the sources during the period of the Peshwas. The demand must have been
heavy, but there is no basis for the statement of Fryer, a foreign traveller, that it was double the rate of
former days. On the other hand, the establishment of internal law and order, curbing the power of the
mirasdars, and providing facilities for the restoration and expansion of cultivation within Shivaji’s
swarajya must have been welcomed by the cultivators.
Shivaji supplemented his income by levying a contribution on the neighbouring Mughal territories. This
contribution which came to one-fourth of the land revenue, began to be called chauthai (one-fourth) or
chauth. Chauth was not a new feature. The zamindars in Gujarat had been charging banth which was
one-fourth (chauthai) of the revenue in areas under their control. Thus, banth or chauthai were both in
the nature of zamindari charges. The Portuguese in Diu had been, on this basis, giving chauth to the Raja
of Ramnagar in return for his not raiding the area. The Mughals too, paid a fourth of the revenue of
Porbandar on the Kathiawar coast to its zamindars. Similar rights may also have been held by the
zamindars of the Konkan. Shivaji used it to claim zamindari rights over the entire Deccan. In practice, it
became a kind of protection money against Maratha depredations.
Another claim, again based on zamindari rights, was Shivaji’s claim of sardeshtnukhi. This claim which
amounted to ten per cent of the revenue was based on the notion that Shivaji was the head of all the
deshmukhs in the area. Interestingly enough, the ruler of Bijapur had also claimed to be sardeshmukh,
and we have examples of grant of sardeshmukhi and even sar-pateli by the Bijapur ruler to some noble
families. Shivajis’s claim of sardeshmukhi was linked to his claim as the ruler of possessing superior
rights over all the deshmukhs of the area. It may be noted that when Shivaji had ascended the gaddi, he
had put an impost called singhasanapatti over all the deshmukhs.
Shivaji’s setting up an independent state, in opposition to both Bijapur and the mighty Mughal empire
was no mean achievement. It could become possible because Shivaji was able to gather the enthusiastic
support and backing of ever widening sections in Maharashtra, thereby winning over or neutralising
many of the powerful deshmukh families which were initially opposed to him.
Shivaji not only proved to be an able general, a skilful tactician and a shrewd diplomat, he laid the
foundation of a strong state by curbing the power of the deshmukhs. The army was an effective
instrument of his policies, where rapidity of movement was the most important factor. The army
depended for its salaries to a considerable extent on the plunder of the neighbouring areas. But the
state cannot thereby be called just a “war-state”. In pre-modern times, almost all states supplemented
their income by plunder, though, of course, the proportion between the two varied widely from case to
The Maratha movement had a strong regional base. Although Shivaji employed Afghan and other
Muslims in the army, and one or both the admirals of his navy were Muslims, possibly Abyssinian
Muslims, the officials and commanders of Shivaji were drawn almost exclusively from Maharashtra. Nor,
as we have seen, did the administration have any specifically Hindu character. It had, however, a
popular base. To that extent, Shivaji was a popular king who represented the assertion of popular will in
the area against Mughal centralization of power.
Aurangzeb and the Deccani States (1658-87)
It might have been expected that after his accession to the throne, Aurangzeb would have tried to
implement in the Deccan the policy he had been pressing upon Shah Jahan, viz. the out-right annexation
of the two Deccani kingdoms Bijapur and Golconda. However, almost three decades passed before
Aurangzeb geared himself up for the annexation of these kingdoms.
The intervening period between 1658 and 1687 can be divided into three phases. The first phase lasted
till 1668 during which the main attempt was to recover from Bijapur the territories belonging to the
Ahmadnagar state surrendered to it by the treaty of 1636; the second phase lasted till 1684 during
which the major danger in the Deccan was considered to be the Marathas, and efforts were
made to pressurize Bijapur and Golconda into joining hands with the Mughals against Shivaji and then
against his son and successor, Sambhaji. Simultaneously, the Mughals nibbled at the territories of the
Deccani states which they tried to bring under their complete domination and control. The last phase
began in 1684 when Aurangzeb despaired of getting the cooperation of Bijapur and Golconda against
the Marathas, and decided that to destroy the Marathas it was necessary first to conquer Bijapur and
It may be noted that the treaty of 1636, by which Shah Jahan had given one-third of the territories of
Ahmadnagar state as a bribe for withdrawing support to the Marathas, and promised that the Mughals
would “never never” conquer Bijapur and Golconda, had been abandoned by Shah Jahan himself. The
resumption of a policy of limited advance in the Deccan had far-reaching implications which, it seems,
neither Shah Jahan nor Aurangzeb adequately appreciated : it destroyed for all times confidence in the
Mughal treaties and promises, and made impossible “a union of hearts” against the Marathas — a policy
which Aurangzeb pursued with great perseverance for a quarter of a century, but with little success.
The First Phase (1658-68)
On coming to the throne, Aurangzeb had two problems in the Deccan: the problem posed by the rising
power of Shivaji, and the problem of persuading Bijapur to part with the territories ceded to it by the
treaty of 1636. Kalyani and Bidar were secured in 1657. Parenda was secured by bribe in 1660. Sholapur
still remained. After his accession, Aurangzeb asked Jai Singh to punish both Shivaji and Adil Shah. This
shows Aurangzeb’s confidence in the superiority of the Mughal arms and the underestimation of his
Jai Singh decided to adopt a policy of divide and rule, arguing that “it is not very difficult for the
victorious armies to conquer both of these wretched rulers. But if policy can accomplish a thing, why
would we court delay (by resorting to force)?” As he saw it, the question for the Mughals was how to
keep the Deccanis divided without conceding anything to them in return for their
support against the Marathas. Jai Singh did put forward a plausible policy for attaining this objective. Jai
Singh was of the opinion that the Maratha problem could not be solved without a forward policy in the
Deccan — a conclusion to which Aurangzeb finally came 20 years later.
While planning his invasion of Bijapur, Jai Singh had written to Aurangzeb, “The conquest of Bijapur is
the preface to the conquest of all Deccan and Karnataka”. But Aurangzeb shrank from this bold policy.
We can only guess at the reasons: the ruler of Iran had adopted a threatening attitude in the northwest; the campaign for the conquest of the Deccan would be long and arduous and would need the
presence of the emperor himself for large armies could not be left in charge of a noble or an ambitious
prince, as Shah Jahan had discovered to his misfortune. Also, as long as Shah Jahan was alive, how could
Aurangzeb afford to go away on a distant campaign?
With his limited resources, Jai Singh’s Bijapur campaign (1665) was bound to fail. The campaign
recreated the united front of the Deccani states against the Mughals, for the Qutb Shah sent a large
force to aid Bijapur. The Deccanis adopted guerilla tactics, luring Jai Singh on to Bijapur while
devastating the countryside so that the Mughals could get no supplies. Jai Singh found that he had no
means to assault the city since he had not brought siege guns, and to invest the city was impossible. The
retreat proved costly, and neither money nor any additional territory was gained by Jai Singh by this
campaign. This disappointment and the censures of Aurangzeb hastened Jai Singh’s death (1667). The
following year (1668), the Mughals secured the surrender of Sholapur by bribery. The first phase was
The Second Phase (1668-84)
The rapid internal decay of Bijapur after 1672 following the death of Ali Adil Shah led to a new situation.
Given his conviction that Shivaji was unreliable and ambitious, and that it was not possible to arrive at a
stable understanding with him, Aurangzeb had three options:
(1) to adopt a policy of strict neutrality towards the Deccan states even if it implied the conquest or
domination of Bijapur by Shivaji, singly or in alliance with Golconda; or
(2) to attempt to shore up Bijapur against Maratha incursions, even
against its wishes, by finding a reliable instrument or faction at the Bijapur court to support this policy,
and, if possible, to get Golconda to join in this enterprise; or
(3) outright annexation of both the Deccani states, or of Bijapur to begin with.
The first option was unthinkable and was never considered seriously, though considering various
aspects, its adoption might not have been as harmful as the others. Stable and prosperous states in the
Deccan, even if one of them (i.e. Bijapur) was dominated by the Marathas, might not have been really
harmful to the Mughals. But the events from 1656 onwards, the nature of the Mughal state, and
Aurangzeb’s desire for a strong policy including, where necessary, annexation precluded a policy of
masterly inactivity. Aurangzeb therefore veered round to the second option, and finally abandoned it in
favour of the third in 1684 when he was at last convinced, on the basis of his personal experience, that
the Deccani states would never join hands with him to completely crush the Marathas.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar is right in thinking that the growing feebleness of Bijapur following the accession of
the boy king, Sikandar, in 1672, and faction fights at the Bijapuri court were the starting point of a new
forward policy in the Deccan, signalized by the replacement of Shah Alam by the “energetic and
successful” general, Bahadur Khan, as subahdar of the Deccan (1673). This marks the beginning of the
second phase of Aurangzeb’s policy in the Deccan. During this phase, Aurangzeb’s objectives were still
limited. No extra forces were assigned to Bahadur Khan and, as Sir Jadunath admits, with the ordinary
contingent of a provincial governor the task of subduing Shivaji, who was then at the height of his
power, and at the same time to conquer Bijapur was impossible, Jai Singh with much larger forces and
the cooperation of Shivaji having earlier failed in the task.
A new factor during the period was the rise to power of Madanna and Akhanna in Golconda. Madanna
Pandit, a Telegu brahman, who had been secretary and personal assistance to Saiyid Muzaffar, the
Golconda wazir, was appointed wazir and peshwa by Abul Hasan after his accession in 1672. These two
gifted brothers virtually ruled Golconda from 1672 almost till the extinction of the state in 1687. The
brothers followed a policy of trying to establish a tripartite alliance between Golconda, Bijapur and
Shivaji. This policy was periodically disturbed by faction
fights at the Bijapur court, and by the overweening ambition of Shivaji. The factions at Bijapur could not
be depended upon to follow a consistent policy. They adopted a pro or anti-Mughal stance depending
upon their immediate interests. Shivaji looted and alternately supported Bijapur against the Mughals.
Although seriously concerned at the growing Maratha power, Aurangzeb, it seems, was keen to limit
Mughal expansion in the Deccan. Hence, repeated efforts were made to instal and back a party at
Bijapur which would cooperate with the Mughals against Shivaji, and which would not be led by
On being posted to the Deccan, Bahadur Khan adopted a cautious and conciliatory policy. He entered
into negotiations with Khawas Khan, the leader of the Deccani party, and tried to induce him to join the
Mughals actively in the campaigns against Shivaji. Bahadur Khan met Khawas Khan at Pandharpur in
October 1675 where the latter promised to get the sister of Sikandar Adil Shah married to one of
Aurangzeb’s sons, and to have his own daughter married to the son of Bahadur Khan. Khawas Khan
agreed to join in the campaign against Shivaji personally. In return, the Mughals promised to pay three
lakhs to Khawas Khan to pay off the rebellious Afghan soldiers. Bahadur Khan advanced to the river
Bhima to help Khawas Khan in disbanding the Afghan soldiers and in stripping Bahlol Khan, the leader of
the Afghan faction, of the post of sar-i-lashkar. However, he was foiled in this enterprise by the arrest
and overthrow of Khawas Khan by Bahlol Khan. This was the immediate background to Bahadur Khan’s
invasion of Bijapur in 1676. Bahadur Khan succeeded in wresting Gulbarga and Naldurg from Bijapur
(1677). The conquest of Naldurg and Gulbarga not only linked together the Mughal possessions
enclosed by the Bhima and the Manjira in the west; it also brought the Mughals within easy striking
distance of both Bijapur and Golconda cities.
Aurangzeb was dissatisfied with these limited successes and replaced Bahadur Khan by his lieutenant,
Diler Khan, who reversed Bahadur Khan’s policy of allying with the Deccani party at Bijapur against the
Afghans. Diler Khan listened to Bahlol Khan’s grandiloquent plea for a joint expedition against Golkonda
and then jointly crushing Shivaji. However, the invasion of Golconda failed ignominiously (1677), and
only furthered the policy of Madanna and Akhanna in building up a united front of the Deccani power
against the Mughals. Madanna had already
negotiated a subsidiary treaty with Shivaji, promising him an annual sum of one lakh hurts for the
defence of the realm. A Maratha agent, Prahlad Niraji, had been posted at Hyderabad as Shivaji’s envoy.
Simultaneously, at the instance of Akhanna, a treaty had been concluded in 1676 between Shivaji and
Bahlol Khan, who had just succeeded Khawas Khan. The terms of this treaty were that the Bijapur
government would pay Shivaji a sum of rupees three lakhs as a contribution, and one lakh huns annually
as subsidy for protection against the Mughals, and confirm him in possession of the country bounded on
the east by the Krishna, including Kolhapur district. This was followed by Golconda’s support to Shivaji in
his Karnataka campaign (1677-78). Perhaps the brothers Madanna and Akhanna hoped that by
encouraging Shivaji to expand towards the south, he could be inclined to limit his ambitions vis-a-vis
Bijapur. However, Shivaji’s overweening ambition and faction fights at the Bijapur court between the
Afghans and the Deccanis created serious obstacles in the realization of such a policy. Thus, the plea of
Masaud Khan, Bahlol Khan’s successor, to Shivaji, “We are neighbours. We eat the same salt. You are as
deeply concerned (in the welfare of) this state as I am. The enemy (i.e. the Mughals) are day and night
trying to ruin it. We two ought to unite and expel the foreigners”, fell on deaf ears. Hence, Bijapuri
factions were periodically pushed in the direction of an understanding with the Mughals to counter
Shivaji’s depredations. But such an understanding could not last, since no Bijapur faction was prepared
to join hands in the destruction of Maratha power which was considered the sword-arm against the
Mughals. This diplomatic struggle, in particular the roles of Madanna and Akhanna in Deccan politics and
their efforts to build an alliance of the Deccani states, including Shivaji, to contain Mughal expansionism,
has still not been studied adequately.
The year 1678 may be considered the high water-mark of the influence of the brothers Madanna and
Akhanna in Deccani politics. Following the failure of the Mughal-Bijapuri raid on Golkonda (1677), and
the death of Bahlol Khan soon afterwards, it was agreed that Sidi Masaud, the leader of the Deccani
party, would become the wazir, that the riotous Afghan soldiers would be paid off and disbanded, and
that a Golkonda Resident would live at Bijapur and advise the wazir about administration. It was also
agreed that Shivaji would be “confined to the Konkan”. As
part of this agreement, Akhanna was posted at Bijapur as the Resident.
Thus, for the time being, Golconda and Mughal policies vis-avis Bijapur appeared to run on parallel lines,
that is, to contain Shivaji. Could the Deccani politics have been stabilized if Aurangzeb had been
prepared to join hands with Madanna and Akhanna in shoring up Bijapur and helping them to contain
Shivaji? Such a possibility, even if considered, would have been difficult if not impossible to implement.
The Mughals at first tried to win over Sidi Masaud. But in 1679, following secret negotiations of Masaud
Khan with Shivaji, Diler Khan made an all-out bid to capture Bijapur which, at that time, had a garrison of
only five thousand. However, thanks to the timely and effective Maratha intervention, he failed abjectly.
The only result of Mughal diplomatic and military efforts was the reassertion of the united front of the
three Deccani powers against the Mughals. A new element which was brought into play was the
Karnataki foot soldiers. Thirty thousand of them sent by the Berad chief, Prem Naik, were a major factor
in withstanding the Mughal siege of Bijapur. Shivaji, too, sent a large force to relieve Bijapur and raided
the Mughal dominions in all directions. Thus, Diler Khan could achieve nothing except laying Mughal
territories open to Maratha raids, and he was recalled by Aurangzeb.
It will thus be seen that between the retreat of Jai Singh from Bijapur in 1666 and the arrival of
Aurangzeb in the Deccan in 1680 in pursuit of Prince Akbar, the Mughal record in the Deccan was pretty
dismal. Following the breach with Shivaji in 1676, Aurangzeb had tried to repeat Jai Singh’s earlier
success against the Marathas but failed completely. He neither conciliated the Marathas, nor was he
able to win over the Deccani states to an alliance against the Marathas. He resorted to a futile policy of
pinpricks against Bijapur and nibbling at its territories. However, during this period, Aurangzeb made no
real effort to conquer the Deccani states, either single handed or in conjunction with the Marathas, as
had been advocated earlier by Jai Singh. Neither the Afghan uprising nor an alleged Persian threat of
invasion can fully explain this. We are thus led to the conclusion that, in reality, Aurangzeb dreaded the
idea of the conquest of the two Deccani states since he realized that the process would be a long-drawn
out one, and that it could not be achieved without the use of large
forces and much treasure, and further, that for resolving the perennial quarrel of Mughal commanders,
an energetic prince would have to be placed in command of operations – a situation full of danger which
he heartily wished to avoid. Nor was he prepared to proceed to the Deccan in person. Thus, lack of a
consistent policy chiefly characterized this period.
The arrival of Aurangzeb in the Deccan in 1680 in pursuit of Prince Akbar did not lead to any immediate
change in the Mughal policy towards the Deccani states. At first, Aurangzeb concentrated on the
Marathas, and once again tried to persuade or pressurize the Deccani states into giving aid and
assistance to the Mughals against them.
The Third Phase (1684-87)
By 1684, Aurangzeb had come to the conclusion that he could not achieve his objectives without first
undertaking the outright annexation of one or both of the Deccani states. We may consider this as
marking the third phase of Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy.
Aurangzeb called upon the Adil Shah as a vassal to supply provision to the imperial army, to allow the
Mughal armies free passage through his territory and to supply a contingent of 5000 to 6000 cavalry for
the war against the Marathas. He also demanded that Sharza Khan, the leading Bijapuri noble opposed
to the Mughals, be expelled. An open rupture was now inevitable. The Adil Shah appealed for help both
to Golconda and Sambhaji, which was promptly given. However, even the combined forces of the
Deccani states could not withstand the full strength of the Mughal army, particularly when it was
commanded by the Mughal emperor himself. Even then, it took 18 months of siege, with Aurangzeb
being personally present during the final stages, before Bijapur fell (1686). This provides an ample
justification for the earlier failure of Jai Singh (1665), and of Diler Khan (1679-80).
A campaign against Golconda was inevitable following the downfall of Bijapur. The “sins” of the Qutb
Shah were too many to be pardoned. He had given supreme power to the infidels, Madanna and
Akhanna, and helped Shivaji on various occasions. His latesr “treachery” was sending 40,000 men to aid
Bijapur, despite Aurangzeb’s warning. In 1685, despite stiff resistance, the Mughals had occupied
Golconda. The emperor had agreed to pardon the Qutb Shah in return for a huge subsidy, the ceding of
some areas and the ousting of Madanna and Akhanna. The Qutb
Shah had agreed- Madanna and Akhanna were dragged out into the streets and murdered (1686). But
even this crime failed to save the Qutb Shahi monarchy. After the fall of Bijapur, Aurangzeb decided to
settle scores with the Qutb Shah. The siege opened early in 1687 and after more than six months of
campaigning the fort fell on account of treachery and bribery.
Aurangzeb’s decision to annex Bijapur and Golconda, including the Karnataka, cannot be fully explained
in terms of the threat posed by the combination of Sambhaji and Prince Akbar. By 1684, Prince Akbar
had been virtually bottled up in Shivaji’s szvarajya, and even the scale of Maratha depredations in
Mughal territories had declined. The ease with which Aurangzeb could divert the bulk of the Mughal
army for prolonged seiges of Bijapur and Golconda was an index of his confidence in his ability to deal
with the Marathas. Nor can the new policy be explained fully in terms of his religious prejudices. Some
sections of the old Golconda nobility were unhappy at their eclipse by the brothers Madanna and
Akhanna whom they accused of filling all the important offices of state by their relations and brahmans,
and had even appealed to Aurangzeb to intervene in defence of Islam. But Aurangzeb had paid scant
attention to them; nor can we be certain that these charges had any substance. However, in justification
of his new course of action, Aurangzeb -had accused the Qutb Shah of handing over the entire control of
the affairs of the kingdom to “infidels”, that is, the brothers Madanna and Akhanna, and not permitting
the free practice of Islam. Apparently, these charges were meant to prepare the ground for the Mughal
invasion and occupation of Golconda, for there was a sharp difference of opinion in the matter at the
court. The fatwa of the chief sadr, Qazi Abdul Wahab, that it was unlawful to attack and conquer the
territory of brother Muslim kings was an index of this.
The opposition of the annexation of the entire Bijapur and Golconda, especially the newly conquered
territories of the Karnataka, was high-lighted by the correspondence of the crown prince Shah Alam,
with the rulers of Bijapur and Golconda. According to a contemporary historian, Ishwardas, Aurangzeb
had written to Sikandar Adil Shah on the eve of the invasion of Bijapur that “if you accept imperial
service, as a mark of royal bounty your country would be left to you as before.” Some time after his
surrender, Sikandar requested that “the zamindari of the
land across the river Krishna… be granted to me in order to enable me to leave my family there and then
I shall be in attendance upon His Majesty.” Aurangzeb refused, saying sarcastically that he should see
the beauties of Hindustan, and sent him as a prisoner to fort Daultabad, and then to Gwaliyar.
Apparently, in the case of both Bijapur and Golconda, Shah Alam wanted that the entire kingdoms
should not be annexed. But he was accused of wanting to “bind Abul Hasan to his interests,” and was
arrested and imprisoned. The unwillingness of the princes and the leading nobles to continue the
campaign in the Deccan, once the threat from Prince Akbar’s side had subsided, the prince having
embarked for Iran in 1683, is underlined in a despatch from the Amber wakil in 1683. According to it,
Aurangzeb wanted to return to north India after the rains, leaving behind Khan-i-Jahan Bahadur as the
Viceroy of the Deccan. However, Khan-i-Jahan Bahadur scouted the proposal, saying that the situation in
the Deccan was such that the Marathas came within five to six kos of the royal encampment, and
displayed acts of audacity and disobedience even though the Emperor himself was present, with the
royal princes and the leading nobles in attendance. At his suggestion that a royal prince be left behind
whom he would serve, the Emperor asked Shah Alam. However, Shah Alam bluntly refused, saying that
he had been maligned by Diler Khan and others when he had served earlier in the Deccan, and hence he
had sworn not to leave the side of the Emperor.
Was Aurangzeb’s decision to conquer and annex Bijapur and Golconda a result of the growing crisis of
the jagirdari system, more especially, the shortage of pai-baqi lands for being allotted in jagir to the
large number of new Maratha and Deccani entrants to the service? No contemporary writer has put
forward this argument. Khafi Khan’s complaints of be-jagiri apparently refers to the period after the
conquest of the Deccani states when many Deccani nobles had to be absorbed in the Mughal service.
However, we cannot rule out the argument that the growing demand of the nobles for jagirs was a
factor in Aurangzeb’s decision of outright annexation of Bijapur and Golconda, something which he had
been resisting all along.
The Marathas and the Deccan: The Last Phase (1687-1707)
Aurangzeb had triumphed but he soon found that the extinction of Bijapur and Golconda was only the
beginning of his difficulties.
The last and the most difficult phase of Aurangzeb’s life began now.
After the downfall of Bijapur and Golconda, Aurangzeb was able to concentrate all his forces against the
Marathas. Earlier, by a series of carefully calculated moves, and well chosen troops, Aurangzeb was able
to put the Marathas on the defensive, and virtually seal off the routes across which the Marathas would
have to traverse in order to aid Bijapur and Golconda. Sambhaji’s preoccupation with internal enemies
and with those in his immediate neighbourhood, that is, the Sidis and the Portuguese, also aided
Aurangzeb in his scheme of isolating the Deccani states, and dealing with each one of them according to
In 1689, Sambhaji was surprised at his secret hide-out at Sangameshwar by a Mughal force. He was
paraded before Aurangzeb and executed as a rebel and an infidel. This was undoubtedly another major
political mistake on the part of Aurangzeb. He could have set a seal on his conquest of Bijapur and
Golconda by coming to terms with the Marathas. In fact, some of the nobles advocated Sambhaji being
kept a prisoner and asked to surrender all forts. By executing Sambhaji, Aurangzeb not only threw away
the chance of a compromise but provided the Marathas a cause. In the absence of a single rallying point,
the Maratha sardars were left free to plunder the Mughal territories, disappearing at the approach of
the Mughal forces. Instead of destroying the Marathas, Aurangzeb made the Maratha opposition allpervasive in the Deccan. Rajaram, the younger brother of Sambhaji, was crowned as king, but decided to
escape when the Mughal’s attacked his capital. Leaving Ramchandra Amatya as his vice-regent
(hukumat panah), Rajaram sought shelter at Jinji on the east coast and continued the fight against the
Mughals from there with the help of his half-cousin, Shahji of Tanjore. Thus, Maratha resistance spread
from the west to the east coast.
However, at the moment, Aurangzeb was at the height of his power, having triumphed over all his
enemies. Some of the nobles were of the opinion that Aurangzeb should now return to north India,
leaving to others the task of carrying on mopping up operations against the Marathas. Aurangzeb
rejected all such suggestions. Convinced that the Maratha power had been crushed, after 1690
Aurangzeb concentrated on annexing to the empire the
rich and extensive Karnataka tract, and to settle the administration of the two conquered kingdoms.
Recent studies show that Aurangzeb’s reorganization of administration in the old settled tracts of
Golconda and Bijapur was broadly on sound lines. Aurangzeb transferred a cadre of experienced Mughal
officers into these two provinces. The old Golconda was divided into nine sarkars, with a faujdar at the
headquarters. Hyderabadi-Karnataka was made a separate charge, as also Bijapuri-Karnataka. The old
revenue system was reorganised. A full scale survey and assessment of lands was not undertaken.
However, the new assessment of Golconda carried out with the help of the local deshmukhs proved to
be a lasting one, and was used by Nizam-ul-Mulk and the British later. Formally, ijara (revenue farming)
was abolished, but perhaps it continued at the lower level. The powerful Reddi, Valema and Brahman
deshmukhs were fleeced, but left in their positions. The land-revenue demand was raised by 13 per
cent, with 4 per cent as jizyah.
Both in Golconda and Bijapur, the Irani, Afghan and Decanni nobility were sought to be integrated in the
Mughal nobility, with their old status safeguarded. Thus, in Golconda, twenty-four Qutb Shahi nobles
were given mansabs of 1000 zat and above. Many of these nobles were dispersed to different parts of
the country after some time. Thus, Mahabat Khan who had been given a mansab of 7000/7000 and
appointed governor of Hyderabad, and faujdar and diwan of Hyderabadi-Karnataka, was after some
time appointed governor of Lahore. Another noble from Golconda, Ali Askar Khan, was appointed
governor of Awadh. However, as detailed studies show, the replacement of the local rulers who were
patrons of culture and source of all authority, legitimacy and power were replaced by a Mughal
governor who was “part of a harsher, less personal imperial service”. (I.F. Richards) Hence, popular
sentiment continued to adhere to the deposed monarchs. Moreover, in Golconda, all the brahmans
were removed from leading positions. The deshmukhs, though restored to their old positions, were
never called to court or given official positions, or their contingents made a part of the royal army as
bargirs. Efforts were also made to deal with the various Reddi, Valema and Brahman deshmukhs,
desphandes and muniwars. These sections, and the military leaders, the nayaks, had not generally sided
with the Marathas. Many of them
were fleeced, either to fill the Imperial coffers, or to line the pockets of the local officials before they
were restored to their positions. However, with the exception of the Berad chief, Pidiya Nayak, none of
them were given mansabs, or even called to the court which has been the tradition earlier.
The task of settling Bijapur and the Karnataka was much more difficult. Ever since the time of Shahji,
followed by the subsequent expedition of Shivaji, the Marathas had set themselves up at Bangalore and
Tanjore, and established links with some of the powerful local Nayaks.
The arrival of Rajaram in Jinji led to a widespread support to him, forcing Aurangzeb to send a powerful
force under Zulfiqar Khan, a powerful noble and son of the Wazir, Asad Khan, to deal with the situation.
With his force of 10,000 horse and 15,000 Rajput foot-men, Zulfiqar Khan brought the rebellion in the
Karnataka under control, but was unable to besiege Jinji effectively. Meanwhile, Maratha resistance
revived rapidly. In 1692, the Marathas not only recovered many forts, including Rajgarh and Panhala,
but sent a force of 30,000 horse into Karnataka under two of their leading commanders, Santa
Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav, to relieve Jinji. These intrepid commanders were to prove a thorn in the
side of the Mughals both in the Karnataka and in the Maharashtra area. Thus, they defeated and held to
ransom some of the Mughal commanders and for some time cut off all communications between
Zulfiqar Ali Khan and the Mughal court.
Commenting on the speedy revival and spread of Maratha activities, the Amber agent at the court wrote
“The royal servants are worried day and night how to deal with the Marathas (lit. “disturbers”) in the
Deccan. Large territories have been brought under the control of royal officials, but due to lack of
means, they do not have the strength (to control them). For in place of 7000 (sawars) they keep (only)
700. Royal princes and their sons are roaming around in every quarter like faujdars, but to no avail. From
every quarter, news of the activities of the Marathas reach the ears of the Emperor, but he is unable to
find any proper remedy for dealing with them. He is further confounded by hearing news of
disturbances in North India (Hindustan)”.
There is evidence to suggest that Aurangzeb’s decision regarding the outright annexation of both Bijapur
and Golconda led to serious questioning in the minds of thoughtful observers and nobles, and created
doubts about the sagacity and wisdom of Aurangzeb as a ruler. Thus, the failure of Zulfiqar Khan’s
efforts to rapidly conquer Jinji and the neighbouring areas led to a spate of rumous that Zulfiqar Khan
had made a deal with the Marathas and that he would soon declare independence in the Deccan, that
the Marathas would soon conquer Bijapur and Golconda or that following the death oi Aurangzeb, these
territories would be restored to the Adil Shah and Qutb Shah. These rumours were in reality an index of
the growth of war-weariness and of the feeling that these areas, particularly the Karnataka, were not
vital to the Mughals, and that in his desire to conquer all, Aurangzeb was not able to control the
situation, or give the mansabdars their due, or even to cherish and protect the peasantry. This, in turn,
led to half-hearted efforts and tardiness on the part of the nobles in all matters, connected with the
It was not till 1698 that Zulfiqar Ali Khan finally conquered Jinji. However, the main prize, Rajaram,
escaped. With his return to Satara, there was a marked growth of Maratha activities all over, including
In Bijapur, the state of administration had deteriorated on account of factionalism in the nobility and the
ravages of the Marathas. The Marathas had become so bold that none of the nobles felt they could face
them. Thus, Santa Ghorpade defeated and imprisoned Ismail Khan “accounted one of the bravest
warriors of the Deccan”. Sharza Khan entitled Rustam Khan after the surrender of Bijapur; Ali Mardan
Khan, Ruhullah Khan each of them were released after paying a substantial ransom. By the time Rajaram
returned to Satara, the Marathas had virtually set up a parrallel government in the old Bijapur state.
Thus, according to the contemporary observer, Khafi Khan, the Marathas had appointed a kamaish-dar
in every district to collect chauth. Whenever from the resistance of the zamindars and the faujdar, the
kamaish-dar was unable to collect the chauth, the Maratha commander, called subadar, hastened to
and besiege and destroy the towns that resisted. Similarly, all merchants were taxed for rahdari. In
every region, the Marathas built forts as strong points. The muqaddams, or headmen of the village often
cooperated with the Maratha subadars, and with their assistance, they bargained with the royal officers
as to the payment of land revenue.
The Maratha depredations not only extended to the Deccan, but in 1699, they crossed the Narmada and
ravaged the environs of Ujjain. Soon they entered Gujarat, hovered near Surat, and sacked Broach.
Undaunted, Aurangzeb stuck to his resolve to crush the Marathas. He constituted two mobile forces
with artillery, commanded by Zulfiqar Ali Khan, and Ghaziuddin Khan Firuz Jang. They were able to limit
the Maratha incursions, and in a running battle with Firuz Jang, Santa Ghorpade was killed. But this did
change the basic situation.
Soon afterwards, Aurangzeb set out. to win back all the Maratha forts. For five and half years, from 1700
to 1705, Aurangzeb dragged his weary and ailing body from the siege of one fort to another. Floods,
disease and the Maratha roving bands took fearful toll of the Mughal army. Weariness and disaffection
steadily grew among the nobles and the army. Demoralization set in and many jagirdars made secret
pacts with the Marathas and agreed to pay chauth if he Marathas did not disturb their jagirs.
The long-extending war had inflicted extensive damage not only on the Mughals, but also undermined
the infant Maratha state created by Shivaji. That is why in 1695 and in 1698, Raja Ram had attempted to
open negotiations with the Mughals. Aurangzeb had spurned his offers. In 1700, following the death of
Raja Ram, his eldest widow, Tara Bai, proposed peace to Aurangzeb, offering to maintain a contingent of
5000 horses for Imperial service, and to cede seven forts, in return for the recognition of her son, Shivaji
II, as the king of the Marathas, the grant of a mansab of 7000, and the right of collecting sardeshmukhi
in the Deccan. Thus Tara Bai dropped the claim of independence, and also of chauth.
It seems that Aurangzeb was still confident of his ability to crush the Marathas. According to Khafi Khan,
he thought that it would not be difficult to overcome two young children and a helpless woman. Also, he
did not, perhaps want to rule out the claim of Shambhaji’s son, Shahu, who had been brought up in the
Imperial court since 1689. Hence, he rejected the offer, demanding that the Marathas surrender all the
In 1703, Aurangzeb opened negotiations with the Marathas. He was prepared to release Shahu, the son
of Sambhaji, who had been captured at Satara along with his mother. Shahu had been treated well. He
had been given the title of raja and the mansab of 7000/ 7000. On coming of age he had been married
to two Maratha girls of respectable families. Aurangzeb was prepared to grant Shahu Shivaji’s swarajya
and the right of sardeshmukhi over the Deccan, thus recognising his special position. Over 70 Maratha
sardars actually assembled to receive Shahu. But Aurangzeb cancelled the arrangements at the last
minute uncertain about the intentions of the Marathas.1
From later Persian sources, it seems that Aurangzeb was prepared to return Shivaji’s swarajya, as also
the grant of sardeshmukhi over the six subahs in the Deccan. There is, however, no reference to his
willingness to grant chauth.2 Suspicious that the Marathas might carry off Shahu, Aurangzeb withdrew
his offer at the last moment.
By 1706, Aurangzeb was convinced of the futility of his effort to capture all the Maratha forts. He slowly
retreated to Aurangabad while an exulting Maratha army hovered around and attacked the stragglers.
Thus, when Aurangzeb breathed his last at Aurangabad in 1707, he left behind an empire which was
sorely distracted, and
1It has been said that Aurangzeb offered the raj to Shahu on condition of his turning a Muslim.
Contemporary records do not support this. If Aurangzeb had wanted to convert Shahu to Islam, he could
have done so while he was his captive during the preceding 13 years.
2G.T. Kulkarni in his The Mughal Maratha Relations. Twenty-five Fateful Years (1682-1707), Pune, 1983
asserts that Aurangzeb was prepared to grant chauth to Shahu. However, he does not cite any source in
support. G.T. Kulkarni has been followed by J F. Richards in his The Mughal Empire (The New Cambridge
History of India, (O.V.9. 1993).
in which all the various internal problems of the empire were coming to a head.
Assessment of Aurangzeb and the Jagirdari Crisis
There has been a great deal of debate about the responsibility of Aurangzeb in the downfall of the
Mughal empire which virtually collapsed and began to disintegrate in less than two decades after his
death. According to some, Aurangzeb strove manfully to stem the forces of disintegration represented
by the Hindus, and tried to rally the Muslims for the defence of the empire, but was stymied by the
combine of the Hindus and the shias i.e. the Marathas and the Deccani kingdoms. On the other hand, Sir
Jadunath Sarkar compares Aurangzeb to the boa constrictor, who kept on swolling everything so that
the empire “collapsed under its own weight.”
There can be little doubt that Aurangzeb’s policy of puritanism, of attempting to force Muslims to
strictly abide by the life style prescribed by the sharia, his discriminatory policies against the nonMuslims, and his attempt to make the ulama a pillar of support (by giving them large concessions) was
bound to fail. India was too large and varied a country to abide by a narrow, religiously prescribed code
which went against long-established conventions and practices. Thus, many of the social reform
measures of Aurangzeb, such as banning of wine and intoxicants, and cultivation of bhang were
honoured more in the breach. Thus, even Qazi Abdul Wahab, a favourite of Aurangzeb, drank in private.
Nor were the nobles and princes willing to follow the grim, dutiful ascetical life-style favoured by
Aurangzeb. Thus, Asad Khan, his wazir and the most highly paid official in the empire, maintained such a
high life style that according to the Maasir-ul-Umara, a highly reliable biographical account of the nobles
written during the 18th Century, says that “the expenses of his haram and for the purveyors of music
and song were so great that his revenues did not meet them.”
Unlike some of his predecessors, such as Babur, Akbar, Jahangir, etc., Aurangzeb did not believe in
holding convivial parties in which wine and music flowed and to which the nobles were invited, or of
holding discussions with them. In consequence,
Aurangzeb remained an austere, aloof and remote figure. This may have suited the life style of a saint,
but did not suit one who had to make political decisions for which both consultations and a sense of
participation was necessary. Thus, at the height of the Marwar crisis, even the Imperial Bakhshi, Khan-iJahan, had to force his way into the ghusal-khana or private audience hall to give his opinion, and was
punished for his audacity. Likewise, even Prince Shah Alam, then his father’s favourite, could not give to
Aurangzeb his views regarding Bijapur and Golconda, and was imprisoned for daring to differ from him.
Aurangzeb’s attempt to utilise the ulama and through them to rally the Muslims in support behind him
was even less successful. The ulama proved to be corrupt and grasping, as was shown in the case of
many qazis who were appointed amils of jizyah. Even the respected Qazi Abdul Wahab at his death left
behind a sum of two lakhs of ashrafis and five lakhs of rupees in cash apart from an immense quantity of
According to Khafi Khan, Aurangzeb had established the qazis so firmly in the affairs of state, with
reference to the general principles as well as details of the administration, that “the leading and
responsible officers of the empire began to look upon them with envy and jealousy.” Thus, Qazi Abdul
Wahab Gujrati, the Qazi-ul-Quzzat, had become so strong and powerful that all the well known amirs
were afraid of him. It was in this context that in the seventies, when Aurangzeb wanted to send
Mahabat Khan with a force to uproot Shivaji, Mahabat Khan retorted that there was no need for an
army being sent against Shiva as a fatwa (decree) of the Qazi would suffice! Later on, in a letter written
to Aurangzeb in 1676, Mahabat Khan expressed shock that “experienced and able officers of the state
are deprived of all trust and confidence while full reliance is placed on the hypocritical mystics and
empty-headed ulama” Mahabat Khan went to say “Since these men are selling knowledge and manners
for the company of kings, to rely upon them was neither in accordance with the sharia, nor suited to the
ways of the world.”
Oddly enough, while departing from Akbar’s policy of sulh-i-kul, Aurangzeb, like Akbar, wanted to
combine worldly power with spiritual powers. Thus, to counter the Satnamis who were supposed to be
endowed with magical powers so that no arms prevailed against them, Aurangzeb ordered prayer
symbols written by his own hand to be sewn on the imperial banners and standards in facing them.
Again, in 1695-96, when the river Bhima suddenly rose in flood, and caused great destruction in the
royal camp, Aurangzeb wrote prayers on papers, and ordered them to be thrown into the water.
Bhimsen says: “Immediately the water began to subside. The prayer of the God-devoted Emperor was
accepted by God, and the world became composed again.” No wonder, Shaikh Kalimullah, the well
known sufi saint of Delhi, accused Aurangzeb of hypocrisy and presumptiousness in trying to combine
sultanat or worldly rule with faqiri or sainthood.
Like Akbar and the other rulers of the time, Aurangzeb claimed the right to supersede ruling of the
sharia by secular decrees, called zawabit, and also to choose between rulings of different schools of
sharia. Thus, during the siege of Satara, out of a group which made a sortie from the fort, four Muslims
and nine non-Muslims soldiers were captured. The Qazi of the camp proposed that if the Hindus
accepted Islam they should be released and the Muslim kept in prison for three years. Aurangzeb turned
down the proposal and wrote on the petition that the Qazi should take recourse to some other school of
law than the Hanafi school “so that control over the kingdom was not lost”. This was done and the Qazi
recommended that “the Hindu and Muslims prisoners of war should be executed as a deterrent.” This
was acted upon.
While upholding the sharia, Aurangzeb was not prepared to repudiate his Timurid legacy. Thus, in his
letters to his sons written towards the end of his reign, he refers approvingly to some of the actions of
Akbar and Shah Jahan, and, almost echoing Abul Fazl, says… “You should consider the protection of the
subjects as the source of happiness in this world and the next.” No special emphasis is placed in these
letters of advice on defending the faith and punishing the irreligious and waging war on the infidel, but
uphold the discharge of “truly necessary worldly tasks” as being truly religious tasks.
Thus, Aurangzeb’s character was a complex one, with his orthodox bent of mind and his emphasis on
sharia competing with or being in conflict with his equally strong emphasis on the tasks of rulership in a
Aurangzeb has been called an indefatigable and stern administrator who neither spared himself nor
those close to him. Nevertheless, Aurangzeb’s very industriousness reflected, like
Philippe II in Europe, the mind of a clerk or a junior functionary rather than that a politician with insight
and an understanding of larger forces. Thus, his handling of the Marwar-Mewar issue was clumsy and
inapt, and brought no advantage to him or to the government. He failed to understand the nature of the
Maratha movement, or to befriend Shivaji or his successors although there were a number of
opportunities for doing so. His hope of utilizing the Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan against the “infidel”
Marathas was a will-o-the wisp. When, finally, he was disillusioned, he decided upon the outright
annexation of the two Deccani kingdoms, against the advice and wishes of many of his nobles and prince
Shah Alam. The unending war in the Deccan brought to the surface all the inherent weaknesses of the
Mughal administrative system. The chief of these was the jagirdari system on whose successful working
depended the nobility, the army and the administration.
The crisis of the jagirdari system had both an administrative and a social basis. The success of the
jagirdari system depended on the ability of the holder of the jagir getting sufficient resources for living in
the style he was accustomed to or expected, and maintaining a sufficient quota of troops for the service
of the state. The jagirdari system implied giving the jagirdars or nobles a vested interest in collecting
land-revenue from the zamindars in the tract of land assigned to them as jagir. Thus, the co-relation
between the jama (assessed income) and the hasil (income) depended not only upon the realistic nature
of revenue assignment and its income but also on the ability of the jagirdar with the help of the faujdar,
to overawe and compel the zamindars who were armed, and often associated closely with the ownercultivators on a caste and kinship basis, to pay the assessed land-revenue.
Thus, the jagir system was based on the specific social system prevailing in the country. Due to a variety
of factors, the Mughals were, by and large, able to “persuade” the zamindars of north India, except
those living in remote and inaccessible areas, to cooperate in paying the assessed land-revenue. In fact,
more and more of them were converted from peshkash paying zamindars to kharaj (land-revenue)
collecting agents, receiving, in turn a definite share in the proceeds as nankar. Even then, due to the
rapid expansion of the number of mansabdars, there was an apparent
mismatch between the available resources, and the demands of salaries by the mansabdars and their
contingents. This was met by reducing salaries and the number of troops and horses a mansabdar was
required to maintain. This also implied that a mansabdar became even more dependent on the support
of the local faujdar for over-awing the local zamindar when necessary.
The attempt to import this system into the Deccan where conditions were vastly different, and where
there was an endemic warfare which local zamindars were fully prepared to utilize for their own
purposes, was the real basis of the crisis of the jagirdari system. As Bhimsen, who was posted in the
“The provinces given to the mansabdars in tankhwah (salary) cannot be governed because of the
smallness of their force (jamiat). The zamindars, too, have assumed strength, joined the Marathas,
enlisted armies (jamiat) and laid the hands of oppression on the country.” He concludes, “When such is
the condition of zamindars it has become difficult for a dam or dirham to reach the jagirdars”.
Regarding the lack of military force at the disposal of the jagirdars and faujdars, 3himsen says that
during the last years of Aurangzeb’s reign, except Ram Singh Hada, Dalpat Bundela and Jai Singh
Kachhwaha(grandson of Mirza Raja Jai Singh), who had their watans, no mansabdar maintained more
than 1000 sawars. Bhimsen goes on to say: “The lawless men of every district, disregarding the petty
faujdars, have acquired strength. The faujdars, despiring of being able to bear the trouble and cost of
campaigning, consider it a gain to sit at one place, and to enter into an agreement with the enemy i.e.
the Marathas.” The Amber wakil wrote back home that even mansabdars of 7000 maintained
contingents of only 700, and that due to the ineffectiveness of the faujdars, royal princes and their sons
were roaming the country side like faujdars.
The working of the administrative system worsened the situation. The most paying (sair hasil) jagirs
were reserved for the khalisa to meet the cost of the war. In consequence, the jagirdars were given
jagirs in the areas called zor-talab, i.e. where it was difficult to realize land-revenue on account of the
entrenched power of the zamindars and the land-owning community. This was generally in the areas
outside the old Golconda and Bijapuri kingdoms. When the jagirdars were unable to produce for dagh
the requisite number of sawars and horses of the requisite quality,
their jagirs were confiscated, and included in the pai-baqi (land meant for assignment).
The struggle for sair-hasil jagirs thus became a matter of life and death for mansabdars, and allowed the
royal mutasaddis (lower officials) the opportunity of indulging in all kinds of corrupt practices, including
frequent transfers of which Bhimsen complains bitterly. In this situation, the smaller mansabdars were
the worst hit.
The growing disfunctionality of the jagirdari system was aggravated by the problem of be-jagiri or lack of
sufficient jagirs for assignment. Khafi Khan, says that on account of the inadequacy of pai baqi, or lands
meant for assignment in jagirs, and the appointment of innumerable mansabdars especially large
numbers of Deccanis and Marathas, sons of old nobles or khanazads were not able to get jagirs for four
or five years. This was in the year 1691-92. The situation seems to have worsened because, anxious not
to allow the number of mansabdars to exceed the resources after the conquest of Bijapur and Golconda,
Aurangzeb put a virtual ban on the recruitment of new nobles. He repeatedly declared that he did not
need any new servants, and desired that no papers (misls) for new entrants be put up to him. For some
time the Imperial Bakhshi, Ruhullah Khan, under the pressure of nobles, continued to put fresh cases
before the Emperor, on the plea that the Empire consisted of seven Sultanats (presumably the five
Deccani Sultanats and Malwa and Gujarat), i.e. it was vast, and the Emperor alone could say yes or no to
the large number of needy khanazads. After the death of Ruhullah Khan (1692), Aurangzeb angrily
turned down all the requests of the new Bakhshi, Mukhlis Khan. Khafi Khan says that this led to great
lamentation in the camp among those who had waited for an appointment for years. Thus, imperial
signature i.e. grant of a jagir became like one pomegranate among a hundred sick!
It is hardly necessary to bring together more information on the subject. The question of frequent
transfers, especially of smaller mansabdars, asking a lump sum of payment (qabz) before the jagir was
handed over to the agent of the new jagirdar, demanding money for the up keep of the royal animals
even before possession of the jagirs etc. were abuses in the working of the system. Failure to meet the
expectations of the khanazads, i.e. those who had served the Empire for generations, and whose loyalty
and support were important for the Empire, was something completely
different. It undermined the loyalty of the old nobles, and as the system deteriorated, made them look
to opportunities for carving out their own spheres of domination. Both Asad Khan the wazir, and hi s son,
Zulfiqar Ali Khan, and the leading noble, Ghaziuddin Firuz Jung were suspected of harbouring such
ambitions. It has been argued that there was no jagirdari crisis because after the annexation of the two
Decanni kingdoms, the jama of the empire rose by 23 per cent or Rs. 5.3 crores annually, whereas the
numbers of mansabdars was kept within that limit. It has also been argued that there was no shortage
of pai baqi, according to a Mughal revenue document of 1689. However, two aspects need to be kept in
mind. The jama in the Deccan had been grossly inflated from the time of Akbar. Hence, what the nobles
received for meeting their claims (talab) was a fraction of the real income (hasil), leading to an acute
struggle for more paying sair hasil jagirs. Also, later documents suggest that large areas were kept in pai
baqi on extraneous grounds, but in reality to meet the spiralling cost of a war the end of which seemed
nowhere in sight, and for which most of the nobles had no heart.
There has been a great deal of misunderstanding regarding the precise extent of the growth of the
number of mansabdars under Aurangzeb. We are told by Lahori that during the twentieth year of Shah
Jahan’s reign, there were 8000 mansabdars and 7000 ahadis and mounted artillery men. A document
under Aurangzeb which, it seems, was prepared before the annexation of Bijapur and Golconda, gives a
figure of 14,449 of whom 7,457 received cash salaries and 6992 were jagirdars. These figures show that
there was no addition to the number of jagirdars during this period.
Unlike Shah Jahan, there is no official history of Aurangzeb after the tenth year, so that it is difficult to
know the precise number of mansabdars. However, on the basis of a careful study, Athar Ali has shown
that the total number of mansabdars holding zat ranks of 1000 zat and above increased as follows:
Shah Jahan Aurangzeb
1628-58 1658-78 1679-1707
437 486 575
Thus, there was only 31 per cent increase during the entire reign of Aurangzeb. Athar Ali points out that:
“… the increase in the number of ranks was not anywhere near the scale witnessed between 1595 and
1656-57, an increase of 4.2 times (ranks of 500 zat and above), and totally out of proportion with the
actual increase of territory within that period”. He concludes: “One can only hold that Aurangzeb did his
best to hold back the pressures for higher mansabs with greater vigour than his predecessors were able
to do.” That Aurangzeb worked with reasonable efficiency the system of administration he had inherited
may be readily conceded. But he brought the system under tremendous pressure by his religious and
political policies. Also, he took no new initiatives to cope with the emerging administrative and military
We had hinted in the section dealing with the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan, that with the
introduction of the rule of one-fourth and the month scale, the Mughal mansabdari system was no more
the efficient machine for fighting and collection of land-revenue it once was. As it was, development of
military technology elsewhere showed the need of a stronger, more efficient and mobile force of fieldgunners, and the growing importance of infantrymen armed with flint guns. These, in turn, necessitated
a larger standing army, paid for centrally. The need to capture and hold large numbers of Maratha forts
also needed larger infantry forces, whereas the forces led by the nobles remained predominantly cavalry
forces. The hardships faced by these forces, and the growing disgruntlement of the nobles is described
graphically by the contemporary, Bhimsen.
Thus, the jagirdari crisis was part of a growing social, administrative and military crisis compounded by
the long drawn-out and unprofitable war in the Deccan which was the result of Aurangzeb’s lack of
political flexibility, his arrogant and suspicious nature and his over-dependence on military force as the
arbiter of difficult political problems.
However, this should not lead us to the conclusion that there was a total breakdown of the system
under Aurangzeb. The Mughal empire was still a powerful and vigorous military and administrative
machinery. The Mughal army might fail against
the elusive and highly mobile bands of Marathas in the mountainous region of the Deccan, especially in
the western part. Maratha forts might be difficult to capture and still more difficult to retain. But in the
plains of northern India and the vast plateau extending up to the Karnataka, the Mughal artillery and
cavalry were still master of the field. Thirty or forty years after Aurangzeb’s death, when the Mughal
artillery had declined considerably in strength and efficiency, the Marathas could still not face it in the
field of battle. Continuous anarchy, wars and the depredations of the Marathas may have depleted the
population of the Deccan and brought industry and agriculture in large areas to a virtual standstill. But in
northern India which was the heart of the empire and was of decisive economic and political importance
in the country, the Mughal administration still retained much of its vigour, and continued to collect a
large magnitude as land-revenue. Trade and industry not only continued to flourish but expanded. The
administration at the district level proved amazingly tenacious and a good deal of its survived and found
its way indirectly into the British administration.
Despite the military reverses and the mistakes of Aurangzeb, the Mughal dynasty still retained a
powerful hold on the mind and imagination of the people.
As far as the Rajputs are concerned, we have seen that the breach with Marwar was not due to an
attempt on Aurangzeb’s part to undermine the Hindus by depriving them of a recognised head, but to a
miscalculation on his part: he wanted to divide the Marwar state between the two principal claimants,
and in the process alienated both, as also the ruler of Mewar who considered Mughal interference in
such matters to be a dangerous precedent. The breach with Marwar and the long drawn-out war which
followed damaged the moral standing of the Mughal state. However, the fighting was not of much
consequence militarily after 1681. It may be doubted whether the presence of Rathor Rajputs in larger
numbers in the Deccan between 1681 and 1706 would have made much difference in the outcome of
the conflict with the Marathas. In any case, the demands of the Rajputs related to grant of high mansabs
as before and restoration of their home lands. These demands having been accepted within half a dozen
years of Aurangzeb’s death, the Rajputs ceased to be a
problem for the Mughals. They played no active role in the subsequent disintegration of the empire, nor
were they of much help in arresting the process of its decline.
Aurangzeb’s religious policy should be seen in a wider context. Aurangzeb was orthodox in his outlook
and tried to remain within the framework of the Islamic law. But this law was developed outside India in
a vastly dissimilar situation, and could hardly be applied rigidly to India. His failure to respect the
susceptibilities of his non-Muslim subjects on many occasions; his willingness till the fall of Bijapur and
Golconda in 1687 to destroy many old standing Hindu temples while formally adhering to the sharai
position of respecting old temples belonging to the zimmis (protected people), and his re-imposition of
jizyah did not help him to rally the Muslims to his side or generate a greater sense of loyalty towards a
state based on Islamic law. On the other hand, it alienated segments of the Hindus and strengthened
the hands of those section which were opposed to the Mughal empire for political or other reasons.
However, undue emphasis should not be given to religion as the cause of the decline of the Mughal
empire. Jizyah was scrapped within half a dozen years of Aurangzeb’s death and restrictions on building
new temples eased. But these had no effect on the rapidly accelerating decline and disintegration of the
empire in the 18th century.
In the ultimate resort, the decline and downfall of the empire was due to economic, social as well as
administrative, political, and institutional factors.